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Authors: Elizabeth Darrell

Scotch Mist

BOOK: Scotch Mist
Recent Titles by Elizabeth Darrell from Severn House
The Max Rydal Mysteries
Elizabeth Darrell
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First world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and in the USA by
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2011 by E. D. Books.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Darrell, Elizabeth.
Scotch mist. – (A Max Rydal military mystery)
1. Rydal, Max (Fictitious character)–Fiction. 2. Great
Britain. Army. Corps of Royal Military Police–Fiction.
3. Military bases, British–Germany–Fiction.
4. Soldiers–Scotland–Fiction. 5. Detective and mystery
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-132-3    (epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8069-7    (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-370-0    (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being
described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this
publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons
is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
loody bagpipes! Sounds like a squad of randy tomcats on a hot night,' growled Sergeant Major Tom Black.
‘But it's such a
sound,' protested Connie Bush. ‘Pipers traditionally lead troops into battle to inspire them. One even played on the beach on D-Day.'
Tom shook his head. ‘Wrong! The ploy is to assault the eardrums of the enemy so they'll turn and flee from earshot.'
Several members of 26 Section, Special Investigation Branch, Royal Military Police had come from their headquarters to watch the band of the Ist Battalion, the Drumdorran Fusiliers march through the huge base in Germany that was to be their new home. The troops who had all been bussed in earlier in the day were forming up on the parade ground to be officially welcomed by the Deputy Garrison Commander, and the band had decided to officially announce their arrival.
These musicians ‘playing the regiment in' walked with a swagger that had their kilts swinging and the buttons on their black tunics glinting in the November sunshine. The wind moved the fur of their tall headgear and caused the long plaids hanging from their shoulders to swing with their kilts. Add long socks with a dirk tucked in and white gaiters, and these men did look very impressive, as Heather Johnson remarked with admiration.
‘They'll look the same as the rest of us when they put on combats,' replied Tom, irritated by this female reaction to north of the border bravura. ‘And once this tartan army mixes with our squaddies, George Maddox and his uniformed boys'll have their hands full. The run up to Christmas will create havoc in the bars and discos in town. Then it'll be Hogmanay, and these skirted wonders'll run amok amid wailing bagpipes, morning, noon and most of the bloody night. They have it wrong about the skirl of the pipes. The word is
‘You'll have to grow used to it, sir,' said Phil Piercey, stirring it. ‘I heard they have a solo piper on each accommodation block to play reveille.'
Tom smiled sourly at the sergeant who frequently got under his skin despite his skill at detection. ‘
have to grow used to it, you mean. As I live outside the base it won't be
ears that are assaulted each morning.'
‘I think they'll liven up the festive season in several ways,' Heather insisted. ‘So, they'll almost certainly raise hell in town and pester the
. . .'
‘Who won't understand a word they say,' interspersed Piercey.
‘. . . but there'll be Scottish dancing in the Sergeants' Mess, and first footing at New Year,' she finished, glaring at Piercey, her least favourite colleague.
‘Arms held aloft, and a lot of pointy-toe capering around swords on the floor?' Tom asked with disgust. ‘I'll keep well clear of the Mess if they start that.'
The two women exchanged looks that spoke volumes, before Connie said, ‘I wonder how the Boss will react to our new troops.'
‘He's pretty liberated about music,' Piercey said with a grin. ‘Likes pan pipes, balalaikas, mandolins and Paraguayan harps. Bet he'll go over the top for bagpipes.'
Tom had had enough. Max Rydal, Officer Commanding 26 Section was presently flying back from the UK where he had given evidence in a civil trial, so Tom had been in command for the past three days. ‘OK, back to work. I want both cases wound up before the end of the week, so get your reports written and finalize those interviews still outstanding.'
Once inside the small headquarters on the perimeter of the base, Tom headed for his office to read through all the evidence on a tricky case concerning a hitherto well-balanced soldier who had gone off the rails and attacked with a broken bottle his best friend, because he had stolen his fiancée. The woman was also a soldier, which exacerbated the loss and humiliation because he had to see her and her new love, day in and day out. It was not an uncommon situation on a large base where young, fit and extrovert men and women worked, lived and played together.
The aggressor would be given a custodial sentence which would remove him from the vicinity of the lovers, and he would be posted elsewhere afterwards, but Tom deplored this setback to the career of a promising soldier. Women, he thought, could cause havoc among normally controlled men.
He scowled at his computer screen. The Scottish incomers were sure to stir passions further. Even Connie and Heather, who normally had their emotions well under control, had gone gaga over the prospect of these brawny Scots dancing in the Mess.
Once he arrived at the house he rented several miles from the base, Tom's mood lightened. After a simple meal he would be driving Nora and their daughters back there for the evening's celebration they had been looking forward to for days, and the Drumdorrans would not yet be free to attend.
The fifth day of November meant fireworks, a bonfire, penny for the guy, Gluhwein, mugs of soup, burgers and paper cones of chips. Oh yes, the children of personnel on a British military base in Germany wanted all that despite being far away from the Parliament building the long-ago Guy Fawkes had tried to blow up. So, on that cold, clear night a large crowd assembled at the Sports Ground to watch a pyrotechnic display and the lighting of a huge bonfire. No ‘Guy' was placed atop the carefully constructed pile. Experience had told the organizers that many of the smaller children grew deeply upset over the sight of it being engulfed in flames. This was mostly due to their regarding as lovable toys the ‘Guys' they had made for the competition held the previous day. Burning one was more than they could take.
Fortunately, all three Blackies, as Tom dubbed his girls, were old enough to distance pretence from reality and saw those effigies they had made as works of art rather than cuddly playthings. Gina had won a prize for her avant garde entry, and clutched it somewhat ostentatiously as the family occupied tip-up seats in the stand that evening. Her sisters were unfazed. Maggie, coming up to fourteen, had her German boyfriend beside her and Beth, the youngest, was only concerned that the puppy they were to adopt a few days before Christmas would not be scared by the exploding fireworks. She expressed her fears to her father.
Tom smiled reassuringly. ‘They'll be keeping an eye on her down at the kennels. Don't forget her mother's a police dog trained to remain calm in noisy situations, so her pups are sure to inherit some of her courage, sweetheart.'
Beth nodded happily. ‘Of course! Strudel will be the bravest of them all.'
Not with that ridiculous name, thought Tom as a concerted OOOH! resounded when six rapidly fired rockets filled the sky with gold and silver showers. He felt Nora shiver beside him, so he put his arm along her shoulders.
‘Are you OK, love?'
She pressed closer to him. ‘I should've worn that heavy coat I bought for midwinter. It's colder than I expected.'
Unzipping his padded jacket Tom slung it around her shoulders. He was additionally protective since Nora had revealed a pregnancy that was unplanned and initially daunting. They had now come to terms with the prospect of a fourth child, with all that having a baby after a gap of almost ten years would mean, but they had not yet gone public with the news. They planned to tell their daughters soon because morning sickness was becoming evident, and children were now so knowledgeable they would certainly cotton on to the truth before long.
The oohs and aahs increased in volume as the fireworks programme reached a glittering climax with multi-explosions of colour behind a row of gigantic spinning Catherine wheels. At the same time, over to the right, four soldiers were applying firebrands to the base of the bonfire so that it would burn evenly. Happily, there was no wind to send smoke over the spectators, as often happened.
With attention now focussed on the glow springing up all around the towering cone, everyone began to move towards the warmth that would soon radiate from it. Children in thick anoraks, woolly scarves and gloves jumped up and down with excitement as flames began to shoot higher and higher, illuminating their eager expressions and sparkling eyes.
Along the fast emptying tiers of seats lay a scattering of empty polystyrene beakers, screws of greasy paper and torn chocolate wrappers. Refuse bins were very evident, but despite annual reprimands there were still those who seemed unable to drop litter anywhere but at their feet. It meant a team of squaddies would have to spend a morning clearing it, which annoyed Tom each year.
Gina tugged his arm as he surveyed this irritant. ‘Come on, Dad, let's move or we'll never get near enough to the bonfire to toast ourselves.'
He frowned at her. ‘We're not getting that close, my girl. It's dangerous.'
‘I know,' she groaned. ‘Sergeant Maddox and his men'll be there to keep everyone back.' With a scowl she wagged her ‘Guy' at him. ‘Policemen
spoil the fun.'
Tom did not rise to this familiar complaint from his children. Having a father in the Military Police tended to hamper their acceptance by some of their schoolfellows, particularly those whose own fathers had fallen foul of the Redcaps. Nora had imbued Maggie, Gina and Beth with her own tolerant attitude towards the undeniable mistrust of the army's police force, but the girls still suffered spiteful rejection by their more aggressive peers.
Gina was right in one sense. Sergeant George Maddox, commander of the RMP uniformed section on the base had his men stationed around the stadium to keep people well clear of the area where the fireworks had been set off. There were always those idiots who thought it clever to defy common sense and risk injury.
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