Main Broken Wheels

Broken Wheels

It's almost two weeks before Christmas, and a young woman's body is found on the Edinburgh coastline, a knife rammed into her eye. She's also wearing earrings worth thousands of pounds.


DI Frank Miller and his team discover the earrings were part of a haul from a jewellery store robbery. They determine she's not a local. So how did she end up dead on an Edinburgh beach?


An Edinburgh resident is found murdered in a cemetery, a knife rammed into her eye. What is her connection to the dead runaway?


A woman who testified against her abusive husband and helped put him in prison is now getting threats against her life. When Kim Smith has the call traced, they find the place where it was made from...but not who made it. So who would want to harm her?


Frank Miller thinks that the man who murdered the two women may be setting his sights on this woman as his next victim. But nothing is as it seems...and just as he thinks he's closing in on the killer, things take him in a completely different direction...



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Contents





Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

PROLOGUE

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-Two

Afterword

FRANK MILLER TITLES





BROKEN WHEELS





John Carson





Copyright © 2016 John Carson Cover design by Jimmy Gibbs



John Carson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.





All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.





Version 2.0





All rights reserved.





For Jimmy Patterson, one of the funniest men I have ever worked with.

He was a small man with a huge sense of humour.

I miss working with you, buddy.





PROLOGUE





The turnout for the funeral is big. She had been popular, and it shows. I'm standing near the front, close to the family but not too close.

It's autumn, halfway between summer and winter, the time of year in Scotland where the weather can swing either way, warm or cold. Today it's warm, with a light wind. They're dressed in the traditional black, some of them in long overcoats, not taking a chance. Like me.

The minister gives the usual eulogy, describing how good she was in life, although nobody doubts just how much of it is made up.

I hate them all. I'd put more than one of them in the grave with her, if I could. I keep those thoughts to myself, blending into the background. I keep my head slightly bowed. Not making eye contact with anybody.

The minister rattles on and his words bounce away in the wind. Finally, he finishes and those who came in the funeral cars parade back to them, while the others make their way back to the road where their own cars wait.

I'm straggling behind, just another anonymous mourner. I watch her ahead, interacting with other members of the family and friends of the deceased. I'm a nobody. For now.

'You're not crying, I hope,' I say to the man beside me, feeling repulsed.

Long hair sniffs and wipes his hand over his cheek. 'I just miss my own folks, that's all.'

Our voices are low, unable to be heard above the wind that's kicking through the trees.

'Pull yourself together for God's sake. You didn't even know the woman.'

'Why did you make me come here then?'

'It's about showing respect for a dead person.'

'Why aren't you at her side?' He nods to the woman up ahead.

'They don't know about me. Yet.'

'Won't they be overjoyed when they learn the truth about you?' He says it with a sneer, and I look around to see if anybody heard him. Nobody's paying him any attention.

'Shut up. She could do a lot worse.' I look at him. 'She could be going out with you.'

'At least I would make her happy.'

I look at him. 'Do you want to join her down there?'

He doesn't reply.

'I didn't think so.'

I'm the only one smiling. Inwardly of course. I don't want them to think I'm some kind of mutant.

I'm smiling at the memory of the old woman at the top of her stairs, at the look on her face as she realises what I've done. Forensics are too good nowadays, so pushing her wasn't an option. They would calculate her weight, and her trajectory and figure out that it would have taken a push for her head to hit x-step at y-speed, therefore the result was z. Murder.

No, it had to be a trip. Just a subtle slide of my foot in front of hers. Luckily, her toilet was at the top of the stairs. As soon as I heard her moving past the bathroom door, I was out like a flash and stuck my foot out.

The trajectory would be measured and they would see that her own weight carried her down. All I had to do was wait for the screams and then rush out, pulling my loosened belt tight – as if I'd been on the lav – and ask what was going on, shout and scream for somebody to call an ambulance!

Jesus, I almost laugh when I replay the scene in my head, and how easy it had all been.

We finally reach the roadway where our cars are.

'When we're at the funeral tea, be on your best behaviour,' I say.

'You act as if I embarrass you.'

'So what's your point?' We get into my car and I turn up the heat. 'What will they think when they see the car I'm driving?' I ask him.

'That you're a pretentious prick?'

I ignore him and laugh aloud. Smile and say one word aloud as we pull away;

'Showtime!'





CHAPTER ONE





In death, at least the girl was in peace. From the scars showing on her semi-naked body, she'd had a hard life, and it looked as if it hadn't been a long one.

DI Frank Miller tried to shift the image of her pale, white body from his mind but couldn't.

The cold December wind was unhindered in its progress as it shot in from the North Sea, across Portobello beach, where the Edinburgh residents would come in droves during the summer. Then, the sun would be out, the funfair would be open, and the arcades would be full of teenagers.

Now, it was a deserted wasteland, inhabited by dog walkers and joggers. The overnight snowfall had been light but more inches were forecast for later that day. He stepped out of the forensics tent with the others while the police photographer went to work.

'Jesus, poor girl,' Steffi Walker said, coming to stand beside Miller. She'd only been with the team for a couple of months but was proving to be a great asset. As was Angie Rivers, their transplant from Aberdeen. She was walking across the snow-covered beach with Superintendent Percy Purcell, looking like a couple of union conspirators.

Detective Sergeant Andy Watt was blowing into his hands as he came across to Miller with Kim Smith.

'Where's your gloves?' Purcell asked.

'I forgot them.'

'You're like a wee laddie,' Miller said as he stopped in front of the group.

'And you nag just like my ex-wife. Except she was better looking.'

'What do we have here?' Purcell asked.

'A young girl, mid-teens to early-twenties. She was stabbed through the left eye with a slim knife. We don't know if that was the cause of death yet.'

'How do you know it was a slim knife, sir?' Angie asked.

'It's still sticking out of her eye.'

'Oh.'

Miller shivered in his overcoat and pulled his woolly hat down farther round his ears. The only people on the beach this morning were police officers and a pathologist.

A few onlookers were wondering what was going on as they were kept at bay on the promenade by uniformed officers Inside the forensic tent was one of the pathologists from Edinburgh City Mortuary, Kate Murphy.

Kate had been in Edinburgh for six months, a transplant from London. Her North London accent fought with the wind as she poked her head out of the tent. 'DI Miller? You can come back in. Bring your friends.'

They all trooped into the tent, getting a brief respite from the biting wind. 'We need to get you a propane gas heater for in here,' he said, as the flap fell back down behind him.

He looked at the girl's body. She had been moved by Kate and put back pretty much in the same place. Her face had the pallor only the dead carry and her left eye looked as if it had been destroyed. Snow had partially covered her body and might have lain on the beach until the sea rolled in had a dog not discovered her.

Her shirt had rode up a bit from Kate's initial exam.

'She looks anywhere between fourteen and twenty-one, I'd say,' Kate began. 'It's a bit more difficult to tell because she's been exposed to the cold. I'd say she died from having the knife rammed into her eyeball. I'll be able to make a proper determination when I get her back to the mortuary.'

'Are those defence wounds?' he asked, keeping his hands in his pockets and nodding to the bruises on the girl's body.

'No. These are old scars, as if somebody had beaten her in the past.'

'Looks like somebody really hurt her.'

'Probably with a belt, or something like it,' Kate said.

'Poor girl,' Purcell said. He looked at the pathologist. 'Can you give us a rough estimate of TOD?'

'No more than twelve hours.'

'The forensics team have swept the beach. Did somebody take her fingerprints yet?'

Kate nodded. 'A little while ago.'

Miller took his hands out of his pockets for balance, making sure he didn't touch anything, merely pointing with a finger. 'Those earrings don't look cheap.'

Kim bent over and had a look. 'Could be diamonds, or fake diamonds.' She stood up. 'FYI, if that inspires my Christmas present, I don't do fake.'

'Duly noted.' He stood up. 'Is she ready to be transported? Gus Weaver and Sticks are waiting outside.' Sticks was one of the female mortuary attendants.

'Yes. You can let them in.'

Miller looked at the girl again. She had on tracksuit bottoms, and he wondered why she had been left down here. It was more than a mere robbery. No robber he'd ever known would have stopped to mutilate the victim.

Or it might indicate the earrings weren't diamonds at all. No, a robber wanted to steal, and there had been fatalities during robberies of course, but this was more than a robbery gone wrong.

Gus Weaver, a man in his fifties, and Sticks, a Polish girl in her late twenties, came into the tent with a stretcher.

'You can load her up now, Gus,' Kate said.

'Get uniforms to help load her,' Purcell said, before he left the tent, and headed back to the promenade where their cars were.

Miller started up his pool car and Kim jumped into the passenger seat for a moment.

'Frank, did you see those scars. Poor girl. Do you think this could have been parental abuse gone too far?'

'I'm thinking along that line. She has no ID on her though. We'll get her prints run through the system and see if she's a missing person, or anything else.'

'Who would do such a thing to a young woman like that?'

'There are a lot of people out there who would do that sort of thing.'





CHAPTER TWO





Ed 'Podge' Hamilton sat at his desk, looking out of the window down to Waverley station below. The new council building was down on Market Street, a far cry from the old eyesore that had sat on the corner of the High Street and George IV Bridge. He worked in Social Services as a case manager, a job he didn't particularly enjoy, but wanting to eat food and keep a roof over his head made him stick at it.

He watched as a train pulled into Waverley station below and wondered how many of the young people he dealt with had arrived via that method. Homeless youngsters, running away from something, heading to God knows where. A lot of kids ran away to London, but those already in the south had to have somewhere else to run to. Edinburgh was usually their destination.

Podge was supposed to be working but he had a more pressing issue on his mind; whether he should call Vicky or not. He was brought back to the here and now when his friend stopped by his door with the mail cart.

'Jesus. Why are you creeping about like that?' he asked. 'Twat.'

'It's called work, fuck face. Something you should try now and again.'

'Please. You wouldn't know how to spell work.'

The other man laughed. 'Why are you looking so glum, anyway?' Stumpy said. He was a small man who somebody had once said was no bigger than a tree stump, and although he could have taken offence, Mickey Wilson had thick skin. Everybody called him Stumpy and he wore it like a badge of honour.

'It's getting close to Christmas and I know the department is going on a shindig on Saturday night, but I haven't asked Vicky if she'll go with me.'

'Jesus. Is that all? You need Uncle Stumpy's Guide to Pulling Women.'

'Please. You're idea of how to pull a woman is to splash some Old Spice under your armpits in the toilets of a nightclub and hope she's too pished to say no.'

'That's it, let the anger out, and then when you've calmed down, you can listen to what Uncle Stumpy has to say.'

'You're three years older than me. Hardly Uncle material, unless you're rich and going to pop your clogs any minute.'

Stumpy worked in the mailroom of the Edinburgh Social Services department, while Podge was based in the offices. He walked into the room with a pile of mail for Podge.

'When I die, pal, there's going to be zero left in the bank. I'm not married, I have no kids, and I intend to die broke, but happy.'

'Well, on the pay this shower give us, you'll achieve that no problem.' Podge picked up a pencil and tapped his teeth. 'So, is this real mail you've got for me, or is this you just doing one of your pretending to be working runs?'

'How dare you. I hope you're not suggesting that I sit down in the mail room giving that new lassie a bit of chat all day.'

'That's exactly what I'm suggesting.'

Stumpy took out a pile of mail from a slot in his cart. 'I keep that mailroom running single-handedly. That new lassie just needs to be taken under my wing and we'll get on like a house on fire. I might invite her to the Christmas party. Here, it says it's for the boss of the department, but you'll do.'

'Just give me the mail, for God's sake.'

Stumpy laughed and handed it over. 'So, your dilemma, I have a solution.'

'Go on then, inspire me.'

'Why don't you just ask Vicky?'

Podge looked like he hadn't thought of that. 'You might have a point there, Stumps.'

'And they call you Brains behind your back. Now I know why.'

'Do you think I should?'

'Of course. Why don't you come over with me to the Washington?' Washington House was a B-listed red sandstone Victorian building, named after the Glaswegian architect who designed it in 1892, George Washington Browne. Formerly the Sick Kids Hospital at the Grange, now a homeless charity had taken it over. Social Services liaised with the charity and helped young homeless people find a home and a job.

'I don't know. I'm sort of busy. I don't know if I'll have time.'

'Nonsense. You're a manager. You can go over there anytime. She's over there all day. I spoke to her this morning. I have to go to the satellite mailroom and work there this afternoon, and you can come over. Then you can take her aside and ask her.'

'For a little man, you have some big ideas.'

'I told you, just listen to Uncle Stumpy.'

'If you were my uncle, I'd have you arrested.'





CHAPTER THREE





Detective Chief Inspector Paddy Gibb stood in front of the whiteboard in the incident room, Percy Purcell next to him.

'How's the fight with trying to give up smoking?' Miller said, walking up beside him.

'I swear to God I think I'll turn into a Polo mint if I even think about any more sweets.' He looked at Miller. 'It's been six days and I think I'm going to go on a rampage. I'm bad tempered, I can't sleep, and I have the shakes.'

'You get like that when you try and get your wallet out in the pub.'

'That's true, but the end result is, somebody buys me a drink.' Gibb put his hand in his pocket and felt the unopened packet of cigarettes there. It had been months since he'd smoked a full packet, cutting back slowly.

'How's things with you and your girlfriend?' Purcell said.

'Girlfriend. Christ, I'm in my fifties and I have a girlfriend. It makes me feel like I'm sixteen again. But luckily she's very understanding. When they asked me to stay on until the spring and then retire, I was in two minds. I know they're short with you doing the work of Dennis Friendly and David Elliot, Bruce will be off until God knows when, and Hazel's off on early maternity leave. But we can't go away until next spring anyway, so she's happy enough.'

'Don't let the stress get to you, Paddy. You want to enjoy your retirement.'

'I know, sir. One bastard went out to mow his lawn, came back into the house and died in his armchair.' He took his hand out of his pocket, letting go of the cigarettes. Drank some of the coffee he was holding. 'We're not getting very far with this young girl. No ID, nothing on her prints.'

'We're widening the search now, Paddy. I have our boys checking out local CCTV, see if we can see somebody dumping her there.'

'Less than two weeks until Christmas and somebody's going to get a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons,' Purcell said.

'I think she was a runaway. She came from somewhere. See all those scars on her?' Miller pointed to the photos on the board. 'If she's a youngster, then she might have come from an abusive home.'

'That's one way to look at it.'

'From where I'm standing, Paddy, that's the only way to look at it.'

One of the younger detectives, Jimmy Gilmour, shouted from across the room. 'It's for you, sir.' He indicated to Miller, holding the phone up.

Miller walked across and took it. 'Hello?'

'This is Fiona up at the lab.'

'Oh, hi, Fiona.'

'I had a look at the earrings the girl was wearing when you found her on the beach. They're real diamonds.'

'Can you fax over a photo of them?'

'Sure, I'll do it right away. Or I can email the photo.'

'It's for Paddy Gibb.'

'Fax it is then.'

'I'm assuming they're expensive?'

'Let me put it to you this way, I would be impressed if a man gave me a pair.'

'And it takes a lot to impress you, Fiona.'

'I don't know if I've just been insulted or not.'

'I wouldn't insult you. I'm just inferring that you have good taste in things.'

'You're digging yourself a deeper hole here, Frank.'

'And with that, I'll thank you for calling. Oh, are you going to the night out on Saturday?'

'Try and stop me.'

'See you there.'

'Just remember, I was talking with Kim earlier, so I don't want any shenanigans with the mistletoe like last year.'

'As if.'

He hung up and walked back over to the whiteboard. 'The earrings the girl was wearing are real diamonds.'

'So she has a boyfriend who has a big wallet,' Purcell said.

'Maybe not a big wallet, but a big shotgun.'

'What?' Gibb said.

'See this.' He walked over to another part of the room where there was a whiteboard on one wall. On it were photos of items of jewellery. 'I don't know why this didn't occur to me before.' He tapped one of the photos. 'In the robbery at Humphries the Jewellers a couple of weeks ago, the guy took a load of high-end watches, but he also stopped to take a pair of earrings. This looks like the earrings that were on the girl.'

'Jesus. I'm not leaning towards the girl's murder being a robbery, and this rather confirms my point. Any robber worth his salt will take the jewellery. He would have had a quick squint to see if she had anything of any value in her ears.'

'I'm thinking we have a vicious killer on our hands, Paddy. He wasn't interested in the earrings.'

'Somebody gave her those. It looks like she knew him. ' He pointed to a still from the store where a robber had walked in two weeks ago and relieved them of watches. Miller remembered watching the footage as the man had smashed a cabinet with earrings in it, reached in and pulled out a pair.

Jimmy Gilmour walked over and handed Gibb the fax copy of the photo of the earrings Fiona had sent over. 'This is for you, sir.'

'Thanks, Jimmy.' Gilmour walked away. 'Andy?'

DS Andy Watt turned round to look at his boss. He was an older detective, in his early fifties, whose rise up the career ladder had been impeded by his sharp tongue. 'Yes?' No Sir was added.

'You're working the jewellery store detail, aren't you?'

'I am.'

'How far along are you with it?'

'We're cross-referencing it with robberies in other parts of Scotland. There was a similar one in Aberdeen, but we don't think it's connected.'

'Okay. Thanks.'

'I'll make some phone calls, get them to work harder on that angle, just in case,' Purcell said.

'Maybe this girl is part of a gang,' Gibb said.

'If she was part of a gang, why would they murder her?'

'I've never been a believer in the old cliché about there being honour among thieves. Maybe she was surplus to requirements.'

'That was a brutal way to get rid of her.' Miller walked over to the vending machine and popped in a few coins for a coffee. 'Anybody want one?'

Gibb shook his head.

'I'll have one,' Watt said, from the other side of the room, grinning like an idiot.

'When was the last time you put your hand in your pocket, Andy?' Purcell said.

'When you could get change out of a ten bob note,' Gibb said.

'You would know,' Watt said, in a low voice.

In her role with the Procurator Fiscal's office, Dr Kim Smith spent more time in the High Street station than up in the Crown Office department in the Sheriff Court building. She had a little office in the investigation suite, off the incident room.

She was working in her office when Miller knocked and she told him to come in.

'How's Hazel doing?' he asked. DS Hazel Carter was part of Miller's team, currently on maternity leave. Her boyfriend, DS Bruce Hagan, was on extended medical leave after being abducted by a serial killer and tortured a few months earlier, and now Hazel was only a couple of months away from giving birth.

'She's stressing out, Frank. She hurts when she walks. She has horrendous back pain, her ankles swell, and she's dog tired. She also has piles.'

'Jesus, Kim. I'll never look at Hazel the same way again.'

She laughed. 'She's struggling to finish her Christmas shopping for Bruce and Jane.'

'Jane will be happy with some toys, I'm sure.'

'Struggling physically, Frank, not for ideas. I said I would drive her down to Kinnaird Park on Saturday morning. I'll use your Audi if you don't mind?'

'First of all, it's ours, and secondly, your dad got it for Jack. You know you can take it whenever you want.'

Kim looked at him with a sly smile. 'We're still talking about the car, right?'

'Honey, at this moment in time, I couldn't love you any more. However, as much as your dirty talk pleases me, I have to go and talk to a man about a robbery.'

'Okay. But one thing before you go.'

'Shoot.'

'I didn't know you last Christmas, but I heard about your carry on with Fiona from the lab and the piece of mistletoe.'

'It's all lies.'

'No it's not. Look at you. Standing there trying to wriggle out of this. Fiona herself told me when the girls had a night out a few weeks ago.'

Miller felt his face going red. 'It was just a bit of harmless fun.'

Kim laughed. 'I know it was, silly. I'm just pulling your leg.'

'Rest assured the only mistletoe will be hanging above your head this year.'

'Under the thumb already, boss?' Andy Watt said, coming up behind Miller.

'Me? Behave yourself. I'm my own man, Andy.' He winked at Kim.

'You should have asked her permission to say that.'

Miller shook his head and closed Kim's door. 'Right, Andy, you're with me.'

Watt grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and followed Miller out of the office.





CHAPTER FOUR





'Are you sure about this, Stumpy?' Podge asked, as they walked along the corridor of Washington House, Stumpy carrying a mailbag, the building housing numerous offices, as well as the dorms.

'Of course, I'm sure,' he said, handing Podge the mailbag as he stopped by a vending machine outside the canteen doors, popping money in for a bar of chocolate. 'You want one?'

'No. I used to be twice this size, hence the nickname, Podge. I don't intend going back to that. Unlike you, who could do with losing a few.'

'This is a solid wall of muscle,' he said, patting his stomach. 'Go on, take your best shot.'

'Oh, yeah, that would look good, me punching a man who's only five foot one.'

Stumpy laughed and made his selection. 'No, mate, listen to Uncle Stumps, Vicky wants you to ask her out.'

'She might think I'm a pervert who's been stalking her.'

'Will you give over? Look, I've seen the way she looks at you. Her eyes couldn't shine any brighter.'

'Maybe I'll be in with a chance, then.'

'Steady, you're only going to ask her to the dance, not whip it out in front of her.'

Stumpy picked out his bar of chocolate and unwrapped it, taking the mailbag back.

'What if I ask her and get all tongue tied?'

'For God's sake, just be yourself. Oh, wait; you're an obnoxious twat. Don't be yourself; pretend to be nice.'

'Piss off.'

'That's it, get a bit of practise in before we get up there.'

They started walking towards the lift. 'I wish I hadn't listened to you. Uncle fucking Stumpy. You would have been the eighth dwarf if they'd remade the movie. This was a wasted trip.'

They stepped in and took it up to admin on the fourth floor. 'Just as well I'm not thin skinned. I'm sure you've just broken all sorts of disability laws there. Dwarfs are called little people now. Ignoramus.'

'I'm just nervous, Stumps. I don't know why. We go out at the weekend and always manage to pull a couple of women.'

Stumpy stopped and looked at his friend. 'First of all, they're wasted by the time we ask them to dance. I do the talking while you sit there slavering, and by the time they play Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight, you're about ready to be poured into a taxi.'

'Pish. I'm always up on the dance floor giving it what for.'

They started walking to the offices again. 'Vicky's probably been waiting all day for you to ask her to the night out,' Stumpy said, as they rounded the corner.

'We'll find out shortly, won't we.'





CHAPTER FIVE





Brian Hall walked along the top level of Washington House, clutching a folder under his arm. Somebody once told him, If you're walking about looking busy, nobody will ever question you.

Now he was heading for his favourite bolthole. Maybe get his feet up for a snooze before heading off for a pint at lunchtime.

Then he saw her, walking towards him. Vicky was her name. He'd had his eye on her for a while now, watching her, waiting for the right moment to talk to her. She was holding a pile of folders. Timing was everything.

As she made to pass him, he bumped her, knocking the files from her arms.

'Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry,' he said, feigning concern. 'Look how clumsy I am.'

'It's no problem,' she said.

'Let me get them for you.' He picked them up, shuffling the errant papers back inside the folders. 'Again. I'm sorry. My name's Brian, by the way.' He held out a hand for her to shake, smiling at her.

'I'm Vicky.' She smiled back at him.

I know you are. 'I've seen you around here before, but I've never had the chance to introduce myself. What a first impression though.'

She gave a small laugh. 'I've seen worse.'

'I'm new here. Jack of all trades. Do this, do that. You name it; I can turn my hand to it.'

'You're a handy man, then. If you'll pardon the pun.'

'If you ever need anything done at home, I'm your man. Cheaper than a rip-off tradesman.' The truth was, he barely knew which end of a hammer to use, but the object of the exercise was to get close to her and what better place than her own home?

He beamed his best smile at her, knowing that was one of his best features. He'd paid money to have his teeth look good and it had paid him back on more than one occasion.

'Well, I have to run. It was nice meeting you, Brian.'

'Nice meeting you too. Maybe we could have a coffee if I bump into you in the canteen.'

'Maybe.' She smiled and walked away.

She's interested in you if she looks back. She turned the corner without looking back. Fuck. Never mind. She was interested in him. She just didn't know it yet.





CHAPTER SIX





There were two times of the year when Edinburgh was off its head with visitors; in August with the International Festival, and Christmas. It took Miller and Watt twenty minutes to get from their office in the High Street, down to Humphries the Jewellers in George Street. They managed to get a space on double yellows lines and Miller put the Police Business card in the windscreen.

'How you doing after last week?' Watt said, referring to an incident Miller worked on the week before. He'd been called to an office block after a gunman had taken hostages and demanded to talk with Miller. He'd also been a suicide bomber.

'I'm fine. If it had turned out differently, I might not have been.'

'This is the new flagship store,' Watt said, as they went in through the door. There was a security guard on duty. A young woman came forward and smiled.

'Can I help you find anything today?'

Miller and Watt showed their warrant cards. 'We'd like to speak to the manager.'

'I'll go and get him.' She turned and walked away.

The store was on three levels, open from the top level down to the basement. Miller looked over the banister at the cases below, no doubt filled with jewellery worth more than he earned in a year. Watt was leaning over, craning his head to look up.

Miller strolled over to a glass cabinet filled with expensive watches, sorted by make.

'Those earrings that lassie had on, they were expensive,' Watt said, joining him.

'They have nice pieces in here.'

'No doubt young Kim will be dragging you here on your day off sometime soon. Better get the overtime in.'

'We're not in a rush, Andy.'

'You should be.'

'Why's that?'

'Look what happened to Hagan. He's messed up now. God knows when he'll be fit for active duty again.' Watt looked at his boss. 'You never know what's round the corner. Look at me; I'm fifty-three next year, divorced and living in a rented flat. So I was thinking one day, is this how it's going to be for the rest of my life? Wasting away until all I have to look forward to in retirement is coming home and opening a can of dog food?'

'Jesus, Andy, you'll retire with a fair pension. You'll be able to live off Heinz beans at least.'

'I'm not talking about not having money to buy food; I'm talking about being arsed cooking. Sit down with a can of Pedigree Chum and get my feet up to watch Coronation Street. That's not the life for me, Frank.'

'I can see why a retirement home wouldn't use that as a selling point, right enough.'

'I want to go through life with somebody. So when I eventually become a grandpa, the wee ones won't be coming round to the smelly old bastard on Christmas Day, dying to get away after they've been given their selection boxes.'

'Or their bag of dog treats.'

'Exactly. So that's why I went on one of those dating sites. Love Interest dot com. Let me tell you, it was a mate of mine who pointed me in that direction. He tried it, and got himself a nice woman. I thought it would all be bunny boilers, but there's a lot of cracking divorcees on there.'

'Have you met anybody?'

'I have. Her name's Jean, she's divorced and has a married son. And a little granddaughter as well.' He looked wistfully towards the engagement ring section. 'I wish my two lassies would hurry up and give me a wee ankle biter.'

'How many times you been out with her? And why haven't I found out about this before?'

'I was hedging my bets. If she turned out to be a complete howler, then nobody would find out.'

'I hope you treat her well when you're out with her. Howler. Good God.'

'She's not a howler, well, not in the looks department, anyway. And I'm going to see her on Saturday night after the work's Christmas party.'

'Why didn't you just invite her along?'

'And have you bunch of reprobates lusting after her? No thank you.'

'Andy, I'm hardly going to be lusting after your girlfriend, especially since my own will be there.'

'Not you. Gibb. His wife kicked him into touch a long time ago, and believe me, he's been out with plenty of howlers. If he saw Jean, he'd be splashing on the Old Spice and sucking a mint, hoping he could persuade her to dump me and hook up with him.'

'I don't think Paddy's a relationship wrecker.'

'I don't know, boss. Have you seen the way he takes out his packet of cigarettes and looks at them? You would think he was looking at a photo of his kids. He's not right upstairs.' Watt said, tapping the side of his head.

'He's trying to give up smoking and finding it difficult.'

They moved over to a case with watches in it. 'They're nice, but how can anybody justify the expense of that?' Watt said.

'Some people collect watches. They're an investment.'

'Look at that; Omega Seamaster GMT. Seven grand.'

'It's a nice watch, Andy.'

They heard somebody approaching from behind. 'Can I help you, Officers?'

'DI Miller. DS Watt. And you are?'

'Cecil Cavendish. I'm the manager.'

'Can we talk somewhere privately?'

Cavendish took them through to the back of the store, into his office. They sat down. He only looked a few years older than Miller, but his haircut probably cost more than Miller earned in a month.

'We're following up on the robbery,' Miller said, noting that the office had the same ambience as the store itself.

'Fire away.'

'We were looking at stills from the CCTV, and we wanted to ask you if there was anything else you remembered about the robber?'

'Such as?' Cavendish said, spreading his hands on the desk in front of him, as if he was expecting handcuffs to be slapped on them.

'You said in your statement that you chased the robber outside. Did you see anybody else with him?'

Cavendish sat back. 'No. He ran over Castle Street and out of sight.'

Watt looked at him. 'Do you think it could have been a woman?'

'A woman? No, it didn't sound like a woman. It was the rough voice of a man.' He looked at Miller. 'What makes you think it was a woman?'

'We found a woman, deceased, wearing similar earrings to the ones that were stolen from here. We think they're the actual ones.' Miller pulled out the photo of the earrings and passed it over.

'A dead woman was wearing them?' He looked at the photo and nodded. 'Yes, these are the ones.'

'How can you be so sure?'

'They were made exclusively for us. I'm ninety percent sure, but I'd have to look at them in person. They would have our stamp on them.' He made a face. 'Try and sell them now after a dead woman had them. How did she get them, anyway?'

'That's something we're working on. Can you tell us more about them?'

'They were designed for us by an Edinburgh designer, Gina Rosales. She's one of the best up and coming jewellery designers in the U.K. They're 18ct White Gold, the stones being 0.80ct. They were worth three and a half thousand pounds.'

'Could you give us Ms. Rosales contact details?'

'Yes I can.' He opened a desk drawer and rummaged about, bringing out a small notebook. He opened it, took a pad, and wrote on it. Ripped it out and passed it over to Miller. 'As you can see, she lives locally.'

Miller noted it was a New Town address.

He and Watt stood. 'Thank you for your help, Mr. Cavendish.'

Outside, Miller took out his mobile phone as they got in the car. He called Gina Rosales' number.

'Hello, this is Detective Inspector Frank Miller. I'm looking for Gina Rosales.'

'You found her.' Despite the Italian name, the voice was very much Scottish.

'I was wondering when it would be a good time to talk to you.'

'What about?'

'Your designs.'

'Okay. I work from home if you want to come round now.'

'Mr. Cavendish from Humphries gave me your address. We're at George Street right now. We won't be long.'

'I'll have the kettle on.'

Miller looked at his phone as she cut the connection.

'Where we off to, boss?' Watt said.

'Just down the road.'

Watt pulled away, honking the horn at a man dressed in a Santa outfit who had stepped out in front of him.

Santa started walking towards the driver's side.

Watt rolled the window down. Held up the police sign. 'Go on then, Santa, and I'll give you a Christmas you'll never forget.'

Santa stopped and then thought better of it. Waited until he was over the other side of the road before giving Watt the finger.

'Not much chance of picking him out of a line-up, is there?' Miller said, as Watt drove away.





CHAPTER SEVEN





Vicky walked away from Brian Hall and didn't look over her shoulder as she rounded the corner. She knew he'd still be standing there. Watching her.

She supposed he was nice enough, but inviting him round to wallpaper the fireplace wall? No chance.

She let out a small yell as she almost bumped into Podge and Stumpy. 'Oh, boys. I didn't see you there.'

'Is everything okay?' Podge asked.

'Oh, yes, I was just daydreaming. Let's go in here.' She led them into the admin offices and closed the door behind her.

There were several empty office cubicles, and she just needed a spare chair and PC to get her paperwork processed.

'How's things, Vicky?' Stumpy said, putting his mailbag down on the floor. 'Bloody freezing out there, eh?'

Vicky laughed. 'Well, it is December, Stumpy.'

'You may have a point there, Miss Vicky. I'll get the kettle on.'

'There isn't one anymore.'

'What? No kettle,' Podge said. 'Aren't you allowed to make a cuppa now?'

'It's Health and Safety. The kettle has to be processed by an electrician, to make sure it's safe. Otherwise it might go on fire and burn the building down.'

'It's PC gone mad, I tell you.'

'There's a machine down in the canteen. I'm due a break, so why don't I take you boys down and buy you a coffee?'

'Oh here, we don't want you letting the moths out of your purse,' Stumpy said.

'Cheeky wee monkey,' Vicky said, laughing.

Podge looked at her and thought about being alone with her. She was in her late thirties, but looked ten years younger.

They rode the lift down to the ground floor and went along to the canteen.

They sat at a table with their coffees.

'Podge here wanted to ask you something,' Stumpy said.

'Oh, is that right, Podge? Well, ask away. I'm all ears.'

Podge could feel his face starting to go red. 'Well, actually, I wanted to say...well, I just wanted to know if you were going to the dance with anybody.'

She smiled at him. 'No, I'm not.' She reached a hand over to Stumpy's and squeezed. 'And you boys were wanting to escort me there. Am I right?'

Aw, fuck off, Podge thought. I should have just come out and asked her, but now look what I've done. 'That's right, me and Stumpy were wondering if we could take you to the night out. Just so you don't feel alone.'

'Oh, I'd love that. Thank you so much. I have to admit, I wasn't going to go, but now I've got my best pals going with me, I will.'

Stumpy looked at Podge like How did you fuck that up? Podge just shrugged at his friend.

The smile fell from Vicky's face as she looked over Podge's shoulder. Stumpy looked at what she was looking at.

A man was standing looking at them. He smiled and waved at Vicky. She smiled, more of a grimace, and waved back.

'Who's that?' Stumpy asked. Podge tried nonchalantly to look round. He saw the man sitting down with a cup of coffee. Facing Vicky.

'It's just a man who works here,' she said.

'His name's Brian,' Podge said. 'He started talking to me one day when I was working on one of the computers, and now every time I come in, he treats me as if I'm his best friend. He seems harmless enough.' Podge looked up. 'Oh shite, here he comes now. Pardon the language.'

'Hi, Ed,' Hall said. 'How are you?'

'I'm fine, Brian. What are you up to?'

'Just doing things.' He looked at Vicky and smiled. 'Hello again.'

'Hello.' Vicky couldn't make eye contact with him.

'I'm having a Christmas party, Ed. I'd like you to come,' Hall said, beaming a smile.

'I'll think about it and get back to you, Brian.'

'Great. You can both come.' He nodded at Vicky then looked at Stumpy. 'Are you one of Santa's Elves?'

'No I'm fu-,' Stumpy started to say, but Podge held up a hand.

'No, he works with us,' he said, trying not to laugh.

'Okay. Let me know about the party. Bye.' He turned and walked away.

'Cheeky bastard,' Stumpy said.

Podge was grinning. 'He's probably one of those special needs workers. He doesn't know what he's saying.'

'I'll bet he fucking does. He can shove his party up his arse.'

Podge laughed as they finished their coffee. 'I don't believe you were invited.'





CHAPTER EIGHT





Watt parked in front of the mews house in Dublin Street Lane. They shivered in the cold as wind whipped along the road, remnants from the last snowfall stubbornly clinging to the edges of doorways and the bottom of downspouts. It was an old property that had been given the benefit of a refit and looked very upscale. As did the woman who answered the door.

'Gina Rosales?' Miller asked, as they showed their warrant cards.

'Indeed I am. Please come in.' She stood back until the detectives walked in. They were in a hallway and stairs faced them. 'Please go on up. The living room is up there.'

Upstairs, the living room was open plan, with a kitchen against the back wall and an office area facing them.

'Coffee, gentlemen?'

'That would be nice, thanks,' Miller said. 'Black.'

'For me, too,' Watt said.

Miller saw several drawings stuck on a wallboard next to the desk, sketches of pieces of jewellery; rings and earrings taking centre stage.

Gina poured them their coffee and they stood at the kitchen island separating the kitchen area from the living room.

'This is a nice place you have here,' Watt said.

'Thank you. It was falling apart before I bought it, and I had a company come in and make it like brand new.' She smiled at Watt.

Gina was in her thirties, he guessed, with short, blonde hair cut expensively. Although she was wearing jeans and a shirt, he could tell they were expensive.

'So what have I done that warrants a visit from the local police?' she said, smiling.

'We're interested in a design you did for Humphries.'

'Oh, really? Which one?'

Miller showed her the photo of the earrings. 'This one.'

She looked at it and smiled. 'Ah, the Clara Collection. It's been one of their best sellers.'

'Despite the price,' Watt said, sipping his coffee.

'Humphries isn't one of your shopping centre jewellers, so they are indeed pricey, But not to the people who can afford them.' Her smile stayed in place the whole time she was talking. 'You'd be surprised at what people are willing to pay for exquisite jewellery.'

'So these earrings are part of a collection?' Miller said, putting the photo away.

'Yes. Earrings, a necklace, and bracelet.' She drank more of her coffee. 'Can I ask why you're interested in those earrings?'

'They were found on a murder victim.'

Gina's smiled dropped. 'Oh, no. Were they the ones stolen from the store last week?'

'Yes, they were. What makes you ask that?'

'Because they're a new line and Cecil told me there had been interest in the collection, and although they can be bought as a three piece, none have been sold yet. Only the necklaces have sold, and none of the earrings.'

'Do you sell them anywhere else?' Watt asked.

'Oh, I only do the design, but they're exclusive.'

'How long have you been designing for Humphries?'

'A little over six years.'

'Do you know Cecil Cavendish well?' Watt said.

'Yes, I do. We work well together.'

'The thing we were wondering is why would the robber just take those earrings? He stole a whole load of high-end watches, and there were cabinets full of necklaces and earrings, yet he smashed one cabinet and just took that pair.'

'It does seem strange.'

'It was as if they were targeted,' Watt said, looking for a reaction and getting none.

'Obviously, whoever robbed the store has good taste.'

Miller put his cup down. 'Thanks for the coffee, Ms. Rosales. If you can think of anything that might be helpful, we'd appreciate a call.' He handed over a business card.

'I'll be sure to call if I think of anything.'

Watt put his cup down as well, and thanked her.

Outside, snowflakes were gently falling as the temperature had fallen.

'What do you think of her?' Miller asked, as they got back in the car, Watt behind the wheel again.

'Well, I wouldn't climb over her to get to you, if that's what you mean.'

'It's not. And you wish.'

'She's very nice. I don't think she robbed the place, though.'

'Me neither. It still doesn't explain why the thief targeted those earrings.'

'Maybe he didn't.'

'What do you mean, Andy?'

'What if he was just in there for the watches and decided to nick a pair on the way out, maybe for a girlfriend?'

'You might have a point.'

But his gut was telling him something else.





CHAPTER NINE





'I wonder how my dad's getting on?' Miller said, as he and Kim sat down in front of the TV. Kim was snuggled up next to him, feeling more content than she ever had. Emma was in the corner of the living room, playing with her dolls and the dolls house Miller had bought her. Charlie, the cat, was sleeping nearby.

'What's not to love about Christmas in New York? Samantha's showing him around and he told me in his last email they had been on a carriage ride in Central Park. A wee Irish bloke was driving it.'

Kim looked at Miller as she slipped her arm through his. 'I'm glad he and Sam made it through that bad patch last summer. They're right for each other.'

'I know they are. His friends are envious that he's going out with a famous crime writer. The Samantha Willis? they always say when I tell people.'

'And he's the one paying for her to go back home. Nobody can say he's only after her money.'

'He's got a few notes socked away, especially after he finally sold his house.'

'Do you think he and Sam will buy a place together?'

'I don't know. They're just having a good time just now. Time will tell for them.'

'I wonder if they'll get married?'

'Maybe they will, but he hasn't even moved in with her. Living along the hallway from us just makes it easy for him to see her. Why? Is it starting to bother you that he's still here with us?'

She pulled away from him. 'No, of course not. He was living with you long before I came on the scene.' She snuggled back down. 'EastEnders, honey, if you don't mind.'

Miller flipped through the channels until he came to BBC.

'I know this isn't exciting for you, being a Friday night and stuck in with me,' she said.

'We've been through this, how many times now? I turned thirty-three months ago, and I'm at home with my family. I don't need to go out boozing with my pals every weekend anymore.'

'I know, honey. Sometimes it's my old insecurities coming back. I was alone with Emma for a few years after I got divorced, while her father swanned about with any girl who would go with him. I went out on dates, of course, but as soon as they found out I had a child, they couldn't get away fast enough.'

'Well, I'm in this for the long haul.' He watched the TV for a second. 'I got an email from Percy Purcell. He and Suzy are engaged. He asked her on her birthday, back in October. His wife isn't giving him any hassle about the divorce now, so as soon as it goes through, which will be in the spring, they'll get hitched.'

'Get hitched? How romantic, Miller.'

He had been going to say, Shackled but had thought better of it at the last minute. As the soap played out, he started thinking about the rings in Humphries and whether his salary would stretch to one in there.

Then his thoughts jumped to the dead girl they'd found on the beach. The news on TV had shown a sketch of the girl his department had done, but they kept the fact about her wearing expensive earrings to themselves, just in case somebody made a confession, then if he added the bit about the jewellery, they would know he was genuine.

'You still seeing Hazel on Saturday for your shopping trip?' he asked her.

'Yes. My mum's taking Emma over to Jenners to the toy department. To see the sort of stuff that Santa makes.'

He wondered if a mother out there somewhere was missing her daughter. Then he pictured the scars on the poor girl's body. Probably not.





CHAPTER TEN





I stand looking out my living room window and take a sip of the cognac in my hand. St Stephen's Church stands opposite, the clock in its clock tower telling me it's almost time to go out. I'm wired after exercising in the little gym I've made in the spare room. Just a treadmill and a weights bench but it makes me feel like I'm keeping fit.

I'm lucky; this is one of the penthouse apartments, much bigger than the others on the lower level, so there's room for my equipment.

Keeping healthy is important to me. I have to maintain a certain level of fitness for my lifestyle.

I see her approaching my back, her reflection clear in the window. She wraps her arms around my waist.

'I want you right now,' she says, her perfume heady, her breath light against the back of my neck.

I smile and turn to face her, putting my glass down on the narrow table next to the window. I grab her face with both hands and kiss her hard, feeling her back arch and her breathing increase.

She walks backwards until the edge of the settee catches the back of her legs and she falls, but I don't let her go. I strip her, my body eager to be with hers and we make love right there on the settee. Afterwards, the woman dresses quickly and I head for the shower.

'The money's on the table,' I tell her. 'Same as last time.'

'Thanks, sweetheart. Call me when you need me again.'

She leaves the flat, closing the door softly behind her. After my shower, I dress for going out.

I walk across to the dressing table and open the top drawer. Select one of my new watches.

It's a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin 1907. The Rose Gold case with the brown alligator strap. It's refined elegance. And cost me a fortune, but I had to have it.

I slip it on and put on my heavy overcoat. I leave the Porsche downstairs in the underground garage, not wanting to draw attention to myself by being drunk behind the wheel. That's the last thing I want. Although it'll be gone soon. I don't care though. Soon, all my worries will be behind me.

I shiver inside the overcoat I'm glad I've put on the woollen hat. Edinburgh's hardly the Arctic Circle, but it gets cold enough.

The walk to my destination will take me fifteen minutes as it's all uphill. In the snow. Though the snow is pretty much gone from the pavements, just remnants of it lying about in the gutters.

I ease my pace as I get near the house I'm aiming for, not wanting to be out of breath when I get there. I want to have energy before we go out. Maybe if I play my cards right, I can make love to her before we hit the town. The whore has just whetted my appetite, and now I'm going to see the fucking whore I don't have to pay for.

I force the smile on my face before I ring the doorbell. I hear her faffing about with the lock on her front door. Hurry up, you stupid cow, it's freezing out here. I'm gritting my teeth.

Then the door is open. And I smile.

'Come on in,' Gina Rosales says, stepping to one side.





CHAPTER ELEVEN





The next morning, it was cold enough for more snow, but the sky was clear as Miller walked up the High Street to the station, pulling the collar up on his overcoat. Kim was taking Emma to school before going to her own office.

It was warm inside and Miller thought he would grab a coffee from the machine before he did anything else.

'You've got a visitor,' the desk sergeant said, nodding to a man sitting on the bench in the reception area.

'Are you Inspector Miller?' the man said, and Miller took his hands out of his pockets.

'I am. And you are?'

'Ed Hamilton.'

'And what can I do for you, Mr. Hamilton?'

'It's about that young girl who was murdered.'

Miller gave the desk sergeant a look. No words were needed. Next thing, a uniform came out from behind the public counter, in case Hamilton started trouble and needed escorting back out.

'You have information for us?' Or are you here just to confess?

'I do.'

'Okay. This way.'

Miller led the way upstairs, Hamilton and the uniform following behind. Miller showed Hamilton into an interview room and told him to wait. He returned with Andy Watt, and the uniform waited inside the room by the door.

'So what is this information you have for us, Mr. Hamilton?'

'Everybody calls me Podge. It's a nickname. You can call me that if you like.'

'Mr. Hamilton will be fine,' Watt said.

'Right. So I saw on the news about the murder of that young girl.'

'Do you know her?'

'No. I saw her. At least I think it was her.'

Miller and Watt exchanged a look. 'Go on.'

'I saw her a couple of weeks ago, getting into a van. I remember because she just swung the door open and it banged into me. Then she cursed me out, telling me to watch what I was doing. Cheeky cow.' He looked at Miller. 'God rest her soul.'

'What makes you so sure it was her?' Watt said.

'As I said, I'm not a hundred percent sure. But she spoke with a Brummie accent. You know, from Birmingham?'

'I know what a Brummie is,' Miller said. 'Did you get a look at the registration plate?'

'No, but I got a good look at the driver. And I know his name.'

Miller sat up straighter in his chair. 'Give me the details.' He had his pen poised over the writing pad in front of him.

'His name's Brian Hall and he works at Washington House, the homeless shelter.'

Miller scribbled down the details.

'How do you know this man?' Watt asked.

'I work for Social Services as a case manager down in Market Street. I have to go over to other hospitals and homeless shelters, along with other members of staff. So I cadged a lift with one of the mail room boys as he was going over too. A member of my staff was already there, to sort out clerical stuff, and we all had a coffee.'

Miller and Watt were waiting patiently for him to get to the point.

'Anyway, Brian Hall, who's new there. He's always talking to me when I'm there. I've seen him around plenty of times and he'll let on and talk as if I'm his new best friend. But Vicky said this bloke asked her out. She said there was something about him that she couldn't put her finger on.'

'And you think this man murdered the girl we found?'

'When I was in town, that girl opened the van door and it hit me. She told me to be careful, like it was my fault. I looked at the driver and I thought I'd seen him somewhere, and when I saw the identikit drawing of the girl, I knew I'd seen her with someone. It was him, Hall.'

'Where did you see them in this van?' Watt asked.

'In Young Street, off North Castle Street. I was meeting a pal of mine for lunch.'

'Did he say anything to you?'

'Not then, no, but I've seen him since then, and he talks to me.'

They questioned Podge further but there was evidently nothing more to add to the story, so they took his details and checked his ID before sending him on his way.

'What do you make of that?' Watt said, as they were standing at the coffee machine.

'I think we should track down this Brian Hall and have a little talk with him.'





CHAPTER TWELVE





Brian Hall walked along the corridor of the administration level of Washington House and smiled to himself. That was the beauty of people thinking you were a low-life nobody; they didn't see you. It was almost as if he was a ghost, haunting the corridors of an asylum.

Although they weren't called asylums nowadays. It was called the Psychiatric Hospital. The State Hospital was out in the countryside, a place his mother always threatened him with.

A place his grandmother had called The Farm.

Do you want to go to The Farm? she would say, if he started acting up. He would just shake his head and tell her how sorry he was, picturing in his mind, an axe splitting her skull in two. This was before he ended up in the young offenders' institution.

Now he walked along here, unseen, because the people who were so far up themselves didn't see him. He wondered what they would think if they knew he'd been put away in the young person's prison when he was a teenager. That would be his chance of making the lawn tennis team kicked into touch.

He couldn't care less that they looked past him, looked right through him, didn't acknowledge him in any way. Most of them. The only one who had given him the time of day was Vicky. Sweet little Vicky, with the drop-dead smile and the sunshine eyes.

He could feel his breathing start to get faster just thinking about her.

And let's not forget Ed Hamilton. Well, that was because he, Brian, had practically forced friendship on Hamilton.

He walked through a door marked Personnel Only and found the little room where the staff sat. He took out his newspaper and started to read. This was where he escaped to when he was trying to dodge doing any work. Being a maintenance engineer--a gofer, in other parlance--meant being at their beck and call; push this, pull that, sweep this. He did it though, without any complaints. He didn't want to lose his temper and have them send him somewhere like that place again.

His mother had wept as the police people took him away, the last time he had ever saw her. Not fit to be in society, he'd heard one social worker say about him, when he thought Hall wasn't listening. He'll need to go to base camp.

Base camp. What the hell was that? he'd thought. Base camp was a moniker that those smarmy, over-paid, brain-dead weasels called Wardrop House. What kind of a fucking name was that anyway?

He soon found out what Wardrop House was; something that had been teleported back from the nineteenth century. Correctly termed a young offenders Secure Accommodation Unit. Like a prison for underage kids. Filled with big bruising warders, with hands like shovels. They looked like extras in a horror movie. And every one of them with a fucking attitude.

They'd bent him into shape, with promises of a lobotomy and a stiff kicking if he talked about the place. His testicles still tingled even now, when he thought about the steel toecaps that had found their way there.

But they hadn't broken him.

He'd been a good actor though. That was the way to beat the bastards. No actor on Broadway had ever given a better performance than Brian Hall had. They thought he was just another scumbag passing through on his way to a life of prison.

Wardrop House had been his home until he reached adulthood and it had taught him nothing, if not how to play coy. Look and act as if you're daft. It never once occurred to Hall that he was indeed actually daft. Not rocking back and forward talking to Jesus kind of daft, but not having the mental capacity to differentiate between right and wrong. Not knowing where the line was, between taking the hint to go away, and smacking somebody in the throat with a broken bottle.

Hall walked a fine line. It was knowing not to cross it that kept him from being put away again.

It didn't stop him from looking though, did it?





CHAPTER THIRTEEN





Heather Dougal was the manager of Washington House, a woman with a large chest and hair pulled back in a bun. She smiled. 'What can I do for you?'

They were sitting in her office on the fourth floor.

'We need to speak to a man who works here. I don't know any details about him, like what times he works, or where he lives. I was wondering if you could help us,' Miller said, willing to bet the woman wasn't married.

'Give me his name and I'll find out.'

'Brian Hall.'

Heather looked at him before answering. 'He's here. Brian's working this morning. I saw him earlier.'

'Can you tell me what he does here?'

'Brian is a maintenance engineer. It means he does odd jobs around here and helps out down at our warehouse. Helping to load the van and things like that.'

'He keeps busy, then?'

'He does. He's a great asset.'

'I'd like to speak to him.'

She looked at the clock on the wall. 'He'll be around somewhere. We don't push them too hard, and they can go for a coffee whenever they like.'

'Can you take us to him?'

'Sure.' She stood up. 'Let's go and find him.'

And find him they did. Reading a paper in the break room.

'Brian, these gentlemen want to have a talk with you.' Heather looked at Miller. 'I'll be in my office if you need me.'

'Okay.' He looked at Hall. 'I'm DI Miller, this is DS Watt.'

'You're a bit old for a sergeant, aren't you?' Hall said, closing the paper and putting it aside. He nodded towards the door as Heather closed it. 'I don't fancy yours,' he said, but Watt ignored him.

They sat down opposite Hall.

'Brian, we want to know who the girl was that you had in the van,' Miller said.

Hall furrowed his brows. 'What girl? What van?'

Miller gave Watt a look before carrying on. 'Somebody saw you getting into a van with a girl who was murdered.'

Hall looked shocked. 'Me? No, sir, not me. He must have been mistaken.'

'What were you doing with a van?' Watt said.

'I drive a van for the warehouse, but we're not allowed to have people in them.'

'What do you deliver with the van?' Watt asked.

'They get food into the warehouse, and all sorts. Clothing, blankets, furniture. I deliver to the shelters, including this one. I alternate between here and there.'

'Are you often out with the van?'

'Quite a bit. Whenever they need me.'

'We ran your name through the system, Brian,' Miller said. 'We know you were put in borstal as a teenager for attempted rape.'

Hall's face darkened. 'She was a spoilt little daddy's girl who was a tease. When daddy found out, she said I tried it on with her. Her father was a lawyer, and they took his daughter's word for it. I never laid a hand on her.'

'If we find out you murdered that girl, you know what's going to happen to you, don't you?' Watt said.

'I didn't murder anybody.'

After a few minutes, they wrapped it up and left the room.

As they walked towards the lifts, Miller looked at Watt. 'Did you pick up on that?'

Watt nodded. 'I did.'

'We said somebody saw him, and he said, He must have been mistaken. How did he know the witness was a man?'





CHAPTER FOURTEEN





The snow forecast for Saturday morning hadn't materialised. Kim Smith drove the Audi into Kinnaird Shopping Centre on the east side of the city, past Craigmillar.

'I'll have to go pee before I go anywhere else,' Hazel said, patting the bump under her heavy winter coat.

'Don't worry, only another couple of months to go,' Kim said, getting out of the car. She walked round to help Hazel out. 'Then we can have a good old hooly. Suzie Campbell will be down with Percy Purcell before that, so she'll be up for it.'

'How's Percy doing?'

'He had to go back to Aberdeen to get his stuff together and move down here.'

Kim had only met Hazel when she had been working with Miller at the start of the year, but the two women soon became good friends. Now that DS Bruce Hagan had come back into her life, Hazel was happy but she would have been happier if he hadn't been attacked and left for dead. Hagan's recovery was going to take a long time.

'It's so good seeing you again, Kim,' Hazel said, as they went into the baby store. 'You know, before you came into our department, I was the only female.'

'I'm sure there would have been more. It's not every female who wants into CID, though God knows, you guys need them.'

The sky was grey and the wind cold, but the baby store was warm inside, Christmas carols were being piped in through the speakers, and even though it was reasonably early, because it was Christmastime, it was starting to get busy.

'What's Bruce doing today?' Kim said. 'He could have come here with us.'

'Are you joking? I know he's been through a lot, Kim, but he's on a downward spiral. He wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming. Jane gets scared. In fact, she doesn't want to be alone with him, so she's with my mum, and he's going to a counselling session. Up at the Royal Scottish. He's been seeing a therapist there. Jill White, the woman we helped back in the summer.'

Kim nodded and looked grim. Jill had gone through her own version of hell. 'She's very professional. If anybody can help him, she can.'

After half an hour, they left and moved out to the big toy store.

'How are things with you and Frank?'

'Never better.' She smiled, and then stopped herself. 'I'm sorry.'

Hazel smiled and put her hand on Kim's arm. 'Don't be daft. There's nothing to be sorry about. I'm glad for you and Frank. He was at the lowest point for the longest time after he lost his wife, and you coming into his life was the best thing that happened to him. I'm so happy for you both. Even Jack has found somebody, and I'm pleased for him too.'

'You and Bruce will get things sorted. He's been through something that not a lot of people would come back from, and he'll get help from us all.'

'All you guys saved him that day. You gave him back to me and I'll never forget that.' She started to tear up so Kim gave her a hug.

'I'm always here for you.'

'I know. I'm just being a silly cow.' They looked at the dolls, and Kim picked one out to give to Jane, as well as one for her own daughter, Emma.

'Is there any sign of Frank putting a ring on your finger?'

'We said we'd see how it went after we moved in with each other. To be honest, I wanted to give him an out if he felt that he couldn't handle living with a little girl in the house, but he's taken to it like a duck to water. Emma loves him to bits, so you never know, he might get round to it.'

'I'm sure he doesn't want to lose you.'

'I'm not going to pressure him. Things are fine just now and I don't want to ruin it.'

'If he loves you, walking down the aisle for you will be the next step.'

'How about you and Bruce?'

'One step at a time, Kim. We only moved in together because he needed help adjusting. He's still got several surgeries to be done, but it's what's going on inside his mind that worries me. I don't think he'll ever get over that. So the last thing he's thinking of is marriage.'

They looked around a while longer before checking out.

'After the baby comes along, we should have a night out. Kate Murphy is always up for a night out. She's a good laugh, and since she moved up from London, she doesn't know many people in Edinburgh.'

'That sounds good. I like Kate.'

'Think about it.'

'I will. First of all though, I need to think about finding a bathroom.'





CHAPTER FIFTEEN





'Are you ready?' Frank Miller asked Kim, tapping his watch.

'It's a woman's prerogative to be late,' she said, smiling at him. 'One week before Christmas and you're getting all excited. Anxious to see what Santa's going to bring you?'

'Oh, I'm sure there'll be a jumper for Christmas in there somewhere. Personally, I think Santa should be fired; if he brings me another woollen jumper that will be the third time.'

'A man can't have too many, just remember that.'

'Oh, God, you've already bought me one, haven't you?'

Kim was standing in the middle of the living room, slipping her warm jacket on. 'Santa brings your gifts, I don't buy them.'

'Why I put up with your nonsense, I don't know.'

'Because you love me.' She walked over, put her arms around his neck, and kissed him.

'Who needs mistletoe?'

'As long as you don't go around kissing all the detective sergeants you work with.'

'There's only one female and she's heavily pregnant.' He pulled away from her for a moment. 'Which reminds me, did she say if she and Bruce are coming or not?'

'She was dog tired when we finished shopping, and she says Bruce doesn't go out anymore.'

'I haven't seen him in a few weeks. We should go round and spend time with them during Christmas.'

'Her mother's coming to stay for a couple of weeks. That'll be a great help.'

'They have us, too. And let's not forget what Bruce did for the department; he helped bring down a serial killer.'

'I'll never forget that, Frank.' She held onto him then, just needing to feel his arms around her.

She was the one who pulled away this time. 'Come on, boyfriend of mine, the Christmas party is in full swing.'

'It's eight o'clock, Kim. Full swing isn't what I'd call it.'

'Just because you're a night owl.'

'Although, you can bet your boots Andy is well pished by now.'

'Well, I'm not getting blootered. Somebody has to see you home safely.'

'It's so you can make sure no other female will take me away from you.'

'Like Fiona from the lab? If I see you anywhere near her with a piece of mistletoe...'

Miller could feel his face starting to go red. 'It was just two workmates having a laugh. Anyway, we should get going. I could murder a pint now. It's very rarely we all get to be together on a social occasion,' he said, changing the subject.

'Let's not waste any more time then.' She smiled at him.

They were just walking along the hallway to the front door when Kim's mobile phone rang. She answered it. 'Hello?'

Miller hoped it wasn't work. He'd been part of a team that had been on-call last Saturday night, but it had been quiet.

'Hold on, hold on, take it easy. Calm down, Vicky.' Kim turned round and mouthed, I'm sorry.

He just smiled at her, and walked back to the living room to give her some privacy. He'd left the TV on, just for security. So he stood and watched a drama. Charlie, their cat, sat on the back of the settee, sleeping. Emma was over at Grandma and Grandpa's. Miller knew Jack loved Emma and his mother would have loved her too, if she'd still been around and they would have taken a turn at babysitting.

He turned when Kim came back in. 'Everything okay?'

'No, it's Vicky.'

'Who's Vicky?'

'It's a woman I've been working with, Frank. She needs my help.'

'Tonight?'

'I'm afraid so.' Kim's mood had changed in an instant. 'I'm sorry, but I have to go now. I'll catch up with you.'

'Don't worry about it. I can come with you if you need my help.'

'No, you go. No point in us both missing out. Besides, I'll probably get to the dance later.'

'Do you want me to drive you to wherever you're going?'

'No, I'll be fine. Let me write down the address though, just in case.' She scribbled something down on a notepad and gave Miller the paper.

'If you need me, or all of us, just call me.'

'I will.'

'Can you tell me what it's about?'

'She's a victim, that's all I can say.'

Miller knew better than to ask more questions. Sometimes Kim had to work with victims under a cloak of secrecy.

'Then you go and help her. I'll either see you at the party later, or back here. Just keep in touch, and let me know you're safe.'

'I will. I love you, Frank Miller.'

'I love you too.'

Kim Smith walked out of the apartment, and into the cold December night.





CHAPTER SIXTEEN





Podge walked round the corner, to where the lock-ups were. Stumpy owned one, which had originally belonged to his parents who left him the house and lock-up in their will.

His mother had told Stumpy she was glad he would be the one who was going to restore daddy's car. It was sitting in the lock-up, waiting for a bit of TLC, and Stumpy was going to bring it back to life.

This had been news to Stumpy.

The car was a scrapper. He'd seen it years before, when his father had taken him along for a squint. If you looked past the dirt and the rust, you could just about make out an Austin badge. 'She's a beauty, isn't she, son?' father had said. 'I call her Katy.'

This was just as the dementia was starting to take hold. Maybe his father thought it was a Bentley and Katherine Hepburn was sitting in the driver's seat, waiting for him or something. Maybe waiting to drive him over to the other side.

'Stunning, Dad,' he'd said, not having the heart to tell his father if he sneezed hard enough, the car would be blown off its axles.

So, as soon as they'd nailed the coffin lid shut on his father, Katy went on her holidays, to that big scrapyard in the sky.

When ma knew he was going to the lock-up, she thought he was going to tinker with the old car. Now, the lock-up held nothing more exciting than an example of the staple diet of Britain's highways and byways; a white van.

'I have a nickname for it,' Stumpy had said, the first time Podge had clapped eyes on it.

'The Yorkshire Ripper Express?'

'No, the Fanny Magnet.'

Podge had shaken his head. 'Your idea of a fanny magnet is a little bit different from mine, I have to say. The only fanny who'd be interested in this thing would be a traffic warden.'

Now, Podge opened one of the barn doors of the lock-up. Stumpy was in the passenger seat. With the engine running.

'Are you trying to gas yourself, Stumpy?' Podge asked.

'I'm freezing.'

'You could have waited in the house. It's just round the fucking corner.'

'I couldn't wait to get going.'

Podge didn't know if the little man meant to the Pearly Gates or the work's dance. 'Just as well I'm here to keep you on the straight and narrow.'

'You're a good friend, I'll say that.'

'Don't get all weird on me now.' No matter how much he thought of Stumpy as a friend, he got a shiver down his back when the other man started getting sentimental.

Podge watched as Stumpy got out and he climbed into the driver's seat as Stumpy walked to the doors. He liked to drive, even though the van was Stumpy's.

'Are you looking forward to the Christmas night out tonight?' Stumpy asked him as he wound the driver's window down.

'Well, my social calendar is a bit full, but what the hell?' He looked at Stumpy as he opened the other door. 'Of course I'm looking forward to it. Vicky's not only going, she's going with us.'

'My thoughts exactly. I wasn't going to go, but Saturday night is drinking night for us, Podge.'

Podge couldn't care less about socialising, but he and Stumpy had agreed it would look better if they went, rather than their co-workers start to talk about them.

Don't want them to think I'm weird, Stumpy had said.

The ship sailed on that one a long time ago, my friend.

However, silver linings, and all that. Vicky had asked them if they could stay over with her at her sister's house, and to bring an overnight bag. They had readily agreed. Stumpy threw Podge's bag into the back of the van after he drove out, before closing the garage doors.





CHAPTER SEVENTEEN





Kim walked round to Cockburn Street and hopped into a taxi. It was only a five-minute ride down the road to the Dumbiedykes estate off Holyrood Road, but she flashed her identification card, told the driver she worked with the police and promised him a good tip.

'No need,' he told her. 'I've had to call your guys a few times to empty out the drunks from the back of my cab. This is on me.'

'Thanks a lot.' She sat back and thought about the woman she was going to see, and in particular, the person who was terrorising her.

A few minutes later, they were there.

'Merry Christmas,' she said, to the driver.

The taxi rattled away. She pulled up the collar on her jacket, wishing she'd put on her work boots, instead of her dress boots. The snow made the place seem more festive, but there was still the air of untrustworthiness about it.

The flat she was looking for was on the second floor of a block near the main road.

It was deathly quiet, no doubt, because many of the residents were in the town. Later on, the noise would start up. Her boots scuffed the concrete steps as she walked up the four, short flights of stairs.

Vicky was waiting at the door, like a little girl hiding from her.

'Oh, Kim, thank God you're here. He called and said he's going to kill me.'

'Nobody's going to touch you, Vicky.' She stepped into the hall and Vicky quickly shut the door behind her.

'I don't want you to think I'm over-reacting, but he was very specific; he said he's going to slit my throat.' Vicky was pacing the living room, wringing her hands together. 'How the hell does he know I'm here? Or my phone number?'

'I don't know, but I'm going to find out.'

Vicky stopped so suddenly Kim almost bumped into her. 'I wish I hadn't pressed charges. ' She looked at her. 'You said I'd be safe, and it would be over after he was arrested.'

Kim looked at the small Christmas tree she'd helped Vicky dress, and the flashing coloured lights. Suddenly, things didn't look so festive.

She left the room for a moment, and called the Police Intelligence Unit, explained the situation and waited for the return call. It came back two minutes later. Kim walked back into the living room.

'Your husband's still in Saughton. He hasn't used a phone, and as far as they know, he hasn't access to a mobile phone. Besides, he was in the communal area when you said you got the call.'

'Doesn't mean to say he didn't get somebody to call me.'

'I know. I'll do more digging.' She paused. 'Were you called on your house phone?'

'Yes,' she said.

'Let me see it.' Kim took the offered handset and scrolled through it until she found the number that had called here. She hit redial. The phone rang and rang but nobody answered. She took a note of the number.

'I'll have this number checked out, Vicky, otherwise my hands are tied. I want you to call me if he calls back again, okay?'

She nodded, her face looking grim. 'At least the mortuary van won't have far to come.'

'Please don't talk like that,' Kim said. She knew, unfortunately, there were spouses who did indeed come back to exact revenge on the person they'd been physically abusing.

'Let me assume something for a moment; let's say it wasn't your ex. Do you know anybody who'd want to harm you? Or just scare you?'

'Like who?'

'Maybe somebody at work. Do you have a grievance with anybody?'

'No, we all get along in our department. In fact, it's the work's Christmas night out tonight, but I don't think I'll go now.'

'You should. Maybe see if somebody can pick you up.'

'That's already organised. Two friends from work are swinging by. I even suggested we stay over at my sister's house since she's away.'

'That's good. At least you'll be around people, and nobody will know you're going there.' She smiled, and took Vicky's hand for a moment. 'You know, there are people who get kicks from calling random numbers and threatening people, or saying they're having an affair with the spouse. I think this was probably a prank.'

'Hold on though.' Vicky held up a finger and looked thoughtfully at Kim, and was about to say something then thought better of it. 'No, it couldn't be.'

'What, Vicky? Even if something seems impossible, just tell me.'

'Well, there's a worker at the shelter who's taken a shine to me. He's a nice guy, but I think he has a thing for me.'

'What's his name?'

'Brian Hall.'

'I'll have Frank check him out.'

'I'm relieved and angry all at once, Kim. I still think my ex is behind this.'

'There's a lot of sick people out there. You don't have to worry about your ex-husband though. He won't be going anywhere for a long time. Give me the address of your sister.'

Vicky wrote it down on a piece of paper and gave it to her. 'I'm sorry I ruined your night. Saturday night, and you're here with me, instead of your boyfriend.'

'Don't worry about it. He's having fun with his friends and I'll catch up.'

Vicky hugged Kim. 'I need to hurry to get changed. Thank you so much for taking me seriously.'

'I'm always here for you, I told you that.'

'I feel so much better now.'

'Call me anytime, Vicky.'

'I will, thank you.'

'Now go and have a good time with your friends. Christmas only comes round once a year.'

Kim left the flat and walked down the road, hoping to find another taxi. Frank would be getting wired into the beer at the police club. She would be happy just being with him, even though she'd be drinking orange juice.





CHAPTER EIGHTEEN





'I wish I'd bought the old Ford Sierra I was originally after.'

Podge looked at him for a moment to see if he was joking as he parked in front of Vicky's place.

Stumpy just shrugged his shoulders. 'It was bright red and had fluffy dice hanging from the mirror. Plus it was cheaper than this.' He looked at Podge. 'But there's room for a mattress in the back of this thing.' Stumpy rubbed his hands together, as if the manky old mattress in the back was actually going to get a workout.

The diesel clatter sounded deafening in the cold night air and Podge took his phone out and called Vicky. She sounded scared when she answered.

'We're downstairs in the-' he almost said Fanny Magnet but caught himself in time, 'Stumpy's van.'

'Thanks, Podge.'

He hung up. 'She'll be right down, so try and stay on your best behaviour.'

'She's a work colleague. Of course, I'm going to behave. I mean, it's not as if people get up to anything at a work's night out. Wink.' He winked at Podge in the darkness.

I swear to Christ, if you wink at me while we're on the dance floor with women, I'll kill you where you fucking stand.

Podge saw Vicky walking down her pathway with a holdall. Stumpy got out, held the door for her and she climbed in after Stumpy through the bag in the back.

'Hi, Podge.'

'Hey, Vicks,' Podge said, as she scooted along the bench seat. 'Ready to rock 'n' roll?'

'I almost didn't come tonight,' she said, as Stumpy climbed in and shut the door.

'Why? And miss a night out with the boys?'

'I got a threatening phone call.'

Podge felt himself going pale with anger. 'Who from?' he said, his voice battling against the noisy heater fan.

'I thought it was my ex. I thought he'd gotten out of prison, or he'd called or had somebody call. Whoever it was, he said he was going to slit my throat.'

Podge looked at Stumpy. This time, Stumpy didn't wink at him. 'Did you call the police?'

'Sort of. A woman came round. I've been working with her. Kim Smith. She's the only one who took me seriously when my husband tried to kill me.'

'Who the hell would do something like that?' Stumpy said, gritting his teeth and shaking his head.

Podge wanted to say to her, I hope it's not that nut job at the Washington. Picturing Brian Hall in his mind, he reversed the van out.

'You're safe with us,' he said, simply. 'We'll look after you, Vicky.'

Vicky smiled at them. 'Thanks, boys. I'm feeling better already.'





CHAPTER NINETEEN





The Police Club on Queen Street used to house the headquarters for the local bus company, but they had amalgamated a few of their offices and the police had taken it over. Not only a social club for serving officers, they offered rooms like a hotel, and welcomed officers from all over the world.

There were social evenings most weekends, in the suite through the back. Which was where the Christmas party was being held.

Kim checked her coat and walked through to the hall where the music was playing. Miller was dancing with a female sergeant from Leith CID. DI Matt Taylor was there, doing a slow dance in the middle of the others who were dancing at a more frenzied pace.

She went to the bar and Andy Watt slid up to her.

'I'll get this for you. I think your man is pre-occupied.' He smiled at her. 'I have to admit, I haven't seen him this happy for a long time. It's all thanks to you.'

'Andy, I do believe you're getting soft in your old age.'

'Less of the old.'

'Oh, yes, Frank mentioned you had met somebody new. Good for you.'

'Oh, trust him. I asked him to keep quiet about it.'

'It was just between us. I won't say anything.'

Watt paid for her orange juice. 'You're a cheap date,' he said, handing her the glass.

'Nothing cheap about me.' She took a sip. 'So tell me about your new lady.'

'I'm sure blabbermouth told you we met online. But it's a decent site, and she turned out to be a decent woman, not some catfish playing games. Win-win. I'm seeing her tonight after this.'

'I hope it all works out for you, Andy.'

'Thanks, Kim.' They clinked glasses.

The DJ told the crowd he was slowing the tempo, to give people a chance to catch their breath.

'Come on, let's make your boyfriend jealous.'

They put their drinks down and Kim laughed as Watt grabbed her hand and led her to the dance floor, where they slow danced to Daydream Believer, a song that wasn't too slow but slow enough to get the pulse rate down a bit.

She smiled over at Miller, who had gone back to the table with his friends. When the song ended, she and Watt got their drinks and joined Miller.

'Orange juice, Kim?' DCI Paddy Gibb said when he saw her glass.

'I'm not much of a drinker, Paddy. After years of being on my own with Emma, I got used to staying sober.'

'I thought you would have had to be well blootered to have your hands on Watt though.'

Watt raised his glass. 'Up yours.'

'What was that, Andy?' Gibb said, above the noise of the music.

'I said, cheers, boss.'

'All the best, son. I hope that woman you found on the internet doesn't turn out to be a bloke.' Gibb hiccupped and swallowed more lager.

Watt shook his head as the others looked at him. 'What? She's nice. We've been out a few times, and she's all woman.'

'You should have brought her along tonight,' Jimmy Gilmour said.

'And have all you wankers drool over her? No thanks.'

'Wankers?' Gibb said. 'We're your friends, you cheeky sod. Besides, I wouldn't fu-'

'Paddy!' Fiona from the lab shouted across at him from her own table. She stood up and smiled at Miller. 'There you are, Frank. I gave you my number and you never call. I hope you're not seeing somebody else behind my back.'

'Tell us more, Fiona,' Watt said. 'I'd pay money to see Kim scud Miller in front of us.'

'Thanks, Andy,' Miller said.

Fiona laughed. 'Don't worry, Kim knows I'm kidding.'

'Come on, Miller, time to shake those bones of yours.' Kim grabbed hold of Miller's hand and led him to the dance floor where The Chicken Song was just starting.

Miller groaned. 'In front of everybody? You're making me do this dance?'

Kim laughed. 'Of course I am. Move yourself, Miller. And don't get too drunk. I'm going to give you an early Christmas present.'

Miller made his chicken wings move faster.





CHAPTER TWENTY





Podge said he wanted to drive the van, not because he was a control freak, but because he didn't think Stumpy's driving skills were up to snuff. He thought they'd all die if Stumpy got behind the wheel.

'No, you deserve a drink, Stumps,' he said, earlier. 'Just remember who we're with, and that I'm trying to impress her. And don't drink yourself under the table.'

'I remember, Podge; I can't get blootered.'

And so it was, Stumpy had too many to drive, but not enough that he'd be standing outside throwing up.

They'd kept their eyes on Vicky all night, and though their colleague had been up dancing with other men from the department, she never strayed far from her two friends.

Despite being a pain in the arse, Podge liked Stumpy a lot. His one true friend in life. And now the man who'd once described himself to a woman as Stumpy-licious, came bouncing off the dance floor as if he was having a seizure.

'You need to get up and shake your stuff, Podge,' he said, sitting down and scooping back his lager, his forehead gleaming. 'You need to get up and dance with Vicky. I swear to God she's going to kill me with those moves.'

'I prefer to be killed by a different set of moves, if you know what I mean.'

Stumpy laughed and drank more. 'Remember the first time Vicky ever came out drinking with us?' Stumpy said.

'How could I forget? That little pub in Lothian Road had a dance floor, and you two were out of your skulls. And because she wanted to slow dance, you saw that as an invitation to put your hand on her arse.'

Stumpy grinned as if the village idiot had gotten loose. 'She didn't complain though.'

'She later told me she felt safe with us, even though you had a cheap feel.'

'Offence taken. There was nothing cheap about it,' Stumpy said, all mock indignation. 'I paid for the drinks and the taxi home.'

'Think of all the money you save by not putting your hand in your pocket every time we go out to the pub.'

'What? Fuck off.'

'Charming,' one of their female co-workers said, as she passed. A young woman who neither of them had a snowball's chance in hell with.

'He made me say it,' he replied, but the woman wasn't listening. 'As I was saying, that first drinking sesh we had with her was magic. It would have stayed that way if her wanker of a husband hadn't started throwing her about.'

Podge looked troubled for a moment.

'Why the long face, Podgy boy?'

'Just thinking, Stumps.' He looked his friend in the eyes. 'I think Vicky's in this position because of me.'

'What position?'

Podge shook his head. 'Attention span of a fucking goldfish, that's you. 'This,' he waved his hand in a circular motion, 'position we're in. With her husband being in prison and now he's threatening her.'

'First of all, you can't blame yourself. And secondly, we don't know for a fact it was him who called her.'

'Vicky's husband's in prison because of me.'

'How come?'

'You know, after that first Friday night, the three of us used to go out drinking after work every Friday night?'

Stumpy nodded his head up and down like a bobble-head.

'Well, one night after we were drinking, and you'd gone home early because you felt the shits coming on or something-'

'I was actually meeting a girl that night, if you remember correctly,' Stumpy interrupted.

'Yeah, Pam and her five sisters,' Podge said, holding up a hand and doing jazz hands with it. 'Anyway, I was walking Vicky home, and who should pull up in his car but Mr. Vicky. He got out and gave her a right dressing down in the street. Pointed his finger at me and said he wasn't finished with me. But he got in the car and drove away with her, and I never thought any more about it. Until one night, I was coming out of the boozer, and who should be waiting there with his mate, but the Neanderthal himself. Reminded me he hadn't forgotten about me.

'Unfortunately for him, he fights like a fairy. I skelped his fucking jaw and knocked him on his arse. Gave his pal a bloody good belting as well, and he dragged Mr. Vicky away, both of them bleeding and groaning. I never heard from him again, but it wasn't long after that, Vicky started coming in with a black eye.'

'It's not your fault he's a nut job.'

'I just wish I hadn't encouraged her to come out with us. Maybe he would've left her alone.'

'Jesus Christ, Podge, you know deep down as well as I do, he's a wife beater, and he just needed an excuse to belt her. He saw it, and went for it. We don't know he hadn't done it to her before, just because we didn't see it.'

Podge looked impressed. 'You're not as daft as you look. You know, every time you make sense, an angel gets its wings.'

Stumpy was still thinking about it when Podge hit the dance floor with Vicky. He didn't put his hand on her arse.





CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE





Jesus, all those people going out to their Christmas parties on a Saturday night, making it harder to get a taxi. Cindy was mightily pissed off as she trudged the wet, slippery pavement along Warriston Road.

It had been a great night out, and she was glad she went. Earlier in the week, she promised herself, no matter how much her friend convinced her to go, she'd stay in and watch TV. Maybe watch one of those shows she liked to record. The true-life crime dramas where the wife murders the husband. Some of those women were just stupid, and they would have gotten away with it if they'd just screwed the nut a little bit tighter.

She would have killed her ex if she knew she could get away with it.

Her friend had nagged and nagged until she'd promised she'd go. And Cindy was glad she did go. It was a great night out. Except for this part.

Up past the DIY store and the houses, the cemetery on the other side of the tall wall, the same cemetery where several murders took place, but now, the only dead people in there had a headstone above them.

She walked up the road, the walkway on her left, which was once a railway line, next to the cemetery wall. The dividing line between the dead and the living. A wind kicked up, blowing snow from the trees that lined the street. She liked the snow, but not when she had to walk in it.

She continued over the pedestrian bridge that crossed over the walkway farther up the road, and continued along Warriston Road. This part ran alongside the high wall that kept the cemetery at bay. Past the gate that led into the corporation allotments opposite the cemetery.

A white van sat at the side of the road farther up, its cab empty. There hadn't been any cars along this way since she'd started walking. This was what her friend had called a "dead" street, and he hadn't meant because there were hundreds of bodies just over the wall, but because there were no houses here. Nobody to see you being mugged, she'd warned.

Well, she'd made it this far and was nearly home, and there was nothing parked here except this scabby old van. With nobody in it. She hurried past, not giving it a second glance.





CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO





I follow Cindy after waiting for her to come out of the nightclub. She gets on a bus after hanging about for a taxi and not getting one.

When I see her walking down Logie Green Road, I know there's little chance of her getting a taxi and she'll probably just be walking home. It's not far from her house anyway. So I drive on and wait.

Then I see her coming along Warriston Road, at the side of the cemetery. Where the side gate is.

As she comes towards me, I'm waiting in the back despite the cold, but I have the back door open a crack, and it isn't long until she appears. As she passes by, I slip out, pull the sack over her head, and pull the rope over it, pulling it tight but not too tight. I then haul her into the back of the van and lock it.

The fucking bitch could scream, that was for sure.

I'd opened the cemetery gates a little after I parked, so now I drive in after getting Cindy in the back. I close them again so no nosey copper will see them open. I take a brush and quickly obliterate the tyre marks and then I drive farther in. I'm careful not to give it too much gas in case it slides off the road and hits a gravestone and I get stuck. Try and explain that away!

As it is, the snow has thinned down a lot and the main drive is pretty clear. I have my headlights on, the beams bouncing off the snow, making it look like I'm on another planet.

Being surrounded by death in the dark doesn't scare me. If anybody is in here now, they should be scared of me!

Farther down the track, I pull the van into the side. It's almost like a Winter Wonderland here, the trees and grass still covered in snow. Looking around, none of the houses on the other side of the wall can be seen, and if you use your imagination, you can think you're in Alaska, or any other far-flung destination, instead of an old cemetery in the middle of Edinburgh.

I turn the engine off and get out of the van. Slam the door and walk away. Stand and look at my watch, and wonder how long it will take.





CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE





'I feel like I'm spoiling your night, Podge,' Vicky said, as they danced slowly in a circle.

Podge held her, maybe a little closer than he should, but it had been such a long time since he'd held a woman in his arms. Chris De Burgh was singing Lady In Red and just for that moment in time, Vicky was his. He'd been quite happy when Stumpy had been up on the dance floor giving it yahoo to Jive Bunny and Roy Wood, but now it was his turn after the DJ had turned it down a notch. He thought if a Kenny G song came on; he wouldn't be able to contain himself.

'I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be right now, Vicky. We've always got along; from the moment you came to work at Social Services.'

'I know, Podge.' Vicky looked into his eyes as they slowly made their way round the dance floor. 'I've always wanted to ask you how you got the nickname Podge?'

'Let's just say, I wasn't always this thin. I was a lot heavier when I was at school, and somebody called me Podge and it stuck. Only my friends call me that.'

'And I'm your friend.' She smiled at him. 'You don't think Stumpy's going to get jealous, do you? Seeing us dance this close?'

Podge laughed quietly. 'Have a look for yourself.'

Vicky looked over his shoulder and saw Stumpy slow dancing with a divorcee, their faces seemingly stuck together. She looked back at him. 'I think he's struck lucky tonight.'

'Not tonight. We're coming home with you, remember? Two Knights in shining armour.'

Vicky pulled back for a moment. 'There I go, spoiling your fun again. Look around you, Podge; you could have any woman in here. You're a good-looking bloke, you just have to put yourself out there a bit.'

'I'm not going anywhere but back to your place. If you still want us to, that is. God, the last thing I want is for you to think I'm going to be trying something funny.'

'Oh, I want you to come home with me, Podge, more than anything. And you're one of God's own gentlemen. I don't think I've ever felt safer with a man. You and Stumpy are my two best friends.'

'You know you can call me anytime, and we can have a few beers or go and see a film or something. I've not been out with many women since my divorce.'

'Things will be easier when my own divorce is finalised.'

'Would it be remiss of me if I kissed you?' Vicky said to Podge, as the song ended.

'Not at all,' Podge said, pressing his lips against hers as the dance floor became even darker.

Songbird started playing.

Thank you, God, Podge thought, and pulled Vicky in closer.





CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR





I wait patiently in the dark, standing round the side of the van with the shovel I've brought. I've taken her handbag so she doesn't have her mobile phone to call for help. I hear her banging about in the van, trying to get the rope off. It takes her longer than I thought it would. I've left it loose enough for her to escape but still she's struggling with it.

God, I can feel the adrenaline run through me in anticipation. Just the thought of what I'm going to do to her makes me hyper.

Then the back doors open. I watch as she scoots out, legs first, and then stands up.

I silently step round from the side of the van with the shovel raised and bring it round in a perfect arc. The metal of the head smacks her right in the face. Blood flies out in a spray, tainting the freshly fallen snow with its vibrant colour. She screams and falls back into the snow at the side of the track.

Then I stand looking down at her. 'Hello, Cindy,' I say, adding to her confusion.

'Please don't hurt me,' she says, reaching out a hand to ward off further attack. She puts a hand to her nose and feels the warm blood pouring out.

'Already have,' I say.

'Please. Who are you? I'll do whatever you want, just let me go.' Her voice sounds as if she's choking, as the blood starts coursing down her throat.

'That's very kind of you,' I say, bending over so I'm closer to her, 'but I'm going to take a pass on that.' I straighten back up.

Shock hits her, making her feel even colder. The sky is black and clear, but the snow fills all the dark corners, making everything seem lighter and less scary.

Except she's more afraid than she's ever been in her life.

'We're going to play a game,' I say.

Cindy looks at me. Wants to ask me what sort of game, but knows she's going to find out soon enough.

'Please, I don't want to play any game. Just let me go and I won't say anything.'

'If you want to go home, you have to earn your release. You have to play the game...and win.'

Cindy struggles onto her side, more blood dripping into the snow. Onto her hands and knees. Maybe she thinks if she humours me, I'll let her go.

'Okay. I'll play. What do you want me to do?' she asks, as she finally manages to get to her feet.

My face gets closer to hers, and I say one word:

'Run.'





CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE





The DJ had slowed the music and Kim kissed Miller while it was still dark. Then they left the dance floor for another drink. 'I'm going to give my friend a call, the one I had to go and see earlier,' Kim said.

'Okay,' Miller said, as Watt came across with more drinks.

'Going away to call a friend, eh? Next thing you'll be telling Frank it's not him, it's you.'

'Thanks, Andy. I was going to tell Frank that you and I have been secretly dating, but you've let the cat out of the bag.'

'I wish.' He sat down and looked at Miller. 'Not that I would, boss.'

'Of course not, Andy. Cheers.'

Kim walked through to the lobby and climbed up to the first landing where it was quieter. She stopped and took her phone out.

'Hello, Vicky? It's Kim. I'm just calling to see if everything's alright?'

'Hi, Kim. Everything's fine. I'm actually having a good time with my friends.'

'No hassle or phone calls?'

'Nothing. As I said, I'm staying at my sister's place and my friends will be staying over with me. I'll be fine. Thanks for your help tonight.'

'That's what I'm here for. If you need me again, don't hesitate to call.'

'I won't. Enjoy the rest of your night.'

'Bye, Vicky.'

Kim hung up and went back to join Miller.

'Everything okay?' he asked her.

'It's fine.' She leaned in closer as the music started up again. Watt had gone off in search of a dance partner. 'This woman received a death threat on the phone. Her husband is in prison, and as far as we can tell, he wasn't near a phone when she got the call. She did tell me about a man at Washington House who's taking an interest in her.'

'Washington House?'

'Yes. She's an administrator in Social Services who has to go there regularly.'

Miller furrowed his brow, his interest peaked. 'Do you know his name, by any chance?'

'His name's Brian Hall.'

Miller sat back in his chair.

'Do you know him?' Kim asked.

'Yes I do. We spoke to him up there. Andy and I were interviewing somebody who thinks Hall murdered the girl we found on Portobello beach.'





CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX





Run, I'd said, and that's exactly what she's doing. As best she can in high heels, anyway. Following the roadway at first, Cindy suddenly darts off to one side, her feet sinking through the deeper snow, slowing her down.

I can almost see her thinking: What's the lesser of two evils, sticking to the road and moving faster, or going this way and slowing myself down?

Either way, she must know it won't be long before I start chasing her.

Her breath blows out of her mouth like a dragon's fire, and her breathing becomes laboured the more she runs. Although out of breath, she's making good time.

I move silently away and watch her from my vantage point. I've taken a different direction and cut her off. She climbs the snow-covered hill, as the cemetery ascends from the lower part. The smooth soles of her shoes slide on the snow as her weight compresses it, but she digs in as hard as she can