Read Whisky From Small Glasses Online

Authors: Denzil Meyrick

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Crime

Whisky From Small Glasses (33 page)

BOOK: Whisky From Small Glasses
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She followed Seanessy towards an old iron ladder positioned over the edge of the pier, which led down to the boat. The tide was low, so the climb down the ladder looked precarious.

‘Best foot forward, Mrs Daley. Nothing to worry about. We better get going if we want to take advantage of the time we have.’ Seanessy stood at the top of the ladder, adopting a beckoning stance. ‘I’ll take your kit if you want. Less cumbersome for you getting down, eh?’

Liz handed him her kit and, kneeling down, slowly placed one foot out behind her and on to the ladder, beginning her careful descent onto the small craft.

‘I agree with you, Jim. This could be a break, at long last.’ Donald handed Daley the images printed from the CCTV footage. ‘I’ll put a rocket under those lazy bastards up the road. Oh, by the way, if you’re not going to charge this Camel Johnstone, we’ll have to let him go. We’ve held him as long as we can.’

Daley didn’t want to admit that he had forgotten all about Camel still being in custody. So much had happened in the last few hours, the young fisherman’s incarceration had completely slipped his mind. He didn’t think for one minute that Johnstone was guilty of anything apart from questionable morals and minor drug offences; he would have had him
released before now if he had remembered. It was clear that even though he had had sex with Izzy Watson prior to her death, he had not been the last to do so. Their tryst had taken place at Pulse, when she had been very much alive.

‘I’ll attend to that directly, sir.’

‘No, you have enough on your plate as it is, Jim. I’ll deal with it.’

Daley was taken aback by this unusual generosity. ‘Sir, we’ve also discovered that our original victim, Izzy Watson, has an elderly grandmother residing in a nursing home not far from here. It’s worth a shot, even if she has dementia.’

‘In this case, we need to clutch onto any proverbial straw, no matter how tenuous that straw may be.’

Their business concluded, Donald left. Daley reflected on how changeable the man was: when you expected him to be at his most obstructive, he would surprise with unlooked-for support, or even just a helpful word. Maybe Donald did feel the loss of the tragic Archie Fraser every bit as keenly as he did. Maybe there was just no fathoming the man.

Liz decided to occupy the rear of the vessel, where there was a narrow bench seat and where her view was only partially obscured by the small wheelhouse. Seanessy made his way heavily aboard; as he descended the ladder she could see that the soles of his boots were brand new. He was carrying a large backpack, which sagged from his shoulders, indicating that it contained something heavy. When he was safely on the deck, Seanessy placed the bag in the wheelhouse. He coiled the large rope that had secured the boat to a bollard on the jetty, and the craft began to drift off. She was pleased that he was busying himself with the vessel; because of the early hour she
wasn’t keen on engaging in forced small talk; in any case, she was more than happy just absorbing the beautiful scenery. She watched as a swan made serene progress up the loch not far from the vessel, its serpentine head moving slowly to and fro, taking in the sights and sounds of the watery environment.

Though the water was mirror-like, Liz was aware of a slight swell, which made the vessel rise and fall gently. She shivered momentarily as the sun was obscured by a small white cloud, perhaps foretelling a drop in temperature out to sea. She zipped up her fleece, just as something landed on the deck beside her with a thud.

‘Put that on, please.’ Seanessy said, handing her a lifejacket. ‘You’d be amazed how many fishermen decide to do without them.’

The wheelhouse where Seanessy stood reminded Liz of the potting shed her father had built at the bottom of their garden. She watched as he bent down and lifted a little trap door on the deck, then, not without some effort, managed to fire the noisy engine into life. Clouds of smelly blue fumes puffed from a little chimney. Seanessy made his way back towards her. ‘Have you managed to secure the lifejacket properly?’ he asked, giving it a gentle tug. ‘That’ll do,’ he said. ‘We’ll get on our way directly.’ He made his way back to the wheelhouse, where he patted the backpack that lay at his feet beneath the ship’s wheel, and then steered the vessel away from the jetty and towards the open sea.

Daley decided to make the short journey to visit Izzy Watson’s grandmother by himself. He doubted whether she would be of much help, but you never knew what seemingly
meaningless piece of information might solve a case. He repeated this mantra as he looked again at pages of interview notes taken by the rest of the team. He decided to do this for an hour or so until it was late enough in the day to go to the retirement home.

Dunn arrived with the car keys for the pool car. ‘Sir, James Newell is at the front desk. He says he wants to talk to you urgently.’

Daley asked for Newell to be shown through to the interview suite. He held back for ten minutes or so, working on the old cop’s premise that the longer someone had to think about something they wanted to get off their chest, alone, the more likely it would be for them to be honest. He left the CID office and ambled along to the interview room.

Once out of the loch and into the Sound, the breeze became more chilly and the sea much more restless. They were sailing almost parallel to a road which threaded its way amid a backdrop of fir trees and white sandy bays, reminding Liz of holidays in the Greek Islands. Come to think of it, she had been reminded of various vacations since she had arrived in this magical little place.

Seanessy was positioned behind the wheel. He had looked back at her a couple of times, slightly inclining his head in a gesture that she supposed was one of reassurance, or merely a check that she had not fallen overboard. Suddenly, she detected movement to her left. The grey arch of a porpoise shadowing the boat was unmistakable. Liz fumbled in the backpack at her feet, trying to find her camera.

‘Have you spotted something?’ Seanessy was making his way along the deck towards her.

‘Yes, a porpoise, I think. Any chance of us stopping for a short while so that I can try and get a couple of steady shots?’ She held up the camera.

Seanessy looked at his watch, then shrugged his shoulders. Presently the engine noise died away, and the chimney’s belching ceased. Only the lap of water on the side of the boat was audible.

Liz struggled to align her camera with the area where she felt it most likely the porpoise would reappear. She focused on the water, taking her eye away from the small screen to check her surroundings. Seanessy stood by her side, wanting to help steady her on the deck, but not quite knowing where to put his hands.

James Newell was standing with his arms behind his back, looking at the painting on the wall of the interview suite. He turned on hearing Daley’s arrival. ‘Chief Inspector, thank you for finding the time to see me.’

‘See me about what, Mr Newell? Please take a seat.’ Daley gestured to a chair.

‘It’s about my nephew, actually. He appears to have done a bunk, buggered off, in fact, and taken my RIB into the bargain. I’m the last person to tell tales, Mr Daley, but I admit I’ve been concerned about him – his behaviour – especially in the light of recent events. And, of course, I need the boat back. Bloody inconsiderate, as usual. He’s supposed to be up here trying to find something useful to do with his life.’ Newell was plainly irritated, his jaw working furiously.

‘OK. I’ll have to investigate this as having a possible connection to our other ongoing inquiries.’

Newell nodded.

‘I’m just making you aware, that’s all. Do you know if he submitted to a DNA test?’

‘Oh, I have no doubt that he did not. He is and always has been irresponsible. His father should’ve given him a kick up the arse years ago, instead of forking out a small fortune on private education and university courses he never had the gumption to finish.’ Newell drummed his fingers on the table and Daley could easily visualise the naval captain that he had been, frustrated by some incompetent rating.

‘How much fuel was on board, or would he have had access to before he left?’

Newell raised his eyes, calculating. ‘I suppose enough for around a hundred nautical miles or so. She wasn’t full, and he must have taken off well before the pumps opened up on the pier. So yes, his radius can be no more than a hundred nautical miles, maybe even slightly less.’

‘How fast does your vessel go, Mr Newell?’

‘Forty-five knots in the right conditions, just over fifty miles an hour. That doesn’t sound much on land, but I can assure you that it’s fast enough on the water.’

Using a rough reckoning, Daley tried to work out where he could be, given the fuel onboard. The possibilities were seemingly endless, but a little voice in his head told him that Newell junior’s sudden disappearance was no random act of rebellion against his uncle. ‘Who exactly was Rory friendly with here? He must’ve had some kind of social life.’

‘Mainly the local fishermen, or the odd tourist he would go out for a drink with after we’d been on a trip. I’m afraid there’s little on offer here for someone with Rory’s tastes.’

‘What do you mean by “tastes”?’

Newell said nothing and looked as if he was weighing up whether or not to say something.

‘Please, Mr Newell, this is no time for misplaced family loyalty, I can assure you.’

Newell rose from his seat and took a few paces over to the opened window. ‘All my life, Chief Inspector, I wanted to have family, settle down, you know. However, being a sailor for so long, that kind of life was never possible. It was never quite the right time.’ He turned to look back at Daley, who was surprised to see tears in the man’s eyes. ‘I’ve always looked on Rory as the son I never had. Brought him home toys and the like from my travels, took him to the zoo, camping – that sort of thing. I really don’t know what’s happened to him. He was such a good little boy.’

‘Meaning what? I don’t have time for riddles, Mr Newell. If you have information for me you really must tell me now.’

‘Drugs, Chief Inspector. Rory’s life has been ruined by drugs.’

 

20

Liz’s attempts to photograph the porpoise had presented her with problems she had not considered. Despite having a camera with all the modern stabilisation technology money could buy, the yaw of the boat meant that trying to focus on the creature and stay upright was virtually impossible. She mentioned this to Seanessy, who far from being put out by her problems, showed genuine interest.

‘Now, I think I can help you there. Just around the coast, about a mile off Machrie Bay, there’s a small outcrop of rock – a glorified skerry, really, and the very devil to get into – but an ideal spot for what you need. I mean, you’re both off the sea and on it at the same time, if you get my drift.’ He smiled affably at her. ‘There’s even a lobsterman’s cottage there, handy for shelter or brewing up a cup of tea. I’ve used it a few times. Quite dramatic, really – you have the feeling of being at the power of the ocean.’ His eyes took on a distant look. ‘I keep a few creels there, just a hobby, you understand. It would take us about an hour to get there, if you’d like to go, that is?’

Liz thought for a few seconds. The island skerry sounded fascinating, and she might as well forget shooting any decent material from the vessel. ‘How long do we have, Mr Seanessy?’

‘Oh, don’t worry, my dear – as long as we want. I’ve had a word with the fishermen, and I don’t think they intended to do much today. A bit tied up with other things, you might say.’

‘Well, if that’s the case, let’s go for it.’ She put away her camera equipment as Seanessy made his way back to the wheelhouse. Within seconds the noisy engine was belching clouds of pungent black smoke as they chugged off again. Liz looked down at the sun’s dappled reflection on the rippling wake of the vessel, and then raised her head to see Seanessy smiling at her from the wheelhouse.

Daley was about to leave the office when his phone rang. He instantly recognised Camel’s voice.

‘It’s my brother, Mr Daley. He’s fucked off with the boat. Aye, and oor stash o’ money. I canna believe the little prick.’

Daley took some quick details, then told Camel to sit tight. He took a mental note of directions to the fisherman’s home, deciding that he would take a look around there prior to making his way to the retirement home.

As soon as they had rounded the Point, the sea had become choppy. Liz felt quite nauseous, but tried to keep this fact from Seanessy, who kept turning round to check that she was OK. She hadn’t seen anything more in the way of maritime creatures, but the number and variety of birds she had spotted was far in excess of what she could have reasonably expected on land. As she mused idly about this, a small ringed plover landed on the gunwale of the boat, head darting anxiously before it took off again. She swallowed back the
bile in her throat and tried to focus on the photographic opportunities the island would offer.

Daley sat in the lounge of Camel’s home. It contained none of the luxury items he had seen in Michael Watson’s bungalow. An old sofa and two unmatched easy chairs occupied the centre of the floor, around the dual focal points of an elderly TV set and a coal fire, the surround of which would have been familiar to anyone brought up in a Scottish council house during the fifties and sixties. A drop-leaf table under the window was adorned by bits of old netting, a dented plastic buoy and a copy of the
Rangers News
.

‘Sorry aboot the mess,’ Camel announced as he bent down to pick up a discarded sweater from the floor. ‘The auld yin works two jobs, startin’ at five in the morning cleanin’ offices, so she’s no’ feelin’ too much like hoosework when she gets hame.’ He looked at the policeman apologetically.

‘Do you never think of doing some yourself?’ Daley asked in return.

‘Aye right.’ Camel grinned. ‘I’m happy enough wi’ things like this. We just live here, it’s no’ a visitors’ centre.’

Deciding not to argue the toss, Daley sat down. ‘So how long have you lived here?’

‘Always. I telt my mother we should’ve bought the place, but she said we couldna’ afford it. So it’s still a council hoose. Shite, eh?’ Camel shook his head ruefully.

BOOK: Whisky From Small Glasses
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