Read an Excerpt
Andy Gilchrist stirred awake. Something was ringing at the edge of his mind.
He squinted at the Hitachi clock radio on his bedside table and in the winter morning darkness read 5:38. Not his alarm. His phone.
Something slapped over in his gut as his wakening mind told him why it would ring at that time of the morning. Had he slept through another storm?
He grabbed his mobile. “Gilchrist.”
“It’s Stan, boss. We’ve got number six.”
“Where is it this time?”
“Shit.” CCTV monitoring of the town was still in its infancy and no cameras were installed near the harbour. The chances of anyone being down there at night were slim to non-existent, but with a rush of hope he asked anyway. “Any witnesses?”
“No one’s come forward, boss.”
“Damn it.” That would be a first. “I suppose no one from the Division was anywhere near there?”
“We’re stretched thin as it is, boss.”
Gilchrist cursed again. He had been on at Patterson for the best part of two months, pleading for additional staff.
And now the Stabber’s tally had reached six.
He clicked on his bedside lamp, screwed his eyes against the burst of brightness and scanned his dresser for his cigarettes before remembering he had given up.
“Do we have the victim’s name?” he growled.
“Tommy Carlisle told us who it is, but we’ve not had it confirmed yet.”
“You know Tommy. Owns The Bitter Alice. Always first at the harbour. Says he was on his way to load his creels when he almost tripped over the body. One eye staring at the moon. The other, well, the usual. Says it’s Bill Granton, the manager of the Bank of Scotland in Market Street.”
“What time was this?”
“Ten past five.”
“Being taken as we speak, boss.”
“Granton, was he married?”
“With one son. We’ve sent Nance.”
Gilchrist drew the back of his hand across his stubble. In years past he’d been responsible for informing next of kin, one of those necessary evils of the job, which no one liked. DS Nancy Wilson would handle it well.
“Granton’s wife,” he said. “Did she report him missing?”
“Nothing logged, but we’re looking into it. By the way, rumour has it Granton was gay.”
Gilchrist frowned. To date, the Stabber’s victims were all men known to be abusive to women.
“You sure about that?” he asked.
“Not one hundred per cent, boss.”
“Get onto that, Stan,” he ordered, then added, “No chance of this being a copycat, is there?”
“Doesn’t look like it.”
“Have you seen the body?”
“At my feet, boss. Bamboo stave in the left eye. But the pathologist would need to confirm that the brain’s been stirred.”
“The press don’t know about that. Let’s keep it that way.”
“Got it, boss.”
“Has the harbour been sealed off?”
“And the body?”
“As we found it. But the seagulls are making one hell of a racket.”
Gilchrist had seen only one body with its eye sockets pecked clean by birds. Fifteen years on, he was still unable to rid himself of the memory. He squeezed the back of his neck, forced his thoughts to focus.
“Last night’s storm,” he said. “How long did it last?”
“A good two hours.”
“And that’s when Granton was attacked?”
“Looks that way, boss.”
Gilchrist had crashed out, a combination of too many beers and exhaustion from thirty hours’ sleep a week for the last two months. “Have you spoken to Sa?” he asked.
“You’re the first, boss.”
“Have her meet me at the harbour as soon as.”
Gilchrist disconnected and stood up. He lolled his head to the left, then back and around to the right. Steady as a rock. Good.
In the bathroom he turned on the shower and stared at the mirror. Bags under his eyes. Grey stubble. Forty-five going on sixty. Where the hell had it gone? wenty-seven years with Fife Constabulary. Should he not be looking forward to retirement instead of dreading the day DCI Patterson would kick him out? And that day was not far off. Of that, he had no doubt. Ever since Patterson had suspicions of his affair with Alyson Baird, Gilchrist had known his days were numbered.
He picked up his toothbrush and peeled back his lips. At least he still had white teeth, despite having smoked. His only redeeming feature, he often thought. He dropped his silk shorts and stepped into the shower, turned his face into the stream and lathered Badedas soap against his chest. Eyes closed, his fingers searched for the electric razor he purchased last year on a trip to the States. Battery operated and waterproof. Shaving in the shower was now one of life’s small pleasures.
Ten minutes later, Gilchrist braced himself against the cold wind of an east coast November morning. Dawn was still a good hour away and the skies hung low with the threat of more rain. He walked up Rose Wynd to Castle Street, where his Mercedes SLK Roadster was parked, and pressed the remote. Lights flashed in the darkness. He opened the door and slid inside. With a twist of the key, the Merc’s 2.3-litre engine fired up first time.
He slipped into drive and accelerated onto High Street. Out of Crail, he put his foot down. St. Andrews sat ten miles north on the A917 and he would reach the harbour in fifteen minutes. Maybe ten. He noted the time on the dash. Just after six. Sa might already be there.
He picked up his mobile and pressed memo 7. His call was answered on the first ring.
“What is it, Andy?”
He almost smiled. “Becoming psychic in your old age?”
“You sound perky.”
“Been awake for hours.”
“How about you? Hung over?”
“Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Six pints in Lafferty’s?”
My God. Was that how many he’d had? “I left just after you,”he said. “Which reminds me. Why didn’t you stay?”
“What’s with the twenty questions?”
“Just taking an interest in your well-being.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Gilchrist waited for Sa to continue but she was a woman of few words, a loner with a chip on her shoulder. He had not found a way to reach her yet, even though they had been working on the case together since the Stabber’s fourth victim was found with his head staked to the ground two months earlier.
“When can you make it to the harbour?” he grumbled.
“That’s twenty-one questions.”
“Just be there,” he said, and disconnected.
He gritted his teeth. Sa was his assistant. Not the other way about. She was thorough and hardworking, but he needed to feel some mutual trust, feel confident that they worked as a team. But Sa sometimes treated him with a coldness that could be mistaken for contempt. He blamed Patterson for teaming them up. Patterson had known Sa was difficult to work with and it was his perverted way of saying, Try screwing the ass off of that one.
Sebbie opened his eyes.
He clicked on his bedside lamp, but the bulb had blown two weeks earlier and he could not be bothered to replace it. He tried reading his watch, but it was too dark.
He ran his fingers through his thick, greasy hair. He had not showered for over a week. He felt his penis press against his y-fronts. He was always hard in the morning, it seemed. Ever since that stupid bitch Alice had ditched him, he was always hard. But it was no longer Alice he thought of when he masturbated. He thought of her. He slipped his penis out.
Every time he masturbated now, he masturbated to her. She was such a classy bitch with her polite accent and long dresses that hid tiny braless tits and came down to sandalled feet with skin the colour of cream and he bet she never wore panties when she worked in her shop and if he pushed her dress up and up and over her thighs she would . . .
He lay still for several moments, then cleaned his hand on the pillow and rolled out of bed. In the bathroom he switched on the light and blinked against the brightness. His bald chest was slathered with strips of white that trailed to his pubic hair. He slid his hand down to his stomach then slapped his fingers against the wallpaper. Wet streaks covered old stains.
He turned on the tap and splashed cold water onto his hands. A quick rub down with a smelly towel, and Sebastian Hamilton was ready to face the world. He did not bother to wash his face or brush his teeth. No need. He had done that last night. Besides, now he had made up his mind, he felt good.
His plan was simple. That classy bitch might think she was beyond his reach, might think she would never let him touch her. But it didn’t matter what she thought.
He was going to have her anyway.