Read The Meating Room Online

Authors: T F Muir

The Meating Room

 

 

 

Born in Glasgow and now a dual UK/US citizen,
T. F. Muir
is a crime novelist with five books of his DCI Andy Gilchrist series published – the first,
Eye for an Eye,
won the Pitlochry Award for the best crime novel by an unpublished writer. He is now working on his next Andy Gilchrist novel, another story suffused with dark alleyways, cobbled streets and all things gruesome. For more details visit
www.frankmuir.com

 

 

 

 

 

Also by T. F. Muir

Life for a Life

Tooth for a Tooth

Eye for an Eye*

Hand for a Hand*

*written as Frank Muir

THE
MEATING ROOM

T. F. Muir

Constable • London

 

 

 

CONSTABLE

First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Constable

Copyright T. F. Muir, 2014

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978-1-47211-554-6 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-1-47211-555-3 (ebook)

Constable
is an imprint of
Constable & Robinson Ltd
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DY

An Hachette UK Company

www.constablerobinson.com

For Anna

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Writing can be a lonely affair, but this book could not have been published without assistance from the following: Gayle Cameron, Police Scotland; Kenny Cameron (retired) Police Scotland; Mark Waterfall, CCTV Manager, Police Scotland and Jon Miller, ex-superintendent Tayside Police, for police procedure; Professor Sue Black, Director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, University of Dundee and Derrick Pounder, Professor of Forensic Medicine (Retired), University of Dundee, for the gory stuff; Heather Holden-Brown, Elly James, Claire Houghton-Price and Celia Hayley of hhb agency for encouragement and advice; Philip Parr, for tireless copyediting right down to the last comma; Krystyna Green and many others in Constable & Robinson who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to give this novel the best possible start; and finally Anna, for putting up with me, believing in me and loving me all the way.

This book is a work of fiction. Those readers familiar with St Andrews and the East Neuk may notice that I have taken creative license with respect to some local geography.

Any and all mistakes are mine.

CHAPTER 1

5.41 a.m., Friday, early March

Tentsmuir Forest

Fife

Maggie Ferguson heard the car before she saw it.

The sound of its burbling engine reached out to her through the morning darkness. At the age of sixty-seven her hearing was still good, although her eyesight was not what it used to be. And the haar that had drifted inland off the North Sea, shrouding the forest in a stirring fog, did nothing to help. She thought it odd that the car was parked in the clearing, with its lights off and its engine running, and her first thought was that it must be a couple of young lovers up to no good in the back seat.

She gave out a short shrill whistle and a ‘Here boy. Over here,’ and sighed with resignation when Fergie, her golden Labrador, ignored her call and carried on criss-crossing the ground, nose to the pine-needled carpet. Poor old Fergie, she thought, his hearing was now as bad as her own eyesight. But as she walked off towards the beach, the wind rose, and the haar shifted, and the shadowed hulk of the car revealed itself for a fleeting moment before settling once more into the fogged darkness.

She was no good with cars, never knew their names, although she did notice that it was one of these big posh ones, far too expensive for a pair of youngsters. Which made her think it must belong to someone older, and that he, or she, might be on the phone. So she ignored it, and strode on through the trees towards the sea.

But with that shifting of the wind, Fergie caught some new scent, and he tracked off, nose to the ground, in the opposite direction.

‘This way, Fergie. This way.’

But Fergie wandered on, oblivious to Maggie, until he noticed the car.

Later, in her statement to the police, Maggie would say that Fergie had seemed to know something was wrong, that he must have sensed death, for he stood there, his hackles raised like a fur fin on his shoulders, his coughing bark straining his canine vocal cords as if ready to snap. But in that early morning chill, Maggie was unaware of what she was about to find as she rushed to quieten him.

‘Shush,’ she ordered. ‘Shush now, Fergie. That’s
enough
.’

But Fergie was as good as deaf, his hearing drowned by his own barking.

‘Oh, dear,’ Maggie said, digging into her pocket. ‘We’ll need to put your lead on.’

Even then, when she leaned forward to clip Fergie’s lead to his collar, and cupped her hand over his nose to stop him barking, she did not notice that the driver’s window was just a touch ajar, a crack at the top. Nor did she notice the rubber tube that led from the window to the exhaust pipe. Only when she stood upright, tugged Fergie away and gave the car a parting glance did she realise that the windows were steamed up, and that a scarf, or a pullover, or something woollen, was stuffed into the crack in the window, through which smoke seeped into the early morning air.

The driver, nothing more than a silhouette in the mist, took no notice of her – not on the phone, but sleeping. Or maybe not sleeping, but . . .

‘Dear goodness,’ she gasped, and stumbled backwards.

In her panic, as her mind struggled to compute what her eyes were telling her, it never occurred to her to open the door and check if the driver was alive or needed help. Nor did she think to switch off the engine, or use her mobile phone to call for an ambulance. Her thoughts were clouded with the panic of the moment, intent only on putting as much distance between herself and the car.

Fergie seemed to have found new life in his old legs, too. He tugged hard at his lead, as if chasing after some new, irresistible scent. Or maybe his canine senses caught the danger in what had gone before and urged him to pull his owner away from the scene, to the safety of her car and the drive back to Leuchars.

‘Has anyone ever told you you’re a gentle lover?’

Gilchrist held Cooper’s enquiring gaze. Her eyes fascinated him. They always had. The lightest blue, sharp and clear as a winter sky. Even after the night before – one too many Deuchars in The Central and a bottle of Moët back home in Fisherman’s Cottage to celebrate nearing the end of the week, any excuse for a session – her eyes looked fresh and alert. Or maybe, at the age of forty-one, Cooper was too young for him, and now it was showing. But he thought he caught a sense of wariness in her question, a subtle probing, and he pushed a hand through her hair. He loved the way her curls spilled on to his face, loose and long and shampoo fresh. He breathed her in, slid his other hand down the length of her back, heard her gasp.

‘Why do you ask?’ he said.

She leaned forward, settling deeper onto him, pressed her lips to his. ‘Why do you always answer a question with a question?’

‘Do I?’

‘See what I mean?’ She smiled, as if to make him think she was letting him off the hook, then said, ‘Well?
Has
anyone ever told you?’

‘What do you think?’

‘I think you’re too much of a gentleman to tell me any secrets from your past.’

‘And what about secrets from
your
past?’

If he had to analyse her reaction, he might have thought it was a warning to back off, a silent
Just don’t go there
. Instead, he chose to believe that her questioning, their back-and-forth banter, was a form of verbal foreplay. Which seemed to be confirmed when she leaned forward, her breasts against his chest, her lips at his ear, breath warm and rushing as she—

His mobile rang.

‘Leave it,’ she instructed.

But he reached for it, read the screen – Jessie. ‘I have to take this.’

Cooper flexed her thighs, slipped off him and lay by his side.

‘Jessie,’ Gilchrist said. ‘It’s early.’

‘And it’s Friday, and we’ve got a body.’

‘Keep talking.’ Gilchrist held Cooper’s gaze as he listened to Jessie rattle off a sequence of events that began with a call from a Mrs Ferguson in Leuchars. The name rang a faint bell, but he couldn’t place it.

‘We’ve run the registration number through the PNC,’ Jessie said, ‘and the car’s a . . . hang on, here it is . . . Jaguar XJ8 Vanden Plas, whatever that is when it’s at home, registered in the name of Stratheden Enterprises Ltd.’

The company name rang a bell, too, but again Gilchrist couldn’t pull it from his memory. Of course, Cooper’s hand on him did not lend itself to clear thought, but a Vanden Plas was a top-of-the-range Jag, suggesting the company had money, or at least the directors did.

Jessie helped him out with, ‘Stratheden’s privately owned and specialises in luxury development, mostly overseas, and mostly for the stinking rich. The two registered company directors are Thomas Magner and Brian McCulloch.’

Gilchrist pressed his mobile hard to his ear. ‘Did you say Thomas
Magner?’

‘The one and only. But the dead guy in the Jag’s not him, so I’m thinking it might be McCulloch. We’re trying to contact both of them by phone, but we’re just being dumped into voicemail.’

‘Tried the company landline?’

‘Same thing.’

‘Well, it
is
early,’ Gilchrist conceded. ‘So, who’s at the scene now?’

‘Just me and the SOCOs. I’ve had a quick look, but kept my distance, if you know what I mean. I think our suicide had some help, though.’

‘Murdered, you mean?’

‘Hey, Boy Wonder. You’re quick.’

Gilchrist frowned. Everything Jessie had described had suggested a straightforward suicide. So . . . ‘What have I missed?’

‘You need to see the body. But the PF can’t get hold of the pathologist.’ A pause, then, ‘Is she there?’

‘Why do you ask?’

‘Other than the obvious, she’s not answering her phone either.’

Gilchrist noticed Cooper’s mobile on his bedside table, and had a vague recollection of her powering it down last night. At that moment, Cooper rolled over, her hand guiding as she settled on top of Gilchrist. She leaned back, curls spilling over her shoulders, falling on to his legs, the tendons in her neck stretching from the effort of keeping silent.

Gilchrist managed to stifle a gasp, then said, ‘I’ll see if I can reach her.’

‘Well, reach her soon. It’s cold enough out here to freeze tits.’

Gilchrist ended the call as Cooper fell forward and nuzzled into the crook of his neck. Her lips found his left ear and nibbled. Her fingers gripped the pillow like talons.

‘You can be a cold bastard at times, Andy,’ she whispered.

He put his arms around her, held her through the final moments. Then, when he felt her relax, he said, ‘But gentle?’

She pressed her lips to his mouth. ‘Regrettably,’ she moaned, ‘you can be ever so gentle.’

CHAPTER 2

They took separate cars – Gilchrist in his Mercedes SLK Roadster, and Cooper in her Range Rover. Gilchrist reached Tentsmuir Forest first, arriving just after eight, and pulled the Merc into an open clearing. He parked alongside Jessie’s Fiat and removed a packed set of coveralls from the boot.

Off to the side, the dark blue Jaguar stood surrounded by yellow police tape, its paintwork gleaming like a showroom model no one was permitted to touch. Three SOCOs in white coveralls were scouring the adjacent area on their knees, prodding through the pine needles, cones and roots with latex-gloved hands. Two more stood by the side of their Transit van, mobiles to their ears, their breath a vivid white in the cold air.

Gilchrist caught the eye of one of them, who nodded to the beach.

He spotted Jessie beyond the tree-line of the forest, alone on the dunes, staring across the North Sea, on the phone. Standing there in coveralls, the early morning haar as a backdrop, she looked as pale as a ghost. The wind picked up, lifting sand off the dunes like spindrift, stinging his face as he strode towards her.

She turned as he clambered up the slope to stand beside her, ended the call with an angry grunt, and slid the mobile into her jacket pocket. She zipped up her coveralls. ‘Why is it always so fucking freezing on the east coast?’

Other books

Return to Eden by Ching, G.P.
Deadly Rich by Edward Stewart
The Bounty Hunter: Reckoning by Joseph Anderson
Hell Inc. by C. M. Stunich
A Certain Kind of Hero by Kathleen Eagle


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2020