Authors: Denise Mina
SLIP OF THE KNIFE
THE DEAD HOUR
FIELD OF BLOOD
Copyright © 2010 by Denise Mina
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Reagan Arthur Books /
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
First eBook Edition: March 2010
Reagan Arthur Books is an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Reagan Arthur Books name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
For Gerry, aka Coffee
For the story, for shoving me
off bunk beds/sheds/walls, and for
introducing me to the Clash
An orange Sainsbury’s plastic bag in full sail floated along the dark pavement. Belly bowed, handles erect, it sashayed like a Victorian gentleman on a Sunday stroll, passed a garden gate, and followed the line of the low rockery wall until a sudden breeze buffeted it, lifting the fat bag off its heels, slamming it into the side of a large white van.
Air knocked from it, the bag crumpled to the floor, settling softly under the van’s back wheel.
The van, barely three weeks old, had already been stolen and bore false number plates. It was parked carefully at the curb, still warm from the heat of the engine, and in six hours’ time it would be found smoldering in woodland, all forensic traces of the men inside obliterated.
Three men sat in the van, faces turned in chorus, watching the bungalow across the road.
The driver, Malki, leaned over the steering wheel. He was junkie-thin. From deep inside the dark hood of his tracksuit his sunken eyes darted around the street like a cat hunting a fly.
The two men next to him moved as one animal. Eddy in the middle and Pat sitting by the far door. Both in their late twenties, they’d worked for seven years as a two-man door crew on the graveyard shift. They’d watched films together, met and dumped women together, went to the gym together, and, in the manner of married couples, their style had harmonized. Both were meaty, dressed identically in brand-new black camouflage trousers, high lace boots, flak jackets, and balaclavas rolled up to their foreheads. All the gear was fresh from the packet, the display creases still discernible.
A longer look would identify the differences between them. Eddy in the middle drank too much since the wife and kids left. He ate greasy takeaways late at night when he got in from work, undoing all the good he’d done himself in the weights room, and had become bloated and bitter. His eye was forever fixed on what he didn’t have.
It had long been a bone of contention between them that Pat was handsome. Worse, he looked younger than Eddy. More moderate in his character, he didn’t eat or drink as much and fumed less. He was blessed with a head of lush yellow hair, appealingly regular features, and had a stillness about him that made women feel safe. His nose had been broken but even that served only to make his face look vulnerable.
It was Eddy who had come up with the scheme and he had bought the gear. Belligerently, he had bought both sets in the same size, in his size. As they’d dressed together in Eddy’s messy bedsit he’d brought out a tin of black camouflage makeup for them to smear on their faces, like they did when they went paintballing. Softly, almost tenderly, Pat said no and made him put it away. They’d be wearing balaclavas; it wasn’t necessary and that stuff dried out and made Pat’s skin itchy. The glee with which Eddy had produced it worried Pat. It was as if they were putting the final touches to a surprising Halloween costume instead of planning a home invasion that could lead to a twenty-year stretch. Pat had never even done an overnight. Now he fingered the flattened bridge of his nose, covering his face with his hand, hiding his doubt looking up at the target.
He looked down now at the gun in his lap. It was heavier than he would have thought, and he was worried about being able to hold it up with one hand. He glanced at Eddy and found him glaring at the bungalow as if it had insulted him.
Pat shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t have volunteered Malki to be here either. This wasn’t about trying to cheer Eddy up anymore. This was dangerous, this felt like a mistake. He looked away. Eddy had been through too much recently. Not big stuff but sore stuff, and Pat felt as if a single reproachful glance might snap him in half. Still, he looked up at the neat little garden path, at the quiet glowing house, and thought that a twenty-year stretch was an awful lot of sorry-about-your-wife.
It was a nice family bungalow, well proportioned, with a shallow garden stretching all the way around the corner into the next street. The current owner, pragmatic, without thought for aesthetics, had bricked over the lawn and flower beds to create a car park. A blue television tinge flickered on the living room window and a warm pink shone through the glass front door into the hall.
“See?” Eddy said softly, keeping his eyes on the house. “Single hostile in living room. Small, possibly female.”
A woman in her own home. Nothing hostile about that. Instead of saying it Pat nodded and said, “Check.”
“We’re going in along the back wall, ’member to stay in the dark, until we get to the front door.”
“Check.” Pat didn’t really know the military patter and was wary of straying from that one word. Eddy was enjoying it, the whole special ops thing, and Pat didn’t want to spoil it for him.
“Then—” Eddy broke off into quasi-militaristic signs. He pointed at Pat, indicated forwards, touched his own chest, and swiveled his head to show he’d be on lookout. He mimed Pat knocking on the front door, his eyes widened with warning as an imaginary hostile opened it, and his hand chopped a Go! Go! Go! through the air. His hand got into the house and then, zigzagging like a fish through reeds, looked into all the rooms off the hall, circling all the hostiles they had gathered in the hallway.
we ask for Bob. Not before.
. Don’t give the cunt warning while he could still be concealed. And no names once we get in. Clear?”
Eddy turned and slapped the jittery driver’s arm with the back of his hand. “When the door opens for the second time, we’re coming out. You start the engine, pull up over there.” He pointed to the garden gate. “Got it?”
Malki stared steadily into the street, his face slack, his eyes glazed over.
“Malki.” Pat leaned across Eddy and touched Malki’s forearm gently. “Hey, Malki-man, d’ye hear Eddy just then?”
Malki came alive. “Aye, no worries, man, like, soon as I see the light—doof! Up there, right? Straight there, man.” He held the steering wheel tight and nodded adamantly, half affirmation, half wired-junkie tremor. His eyelashes were as ginger as his hair, as straight and long as a cow’s.
Pat bit his lip and sat back, looking out of the side window. He could feel Eddy’s reproachful glance burning his cheek. Malki was there because he was Pat’s young cousin. Malki needed the cash, he always needed cash, but he wasn’t fit for it. Neither was Pat, if he was honest.
For a moment all three looked back at the bungalow, Pat chewing the inside of his cheek, Eddy angry and frowning, Malki nodding and nodding and nodding.
The wind picked up.
Below the van’s back wheel the stunned plastic bag was stirring. As the breeze streamed below the car the bag filled at one corner and began tugging its feet free until it slid out from the undercarriage.
In the wide, still street the bag rose to its feet, performed an elegant cartwheel across the road, towards the house, and took flight in a sharp cross-draft at the corner. It parasailed ten feet into the air, an orange moon, up and up, drifting out of sight of the van, around the corner to the other side of the bungalow, and over the roof of a blue Vauxhall Vectra.
The Vauxhall’s headlights were off but two men sat inside, slumped in the front seats, arms folded, waiting.
They were a scant five years younger than the pretend soldiers in the van around the corner but were better fed, better groomed, altogether more shiny and hopeful.
Omar was spindly and awkward, a walking elbow-jab. He still had the sort of ethereal thinness young men have before they fill out; everything about him was elongated: his nose was long, his jaw pointed, his fingers so long and thin they seemed to have extra joints in them. Mo, in the driver’s seat, was round-faced, with a bulbous end to his nose that would worsen as he aged.
They had been waiting for twenty minutes, talking sometimes to fill the time, but mostly silent. The radio rumbled in the background and the soft yellow light lit their chins. Ramadan AM broadcast locally for only one month a year. It filled its schedules with young Glaswegians clumsily rehashing opinions they’d heard at mosque or on tapes. Mo and Omar weren’t listening for moral instruction; it was a small community and sometimes they knew the speakers and got a laugh when they sounded nervous or said stupid things. The debates were best early in the evening, when everyone was hungry. Mo and Omar would chant over the rancor: “Give us a biscuit, give us a biscuit.”
Mo sat in the driver’s seat resting his eye on a magazine with a double-page spread about Lamborghinis.
“Fuck, man,” he said almost to himself, “couldn’t pay me to take that car.”
Omar didn’t answer.
“I mean, park that car
and it’ll get keyed to fucking ribbons.”
“It’s not for going messages for your mum.” Omar’s voice was surprisingly high. “ ’S for cruising up the neighborhood, being seen in.”
Mo looked at him. “Impressing fit birds and that?”
Mo looked back at the pictures. “Aye, well, you’d know, being a noted ladies’ man.”
Omar rubbed hard at his right eye with spidery fingers. “Listen, man, women are fighting to get at me. Just, like, when you’re there they lay off, because, ye know, might make ye feel inadequate and that.”
“Course they do.” Mo nodded at the magazine. “You’re a good tipper.”