I do feel I’m to blame in one sense. After all, I did give him my telephone number. We were in the pub, he said he had a good joke he wanted to send on to me, I gave him my number. As you do, without a second thought. Turned out it was a bad idea.
Anyway, I’d better backtrack. I’d known this individual since I was in school. When I gave my statement to the cops two weeks ago, I estimated the year we first met as 1977. Give or take. So I’ve known this person, this individual we’ll call Daithi Mór, for thirty-five years.
I can’t say we were ever close pals. We got on okay. He was in the same class as one of my brothers. Our school was one of those that used to take day pupils as well as boarders back in the 70s. Even though he was from town and lived within walking distance, his family put him in our school as a boarder. A bit of a problem child, let’s say. Even at fifteen he loved drinking and fighting. More than that, though, he loved talking about all the scraps he’d gotten into, all the pubs he’d smashed up because they wouldn’t serve him. Most of it was bullshit. But he did have a serious chip on his shoulder about just about everything. Nobody particularly liked him, but it was generally agreed that it was “better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in”.
I used to meet him in town a lot. He’d say hello and come up to you for a chat. This would be okay for about five minutes. Then, once he was sure he’d got your attention, the stories would start. How he’d beaten the crap out of so-and-so. How so-and-so had better watch it. You’d sort of go along with this, nod when he paused, and then realise that you suddenly had to get on the next bus, even if it was going in the opposite direction from the one you wanted. Anything to get away from him. He didn’t really instil fear in people, more like a mixture of boredom and ‘the creeps’.
When the eighties came along, he went abroad like most people did. Got some work chef-ing in the UK. Did reasonably well at it. He’d come home for a visit every now and again. The only thing was, it was actually enjoyable to spend time in his company now and again. Okay, maybe in small doses, but he seemed to have grown up a bit. He’d stopped drinking. He’d also developed a taste for ganja, which I supposed mellowed him out a bit. It was actually possible to have a conversation with him about something besides booze and fighting. He wasn’t a dumb guy by any means, just one of those people who never fit into the school system. I never thought I’d say it, but I spent a few pleasant evenings in his company doing nothing much but watching some boxing on TV, playing records and getting high.
At one stage he was gone for a few years, with no report from family or mutual friends. Then he reappeared on a visit – he’d landed a fine job chefing in a restaurant in Australia, got himself a house, and was in a long-term relationship. It was good to hear from him.
Time went by. Friends passed away. Life went on. Plenty of things happened. Then, one day last year I spotted him in the street. He’d come back from Oz. I stopped asking about the job, the house, the relationship; he only became evasive and noncommital if I did. He said he still wasn’t drinking. His parents were quite old, and he said he’d come back to help look after his father, who was in a nursing home. I sympathised. I’d worked with the elderly myself. I’m close to my own dad. I’d bump into him in the street every now and again. We’d say hello, maybe chat for a bit.
Fast forward to about a month before Christmas. I went into my local pub. I hadn’t had a drink for a while, so I thought I’d enjoy a quiet Guinness or two. And there he was: Daithí Mór. He came over for a chat. I was glad to see him at first. I noted that he was drinking again, but he didn’t seem too bad on it. Maybe the old chip on his shoulder had faded away. Then the unfortunate bit where I gave him my phone number, which is where this whole thing started.
I never got a text. The following night I came home from work, having decided not to bother with the pub. I’d left my phone at home. There was a missed call from him. The same thing happened the following night. The night after that, there he was in the local. “Why don’t you answer your phone,” he said. I explained that I rarely take my phone out with me, and usually only check messages or missed calls every day or two. We had another couple of drinks. I introduced him to some friends of mine. I went home early. Before he left, he called after me: “Hey, answer your phone the next time!” I thought it was light-hearted enough.
Over the next week or two he’d be there in the pub every time I called in. I still got the occasional missed call from him. One night I was in company with my family and had my phone on me. He called, I answered. He seemed a bit disappointed that I’d actually chosen to spend time with my family than his (tolerable but by no means illustrious) company.
The day before Christmas Eve I had to go to a seasonal party at work with a few colleagues. I left early, and called into the local before I went home. He was there with someone else. I waved, said hello, had a quick drink and went home.
Later that night he was asked to leave the pub. He’d tried to ask out a female member of the bar staff. Like many barmaids, she gets hit on a lot and she’s well practiced at politely but firmly declining. This wasn’t enough for Daithí Mór. He told her she was a “redneck bitch” and he was going to strangle her. The owner took issue with this and asked him to leave. He told the owner he could “rock and roll” with him any time, and offered to fight him if he wanted to come outside. Some of the bigger customers brought him out and he was told in no uncertain terms not to bother coming back. On his way towards town, he shouted back that he was going to “get” several people, and named them, including me. He said something to the effect that he was going to “shake (me) down”.
He then went into the centre of town to the business premises that his family owns, and put a brick through the front window. He’d already had some kind of disagreement with his brother, who runs the business. I heard all this the following day, on Christmas Eve. There was a certain inevitability about it. Poor guy hadn’t really changed at all. He was still the same fifteen-year-old tough-talking tearaway.
I went to spend Christmas Day with my family – my parents, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces. We had a great time. Eating, drinking, singing songs, entertaining each other. It was the best Christmas in a long time. As the night wore on everyone started going home in ones and twos. My dad, in spite of his advancing years, insisted on driving people home. It’s one of those Christmas things that he likes to do. (Another is to sing old ballads wildly out of tune, but that’s another story.) Eventually it was my own turn to go. “I’ll give you a lift,” my dad said. I knew better than to refuse, even though I lived quite close by. We got into the car and pulled off.
And there was Daithí Mór, at 1.30 in the morning, standing in the street right by my family’s driveway, waiting for me. The car pulled off and I didn’t acknowledge him. To tell the truth, at this stage I didn’t want to know.
And there were about six missed calls and messages from him on my phone when I got home. I listened to the first couple of messages. They weren’t very coherent, but they got progressively darker in tone. All this stuff about all the ‘generosity’ he’d shown me over the years, and how it was about time I showed him some in return. I stopped listening and deleted the rest of them. The guy had clearly completely lost it. I went to bed. Apart from that, it had been a pretty good Christmas.
Then, at about 2.30 in the morning, the phone rang again. It was him. I didn’t answer. He left another voicemail. I deleted it without bothering to listen.
The following day was St. Stephen’s Day, and it was a Sunday. As usual on a Sunday, I went to a particular pub where there’s always a nice traditional music session. Plenty of good friends there. My pal Joe mentioned Dáithí Mór. He’d just seen him out walking the prom. Dáithí had approached him and started talking to him in the same terms he’d used in the messages he’d left for me: about how they’d always been ‘good friends’, how it was about time he got a bit of ‘generosity’ in return. Joe explained that he didn’t have any cash, it was all in the bank. Daithi said that was okay, he’d accompany him to an ATM and he could take out some cash. At this point, Joe related, he made his excuses and left.
Half an hour later I was outside having a cigarette. Daithi approached me, wearing the same clothes he’d been wearing last night (or early that morning). I turned away and went back inside. He stood outside and started sending me texts. All the stuff about ‘generosity’. My reply went something like “Somebody threatened my friends, stalked my family’s house, and tried to take money off another friend, so I’m feeling a bit cautious.” He texted something about how I “knew he wouldn’t do anything like that”. I texted that he wouldn’t get any further reply from me and asked him to leave me alone.
Over the next few days, talking to different friends, a picture emerged. He’d had some kind of a row with his brother. The family kicked him out. He invited himself into the house of another friend – a guy I’ll call Squaw – and stayed there for a week or two. Daithi slowly drove Squaw around the twist, taking his money, drinking all day, talking crap about all the people he was going to ‘get’ – myself included, apparently. Daithi wouldn’t leave, so Squaw had to get a few other people to persuade him, very firmly, that he couldn’t stay there. Daithi started turning up at a shop owned by another mutual friend of ours, asking for money, talking about ‘generosity’, complaining about me (because I have better things to do than answer threatening phone calls at 2.30 in the morning).
I was a bit on edge for the next week or two. I figured sooner or later he’d either sober up and get some sense, or get in trouble somewhere else. One day I called into a pub in town to meet my cousin. Daithi was there, trying to make friends with total strangers. He looked either medicated, or high on something stronger than the usual. He greeted me; I told him I was leaving and that I didn’t want to be anywhere around him. “I’m not able for the grief anymore,” was what I said to him. “I’m not going to give you any grief,” he said to me. I left anyway, and told my cousin we’d meet somewhere else.
A few days later the guards contacted at me at work – I hadn’t made any complaint to them, but a few people had apparently reported him using my name. He was due in court for breaking the window. They asked if I wanted to make a statement. I told them he’d said he was going to leave me alone and I was happy enough with that. They said that if anything further happened to get in touch with them. He appeared in court but got off on a technicality (the cops had put down the wrong address). Later that same week I got this message:
Very clear, no ambiguities at all. He was openly threatening me. For a day or two, walking to and from work was a nightmare. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, and I kept my phone in my hand, with the cops’ number up, ready to contact them if needed. I started getting panic attacks at work. Co-workers noticed this. My boss could tell I was in some distress so I sat down and explained the situation to her. Finally I decided to contact the guards and give them a statement. I was now scared. This guy had completely lost it and there was no telling what he was capable of.
A mutual friend told me Dáithí Mór had said he was going to check himself in somewhere as a mental patient. The day after I heard that, he saw me in the street with a friend, called my name and said “COME HERE!” Like he was in a schoolyard or something. Bloody pathetic.
I’m not sure where he is now. Maybe sleeping rough, or in a homeless shelter somewhere. Apparently I’m not the only person he’s threatened like this. He just seems to have some particular vehemence reserved for me. And no, I don’t ‘owe’ him anything. He never gave me a cent.
For a while I felt sorry for him. We’d been friends and I hoped he’d get some kind of help. Now I don’t care if he lives or dies. I think of all the friends who’ve passed away before their time and wonder what an evil bastard like him is still doing walking around.