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A gathering of Souls

In an exclusive extract from the debut novel by the Herald's Gerry O'Carroll, Dublin's star detective Moss Quinn returns to his family home after his wife has been abducted...

A year after the death of their son, Moss Quinn's wife Eva Marie has been abducted. He is Dublin's star detective; investigating the disappearance of five women and the murder of another the year before. Moss's number one suspect walks free from the subsequent trial amid allegations of police brutality meted out by Quinn's partner, Joe Doyle -- an old school cop.

Quinn's world is in turmoil, his marriage is a mess, his reputation after the trial is in tatters -- and now his wife has been abducted.

In this exclusive extract for Herald readers, Detective Moss Quinn, returns to the family home and his frantic children who have woken to find their mother gone . . .

Monday 1st September 7.50am. Eva's car was not in its usual spot. As Quinn pulled up he was conscious of the knot tightening in the pit of his stomach. He could see his youngest daughter's face at the window: she was waiting for him, her nose to the glass, peering out anxiously. He climbed the steps and the front door flew open; Laura threw herself into his arms.

'Hey,' he said, 'it's all right. It's OK, Laura, everything's going to be fine.'

Doyle was at the far end of the hall with breakfast dishes in his hands. The two men exchanged a concerned glance. Laura was holding on to him tightly. 'Dad, she's not here. Mam's not here. We don't know where she is.'

'We phoned you, but your phone was off,' Jess was almost shouting as she came rushing out of the living room.

'I know, love. I'm sorry.' Quinn bent to pick her up and, with both of them clinging to him, glanced at Doyle again. 'I turned the bloody thing off and forgot to switch it on again. It's a good job you could get hold of your Uncle Joe, girls, wasn't it?'

In the lounge, he sat down on the sofa with a daughter on each knee. 'Mam wasn't in her room when you woke up?' he asked. 'Is that how it was?'

Jess nodded. 'It was awful quiet, Dad. I woke up first and went through to Laura's room. It was so quiet I thought it was Saturday or something.'

'Well it's not,' he said with a reassuring smile. 'It's Monday. I expect your mam had to nip out. She'll be back soon. Now I think the best thing you two can do is get your things together and I'll drive you to school.'

'School?' Laura looked almost shocked.

'Your mam will be fine, love. You need to be at school.'

The two girls went upstairs to get their shoes.

Doyle touched Quinn lightly on the arm. 'There's tea brewed, Moss, if you want a cup.'

Quinn shook his head. Hands on his hips, he was studying the picture of him and Danny fishing the Tolka. Eva had taken the photograph only a couple of weeks before the boy had been killed.

Guilt pricked him -- a sickening sensation in his gut. It had been a year and a day, and there was no sign, no word -- and him a detective inspector with as good a network of touts as any copper working.

'So what do you know?' Doyle asked him.

Quinn pushed out his lips. 'I'm just glad you were on the end of the phone.'

'I was with Maureen last night, so I didn't get back to Harold's Cross. This morning I drove to the quays thinking I might have words with your man about those Ukrainians he's got working for him. I was sitting there when Laura phoned.'

'I went to the office last night, Doyler. Like I told you, I forgot to switch my phone back on.'

'Getting the files together for this thing down in Naas, were you?'

'The justice minister's pet project,' Quinn replied, nodding.

Doyle shoved his hands in his pockets. 'So what about this, then? What about little Eva taking off somewhere and not telling anyone where she was going?'

'Have you been upstairs?' Quinn asked him.

Doyle nodded. 'The girls are right: it doesn't look as though the bed's been slept in.'

Quinn could see the unease etched in his face. 'Let's get the kids to school,' he said. 'I know what you're thinking but it'll be fine.

'Eva's not one to do anything stupid: you know she's not.'

For years, Quinn had been subordinate to the older man. He had been a young copper when Doyle was already a sergeant; then Quinn made detective and they'd been sergeants together for a while before Quinn was promoted to inspector. Doyle never had designs on anything beyond the rank of sergeant, and his methods had been gleaned from the 'Brano Five Team', who were called out to the trouble spots in the late sixties and early seventies. They were led by Jim 'Lugs' Brannigan, a legendary Dublin policeman who boxed for Ireland but didn't use the Queensberry Rules when dealing with the city's lowlifes. Lugs used to give the so-called hard men the choice of fighting him or appearing in court; most of them chose the latter.

He was famous for taking on a gang in Dolphin's Barn one night, and he was the one they called when a drunk from Meath Street used a hachet as currency to get served in the pub.

Between them, Quinn and Doyle got the girls into the car, and Doyle drove the short distance to the school. Quinn kissed them and told them not to worry, then watched as they padded across the playground.

'Do you not want to let the headteacher know what's gone on, maybe?' Doyle suggested.

Quinn shook his head. 'I don't want to let anyone know, Doyler.

'Eva's not herself, we both know that. We'll just find out where she is and bring her home.' He looked at his watch. 'F**k it,' he said.

'I'm supposed to be going to Naas.'

Taking his mobile phone out, he stepped away from Doyle and called Murphy. 'Listen, Murph,' he said, 'something's come up. Can you take the files to Naas and brief the team without me?'

'Of course. What's happened?'

'It's my wife,' he said, hoarsely. 'She went out and left the girls on their own. Keep a lid on it, will you? Me and Doyle will find her, then I'll get down to Naas.'

Doyle was standing with his hands in his pockets and his collar turned up under his ears. He had a distant expression on his face. He looked round as Quinn hung up the phone.

'So you know what I'm thinking,' Doyle said. He looked squarely at Quinn. It's not like her; but then it's not like anyone, is it? You saw her yesterday, Mossie -- how she was just about coping and no more. I'm going to say it because it has to be said: I can't help but wonder if she's not fetched herself off for the rope.'

Extract from The Gathering of Souls by Gerry O'Carroll by kind permission of the author and Liberties Press, €12.99