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A Different Place To Die

A Different Place To Die

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A Different Place To Die

Länge:
372 Seiten
4 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jul 15, 2014
ISBN:
9781310130243
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Shona Bally is a Civilian Investigator for the Glasgow police.
Inspector Tom Quiss has made a necessary move from serious crime.
They are pulled together into a sparky and unique partnership.

Then two bodies are discovered.
It looks like a suicide.
Can it be that simple?

A new glasgow detective,
with a twist.
A murder/mystery thriller.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jul 15, 2014
ISBN:
9781310130243
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Scottish writer of seven novels: The Dumfries Detective trilogy, The Wrath Inside, A Different Place To Die, Only The Living Can Die, Two Tides To Turn.


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A Different Place To Die - RR Gall

Intro

The first Civilian Investigation Unit (CIU) in Scotland was set up in 2008 by Central Scotland Police. Many others followed throughout the country. In 2009, the unit in Falkirk aided in a murder enquiry.

1

2nd May 2012

12.53pm.

Tom Quiss stood alone on the bowling green in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. There was sunshine, thankfully. However, once again the northerly wind flew in on a core of Arctic ice. To be expected. Not long into the season: the grass still brittle and tight, huddled from the winter, not yet ready to stretch into a lush and forgiving carpet.

The noise of the traffic on Sauchiehall Street did not register in Quiss’ brain. He was focussed solely on his game, his eyes fixed on the imaginary arc before him. The concave path so real it appeared traced onto the green. And he was set, wholeheartedly, on offering a precise and smooth delivery.

Quiss extended, as always, into a good follow-through, remaining balanced on his left foot, watching the run of the wood. This one, like the last five, had excellent pace. It bustled and nestled into the pack like a late-arrival meeting up with close friends at a party, giving each a familiar pat on the back.

The accuracy was hugely satisfying. It made Quiss happy. When he reached for the next bowl, the phone in his pocket buzzed, smashing the joy to pieces. He muttered an oath as he raised his head to the sky, eyes closed. If only he could spend every lunchtime, every day, here, in this blissful bubble, with no work to trouble.

Other bowlers, seeing him alone, used to ask if he wanted to join them. Have a game, have a laugh. They don’t ask him now. They know what he does for a living. And they know his answer. They keep away. They think him a bit odd.

He doesn’t look particularly odd. He is tall and thin. His white shock of hair ages him beyond his fifty-two years; yet his plain face is reasonably unwrinkled, fairly unremarkable. In a way, Quiss has become slightly more handsome with age: his features finally gathering together after decades of gawky detachment – like long-standing neighbours, after many years of indifference, finally deciding their proximity should make them friendly.

But there is a melancholy soaked in as well. It suggests a fluency in sympathy and disaffection with most of life’s arrangements.

He dwells on none of this. His appearance is of little importance. He has never thought of the mirror as a companion and rarely seeks its company.

The phone has been ignored for too long. He cannot play with it buzzing away in his pocket like an angry bee. The screen tells him it is his boss calling.

‘What took you so long? Where the hell are you? What are you doing?’ The voice on the phone was gruff, distrusting, suspicious and angry. Always angry.

‘Looking at some new graffiti in the park,’ Quiss replied, as smoothly as one of his deliveries. There will be some. Bound to be. The city had moved on somewhat from its rough past. Now it was a washed workman in a new suit, with only some splatters of dirt on its cuffs.

‘Leave that. I want you at 8 Melling Place, Bearsden. Immediately. D’you hear?’

‘Why?’ Quiss gave a slight groan as he bent to set the heavy bowl back onto the grass, his muscles rebelling. Not a problem. Bowlers can be old. Most of them are.

His boss replied simply, ‘Two bodies have been found. In a house.’

‘Two bodies?’

Crosby’s fragile irritation broke into greater, fractured yelling, ‘That’s what... I said! Now get... your arse... up here. Now!’

‘I don’t do that anymore,’ Quiss replied calmly. ‘I’m not on the murder team. I run the CIU. Have you forgotten?’ He added a belated, ‘Sir.’

‘I told you. Get your arse up here. Now!’

The yell was loud enough to make Quiss recoil, loud enough to make him whip the damned machine from his ear. The sharp movement disturbed the solitary rook sitting in the ash tree behind the green, making it flap and dance a soft-shoe shuffle to balance on the bending branch.

‘I’ve got no one else at the moment,’ the voice on the phone continued – easily audible at full-arm’s length. ‘So get a bloody move on!’

The line went dead.

Quiss sighed, slapping the phone against his thigh. Hard. He did it once more, like a tambourine, wishing it could hurt the long-gone caller, making the troubled rook fly off, with a beady eye cast over its shoulder at the white-haired man.

Quiss sighed again, and his shoulders sagged as he picked up a bowl, dunking it into the basket sitting at the side.

Jimmy, the attendant, hurried out from his booth. He had been watching. ‘Bad news, inspector?’

‘I need to go, Jimmy. Right now.’

‘No worries, inspector. Leave it to me. I’ll tidy up for you. Will you be back tonight?’

Quiss studied the young man before giving a surly, ‘I wouldn’t bet on it.’

‘No worries. But I’ll leave them out, in a corner of the hut, just in case,’ Jimmy went on positively. ‘I know how you like to get the same ones.’

Despite being a public bowling green, Jimmy makes sure the inspector has the same set of woods each time. He knows the policeman is particular about the equipment he uses. What Jimmy doesn’t know is that Inspector Quiss only ever practises. Tom Quiss has never played an actual, proper game of bowls in his life.

2

1.06pm.

The drive to Melling Place only increased Quiss’ annoyance. It was stop-start all the way: lights stuck on red, lanes on Crow Road crowded with mini-diggers, rearing up like fierce little dinosaurs, before sinking their teeth into the asphalt, spewing out mouthfuls as they gouged trenches for water pipes, cables, or whatever-the-hell-they-put-under-there. It’s always something. Nothing can be left alone. More patches than actual road surface.

Then onto the undulating dual carriageway of The Switchback, only to find one lane closed off: a line of traffic cones stretching to the horizon, without a single soul working. An alley of virgin tarmac. An unfulfilling sacrifice on the altar to the god of congestion.

At last, when the chance came, Quiss zigzagged past a few cars, causing horns to honk at the recklessness of his unmarked police car. He paid them no heed, following the satnav, turning into a nest of smaller roads, finally parking a few yards down a cul-de-sac.

It was only then, when he had turned the engine off and sat back, that he wondered why he had made such a frantic, helter-skelter ride. Habit – it had to be that. Nothing more. He was certain he didn’t wish to be here.

Quiss nodded to a constable on watch, showed his warrant card, and dipped under the blue-and-white-striped tape, walking amid the clutter of vehicles: one SOCO van, two police cars, an ambulance, and two other vehicles – one with a doctor sticker on its window.

Melling Place was a narrow crescent of new-build, red-brick, box-like houses, each with a square patch of grass in front, and, of course, a large, adjacent garage – almost as wide as the house itself.

Why is it always brick for buildings now? What happened to stone? And why do garages have to be so bloody big?

His boss, Crosby, was waiting around the curve of the road, at the far point, on the driveway of number eight, the end house – a uniformed policeman officiously guarding the front door, with a prominently-held Crime Scene Entry book at the ready to log in each visitor.

Crosby, conspicuous in his sharp, expensive suit, looked on with the keen eye, as he stood straight, jacket buttons undone, shoulders pulled back, chest puffed out, legs splayed, hands behind his back.

The usual clothes peg pose, Quiss muttered to himself.

Crosby noted the inspector’s approach with despair. The man was a shabby mess. A disgrace. Why didn’t he put some effort into looking a bit smartish? Create some respect through appearance? That would go some way. A long way.

They are of similar ages – nevertheless, Crosby knows he looks considerably younger and infinitely more virile than this man. Although his sandy-coloured, wispy hair is receding, it is cut and gelled to fashion, not like the wind-strewn, white mop on this man.

Quiss shuffled on down the street, seeing two ambulance-men leaning against the sides of their vehicle. He gave them a stare. They paid him no attention. One was furtively smoking, sucking hard on the dregs of his cigarette: the lit end shielded in the palm of his hand. It annoyed Quiss. It felt irresponsible somehow.

‘You took your time,’ Crosby said, as Quiss arrived into easy earshot.

The boss was a lot calmer: it wasn’t as bad as he’d first feared. The deaths. It should get cleared up quickly and put out of the way. Case closed. Too many lay open without a proper end in sight.

Quiss mentioned something about roadworks, as his boss ushered him into the open garage of the house: a blue, four-door saloon parked inside.

Crosby kept his voice low. ‘Before the TV and press get here, I want the street’s cordon maintained. Fully. No one gets anywhere near. Got that? It should be easy enough – so see to it. Keep any on-lookers a good distance away – not even with a sight of proceedings. Keep it blocked up beyond the bend. It should have been there from the start.’

Quiss didn’t baulk too much at Crosby’s condescending tone. ‘I still don’t know why I’m...’

Crosby cut across off, gesticulating, ‘There are two bodies in there.’ He moved fully into the garage – keeping their conversation private.

‘They’re old. The people are old, were old, in their eighties, if they’re a day. And sitting at the kitchen table as though having a nice cup of tea. A nice, friendly cuppa. The only thing is, Quiss, it wasn’t tea they were drinking.’ He rubbed his ear-lobe. ‘It looks like a poisoning – pure and simple. The doctor’s said as much. So that’s good.’

‘Good?’

‘No, not good for them.’

‘And?’

Crosby’s mouth crunched into a snarl. ‘And!? What d’you mean, ‘and?’ Get it sorted, man. That’s what you’re here for.’

The boss added brusquely, straining for control, ‘It shouldn’t be too difficult. Even for you. A note’s been found beside them, on the table. A suicide note. Of course, it’ll need to be verified it’s in their handwriting. So get that done.’ He tilted his head. ‘There’s a small chain as well, like a dog’s lead, coiled up beside it – but no dog we can see. Goodness knows what that’s about.’ He snorted twice. ‘I want you to follow procedure, Quiss. Do everything properly. I don’t need to tell you that.’

Why are you telling me then?

‘I want it wrapped up as soon as possible. D’you understand? I need this one out of the way. There’s far too much going on at the moment.’

‘Why me? There must be someone else who can do it.’

Crosby leaned into him and rasped, ‘I’ve told you – we’re overloaded. If I had someone else, they’d be on it. I don’t want this any more than you do. I don’t want you!’

He steadied himself, resting one hand on the car bonnet, before going on, ‘And watch out for the press. They like this kind of thing. They’ll be on our backs from the start. Do it well. Find out why this old couple decided to take their own lives – if that’s what this is. Get it tied up into one nice, neat parcel and sit it on my desk in pretty bows. Can you do that for me, eh?’

‘But my work...’

‘Leave it.’

‘But you can’t drag me away from the CIU. I can’t leave them on their own. We’ve barely started. There’s the training. They can’t be left on their own.’

His boss growled back, ‘You’re on this case. The decision’s been made and it’s final. There’s more pressing matters right now, and I’ve two off with stress. There’s no-one else – so you’ll have to do it. It’s the only option. I’m not spending money on bringing someone in. I’m not going to do that. Not for something like this.’

‘But...’

Crosby puffed, clear impatience on his face. ‘Do you think I want two bodies turning up? Find out what they took. And why. That should be well within you. Don’t let me down. Do you hear? Not this time.’

‘And what about my team?’

‘We’re short, so I told ‘your team’ to report here to help with statements. They can go door-to-door. That’s well within their remit.’

The two index fingers, waved ironically as inverted commas, stayed in the air before coming down heavily to poke into Quiss’ chest. ‘So get it done, d’you hear?’

Crosby nodded to the distance. Quiss turned to see the two women of the Civilian Investigation Unit coming down the street. Twenty yards away. The older Elspeth, looking apprehensive and frumpy, straying one step behind the smaller, positive Shona, in her short dress.

Quiss swiped his boss’ offending fingers from his chest, walking out of the garage, raising a hand to stop the women. For once, Shona did as she was bid. She halted immediately, in mid-step, like a well-trained collie.

Quiss felt embarrassment flush his face. He turned back to his boss, taking him into the depths again, a hand on his elbow to guide him beyond the car, at the same time noting the door leading from the garage to the house.

‘I need another word about her – the young one,’ he whispered urgently. ‘More than a week’s gone by and nothing’s improved. She’s as surly as get out. I don’t see how I can work with her. I need her replaced. She’s not good for the team. Not good for morale. I told you that on Day One.’

Crosby pushed the hand away and studied the man before him. ‘We’ve been through this already. It’s you. It has to be. She’s perfectly polite with me. If you want the department to continue, then it has to be you to make it work. That’s your job. Use whatever, eh, charm you have to sort it out.’ He gave one of his fiercer snorts. ‘I don’t want to hear any more about it. Okay? It’s finished with.’

‘But she doesn’t do a single thing she’s told.’

The boss sneered back, ‘This isn’t school, Quiss. I told you, she’s good at what she does. You must have seen that by now. She came highly recommended from Falkirk. They didn’t want her to leave their unit. They said that. They offered her incentives to stay put. She wouldn’t take them. We’re lucky to have her. This is a new set-up for us. The Top are keen on it. We’re tight on finances, but, in the long term, it should turn a saving. You have to make it work. See to it that she stays happy. I want her here. The Top want her here. She knows the job a hell of a lot better than you, I bet. She doesn’t need any training. Maybe that’s what’s wrong – you trying to tell her what she already knows. Have you thought of that?’

The words stung Quiss. He nodded in the direction of the house. ‘I’ll take this until someone else is free and then I’m passing it on.’

‘That’s not your decision!’

Crosby broke out into the sunshine, buttoning up against the cool breeze, tugging the jacket down to make it fit snugly at the neck.

He turned back to Quiss, ‘It won’t take you long – not for this. And I want to be told everything. Report to me about everything. Do you hear? At the end of the day. Starting today.’

Crosby walked on, Quiss following. He saw his boss nod to the two ladies and they smiled back. Both of them – even surly Shona producing a friendly grin. And that prickled him even more. Her behaviour towards him was deliberate. She can be polite. She knows how to do it. And why was Crosby always sticking up for her? What was she saying to him? What was she telling him? What information was she feeding?

‘Who are the deceased then?’ Quiss called out.

Crosby stopped, stood for a moment, rubbing his chin. ‘You see, that’s something we don’t know. Not as yet. Unfortunately, there’s no identification on the bodies. Everything else you might expect in their pockets – but no identification.’

‘Why’s it taking so long? Surely we must know whose house it is.’

‘Oh, we know that. We know whose house it is. That’s the thing. That’s why the press’ll be onto this in a flash. It’s the kind of thing they like – making up lots of lavish, outlandish stories. It was the owners who found the two bodies. A Mr and Mrs Miller. It’s their house. They came back from a night away and found these two old folk sitting in their kitchen. Can you believe that? All comfortable round the table – but dead. Strangers. Broke in through the back door and plonked themselves down. Why would anyone do that? You need to figure it out, Quiss. Find out why these people decided to end their lives, here, in this street and not in their own, cosy home – wherever that might be.’

3

Nine Days Earlier.

Monday April.

6.50am.

Shona Bally slips out of bed. Naked. Her boyfriend’s bed. She leaves him sleeping. She makes for the toilet. There is no curtain on the large window of the bathroom, but that doesn’t matter: the glass is grotty on the outside with dirt and ancient quilts of spiders’ webs. In any case, the flat is on the top floor of this red-sandstone tenement, so only a few with a possible view in. She’s not bothered anyway – let them look if that’s what they want to do. Through their telescopes or binoculars – if that’s how they get their kicks.

She does her business and then showers with jasmine-scented gel. Tomorrow it will be the coconut scent. She has a different bottle for each day of the week. They stand in a smart line on the shelf like colourful soldiers.

She dries herself slowly, adjusts the chrome magnifying mirror on the window-sill, and peers in. This was such a thoughtful Christmas present from him, the boyfriend. The surface doesn’t fog up. How is that possible? It means she can ready herself in the steamed-up bathroom, in her own time, rather than disturb him. And he can sleep on. All very thoughtful of him, this latest boyfriend.

There is no rush. It is early. Still an hour before the designated time to leave. She did a trial run on Friday to test out the bus route and the traffic. It went well; the timings were good. It should be fine again today.

As usual, she studies herself in the mirror, staring for a long time, taking in every part of her face, turning her head one way and then the other to scour the blank canvas. However, she is not keen on the image. Never has been. The pale, soft, blemish-free skin is not enough for her. Its smooth perfection does not satisfy her needs. She does not appreciate the quality of her flesh. She thinks her face is too round, her nose is too small and delicate, and her tiny mouth needs to be much, much fuller. This face does not, in any way, represent how she is inside.

If she ever meets her mother again, Shona’s second question will be to ask if her father was Japanese.

She applies moisturiser before starting on some delicate work with her new ergo-tastic tweezers: keeping her arched eyebrows neat and thin. She bought these tweezers last Saturday. Lots of new things bought last Saturday. To be ready for the big day. Today. The new job.

She rumbles through a hefty, pink bag, finding the flat shading-brush, making the first sweep of make-up: a thick smear of white in the space from eyelash to brow, extending the colour the full width of her eyes and a little beyond, flowing to the temples. Next, she draws a solid line using a kohl pencil: a crescent around the eyelids to define them. Then another, similar line under the lower eyelashes.

She chooses a different brush to blend in a curve of gold directly under each eyebrow, followed by an angled black liner to enhance the eyebrows. False eyelashes, like half-inch long caterpillars, are attached quickly and expertly: her very longest ones held back for the weekend. She graduates them as the week progresses: Monday starting with the shortest. The lashes are kept captive in a red box with separate sections and a clear plastic lid – like a lepidopterist’s home collection.

Mascara is applied using its ‘swooper-long-brusssh.’ Then her rumpled black hair is sorted using straighteners, smoothing it to curl under the jaw-line.

When finished, she inserts the boyfriend’s shaver back into the socket. He likes it to be plugged in, ready and waiting.

Finally, lips, filled to overflowing with a vibrant red, accentuating their size by straying over the edges. And, with an extra dab of white across her eyelids for good measure, she is done.

Twenty-five minutes gone and with plenty of time for breakfast, Shona takes the hanger down from the hook on the bathroom door. It holds her clothes for the day, planned the night before, hung up last night to be at the ready. In the wardrobe sit four other hangers containing her week’s outfits. In accordance with her lashes, the skirts start at their shortest and lengthen progressively to the weekend. There is no great reason for this, yet it is firmly entrenched.

The clothes are new, even down to the underwear. They are of the latest trend. But she has chosen a pair of familiar, long, black boots to complete the outfit. Despite having a high heel, they are comfortable enough to last the day and they help elevate her five-foot-and-a- half-inch, fat-free, but squarish frame, to a more preferable height.

Back in the bedroom, she looks at herself in the full-length mirror. Turning, gauging, judging. The outfit is fine. Shona is twenty-three and never wants to be unfashionable. She writes it at the start of each diary, on New Year’s Day.

*

8.47am.

Shona sits at a desk inside this ugly building in the centre of Glasgow. The police headquarters in Pitt Street is a hotchpotch of styles: a slapping together and see what sticks, type of design. It is a rectangular mass of brick and glass of the sixties, bound to a much grander and elegant interior from the thirties.

She waits patiently in this dull corner of the building, in an afterthought of a room, shoved away on the third floor. There is one window only – high up. She cannot see any sky from where she sits, only a brick wall from another jutting section of the building. She would have to stand on a desk to view the outside world. She decides against it for now.

The window is slightly open. There must be a tin roof directly above. It clicks away, released from the cold of the night, expanding in the spring sunshine: a noise loud and annoying enough to be heard over the rumble of traffic.

She awaits the next tick. Four seconds pass. It is annoyingly irregular. She might have to shut the window. Maybe with time, it will not be too much of a problem.

The walls of the room have been painted green. The outline of each brick

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