The pubs were opening again, and this time without the need to sign in and order from your table. Standing at a bar seemed a novelty, though you were aware of the bottle of hand sanitiser on the corner or over by the door, and the track-and-trace QR code or the old-fashioned clipboard on which you scrawled a name–any name, and contact number–any number. Rebus still hadn’t a clue how the QR code worked. Now and again a savvier customer or one of the bar staff would try showing him, but the information was like a stone skimming across the surface of his brain, soon sinking, never to be retrieved.
The pub he was in today was on Brougham Place. He had walked Brillo across Bruntsfield Links in low winter sun, dog and owner casting long shadows. There was the usual traffic on Melville Drive and plenty of students using the footpaths. He supposed the university was back in business. Things had been very quiet for a while, Rebus confined to barracks with his COPD until the vaccine programme kicked in. But now he was a free man, and boosted to boot. No more distanced meetings with his daughter and grand-daughter, them one side of the garden gate and him the other, shopping left outside the door for him to collect. People could go about their lives again. He could give Samantha and Carrie a hug, though he sensed a reticence still in his granddaughter, who was yet to be jabbed. Were things really getting back to normal, or was there no longer any normal for them to get back to? The drinkers in today’s pub still slipped their masks back on if they wanted to move about the place. They still twitched if anyone had a sudden coughing fit. Lockdown had offered Rebus the perfect excuse not to try seeing his doctor about the dizzy spells and chest pain. Maybe he’d do something about that now.
For the present, he contented himself with the evening paper. There was a story about local businesses on the Royal Mile that felt under siege, shoplifters and addicts menacing them and taking from them with seeming impunity. Meanwhile in West Lothian a car had been vandalised with acid and a nearby house attacked with a petrol bomb. Rebus knew that probably meant a gang feud. Not that it was any of his business, not any more. When his phone pinged, a drinker at the next table visibly flinched. Rebus gave a slow shake of the head to reassure the man that it was just a normal text rather than a COVID alert. But when he checked his screen, he realised it was anything but normal, insofar as it was from a man called Cafferty. Morris Gerald Cafferty, known as Big Ger.
You not out with the dog?
Rebus thought about ignoring the question, but he doubted Cafferty would give up.
Yes, was his one-word reply. Cafferty’s response was immediate.
How come I can’t see you? Pub.
Are you on some sort of miser’s contract that means you can only type three-letter texts?
Rebus waited, took a sip from his pint, and waited some more. Brillo was curled at his feet, not asleep but doing a passable impression. Rebus rested his phone on the table and swirled the contents of his glass, renewing its foamy head. He’d been told once that he shouldn’t do that, but he couldn’t remember why.
Ping. I need to see you.
Ping. Come to the flat.
Ping. No rush. The next hour will do. Finish your drink and take the dog home.
He debated how to answer. Did he even need to? No, because he was going to go, and Cafferty knew he would. He would go because he was curious – curious about all sorts of things. He would go because they had history.
On the other hand, he didn’t want to look too keen. So instead he slipped his mask on, walked to the bar and ordered another pint.
Cafferty’s home was a three-storey penthouse in a glass tower on a development known as Quartermile. It had been the site of Edinburgh’s old infirmary, and the original renovated buildings nestled between steel-and-glass newcomers. Rebus’s own home was a ground-floor tenement flat on a quiet street in Marchmont, only a ten-minute walk away. The two were separated by Melville Drive. On Rebus’s side sat Bruntsfield Links, where pitch-and-putt was played in summer months. On Cafferty’s side sat a large grassy area known as the Meadows. There were usually plenty of joggers, cyclists and dog-walkers making use of the space. Rebus had to avoid a few as he walked towards Quartermile. He wondered if Cafferty was watching his approach. On the off chance, he offered a two-fingered salute in the building’s general direction, earning him a quizzical look from a young couple seated on a nearby bench. He paused for a moment outside the door to Cafferty’s building, wishing he still smoked. A cigarette would have given him a reasonable excuse to delay entering. Instead of which, he pressed the buzzer. The door clicked open, the lift taking him up eight storeys to the top. The landing here led to just the one door. It had already been opened. A well-built young man was scooping up the mail that had obviously been pushed through the letter box earlier. He was fair-haired and had a build toned by regular visits to the gym. He sported what looked like a Fitbit on his left wrist. No actual watch and no rings.
‘Who are you then?’ Rebus enquired. ‘Mr Cafferty’s personal assistant.’
‘Must be some job that, wiping his arse as and when. I know the way.’ Rebus snatched the mail from the man’s hand. He’d taken no more than two steps down the hall when a strong grip on his shoulder pulled him up.
‘Need to pat you down.’
‘You’re joking, aren’t you?’ But it was clear from the look on the young man’s face that he wasn’t. Rebus managed a sigh as he unzipped his padded jacket. ‘You know I was invited here, right? Making me a guest rather than a really shite ninja?’
The hands went around Rebus’s ribs, up under his arms and down his back. When the man crouched to check the legs of his trousers, Rebus had a mind to plant a knee in his face, but he reckoned there might be consequences.
‘I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did,’ he said as the man rose to his full height again. Instead of replying, the assistant grabbed the letters Rebus had taken from him, then led the way into the flat’s cavernous open-plan living area.
Rebus noted that the staircase had had a stairlift fitted, but otherwise the place was as he remembered it. Cafferty was in an electric wheelchair over by the floor-to-ceiling windows. There was a telescope there on a lowered tripod, just the right height for someone seated.
‘I suppose you have to get your kicks somehow,’ Rebus commented.
Cafferty half turned his head and offered a thin smile. He had lost some weight and there was an unhealthy pallor to his face. The eyes were still the same steely orbs, though, the large clenched fists a reminder of past, bruising endeavours.
‘No flowers or chocolates?’ he asked, looking Rebus up and down. ‘I’ve a dozen white lilies ordered for when the time comes.’ Rebus pretended to be interested in the view across The Meadows to the chimneypots of Marchmont. ‘They still haven’t found him, have they?’ he mused. ‘The guy who shot you? Thinking is, they never will.’
‘Andrew, get John here a drink, will you? Maybe some coffee to counteract the alcohol?’
‘What’s the point of alcohol if you counteract it?’ ‘A whisky, then? I don’t have any beer.’
‘I don’t need anything, other than to know what I’m doing here.’ Cafferty stared at him. ‘It’s good to see you too.’ He turned the wheelchair and aimed it at the long glass coffee table across the
room, at the same time gesturing to Andrew that he should leave. ‘Which is he, carer or bodyguard?’ Rebus asked as he followed.
Cafferty gestured towards the cream leather sofa and Rebus lowered himself onto it, moving a large cushion emblazoned with a saltire out of the way. The only thing on the table was the mail Andrew had placed there. Cafferty’s gaze settled on him.
‘How about you?’ he enquired. ‘Did you have a good pandemic?’ ‘I appear to have survived.’
‘Sums up the pair of us, wouldn’t you say? On the other hand, you probably feel it as much as I do.’
‘Mortality, chapping at the door.’ To reinforce the point, Cafferty rapped the knuckles of his left hand against the arm of his wheelchair.
‘Well, this is cheery.’ Rebus leaned back, getting as comfortable as the sofa would allow.
‘Life isn’t cheery, though, is it? We both learned that lesson long ago. And stuck here during COVID, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to do except . . .’ Cafferty tapped his forehead.
‘If you’d asked, I’d have let you borrow a jigsaw.’
Cafferty gave a slow shake of the head. ‘You forget that I know you. You’re telling me you sat for weeks on end in that flat of yours, that living room, that head of yours, and didn’t brood? What else would you do?’
‘I had a dog that needed walking.’
‘And you had your daughter and granddaughter take it for those walks–I saw them.’ He jerked his head towards the telescope. ‘And Siobhan Clarke too, sometimes. She could never get within a hundred yards of here without staring up. Staring, mind, not . . .’ He raised two fingers towards Rebus.
‘If you could maybe get to the point while there’s still a bit of light in the sky.’
‘The point is . . .’ Cafferty sucked in some air and expelled it noisily. ‘I’ve had nothing to do but think back on things I’ve done, people I’ve done them to. Not all of it strictly merited.’
Rebus held up a hand, palm towards Cafferty. ‘I no longer take confession. Siobhan’s the one you need to talk to.’
‘Not for this,’ Cafferty said quietly. ‘Not for this.’ He leaned forward in his chair. ‘You remember Jack Oram?’
It took Rebus a few moments, Cafferty staying silent, content to let the synapses do their slow-grinding work.
‘Another of your legion of the disappeared,’ Rebus eventually stated. ‘What was the name of his place–the Potter’s Bar?’
‘I knew you’d remember.’
‘A pool hall where a cue could come in handy in more than one way. Oram’s name above the door but profits accruing to the man I’m looking at right now. Oram starts skimming and pretty soon he needs more than a pool cue to save him.’
‘I didn’t touch him.’ ‘Of course you didn’t.’
‘He ran before I could. Turned into a missing person case. I’ve half an idea your old pal Siobhan worked on it.’
‘So I hear he’s back in town.’
‘I wouldn’t mind a word, always supposing he can be persuaded.’
Rebus gave a grunt. ‘What are you going to do, have Andrew pat him down with a bit more malice?’
‘I want to say sorry to the guy,’ Cafferty stated solemnly.
Rebus made show of cupping a hand to one ear. ‘I must have misheard.’
‘I’m serious. Yes, he took what wasn’t his, and, yes, he ran. He’s been laying low the past four years, doubtless scared shitless. Probably only came back because he heard about this.’ Cafferty thumped the arm of his wheelchair again.
‘I’m still not sure I get it.’
‘That’s because you don’t know what he needed the money for. His brother, Paul, died of cancer. Left a wife, two kids and precious little in the bank. Jack wanted to help, whatever it took.’
‘Are you asking me to believe you’ve suddenly grown a conscience?’
‘I just want to tell him to his face that I’m sorry for what happened.’
‘So have your gofer go fetch him.’
‘I could do that, but seeing how you’re to blame for what happened to him . . .’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Four and a bit years back, you were drinking in some pub, got chatting to a guy called Eric Linn. Ring a bell?’
‘I’ve met a lot of people in a lot of pubs.’
‘The two of you had a mutual acquaintance, Albert Cousins, snitch of yours from back in the day. Linn asked if you still saw him. You said no, but you’d heard he was losing a bit too much at after-hours poker games in the Potter’s Bar.’ Cafferty broke off. ‘Anything?’
‘Well, Eric knew I had a stake in the bar and he reckoned I might be interested, which I was, because nobody had thought to tell me about these wee sessions. Jack Oram had been holding back, not cutting me in. That got me doing some digging, and it started to look a lot like he’d been skimming from the pool hall, too. Lucky for him, he got wind I’d be wanting a word.’ Cafferty paused again. ‘All because your mouth got a bit slack in a bar one night.’
Rebus was silent for a moment. It was true about Albert Cousins and his gambling. Rebus couldn’t have known not to mention it in conversation. All the same . . .
‘The streets have changed,’ Cafferty was saying. ‘I’ve not got the eyes and ears I once had.’
‘Neither have I.’
‘But you still know your way around, and you’ve got time on your hands.’
‘I’m a bit long in the tooth to play Humphrey Bogart.’ Rebus got to his feet and retraced his steps to the window. He heard the whirr of the wheelchair’s motor as Cafferty followed him.
‘I’m on the way out,’ Cafferty said quietly. ‘You noticed as soon as you walked in here. Those bullets did too much damage.’ He suddenly looked tired. ‘I just feel bad about Oram. I can’t explain it exactly, why him and none of the others. And there’s money in it, of course.’ He was gesturing towards a wall unit. ‘Envelope there with some cash in it. You wouldn’t be Humphrey Bogart if you didn’t take it.’
‘Any chance of a femme fatale on the side?’
‘No promises, but who knows what you’ll turn up. It’s got to be better than festering in that flat of yours.’
‘I’m halfway through another jigsaw, though. Sergeant Pepper, a thousand pieces.’
‘It’ll still be there.’
Rebus turned and leaned in towards the seated figure. ‘Whatever happened to Oram, I’m not to blame–you are. You’d have found out eventually, one way or another. Plenty chancers out there who’d be happy to track him down for you.’
‘I don’t want just any chancer, though–I want the biggest.’
Rebus gave a thin smile, almost despite himself. ‘So what have you got, apart from his name?’
‘Could be he’s using an alias–I would, in his shoes. Last sighting was near Gracemount a few weeks back.’
‘A lovely spot for an ex-cop to go walkabout. Is this you trying to get me bushwhacked?’
‘He was coming out of a lettings agency on Lasswade Road.’ ‘Didn’t you used to own a lettings agency?’
Cafferty nodded. ‘It changed hands a few years back.’
‘And that’s his last sighting–a lettings office that used to be in your name?’
Cafferty offered a slow shrug. ‘I know you’d rather it was a Hollywood mogul’s house, but that’s all I can offer.’
Rebus leaned down further, his hands gripping the arms of the wheelchair. The two men fixed eyes, the silence lengthening. Then he pushed himself upright and shook his head slowly.
‘I’ll think about it,’ he said, walking towards the door.
Cafferty stayed facing the window. In around five minutes, he could place his eye to the telescope and watch Rebus heading back across the Meadows. He heard the front door close and sensed Andrew behind him, awaiting instructions.
‘Tea, I think,’ he said. ‘Builder’s strength.’ ‘I didn’t like him,’ Andrew commented.
‘You’re a good judge of character. But then you probably wouldn’t like me either if I wasn’t paying for the privilege. Though with what you’re learning, maybe I should be charging tuition fees.’
Cafferty manoeuvred his wheelchair towards the wall unit. Rebus had taken the envelope, of course he had. Satisfied, he moved to the coffee table, reaching forward to sift through the mail. There was an A4-sized envelope with familiar lettering in the top left corner: MGC Lettings. The cheapskate bastards were still using his personalised stationery.
‘Hell is this?’ he muttered, opening the flap. There was a single sheet of paper inside, a printout of a grainy photograph. The profile of a man, taken through the doorway of a living room. Cafferty checked. Nothing on the back of the photo and nothing else in the envelope.
Andrew was standing behind him. ‘Who’s that?’ he enquired. ‘Not the faintest fucking idea,’ Cafferty said. And he meant it.
He didn’t recognise the man at all.
The living room, though . . . Well, that was another matter entirely.
Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke was in the CID office at Gayfield Square police station. She had been staring at her computer for almost five minutes, a mug of tea grown tepid beside her.
‘I can make you another,’ Detective Constable Christine Esson suggested. Clarke blinked herself back into the room and shook her head, then squeezed her eyes shut and arched her spine until she could feel the vertebrae click back into place.
‘I’m going to guess Francis Haggard,’ Esson went on, holding her own mug up to her face. Her dark hair was cut pageboy style and had never changed in the years they’d worked together. Her desk faced Clarke’s, making it difficult to hide, though Clarke suspected her colleague could read even the back of a head.
‘Who else?’ Clarke admitted.
Haggard was a uniformed officer based at Tynecastle police station who stood accused of domestic abuse, ‘abuse’ being the current terminology. Previously it had been called domestic violence, and before that, domestic assault. None of the three, to Clarke’s mind, came anywhere near defining the severity of the crime. She had encountered victims turned to husks; self-belief, trust and confidence scooped out. Some had suffered all their married lives–often physically, always psychologically. The abusers ranged across class and age, but this was the first time she’d had to deal with one of her own.
Haggard had fifteen years of service behind him. He’d been married for the past six, and according to his partner, the angry outbursts and gaslighting had started within the first eighteen months of marriage. Clarke and Esson had interviewed Haggard
that very afternoon, not for the first time. He’d sat across the table from them, shoulders back, legs splayed, one hand occasionally cupping his groin. His solicitor, who’d had to slide his own chair further away to avoid their knees touching, had just about managed to hide his obvious disdain.
Haggard had complained about the presence in the room of not just one but two female detectives, turning towards the lawyer. ‘You sure you’re okay with this, Mikey? Couple of blokes might see things differently.’
The solicitor, Michael Leckie (Clarke doubted anyone else in his life ever referred to him as Mikey), had shifted in his chair, saying nothing.
‘I see how it is,’ Haggard had said, nodding to himself. ‘Pitchforks are out and the pyre’s nicely smouldering.’ Then, turning his head sharply towards Leckie, ‘Go on then, tell them what I told you to.’ At which Michael Leckie had cleared his throat and transferred his attention from the file of papers in front of him to the two detectives seated opposite.
‘I suppose,’ he said, spacing his words as if reciting a language he’d only recently learned, ‘you will have heard of a condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder?’
‘PTSD,’ Esson had replied.
‘PTS fucking D,’ Francis Haggard had echoed.
‘PTSD,’ Esson said now, shaking her head in disbelief. Somehow, without Clarke having noticed, the tepid tea had been switched for a fresh mug. She lifted it and took a slurp. Esson herself only ever seemed to drink hot water, at least while on duty. ‘It’ll never fly, will it?’
‘I don’t know,’ Clarke confessed. All Haggard had stated at the interview was that the job he’d been doing for the past fifteen years had left with him the condition.
‘My client is unwilling to go into details at this time,’ Leckie had commented, sounding as though he might not himself know too many of the particulars. Haggard had already been charged and was out on bail, with the stipulation that he not go within a couple of postcodes of his wife or their shared address. He’d been suspended from police duties, naturally, and interviewed several times as part of the investigation. Esson had been assigned to the case from the get-go, but Clarke had only come aboard when DC Ronnie Ogilvie, Esson’s usual CID partner, had caught COVID, leaving him isolating at home.
‘PTSD,’ Esson repeated.
‘I’ve been looking it up online,’ Clarke said. ‘It’s for battlefields and terror attacks. Surviving a tsunami or childhood trauma.’
‘He’s going to say a priest fiddled with him after choir practice, and thirty years later he’s battering his partner?’ Esson sounded sceptical. ‘Funny he’s only just decided that’s his mitigation. Pound to a penny some men’s group online will have suggested it. We should check if it’s been tried in the past. And we need to let a psychologist have a go at him.’
‘There’s a lot we need to do, Christine. Has he been stationed anywhere other than Tynecastle?’
‘A few relief shifts down the years. But otherwise, no.’
‘So this PTSD stems from working at Tynie.’
‘The dreaded Tynie. Suddenly it begins to look more plausible.’ Every cop in Edinburgh knew at least one story from Tynecastle.
Officers there had a reputation for overstepping the mark and get- ting away with it. Countless prisoners had tripped on their way to or from its holding cells, or fallen down stairs, or somehow lost their balance and ended up planting their face into a wall. CCTV wouldn’t have been functioning at the time. Accusations of misconduct would be withdrawn or come to nothing. There were whispers, too, of larger misdeeds–manufactured evidence, cover-ups and bribes.
‘Her name’s Cheryl,’ Esson suddenly said. ‘What?’
‘Cheryl Haggard. The victim. We shouldn’t lose sight of her in all this.’
‘That’s a good point. If he’s been suffering from PTSD, wouldn’t she be the first to know? He’d have said something, wouldn’t he? Or she’d have sensed him changing.’
‘You’ve not spoken to her yet, have you?’
Clarke shook her head. ‘I know you and Ronnie did.’
She dug into the files on her desk, finding one of the transcripts. ‘How’s she doing?’
‘She’s got her sister looking after her.’
‘Well, that’s something. Who’s the liaison officer?’ ‘Gina Hendry. She says she knows you.’
Clarke nodded. ‘We go back a bit. I’ll talk to her.’
‘Tomorrow maybe, eh, boss?’ Esson was holding up her phone, screen towards Clarke so she could see the time display.
‘Already?’ Clarke turned towards the window. Outside it had grown dark.
‘Been a long day, and I think it’s my turn to get them in.’
‘You make a compelling case, Detective Constable Esson.’ Clarke reached down to the floor for her shoulder bag.
Siobhan Clarke lived in a tenement flat just off Broughton Street, not much more than a five-minute walk from Gayfield Square. Esson had taken her to a bar on Leith Walk, where they’d shared some nachos to go with their drinks. Leith Walk itself was the usual mess, courtesy of the roadworks for the new tram line. Some sections of pavement were all but inaccessible, and the bar owner had hung a banner above the door to let potential customers know that Yes We ARE Open – And Ready To Serve You! Clarke wasn’t sure how far a single plate of nachos and two rounds of gin and tonics would boost his coffers. As they’d left, he’d said he hoped to see them again soon.
‘And bring a friend–bring lots of friends.’
With plenty of distance between them and the next occupied table, Clarke and Esson had found themselves discussing the case. They’d tried not to at first, but had soon run out of topics. Esson had swirled the ice in her glass as she started things off.
‘The arresting officers, I could tell from their notes that they were trying to go easy on him. One of their own and all that. And there’s Cheryl standing at the far end of the hall with blood pour- ing from her nose and tears streaming. It was the neighbours who called it in. Far from the first time they’d heard screams. They’d summoned us one time previously, but Haggard had talked his way out when the uniforms pitched up. I thought the days were past when we turned a blind eye to domestics.’
‘Doesn’t help when you’re confronted by someone who carries the same warrant card as you.’
‘Might have talked his way out again this time if he hadn’t started mouthing off, then given one of them a shove. Have you seen the flat?’ Clarke had shaken her head. ‘I went for a look-see. New development in Newhaven, close by the harbour, views across the water from the balcony. The neighbours work in finance. They told me the wall insulation’s really good, which is how they knew the screams were serious. You saw the photos of her injuries?’
‘New and old, Christine. I’ve memorised the descriptions. I’ve read the interviews you did with her.’
‘Sometimes being a spinster’s not so bad,’ Esson had sighed.
The two women had locked eyes and shared half-hearted smiles. Walking home, Clarke considered the relationships she’d had. Plenty of them down the years, always spluttering to a halt like a car with a leak in its fuel line. She had come to the eventual realisation that she was fine on her own. She had her flat, music and books and TV. She had friends she could hang out with or whose dinner tables she could share. They had mostly stopped trying to pair her with eligible men (and women, come to think of it). Edinburgh wasn’t the worst place to be single. She didn’t look out of place at concerts or the cinema or theatre. Okay, she’d been bored for stretches of the COVID lockdown, but she’d also enjoyed the silent city and its emptied streets.
The flip side, of course, was that while some crimes had fallen off a cliff, others had increased, including incidents of domestic abuse. Relationships had become pressure cookers. With pubs and clubs closed, drinking took place at home. Tempers frayed; insults were hurled – followed by fists and whatever came to hand.
That was the card she’d been expecting Haggard to play when he sat down in the interview room. Not bloody PTSD.
She had reached her building and was fishing her keys out of her bag when she heard a noise behind her. She wedged one of the keys between her fingers, turning it into a short stabbing weapon, bunched her fist and turned, coming face to face with someone she recognised.
DI Malcolm Fox.
He’d been seated in what looked like a brand-new Mercedes. For once he wasn’t in one of his many well-tailored work suits. His hands were deep in the pockets of a dark nylon puffer jacket. Noting the key Clarke was holding, he raised both hands in a show of surrender.
‘Nice to see you too,’ he said.
‘You never call, you never write,’ Clarke replied. ‘It’s almost as if the longer you’re based at the Big House, the easier it is to forget all us little people.’
Fox worked at Gartcosh, Police Scotland’s nerve centre. She wasn’t sure why his career had taken off while hers was stuck in the bus lane, though her one-time colleague John Rebus had taken to calling Fox ‘the Brown-Nose Cowboy’, meaning he was a yes man, a willing and eager toady, and he looked good parked behind a desk in one of those suits.
‘I’m here now, aren’t I?’ Fox gave a fulsome shrug. As well as the jacket, he was wearing blue denims and tan-coloured brogues, none of it quite working. His dark hair was cut close to the scalp, gelled at the front, and his cheeks gleamed as if they saw more of a razor than was strictly necessary.
‘It’s eight o’clock at night, Malcolm.’
‘You weren’t at the office.’
‘I have a phone, though.’
He gave a twitch of his mouth. ‘I wanted to see you in the flesh.’ ‘Why?’
He turned his head in the direction of Broughton Street. ‘Grab a drink?’
‘I’ve had a drink.’
‘With Christine Esson–your front desk told me. I did look in at one or two places in the vicinity . . .’
‘Still got a bit of the detective left in you.’ Fox had worked CID and then Internal Affairs before the big move to Gartcosh’s Specialist Crime Division.
His hands were back in the pockets of his jacket, as if to signal that he was feeling the cold. ‘Maybe a coffee, then?’ His eyes were on the door behind Clarke.
‘I don’t think so. I’m pretty exhausted.’
He nodded his understanding. ‘The Haggard case.’
Clarke couldn’t help her eyebrows going up. ‘You’re well in- formed.’
‘He’s playing the PTSD card, isn’t he? Or hasn’t he told you that yet?’
Clarke gave him a hard stare. His eyes were almost twinkling.
He knew he had her.
‘You’ve got precisely ten minutes,’ she muttered, shoving the key into the lock.
They climbed the stairs in single file, Fox to the rear. ‘Saw you clocking the car,’ he said. ‘I could probably get you the same deal, if you’re in the market.’
‘Well, bear it in mind. Is Rebus still driving that old Saab of his?’ ‘How would I know?’
‘You don’t see him these days?’
‘Who I see and don’t see is none of your business.’
‘Just making conversation.’
‘Well don’t.’ They had reached her landing. She opened the door and stalked down the hall. A quick survey of the living room told her she had nothing to worry about. Relatively tidy and evidence-free. She draped her coat over a chair and sat down, facing the doorway, where Fox now stood while he examined his surroundings.
‘Cleaner’s week off?’
‘Says the man whose best friend is a microwave.’
‘I actually know a few recipes these days. I’ll cook for you one night.’
‘Is that a threat?’ Fox just smiled and started unzipping his jacket. ‘Hardly worth your while,’ she added.
‘So no coffee, then?’
‘How the hell do you know about Haggard?’
‘He’s a police officer. It’s my job to know.’
‘In your past life maybe, but you’re not Complaints any longer.’ ‘But I was–and my boss says that’s what’s important.’ He gestured towards the sofa and took her stony silence as permission to make himself at least partially comfortable. ‘We’re a bit worried about this case, Siobhan. Worried about possible repercussions.’
‘The bad publicity, you mean?’
‘A rogue cop is never a good look.’
‘Not the first time an officer’s been done for domestic abuse, so I’m guessing it’s not just that, meaning it’s got to be the PTSD angle.’
‘I worked Complaints for a number of years, Siobhan. Tynecastle was seldom off our radar, but we never could get anything to stick.’
‘I’m still not sure how you know he was going to cry PTSD.’
‘He told us.’
‘An email to the chief constable. He says talking about it will require him to detail a lot of incidents involving a culture of corruption within Police Scotland–I’m quoting verbatim.’
‘Does he give examples?’
‘But you don’t think he’s bluffing?’ ‘My boss has no way of knowing.’ ‘Your boss being the chief constable?’
‘In his wisdom, he passed it down the chain to the assistant chief constable.’
‘Jennifer Lyon, right? And she gave it to you?’ Clarke watched Fox nod. ‘To what end, though?’
‘We need to know more about this defence of his–what he’s going to say, how much of it he can prove. Online news agencies and bloggers are already sniffing. They know Haggard means Tynecastle and Tynecastle is rattling with skeletons.’
‘Well, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.’ Clarke brushed invisible flecks from her trouser legs.
‘Will you, though?’ Fox said into the silence.
‘Let me think.’ She cocked her head. ‘You come skulking around here at night–that smacks to me of wanting things kept low-key.’
‘I did try the station first,’ Fox countered, but Clarke shrugged off the comment.
‘None of this seems to be coming through proper channels. Did the ACC choose you for your background in Complaints or because she knows the two of us have history? Might make me a softer touch, happy to leak anything I hear in the interview room?’ Her face stiffened. ‘Why did Haggard send that email? He wants the case dismissed, doesn’t he? To do that, he’ll threaten whatever it takes, and lo and behold, he’s already got you and your boss doing his work for him.’ Clarke’s voice was rising as she got to her feet. ‘That’s not going to be how it works, Malcolm. I can’t believe you’d even try this on.’
‘I did tell the ACC it was a big ask.’ ‘Does she want the case shut down?’
‘She wants what’s best for Police Scotland.’
‘Fewer column inches, you mean.’ Colour was creeping up Clarke’s neck. ‘Tell her I’ll send her the photos of Cheryl Haggard’s injuries. The photos and Cheryl’s statement. I’ll do it first thing.’
‘She knows the details of the case, Siobhan.’
Clarke was signalling for Fox to stand up. She was already at the doorway. ‘You can tell Lyon we spoke. But as long as I’m on this case, it is a case. And it will go to trial, I promise you that.’
‘You’re very confident. I’ve always admired that side of you.
Other sides . . . maybe not so much.’ ‘Enjoy your shiny fucking car, Malcolm.’
She led him to the door, slamming it shut after him. Back in her chair, she called Christine Esson, but got no answer. Flicking through her list of contacts, she found a number for Gina Hendry and sent her a text: I’m attached to the Haggard case. Want to speak to Cheryl. You okay to liaise? Would love to catch up anyway. It’s been a while.
In the kitchen, she put the kettle on. A bottle of Edinburgh Gin, half full, stared at her from the worktop.
‘Not tonight, Satan,’ she cautioned it, reaching instead for the tea bags and a mug.
John Rebus stands accused: on trial for a crime that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life. It’s not the first time the legendary detective has taken the law into his own hands, though it might be the last.
But what drove a good man to cross the line?
Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke may well find out. Clarke is tasked with the city’s most explosive case in years, an infamous cop, at the center of decades of misconduct, has gone missing. Finding him will expose not only her superiors, but her mentor John Rebus. And Rebus himself may not have her own interests at heart, as the repayment of a past debt places him in the crosshairs of both crime lords and his police brethren.
One way or another, a reckoning is coming – and John Rebus may be hearing the call for last orders…