Authors: Denzil Meyrick
Praise for Denzil Meyrick and the
D.C.I. Daley thriller series:
‘Touches of dark humour, multi-layered and compelling’
‘The right amount of authenticity . . . gritty writing . . .
‘Meyrick has the ability to give even the least important
person in the plot character and the skill to tell a good tale’
‘Following in the tradition of great Scottish crime writers,
Denzil Meyrick has turned out a cracking, tenacious
thriller of a read. If you favour the authentic and credible,
you are in safe hands’
‘Difficult to put down – it’s definitely Scottish crime fiction
at its best’
Scottish Home and Country
‘Soon to be mentioned in the same breath as authors such as
Alex Gray, Denise Mina and Stuart MacBride . . . very
A note on the author
Denzil Meyrick was born in Glasgow and brought up in Campbeltown. After studying politics, he pursued a varied career including time spent as a police officer, freelance journalist, and director of several companies in the engineering, leisure and marketing sectors. Previous publications in the D.C.I. Daley Thriller series are
Whisky fr om Small Glasses
The Last Witness
. He lives on Loch Lomond side with his wife Fiona.
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd.
West Newington House
10 Newington Road
Copyright © Denzil Meyrick 2015
The right of Denzil Meyrick to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.
ISBN 978 1 84697 315 4
eBook ISBN 978 0 85790 850 6
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available on request from the British Library.
The publishers acknowledge investment from Creative Scotland towards the publication of this volume.
Typeset by Hewer Text (UK) Ltd, Edinburgh
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc
For my granny, Margaret Pinkney,
who read to me endlessly and told me her stories.
Though she passed away over forty years ago,
I miss her still.
‘Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall’
Solemnly, the pontoon bell tolled, roused by the breeze that blew across Kinloch from the Atlantic beyond, carrying the promise of a milk-warm beginning to another glorious midsummer day. The first sepia light of the sun embraced the sleeping town in its glow.
As though roused by this, the wheelhouse door of
swung open. The sun reflected softly off the varnished oak door, flashing more keenly from the polished brass of the porthole, as Walter Cudihey strode out onto the narrow deck, his face a mask, eyes dark. In his left hand he carried a petrol can, his right, bunched into a fist, grasped something small and out of sight.
With a fluidity of motion that belied his age and physique, he loped over the side of the vessel and onto the pontoon decking. He cast his gaze across the oily blue waters of the loch, over the steep side of the harbour wall and on to the road and beyond, where stood a solid granite structure, silhouetted in the first light of morning. Atop this monument to the war dead of Kinloch was a simple cross, black against the glow of the rising sun. Cudihey turned his back on the memorial and, facing east, sat neatly cross-legged on the wooden planking, his pupils pinpricks in the morning light.
He sat for a few moments and then, neither changing his expression, nor removing his gaze from the horizon, lifted the can and poured its contents over himself. The clear liquid splashed over his bald head, soaking the small fringe that was the remnant of his hair and drenching his white T-shirt, Bermuda shorts and the wooden decking as it began to glug deeply from the emptying Gerry can.
Cudihey, eyes now closed against the stinging fuel, blindly laid the can down, flicked the cap off a brass petrol lighter, hesitated for a heartbeat, then with a quick downward flick of his thumb ignited a flame which quickly spread up his arm and consumed his whole body, first in red, then green, fire. The fire crackled deeply as Cudihey’s body surrendered to the flames, rendering down like a Sunday roast.
Seabirds cried and distantly a dog barked as a dark pall of putrid smoke spread from the harbour and across Kinloch, souring the early morning air. As the flames spread to the decking, globules of burning fat found their way to the loch and hissed in the still waters. A woman screamed as the whole length of the pontoon began to blaze.
A black mass, momentarily visible through a veil of fire, slowly toppled backwards as the ruined decking collapsed into the water, sending a wave of steam into the fetid air.
Jim Daley woke with a start. Squinting at his watch, he noted the time was 5:28. Propping himself up on one elbow, he tried to collect his thoughts, as well as take in his surroundings. His mouth was dry, his head throbbed and he felt slightly squeamish; an undeniable product of the overindulgence of the night before. Like far too many nights recently, he thought.
As the early morning rays poured through the flimsy curtain, he was dismayed to find that he was taking up far too much of a small double bed, which, while it wasn’t his own, wasn’t exactly unfamiliar. The walls were adorned with modern prints and arty black-and-white pictures; above his head, a straw hat trailing a bright red ribbon was pinned to the wall.
Beside him, the long auburn hair of the woman he had spent the night with cascaded across the white pillow and framed her round face. Her breathing was heavy and her long lashes flickered as she slept and dreamed. He took in her pale beauty for only a moment before darker thoughts began to crowd his mind and the sickness at the pit of his stomach returned, as cloying and insistent as ever.
With as little commotion as his large frame would allow, he levered his legs over the side of the bed, looking at the
messy floor for any sign of his own clothes. Alongside a lacy bra, discarded black tights and a pair of knickers – so slight they barely merited the name – lay his shirt; light blue and huge amidst the other garments. On top of it lay a silver foil packet, torn open to reveal a used condom, knotted then tucked neatly back into its former home. He sighed as he rubbed at the stubble on his chin.
As he pulled on his shirt he noted in the wardrobe mirror that his face, despite gaining lines and shadows hitherto absent, was noticeably thinner. Unfortunately, as he breathed in to fasten his trousers, the extent of his persistent gut banished any fleeting joy. He removed his jacket from the back of the room’s only chair and winced as coins fell from the inside pocket, jangling noisily in the quiet room; though not enough to wake his sleeping companion, who merely turned her head, rearranging the display of her hair on the white linen. Despite himself, despite the difficult situation he had engineered, despite the habitual deep pangs of Catholic guilt, he smiled. She was so beautiful. He donned his jacket then stepped over the rest of the mess towards the door.
Once in the narrow hallway, he did his best to collect his thoughts. He had always been an early riser, though this was, even for him, a smaller hour than normal to be awake and fully functioning; especially after drinking wine the previous evening, which he could still smell on his breath. As he reached the lounge his mobile phone burst into life, demanding his attention. He picked it up from the coffee table, noted the missed calls, and read the new message, a frown exaggerating the lines on his forehead. He was about to start looking for the house phone when a sound from behind prompted him to turn round.
‘Morning, sir . . . Jim,’ she said with a smile, raising her eyebrows at her initial mistake. Daley looked into her ice-blue eyes, down to her small, upturned nose and red lips, the lower of which had a slight pout. Even under the folds of her dressing gown her long, graceful limbs were obvious, as was the cleft between her breasts that sent a shaft of desire through him. Not for the first time, he was reminded of a young Liz.
‘Morning,’ he smiled. ‘How are you?’
‘Fine. Tired, I guess. Trouble?’ She looked at the phone in his large hand.
‘If Brian was here, he would say, “a policeman’s life is not a happy one”. I have to get in ASAP. I was going to give them a quick call – do you know where the phone is?’ He looked at her pleadingly, a comic grimace on his face. ‘The bloody signal here is a pain in the arse – thanks,’ he said as she handed him the phone, retrieved from under a magazine on the couch.
‘Coffee?’ She yawned.
‘Eh, yes,’ he replied, looking about for somewhere to sit. ‘Just a quick one, then I’ll need to get going. You know how it is.’
She smiled at him weakly; she knew all too well exactly
it was. He was her boss, more than twenty years her senior and they had been lovers for almost seven months.
‘If they ask for DC Dunn, tell them you don’t remember exactly who I am.’ She looked over her shoulder with a grin as she made her way to the small kitchen.
He watched her pad away. In all honesty, it was difficult, very difficult. In order to keep their relationship secret, he had encouraged her to move from her flat in the town centre to a pretty little rented cottage on the outskirts of the village
of Machrie, five miles outside Kinloch, off the road and down a farm track, where even the most determined gossips of the town would find it difficult to uncover their secret – or so they had thought. Within days of her move though, and less than twenty-four hours after his first visit, he was stopped in the street by a local acquaintance, who felt it was ‘only right tae let him know jeest whoot everybody was sayin’.’ After a period of coolness, during which he felt lonelier than ever before in his life, he had returned. Since then, though trying to remain as discreet as possible, they’d carried on their illicit affair, and soon, if anyone had really cared in the first place, the nods and winks stopped – in the main, anyway – and life returned to some sort of normality.