Copyright © 2010 Portador Ltd
The right of Quintin Jardine to be identified as the Author
of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2010
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
eISBN : 978 0 7553 5353 8
This Ebook produced by Jouve Digitalisation des Informations
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Praise for Quintin Jardine...
‘A triumph. I am first in the queue for the next one’
Scotland on Sunday
‘Remarkably assured . . . a
tour de force
New York Times
‘The perfect mix for a highly charged, fast-moving crime thriller’
‘[Quintin Jardine] sells more crime fiction in Scotland than John Grisham and people queue around the block to buy his latest book’
‘There is a whole world here, the tense narratives all come to the boil at the same time in a spectacular climax’
‘Engrossing, believable characters . . . captures Edinburgh beautifully . . . it all adds up to a very good read’
Edinburgh Evening News
‘A complex story combined with robust characterisation; a murder/mystery novel of our time that will keep you hooked to the very last page’
This book is for the talented bundle of fun that is Kirsti Louise Abernethy, who pulls an immaculate focus, and once helped to splash paint all over Glasgow. She and I have many things in common, but this is the most important: we both love her mum.
’m not visited by too many bad dreams, far fewer than my fair share, given some of the things I’ve done in my time. But for the last few months, there’s been one; it stops my breath, until I sit bolt upright in bed, wide eyed and slicked with sweat, knowing that sleep is over for the night and weak enough to wish that there was someone beside me, someone to be awakened by my distress, someone to hold me and tell me to be calm, that everything’s all right . . . even though I know that it isn’t, and that it might never be again.
In my dream I can see the body fall, arms and legs flailing in a vain attempt at flight. I’m observing this from below, but I don’t consider for a second that I’m in any danger myself. I don’t attempt to move out of the way. I stand there in frozen fascination, for there is something I want to know, something I need to know.
To trot out the old cliché, it’s not the fall that does for you, it’s what happens immediately afterwards. Yes, sure, except . . . There’s a school of thought that claims that the victim will have fainted before coming to a very abrupt stop. I’m here to tell you, that isn’t true: for in my nightmare, as that doomed, plummeting human comes towards me, about to be killed by gravity, the very force that is keeping me and all the rest of us safe, I can see the face, eyes bulging, teeth bared, and I can hear the silent scream. I can see it, and I can recognise it and I scream myself, out loud, because it’s . . .
And that’s when I wake up, the name dying on my lips, the body shattering on the rocks as illusion fades into reality, and I yearn for the comfort I may never truly have again.One
obody calls me Prim any more, not since I got to this place. To tell you the truth, I’ve always preferred to be called by my proper given name, Primavera, but I’ve been too polite to object to the abbreviation. Where I live now, in the tiny community that I’ve chosen as my home for the rest of my life, no one would ever dream of shortening such a beautiful word, and that suits me just fine. It was always an inappropriate nickname anyway; I have many qualities, the same mix of good and bad as most people, but primness has never been one of them.
I never really believed, in my heart of hearts, that I’d settle down, not until four years ago. Through my teens, and my twenties, as my barely committed search for Mr Right grew more and more haphazard, until it dwindled to nothing, my life became that of a nomad, moving from place to place and job to job, without any sense that I would ever find either vocation or location, on a long-term basis.
When, finally, my path and that of the man of my dreams did cross, it hardly brought stability. Instead my wandering continued, the background to a series of adventures and betrayals, in which I was not always the innocent party, until I found a home for a few months in Cornton Vale, Her Majesty’s less than charming prison for Scotland’s female offenders. The regime in the place didn’t straighten me up, but the experience toughened me. Also, it left me with an unspoken determination to regain custody of my lovely son Tom. His birth should have triggered the change in me; in truth I’m more than a little ashamed that it didn’t. But no; instead, it took a near-death experience in a plane crash to do that and to make me understand that what I had to do from then on was to dedicate my life to my boy.
And that’s what I am doing. He and I are a two-person unit, living comfortably in the picture-postcard village of St Martí d’Empúries, on Spain’s Catalan coast, in a rambling old house overlooking the Golfe de Roses. Tom’s eight now; old enough for sensible conversation yet young enough still to be excited by things like the arrival of the Three Kings, the climax of the Spanish Christmas celebrations. Sometimes I wish he’d just stay that way, that the two of us could be sealed into a time bubble and go on as we are, for ever. I suppose most mums feel that at some point. No harm in dreaming, is there?
I settled here looking, unashamedly, for a quiet life. Have I found it? So far, fat chance! I did manage peaceful for a couple of years in St Martí, before I ran into all that bother with my cousin Frank. That was hairy, but it passed off and things were smooth again for a year or so, so smooth that I began to think I had cracked it. There were no clouds on our horizon; but out here it can rain when you least expect it . . . or is that just on my life?Two
here are four men in my life of whom I could say ‘Yes, I love him’ . . . not that I’ve ever been into such public declarations.
One is my dad, the eccentric David Phillips, master craftsman and totally atypical Scottish gentleman. He’s been there for me all my life, even if we’ve actually seen very little of each other for the last fifteen years. I feel the pain of guilt from time to time when I think about that, but my father is as wedded to Auchterarder as now I am to St Martí d’Empúries. He’ll die there, as I hope I’ll die here . . . although not for a hell of a long time yet.
My son, he’s another; top of them all, in truth. Tom Blackstone is only eight years old, but in terms of the emotional support he gives me, he’s going on eighteen. We were a one-parent family from the start, Tom and I, not out of any choice I ever made, but, if you believe in such concepts, by the justice of Fate, paying me back for all the wrong choices I went for through the chaotic decade that was my thirties. He and I live in our big, ancient stone house, in our tiny Catalan village. His passport may say that he’s British, but his being is multicultural, with roots in Spain, in Scotland, in Monaco, where his half-siblings live, and in America, where his cousins are and where he spent some of his earliest time. In looks he’s like his father, naturally, although in the last year or so, I’ve seen more of myself in him; the colour of his eyes, the dimple in his chin. His friends are mostly Spanish kids, although there are a few junior Brits among their number, the children of people who’ve moved south to become involved in the tourist industry, or in some cases in search of a more civilised environment. For now, he goes to school in L’Escala, the ‘parent’ town of St Martí, where he’s taught in Catalan, the language that was banned during the Franco years. (The old general must have been a little paranoid about Catalunya; he even banned its national dance, the sardana.) When he’s older, he’ll . . . he’ll make that choice himself. Most mothers believe that their children are special, but I don’t. I believe that my son is very special indeed, and that at some time in the future he’ll do something great, something truly exceptional. He’s my Galahad, the perfect youth formed out of the imperfections of his parents. A romantic notion? Maybe, but be sure that I won’t allow him to go out into the world as one of those innocents who are easy prey to the wicked.
Tom’s father? Yes, of course he’s on my list. Oz Blackstone, a lad about Edinburgh when we met, with no ambitions other than to get his leg over and to maintain a single-figure golf handicap. Sometimes I wonder how his life would have turned out if our paths hadn’t brought us face to face; I don’t have too many possibilities to consider. He’d have married the love of his life, as he did anyway, but they’d have stayed in Edinburgh rather than move to Glasgow. Jan wouldn’t have had the ‘accident’, and today they’d be smug, boringly blissful fortysomethings, with a raft of strangely identical children . . . or she would be, to be accurate. But we did collide, he and I, an explosive reaction took place between us, and Oz, without a single scrap of planning, was launched on a career that took him to great fame, great fortune, and three marriages, the brief second, during which our boy was conceived, being to me. Oz was good at everything he did, except marriage. The world thought that his third was idyllic, but the truth is that even then, when he had a happy, stable home background, he and I could never keep our hands off each other for long. He’d have denied it of course, but if you’d known him you’d have realised that his life was full of secrets, most of them deep and dark.
No? Hey, I believed for a couple of years that he tried to kill me. It’s only recently that I’ve been persuaded that I was wrong, but the very fact that I could accept that possibility should tell you everything about him. If the true story of his career was ever written it would be a global bestseller, but I’m the only person left alive who could do that, and trust me, it ain’t going to happen. The only thing about Oz that’s clear and undeniable is this: he’s dead. Doesn’t stop me loving him, though. This is how I see it: we were apart for spells during the ten years or so from our first meeting, and only together full-time for two or three of them; so this is just another separation, only longer.
What? Sorry, I was drifting for a moment or two. The fourth man I love? His name is Gerard Hernanz Rivera, he’s thirty-nine years old, about three years younger than me, big, dark-haired, an outdoor type with strong legs, well muscled from mountain-biking, and broad shoulders from swimming, his two principal hobbies. He’s well read, amusing, courteous, multilingual, and he’s the ideal dinner companion. ‘How is he over breakfast?’ I hear you ask. He’s exactly the same, but I have to add the qualification that the only breakfasts I’ve ever shared with Gerard have been in the cafés in St Martí, or occasionally those facing the town beach in L’Escala. This is not to say that I wouldn’t like to serve him croissants and coffee on my bedroom terrace, watching the sun make its presence felt, but that was a non-starter from the beginning, the blocker being Gerard’s job as our parish priest, of the Roman Catholic variety. But why . . . pray . . . should that stop me loving him? He’s a truly lovable man, possessed of all the qualities I mentioned, and the fact is that half the women in his parish fancied him from the moment he moved here. I know this, because I’ve seen the look in their eyes on those occasions when he’s been my partner at local events. He probably noticed it too, but he didn’t mind, because he understood from the beginning of our friendly relationship that I had respect for his calling. There was just one time, when we had dinner together for my birthday, on the back terrace in Can Roura, that I could see an uncertainty in him. I’d had more to drink than usual, and maybe I’d looked at him in a way that made him feel uncomfortable. Whatever it was, I told him, ‘Gerard, I’ll make you a promise here and now; I’ll never be a danger to your vocation. I’ll be there for you when you’re lonely, as you must be from time to time, given that God does not do stimulating conversation. I’ll chum you to the movies. I’ll share a bottle with you whenever vanity gets the better of you and you feel like showing off your undoubted knowledge of the fine wines of Spain. I’ll be your informal confessor, as you’ve been mine. But I will never, ever, try to entice you into my bed. I don’t need any of that stuff right now, and if I ever find that I do, I’ll make alternative arrangements, of which you will know nothing. This is not to say that I’m not physically attracted to you, but I value your friendship and your company way too much to ever put it at risk.’