Read an Excerpt
Black and Blue
By Ian Rankin
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 1997 Ian Rankin
All rights reserved.
"Tell me again why you killed them."
"I've told you, it's just this urge."
Rebus looked back at his notes. "The word you used was compulsion.'"
The slumped figure in the chair nodded. Bad smells came off him. "Urge, compulsion, same thing."
"Is it?" Rebus stubbed out his cigarette. There were so many butts in the tin ashtray, a couple spilled over on to the metal table. "Let's talk about the first victim."
The man opposite him groaned. His name was William Crawford Shand, known as "Craw." He was forty years old, single, and lived alone in a council block in Craigmillar. He had been unemployed six years. He ran twitching fingers through dark greasy hair, seeking out and covering a large bald spot at the crown of his head.
"The first victim," Rebus said. "Tell us."
"Us" because there was another CID man in the biscuit-tin. His name was Maclay, and Rebus didn't know him very well. He didn't know anyone at Craigmillar very well, not yet. Maclay was leaning against the wall, arms folded, eyes reduced to slits. He looked like a piece of machinery at rest.
"I strangled her."
"A length of rope."
"Where did you get the rope?"
"Bought it at some shop, I can't remember where."
Three-beat pause. "Then what did you do?"
"After she was dead?" Shand moved a little in the chair. "I took her clothes off and was intimate with her."
"With a dead body?"
"She was still warm."
Rebus got to his feet. The grating of his chair on the floor seemed to unnerve Shand. Not difficult.
"Where did you kill her?"
"And where was this park?"
"Near where she lived."
"Polmuir Road, Aberdeen."
"And what were you doing in Aberdeen, Mr. Shand?"
He shrugged, running his fingers now along the rim of the table, leaving traces of sweat and grease.
"I wouldn't do that," Rebus said. "The edges are sharp, you might get cut."
Maclay snorted. Rebus walked over towards the wall and stared at him. Maclay nodded briefly. Rebus turned back to the table.
"Describe the park." He rested against the edge of the table, got himself another cigarette and lit it.
"It was just a park. You know, trees and grass, a play park for the kids."
"Were the gates locked?"
"It was late at night, were the gates locked?"
"I don't remember."
"You don't remember." Pause: two beats. "Where did you meet her?"
Quickly: "At a disco."
"You don't seem the disco type, Mr. Shand." Another snort from the machine. "Describe the place to me."
Shand shrugged again. "Like any other disco: dark, flashing lights, a bar."
"What about victim number two?"
"Same procedure." Shand's eyes were dark, face gaunt. But for all that he was beginning to enjoy himself, easing into his story again. "Met her at a disco, offered to take her home, killed her and fucked her."
"No intimacy then. Did you take a souvenir?"
Rebus flicked ash on to the floor, flakes landed on his shoes. "Did you remove anything from the scene?"
Shand thought it over, shook his head.
"And this was where exactly?"
"Close to her home?"
"She lived on Inverleith Row."
"What did you strangle her with?"
"The bit of rope."
"The same piece?" Shand nodded. "What did you do, keep it in your pocket?"
"Do you have it with you now?"
"I chucked it."
"You're not making it easy for us, are you?" Shand squirmed with pleasure. Four beats. "And the third victim?"
"Glasgow," Shand recited. "Kelvingrove Park. Her name was Judith Cairns. She told me to call her Ju-Ju. I did her same as the others." He sat back in the chair, drawing himself up and folding his arms. Rebus reached out a hand until it touched the man's forehead, faith-healer style. Then he pushed, not very hard. But there was no resistance. Shand and the chair toppled backwards on to the floor. Rebus was kneeling in front of him, hauling him up by the front of his shirt.
"You're a liar!" he hissed. "Everything you know you got straight from the papers, and what you had to make up was pure dross!" He let go and got to his feet. His hands were damp where he'd been holding the shirt.
"I'm not lying," Shand pleaded, still prone. "That's gospel I'm telling you!"
Rebus stubbed out the half-smoked cigarette. The ashtray tipped more butts on to the table. Rebus picked one up and flicked it at Shand.
"Are you not going to charge me?"
"You'll be charged all right: wasting police time. A spell in Saughton with an arse-bandit for a roomie."
"We usually just let him go," Maclay said.
"Stick him in a cell," Rebus ordered, leaving the room.
"But I'm him!" Shand persisted, even as Maclay was picking him off the floor. "I'm Johnny Bible! I'm Johnny Bible!"
"Not even close, Craw," Maclay said, quietening him with a punch.
Rebus needed to wash his hands, splash some water on his face. Two woolly suits were in the toilets, enjoying a story and a cigarette. They stopped laughing when Rebus came in.
"Sir," one asked, "who did you have in the biscuit-tin?"
"Another comedian," Rebus said.
"This place is full of them," the second constable commented. Rebus didn't know if he meant the station, Craigmillar itself, or the city as a whole. Not that there was much comedy in Craigmillar police station. It was Edinburgh's hardest posting; a stint of duty lasted two years max, no one could function longer than that. Craigmillar was about as tough an area as you could find in Scotland's capital city, and the station fully merited its nickname — Fort Apache, the Bronx. It lay up a cul-de-sac behind a row of shops, a low-built dour-faced building with even dourer-faced tenements behind. Being up an alley meant a mob could cut it off from civilisation with ease, and the place had been under siege numerous times. Yes, Craigmillar was a choice posting.
Rebus knew why he was there. He'd upset some people, people who mattered. They hadn't been able to deal him a death blow, so had instead consigned him to purgatory. It couldn't be hell because he knew it wasn't for ever. Call it a penance. The letter telling him of his move had explained that he would be covering for a hospitalised colleague. It had also stated that he would help oversee the shutting down of the old Craigmillar station. Everything was being wound down, transferred to a brand new station nearby. The place was already a shambles of packing cases and pillaged cupboards. Staff weren't exactly expending great energy solving ongoing cases. Nor had they put any energy into welcoming Detective Inspector John Rebus. The place felt more like a hospital ward than a cop-shop, and the patients were tranquillised to the hilt.
He wandered back to the CID room — the "Shed." On the way, he passed Maclay and Shand, the latter still protesting his guilt as he was dragged to the cells.
"I'm Johnny Bible! I fucking am and all!"
Not even close.
It was nine p.m. on a Tuesday in June and the only other person in the Shed was Detective Sergeant "Dod" Bain. He glanced up from his magazine— Offbeat, the L&B newsletter — and Rebus shook his head.
"Thought not," Bain said, turning a page. "Craw's notorious for grassing himself up, that's why I left him to you."
"You've as much heart as a carpet tack."
"But I'm as sharp as one, too. Don't forget that."
Rebus sat at his desk and considered writing his report of the interview. Another comedian, another waste of time. And still Johnny Bible was out there.
First there had been Bible John, terrorising Glasgow in the late 1960s. A well-dressed young man with reddish hair, who knew his Bible and frequented the Barrowland Ballroom. He picked up three women there, beat them, raped them, strangled them. Then he disappeared, right in the middle of Glasgow's biggest manhunt, and never resurfaced, the case open to this day. Police had a cast-iron description of Bible John from the sister of his last victim. She'd spent close on two hours in his company, shared a taxi with him even. They'd dropped her off; her sister had waved goodbye through the back window ... Her description hadn't helped.
And now there was Johnny Bible. The media had been quick with the name. Three women: beaten, raped, strangled. That was all they'd needed to make the comparison. Two of the women had been picked up at nightclubs, discos. There were vague descriptions of a man who'd been seen dancing with the victims. Well-dressed, shy. It clicked with the original Bible John. Only Bible John, supposing he were still alive, would be in his fifties, while this new killer was described as mid-to-late twenties. Therefore: Johnny Bible, spiritual son of Bible John.
There were differences, of course, but the media didn't dwell on those. For one thing, Bible John's victims had all been dancing at the same dancehall; Johnny Bible ranged far and wide through Scotland in his hunt for victims. This had led to the usual theories: he was a long-distance lorry driver; a company rep. Police were ruling nothing out. It might even be Bible John himself, back after a quarter century away, the mid-to-late twenties description flawed — it had happened before with apparently watertight eyewitness testimony. They were also keeping a few things quiet about Johnny Bible — just as they had with Bible John. It helped rule out the dozens of fake confessions.
Rebus had barely started his report when Maclay swayed into the room. That was the way he walked, from side to side, not because he was drunk or drugged but because he was seriously overweight, a metabolism thing. There was something wrong with his sinuses too; his breathing often came in laboured wheezes, his voice a blunt plane against the grain of the wood. His station nickname was "Heavy."
"Escorted Craw from the premises?" Bain asked.
Maclay nodded towards Rebus's desk. "Wants him charged for wasting our time."
"Now that's what I call a waste of time."
Maclay swayed in Rebus's direction. His hair was jet black, ringed with slick kiss-curls. He'd probably won Bonniest Bairn prizes, but not for a while.
"Come on," he said.
Rebus shook his head and kept typing.
"Fuck him," Bain said, getting to his feet. He unhooked his jacket from the back of the chair. To Maclay: "Drinkie?"
Maclay wheezed out a long sigh. "Just the job."
Rebus held his breath until they'd gone. Not that he'd been expecting to be asked along. That was their whole point. He stopped typing and reached into his bottom drawer for the Lucozade bottle, unscrewed the cap, sniffed forty-three per cent malt and poured in a mouthful. With the bottle back in its drawer, he popped a mint into his mouth.
Better. "I can see clearly now": Marvin Gaye.
He yanked the report from the typewriter and crumpled it into a ball, then called the desk, told them to hold Craw Shand an hour, then release him. He'd just put down the phone when it started ringing.
Brian Holmes, Detective Sergeant, still based at St. Leonard's. They kept in touch. His voice tonight was toneless.
Holmes laughed, no humour. "I've got the world's supply."
"So tell me the latest." Rebus opened the packet one-handed, in mouth and lit.
"I don't know that I can, with you being in shit."
"Craigmillar's not so bad." Rebus looked around the stale office.
"I meant the other thing."
"See, I'm ... I might have gotten myself into something ..."
"A suspect, we had him in custody. He was giving me a shit load of grief."
"You smacked him."
"That's what he's saying."
"Filed a complaint?"
"In the process. His solicitor wants to take it all the way."
"Your word against his?"
"The rubber-heels will kick it out."
"I suppose so."
"Or get Siobhan to cover your arse."
"She's on holiday. My partner for the interview was Glamis."
"No good then, he's as yellow as a New York cab."
A pause. "Aren't you going to ask me if I did it?"
"I don't ever want to know, understood? Who was the suspect?"
"Christ, that brewhead knows more law than the procurator-fiscal. OK, let's go talkies."
It was good to be out of the station. He had the car windows rolled down. The breeze was almost warm. The station-issue Escort hadn't been cleaned in a while. There were chocolate wrappers, empty crisp bags, crushed bricks of orange juice and Ribena. The heart of the Scottish diet: sugar and salt. Add alcohol and you had heart and soul.
Minto lived in one of the tenement flats on South Clerk Street, first floor. Rebus had been there on occasions past, none of them savoury to the memory. Kerbside was solid with cars, so he double-parked. In the sky, fading roseate was fighting a losing battle with encroaching dark. And below it all, halogen orange. The street was noisy. The cinema up the road was probably emptying, and the first casualties were tearing themselves away from still-serving pubs. Night-cooking in the air: hot batter, pizza topping, Indian spice. Brian Holmes was standing outside a charity shop, hands in pockets. No car: he'd probably walked from St. Leonard's. The two men nodded a greeting.
Holmes looked tired. Just a few years ago he'd been young, fresh, keen. Rebus knew home life had taken its toll: he'd been there in his own marriage, annulled years back. Holmes's partner wanted him out of the force. She wanted someone who spent more time with her. Rebus knew all too well what she wanted. She wanted someone whose mind was on her when he was at home, who wasn't immersed in casework and speculation, mind games and promotion strategies. Often as a police officer you were closer to your working partner than your partner for life. When you joined CID they gave you a handshake and a piece of paper.
The piece of paper was your decree nisi.
"Do you know if he's up there?" Rebus asked.
"I phoned him. He picked up. Sounded halfway to sober."
"Did you say anything?"
"Think I'm stupid?"
Rebus was looking up at the tenement windows. Ground level was shops; Minto lived above a locksmith's. There was irony there for those who wanted it.
"OK, you come up with me, but stay on the landing. Only come in if you hear trouble."
"I'm only going to speak to the man." Rebus touched Holmes's shoulder. "Relax."
The main door was unlocked. They climbed the winding stairs without speaking. Rebus pushed at the bell and took a deep breath. Minto started to pull the door open, and Rebus shouldered it, propelling Minto and himself into the dimly lit hallway. He slammed the door shut behind him.
Minto was ready for violence until he saw who it was. Then he just snarled and strode back to the living room. It was a tiny room, half kitchenette, with a narrow floor-to-ceiling cupboard Rebus knew held a shower. There was one bedroom, and a toilet with a doll-house sink. They made igloos bigger.
"Fuck do you want?" Minto was reaching for a can of lager, high- alcohol. He drained it, standing.
"A word." Rebus looked around the room, casually as it were. But his hands were by his sides, ready.
"This is unlawful entry."
"Keep yapping, I'll show you unlawful entry."
Minto's face creased: not impressed. He was mid-thirties but looked fifteen years older. He'd done most of the major drugs in his time: Billy Whizz, skag, Morningside speed. He was on a meth programme now. On dope, he was a small problem, an irritation; off dope, he was pure radge. He was Mental.
"Way I hear, you're fucked anyway," he said now.
Rebus took a step closer. "That's right, Mental. So ask yourself: what have I got to lose? If I'm fucked, might as well make it good and."
Minto held up his hands. "Easy, easy. What's your problem?"
Rebus let his face relax. "You're my problem, Mental. Making a charge against a colleague of mine."
"He laid into me."
Rebus shook his head. "I was there, didn't see a thing. I'd called in with a message for DS Holmes. I stuck around. So if he'd assaulted you, I'd've known, wouldn't I?"
They stood facing one another silently. Then Minto turned and slumped into the room's only armchair. He looked like he was going to sulk. Rebus bent down and picked something off the floor. It was the city's tourist accommodation brochure.
"Going somewhere nice?" He flicked through the lists of hotels, B&Bs, self-catering. Then he waved the magazine at Minto. "If one single place in here gets turned, you'll be our first stop."
"Harassment," Minto said, but quietly.
Rebus dropped the brochure. Minto didn't look so mental now; he looked done in and done down, like life was sporting a horseshoe in one of its boxing gloves. Rebus turned to go. He walked down the hall and was reaching for the door when he heard Minto call his name. The small man was standing at the other end of the hall, only twelve feet away. He had pulled his baggy black T-shirt up to his shoulders. Having shown the front, he turned to give Rebus a view of the back. The lighting was poor — forty-watt bulb in a flyblown shade — but even so Rebus could see. Tattoos, he thought at first. But they were bruises: ribs, sides, kidneys. Self-inflicted? It was possible. It was always possible. Minto dropped the shirt and stared hard at Rebus, not blinking. Rebus let himself out of the flat.
"Everything all right?" Brian Holmes said nervously.
"The story is, I came by with a message. I sat in on the interview."
Holmes exhaled noisily. "That's it then?"
Excerpted from Black and Blue by Ian Rankin. Copyright © 1997 Ian Rankin. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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