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Authors: Russel D. McLean

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BOOK: 04-Mothers of the Disappeared
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The police investigation found no leads.

Taylor was seen at various places up and down the country for at least six months. Every sighting was a dead end. He became a bogey-man and whenever the media ran down their top scumbags, he was somewhere on the list.

But only six people knew the truth.

Myself.

Burns.

His thugs.

Griggs.

And Susan.

My business account was credited with £12,000 from Burns Holdings, Inc. The Big Man told me that it was best to pay ‘little and often’ to avoid difficult questions. He said there would be more work for me if I was interested. ‘But nothing that would offend your delicate sensibilities.’ I told him I’d consider what he had to say.

We danced. I followed the steps expected of me.

Kellen came to see me three days after Taylor vanished.

We talked in my office.

She remained standing throughout. Had the kind of pent-up energy you see in caged lions.

‘They shut it down. The investigation.’

‘Can I ask why?’

‘Lack of compelling evidence.’ She shook her head. ‘They opened it. They handed it to me on a plate and now they take it away.’

‘That’s life.’

‘Anyone ever told you that you’re a lucky man, McNee?’

I shook my head.

It was the truth.

‘Lucky’ was the last word I’d use.

As she left, she said, ‘I’ll be watching.’

‘You’re keeping the file open?’

‘I’m a good cop. I do as I’m told.’

‘But off the book?’

‘Like a fucking hawk.’

They found Jonathan Moorehead in a shallow grave about two hundred yards from Taylor’s house. He had been bludgeoned to death. The object used was round, heavy and probably some kind of ornament. Taylor had disposed of it.

Probably in the ocean.

I phoned Wemyss, gave him my pet theory regarding what happened in the interview and what happened afterward. I made it sound like pure speculation, but Taylor had given me enough that I knew it was true.

‘Fits with what we know,’ Wemyss said. ‘Jesus fucking Christ, I hope we find him.’

I didn’t say anything.

Wemyss added, ‘I hope the twisted cunt gets what he deserves.’

FORTY-TWO

S
usan met me at the lay-by.

I knew we were safe to meet out here. No one was watching. No one would think to look here.

This was where everything had begun. Where I’d had the accident that led to my leaving the force. Where I’d started the journey to become a person I never expected to be.

‘How are you, Steed?’

‘Good as you might expect,’ I said.

‘You never told Griggs how you got in close with Burns. What it was you did.’

‘Found common ground,’ I said.

She nodded. ‘He’s keeping you on the fringe for now?’

‘He’s not an idiot.’

‘We’ll do our best to protect you.’

‘From Burns? Or from the law?’

She didn’t say anything.

‘If it was up to me, I’d ask you to kill him.’

‘What would happen if he did die?’

‘No one would cry.’

I nodded.

‘But then we’d be no better than him, right?’

‘Right.’

She said, ‘I’m sorry. About us, I mean.’

‘It couldn’t work. Too much history.’

‘Sandy’s a good man.’

‘I’m sure he is.’

I handed her the envelope. We were keeping everything old school. Paper trails. No electronic communication. Nothing that could be traced without our knowledge.

Our fingers touched.

She hesitated. Kissed me quickly on the lips.

Neither of us said anything.

She went to her car, drove away.

I stayed. Watched the sunset.

Thought about the dead.

NOTES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This is the fourth McNee novel. But I hope it’s not been too hard to catch up if you’re new to the dour Dundonian Detective. It was also the last to be completed in Dundee, a city that has been very kind to me over the last fifteen years. It will not be the last book to be set there, however.

As usual, it’s worth pointing out that while Dundee is a very real place, the situations, people and even a few of the places mentioned are fictional. A few real life names have snuck in, and anywhere you think you recognize is probably not the scene of the crime. Like the Phoenix Bar – still one of my favourite pubs, and I hope that having everyone drink in there has made up for the decorational faux-pas of one of my previous novels. If you think you’ve found a mistake in local geography or history, then it’s likely to have been for reasons of artistic licence. But even if it’s not, then I hope you still enjoy the story. That’s the important thing.

No novel is written alone by any author, so here are a few people who helped along the road to getting this book out there. Whatever you like in here is probably thanks to them.

Dot and Martin McLean – who instilled in their son a love of words, books and storytelling. And wine. With this fourth book, he has now made enough to buy you a postcard of a house in France …

Allan Guthrie – Top Secret (literary) Agent and Top Secret Weapon at the Literary Death Match …

Kate Lyall Grant – whose support and enthusiasm for the novel has been absolutely brilliant; a pleasure to be working with you.

Anna Telfer – and the copy-editing team at Severn House, who did a great job making me question certain parts of the manuscript that didn’t add up. Your patience and rigour is massively appreciated. Any writer who claims not to need an editor is deluded.

Ross Bradshaw – whose hard work at Five Leaves has helped the McNee series to keep on going. Thank you for all your support and for taking a chance on a debut novel all those years ago. And for anyone reading this, if you’re ever in Nottingham, you really do need to visit the Five Leaves Bookstore.

Robert Simon Macduff-Duncan – pedant-in-chief, the man with all the answers and expert at getting oversized bookcases through undersized doorways. Anything that’s legally accurate in the process of Scots law is down to him. Anything that’s wrong is because I didn’t listen to him (or ask the right questions).

Mark Wade – without whom, Wemyss would be simply The Fat Cop With No Name.

Booksellers, librarians and readers around the world – you know who you are and you are amazing. Even the ones who don’t like naughty words.

Lesley McDowell – for far too many good reasons (and far too many glasses of wine). And Moriarty. How could I forget Moriarty?

The usual suspects – to list you all would take a whole other book, but you know who you are and you know why you’re important …

In memory of Peter Heims (1929–2013) – who so very kindly and patiently answered questions about the life of an investigator when I first embarked on writing a novel about a British PI.

BOOK: 04-Mothers of the Disappeared
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