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Authors: Stephen Coill

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BOOK: A Deviant Breed
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Dunbar decided to bring him back to the present. ‘Why there?’

‘I imagine the land in this region was more forgiving than their home territory in the north and more fertile – and the pickings easier,’ Archie answered.

‘I meant, what made
you
look up there; in Braur Glen?’

Archie appeared to ignore the question and instead immediately leapt to his feet and starting rummaging amongst his piles of books and magazines until he found what he was looking for – a typed manuscript that he studied for a moment.

‘The first draft of my book on that very subject, “The Lure of a Legend”, subtitled, “My search for Obag’s Holm” by Archibald F. English.’ He announced, turning to face them with a self satisfied smile. ‘It will provide the answer to that question in far greater detail than I will achieve sitting here trying to recall my quest and of how that quest led me to Obag’s Holm.’  He thrust the manuscript at Briony Tyler.

‘Thank you but we haven’t time to read it right now, Mr –’

‘Of course not, Inspector, keep it – I’ll run another off.  That’s the beauty of the home computer – once it’s written, hard copy is never more than the click of a mouse away.’  Archie sat down again. ‘You’ll have to wait until after Professor Geary has completed her research for my second volume –
Obag’s Holm – Fact not Fiction
.’

‘Can’t wait,’ Tyler replied, weighing the hefty bundle in her hands as she glanced at Dunbar.

***

Dunbar shook their host’s hand and stepped outside.  Until he breathed the fresh air again, he had not realised what a cloying, unventilated atmosphere Archie lived in.  A cocoon, shut away from the outside world with his books and maps and the paraphernalia of the enthusiastic genealogist and amateur archaeologist.

‘That’s a fine suit if I may say so, Chief Inspector – very fine,’ Archie observed.

Dunbar scowled then forced a smile that looked more like a grimace and probably was. 

‘Harris?’ 

Tyler stifled a chuckle. Dunbar’s eyes narrowed and blazed into the back of her head. He nodded by way of an answer but kept moving. 

‘Thought so, there’s tweed and then – there’s Harris Tweed.  I’ve been thinking I should invest in a new two piece – what with all the media attention.’

Dunbar halted and turned to face him. ‘What media attention?’

‘You can’t keep a thing like this quiet.  Everyone’s talking about it.’

‘Are they?’

‘Close knit community – can’t keep a secret around here.’

‘For the past ten years or so, somebody has,’ Dunbar snorted.

Archie shrugged and allowed himself a sly smile, ‘do you mind if I ask?  Your suit –

where did you –’

‘Piero’s of Hawick,’ Dunbar answered.

‘Now who’s straying off topic?’ Tyler sneered out of the corner of her mouth, as she held the gat open and waited.

‘The interview’s over,’ he retorted under his breath, but she still felt vindicated.


Ahh,
I know it, the Italian gentleman, but I didn’t realise he made to measure.  It is
tailored to fit – if I’m not mistaken.’  Dunbar nodded.  He had not thought his encounter with Archibald Fraser English could get any weirder but now the man was fixated by his attire.  Tyler smirked and continued to the car. 

‘You have an admirer, sir,’ she whispered as he passed her.

Archie followed them but stopped at the gate, casting his eyes up and down the quiet street.

‘Eddie’s a tailor by trade, but there’s not a lot of call for it these days.  Most of his business is in kilt hire and formal wear for weddings and so on.’

‘Cannae mistake a good cut; a man of your height and frame – anything off the peg would never sit so well.’

Dunbar heard Tyler chuckle as she rounded the car.  ‘No, if the jacket fits the trousers don’t and vice versa,’ he agreed, aiming the remote.

‘Precisely, I have a similar problem,’ Archie explained.

Dunbar turned and eyed him curiously.  Archie English was hardly a type likeness for himself.

‘Off the peg disnae cater for the portly either,’ Archie chortled patting his stomach whilst scanning the street.

What was he looking for?  Dunbar wondered as he found his eyes following Archie’s.  Archie was not at all embarrassed by their presence as some are when the police pay a visit. That said, for a start, they had arrived without fanfare in an unmarked car, Dunbar’s BMW.

Tyler got in and as he opened the door, Dunbar spotted what Archie was looking for – Ruth ‘The Truth’ Linklater of the East Lothian Herald heading in their direction. 

She waved and Archie responded.

‘DCI Dunbar –
Alec!
  Got a minute?’ Ruth shouted, much to Archie’s obvious disappointment.

‘No!’
Dunbar snapped before dropping into his seat and starting the engine.  Ruth was scurrying towards his car as quickly as her heels would allow, digital recorder in hand and thrust forward.  Dunbar pulled away and smiled when he saw her mouthing expletives in his wake.  In keeping with the interview, Archie English was concerned with only
one thing
.  The search and discovery of the site, the archaeological dig and now the homicide enquiry; everything that was happening was down to him – and all about
him!

‘Who’s that, the fashion editor for Scottish Vogue?’ Tyler asked with a grin.

‘Shut up!’

She hesitated before asking, ‘So when will we be arresting him, sir?’

‘On what grounds?’

‘What!? Are you kidding?  He practically....’

‘Gave us a local history lesson, not a confession.’  Dunbar cut in.  ‘Oh he’s getting off on it I’ll grant you, but....’  Dunbar allowed that thought to hang unspoken. It was too soon to draw any definitive conclusions.

Still a little surprised by Dunbar’s lack of interest in Archie she pressed him.  ‘And if the skull turns out to be a member of the Humes Clan?’

Dunbar’s eyes narrowed. ‘Let’s not go there until we have to.’

‘Then we should have a word with this, Wilson Farish chap?’

‘His former tutor.  Why?’

‘Aww’ c’mon, sir.  Archie has to be our prime suspect.’

‘Getting ahead of yourself, Briony.  He’s an obsessive-compulsive loner with a fetish for the more nefarious characters and salacious aspects of what he perceives is his bloodline, and even that, by his own admission, sounds tentative.’

‘And that doesn’t ring any alarm bells with you?’ She asked.

Dunbar cocked his head. ‘Not hearing any, but by all means – go see his teacher. What we
will
be doing, is exploring this website he’s set up and his Debatable Society blog.  I’ll put the tech boys at Fettes on it.’

‘If it is him, he wouldn’t be the first psycho to draw attention to his crime.  Murders such as this demand an audience. And I got the distinct impression that is what he feels he is lacking; not only that – he didn’t seem keen on the idea of us going to see his old tutor, Wilson Farish.’

Dunbar smirked and glanced sideways at her.  ‘Why wait the best part of ten years then?  No, his obsession is with the history, in particular – his own family history.  People don’t seem to figure largely in his life.  Certainly not enough for him to go around killing them.’

***

Tyler was left a little bemused by Dunbar’s reluctance to even consider Archie English as a suspect.  According to all that she had read on the subject and discussed during her training Archie struck her as a textbook suspect – but that was the crux of the difference between them and it was becoming painfully obvious.  She had read and attended lectures about killers, whereas he had pursued, arrested and interviewed them.  She was relying on training and the manual, Dunbar on his finely tuned instincts and vast experience.  Prior to her promotion to Detective Inspector, Briony Tyler had never served on the CID, apart from the standard training attachment during her probation.  Thereafter, in accordance with the terms of her recruitment, she qualified for accelerated promotion and spent a year at Tulliallan Castle from where she emerged a uniformed sergeant. 

***

As they headed back to the crime scene Tyler decided that she would go and see Wilson Farish, if only to satisfy her own curiosity.  What she lacked in experience, she amply made up for with intelligence and determination, she believed.  So sod it!  How else was she going to make a noteworthy contribution to the investigation or make an impression on a man like Alec Dunbar other than following her instincts? But then, as they wound their way into the Lammermuir Hills, she found herself also wondering if Dunbar would lend her his car. 

***

Dunbar disliked returning to an empty house.  It reminded him of those hollow years following his first wife’s death.  The latchkey widower – or at least that’s how it had seemed during those dark days.  So a night away, in strange surroundings, was not without its appeal.

Loneliness is enough to turn a man to drink but conversely, it was what had turned him off it – for three or four years afterwards at least. 
Suicide!
  He could say it now but still carried a burden of guilt on account of it.  To blame the job would have been a cop-out – pun fairly and squarely intended. Maggie’s problems began long before he met her but the daily commute between domesticity and degeneracy and back again did not help.  The kind of shit cops wade through on a daily basis does not come off on the doormat. 

***

He was twenty and had just started his second year at Durham University when they first met.  He had caught a train up to Edinburgh for a weekend ‘sesh’ with some of his team mates from Jed-Forest Rugby Union Club who were at uni in the capital and at St Andrews.  Maggie at seventeen was still at school, and having lied about her age was working as a barmaid in the Kenilworth on Rose Street.  The youthful Alec Dunbar and his rowdy friends wandered into the pub during their quest to complete the Rose Street Challenge.  No mean feat, a pint in every bar down that infamous drinking man’s street – and that’s a lot of bars.

The drunken but handsome law student and bonny barmaid arranged to meet the following morning at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Gardens.  To his surprise, Maggie looked even prettier when he was sober, and proved more flirtatious too.  She spent the whole of that day teasing, petting and toying with him mercilessly.  Perhaps as well she took it no further.  He was hung over and doubted whether his raging libido would hold sway over his fragile constitution. Imagine her impression of him had he heaved in the throes of sex.  By the time it came for him to catch his train back to Durham, however, he was fairly certain that if he took the trouble to return and stay sober, his efforts would not go unrewarded – and he was right.

Dunbar and Maggie saw as much of each other as his allowance and overdraft and her savings permitted that term, and continued to see each other even after she had dropped her bombshell.  She was pregnant, and being the only child of devout Catholics an abortion was out of the question.  It was a trap and he knew it.  He had thought it odd that she, a Catholic, claimed to be on the pill, but had quickly dropped the subject when she became hysterical when challenged about it.  She had claimed, rather improbably, that she had risked excommunication just to please him sexually.  Quite early on in their relationship Maggie had displayed traits of insecurity and almost suffocating neediness and jealousy, but as angry as he was about getting trapped into parenthood, he did love her and without hesitation vowed to do the right thing.

Much to her parents’ disgust and embarrassment their heavily pregnant daughter got married at a registry office – and had her union merely
blessed
by their parish priest. Whatever blessing the priest had bestowed though was short lived.  Zoe’s birth heralded a devastating bout of post-natal depression aggravated by a pre-existing condition later diagnosed as manic depression.  It was impossible to tell when or if the post-natal phase ever passed.  Her unpredictable mood swings, inflamed by alcohol continued for six years.

Despite reservations Dunbar became dependent upon the support his in-laws provided.  They were hardly ever away from his and Maggie’s small house in Wardie on the outskirts of the capital.  What he could have done without though, was the Catholic guilt their presence engendered in his sick wife’s fragile mind; and Jim pandering to his precious daughter’s every whim.  When he joined the CID things at home got even worse.  The trouble was that he loved his job and so, spent countless unpaid hours at work, but more importantly – away from Maggie’s histrionics and rampant jealousy. 

Conversely, Maggie hated his job, hated his colleagues and the
“criminal scum he obviously preferred”,
over her company.  She reserved particular loathing for police women.  Man-hungry, husband-stealing whores – was her most common, unqualified and irrational opinion of just about every woman with whom he spent his working hours in the company of.  Never once was he unfaithful, despite any number of opportunities, but acknowledged in retrospect that he should have spent more time at home and less drinking with his sidekicks.  Boozing was part and parcel of the CID culture back then and one he slipped into seamlessly having earned his drinking spurs at post-match piss-ups and in Durham University’s student bar.

BOOK: A Deviant Breed
3.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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