Authors: Quintin Jardine
Copyright © 2014 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 2014
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library
Jacket Photograph © Silas Manhood
E-pub conversion by Avon DataSet Ltd, Bidford-on-Avon, Warwickshire
eISBN: 978 0 7553 5707 9
HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP
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About Quintin Jardine
Quintin Jardine was born once upon a time in the West: of Scotland rather than America, but still he grew to manhood as a massive Sergio Leone fan. On the way there he was educated, against his will, in Glasgow, where he ditched a token attempt to study law for more interesting careers in journalism, government propaganda, and political spin-doctoring. After a close call with the Brighton Bomb, he moved into the riskier world of media relations consultancy, before realising that all along he had been training to beome a crime writer.
Now, nearly forty published novels later, he never looks back. Along the way he has created/acquired an extended family in Scotland and Spain. Everything he does is for them. He can be tracked down through his website
‘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’
The Scots Magazine
By Quintin Jardine and available from Headline
Bob Skinner series:
Murmuring the Judges
Autographs in the Rain
Stay of Execution
Dead and Buried
Fatal Last Words
A Rush of Blood
Pray for the Dying
Hour of Darkness
Primavera Blackstone series:
As Easy as Murder
As Serious as Death
Oz Blackstone series:
A Coffin for Two
On Honeymoon with Death
For the Death of Me
About the Book
‘There’s no evil beyond his comprehension, nothing so dark that he can’t see its detail’
A woman’s naked body is found washed up on Cramond Island near Edinburgh. She has been mutilated by a ship’s propeller, leaving no means of identification.
Days later detectives are called to a flat in Edinburgh. The kitchen is covered in blood, and the occupier is missing. When the woman’s name is revealed it stirs old, unwelcome memories for those who knew her, Chief Constable Bob Skinner most of all.
But Skinner is based in Glasgow, and he has no reason to become involved in the case. Yet he does, unwittingly setting in motion a course that will lead him to a personal nightmare and the toughest choice of his life . . .
This book is dedicated to my great friend, Jack Arrundale, the closest thing to a living brother I ever had, who died on Tuesday, 19 March 2013, at the ridiculously early age of 75. Jack and I laughed, played, argued, drank and did all sorts of other things together, for almost forty years. I’ve missed his company, his wisdom and his chat every day since he passed away, and will do every day for the rest of my life.
And yet I won’t accept that he’s gone; I won’t allow it. As Bruce Springsteen wrote of Clarence Clemons, a great sax player, yet one who never featured in Jack’s top ten since he was a jazz man through and through, Jack hasn’t left the band just because he’s dead, nor will he leave it, not until the last one of us who knew and loved him is dead too.
Lately I’ve been contemplating the Old Testament, rather a lot.
‘That’s not surprising in a cop, Mr Skinner,’ I hear you say, but it’s not as simple as that; it goes back to something my father told me.
We think of pre-Christian values as simple, but I don’t see it that way. Even Exodus and Deuteronomy are a shade contradictory. Take the sins of the fathers as an example. It’s not quite clear how many generations should take the rap for Dad’s transgressions. And as for that cruel trick God played on Abraham, when He let him come within an angel’s whisper of cutting young Isaac’s throat . . .
My Biblical tendencies come from my old man, although as far as I know, he never sinned. I saw no evidence of it when I was growing up, although he was always very tightly wrapped. He was a quiet man, never much of a smiler, never much of a joker, but kind nevertheless. I don’t recall him ever raising his voice to me, or to anyone else for that matter. He was generous, no question; within reason, anything that I wanted came my way, sooner or later . . . other than him, that is. He never gave of himself, not on a personal level.
He did most of the things that fathers are supposed to do, like taking me to football matches until I was old enough to go on my own, and getting me started on golf, but we had very little interaction at home. That territory belonged to my mother, and to my beast of an older brother.
Dad spent most of his home time working in his study, next to our dining room, while Mum lived on Planet Gordon’s or Planet Beefeater or wherever else her gin brand of the moment took her. As for Michael, the less I say about him the better; he’s in his grave now, and he can fucking stay there. He was a Grade A sinner, that is for sure.
My father shared his wealth, much of it self-created, but he never shared what was in his heart. I’m pretty sure, no, I’m certain, that I know why. I believe it was down to his war and to the things he had to do, but always, he refused to talk about that time, refused point-blank, until I stopped asking him, until I gave up trying to penetrate the force field of privacy that he kept around him.
While no one ever really saw the man inside him, that was the way that life had made him, and I stopped resenting it long, long ago. Which, given the circumstances, was pretty big of me, for it caused me a lot of grief.
The problem for me was that Dad’s introspection affected his vision; it was so profound that he couldn’t see the things that were happening closest to him. He had no idea of the tortures that Michael inflicted on me, during my childhood years. He never even realised that my mother was alcoholic, not until he saw it as an underlying cause on her death certificate.
He died without ever telling me, or anyone else that I know of, about his war and the experiences that I now realise had scarred him. He left me his medal, one of those that you only won for exceptional service, and that was all. He kept no diary, and he must have destroyed any papers related to those years, for I found none afterwards.
It wasn’t until I reached chief officer rank in the police force that I made any effort to fill in that gaping hole in his life story, using channels that had become open to me. Even now, much of the secrecy remains. I know that he was operational, in the Balkan region, the area that became Yugoslavia in the austere peacetime, but I don’t know what he did. Those files are still closed. All I know is what he was trained to do, and that did not involve escorting prisoners to the holding area.
So what did he do, that silent man, to give me the old prophet values that have lingered in me ever since?
It happened on the day on which he was destined to die. The disease that was claiming him was in its final stages, beyond therapy and at the point where ‘palliative care’ meant giving him enough dope to keep him out of the pain that consciousness brought.
I expected him to go that afternoon. His nursing team had told me that it was a matter of hours. They did so to prepare me, I imagine, but in truth I’d been ready for a while. I suspect that he had, too; I hadn’t seen him smile in years, not a real face-cracker, at any rate, not even when he saw his newborn granddaughter for the first time.
I sat by his bedside in his room at the hospice. There was music playing, softly: Ella Fitzgerald was singing him on his way . . . my choice, not his; he was beyond comfort, but I wasn’t.
Myra had been willing to come with me, but I had talked her out of it. That hadn’t been too difficult; she’d been there the previous day and it had been horrific. I had no idea what ‘projectile’ really meant, not until Dad sat bolt upright in bed, without warning, and fired an eruption of vomit that splatted against a wall more than six feet away from him. My poor, doomed, first wife had caught some in her hair.
There was no chance of a recurrence as I sat beside him, hunched forward and helpless. There was nothing left in him by then; he’d been a big man in his time, almost as big as me, but the thing that was killing him had reduced him to a skin-covered skeleton, with no organs functioning other than the heart that was still pumping, and the lungs, from which the stentorious breathing of approaching death sounded in the room, contrasting harshly with the velvet voice coming from the cassette recorder.
I didn’t expect him to waken again, ever, but he did. His eyes flickered, then opened. They weren’t seeing me, though. They were looking at a scene far away and they told me that whatever it was, Dad wasn’t enjoying the view. I found myself hoping that he was seeing his past and not his future. I’ve suspected since childhood that any afterlife might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Suddenly the claw that had been his left hand grabbed my arm, and tugged at me. I was startled, but I eased myself off my seat and leaned over him, getting as close as I could to his corpse breath.
‘Robert,’ he whispered, with an urgency that scared me.
‘Yes, Dad,’ I said, trying to keep my voice calm.
‘Be careful, son,’ he croaked. ‘Blood will out, always.’
And then his grip on me loosened, and his eyes closed, for what did prove to be the last time. I sat down again, and listened as the rasp of his breathing quietened, and as it slowed. Ten minutes later, it stopped, and he was gone.
I pressed the bedside buzzer; his nurses responded within a few seconds. They made comforting noises, and the older one asked if I was okay. I told her the truth, that I was, and that I was happy he was out of it. She nodded; I was sure that in her job as a door warden for the dying she’d heard the same response a hundred times and more.
As they did what they had to do, disconnecting the tubes that led into and out of his newly vacated body, a doctor joined us. He made a quick examination, shone a torch in the old man’s eyes, then closed them again. ‘Will there be a cremation?’ he asked, the first words he had spoken. ‘If so you’ll need a second certificate, signed by a second doctor.’
I sensed impatience in him; I was tempted to put him to as much trouble as I could, but that would have been at the expense of the living, so I shook my head. He completed a form and handed it to me; I glanced at it, noting the words ‘heart failure’, ‘pneumonia’ and ‘carcinoma’, in the usual medical scrawl, then pocketed it. When I looked up to thank him, he had gone.
I picked up my dad’s belongings, his wallet, watch, spectacles, and his driving licence . . . I found myself smiling at the thought of him going into a hospice thinking he’d be driving home . . . then thanked the nurses for all they’d done to make his last days as easy as they could be.
‘Don’t you want his Bible?’ the younger one asked, indicating the black book on the bedside cabinet.
I stared at her. ‘It’s his?’
‘He brought it in with him,’ she replied. ‘He read it all the time, when you weren’t here.’
And then I was back with him, by his side in South Dalziel Parish Church when I was five or six years old, listening to him belt out the hymns, accepting the white King’s Imperials that he slipped to me, then surreptitiously pocketing them because I didn’t like to tell him that I hated mints.
I cried for my father then, the only time I ever did, and that’s when I put him into context: an Old Testament guy at heart. I took the holy book with me, and I have it to this day. I hadn’t read much from it until recently, but I’m pretty familiar with most of it now.
Later on, once I was home and ready to talk, Myra asked me how it had been. I told her, moment by moment, scene by scene, and finally word for word.
‘What did he mean?’ she asked, curious.
‘I haven’t a fucking clue,’ I told her, frankly.
I do now.