Read Whisky From Small Glasses Online

Authors: Denzil Meyrick

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

Whisky From Small Glasses (36 page)

BOOK: Whisky From Small Glasses
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‘Would you mind if I took a look at some of your photographs, Madeleine? Is there one of Izzy?’

‘Aye, son, carry on. She’s in a couple right enough, though how they managed tae get a photo o’ her at the school, I’ll never know. She’s never there.’

Daley got up awkwardly from the couch, mug of coffee in one hand, the remaining biscuit held in his mouth. He scanned the pictures from left to right: an old black-and-white posed image of Madeleine as a young woman, bearing
a strong family resemblance to her granddaughter. Two men wearing flat caps and football scarves giving thumbs up to the camera, one smoking a pipe. Another grainy image of a young man in a World War II army uniform. The two more recent photos were at the end of the line. He had dipped his biscuit in his coffee and had just taken a bite when his heart sank.

He was so shocked that he dropped what remained of the biscuit on the floor. It was a typical school photograph: a group of about twenty children – some sitting, some standing – flanked by a teacher. Seated at the front, arm in arm and both laughing, were two girls, one looking side on at the other. The girl in profile had her hair up in a ponytail. The other girl was strikingly pretty. She stared at the camera, her dark hair tied into two bunches by red ribbons. They were young but instantly recognisable: Janet Ritchie and Izzy Watson. On the left-hand side of the class photo stood the teacher. He was wearing what looked like a green jacket, a white shirt and an orange tie knotted badly and hanging askew over his paunch. His hair was red and brushed in wisps over a balding pate. Despite the passing of years, Glynn Seanessy was unmistakable.

Daley thrust the mug onto the cabinet and reached for his mobile phone. He pressed 2 on his speed dial. ‘Brian, we’re wrong. It’s Seanessy . . . and he’s got Liz.’

Daley was in his car now. He drove at speed away from the retirement home, the gravel chips on the driveway popping under the car’s wheels. He felt the same sensation of disorientation that he always experienced at times of extreme stress: his face was hot and sweaty; he felt queasy. He felt as though he was on some kind of hellish rollercoaster, unable to do
anything to stop the feeling of falling, spinning out of control. At times like this he spoke to himself. Focus, take the overview, stop being subjective.

For some reason, he remembered the day his mother died. She had been ill for a long time, and when the hospital had contacted him to say that her condition had worsened during the course of the previous night, being used to such calls he hadn’t rushed to the hospital. He had taken a quick shower and grabbed a sandwich before he left. The look on the face of the nursing sister when he had eventually arrived required no articulation. His mother was dead. In the infinite universe of time, he would never see her again.

He dragged his mind from these melancholy reminiscences and tried desperately to concentrate on the matter in hand. He was surprised just how hard he found it to concentrate. Liz. For some reason he couldn’t visualise her face. All he could see was the hideously violated body of Janet Ritchie sprawled across the table in the
Russian Gold
.

His mobile rang. ‘Jim, where are you?’ It was Scott. The sound of his voice managed somehow to strengthen his resolve.

‘I’m just heading out of Firdale. I’ll be with you in twenty minutes or so.’ He checked the time on the dashboard clock.

‘No. Listen, Jim.’ Scott’s voice was insistent. ‘We know what boat he’s in – it’s the Johnstone boys’. They lend it tae him for sightseeing.’ Daley remembered the small lobster boat he had seen at Machrie Bay. ‘We just found out when we were trying tae get a number on Bobby Johnstone. That’s not all.’ Scott sounded breathless. ‘It was sighted about three hours ago near a wee island called Abb’s Skerry. I got a hold o’ Camel, and he says that yer man Seanessy has some lobster
pots in the bay there. There’s an auld fisherman’s cottage tae – dilapidated apparently – but he remembers Seanessy askin’ fir the boat tae take some wood and stuff o’er there tae dae some repairs. Are ye still with me, Jim?’

‘Yes, I’m here. What’s the plan, Brian? I’m desperate here.’ Daley could hear the plea in his own voice.

‘I’ve got Camel wi’ me. He thought Bobby had taken the boat, didn’t think tae mention Seanessy sometimes uses it. We’re just waitin’ for the lifeboat tae get under way . . .’

‘So I better get a shift on.’ Daley had stopped the car at the roadside, but was now pulling away.

‘Nah, hang on! You’re nearer where you are. Camel says tae get yersel’ doon tae the harbour at Firdale and get someone tae take you oot tae this place. He says there’s a wee shop on the quay an’ they’ll sort ye oot. OK, Jim?’

Daley was already turning the car in the middle of the road to head back into Firdale. ‘I’ll bell you when I get to the pier, Brian.’ He threw the mobile on the passenger seat and gunned the car towards the village harbour.

Liz opened her eyes. She couldn’t remember anything for a few seconds, such was the pain she felt. Trying to get up, she realised that she could not move her arms. She fought the urge to scream, trying to control her breathing. It was so gloomy she could barely see. Diffused light was coming through a tiny window, curtained by what looked like a filthy hessian sack. The room reeked of damp fish and a nasty chemical smell.

Managing to turn her head, she saw that her arms were spread out on either side of her, each tied by the wrist to a
rusty metal headboard. What looked like a large belt encompassed the bed and her lower limbs, leaving her only able to move her head forward by craning her neck. A cold shaft of fear pierced her mind, almost making her cry out. She fought the impulse. Her whole body was aching.

Her eyes were assailed by bright light, as the door to the shack swung open.

Daley sped through the village of Firdale. He remembered looking at a map of the area before he had left the office, so he knew the village was spread along a main road which led down to the harbour. His mind was a riot. He was trying to think like the detective he was, but he could not get the image of a lifeless Liz from his thoughts. He had seen so much death – so much gruesome death – that it had become his default response. When he heard of people he knew dying, he automatically pictured their greying corpse on a gurney at the mortuary, chest roughly sewn up after a post mortem. He heard himself whimper as he steered the car down an incline, the sea now visible through buildings and trees.

At the bottom of the hill, straight ahead, he could see two small boats tied up alongside a pier and a shop with an old Esso sign. He parked the car and ran to the shop. A bell rang above his head as he opened the creaky wooden door. It was like Aladdin’s cave: shelves of groceries lined two walls, while the floor space in the middle was taken up by items as diverse as a large box of cabbages and a small outboard motor. An array of wares hung from hooks in the ceiling, including a child’s mountain bike, a spade, a mop and a camping stove.
The place smelled like those he had visited with his grandparents when on holiday as a child: a heady mixture of detergent, fruit and vegetables, engine oil and polish. At the end of the crowded space sat an old-fashioned counter, glass-fronted and framed in stout oak, the varnished wood worn bare in places by age.

‘Can I be helping you, at all?’ A disembodied voice came from somewhere behind the counter. An elderly man stood up. He was wearing a faded barge cap and a thick blue fisherman’s sweater, which he rubbed his hands on absently. ‘I’ve lost one of my bloody contact lenses again and I can’t see bugger all. His voice had much more of a Highland quality than that of Kinloch, like the young nurse from the care home. ‘You’ll have to come a wee bit closer. I like to see the colour of my customers’ eyes before I ask them to part with their money.’

Daley approached the counter, fishing in his jacket for his warrant card. The man took a step back at this, as though he was expecting the detective to produce a firearm from his pocket. ‘It’s OK, sir. Detective Inspector Daley.’ He brandished the ID. ‘I have to ask you for your help, It’s an emergency.’

The shopkeeper examined the warrant card, squinting through one eye with his other closed. ‘Aye, well, I’ll have to be taking your word for it, officer. You could be Reggie Kray for all I know.’

‘I have to get access to a boat, and someone to sail it, now. We have a very serious situation at Abb’s Skerry. Do you know where I mean?’ Daley was doing his best to present a calm façade, while his heart pounded in his chest.

‘Abb’s Skerry, eh?’ The man scratched his head under his
cap. ‘My grandfather used it for creels. I dinna think anyone does now though. Would you be having a cup of tea, or something stronger perhaps? You seem a bit overwrought.’

‘Listen, Mr . . . I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.’

‘Munro, Anda Munro. Say your piece, officer. I’ll help you if I can.’ He realised something serious was afoot.

‘Thank you, Mr Munro.’ Daley gave him a brief summary of what was happening, omitting names and the fact that the person who was in danger was actually his wife.

‘A dreadful carry on, altogether. I knew there were problems in Kinloch – aren’t there always? – but this is serious stuff indeed. C’mon with me and I’ll see what I can do for you.’ He lifted a hatch at the end of the counter, the polished brass hinges squeaking in protest, and stepped out, then replaced the heavy hatch gingerly. ‘Damn near took my head off with this thing a number of years ago. I’ve got the measure of the bastard now though.

‘Under normal circumstances I’d be able to take you there myself, but unfortunately our boat is beached at the moment. My brother has her over at McConachie’s slip.’

Daley cursed inwardly.

They headed for the edge of the pier. The water was low; the tide, according to Munro, was on the turn. Daley thought he recognised one of the vessels, but wondered how he could. A cloud covered the sun, turning off the glistening sparkle of the harbour and casting a distinct chill over the scene. He was desperately trying to keep things together; his mind, though, kept up a loop of gut-churning images – murder scenes he had witnessed in the past.

An unmistakable face appeared from the wheelhouse of one of the boats, an old-fashioned craft that looked in much
need of repair. Hamish grinned at the two men above him on the pier. ‘Aye, m’boys, fine day for it. No?’

‘Ah, Hamish. This man is a police officer. His name is . . .’

‘Mr Daley.’ Hamish removed the pipe from his mouth. ‘And how can I be of help tae you the day?’

Munro turned to the policeman, his hand cupping his mouth. ‘He has the sight, Mr Daley,’ he said. ‘Sounds like a damned fool half the time, but mark my words, he’s as wise as an owl.’ Munro looked back down to Hamish with a forced smile.

‘Hamish, I’m desperate. I need your help.’ Daley looked imploringly at the old fisherman, as Munro turned towards him, surprise etched across his face.

‘You’re acquainted with this reprobate already?’

‘Oh, yes,’ said Daley. ‘Our paths have crossed quite a few times in the last few days.’ He suddenly remembered his arrest of Flynn and, knowing the men to be friends, wondered how the old man would react to him. ‘I need you to take me to Abb’s Skerry right now.’

‘Aye.’

‘You’ll be reimbursed for your fuel and your time, of course,’ said Daley, for want of anything better to say; he was already working out how to get onto the vessel.

‘You better get aboard, Mr Daley. It’ll take us aboot three quarters of an hour tae get there, wi’ steady steaming, you understand.’ He moved to the side of the boat and offered his hand to Daley.

The policeman eyed the jump with trepidation, but time was of the essence. He leaned forward, grabbed Hamish’s hand and jumped onto the craft, which lurched to the side as he landed heavily on the deck.

‘I’m thinking you’re built mair for the land than the sea, Mr Daley,’ Hamish announced in a puff of pipe smoke before disappearing into the wheelhouse.

‘All right, Mr Daley. I wish you safe passage,’ Munro shouted from the pier. ‘I’m afraid you’re stuck with this bucket. The fishing fleet, such as they are now, are all at sea, and there’s no sign of anyone aboard this vessel here.’ He nodded at the boat tied up next to Hamish’s. ‘Is there anything else I can be doing for you?’

‘No, thanks, Mr Munro,’ said Daley, then changed his mind. ‘Actually, would you be able to lend me some kind of jacket or something?’ He remembered his trip on the lifeboat and the chill he had felt while at sea, despite his survival suit.

Munro dashed back to the shop, before returning with a red garment wrapped in a clear plastic bag. ‘An excellent seagoing fleece, Mr Daley’ – he tossed the package at the detective – ‘water-resistant an’ everything, an’ a snip at a hundred an’ twenty pounds. Do you have the cash on you, or will I open up an account?’

‘An account please, Mr Munro. We are in a hurry.’ Daley couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.

‘Aye, very good. I hope you have a life jacket for the chief inspector, Hamish?’ he enquired cheerily.

‘Why?’ Hamish’s head poked out from the wheelhouse. ‘What will it cost if we have to buy one fae you? A thousand pounds? Don’t you be worrying, Anda Munro, you’ve made all the money you will out of us today. Now, get back in your shop an’ keep countin’ yer fortune. And think on forbye, there are nae pockets in a shroud.’ All the while, Hamish was moving nimbly around the small vessel, having grasped the urgency of the situation.

Munro’s reply was drowned out by the loud rumble of the boat’s engine firing into life in a cloud of blue smoke. He untied the rope that was securing the craft to a stubby bollard and threw it onto the deck at Daley’s feet. ‘God speed, Mr Daley,’ he shouted, loudly enough to be heard over the engines, and waved languidly as the small boat turned from the pier and headed out of the harbour into the open sea.

Just as they neared the mouth of the harbour, Daley’s mobile rang. ‘What’s happening, boss?’ Scott’s voice was loud and clear despite the rattle of the boat’s engine.

Daley informed his DS that he had found a vessel and was now en route to Abb’s Skerry, a journey that Hamish reckoned would take about forty-five minutes.

BOOK: Whisky From Small Glasses
13.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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