Eventually the passenger ejected the tape and tossed it on to the back seat.
‘That was the Associates,’ the driver complained.
‘Well they can go associate somewhere else. Singer sounds like his balls have been trapped in a vice.’
The driver thought about this for a moment, then smiled.
‘Remember we did that to . . . what was his name again?’
The passenger shrugged. ‘He owed the boss money – that’s what mattered.’
It was dark out there and they’d not encountered another car for the last five or so miles. Fife countryside, inland from the coast, the fields shorn and awaiting winter. A pig farm not too far away, one they’d used before.
‘Wasn’t a lot of money, was it?’
‘How much further?’ The passenger peered through the windscreen.
‘Half a mile. These woods have seen some action, eh?’
The passenger made no comment. It was dark out there and they’d not encountered another car for the last five or so miles. Fife countryside, inland from the coast, the fields shorn and awaiting winter. A pig farm not too far away, one they’d used before.
‘What’s the plan?’ the driver asked.
‘Just the one shovel, so we toss to see who breaks sweat. Strip off his clothes, burn them later.’
‘He’s only wearing pants and a vest.’
‘No tattoos or rings that I saw. Nothing we need to cut off.’
‘This is us here.’ The driver stopped the car, got out and opened a gate. A churned track led into the forest. ‘Hope we don’t get stuck,’ he said, getting back in. Then, seeing the look on the other man’s face: ‘Joke.’
They drove slowly for a few hundred yards. ‘There’s a space here where I can turn,’ the driver said.
‘This’ll do, then.’
The passenger shook his head. ‘It’s been a while.’
‘I think there’s one buried somewhere in front of us, and another over to the left.’
‘Maybe try the other side of the track, in that case. Torch in the glove box?’
‘Fresh batteries, like you said.’
The passenger checked. ‘Right then.’
The two men got out and stood for the best part of a minute, their eyes adjusting to the gloom, ears alert for unusual sounds.
Slamming the door shut, he moved to the boot and opened it. The body was wrapped in a plain blue bedsheet.
‘I’ll pick the spot,’ the passenger said, taking the torch with him as he headed off. The driver got a cigarette lit and opened the back door of the Mercedes. It was an old model, and the hinges creaked.
He lifted the Associates cassette from the seat and slipped it into his jacket pocket, where it hit some coins. He’d be needing one of those for the heads-or-tails. Slamming the door shut, he moved to the boot and opened it. The body was wrapped in a plain blue bedsheet.
Or it had been. The trip had loosened the makeshift shroud. Bare feet, pale skinny legs, ribcage visible. The driver rested the shovel against one of the tail lights, but it slid to the ground. Cursing, he bent over to retrieve it.
Which was when the corpse burst into life, emerging from sheet and boot both, almost vaulting the driver as its feet hit the ground.
The driver gasped, the cigarette flying from his mouth. He had one hand on the shovel’s handle while he tried to haul himself upright with the other. The sheet was hanging over the lip of the boot, its occupant disappearing into the trees.
‘Paul!’ the driver yelled. ‘Paul!’
Torchlight preceded the man called Paul.
‘Hell’s going on, Dave?’ he shouted. The driver could only stretch out a shaking hand to point.
‘He’s done a runner!’
Paul scanned the empty boot. A hissing sound from between his gritted teeth.
‘After him then,’ he said in a growl. ‘Or it’ll be someone else’s turn to dig a hole for us.’
‘He came back from the dead,’ Dave said, voice trembling.
‘Then we kill him again,’ Paul stated, producing a knife from his inside pocket. ‘Even slower than before . . .’
Malcolm Fox woke from another of his bad dreams.
He reckoned he knew why he’d started having them – uncertainty about his job. He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted it any more, and feared he was surplus to requirements anyway. Yesterday, he’d been told he had to travel to Dundee to fill a vacant post for a couple of shifts. When he asked why, he was told the officer he’d be replacing had been ordered to cover for someone else in Glasgow.
‘Isn’t it easier just to send me to Glasgow, then?’ Fox had enquired.
‘You could always ask, I suppose.’
So he’d picked up the phone and done exactly that, only to find that the officer in Glasgow was coming to Edinburgh to fill a temporary gap – at which point he’d given up the fight and driven to Dundee. And today? Who knew. His boss at St Leonard’s didn’t seem to know what to do with him. He was just one detective inspector too many.
It was at times like this he wished he smoked – something to occupy him, to take him out of himself.
‘It’s the time-servers,’ DCI Doug Maxtone had apologised.
‘They’re bunging up the system. Need a few of them to take the gold watch . . .’
‘Understood,’ Fox had said. He wasn’t in the first idealistic flush of youth himself – another three years and he could retire with a solid pension and plenty of life left in him.
Standing under the shower, he considered his options. The bungalow in Oxgangs that he called home would fetch a fair price, enough to allow him to relocate. But then there was his dad to consider – Fox couldn’t move too far away, not while Mitch still had breath in his body.
And then there was Siobhan. They weren’t lovers, but they’d been spending more time together. If either of them was bored, they knew they could always call. Maybe there’d be a film or a restaurant, or just snacks and a DVD. She’d bought him half a dozen titles for Christmas and they’d watched three before the old year was done.
As he got dressed, he thought of her. She loved the job more than he did. Whenever they met up, she was always ready to share news and gossip. Then she would ask him, and he would shrug, maybe offer a few morsels. She gulped them down like delicacies, while all he saw was plain white bread. She worked at Gayfield Square, with James Page for a boss. The structure there seemed better than at St Leonard’s. Fox had wondered about a transfer, but knew it would never happen – he would be creating the selfsame problem. One DI too many.
Forty minutes after finishing breakfast, he was parking at St Leonard’s. He sat in his car for an extra few moments, gathering himself, hands running around the steering wheel. It was at times like this he wished he smoked – something to occupy him, to take him out of himself. Instead of which, he placed a piece of chewing gum on his tongue and closed his mouth. A uniform had emerged from the station’s back door into the car park and was opening a packet of cigarettes. Their eyes met as Fox walked towards him, and the other man gave the curtest of nods. The uniform knew that Fox used to work for Professional Standards – everyone in the station knew. Some didn’t seem to mind; others made their distaste obvious. They scowled, answered grudgingly, let doors swing shut into his face rather than holding them open.
‘You’re a good cop,’ Siobhan had told him on more than one occasion. ‘I wish you could see that . . .’
When he reached the CID suite, Fox gleaned that something was happening. Chairs and equipment were being moved. His eyes met those of a thunderous Doug Maxtone.
‘We’ve to make room for a new team,’ Maxtone explained.
‘From Gartcosh, which means they’ll mostly be Glasgow – and you know how I feel about them.’
‘What’s the occasion?’
Fox chewed on his gum. Gartcosh, an old steelworks, was now home to the Scottish Crime Campus. It had been up and running since the previous summer, and Fox had never had occasion to cross its threshold. The place was a mix of police, prosecutors, forensics and Customs, and its remit took in organised crime and counterterrorism. ‘How many are we expecting to welcome?’
Maxtone glared at him. ‘Frankly, Malcolm, I’m not expecting to welcome a single one of them. But we need desks and chairs for half a dozen.’
Maxtone glared at him. ‘Frankly, Malcolm, I’m not expecting to welcome a single one of them. But we need desks and chairs for half a dozen.’
‘And computers and phones?’
‘They’re bringing their own. They do, however, request . . .’
Maxtone produced a sheet of paper from his pocket and made show of consulting it, ‘“ancillary support, subject to vetting”.’
‘And this came from on high?’
‘The Chief Constable himself.’ Maxtone crumpled the paper and tossed it in the general direction of a bin. ‘They’re arriving in about an hour.’
‘Should I do a bit of dusting?’
‘Might as well – it’s not as if there’s going to be anywhere for you to sit.’
‘I’m losing my chair?’
‘And your desk.’ Maxtone inhaled and exhaled noisily. ‘So if there’s anything in the drawers you’d rather not share . . .’ He managed a grim smile. ‘Bet you’re wishing you’d stayed in bed, eh?’
‘Worse than that, sir – I’m beginning to wish I’d stayed in Dundee.’
Siobhan Clarke had parked on a yellow line on St Bernard’s Crescent.
It was about as grand a street as could be found in Edinburgh’s New Town, all pillared facades and floor-to-ceiling windows. Two bow-shaped Georgian terraces facing one another across a small private garden containing trees and benches. Raeburn Place, with its emporia and eateries, was a two-minute walk away, as was the Water of Leith. She’d brought Malcolm to the Saturday food market a couple of times, and joked that he should trade in his bungalow for one of Stockbridge’s colony flats.
Her phone buzzed: speak of the devil. She answered the call.
‘You off up north again?’
‘Not at the moment,’ he said. ‘Big shake-up happening here, though.’
‘I’ve got news too – I’ve been seconded to the Minton enquiry.’
‘First thing this morning. I was going to tell you at lunchtime. James has been put in charge and he wanted me.’
She locked her car and walked towards a gloss-black front door boasting a gleaming brass knocker and letter box. A uniformed officer stood guard; she gave a half-bow of recognition, which Clarke rewarded with a smile.
‘Any room for a little one?’ Fox was asking, trying to make it sound like a joke, though she could tell he was serious.
‘I’ve got to go, Malcolm. Talk to you later.’ Clarke ended the call and waited for the officer to unlock the door. There were no media – they’d been and gone. A couple of small posies had been left at the front step, probably by neighbours. There was an old-style bell pull by the pillar to the right of the door, and above it a nameplate bearing the single capitalised word MINTON.
As the door swung open, Clarke thanked the officer and went inside.
Lord Minton – David Menzies Minton, to give him his full name – had been killed two evenings back. No one in the vicinity had heard the break-in or the attack.
There was some mail on the parquet floor. She scooped it up and saw that more was sitting on an occasional table. The letters on the table had been opened and checked – presumably by the major incident team. There were the usual flyers too, including one for a curry house she knew on the south side of the city. She didn’t see Lord Minton as the takeaway type, but you never could tell. The scene of crime unit had been through the hall, dusting for prints.
Lord Minton – David Menzies Minton, to give him his full name – had been killed two evenings back. No one in the vicinity had heard the break-in or the attack. Whoever had done it had scaled a couple of back walls in the darkness to reach the small window of the garden-level laundry room, adjacent to the locked and bolted rear door. They had broken the window and climbed in.
Minton had been in his study on the ground floor. According to the post-mortem examination, he had been beaten around the head, then throttled, after which his lifeless body had been beaten some more.
Clarke stood in the still, silent hall, getting her bearings. Then she lifted a file from her shoulder bag and began to reread its contents. Victim had been seventy-eight years old, never married, resident at this address for thirty-five years. Educated at George Heriot’s School and the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
Rising through the city’s teeming ranks of lawyers until he reached the position of Lord Advocate, prosecuting some of Scotland’s most high-profile criminal trials. Enemies? He would have had plenty in his heyday, but for the past decade he had lived out of the limelight.
Occasional trips to London to sit in the House of Lords. Visited his club on Princes Street most days to read the newspapers and do as many crosswords as he could find. ‘Housebreaking gone wrong,’ Clarke’s boss, DCI James Page, had stated. ‘Perpetrator doesn’t expect anyone home. Panics. Game over.’
‘But why strangle him, then start beating him again once the victim’s deceased?’
‘Like I say: panic. Explains why the attacker fled without taking anything. Probably high on something and needing money for more. Looking for the usual – phones and iPads, easily sold on. But not the sort of thing someone like the noble lord would have in his possession. Maybe that annoyed our man and he took out his frustration then and there.’
‘But you’d like to see for yourself?’ Page had nodded slowly. ‘Off you go then.’
Living room, formal dining room and kitchen on the ground floor, unused servants’ quarters and laundry room below. The window frame of the laundry room had been boarded up, the window panel itself removed, along with all the shards of glass, to be taken away and examined by forensics. Clarke unlocked the back door and studied the small, well-tended private garden. Lord Minton employed a gardener, but he only visited one day each month in winter.
He had been interviewed and had expressed his sadness, along with his concern that he hadn’t been paid for the previous month.
Climbing the noiseless stone staircase to the ground floor, Clarke realised that, apart from a toilet, there was only one further room to check. The study was dark, its thick red velvet curtains closed. From the photographs in her file, she could see that Lord Minton’s body had been found in front of his desk, on a Persian rug that had now also been taken away to be tested. Hair, saliva, fibres – everyone left traces of some kind. The thinking was: the victim was seated at his desk, writing out cheques to pay his gas and electricity bills. Hears a noise and gets up to investigate. Hasn’t got far when the attacker bursts in and smacks him on the head with a tool of some kind – no weapon recovered yet; the pathologist’s best guess, a hammer.
There were family photos – black and white, the victim’s parents, maybe – in silver frames. Small enough to be slipped into a thief’s pocket, yet untouched. She knew that Lord Minton’s wallet had been found in a jacket over the back of the chair, cash and credit cards intact. The gold watch on his wrist had been left too.
The chequebook lay open on the antique desk next to an expensive-looking pen. There were family photos – black and white, the victim’s parents, maybe – in silver frames. Small enough to be slipped into a thief’s pocket, yet untouched. She knew that Lord Minton’s wallet had been found in a jacket over the back of the chair, cash and credit cards intact. The gold watch on his wrist had been left too.
‘You weren’t that desperate, were you?’ Clarke muttered.
A woman called Jean Marischal came in twice a week to clean.
She had her own key and had found the body the following morning.
In her statement she said the place didn’t really need that much attention; she just thought ‘his lordship’ liked a bit of company.
Upstairs there were too many rooms. A drawing room and sitting room that looked as though they’d never seen a visitor; four bedrooms, where only one was needed. Mrs Marischal could not recall a single overnight guest, or a dinner party, or any other kind of gathering, come to that. The bathroom didn’t detain Clarke, so she headed downstairs to the hall again and stood there with arms folded. No fingerprints had been found other than those belonging to the victim and his cleaner. No reports of prowlers or out-of-place visitors.
Mrs Marischal had been persuaded to revisit the scene later on today. If anything had been taken, she was their best hope.
Meanwhile, the team would have to look busy – it was expected that they would be busy. The current Lord Advocate wanted twice-daily updates, as did the First Minister. There would be media briefings at midday and four, briefings at which DCI James Page had to have something to share.
The problem was: what?
As she left, Clarke told the uniform outside to keep her wits about her.
‘It’s not true that the guilty always come back, but we might get lucky one time . . .’
On her way to Fettes, she stopped at a shop and bought a couple of newspapers, checking at the counter that they contained decentsized obituaries of the deceased. She doubted she would learn anything she hadn’t already read on a half-hour trawl of the internet, but they would bulk out the file.
Because Lord Minton was who he was, it had been decided to locate the major incident team at Fettes rather than Gayfield Square. Fettes – aka ‘the Big House’ – had been the headquarters of Lothian and Borders Police right up to April Fools’ Day 2013, when Scotland’s eight police regions vanished to be replaced by a single organisation called Police Scotland. In place of a Chief Constable, Edinburgh now had a chief superintendent called Jack Scoular, who was only a few years older than Clarke. Fettes was Scoular’s domain, a place where admin took precedence and meetings were held. No CID officers were stationed there, but it did boast half a corridor of vacated offices, which James Page had been offered. Two detective constables, Christine Esson and Ronnie Ogilvie, were busy pinning photos and maps to one bare wall.
‘We thought you’d like the desk by the window,’ Esson said. ‘It’s got the view if nothing else.’
Yes, a view of two very different schools: Fettes College and Broughton High. Clarke took it in for all of three seconds before draping her coat over the back of her chair and sitting down. She placed the newspapers on the desk and concentrated on the reporting of Lord Minton’s demise. There was background stuff, and a few photographs dusted off from the archives. Cases he had prosecuted; royal garden parties; his first appearance in ermine.
‘Confirmed bachelor,’ Esson called out as she pushed another drawing pin home.
‘From which we deduce nothing,’ Clarke warned her. ‘And that photo’s squint.’
‘Not if you do this.’ Esson angled her head twenty degrees, then adjusted the photo anyway. It showed the body in situ, crumpled on the carpet as if drunkenly asleep.
‘Where’s the boss?’ Clarke asked.
‘Howden Hall,’ Ogilvie answered.
‘Oh?’ Howden Hall was home to the city’s forensic lab.
‘He said if he wasn’t back in time, the press briefing’s all yours.’
Clarke checked the time: she had another hour. ‘Typically generous of the man,’ she muttered, turning to the first of the obituaries.
She had just finished them, and was offering them to Esson to be added to the wall, when Page arrived. He was with a detective sergeant called Charlie Sykes. Sykes was normally based at Leith CID. He was a year shy of his pension and about the same from a heart attack, the former rather than the latter informing practically every conversation Clarke had ever had with the man.
‘Quick update,’ Page began breathlessly, gathering his squad.
‘House-to-house is continuing and we’ve got a couple of officers checking any CCTV in the vicinity. Someone’s busy on a computer somewhere to see if there are any other cases, within the city and beyond, that match this one. We’ll need to keep interviewing the deceased’s network of friends and acquaintances, and someone is going to have to head to the vaults to look at Lord Minton’s professional life in detail . . .’
Clarke glanced in Sykes’s direction. Sykes winked back, which meant something had happened at Howden Hall. Of course something had happened at Howden Hall.
‘We also need to put the house and its contents under a microscope,’ Page was continuing. Clarke cleared her throat loudly, bringing him to a stop.
‘Any time you want to share the news, sir,’ she nudged him. ‘Because I’m just about ready to assume you no longer think this was a panicked housebreaker.’
He wagged a finger at her. ‘We can’t afford to rule that possibility out. But on the other hand, we also now have this.’ He took a sheet of paper from the inside pocket of his suit. It was a photocopy of something. Clarke, Esson and Ogilvie converged on him the better to see it.
‘Folded up in the victim’s wallet, tucked behind a credit card. Shame it wasn’t noticed earlier, but all the same . . .’
The photocopy showed a note written in capital letters on a piece of plain paper measuring about five inches by three.
I’M GOING TO KILL YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID.
There was an audible intake of breath, followed by a few beats of complete silence, broken by a belch from Charlie Sykes.
‘We’re keeping this to ourselves for now,’ Page warned the room.
‘Any journalist gets hold of it, I’ll be sharpening my axe. Is that understood?’
‘Game-changer, though,’ Ronnie Ogilvie offered.
‘Game-changer,’ Page acknowledged with a slow, steady nod.