Alan Walters was found dead in his apartment. He was shot through the head, the muzzle of the gun had been pressed under his jaw, blowing a considerable hole out the back of his skull. We found the bullet in the wall surrounded by blood and brain tissue.
It made the identification of the body a more unpleasant experience than usual for his landlord. That’s right, his landlord was the best candidate we could find to identify him.
Alan Walters had no recorded living family. He was a foster kid. His mother, whoever she was, left him on the steps of a church when he was a baby. The priest who found him handed him over to social services.
He was prime adoption material and was adopted by a couple in Sandymount, an upper-class suburb of Dublin. Cian and Cliona Walters named their baby Alan. But when Cian and Cliona Walters died in a car accident, seven-year-old Alan was returned to the system. Cian’s parents were dead, and Cliona’s were in a nursing home. Neither of them had any brothers or sisters.
Twice abandoned, once emotionally scarred, he became unadoptable. He bounced around foster homes, none able to deal with him for long, none able to fix him. He was broken, and rage seeped through the cracks.
I know this because we had to talk to his social worker to find out who the hell this guy was. In his adult life, he was like a ghost in the world. He worked as an equity analyst at Davy Stockbrokers. According to his boss, Alan had pulled himself together at some point. He had put himself through college while working as a door-to-door salesman.
The poor bastard didn’t have a single friend that I could find. His funeral was attended by a few colleagues and his next-door neighbour, but none of them claimed to be more than an acquaintance. He seemed to have started life alone and, after having a family for seven years, spent the rest of it alone too, never to be abandoned again.
Can you live like that, really live like that? Without friends or family, without anybody but yourself to care about you? Alan Walters seemed to be proof that you could.
When someone is murdered, they’re usually killed by someone they know, someone they have a relationship with, so my job became very difficult.
The crime scene threw up more questions than answers. Alan Walters’s blood was everywhere. I don’t mean everywhere like it sprayed across two walls—which it did—I mean everywhere.
There were droplets of his blood around his feet where we found him collapsed on the couch. There was a trail of droplets from there all the way into the hallway outside his front door and into the stairwell. But the state pathologist couldn’t find any other wound than the one that killed him, and there were no signs of a nosebleed. She suggested two possibilities. Either the killer opened a wound on Alan’s jaw when they pressed the gun into it, or the blood dripped off the gun after the shot was fired.
Neither of those possibilities seemed likely. If the first were true, then the killer had assaulted Alan in the stairwell. From there, they would’ve had to manhandle Alan to his door, somehow unlocking and opening it, and brought him all the way through the apartment before firing the gun.
If the second were true, then the killer had left the apartment without putting the gun away. In either case, the killer was very foolish. But this killer was no fool.
We found no fingerprints in the apartment that didn’t match Alan’s or the landlord’s. The attack happened in the middle of the night, around three a.m. A few of Alan’s neighbours woke to the sound of the gunshot, but none of them had been sure what had woken them and they went back to sleep. The killer had somehow entered the apartment building without breaking the lock on the front door. They had also somehow convinced Alan to answer his door in the dead of night.
Alan knew the killer, he must have, I just didn’t know how.
The only other physical evidence we found was the skin tissue under Alan’s fingernails which—you guessed it—was his own.
I’d been a member of An Garda Síochána, Ireland’s police force, for thirty years. I’d been a homicide detective in the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation for twelve, and I’d never had such a confusing case. Alan knew the killer, that’s the angle my partner and I went with.
So, as any Irishmen would do, we went to the pub. We brought his photo into every bar in a one-mile radius of his office on Dawson Street in Dublin’s city centre. It was no mean feat with almost a hundred bars in the vicinity. We asked every bartender in every bar and the patrons as well, but none of them recognized Alan.
When that failed, we moved onto bars near his apartment on Grand Canal Dock. We tried all the bars around Pearse Street and Ringsend, no one knew him.
We made our way down to Sandymount, a long walk but probably a fitting place for a financier to drink. It may have appealed to his nostalgia as well, it was his hometown after all, even if it had only been for a few years.
We went into Mulligan’s, a relatively new, plush bar. It was the heart of Dublin 4 and all the money and rugby that went with it.
“Evening, lads, what are we having?” The barman asked when we approached the bar.
“Just a few questions,” I said, showing my I.D.
“Oh, right,” he said, adjusting his glasses. He looked around the bar, in case the patrons might have clocked us. “We should probably talk in back.”
He came out from behind the bar and took us through the door to the bathrooms, and through a door to a back room. There were shelves on either wall filled with cutlery and glasses.
“I’m Terry, by the way,” he said, shaking our hands.
“Detective Darragh Cassidy, this is my partner, Peter Duffy, we’re with the NBCI,” I said. “We just want to know if this man frequented your pub.” I showed him the photo of Alan Walters.
“Ah yeah, Alan, sound lad,” he said.
“You know him?” I asked.
“Ah yeah, he comes in when the football’s on. Is he alright?”
“No, sadly, he’s dead.”
“Dead?” he said, adjusting his glasses again. “Jesus, what happened to him?”
“He was murdered.”
“Murdered? Last night, like? I didn’t see anything on the news.”
“No, he was murdered two weeks ago.”
Terry chuckled. “No, no, no. He was only here last night. You’ve got the wrong man, thank god.”
I cast a side glance at Peter. He was a quiet man, but his look spoke louder than words.
“He was here last night?” I asked.
“Yeah, he was here for the United match. Football-head, so he is. He’s not dead.” A smile quavered at the edges of his lips as he looked from me to Peter, looking for one of us to admit we were mad.
“How’d he look last night? How was he?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Grand, wore a suit, as usual. He was in good form, had the craic with a few other United fans, but he was on his own.”
“How long has he been coming here?”
“Jaysus, must be a year now. Always on his own, but he’s friendly enough. He’s a sound lad.”
“And he didn’t seem different to usual over the last two weeks?”
“No, same as ever. Had a bad scratch on his face about a week ago.”
“Yeah, three scrapes down his cheek. Got on the wrong side of a woman, I think.”
“The right one.”
“His right or your right?”
“My right. His left.”
“I see. Tell me, is it just the United matches Alan comes to watch?”
“On the weekends, yeah, but he’ll come in for the Champions League matches if an English team is playing.”
“Okay, thanks for your help, Terry. If you see Alan before we do, don’t tell him we were asking about him, okay?”
“Sure. He’s not in trouble, is he?”
“Maybe, maybe not. We’d like to speak to him in either case. We’ll be back in this evening.”
“Alright, I’ll see you then.”
I would’ve asked for CCTV footage, but a quick glance around the place told me they had none.
Chelsea were playing that evening in the Champions League, so we came back in more casual attire. We wandered in, said a few quiet words to Terry and ordered a pint of Guinness each. We took a seat in a corner booth across from the end of the bar. It gave us a full view of the only entrance as well as the whole bar. Behind our booth was the bar restaurant, there was no TV in there. If this Alan Walters came in, we’d see him, and we’d have a view of him wherever he sat.
After an hour of slow sipping, we each still had half a pint left, and I started to feel conspicuous. We quickly finished our pints and ordered another round. When you’re undercover, you can’t afford to draw stares, you have to fit in. So, we bet into another couple Guinness, for the job, like.
Around seven, a man in a grey suit walked in. He looked just like the Alan Walters we’d found, only with a bit more colour and fewer holes in his head. Peter bristled beside me and almost stood up, but I put a hand on his arm and kept him seated.
“I want to get a read on him first,” I said.
Peter nodded and took another sip of his pint.
So, Alan Walters had an identical twin. He went up to the bar, his leather man-bag over his shoulder, and ordered a drink. He sat in the booth, three tables down from us.
I watched him out of the corner of my eye. He was so calm. He sipped his Smithwick’s, watched the pre-match preamble, and didn’t so much as glance around. This Alan Walters had stolen his brother’s skin and he was comfortable in it.
I started to wonder if this was the same Alan Walters that had frequented the pub over the past year or if he had taken his brother’s haunt along with his life. He wouldn’t be that stupid, surely.
I could tell that Peter wanted to arrest him there and then, but I wanted to wait. I wanted to know if anyone knew this Alan Walters or our Alan Walters. Anyone who could tell the difference between the two, because I couldn’t.
The forensic evidence couldn’t either. Their blood and DNA would be the same, but reason would dictate that the blood found around Alan Walters’s apartment belonged to his brother, scratched by Alan during the attack, and that the skin under Alan’s nails belonged to his brother too. But reason doesn’t always reign in a courtroom. Any barrister worth his salt could argue away the blood and skin tissue.
I wanted this shapeshifting bastard. It’s one thing to murder someone and run. But to murder someone and flaunt it by wearing their skin, to live their life as well as take it was fucked beyond belief. I wasn’t going to allow the courts to let him to walk.
A ten-man Chelsea team held Barcelona to a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp in what was a thrilling encounter. I saw none of it. I watched Alan Walters’s twin and could tell by his exclamations and gesticulations that it was a good match.
The bar filled up but no one sat down with him. He didn’t say a word to anyone. He got up at full-time and went to the bathroom.
He came out, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand, and marched straight over to us.
“Have you got a problem with me?” he asked in a North Dublin accent that he was trying to suppress.
“As a matter of fact, we do,” I said, and showed him my I.D. “What’s your name, buddy?”
“Alan. What’s this about?” he asked, cool as anything. There wasn’t a hint of nerves in his voice, not a single flash of shock in his face. With a closer look at his face, I could see three recently healed scratch marks on his left cheek. The scabs were gone but the skin was pinker than the rest of his cheeks.
“What’s your real name?” I asked.
“Alan, Alan Walters. You better tell me what this is about or I’m walking.”
“That wouldn’t be a very good idea, would it, Peter?” I said.
“No, not very good at all,” Peter said, shaking his head slowly. “That could be construed as an admission of guilt.”
“Guilt of what?” he asked.
“You got any I.D.?” I asked.
He threw his eyes up to heaven and took out his wallet. He handed over his driver’s license. There it was, Alan Walters, printed on what was undoubtedly a real driver’s license. It wasn’t stolen either, the real Alan Walters didn’t have a license.
“What’s this about?” he asked again.
“We’re investigating the murder of Alan Walters,” Peter said.
The fucker laughed. “Hate to break it to you, lads, but as you can see, I’m very much alive. You’re not exactly Sherlock Holmes, are ya?”
“You think this is funny?” I asked. “Your brother’s dead, and you killed him.”
“I don’t have a brother.” He frowned at me in total disbelief. “I didn’t kill anybody. You must be cracked.”
“Maybe,” I said, standing up. “We can sort that out at the station. Alan Walters, you are under arrest for the murder of Alan Walters.” I felt like a gobshite just saying it. I put on the handcuffs and read him his rights.
“This is ridiculous,” he said, but didn’t resist.
We brought him to Ringsend Garda station, booked him and stuck him in a holding cell. He’d been drinking, so we needed a doctor to declare him compos mentis before we could question him.
I didn’t like it, it gave him too much time to think, to plan, to solidify his lies. But by the way he acted in the bar, it may not have mattered much. Either he really didn’t kill the real Alan Walters, or this guy was a sociopath. Only a sociopath could murder someone and react like he did. Sociopaths are expert liars; they don’t need much time to hammer them out.
While we waited for the doctor, I checked his license against the RSA database. The license numbers matched, the details on the license matched those on the system, it was legit.
How had social services failed to mention in any of Alan’s files that he had a twin? Alan had no birth certificate. The priest who found him had named him John of God, and that was his name until he was adopted and became Alan Walters. The day he was found became his birthday.
I opened one of the files on Alan Walters and found the contact number left by the priest, Father Cunningham. I called the number.
“Ballymun Parochial House, Father Enyema speaking,” a priest with a distinctive Nigerian accent answered.
“Good evening, Father. I’m sorry to disturb you this late. This is Detective Darragh Cassidy with the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. I was hoping to speak to Father Cunningham.”
“My apologies, Detective, Father Cunningham passed away many years ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Did you know the Father?”
“No, I am new to the parish. I came from Nigeria last year.”
“I see. Did anyone ever tell you the story about a baby that Father Cunningham found on the church steps?”
“Oh, yes, it is a bit of a local legend here.”
“Was it just the one baby he found, or were there two?”
“There was only one child, as far as I know.”
“Okay, thank you, Father. Have a good night.”
“Goodnight, Detective, God be with you.”
“And you, Father.”
So, no one knew that Alan had a twin, maybe not even the man we had in custody until recently.
The doctor came into the office when he had completed his assessment and declared our detainee to be fit for questioning.
The Garda on duty came with us to unlock the cell. Our man was sitting, hunched over, with his hands gripping the bench.
“Mr. Walters, we’re ready for you,” I said.
“Let’s get this over with,” he said, getting to his feet.
We sat him down in an interrogation room, turned on the recording equipment and went through the preliminaries. We re-read him his rights and stated the facts for the tape. I asked the questions, while Peter transcribed the interview.
“So, Mr. Walters,” I began, “You claim to be unaware that you had a brother, is that correct?”
“I had no idea,” he replied.
“Where were you on the night of Wednesday, the 11th of April?”
He rolled his eyes and thought for a moment before replying, “I was in Mulligan’s, watching the United match. I went there after work.”
“Where do you work?”
“Bank of Ireland on College Green.”
“What did you do after the match?”
“I went home to bed.” His answers came like bullets, one after another. Not a second’s hesitation, not a single inflection of emotion, just a stream of words.
“Did you sleep through the night?”
“So, you didn’t get up around 2 a.m. and leave your place?”
“No, I slept all night.”
“You have flawless recall, unusually flawless, in fact.” I curled one side of mouth into an incredulous smirk, just to let him know I was no fool.
“I’m not stupid,” he replied, his face deadpan.
“Can anyone confirm that you were in your apartment all night?”
“I’ve got two housemates, they can confirm it.”
“Two housemates who were probably asleep.”
“I don’t need an alibi for something I didn’t do.” There was no exasperation in his face or his voice as he said this, just cool statement of fact.
I sat back for a moment. “You’re an interesting study, Mr. Walters.”
“Why’d you say that?”
“Well, if somebody told me I had a brother—a twin—that I didn’t know about, who went by the same name as me, and who was dead—murdered—I’d have questions, a lot of questions.
“But you haven’t asked any. You don’t have any questions, do you? You don’t have any questions because you had the answers long before we did, didn’t you?” I raised my voice. “You knew you had a twin brother, and you knew he was dead because you killed him, didn’t you?!”
He only blinked at me as if I were a toddler throwing a tantrum. “I don’t care much for family,” he said, “and the fucked-up nature of my family doesn’t surprise me anymore.”
“Were you found on a church step too? Tossed into the system like your brother?”
He smirked. “Is that where she left him? At a church? That’s rich.”
“Where did your mother leave you?”
“She didn’t leave me anywhere. The junkie bitch sold me to a plumber and his barren wife.”
“She sold you?”
“Yep, I told you it was fucked up. Probably gave her enough to keep her blitzed for a few weeks.”
“What were the names of the couple who bought you?”
“Kevin and Brigid Walters. Did you find out when my brother stole my name?” He smiled, sneered really.
“How stupid do you think we are?”
“I don’t think youse could organize a piss-up in a brewery, to be honest.”
“You’re a gas man, but you’re not too bright. We have eighteen years of records confirming your brother’s name, what have you got?”
“I’ve got me driver’s license.”
“It was issued three years ago, doesn’t prove much.”
He shrugged. There was a knock at the door, and the duty Garda came in.
“Mr. Walters’s solicitor is here.”
“Bring him in,” I said. “Interview suspended at 1.13 a.m.”
We left the room to let him consult with his solicitor.
We went back into the office and I logged onto a computer. I brought up the court services database. A man by the name of Dean Kane had changed his name to Alan Walters four years ago, back in 2008.
“His name’s Dean Kane,” I said to Peter. “Changed his name back in ’08. Why would he steal his brother’s name?”
“He’s obviously a feckin’ mentalist,” Peter said.
I rattled the question round in my head, and an idea came to me. I mulled over a strategy. The duty officer came in a few minutes later to let us know that Dean and his solicitor were ready.
When we came into the interrogation room, I walked over to the solicitor and reached across him, offering my hand to Dean. “Dean Kane, it’s lovely to meet you.”
Dean’s eyes narrowed but he reluctantly took my hand. The solicitor looked perplexed and leaned in and whispered something to Dean.
“Did your client not tell you?” I asked as I walked around the table to sit down. “Your client stole his identical twin brother’s name four years ago. Alan Walters is actually the man that your client murdered two weeks ago.”
Dean started biting his nails as I sat down.
“I hope you have sufficient evidence to back up those accusations,” the solicitor said.
“Oh, we do. Your client’s blood and DNA were all over Alan Walters’s apartment, under Alan’s fingernails too,” I said. I switched the recording equipment back on. “Interview with Alan Walters recommenced at 1.37 a.m. The suspect’s solicitor—”
“—Colm Fitzpatrick, is in attendance. For the purposes of the record, I must state that we have recently discovered that the suspect changed his name from Dean Kane to Alan Walters. To avoid confusion with the victim, Alan Walters, I will refer to the suspect as Dean Kane from now on.”
“You say my client’s blood and DNA were found in the victim’s apartment, don’t you mean the victim’s blood and DNA?” the brief asked.
I smiled. “That will be for a court to decide. We have a witness who says that he saw your client with a scratch on his face a week ago, which would explain how his skin got under the fingernails of the victim. For now, that’s enough.
“So, Dean, seeing as we’ve just met, tell me, what’s your story?”
“Detective,” the brief said, “don’t you have more pertinent questions to ask my client?”
“I’ve got seventy-two hours, seven days if a judge will allow me. I’ve got time enough to document his life story if I feel like it. Everything your client has told me up to now has been a lie. I want to know the truth, from the beginning.
“Tell me, Dean, were you actually sold to a couple by the names Brigid and Kevin Walters?”
Dean took his right hand away from his mouth and began scratching his left arm as he spoke. It was odd, he’d shown no signs of nerves up until now, and even when he spoke, he still sounded calm.
“No,” he said, “I was sold to Kevin and Brigid Kane, alright?”
“Finally, a bit of honesty. What was life like with Kevin and Brigid?”
“It was a fuckin’ scream, the Ballymun flats were like Beverly Hills.”
“That’s what I hear. Not quite Sandymount village though, are they? Your brother was lucky, wasn’t he?”
He shrugged. He stopped scratching his arm and put his hands on his lap, but he kept on fidgeting, drumming his fingers against his knees. “I guess.”
“Did you do well in school?”
“Nob’dy did well in my school, it was a fuckin’ zoo.” That North Dublin accent was creeping further into his speech now. “Kinda place where only arson would getya kicked ou’.”
I nodded. “Ever since you told me, I’ve been wondering, how did you find out your mother sold you? I can’t imagine your parents told you.”
“No, the bitch told me herself. She lived in one of the other tower blocks. I was playin’ football in one of the communal areas between the blocks, I was fourteen, I t’ink. Dis junkie bitch came runnin’ at me, grabbed me by the face and star’ed crying, ‘Me baby, me baby.’ I fuckin’ freaked and shoved her over. ‘I’m yer mudder!’ she yelled. She got back to her feet and said, ‘I nevar shoulda le’ ya go.’ Me and me mates started takin’ the mick out of her and she fucked off. I grilled me ma and da about it ‘til they told me the truth.”
“How did you react to that?” I asked.
“The fuck d’ya think?”
“What did you do?”
“I made ‘em pay. Stole money outta me ma’s purse. They couldn’t say nothin’ t’me.”
He was regressing, talking like the skanger he used to be, the skanger he still was. It was perfect.
“What did you spend the money on?” I asked.
“The fuck does it matter?”
“We can sit here ‘til you tell me, or you could tell me now.”
He shrugged. “PlayStation games and trainers and shit.”
“Oh, come on now, those flats were flooded with stuff that was a lot more fun than video games.”
“What are you tryna say?”
“I’m just saying, you seem to be getting a little restless in here. Have you been following in your mother’s footsteps?”
He shot up. “The fuck you say?!” His solicitor gripped him by the cuff of his suit jacket and pulled him back down.
“Showing your true colours now, Deano,” I said.
“Don’t call me that,” he said.
“Okay, okay. Sorry, Dean. So, what did you do after you left school?”
“Signed on the dole.”
“And when did you start working for Bank of Ireland?”
“A few years ago.”
“Around the time you met your brother?”
“I told you, I never met me brother.”
“It must’ve killed you, a degenerate cokehead, living on the dole, maybe doing a little dealing to top you up. Then you meet your brother, a man who looks just like you, who’s absolutely nothing like you. He’s got a degree, a great job, and a fancy apartment in Grand Canal Dock.
“You tried to emulate him, didn’t you? You stole his name and got a job in a bank, thinking you were like him. But you weren’t, you were still a cokehead from the flats earning less than half your brother was, and you couldn’t see any way to change that.
“It must have made you angry seeing everything he had, everything he was, everything you could never be. You were jealous, so you killed him, didn’t you?!”
“That was my life!” he shouted, slamming his fist on the table. “He stole my life.”
“So, you stole his?”
He took a deep breath and settled himself. “You’re talkin’ shit.”
“You think he had it plain-sailing, don’t you? Did you know his adoptive parents died in a car crash when he was seven? He bounced around foster homes all his life. He didn’t have a family like you did. When he turned eighteen, he couldn’t sign on and kip in his mother’s spare room. He got a job and put himself through college.
“He earned the life you think he stole from you. You had one home, one family, a base where he had none. You could’ve had the life he had, but you pissed it away, you snorted it up your nose, you fucking gobshite.
“I know I can’t get you to admit to it, you’re that twisted in the head, but I don’t need you to. Interview suspended at 2.15 a.m. Sleep well, Dean. Get used to sleeping in a cell.”
I switched off the recording equipment. While Peter escorted Dean back to his cell, I called another doctor. He came by and took a blood, urine, and hair sample from Dean.
First thing the next morning I called the state pathologist’s office. “Did you run a tox screen on the blood found in Alan Walters’s apartment?”
“Of course, we did.”
“Where did you get the sample from?”
“We extracted it from the victim’s body.”
“I want you to run a tox screen on every sample you took from that room. From the floor, the hallway, the stairwell, everywhere.”
“I think I can prove it wasn’t Alan Walters’s blood.”
“How? What are we looking for?”
“Cocaine and its metabolites.”
“I’ll put the order in.”
Dean Kane had cocaine in his system the night we arrested him. His hair sample showed considerable amounts of cocaine use over the previous month. Cocaine was found in the blood dotted around Alan Walters’s apartment, but not in Alan’s system. What proceeded was one of the most confusing court cases I’ve ever been a part of, and a string of newspaper articles that were hard to follow. Alan Walters was convicted of the murder of Alan Walters, but he will always be Dean Kane to me.