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Authors: Craig Robertson

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BOOK: In Place of Death
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He had three rules when he did his stuff. The same three everyone who did this had. Be safe. Don't break in. Take nothing away with you. The least important of those was being safe. That
was the one he only paid nodding observance to.

The other two were sacrosanct. Never break in anywhere. For a start, it means criminal damage and that means jail time. And it's cheating. Use your brain instead. Don't take anything
because the idea is to uncover, to celebrate these old places as they were. Leave them that way.

The steel piping came to an end like all good things do but it was replaced by a beautiful burrowing tunnel of red brick that let him stand upright again. Maybe the worst of it was over and
he'd be able to walk upright the rest of the way. Anyway, he enjoyed it while he could, a long stretch of walkway, a long stretch of the leg and the back.

When it changed, he wasn't sure whether to celebrate or not. He was forced to duck again, not just because of the reduced height but also the stalactites that appeared like daggers from
the ceiling. He bent low beneath them, on and on until the forest became a field, so many spears that the brick disappeared and he'd have sworn he was in a cave. He wasn't back a
hundred and fifty years; it was more like a thousand, ten thousand.

He was at half-height now and getting lower still. The walls grew around him, thick with solidified deposits that crowded in and suffocated. No going back. It was a stupid rule but it was
his.

The ceiling was no more than two feet high now and his back was at breaking point. If he still had an adrenalin rush, he couldn't hear it above his breathing or the pounding in his chest.
It was hard work and it might be going nowhere. Nowhere that he could get through.

He was firing his torch straight ahead in the desperate hope of seeing more than the miserable amount of space he was being forced to crawl through. Wait. What was that? Darkness blocking the
way forward. His heart sank at the prospect of it being the end of the journey. Another bit of him was secretly glad. Enough was enough on this jaunt.

He inched closer and saw that it wasn't the tunnel closing up but a shape much the same size as him. Holy shit. His heart nearly stopped. It was someone else. He could make out a backpack,
like the one he always took with him. Some other mad bastard was doing the same thing.

‘Hey! Are you stuck down there?'

No answer.

‘You hear me? Can you not get through? Maybe we'd better both back up.'

He waited for the reply that didn't come. No way the guy couldn't hear him. Shit. He crept closer, the walls tightening around him, barely able to squeeze any further. Maybe the guy
was
stuck.

When he got near enough, he reached out for the man. His arm extending cautiously, despite a voice inside him screaming the truth. In one moment he could see that the man had enough room not to
be stuck. He saw this just as the smell hit him and he put his hand on the guy's shoulder and tugged.

When the entire arm came away in his hand, he screamed so loud that it must have been heard all the way to Duke Street and back again.

Chapter 2

The tug on the guy's arm put Remy fully on his knees, the cold water of the burn surging over his lower legs. Worse, much worse, the man's body toppled back onto
his. Suddenly he could barely breathe, suffocated by this fucking corpse that was on top of him.

He leaned back but the body simply came with him, the head falling so it was next to his and staring at him through blank eyes. Oh Jesus Christ, the eyes had been eaten away. Remy stretched his
head as far from the other as he could, straining his neck muscles to put distance between him and the flaking, decomposing face that leered at him.

He took it all in at once, the full horror of it. The man's throat had been cut. From behind by the look of it. Slit from side to side and his front was washed in blood. The blood was
rusty and dry, like spilled gravy, all over the white T-shirt and navy-blue fleece. Man, his face was all purples and reds, like a patchwork quilt. There were chunks out of it too, rats probably
and whatever the hell else was down here.

And the smell. It was horrendous, like nothing he'd ever smelled before. He knew what it was though. Death. Decay. It filled his nostrils and made him gag.

He was desperate to get the thing, the man, or what was left of him, off him but there wasn't enough room to extend his arms and push the body away. Instead, he pulled his arms in so that
he could push up, not wanting to touch it but having no choice. He shoved at the body and at the same time tried to scrabble out from underneath. The man's back felt thin and wet and he knew
that the cloying, sweet stink was now all over his fingers. Gagging again, he levered the body higher, dragging his own knees along the floor of the burn as he slid away.

He kept his hands under the corpse even once he was free of it, lowering it gently onto the ground in front of him. He took his hands away as quickly as he could and thrust them into the water.
He scrubbed at them, rubbing them together as he stared at the body.

He brought his hands out, drying them on the front of his jacket, and all the while edging away from the dead man. The murdered man. He backed up as far and as fast as he could, until he could
stand up again. Then he ran.

Remy sat in his car, parked just a couple of hundred yards from the opening to the burn, and shivered. He didn't know how much was cold and how much was shock. He just
knew he couldn't stop shaking. A puddle of water had formed at his feet and he stared into it, watching the drips land.

Did that really just happen? To him? Remy Feeks, the man nothing ever happened to? He'd never seen a dead body before. Who the hell had? No one he knew. And not just dead, obviously
murdered. What the hell was he going to do?

Report it. He had to call it in to the cops. But. He didn't want to be part of this. He wanted to go back to collecting trolleys at Tesco and looking after his dad. He didn't want
this.
He shouldn't have been down there in the first place. He'd been trespassing. He had the guy's DNA all over him. Holy shit. They'd think he did it. That's
what they do.

It took him a while to realize that there were tears running down his cheeks and trickling into the puddle at his feet. When it dawned on him, he drew the back of his hand across his eyes then
rubbed at his nose. Grow a pair, he told himself. You've no reason to feel sorry for yourself: think of that poor bugger killed in the burn. He did think of him and remembered that his hands
had been on the man's rotting corpse and felt sick that they'd just been on his eyes.

He flipped the angle of the rear-view mirror and stared at his reflection. His eyes were red and wide. ‘Arsehole!' he shouted at himself, then got scared in case anyone had heard
him.

He twisted and reached into the back seat where he grabbed his trainers. He pulled off the waders and changed into his proper shoes. With one final look at himself in the mirror, he got out of
the car before he could change his mind and went looking for the first phone box that worked.

He walked half of Duke Street before finding one and had nearly given up and jumped in to use the one in the Crown Creighton instead. But that would have been just as stupid as using his mobile.
He'd found some guts but not enough for that.

‘Emergency. What service do you require?'

‘Police. And ambulance, I guess.'

‘What is your emergency?'

‘There's a body. A dead . . . I mean . . . I just . . . found it.'

‘What is your name, caller?'

‘No . . . I . . . I don't want to . . . Look, someone's been murdered. I need to go. Just let me tell you where.'

‘Can you give me your name, please, caller?'

‘No. Listen, the body's in the Molendinar Tunnel. Under Wishart Street. Or maybe further, I'm not sure. You get in at the entrance near the Great Eastern. The man's been
murdered.'

‘Calm down, sir. Are you sure this person is dead?'

‘Yes! He's very dead. Been dead for ages. Not years but weeks or months. Look, I need to go.'

‘How did you find the body? You were in this tunnel?'

‘I was just . . . I was just exploring. You need to get him out of there.'

‘Please, stay on the line—'

He hung up. And ran like a coward.

He actually started the engine to drive home but he didn't move. Driving home was the sensible thing but he didn't do it. He wasn't sure why but it was like
when he made that first step into the tunnel or up a ladder or through a fence. No going back. He wanted to see what happened. Had to, really.

For the longest time, he thought they hadn't believed him. They got a lot of hoax calls and this must have sounded like one. A body in the tunnel under Wishart Street. Right, sure thing.
And he'd been down there for a walk. Sure. Of course they didn't believe him.

What would he do? Go back down there and drag the body out himself? He didn't have the balls for that. Maybe he could go down and take a photograph of it, send it to the cops and make them
believe him. Maybe he'd just wait and see.

It must have been forty minutes before he saw the police car pull up. It was dark now and he saw the car's lights as it turned and parked on the other side of the street near where the
Molendinar was exposed. Two cops got out, their yellow hi-vis sparking under the street lights. Neither seemed in a hurry. One of them was pointing and shaking his head. Now they were both shaking
their heads, not happy.

They pulled waders out of the boot of their car, heaved them on and made their way very reluctantly to the bank. The two cops, one tall and broad, the other smaller and most probably a woman,
although he couldn't be sure from this distance, disappeared from sight.

It was like they'd never been there apart from the sight of the car sitting lonely in the dark. He was tempted to go over, tell them about the tunnel and what they'd find if they
went in there. He didn't. He sat and fretted.

Every few minutes he turned the ignition key over once and watched the time flash about on the dashboard display. He was scared of doing it too often because the battery on his old heap
wasn't in the best of shape. He didn't want to get stuck there: that would be too tough to explain. The time crawled by and he tried to work out in his head where they might be, how far
down the tunnel they'd managed to get. The bigger cop was maybe too big to get all the way to where the body was without getting stuck. The lady cop would need to go on her own. That was a
bit unfair.

There they were. Both of them climbing back over the fencing and onto the street again. They were moving a lot quicker than when they'd gone in and one of them was on the radio. They were
both still shaking their heads though.

It was just ten more minutes before the road in front of the old Great Eastern was flooded with flashing lights, police cars, an ambulance and some unmarked cars. Two minutes after that, the
area was taped off and people had started to gather to gawp. He still just sat there in the dark and shivered some more.

When there were maybe twenty to thirty people on his side of the tape, Remy slid quietly out of the car and joined them. He was just another rubbernecker. Not a witness. Not the person who found
the body.

There was a lot of chat behind the tape.
It'll be a junkie. Bound to be, man.
Remy knew it wasn't a junkie.
Some'dy try to drown themselves?
In that wee burn,
don't be stupid.
I heard some'dy was shot.
No they weren't.
It'll be gangsters, man.
Yeah, maybe. Maybe.

Chapter 3

There's a phenomenon in astronomy called light echo. When a rapidly brightening object such as a nova is reflected off interstellar dust, the echo is seen shortly after
the initial flash. It produces an illusion, of an echo expanding faster than the speed of light.

Tony Winter didn't know all that much about astronomy but after years of photographing dead bodies, he knew all about the differences between light and dark.

The echoes of the flash from his camera bounced from wall to wall in the close confines of the Molendinar Tunnel, reverberating from brick to opposing brick in a heartbeat. Even if he cared, he
couldn't tell which flash was a reflection of the other. All he knew was that they were lighting up death and giving its ugliness a sheen of undeserved beauty.

The tunnel was bathed in it, the bricks glowing golden and warm and making the corpse with the wide, empty eyes seem even colder by comparison. Winter was tight against the bricks now, feeling
their rough edges against his skin and clothing as he fought to get enough room to capture the body from every angle he could without disturbing it. The head, what was left of it after the tunnel
creatures had gnawed and nibbled, filled his viewfinder. Dead for a month or so, he guessed. A patchwork face of pale purples and washed-out reds on a canvas of dirty beige. Most definitely not a
pretty sight but an irresistible one.

The gaping, festering wound to the throat had been a clean cut once. A sharp blade had let life rush out, just as surprise had escaped from the mouth and terror from the eyes. Whoever he was, he
quite literally hadn't seen this coming. There was something else about him though, something that Winter couldn't quite . . .

‘What do you see, Tony?'

The shout from twenty yards or so behind him came from Rachel. Newly promoted Detective Inspector Rachel Narey. His significant other. His girlfriend. His partner. Rachel.

They both had new jobs, on paper at least. She'd become part of the West's Major Investigation Team while his paymasters had been rebranded from the Scottish Police Services
Authority to the snappier Forensic Services. The truth was that this brave new world was much the same as the bad old one. She investigated murders, he photographed them.

BOOK: In Place of Death
8.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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