Six corpses have appeared in the cobbled back streets of St. Andrews in recent times, all known spousal abusers who suffered the same gruesome fate: stabbed to death in the left eye. But with no new leads left to explore, Det. Andy Gilchrist is forced off the case.
What is the significance of the left eye? Gilchrist can’t seem to focus on anything else. And with his career and his reputation on the line, he vows to catch the killer—even if it means he must do it alone . . .
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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.
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? Twenty-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.CHAPTER 2
Gilchrist parked his Merc behind the ugly harbour-front building and stared at its bland façade rising like a grey wall in the predawn gloom. The structure looked out of place.
What he loved about St Andrews was its history, its links to the Reformation and executions for heresy by burning at the stake, its hidden lanes and ancient walkways, its stone dykes and ragged ruins, its narrow alleys and foot-worn steps. And often, when he left the pub, aglow from one too many beers, if he half-shut his eyes he could almost believe he was in an earlier century.
He removed a pair of rubber gloves and coveralls from the boot, pulled up his jacket collar and pressed the remote as he walked along the harbour. An icy wind forced tears to his eyes. He stared off to the dark horizon of the open sea. A lifetime ago, it seemed, he had often walked this way with his children, Jack and Maureen clutching their tiny plastic buckets and floppy spades, determined to dig holes in the golden-brown beach of the East Sands or search for jellyfish and crabs in the receding sea pools. Which reminded him, he had not heard from either of them for several days. Or had it been longer? He made a mental note to call them later.
He breathed in the aroma of salt and fish scales, the strangely pleasant stench of decaying kelp and seaweed. To his side, the sea clapped the harbour walls, and it puzzled him that the sounds and smells seemed new to him somehow, as if the harbour's intangible familiarity had eluded him until that moment. He walked past groups of fishermen crouched by lobster creels. One of them grunted and nodded and Gilchrist nodded back. But he knew from their unhurried actions and tight-lipped silence that trapping lobsters was the last thing on their minds that morning.
Up ahead, from the lambent glow of an adjacent window, he recognized the silhouettes of Sa and a uniformed policeman. As he neared, he saw what looked like a bloated heap of discarded clothing on the quayside. The lighting vehicle had not arrived yet and a lone photographer prowled the body like a tempted lion, camera flickering like the visual remnants of last night's storm. Three Scenes of Crime Officers in white coveralls were preparing to set up their inflatable tent.
Gilchrist reached the corner of the building.
'Where's Stan?' he asked Sa.
'Gone for a pee.'
'Police surgeon been notified?'
'On his way.'
'And the pathologist?'
Sa tutted, which Gilchrist took to mean yes.
He eyed the scene. A closed row of plastic traffic cones lined the street. Another row of taped cones surrounded the victim. Examination of the body should not commence until the police surgeon had confirmed life was extinct, but Gilchrist pulled on his coveralls and gloves. 'Don't suppose we need anyone to tell us this one's not breathing,' he said.
When Gilchrist stepped over the tape, the photographer lowered his camera, as if in deference.
Granton was wearing a dark blue pinstriped suit beneath a fawn overcoat. It had not rained for several hours, but his clothes were sodden. His right eye stared skyward, lid half-closed. His left, a congealed pool of blood and blackened matter, housed a wooden stave. It always surprised Gilchrist how calm the Stabber's victims looked, as if they had been talking to a friend who had changed into a fiend all of a sudden and stabbed them unawares. Or perhaps having a stave driven into the brain rid the body of mortal rictus.
Gilchrist took hold of Granton's left hand. It felt cold and wet. Rigor mortis had not fully set in and the skin felt as soft as a woman's, an indication Granton had never done a day's manual labour in his life. Gilchrist twisted the hand over. In the dim light, the skin shone wet and smooth and hairless. Manicured fingernails glistened as if varnished. No wedding ring. Only a depressed mark on the meat of the ring finger where the ring had been slipped off.
Gilchrist looked up at Sa. 'Did you notice this?'
'No wedding ring?'
'What do you make of it?'
'Took it off to get bum-fucked.'
Gilchrist wondered if he would ever understand Sa. He remembered when they had been teamed up by Patterson, she had looked squeamish over the body of the Stabber's fourth victim, in Burgher Close. But at the post-mortem she had watched with the attentive curiosity of a student as the pathologist slapped a dripping brain onto the scales.
Gilchrist felt in Granton's right-hand coat pocket. Nothing. The other was empty, too. From the inside suit pocket he removed a burgundy leather wallet. He placed it to his nose. The leather smelled new. He ran his finger over the embossed monogram on the top corner. WBG.
William Granton. But what did the middle initial stand for? Perhaps his family name?
Gilchrist opened the wallet and counted ten crisp twenty-pound notes. 'Two hundred pounds,' he said. 'That's a lot to be carrying.'
'Maybe that's what you have to pay these days.'
'For spending the night with another man?'
'Who said anything about spending the night?'
'Granton's wife never called the Office to say he hadn't come home.' He looked at Sa. 'So it might be reasonable to assume shenever called because she didn't expect him.'
Gilchrist flipped through the wallet again. Other than the usual credit cards, all bearing the imprint of William B. Granton, the wallet contained nothing else.
He stood. 'No money taken.'
'There never is.'
'And no driver's licence.'
'Maybe he doesn't drive.'
Gilchrist frowned. Most people carried their licence with them. If Granton lived within walking distance of the bank, maybe he had no need of a car. Or maybe he did, but kept his licence at home. Or maybe he had been banned. Which did not seem likely, somehow. But it would not be the first time Gilchrist had been fooled by superficial innocence.
He stared along the harbour wall that jutted into the sea like a giant's stone limb. Spray drifted on the wind. During last night's storm the sea must have thundered onto the pier. He stepped back over the tape.
'What was Granton doing out here?' he asked.
'Meeting his shirt-lifter?'
Sa shrugged. 'Why not?' She looked away.
Gilchrist found himself following her line of sight, along the path that ran up the slope to the ruins of Culdee Church and past the Abbey wall. By the light from a street lamp, he watched Stan walk toward them, mobile phone pressed to his ear.
'But why here?' Gilchrist asked Sa. 'There must be a thousand places in St Andrews for two adults to meet in private without the risk of being seen.'
'This is one of them.'
'Hardly.' Gilchrist found his gaze being drawn to the end of the harbour pier. Over the years he had come to trust this sixth sense of his. So, why the pier? It might be a discreet place for Granton to meet a partner, but surely they would never have sex out in the open. In the middle of a downpour.
Stan clipped his mobile shut. 'Someone saw him.'
'Saw the Stabber.' Stan's breath clouded the air. 'Sam MacMillan. Painter and decorator. Lives on South Street. Not far from Deans Court.'
'Did he get a look at the Stabber's face?' Sa asked.
Stan shook his head and ran the back of his hand under his nose. 'Wouldn't say. He called the Office about ten minutes ago and said he wanted to talk to someone about the Stabber. He asked for you, boss.'
Gilchrist frowned. Over the past months his picture had been in the newspapers and he had often been quoted as Detective Inspector Andrew Gilchrist of the St Andrews Division of Fife Constabulary's Crime Management Department, senior investigator in the Stabber case. By his side, the photogenic Detective Sergeant Sa Preston. He never liked to see himself in the newspapers, always thought he looked tense, as if he was not in control of his emotions.
The way Stan looked at that moment.
Beth Anderson wrapped a peach-coloured bath-towel around her naked body. In her bedroom she picked up a jar of Dior moisturizer and squeezed out a dollop. She rubbed it in, breathing in its light fragrance and loving the way it left her skin cool and moist.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Eye for an Eye"
Copyright © 2007 T. Frank Muir.
Excerpted by permission of Soho Press, Inc..
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