Authors: T F Muir
The call ended.
Gilchrist slipped his mobile into his jacket, surprised to find his hands shaking. Even his heart was racing. What the hell was that all about?
‘You all right?’ Jessie said, sliding herself up and on to the bar stool.
‘How about you? You look fired up.’ He lifted his pint and stared beyond her as he took a sip.
‘Just when I was beginning to enjoy myself,’ she said.
‘I wish. Then I could just tell him to fuck off.’
She took a long quiet sip of her beer, then placed the mug on the bartop with a deliberation that had Gilchrist on full alert. ‘Close,’ she said. ‘Her solicitor.’
Gilchrist waited several polite seconds before saying, ‘That doesn’t sound good.’
‘I suppose it had to come in the end.’
‘She’ll never be granted custody of Robert,’ he assured her. ‘I can guarantee that.’
‘Custody?’ She shoved her pint to the side. ‘I’m having a G and T. Want one?’
‘I’ll stick with Deuchars. Here, let me get this,’ he said, and nodded to the barman. ‘Large Tanqueray and tonic, slimline if you’ve got it, in a tall glass with plenty of ice, and two slices of lime, not lemon.’
‘You got it,’ the barman said.
‘Holy shit. I’m impressed. Are you sure you’re not a cowboy in disguise?’
‘Don’t worry,’ he said to her, and smiled. ‘We’ll work it out.’
‘You’re one of the team. And I wouldn’t want one of my most promising DSs to let a mere thing like a battle for child custody upset her.’ He regretted his words the instant they spilled from his mouth. Her smile shifted to a tight-lipped grimace that had her eyes welling. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t mean to make light of your problems.’
She shook her head, dabbed a finger at her eye. ‘It’s OK. It’s not that.’
Gilchrist thought silence his best option. He sipped his pint, and waited. Neither of them spoke until the barman slid over a tall glass and Jessie took a sip.
‘Bloody hell,’ she said. ‘Does that taste good or what?’
‘Better?’ he asked, and raised his pint.
‘Getting there. But when the shit hits the fan, I hope you’ll stand by me.’
Dainty’s words came back to him –
reliable, rock solid . . . won’t let you down. I’d recommend her
. ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ he said.
‘Because it looks like I’m going to be charged with resetting.’
Resetting – the receiving and keeping of goods known to have been stolen. ‘Says who?’ he asked.
‘Heathen-face and my cunts-for-brothers.’
‘With their records, I shouldn’t think any of it would stand up in court.’
‘It shouldn’t. Except for one teeny weeny flaw.’
He knew what she was going to say, but he had to ask anyway. ‘Which is?’
‘Right,’ said Gilchrist. ‘You never said that. And I never heard it.’
They left after that drink and Gilchrist dropped Jessie off at home.
He eyed the road ahead, knowing he was over the limit. He knew, too, that if he was ever involved in an accident when he’d had a few pints, it would be his jotters for him, and early retirement. But despite that, he continued to drink and drive.
It made no sense, and he could not explain why he continued to do it. But what also made no sense to him was driving through a frosted night to the home of a married woman, albeit an unhappily married woman. He glanced at his dashboard – 10.32 – thought of just turning round and driving back to his cottage in Crail. But an image of Cooper sliding her hands up her negligee had him reaching for his mobile.
He dialled her number.
‘Hello?’ she said.
He thought she sounded tired. ‘I hope I haven’t disturbed you.’
‘Of course you have,’ she said, then lowered her tone a notch. ‘But I don’t mind being disturbed at this time of night when I’m in bed by myself. Where are you?’
‘That tells me what you’re doing, not where you are.’
‘Precision has always been one of your stronger points.’
‘That’s why I’m good at my job.’ A pause, then, ‘Are you alone?’
‘I am,’ he said.
‘So you’re able to speak?’
‘Which is why I’m calling.’
It seemed a game they played, like cat toying with mouse, a precursor to supper perhaps, although Gilchrist had no doubt which of them was for the eating. And he could not fail to pick up on the subtlest of nips in her comment, a reminder of his earlier call, abbreviated as it was.
‘The front door is unlocked.’
‘I worry that you do that,’ he said. ‘It’s like inviting crime into—’
‘Once a policeman, always a policeman.’ Another chuckle. ‘I prefer to think of it as inviting the crimebuster into my home.’
Ahead, the road glittered with diamonds of frost, a million tiny lights that sparkled and danced to the tune of his headlights. A hedgerow zipped past, stripped branches white with frost, close enough to remind him that he was over the limit and driving too fast.
He lifted his foot from the accelerator, felt the car slow down.
‘Gail was unfaithful,’ he said at length.
‘I know. It’s what makes you reluctant to become involved with a married woman, to do to some other husband what was done to you.’
‘I . . .’ He shook his head. What was he trying to say? ‘I’m sorry . . . I . . .’
‘Would it frighten you off if I told you I’ve filed for divorce?’
‘I’m sorry . . .’ It seemed to be all he could think to say. ‘I mean . . .’
‘Mr Cooper doesn’t know yet.’
Which told him that she had not yet filed for divorce.
He gripped the steering wheel, flexed his fingers. ‘When Gail left,’ he said, ‘I was hurt, confused, angry, vengeful, all of the above. But once the dust settled, and I looked back on what happened, what struck me the most was how many years I had put into my marriage, how much time I’d lost and could never recover. It seemed such a waste. If I hadn’t had Jack or Maureen I don’t know what I would have done—’
‘I don’t want any children. Well, certainly not with Mr Cooper.’ She laughed then, a high-pitched chuckle that suggested a glass of red wine, maybe two, even more. ‘Now I’ve really frightened you off.’
‘No.’ He pulled the Merc to the side of the road. ‘What I’m saying is, you have a great deal to consider before going ahead with a—’
‘I love that about you, your diametric opposites. You’re quite the conflict,’ she said. ‘Has anyone told you that before? No, I don’t suppose they would have, would they?’
He chose silence as his response.
‘You can be so considerate and understanding at times.’ Her voice sounded tinged with the slightest of frustrations. ‘Yet at times so utterly unfeeling and cold.’
He took the opportunity, and said, ‘Like now?’
She waited a couple of beats, then said, ‘You’ve stopped driving, haven’t you?’
He thought of saying he was sitting at traffic lights, but he knew one lie only led to another. ‘I have,’ he said.
‘You’re worried that you’re the cause of the breakdown in my marriage.’ A pause, then, ‘Well, let me assure you that you’re not. My marriage was broken long before you and I consummated our relationship. Mr Cooper saw to that,’ she said, with a finality that signalled the filing for her divorce was imminent.
He was not sure if he was expected to comment, so he said nothing.
‘Oh, Andy. I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.’ Another pause, then, ‘It’s getting late. And I’m sure you have a busy day ahead of you tomorrow. Go home to bed, Andy. Go. I’ll be in touch.
He gave her a
in return but the line had already died.
He glanced in the rearview mirror – all clear – swung his Merc round in a tight circle, the tyres slipping on the icy surface, and accelerated into a vortex of swirling snow. The road no longer danced alive with frost but lay covered by a thickening blanket, as if reflecting the smothering of his own feelings.
Cooper was right in what she had said. She was right in almost all she said.
But one thing struck him.
He did indeed have a busy day ahead of him.
By the time he parked in Castle Street, the snowfall had stopped.
Overhead, stars pierced a black sky. The wind had risen, beating powdered snow along Rose Wynd like white dust. From the harbour, the sea whispered in a voice as cold as an Arctic winter.
Inside his cottage, he clattered a couple of chunks of ice from the ice-maker into a thick Edinburgh Crystal whisky glass and poured himself a double Balvenie Doublewood – well, maybe a treble – and collected Dainty’s report on Jeannie Janes from one of the chairs in the kitchen. Sometimes that was the problem with correspondence – if it was not in ready sight, it often lay forgotten.
He switched on the fire, then the TV – TV to mute – and took a sip of whisky as he settled down. He started off by flicking through the pages, looking for words that caught his eye – a list of petty offences, nothing to write home about, but all of them breaking the law; several visits from the Social Services resulting in attempts to recover overpayments, mostly to no avail; probation, community service, fines, disturbance of the peace – now where had he heard that? – on and on as if to abide by the law was a crime in itself.
He took another sip of whisky and returned to the beginning.
He noted the address in Wellhouse Crescent, Easterhouse, Glasgow – the tattooed body of Mr Angry, and Jessie’s mother screaming at them from a third-floor window, flashed into his mind – and her date of birth, 20 October 1958. For occupation, assistant salesperson was noted, beneath which was typed
lifelong prostitute who worked Blythswood Square in the 70s and 80s, but now suspected of pimping in the city centre.
He had to force himself to take a sip, not drain the glass. It was not uncommon for prostitutes to raise their children to follow in their footsteps, as if they were passing on the baton, the gift of the world’s oldest profession.
No wonder Jessie hated her mother.
He read on.
Suspected of supplying Jock Shepherd with underage girls, but that link remains unproven, despite three separate undercover operations.
The name Jock Shepherd stopped him short again, and he recalled an image of Dillanos Furniture Showroom, and a skinny nicotine addict by the name of Dot. The world was becoming smaller. A list of names with which Jeannie Janes was associated, or suspected of being associated, ran for most of one page, and he scanned them for any he might know, and stopped with a grunt –
William Thomson Reid, aka Bully
James Thomson Reid
– the Reid brothers, Bully and Jimmy. Christ, planet Earth really was shrinking by the second. Again, Jessie’s voice echoed at him –
Tommy’s back in Barlinnie. He’s the nutcase of the family
. If Jessie’s two brothers, Tommy ‘Nutcase’ and Terry ‘Angry’ Janes, were only half as bad as the Reids, then Jessie really was better out of it.
He eyed his whisky, then drained the glass. He stretched for the Balvenie, pulled out the cork, and poured another – only a small double this time. Another sip had him marvelling at the honeyed spiciness and toying with the idea of becoming a whisky connoisseur. The only problem with that, he knew, was that he liked beer more – or should he be saying he liked more beer?
He chuckled, and returned his attention to Dainty’s report. And as he read, the glow from the Balvenie and the heat from the gas fire were working their magic. Concentrating was becoming an effort, and he was about to call it a day when he jerked awake.
He read the lines again.
. . . has two sons, Thomas and Terence – no middle names – and one daughter, Jessica, whose middle name, Harriet, she claims was for Harry Allen, the executioner who hanged Peter Manuel at Barlinnie Prison in 1958. She also claims that her mother, Dolly Janes, née Ferguson, was raped by Manuel after he murdered the Smart family in January 1958, but escaped being killed when she told Manuel that it was her eighteenth birthday. Jeannie Janes claims she is Peter Manuel’s illegitimate daughter. The story has never been verified . . .
Gilchrist pulled himself to his feet.
. . . Peter Manuel’s illegitimate daughter . . .
Which would mean that Jessie was Peter Manuel’s granddaughter.
Was that the secret Jessie wanted to keep from Robert, that his great-grandfather was one of Scotland’s most notorious serial killers, whose reign of terror in the fifties came to an end when he was hanged in Barlinnie in 1958? He rechecked Jeannie’s date of birth – 20 October 1958 – and saw that the dates fitted.
Was this true, or just a story put around by Jeannie Janes to add to her personal infamy. The illegitimate daughter of Peter Manuel? How many extra turns had she done once that bit of information came out, and what, if any, extra underworld respect had she gained as one of Glasgow’s madams purporting to have a serial killer’s genes? But one more thought struck him, that if Peter Manuel were still alive, he would be in his eighties.
He revisited Dainty’s notes.
He did not know Jock Shepherd personally, had never met the man. But he did know he was a fair old age, and one of Glasgow’s original thugs who had brawled his way to the top by his bootstraps. Had Jock Shepherd known Peter Manuel? Or had he known Jeannie’s mother, known that she’d been raped? If so, it was not a huge stretch of any imagination to see the big man take care of a bastard child with a criminal pedigree already in the making. Had Big Jock been Jeannie’s surrogate father, or an avuncular figure who would shove opportunities Jeannie’s way?
He scanned the printout again –
suspected of supplying Jock Shepherd with underage girls
– while these thoughts and more, as far-fetched and illogical as they were, fired at his mind with the speed of a snake strike. He understood Jessie’s need to distance herself from her criminal family, her desire to make a new life for herself, her struggle to free her son of all familial rancour. And he came to understand how far Jessie had come, how much she was prepared to do to give her son the upbringing and chance at life that she never had.