Read The Book of Souls (The Inspector McLean Mysteries) Online

Authors: James Oswald

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The Book of Souls (The Inspector McLean Mysteries)

BOOK: The Book of Souls (The Inspector McLean Mysteries)
2.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub











The Book of Souls


James Oswald

Published by DevilDog Publishing, 2012


Copyright © 2012 James Oswald



All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the permission of the author.


James Oswald has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.


All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to a real person, living or dead, is coincidental.



Cover by
JT Lindroos


ISBN 978-0-9530473-8-3


More from the author at












About the Author

Short Story - The Final Reel






The streets are empty. An unnatural quiet spreads over the north end of the city as if all the sound has been sucked out of it by the festivities on Princes Street. Only the occasional taxi breaks the calm as he follows his feet who knows where. Away from the crowds, away from the excitement, away from the joy.

He has been wandering for hours now, searching though in his heart he knows he is too late. Has he been here before? There is a terrible familiarity about it all: the clock tower arms reaching towards midnight and the opening of a new millennium; the cobbled streets glistening with slippery rain; the orange glow against warm sandstone painting everything with a demonic light. His feet take him downwards, through the nine circles, despair growing with each muffled footfall.

What is it that stops him on the bridge? An impossible sound, perhaps. The echo of a scream uttered years ago. Or maybe it's the sudden hush of the city holding its breath, counting down those last seconds to a new dawn. He can't share their enthusiasm, can't find it in himself to care. If he could stop time, turn it backwards, he would do things so differently. But this is just a moment, and it will be followed by another. Another after that. Onwards to infinity.

He leans on the cold stone parapet, looks down on the dark rushing water below. Something has brought him here, away from the world of celebrations and festive cheer.

A loud explosion marks the end of the old and the start of the new. Fireworks come in quick succession, rising over the tall buildings and lighting the sky. A million new stars fill the heavens, chasing away the shadows, reflecting in the black water, revealing its dread secret.

Flash, and the water sparkles with strange shapes, fading away like afterglow on the back of the eye.

Flash, and startled fish dart from the floating fingers they have been nibbling away.

Flash, and long black hair tugs glossily in the flow, like seaweed on the tide.

Flash, and the pent up force of a week's rain pushes past the latest obstacle, moving it slowly down towards the sea, rolling it over and over as it goes.

Flash, and a pale white face stares up at him with pleading, dead eyes.










'Argh! Jesus! Is that a rat?'

'Keep it down constable.'

'But sarge, it crawled over my foot. Must've been the size of a bloody badger.'

'I don't care if it was as big as my shiny arse. Keep it quiet until we get the signal.'

A grumbling silence fell over the dark street as the small group of police officers crouched among uncollected rubbish sacks outside a lifeless tenement. The constant quiet roar of the city around them underlined the stillness, the insufficient glow of the one functional streetlight casting everything in twilight shadow. Early morning and you could rely on the natives of this part of town to be asleep, or stoned out of sensibility.

Two clicks on an airwave set, then a tinny voice through an earpiece. 'All clear round the back. You're good to go.'

The bodies shuffled around, hemmed in by the rubbish on either side. 'OK people. On my mark. Three... Two... One...'

A crash of splintering wood split the air, followed closely by a scream.

'Argh! Bastard wasn't even locked.' Then. 'Jesus Christ! There's shit all over the floor.'

Detective Inspector Anthony McLean sighed and switched on his torch. In front of him he could just make out the black-clad figure of PC Jones struggling to extricate himself from a pile of rubbish sacks inside the tenement hallway.

'Did they not teach you in Tulliallan to check that first?'

He pushed past the struggling constable and into the dank building, sniffing the air and trying not to gag. Rotting garbage mixed with stale piss and mould, the favoured aroma of the Edinburgh slum. It wasn't usually this ripe though, and that didn't bode well for why he was here.

'Bob, you take the ground floor. Jones, help him.' McLean turned to the final member of their party, a baby-faced young detective constable who'd been unlucky enough to be in the canteen at the station an hour earlier looking like he had nothing better to do. That's what you got for being keen. 'Come on then MacBride. Let's see if there's anything here worth breaking down an unlocked door for.'




There were three storeys to the tenement, two tiny flats on each floor. None of the doors were locked, and the graffiti liberally scrawled over every available surface was at least two generations of squatter out of date. McLean stepped carefully from room to room, the beam of his torchlight playing over broken furniture, ripped out electrical fittings and the occasional dead rat. DC MacBride never left his side, hovering like an obedient Labrador, almost too close for comfort. Or maybe it was just that he didn't want to brush up against anything. Couldn't blame him, really. The smell of the place would take weeks to wash out.

'Looks like yet another complete bloody waste of time,' McLean said as they left the last flat and stood on the landing at the top of the stairs. All the glass had long since gone from the window looking out over the gardens behind. At least that meant a cold wind could blow away the worst of the smell.

'Umm. Why did we come here, sir?' The question choked in MacBride's throat, as if he had tried to stop himself asking it at the last minute.

'That's a very good question, constable.' McLean shone his torch down into the empty stairwell, then up at the ceiling with its high-angled roofline and reinforced glass light well. That was out of reach of the vandals, and tough enough to withstand thrown missiles, but even so a couple of panes were crazed and sagging. 'An informant. A snitch. What is it they like to call them these days? A Covert Human Intelligence Source?' He made little bunny ear inverted commas with his fingers, bouncing the light from his torch up and down as he did. 'Bugger that. Mine's a stoner called Izzy and he's a useless tosser. Spun me a load of old crap just to get me out of his hair, I've no doubt. Told me this place was used as a distribution hub. My own fault for believing him, I guess.'

More lights flickering in the darkness downstairs were Detective Sergeant Bob Laird and Police Constable Taffy Jones stumbling through the rubbish sacks in the entrance hall. If they'd found anything they'd have shouted, so it looked like the whole episode was a complete waste of time. Just like every other bloody raid. Wonderful. Dagwood was going to be so pleased.

'Come on then. It's probably best if we don't make Grumpy Bob climb all the way up here. Let's get back to the nice warm canteen.' McLean set off down the stairs, only realising he wasn't being followed when he was halfway to the next floor. He looked back and saw MacBride's torch pointed at a space above the fanlight over one of the flat doors. A small hatch gave entry to the building's loft space. It looked almost completely unremarkable, except for the shiny new padlock hasp screwed into it.

'D'you think there might be something up there, sir?' MacBride asked as McLean rejoined him on the landing.

BOOK: The Book of Souls (The Inspector McLean Mysteries)
2.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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