Authors: Allan Guthrie
"You know, what with one thing or another, I feel we've become quite intimate," Joe said. "I don't mind at all if you want to call me Joe."
"Thank you, but I'll call you Mr. Hope, Mr. Hope. Now, let's suppose for a moment that you didn't kill your wife." Monkman folded his arms. "As you claim." He uncrossed his arms and leaned forward. "Wouldn't you like to find out who did?"
"Let's cut the crap," Joe said. "I'll answer your questions on one condition."
"You tell me how she died."
Monkman looked at McGivern. McGivern cast his gaze downwards. Monkman said, "Supposing I do, what guarantee do I have that you'll cooperate?"
"Turn off the tape," Joe said.
Monkman leaned over and said, "Mr. Hope asked for the tape to be paused at nine eleven." He pressed the pause button.
"Police brutality," Joe said. "I could press charges."
"Be my guest."
Monkman said, "Positive."
"Up to you," Joe said. "You think I won't win? Maybe so, but I can make it messy for you."
"Your word against half a dozen officers. You wouldn't stand a chance."
"I have a civilian witness."
Monkman locked his fingers and placed his hands behind his head. "You serious? Adam Wright won't talk."
"You prepared to stake your career on that?"
Monkman fixed his eyes on Joe's. "Yes."
Joe stared back, then said, "Shit. You told him something about me, didn't you? He called me an animal. What lies did you tell him? You're a bunch of crooked fucks."
"Nothing crooked about it," Monkman said. "I told Adam that you very probably murdered his cousin. I'd guess that's what he was pissed off about." He shook his head sadly.
"He was pissed off before he knew about Ruth."
"Can't help you there." Monkman shrugged. "But I can help you with the matter of our little skirmish at Wrighters' Retreat. Let's suppose Adam did have a change of heart. There's the matter of a dead girl on his property. Maybe you heard about it? Could get very messy for someone running a residential business."
Joe said, "Turn the tape recorder back on if you want, but I refuse to answer any more questions."
"You beginning to realize what serious shit you're in?"
"Up to your neck, Joe," Monkman said. "I think it's time you confessed."
When DC McGivern tilted his head, Joe pictured Broken Neck. He smiled at the memory that had sprung from nowhere. There she danced, head tilted to the side, white scarf wrapped tightly around her neck. Tassels trailed past her hips, swinging as she circled round her handbag with her girlfriend. What was she called? Lesley, Lindsey? Joe couldn't remember her real name. He always called her Broken Neck. She was Ruth's best friend at university. And for maybe a couple of months after Gemma was born. Then they lost touch. Whatever her name, she wore that white scarf all the time Joe knew her. Wrapped around her neck like a plaster cast.
Joe first noticed them as they wiggled their arses in the middle of an uncluttered dance floor at a university disco. Broken Neck looked like she'd been in an accident. The other one writhed with her wrists in the air, as if she was inviting someone to bind them together. Joe was drunk. Bad news. The good news was that they were equally drunk. He strolled up to them and started talking. Spoke to Broken Neck first. Pointed to her neck, asked her if her injury was serious, and laughed. Of course she couldn't hear a word he said. He shrugged and turned to the other girl. He tried hard to be witty and cool, and, not surprisingly, being forced to shout to make himself heard, failed miserably on both counts. He remembered telling her she looked a bit like Sean Connery. Which she did. Still did. Same mouth. Could have been his daughter. Such a statement might easily have been taken the wrong way. After all, it was hardly flattering to tell a young woman she looked like a man, however handsome the man. Fortunately, once she'd established what he was saying (he had to yell, his mouth so close to her ear that his lips brushed her skin), she found the comparison amusing. After a few dances they went outside for a while to cool down. The silence was water to a parched throat. Broken Neck followed them. A turd in the water. They ignored her. In the quiet, they exchanged names. Ruth kept up the joke. Tried to do Connery's lazy accent, exaggerating the trademark drunken 's' in her surname. Shimpshon. She made a fair attempt.
Eventually, Broken Neck got the message. She went to the toilet just after midnight and didn't return. Joe danced with Ruth Simpson until the music stopped at two. By the last dance, they were glued hip-to-hip and Joe had a hard-on the size of the Scott monument. He invited her back to his flat.
Five other students shared the kitchen and bathroom, but at least they each had private bedrooms.
"Just like mine," Ruth said as he held open the door and switched on the light. A single bed, a desk and a wardrobe. Roughly the size of his cell in Kirkwall police station.
Joe remembered switching on the gooseneck lamp that was perched on top of a pile of books on the floor next to the bed. Ruth turned off the overhead light. She skipped across the room, knelt on the carpet by Joe's pile of books and started reading the titles off the spine: "The Revenger's Tragedy," "The Changeling," "Women Beware Women," " 'Tis Pity She's A Whore," "The Malcontent," "The Duchess of Malfi." Maybe a few others. She didn't comment, just read the titles aloud. Joe couldn't tell if she was deliberately slurring her words or if she had just drunk too much. She returned to John Ford's " 'Tis Pity She's a Whore," ran her finger across the spine. "Is it good? Have you read that one?"
Kneeling on the floor beside her, Joe said, "They're good for propping up my lamp. If you're really interested, you can borrow any of them, any time, if you really want." He took hold of her hand and clutched it to his chest. He kissed her forehead. "But I don't think now's the right time to be discussing plays."
She leaned against him, her slender frame expanding with a giant gulp of air. "I've only done this once," she said.
Joe put his arms around her and pulled her closer. She was shaking. "Let's get into bed," he said.
They struggled out of their clothes, flinging their discarded garments on the floor. Down to his underpants, Joe glanced sideways at her, as casual a glance as he could muster with a hard-on. She was sitting on the bed, hands wedged between her knees, wearing only her underwear. She couldn't have looked more terrified if she knew she was facing a firing squad at dawn.
"You'll get cold," he said.
She pulled back the quilt and slipped into bed. "Turn off the light."
Joe did as requested and slid in after her. They quickly realized there wasn't enough room for two people in the bed. After experimenting with various positions they found that lying on their sides, facing each other, was better than anything else. Her hand stroked his leg, moved up his thigh, circled his stomach and moved towards his groin.
He waited, stomach muscles tense as stretched elastic. Hoped. Even considered praying.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Not again," he muttered. The instant she touched his dick he'd gone soft.
Joe rubbed his wrists and stared at the telephone. For someone normally so decisive, he was having remarkable difficulty making up his mind about who to phone. Deciding that the answer wasn't about to spring out of the phone, no matter how hard he stared at it, he looked up. Beyond the vacant seat directly opposite — Monkman had disappeared when the phone was brought into the interrogation room and still hadn't returned — a uniformed policeman, the one who'd arrived with the phone and had been responsible for plugging it in, was now stationed at the door, legs spread, arms behind his back, looking like he was waiting his turn on the set of a porn film. He rocked on his heels, anticipating, possibly, a blowjob from DC McGivern. He was going to be disappointed, though. McGivern didn't seem all that interested. The constable was whistling a tune through his teeth and slapping his thighs like a bored teenager. Performing oral sex with a colleague was probably the last thing on his mind. Pity. Having something in his mouth would shut the bastard up. Joe rubbed his wrists again, contemplating how much fun it would be to plant his fist in McGivern's jaw and stop that racket once and for all. Christ, that melody was agonizingly familiar.
Joe clapped his hands together, rubbed his palms, then picked up the phone. He ought to call a lawyer, he knew, but the lure of a friendly voice was hard to resist. If he rang Cooper, he might be able to find out what had happened to Ruth. And he could always ask his friend to contact a lawyer for him.
Before he could change his mind, he dialed Cooper's number.
McGivern stopped whistling and sat still. Interested again.
"I need to speak to Cooper."
"Joe? Are you okay? Where are you?"
"I need to speak to Cooper, Sally."
"I'll get him for you."
He heard her shout, "Chicken?" In the background, Cooper shouted back. After what seemed like an interminable wait, during which McGivern whistled a few more bars of that damned tune, Cooper's voice yelled in his ear, "What have you done, Joe?"
For a moment, Joe couldn't think of a reply. His best friend knew already. As had Adam. It seemed Joe was the last person to find out. What knocked the wind out of Joe was Cooper's assumption that he was guilty. Fantastic. A real kick in the ribs. Pain flared in his side at the thought and he closed his eyes.
Cooper spoke again. "Christ, Joe. You're well fucked. What happened? I mean, why the hell did you do it, eh?"
Joe thought about slamming the phone down. Instead, he said, calmly, eyes still closed, "Can you get me a lawyer?"
"You'll need one, tell you that."
Joe's eyes snapped open. "Get me a lawyer, Cooper."
"Okay. Keep what's left of your hair on. Want me to represent you?"
"I need a lawyer, not a comedian."
"I resent that. I spent nearly a year at university studying that shit. Hate to see it go to waste."
"A lawyer, Cooper."
"Right. Where are you?"
"The nick. In Kirkwall."
"That's where Gemma— "
"They're flying me back to Edinburgh."
"That's all I know. Get me a lawyer. Get him to phone here and find out."
"Yeah. Anything else?"
"Tell the lawyer I'm not guilty. I didn't do shit."
"Whatever you say. It's your money. Did you at least get the tosser?"
"You know, the bloke who was supposed to be looking after her."
"Not yet," Joe said. "Got some questions I need to ask him first."
"You looking for somebody else to blame, then?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Forget it. Look, I'll ask around. Get you the best lawyer I can."
"You do that." Joe hung up, instantly realizing he'd forgotten to ask if Cooper knew how Ruth had died.
McGivern raised his eyebrows.
"Twat," Joe said to McGivern.
"Nice way to speak about your friends."
"Got a smoke?"
"Come on. Put me at ease, won't it? Make me tell you things. Secrets."
McGivern hesitated, then dug in his pocket and removed a pack of Gitanes. He opened it, offering the half empty pack to Joe.
"Fancy," Joe said, removing a cigarette, studying it.
The policeman's hand dipped into his pocket again and reappeared with a gold lighter. He flipped the top open and a flame sprung up. He leaned across the desk, holding the lighter inches from Joe's face. "Hang on," he said. "What are you going to use as an ashtray?"
"I'll improvise." Tilting his head towards DC McGivern, Joe raised his hand — cigarette clamped between his fingers — towards his mouth. His hand stopped moving before the cigarette touched his lips. He leaned back. McGivern lifted his thumb and the flame died. Joe gripped his unlit cigarette at either end and snapped it in two. McGivern's face paled. One at a time Joe tossed each half of the broken cigarette at the policeman. "Can I have another?" Joe said.
When DS Monkman returned to the interrogation room he insisted Joe handcuffs were replaced. DC McGivern stood up, walked round the table and fastened the cuffs.
"Can't you at least put them on in front?"
"Can't do that," Monkman said. "You'd have a lethal weapon. Fine strong piece of steel in the center you could bring down two-handed on an unsuspecting officer's head." Monkman took the spare seat opposite. When McGivern sat down again, Monkman, without any preamble, formally charged Joe with the murder of Mrs. Ruth Hope.
"You're charging me?" Joe said when Monkman had finished.
"Want me to repeat it? I thought I was perfectly clear. Maybe I should take elocution lessons."