HANNAH O’Connor’s hair had long been a great source of conversation amongst all those who had the good fortune to meet her.
She usually wore it up, all 3ft of it, coiled around and around, and flat to the back of her head, like a large cinnamon roll.
The only people who knew her little secret were her mother and her sister.
From her childhood days, she had long been obsessed with all things hair-related. Not having been blessed with anything other than a sprig of growth on her rather generous-sized head, actresses like Sophia Loren and Jean Shrimpton all had what Hannah craved - voluminous, long hair.
When she stumbled across an advert for ‘handmade wigs’ in the Irish Times, at the age of 17, her foray into the world of extravagant up-dos and unconventional styles, began with gusto.
Over the years, her ever-increasing collection, which grew to include buns, plaits, beehives and other such designs, was carefully washed, dried and styled in the confines of No.1, Main Street, away from the prying eyes of Kilroche village.
“Hannah O’Connor, that hair will be the death of you,” her mother had said on more than one occasion.
On the little hill just above the village, with a view over the Atlantic Ocean, one could almost imagine Nancy O’Connor pulling on her glasses and raising her head out of the soil to peer down the main street, with a derisory look.
Denis Rua Sheehy had just unwrapped his ham sandwiches and set himself up for the tea, when the phone rang.
“Hello, Kilroche Garda Station, Sergeant Sheehy here,” he mumbled through a mouthful of food.
A strangled muffle came down the line.
“Din, would you come up here as fast as you can please, she’s dead, she’s dead...”
He thought he recognised the voice, but wanted to be absolutely sure...
“Is that you, Maura?”
“Oh Jesus, Din, there’s an awful, awful lot of blood, poor Hannah...”
Din shoved another sandwich into his mouth, grabbed his hat, and headed for O’Connor’s.
As he knelt there now at the foot of the cast-iron staircase, it became very clear to him. Hannah’s hair, which according to Maura had involved a long plait, had gotten caught in the handrail of the stairs, sending her flying straight over the last 6ft of bannister, to land splat on the flagstone floor below. Judging by the pools of blood, death had been instant.
“Her hair, her bloody hair killed her, oh dear God,” Maura bawled.
“I’m no doctor, Maura, but I’m sure it was quick, I’m so sorry, what a terrible thing to happen.”
“Oh God, poor Hannah, she’s gone, she’s gone.”
Din got up from his crouching position and stood there awkwardly, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. He’d never dealt with anything of this magnitude before.
“I’ll make you a quick cuppa before you go, Din,” Maura said hurriedly, “I’m sure I interrupted your tea.”
“Not at all thanks, Maura, I’d better be getting on, I have some work to do back at the station, you’ve enough on your plate.”
Maura was having none of it.
“I won’t take no for an answer,” she said, hurrying out to the kitchen.
It was only when Maura left that Din thought of ringing Dr Murphy. Although he hadn’t found a pulse, it was probably best to have the doctor double-check, call an undertaker and do the necessaries. Jack, sounding like he’d just woken up, said that he’d be there pronto.
Din followed Maura to the kitchen, where she had the table set with a pot of tea, cups and saucers, and a large plate of biscuits. Her house-coat had a few splatters of blood on it, he noted. That was to be expected, he supposed.
She took it off, and draped it over the back of an old fireside armchair. Something clattered to the floor with a loud clunk. A long hair plait, adorned with a beautiful diamante clip, lay bloodied and tangled on the kitchen’s immaculate, tiled floor.