Authors: Ian Rankin
Copyright © 2006 by John Rebus Limited
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First eBook Edition: April 2007
Also by Ian Rankin
The Inspector Rebus Series
Knots & Crosses
Hide & Seek
Tooth & Nail
A Good Hanging and Other Stories
The Black Book
Let It Bleed
Black & Blue
The Hanging Garden
Death Is Not the End
Set in Darkness
A Question of Blood
To everyone who was in Edinburgh on July 2, 2005
We have the choice to try for a new world every day, to tell what we know of the truth every day, to take small actions every day.
—A. L. Kennedy, writing about the march on Gleneagles
Write us a chapter to be proud of.
—Bono, in a message to the G8
The Task of Blood
Friday, July 1, 2005
n place of a closing hymn, there was music. The Who, “Love Reign o’er Me.” Rebus recognized it the moment it started, thunderclaps and teeming rain filling the chapel. He was in the front pew; Chrissie had insisted. He’d rather have been further back: his usual place at funerals. Chrissie’s son and daughter sat next to her. Lesley was comforting her mother, an arm around her as the tears fell. Kenny stared straight ahead, storing up emotion for later. Earlier that morning, back at the house, Rebus had asked him his age. He would be thirty next month. Lesley was two years younger. Brother and sister looked like their mother, reminding Rebus that people had said the same about Michael and him:
the pair of you, the spitting image of your mum
. Michael...Mickey, if you preferred. Rebus’s younger brother, dead in a shiny-handled box at the age of fifty-four, Scotland’s mortality rate that of a third world nation. Lifestyle, diet, genes—plenty of theories. The full postmortem hadn’t come through yet. Massive stroke was what Chrissie had told Rebus on the phone, assuring him that it was “sudden”—as if that made a difference.
Sudden meant Rebus hadn’t been able to say good-bye. It meant his last words to Michael had been a joke about his beloved Raith Rovers soccer team in a phone call three months back. A Raith scarf, navy and white, had been draped over the coffin alongside the wreaths. Kenny was wearing a tie that had been his dad’s, Raith’s shield on it—some kind of animal holding a belt buckle. Rebus had asked the significance, but Kenny had just shrugged. Looking along the pew, Rebus saw the usher make a gesture. Everyone rose to their feet. Chrissie started walking up the aisle, flanked by her children. The usher looked to Rebus, but he stayed where he was. Sat down again so the others would know they didn’t have to wait for him. The song was only a little more than halfway through. It was the closing track on
. Michael had been the big Who fan, Rebus himself preferring the Stones. Had to admit, though, albums like
did things the Stones never could. Daltrey was whooping now that he could use a drink. Rebus had to agree, but there was the drive back to Edinburgh to consider. The function room of a local hotel had been booked. All were welcome, as the minister had reminded them from the pulpit. Whiskey and tea would be poured, sandwiches served. There would be anecdotes and reminiscences, smiles, dabs at the eyes, hushed tones. The staff would move quietly, out of respect. Rebus was trying to form sentences in his head, words that would act as his apology.
I need to get back, Chrissie. Pressure of work
He could lie and blame the G8. That morning in the house, Lesley had said he must be busy with the buildup. He could have told her,
I’m the only cop they don’t seem to need
. Officers were being drafted in from all over. Fifteen hundred were coming from London alone. Yet Detective Inspector John Rebus seemed surplus to requirements. Someone had to man the ship—the very words DCI James Macrae had used, with his acolyte smirking by his shoulder. DI Derek Starr reckoned himself the heir apparent to Macrae’s throne. One day, he’d be running Gayfield Square police station. John Rebus posed no threat whatsoever, not much more than a year away from retirement. Starr himself had said as much:
Nobody’d blame you for coasting, John. It’s what anyone your age would do
. Maybe so, but the Stones were older than Rebus; Daltrey and Townshend were older than him too. Still playing, still touring. The song was ending now, and Rebus rose to his feet again. He was alone in the chapel. Took a final look at the purple velvet screen. Maybe the coffin was still behind it; maybe it had already been moved to another part of the crematorium. He thought back to adolescence, two brothers in their shared bedroom, playing 45s bought down Kirkcaldy High Street. “My Generation” and “Substitute,” Mickey asking about Daltrey’s stutter on the former, Rebus saying he’d read somewhere that it had to do with drugs. The only drug the brothers had indulged in was alcohol, mouthfuls stolen from the bottles in the pantry, a can of sickly stout broken open and shared after lights-out. Standing on Kirkcaldy promenade, staring out to sea, and Mickey singing the words to “I Can See for Miles.” But could that really have happened? The record came out in ’66 or ’67, by which time Rebus was in the army. Must have been on a trip back. Yes, Mickey with his shoulder-length hair, trying to copy Daltrey’s look, and Rebus with his military crew cut, inventing stories to make army life seem exciting, Northern Ireland still ahead of him...
They’d been close back then, Rebus always sending letters and postcards, his father proud of him, proud of both the boys.
The spitting image of your mum
He stepped outside. The cigarette packet was already open in his hand. There were other smokers around him. They offered nods, shuffling their feet. The various wreaths and cards had been lined up next to the door and were being studied by the mourners. The usual words would crop up:
. The family would be
in our thoughts
. Michael wouldn’t be mentioned by name. Death brought its own set of protocols. The younger mourners were checking for text messages on their phones. Rebus dug his own out of his pocket and switched it on. Five missed calls, all from the same number. Rebus knew it from memory, pushed the buttons, and raised the phone to his ear. Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke was quick to answer.
“I’ve been trying you all morning,” she complained.
“I had it switched off.”
“Where are you anyway?”
“Still in Kirkcaldy.”
There was an intake of breath. “Hell, John, I completely forgot.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He watched Kenny open the car door for Chrissie. Lesley was motioning to Rebus, letting him know they were headed for the hotel. The car was a BMW, Kenny doing all right for himself as a mechanical engineer. He wasn’t married; had a girlfriend, but she hadn’t been able to make it to the funeral. Lesley was divorced, her own son and daughter off on holiday with their dad. Rebus nodded at her as she got into the back of the car.
“I thought it was next week,” Siobhan was saying.
“I take it you’re phoning for a gloat?” Rebus started walking toward his Saab. Siobhan had been in Perthshire the past two days, accompanying Macrae on a recon of G8 security. Macrae was old pals with Tayside’s assistant chief constable. All Macrae wanted was a look around, his friend happy to oblige. The G8 leaders would meet at Gleneagles Hotel, on the outskirts of Auchterarder, nothing around them but acres of wilderness and miles of security fence. There had been plenty of scare stories in the media. Reports of three thousand U.S. Marines landing in Scotland to protect their president. Anarchist plots to block roads and bridges with hijacked trucks. Bob Geldof had demanded that a million demonstrators besiege Edinburgh. They would be housed, he said, in people’s spare rooms, garages, and gardens. Boats would be sent to France to pick up protesters. Groups with names like Ya Basta and the Black Bloc would aim for chaos, while the People’s Golfing Association wanted to break the cordon to play a few holes of Gleneagles’s renowned course.
“I’m spending two days with DCI Macrae,” Siobhan was saying. “What’s to gloat about?”
Rebus unlocked his car and leaned in to slide the key into the ignition. He straightened again, took a last drag on his cigarette, and flicked the butt onto the roadway. Siobhan was saying something about a Scene of Crime team.
“Hold on,” Rebus told her. “I didn’t catch that.”
“Look, you’ve got enough on your plate without this.”
“Remember Cyril Colliar?”
“Despite my advancing years, the memory’s not quite packed in.”
“Something really strange has happened.”
“I think I’ve found the missing piece.”
Rebus found that he’d lowered himself onto the driver’s seat. “I don’t understand.”
Siobhan gave a nervous laugh. “Me neither.”
“So where are you now?”
“And that’s where the jacket’s turned up?”
Rebus swung his legs into the car and pulled the door shut. “Then I’m coming to take a look. Is Macrae with you?”
“He went to Glenrothes. That’s where the G8 control center is.” She paused. “Are you sure you should be doing this?”
Rebus had started the engine. “I need to make my apologies first, but I can be there inside the hour. Will I have any trouble getting into Auchterarder?”
“It’s the calm before the storm. When you’re driving through town, look for the sign to the Clootie Well.”
“Easier if you just come and see for yourself.”
“Then that’s what I’ll do. Scene of Crime on their way?”
“Which means word will get around.”
“Should I tell the DCI?”
“I’ll let you decide.” Rebus had wedged the phone between his shoulder and his cheek so he could steer the maze-like course to the gates of the crematorium.
“You’re breaking up,” Siobhan said.
Not if I can help it,
Rebus thought to himself.
Cyril Colliar had been murdered six weeks before. Age twenty, he’d been locked away on a fixed ten-year stretch for a vicious rape. At the end of the sentence, he’d been released, despite the reservations of prison warders, police, and social services. They figured he was as big a threat as ever, having shown no remorse, denying his guilt despite DNA evidence. Colliar had returned to his native Edinburgh. All the bodybuilding he’d done in prison paid off. He worked as a nighttime bouncer and daytime muscle. His employer on both counts was Morris Gerald Cafferty. Big Ger was a villain of long standing. In had been Rebus’s job to confront him about his latest employee.
“What do I care?” had been the retort.
“Way you’re hassling him would try the patience of a saint.” Cafferty swinging from side to side on his leather swivel chair, behind his desk at MGC Lettings. Anyone was slow with the weekly rent on one of Cafferty’s flats, Rebus guessed that was where Colliar would take over. Cafferty owned minicabs, too, and at least three raucous bars in the less salubrious parts of town. Plenty of work for Cyril Colliar.
Right up until the night he’d turned up dead. Skull caved in, the blow coming from behind. Pathologist figured he’d have died from that alone, but just to make sure, someone had added a syringe of very pure heroin. No indication that the deceased had been a user.
was the word most of the cops on the case had used—and grudgingly at that. Nobody bothered with the term
. Nobody could say the words out loud—
Bastard got what he deserved
—that wasn’t the done thing these days.
Didn’t stop them from thinking it, sharing it through eye contact and slow nods. Rebus and Siobhan had worked the case, but it had been one among many. Few leads and too many suspects. The rape victim had been interviewed, along with her family and her boyfriend from the time. One word kept coming up in discussing Colliar’s fate: “Good.”
His body had been found near his car, down a side street next to the bar where he’d been working. No witnesses, no scene-of-crime evidence. Just the one curiosity: a sharp blade had been used to slice away part of his distinctive jacket, a black nylon bomber emblazoned with the phrase
on the back. This was what had been removed, so that the white inner lining was revealed. Theories were in short supply. It was either a clumsy attempt to disguise the deceased’s identity, or there had been something hidden in the lining. Tests had proved negative for traces of drugs, leaving the police to shrug and scratch their heads.
To Rebus, it looked like a hit. Either Colliar had made an enemy, or a message was being sent to Cafferty. Not that their several interviews with Colliar’s employer had been enlightening.
“Bad for my reputation” was Cafferty’s main reaction. “Means either you catch whoever did it...”
But Cafferty hadn’t needed to answer. And if Cafferty got to the culprit first, it would be the last that was ever heard of them.
None of which had helped. The inquiry had hit a wall around the same time G8 preparations started focusing minds—most of them driven by images of overtime pay—elsewhere. Other cases had intruded, too, with victims—
victims. The Colliar murder team had been wound down.
Rebus lowered his driver’s-side window, welcoming the cool breeze. He didn’t know the quickest route to Auchterarder; he knew Gleneagles could be reached from Kinross, so had headed that way. A couple of months back, he’d bought a GPS for the car, but he hadn’t got round to reading the instructions yet. It lay on the passenger seat, screen blank. One of these days he’d take it to the garage that installed the car’s CD player. An inspection of the backseat, floors, and trunk had failed to turn up anything by The Who, so Rebus was listening to Elbow instead—Siobhan’s recommendation. He liked the title track, “Leaders of the Free World.” Stuck it on repeat. The singer seemed to think something had gone wrong since the ’60s. Rebus tended to agree, even coming at it from a different direction. He guessed the singer would have liked more change, a world run by Greenpeace and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, poverty made history. Rebus had been on a few marches himself in the ’60s, before and after joining the army. It was a way to meet girls if nothing else. Usually there was a party somewhere afterward. These days, though, he saw the ’60s as the end of something. A fan had been stabbed to death at a Stones concert in 1969, and the decade had petered out. The 1960s had given youth a taste for revolt. They didn’t trust the old order, certainly didn’t respect it. He wondered about the thousands who would descend on Gleneagles, confrontation a certainty. Hard to imagine it in this landscape of farms and hillsides, rivers and glens. He knew that Gleneagles’s very isolation would have been a factor in its choice as venue. The leaders of the free world would be safe there, safe to sign their names to decisions that had already been made elsewhere. On the stereo, the band was singing about climbing a landslide. The image stuck with Rebus all the way to the outskirts of Auchterarder.