Jenny on the Run
It was a bitterly cold night, with biting frost and a mist hovering over Dublin’s Grand Canal. The Garda (police) patrol car cruised slowly up one side of the canal and down the other with two officers inside, one older, one younger. They crossed over the bridge onto Percy Place and as the car drove along the georgian terrace the outline of the car was reflected in the glittering water. A solitary figure stood outlined against the light on the top floor of one of the houses watching the scene. The car stopped at the end of the row and then came round again. Clearly on the lookout for something.
The car slowed down as they passed a group of women on the footpath and flashed the torch across the group.
“Doing business love ? Need someone to keep you warm?”
The young garda in the passenger seat, just up from the training college in Templemore, blushed to the roots of his hair. He knew prostitutes existed but had never come across one before.
The women had pulled rubbish bags out onto the pavement and set fire to them as they waited for one of the cars that passed up and down to pull in. There were two or three groups of women along the canal each huddled around their fire and the smoke from the fire combined with the mist made it look like something out of a Fellini film. The pimps kept a discreet watch from the bushes nearby.
The sergeant nudged him. “Ask them if any of them have seen her?
“Any of you women seen a young woman called Jenny Maguire?”
“Ah darling, what’s she got that I can’t give you? “
He blushed even more deeply.
The woman was older and seemed to be more or less in charge of the group.
“She’s only a kid and she’s gone missing – if you come across her ring Rathmines garda station”
They weren’t interested in the hookers but someone was interested in finding Jenny – and willing to pay for the information.
Jenny stood in the laneway and watched as the car drove off. The woman shouted across, “all clear, Jenny – Mind yourself.”
Jenny was 20 and had been living in squats around the canal for the last two years. The first time her father hit her she looked at her mother but she just kept watching the television. When he did it a second and third time Jenny decided, “That’s it, I’m out of here." She had no money and nowhere to go. The squat in Herbert Street wasn’t so bad and since Jenny was a natural leader bit by bit a small group of waifs and strays had gathered around her.
When the working girls knew you weren’t on the game and weren’t competition they never bothered you. In fact the women looked out for each other.
When the Mercedes pulled up Jenny jumped back from the kerb – “I’m not doing business.”
“No worries – want to earn a few bob?”
“What do you mean?”
“The house in flats in Herbert Street. I’ve see you going in and out. It needs to go and you can help.”
“What can I do?”
“Well, it would be terrible I there was an unfortunate fire but if say such a fire did happen there would be something in it for you.”
“A hundred quid to be paid the day after the fire.”
“No chance – a hundred now and a hundred the day after – otherwise get lost.”
Two years on the street had toughened Jenny up and she was prepared to stand her ground.
It was much easier than she thought. She organised her little gang. They checked there was nobody left inside and got a couple of cans of petrol that they spread from top to bottom. The house hadn’t been lived in for years and the timber was old and dry. The whole place went up in a matter of minutes.
“Job done, easy money.”
When she saw the contractors hoarding going up with the name of one of the biggest property developers in the city she knew she could have got more money. She was just coming out of the Spar supermarket on Mount Street when the Mercedes pulled up again.
“I have a job for you.”
Jenny leaned in to talk to him. Anybody passing would just think she was on the game.
This time it was the old church on the top of Harcourt Street. It looked like a miniature Greek temple and had been empty for years. Jenny knew this wouldn’t be so easy. She had seen the students on the footpath with banners protesting against plans to demolish the building - but no skin off her nose.
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
But Jenny held firm and made to walk away.
“Ok it’s a deal.”
Just then a garda car pulled up and the garda flashed his light into the car taking them both in.
“Just looking for directions officer.”
“Move on then.”
While he was distracted Jenny took her chance and picked up the envelope off the front seat and shoved it into her pocket. When he had turned the corner she pulled the envelope out. The address was in one of Dublin’s most expensive suburbs.
“Now I have you, Mr John big wig Mulvanny of 96 Highfield Road, Rathgar."
It took her a few days to check out the church but in the end it was surprisingly easy. The security team was lazy and only came round every couple of hours, plenty of time for her and the lads to be in and out before the flames got going.
When the car pulled up he wound down the window and handed her the envelope.
“Good Job” .
As she counted the money Jenny looked up at him – "there’s only 500 here!”
“Not bad for ten minutes work – take it or leave it. That's what you get for being greedy!"
“Ah well, that’s business isn’t it. You could always call the gards” and he laughed as he drove off.
Highfield Road is a wide and elegant road with large detached red brick houses on either side. It’s the kind of road where judges and barristers and the directors of large companies live. The gardens are manicured and the gravel at the front is carefully raked to eliminate any trace of weeds. It’s also an area where people are very security conscious with alarms and lights on timers and even the occasional dog.
Jenny was in no hurry. Bit by bit she established the family’s pattern. She knew what time they got up, what time the kids went to school and what time the silver grey Mercedes headed off into the city. She even knew what time the handsome young man would call in the middle of the afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
And people can be so careless.
The garden opened into a back lane and the rear gate was old and half rotten so it didn’t take much effort to force the lock. Jenny almost laughed out loud when she saw that one of the French windows at the back of the house had been left open.
As she took in the expensive antiques and the soft carpets she thought, “pity!”
Jenny walked across the hall and up the stairs into the master bedroom. She had seen Mrs Mulvanny drive out and knew that she had roughly one hour to do the job. Slowly she poured petrol over the bed starting on what was clearly the man's side. She kept pouring as she came back down through the sitting room and back out through the French windows. Then she tossed in a few firelighters and watched from the laneway as the flames spread up through the house.
Jenny almost regretted what she had done when she saw Mrs Mulvanny sobbing as she was held back by the firemen as they poured thousands of gallons of water in through the windows in an attempt to control the fire. Still, people like this had insurance policies and money in the bank. She doubted that they would end up sleeping on the street.
Jenny also knew that he would drive up Palmerston Road on his way home. She waited at the bus stop until the Mercedes slowed at the lights. As he turned towards her she waved and waited just long enough to be sure he had seen her before walking off towards town.
When Jenny was quite sure the garda car was gone she walked over to say hello to Maggie.
"I don’t know what you did, Jenny but that’s the second time they have been around looking for you. Better make yourself scarce for a while.”
There was a boat to England from Dun Laoghaire at 9. Nobody would miss her and there was less chance of being spotted on the boat. She had time to pick up her few things from the shed behind the pub and get going. London was definitely a safer option and the Eur500 would help.
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