Authors: Denzil Meyrick
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Crime
Flynn sobbed, the pristine collar of his white uniform shirt was now stained with blood. ‘Mobile,’ he whispered through tears, ‘I called a mobile number.’
‘Get the cuffs on him, Brian. I need some air.’ Daley left the building, slamming the door on his way out. He breathed deeply in the salty air, leaning on Flynn’s Jaguar. He looked through the dark privacy windows at the leather seats and the walnut finish, the creamy luxury of the interior. He cursed Flynn’s greed: the owner of that car had cost Archie Fraser his life. Was that all it was worth?
Flynn was taken back to the office by Scott, who had called a van. Daley had another port of call: James Newell, who ran the RIB hire business from the pontoons. Daley had seen the vessel glide into the loch and deposit half a dozen
camera-wielding tourists safely ashore. The area had been cordoned off for most of the day after Fraser’s shooting; not that there had been much to find out, though the relentless master that was procedure had to be followed.
Two men were still working aboard the boat as Daley made his way down the pontoon. The bell was silent in the still air, and Daley recalled its baleful reports throughout the operation the previous evening.
One of the men was probably in his sixties; both were tall and thin with dark hair, no doubt they were related. Daley placed the younger man somewhere in his thirties, though trying to estimate the age of anyone between the ages of twenty-five and fifty seemed to be an increasingly difficult task these days. He wondered if it was something to do with his own advancing years, then dismissed the idea.
The older man on the boat eyed him over a pair of halfmoon glasses. ‘Can I help you?’
‘Are you James Newell?’
‘Yes, and I take it you’re Chief Inspector Daley.’ Newell smiled. ‘This is my nephew Rory.’ He had seen Daley looking at the other man. ‘He’s up from the smoke for the summer to get some air in his lungs and work out what he wants to do with his life now the bank have dispensed with his services, eh, Rory?’
The younger man nodded.
Daley was invited aboard and he took Rory’s offer of a hand up, over the side of the craft. He felt as though he was viewing himself from above, like some sort of hackneyed death scene from a hospital drama, and he was angry with himself about losing control earlier. For someone who dealt with death as part of his daily life, the murder of Fraser had
had a profound impact. That, combined with the heavy tiredness he was experiencing, left him feeling that his mind was wandering, akin to being in a trance. In these periods, he often had the inspiration that led to solving a case.
The three shook hands politely. Newell had an easy manner, and had Daley not known he was an ex-naval captain, he probably would have guessed.
‘Wedded to the sea, Inspector, that’s me. Anyhow, what more could a man want than to ply his trade in such a beautiful part of the world, despite the hostility of some of the locals? I suppose you’ve already come across that?’ He looked to the detective for an answer.
‘Not really, Mr Newell. They’re a very
body of people in my experience, but I haven’t come up against anything malicious yet. Apart from the obvious, of course.’
Newell shrugged his shoulders. ‘That’s probably because they see you as being from the same stable.’ He went on to tell Daley that despite his parents being Scottish and having been born in Glasgow, his accent and manner had marked him down as an Englishman in Kinloch – a posh one at that. ‘I’m not in the least bothered, of course, though some of them can be quite unpleasant. Water off a duck’s back for me after being caged up in a submarine full of hairy sailors for months on end. And let me tell you, that breed doesn’t suffer from the reluctance to speak out that afflicts the rest of the service. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you anything about man management.’
After what was no more than an exchange of pleasantries, Daley informed Newell that what he wanted was any kind of rota or ships’ logs covering the period of the murders. ‘I’m not accusing you of anything, Mr Newell. I just have to cover
all my bases. I already know about the movements of the fishing craft, but you and the rest of the visitors to the pontoons are still a bit of a mystery.’
‘Well, worry no more, sir. As you’ve probably heard, I’m involved in the company that owns this pontoon. We keep records of all our visitors – well, the honest ones at any rate.’
‘An unwritten rule of the sea. If you moor somewhere, you do your best to find out to whom your harbour dues are paid. I’m not here day and night, so sometimes we get – let’s just call them
– who come in out of the weather late in the evening and upon the arrival of a better morning, bugger off without parting with a penny. They are, I’m glad to say, in the minority.’
It turned out that Newell had an upstairs office in the same building that housed the harbour master. Newell junior removed something from an old grey Land Rover, while his uncle searched for his office keys. Once inside, the older man went in search of the register of vessels that had been moored at the pontoon during the relevant period.
Rory hadn’t said much, so when his uncle left, Daley took the opportunity to quiz the younger man. He asked if Rory had known any of the victims. The detective thought he was being evasive when he did not answer immediately.
Eventually, Rory said, ‘I did know one of the dead people, if the stories I’ve been hearing are right.’ He had the same patrician mien as his uncle, thought Daley, as he sat languidly on a metal chair, one foot resting on a small table.
‘What stories would these be?’ Why could no one answer a straightforward question in a similarly straightforward way? This conundrum had pestered him throughout his career.
‘The cop who got killed last night, I knew him – if it’s the guy I’ve heard about, of course.’ He continued to stare at Daley, his expression unchanging.
‘I’m afraid I can’t comment on that incident at the moment. Anyway, I was referring to the murders of Janet Ritchie, Izzy Watson and Peter Mulligan.’
Rory Newell snorted derisively. ‘I don’t know why you’re bothering wasting your time on people like that. As far as I can tell, they’re the scum of the earth, like most of the folk in this sorry shithole. I liked Archie though – good bloke.’ He stared at Daley again.
‘Why did you leave the bank, Mr Newell?’
As the policeman had planned, that had the desired effect. A shadow of annoyance passed over Rory’s face. ‘I wasn’t aware it had become a police matter.’ He managed a weak smile, but Daley could sense his anger.
Newell senior arrived back in the office, clutching three coffee cups, and with a red ledger tucked under one arm. He handed the beverages around, then took his seat behind a small desk, on which were placed a laptop computer, a telephone and a leather-bound Roberts radio.
‘Is that an original?’ Daley gestured at the radio.
‘That set, Inspector, has been with me for forty-two years, and has been around the world at least four times. My guilty pleasure, you know? Addicted to Radio 4 now I’ve managed to settle down in the one place.’ He smiled.
‘Though why the fuck it had to be here, no one knows,’ his nephew muttered, looking at the ceiling.
‘Do you like the radio, Mr Daley?’ Newell continued as though Rory had not spoken.
‘Oh yes, a little passion of mine too. I just got my hands on
a Grundig Party Boy recently, though, like you I still prefer Roberts. Owned by the Japanese now – how things change.’
All three sat in silence, as though contemplating the consequences of a classic British radio brand being owned in the Far East.
‘I’m sure you don’t need me, Mr Daley. I’ve got to get back home, get online and see if I can find a real job, back in civilisation.’ Rory stood up suddenly.
‘I take it you’re under forty, Mr Newell?’ Daley asked the younger man.
‘Thirty-four.’ His uncle didn’t give him a chance to reply.
‘In that case, I’d like you to volunteer at your earliest opportunity to go to the police office and have a DNA swab taken. Every man resident in the area will be taking part.’ He smiled at Rory.
‘If I must. Do you think you’ve got your man, officer?’ He sneered at Daley. ‘OK, Uncle Jimmy, I’m heading off to the hacienda. Goodbye, Inspector Daley. I’ll provide my DNA tomorrow, if that won’t hinder your investigation too much.
‘Don’t let him wind you up, Mr Daley. I’m afraid he’s very like my late brother: stupid. He had a good opportunity at the bank but he blew it. He tried for the Navy you know – didn’t get a sniff, of course.’ Newell looked into the middle distance.
The two men discussed the pontoon and the Newells’ movements around the time of the murder of Izzy Watson. It transpired that they had been to County Antrim, acting as aquatic transport for a film crew making a documentary about the Giant’s Causeway. The weather had caused a few problems, so they’d had to stay longer than intended. ‘Flynn
was in charge, nominally, of course. As usual, he was too busy chewing the fat with his fishermen friends than checking on my pontoon. I wonder where he is? His office is in darkness. It’s an early dark, even by his standards.’
‘Was your nephew with you on this trip?’ Daley changed the subject.
‘Look here, Mr Daley, I’m fully aware of how aggravating Rory is, but I can assure you he is no murderer. Beneath the swagger he’s actually quite shy, and certainly not violent. His wife buggered off with one of his best friends just before he lost his job, tried to top himself.’ Newell looked at the ceiling in the same manner that his nephew had, only moments earlier. ‘That’s why he’s here. I hope you understand, and yes, to answer your next question, he was with me the whole time.’
Newell went on to show him the list of craft berthed at the pontoons around the time of the murders. Daley decided to take the register with him, Newell reluctantly agreeing to use a temporary log in the meantime.
He was aware of eyes on him, that primeval sense that man long ago forgot how to use properly. Even through the limited view of the bar’s serving hatch, the good citizens of Kinloch were straining to get a look at the detective who had just arrested a well-known member of the community. Annie shouted a brisk hello, as he turned right before the reception, then up the staircase.
The steps always felt strange to Daley. They were less deep, wider than normal stairs, so, consequently, as you ascended you felt as though the effort being put in was not commensurate with progress. Maybe he was just tired. In fact, he was
shattered. He’d had little sleep the night before, he was hungry, and his heart was sore – not in the sense of stress or medical pain – sore in that it represented the gauge of the soul, the prism through which was viewed all he had felt, seen, heard and subconsciously assimilated during his lifetime. Right now, the image of Archie Fraser was accompanied by an acute feeling of guilt. Some people were destined to strive all their lives for betterment, the march towards greatness of the truly ambitious: but at what price? Had Daley been a mere bystander, an operative put in place by another during the raid? Of course, he would have felt sad at the demise of any fellow officer. No doubt he would have said a silent prayer of gratitude that the man lying on the cold tarmac of the jetty with a hole in his chest was not him. However, he was the man who had put Fraser in the place that eventually led to his death. He was the man who had played so carelessly with a young life that was lost forever. For that reason, he felt no unspoken relief. He wished he could turn time on its head and swap places with the young detective. With his long experience he would never have exposed himself to harm, the way Fraser had so selflessly done. In the event that harm had come his way then so be it. There would have been no one to blame but himself and fate. There would be no pathetic, ashen-faced ghost haunting his thoughts and tortured dreams.
He found the door to his room locked. Before he could fumble the key from his pocket, Liz had opened it. She was wearing his favourite jumper and somehow seemed more tanned and beautiful than when he had last seen her. He suddenly remembered that she had been on her trip. He tried to speak, but finding words so hard to come by, and the mere
presence of her so intoxicating, he simply fell into her arms. Automatically, he searched for her lips. They kissed passionately. When he pulled away, he could see disappointment flicker across her features. He pulled the woollen garment over her head, revealing the contours of her naked body. A loose wisp of hair fell over her face. They tumbled onto the bed, and made the frantic, desperate love of those spared the terminus of death.
It was five in the morning when Daley was roused from a fitful sleep. He had agreed to be back at the office around six to give Scott a break and some much-needed sleep. He switched the alarm off as quickly as he could, but to his dismay Liz began to stir.
‘Get back to sleep, Liz. It’s only just after five. Duty calls, I’m afraid.’
She sat up, breasts peeking over the duvet. ‘No, no, it’s OK. It’s an early start for me too. Mr Seanessy’s taking me out on a boat he’s got from somewhere. I promised him I wouldn’t tell you because I don’t think it’s strictly legal, but if I can get a shot of an orca he can steal the
for all I care.’
Daley processed this information through a fuzz of sleepiness. ‘Well, as long as he’s competent at sea. How far out are you going?’
Liz yawned, arms outstretched. ‘Huh? I’m not sure. I’m still tired, exhausted actually.’ She smiled mischievously at Daley, who was looking at his reflection in the wardrobe mirror.
‘Do you think I’ve lost a bit of weight?’ He moaned and drew in his stomach. As soon as he had opened his eyes, a
melancholic gloaming had shaded the prospect of another day. Thoughts of Archie had immediately crowded his mind, but he was anxious not to show Liz how much he had been affected.
‘Yeah, I think you have, you know – a bit. But you know I love you just as you are, don’t you?’ She looked up at him.