Tiredness replaces the famous twinkle
SEAN FitzPatrick might claim to be broke but he looked like a million dollars when he walked out of Bray garda station yesterday.
A million in worn bills, that is -- over-traded notes that have seen the inside of a few too many trouser pockets.
The debonair blazer, crisp shirt and silk tie could not hide the bags under his eyes, after more than 30 hours in police custody.
Gone was the famous twinkle and instead he appeared jaded and subdued.
The smooth-talking charmer had nothing to say as he cast one furtive glance at the photographers before walking briskly to a waiting Volkswagen Golf.
He paused briefly to kiss the young man in the driver seat, believed to be a family member, and the two sped off down the road.
As the one-time crown prince of Irish banking, he has spent much of his adult life being the most important man in the room, and yesterday was no different from that point of view.
Just like Elvis, there was only one man in the building as far as those at the gates of the garda station were concerned.
"Is there a camera anywhere else in Dublin today?" wondered one passer-by, as he passed the ragtag line of TV crews, photographers and journalists, all angling for the best view of the front door.
As the time of his release drew closer, the number of locals hoping for a glimpse of the disgraced financier grew. Few had any sympathy for his dramatic change in circumstance.
"He won't go down alone," mused one woman.
"I hope he gets more than this," said another man, although he was sure that "a man like that would run rings around the guards".
By lunchtime, with the sense of anticipation at a peak, nerves were on edge and cameras were being snapped at everything that moved, startling one or two youths who might have hoped to sidle out of the garda station unnoticed.
A uniformed garda approached the anxious throng and appealed to the media to behave professionally "if" a release was imminent.
When pressed on whether "Seanie" would be given any special treatment, Inspector Colm O'Malley said "prisoners come in and out the same way" before adding: "He is being treated the same as everybody else."
But just before the high-profile businessman left the building, a half-dozen uniformed gardai headed for the media pack and made sure no one impeded the pick-up car from driving off. High in the skies over Wicklow, a garda helicopter circled, hovering over Sean FitzPatrick's Greystones home just as the dark blue Golf drove back through the new electronic gates.
By then, a young man, an army baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes, was alone -- had Seanie sneaked in the back way?
So all has changed utterly for the dealmaker with the Midas touch, in one sense.
He knows what it is like to hand over his shoelaces and tie to a garda. He has spent more time than anyone would care to staring at the inside of a prison cell.
But his visit to the dark side was brief, just over 30 hours to be precise.
And last night, he slept in a mansion by the sea.