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Authors: Cecilia Peartree

6 The Queen of Scots Mystery

BOOK: 6 The Queen of Scots Mystery
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The Queen of Scots Mystery

 

Cecilia Peartree

Copyright Cecilia
Peartree 2013

Kindle edition

All rights reserved

Chapter 1 Excluded

Chapter 2 Nameless No More

Chapter 3 Locked out

Chapter 4 Banged up

Chapter 5 Christopher puts up a fight

Chapter 6 Jock rallies the troops

Chapter 7 Caged Bird

Chapter 8 After the Silence

Chapter 9 Famous last words?

Chapter 10 Eyes on the horizon

Chapter 11 Crime Scene Investigation

Chapter 12 In limbo

Chapter 13 Half hour, half hour to Aberdour

Chapter 14 Christopher has his methods

Chapter 15 Old Pictish Brew

Chapter 16 To the rescue

Chapter 17 Crowded

Chapter 18 Not very close encounters

Chapter 19 Amaryllis Feels Left Out

Chapter 20 A Day Off

Chapter 21 Home again

Chapter 22 Amaryllis Rides Again

Chapter 23 Visitors

Chapter 24 Crafty Interlude

Chapter 25 Post-fair fatigue

Chapter 26 More Visitors

Chapter 27 Visitors re-visiting

Chapter 28 Put out

Chapter 29 Amaryllis follows up

Chapter 30 Up, up and away

Chapter 31 Time up

Chapter 32 New Directions

About the cover

About Cecilia Peartree’s other novels

Chapter 1 Excluded

The landlord of the Queen of Scots looked particularly grim this morning. Christopher’s brain instinctively began to run through all the reasons why this grimness should be directed at him and not just at life in general. He hadn’t seemed too bothered about the Range Rover incident, and unless Amaryllis had secretly arranged some sort of April Fool’s surprise… But then, Amaryllis wasn’t around. She had left a week before on what she insisted was an impulsive last-minute holiday to Monte Carlo, and what he believed was a mission on behalf of her former employers.

He had even threatened to go with her, whereupon she had taken great delight in telling him she knew his passport had run out in 2001 and he couldn’t get a new one in time except by papal dispensation – or
something even less likely, such as queuing all day at an office in Glasgow.

The landlord said something to him as he passed the pub, but he couldn’t hear what it was because of all the noise of the beer delivery that was in progress. He only got along the pavement with difficulty and by circumventing a large
trapdoor that had opened up. He had never imagined the Queen of Scots as having an actual cellar where the beer was kept, but evidently it did, for there were two men engaged in unloading steel kegs from the lorry and rolling them along and downwards as the landlord stood on the doorstep watching. Of course, he had never thought about where the beer was stored as he sat at the usual table inside the pub with his group of friends and discussed an eclectic range of topics.

‘Morning!’ called Christopher.

A growl answered him.

Not from the landlord – evidently his mood wasn’t as grim as all that – but from under a bench near the bus stop.

Approaching with caution, Christopher saw a bundle of blankets, or perhaps it was a sleeping-bag, on top of the bench, while underneath a dog crouched, shivering. It growled and wagged its tail at the same time as he got closer. He didn’t attempt to pat it, but said to it quietly, in a tone he hoped was soothing,

‘Hello! What are you doing here?’

‘Nowhere else to go.’

He jumped back, startled. The bundle of blankets stirred and the person underneath struggled into a sitting position.

‘Sorry – did I give you a fright?’ said Charlie Smith. ‘Been here all night. Couldn’t get home.’

He didn’t sound too concerned about it as he blinked in the light of the cool April morning. At least it wasn’t raining, Christopher thought.

‘Did you bring th
ose blankets with you?’ he enquired, not sure how deeply to probe the situation.

‘Not when I first came out,’ said Charlie. ‘I stole them.’

Oh dear. Christopher was even less sure what to say next.

‘Where from?’ he asked after a pause.

Charlie shrugged. ‘Police station.’

Christopher didn’t even consider the possibility that he might be dreaming. Instead he wondered what had gone wrong with reality.
He sat down in the space at the other end of the bench. The chances of the dog savaging him were so small as to be negligible. Indeed, it came out from underneath and put its head on his knee.

‘Why – what?’ he said. If the world had gone mad it wasn’t up to him to be the only one still making sense.

Charlie Smith stared down at the dog mournfully. The dog stared up at Christopher mournfully.

‘I’ve been drinking,’ said Charlie at last.

Well, there’s a surprise, Christopher thought but didn’t say aloud. He could smell the results from where he was sitting.

‘All night?’

‘No, of course not!’ said Charlie. ‘I’m not as daft as all that.’

‘Hmm,’ said Christopher.

‘Only until I got thrown out.’


Out of the Queen of Scots?’ said Christopher. He was slightly surprised by this admission. He had only ever known one other person to be thrown out of the Queen of Scots, and that was Jock McLean. And then only because he had threatened to smash the newly-installed jukebox because it was playing non-stop country music. After throwing Jock out, the landlord had the jukebox taken away too by popular demand. You had to have some standards, after all.

Charlie Smith nodded. ‘I knew I
wasn’t in a fit state to drive home,’ he said. ‘So I went round to the police station and broke in through the back window – you know the one that doesn’t lock properly – and stole the blankets from the holding cells.’

Christopher was still puzzled. ‘But why? I mean, why did you break into the police station? Why didn’t you go in and sleep in the cells again? I mean, you did that when we had that bad weather, didn’t you?’

Charlie Smith’s mournful gaze travelled from the dog’s head, still resting on Christopher’s knee, upwards to meet Christopher’s eyes. ‘I couldn’t,’ he said.

‘But why?’

Immediately after asking the question, Christopher wished he could take the words back. He had a feeling he didn’t want to hear Charlie’s reply.

‘I’ve been suspended,’ muttered Charlie.

‘What? Why?’

‘Oh God. I don’t feel well.’

Charlie got up from the bench much too quickly and made a dash for the sea wall, twenty yards away. He was sick very noisily on the grass verge next to the wall. Christopher began to feel guilty for asking so many questions. Charlie obviously wasn’t ready to answer them yet.

He was trying not to look or even breathe in that direction when Zak Johnstone, who
was currently doing a work placement at the Cultural Centre, walked past, giving him a brief wave. He couldn’t remember whether Zak was due to come in the next day to help with the fossil collection or not. He had half-risen from the bench to ask the boy his plans when there was a crash from the direction of the pub. Men’s voices, shouting. A lorry revving its engine. Surely there wasn’t going to be a fight at this time of the morning. He risked a glance in that direction, but there was nothing to see. Just a man jumping into the cab of the beer delivery lorry, and the landlord waving to the men as they departed. He found himself reading the name on the back of the lorry, just because he could never resist reading anything, from sale signs in shop windows to the voltage information on light bulbs. Aberdour Breweries. Well, you learn something new every day. He hadn’t known until now there was a brewery in Aberdour.

By the time he lost interest in the beer lorry, Zak was already halfway along the harbour wall, evidently intending to enjoy the sea air and
the icy Siberian wind in his face.

As
Christopher watched Charlie Smith weave an unsteady path back towards the bench, he wished Amaryllis were here. She would know exactly what to ask Charlie in order to discover the whole story of what had happened to him without even appearing to be at all nosey. Whereas he didn’t even know where to start.

Fortunately – or perhaps not - Charlie was now quite prepared to go into more detail than Christopher wanted.

‘Tampering with evidence,’ he said in disgust as he sat down. Being sick hadn’t done anything to improve the smell that arose from his person. ‘After all those years – after all I’ve done for them! It’s all just bureaucracy, pure and simple. Evidence! Hmph!’

‘What evidence?’ Christopher ventured, moving slightly further along the bench. He wanted to help Charlie to the best of his ability, but he didn’t think that being overcome by noxious fumes would do any good. Apart from anything else, he thought he could get
himself drunk just on Charlie’s breath.

‘They called it evidence! When it was a living, breathing thing that needed somewhere to go,’ said Charlie, patting the dog’s head. Christopher took this in and understood.

‘The dog counted as evidence?’

‘According to them,’ Charlie nodded. ‘According to the rulebook I shouldn’t even have touched him, never mind taking him home with me and giving him the first square meal he’d had in
weeks. Maybe months. He’d just have been sent to the dog home otherwise. Or kept in the station. Out at the back, where we’ve got a couple of dog runs.’

‘Dog runs?’

‘It’s bureaucracy,’ Charlie repeated. He blinked. Christopher wasn’t sure if he was blinking back tears or whether the sun had got in his eyes. It wasn’t as if any of them were used to the brightness, after all. They had only just emerged from the darkness of a very grey northern winter. Maybe Amaryllis had got fed up with the failure of spring to appear, and had really gone chasing the sun. Maybe she wasn’t in any danger at all. But Christopher had a sort of feeling about her trip, which was quite likely to be wrong. There was no such thing as masculine intuition: he was well aware of that.

‘So you’ve been suspended, because of the dog,’ he said, as much to clarify the situation in his own mind as because he doubted Charlie’s account of events so far.

Charlie nodded.

‘And you’ve been thrown out of the Queen of Scots.’

‘Least of my worries,’ said Charlie.

Christopher was inclined to agree with this analysis. The landlord
had no doubt thrown Charlie out purely for his own protection, to make sure he didn’t drink himself into a coma. There was no reason to think he would be permanently banned. The suspension from the police, on the other hand, seemed a bit more serious.

‘So how long does it last?’ he said.

‘Suspension?’ Charlie shrugged. ‘As long as it takes. For the investigation. Could mean the end, though.’

‘The end?’

‘The end of my time in the force,’ said Charlie gloomily.

Christopher
didn’t ask Charlie what he would do if that happened. There was no need to look that far ahead.

They sat in a glum silence on the bench for a while. It wasn’t exactly a companionable silence; it was more that each was immersed in his own unhappy thoughts. Or at least, Christopher assumed Charlie’s thoughts were bound to be unhap
py. He certainly had very little to be happy about at the moment.

A
s Christopher was thinking that the only way things could get any worse was if Jock McLean came round the corner and saw them there, Charlie lurched to his feet again. He turned to bundle the blankets together and pick them up in his arms.

‘Better be off then,’ he said. ‘I’ve left my car up in the High Street. I wasn’t fit to drive before.’

‘Are you sure you’re fit to drive now?’ said Christopher uneasily.

‘I’ll be fine,’ said Charlie. He untied the dog’s lead from the bench and added, ‘Surely they wouldn’t breathalyse me as well as everything else.’

‘You’d better come with me,’ said Christopher, stifling a groan. ‘I’ll get you something to eat

before you go. That should help with the breathalyser.’

‘The dog could do with some water,’ said Charlie. ‘He hasn’t had anything since last night.’

‘He looks all right,’ said Christopher. ‘
Here, let me take these.’ He reached for the bundle of blankets and took them gingerly out of Charlie’s hands. ‘It’s up this way. Turn left at the top of the High Street.’

By some miracle they got through the busiest part of town without bumping into anyone Christopher knew.
It wasn’t like Dave, Jemima or Jock McLean to miss out on anything as interesting as this. He allowed a vague worry about them to infiltrate his mind before he remembered they had all been planning to go into Dunfermline to the pictures that day. There was a pensioners’ special showing of ‘Ultimate Zombie Horror IV’ with free tea and biscuits. He knew Jemima planned to take her knitting with her in case she got bored.

Once Charlie had been encouraged to have a wash and to borrow a shirt from Christopher, and the dog had been allowed out in the back garden, where he was chased by the magpies and then terrori
sed by one of the cats from next-door, they all gathered in the kitchen for bacon and eggs and hot-cross buns left over from Easter weekend.

After a while Charlie’s replies to Christopher’s mundane comments became
more intermittent and quieter, and eventually Christopher turned from the washing-up to find the other man asleep, head on arms on the kitchen table. His dog lay under the table, stretched out luxuriously.

Christopher went into the front room so that he didn’t have to hear
them both snoring. He was sorting out the past week’s mail on top of the television when he happened to glance out of the window. Two men in beige raincoats were walking up his front path.

His first thought was that they were in pursuit of Charlie, perhaps in order to confiscate the dog and store it as evidence in one of the runs Charlie had mentioned. His second thought was, over my dead body, and his third was that he had better get to the front door before they rang the bell and woke up
both man and dog.

He wrenched the door open as one of the men reached for the bell-push.

‘Can I help you?’ he said as quietly as he could.

‘Mr Wilson?’ said one of them.

They knew his name. But then, every police officer from here to Burntisland probably knew his name by now. That didn’t mean anything. He nodded.

‘Mr Christopher Wilson?’ said the other one.

He nodded again.

BOOK: 6 The Queen of Scots Mystery
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