“Dig the crowbar deeper and pull,” said Sean. “Put your back into it, you lazy skiver.”
The basement door to St. Anselm’s church hung heavy, two inches of ancient oak, an obstacle for 600 years. Liam glared at his brother, then braced himself and grunted as he yanked on the bar, once, twice, finally cracking the door open the third time. The antique wood exploded and Liam staggered back, crowbar striking concrete and ringing a 2:00 AM toll.
“Jesus, be careful, Liam. You’ll wake the dead.”
Sean had proposed this prank a few days earlier. He and Liam had spent the morning at The Leprechaun, watching a replay of a football match between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers.
“Let’s steal a mummy’s head,” Sean had said.
Liam had looked at his brother for a moment and decided he’d misheard him.
“I’m serious. I read about this church that has four mummies in the basement. Not Egyptian mummies, all wrapped up in rags. These are mostly skeletons. One’s a crusader, almost a thousand years old.”
“You want to spend another eighteen months in Mountjoy?”
“I’ve got a plan,” Sean said. They they would break into St. Anselm’s. Force open the door to the crypt, crash the lids of a couple of coffins, steal a skull, and then leg it like hell.
“Pretend the skull is Father O’Toole’s, right.”
“But it’s not,” said Laim, confused.
“You feckin eejit, it’s revenge, like. For the beatings and everything else.”
They’d been too afraid to report him. Their mother had told them, “He’s a good priest, says a nice mass. Don’t make trouble.”
“Now I get it,” said Liam. “We take some photos of us rolling the skull around the football pitch. Maybe post a picture on Facebook. ‘O’Brien brothers get ahead.’ Or ‘O’Toole, do you still feel like the headmaster?’”
“No Facebook. This is for us. To prove that we’re not just a pair of loser melters like Ma says. Not real revenge—what’s the word?”
“Vicarious,” said Liam.
It was just sunrise when they made it to the field. Sean tried booting the skull, but his second kick shattered the jaw, and it didn’t roll properly. Liam threw it like a bowling ball, fingers in the eye sockets, but it soon became too slippery to grasp. After a few minutes, they wrapped what remained of the cranium in a white towel and dropped it in a trash bin.
A week later, the Gardai had Sean and Liam in custody. Sean hadn’t noticed the closed-circuit television camera in the basement of St. Anselm’s. Their pictures had appeared on page 8 of the Irish Times. Someone who knew them had turned them in.
A month afterwards, a middle-aged woman sat at The Leprechaun bar and ordered the Wicklow lamb with mint gravy and a Guinness. Normally she would have balked at the price, but that evening she felt prosperous, having rented a newly vacant room in her home. “Slainte,” said Margaret, raising the pint. “And Robbie,” she said to the barkeep, “take my advice. Don’t ever have sons.”