AM02 - The End of the Wasp Season (9 page)

BOOK: AM02 - The End of the Wasp Season
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Cold rain speckled Morrow’s face. The top step was exposed and the soft shower swirled around her, engulfing, wind tugging at the hem of her coat like a child, making her smile as she listened to Bannerman shouting through the phone, “Turn that off! Turn it off and listen to me!”

The phone was inches from her ear but she could still hear a woman’s voice in the background, talking slowly, sounding medicated: “Follow the course of the road.”

Bannerman shouted, “Turn the fucking thing off!”

It was out of character for him to swear. He was desperate to get here. It was the lure of the money, unknown quantities, unimaginable provenance, a sea of pink possibilities.

“Turn around,
right now

They trained them to be impervious though, the drivers of the armored vehicles, trained them not to respond to shouting or threats, just to ignore, stay calm and get to the assigned destination. Some officers were easier to train than others. She could hear the driver answer in monosyllables, no, yes, here, not here, while the GPS lady sounded her gentle course and the wipers shrieked across the glass.

“Morrow? Morrow!” Bannerman was shouting at her.

She considered hanging up and claiming afterwards that the signal had been lost but he would only phone back, shouting more requests for directions that the driver wouldn’t follow.

“Still here, sir.”

“Right. We’re coming. Slowly, but we’re coming.”

Looking out from the top step Morrow thought about Sarah Erroll. Younger than her and living here alone. Strange to have always lived in one place. The house must have been so familiar that she didn’t see it anymore, the stones and grass and steps and walls superseded by the cumulative memories of her life, small incidents, vignettes, images retained in forensic detail for no discernible reason. Morrow hoped it was happy, the cloud of impressions, until the last. She saw a black shoe, stamping. That was all they’d harvested from the shoe prints, black suede. The sole looked like a trainer, with deep grips and no heel. Two different sets in almost the same size. “Go up, take a turn here!”

She held the phone further away from her face.

It was only four thirty but it was dark already. There were no street lights up this high on the hill and every light inside was on, supplemented by the bright white spotlights from the science lab. Twenty feet beyond the bottom step the dark was impenetrable.

Her phoned beeped, another call, number unknown. She told Bannerman, “I’ve got another call coming in,” and switched to it. “Hello?”

The voice was soft, girlish. “Hello? Is this Alexandra Morrow?”

It wasn’t someone from work, but no one else had this number. “Yes?”

“Hello, um, my name is Val MacLea. I’m a forensic psychologist. Daniel McGrath gave me your number?”

Morrow dipped her chin and dropped her voice. “Danny gave you
number?” She wondered how he could have found the number for her work mobile. It wasn’t listed anywhere. Brian didn’t even have this number.

“Yes.” The woman hesitated, sensing all was not well. “Sorry, are you not at London Road Station right now?”

He didn’t have it, the call had been redirected from her work. “Sorry, sorry, no, I’ve…you’re calling me on my work’s mobile, the call’s been redirected.”

“OK,” said the woman patiently. “Is there a better time to call you?”

Morrow looked down the road, saw no signs of headlights on the avenue. “No, not really.”

“Well, I hope I’m all right phoning you, it’s with regard to John McGrath, he’s your nephew?”

She waited for an answer and Morrow kept her eyes on the avenue. “Mmm.”

“Well, I’m conducting a risk assessment on behalf of the court and I wondered if I could speak to you for a bit of background?”

“A risk assessment?”

“It’s a way of looking at John’s past, it’s a way of determining the likelihood of future offending.”

do it again.”

She stalled at that. “Well, would it be possible for me to speak to you personally?”

She sounded pleasant and reasonable; Morrow would have liked to talk to someone about her background without having to censor herself or explain. But if she did Danny would hear about it. He’d read it as a favor.

“I don’t want to.”

Owning up to John was the responsible thing to do. She had seen from afar what was happening to him, passed from nutter to nutter, knew the chaos he grew up among and she did nothing. Once, when she was at college and he was a small child, she saw him. It was summer and he was in a buggy, strapped in, parked outside a pub, alone. He looked poor. His toes were dirty in his sandals. He didn’t know her but she could have taken him, anyone could have taken him. Morrow stood at the corner for twenty-five minutes, watching over his buggy. As she stood there she considered stealing John, taking him home, washing him, feeding him. But she was young and had no money, nowhere to take him. His mother stormed out of the pub doors, yanked the pram brakes off, never looking at or speaking to the child who was smiling up at her. Morrow watched her walk away, and felt her childhood conviction that she would be more responsible than her own mother evaporate.

A yellow tinge of headlights showed through the trees at the end of the road. “I need to go,” she said.

“Would it be possible to meet you?”

“You know I’m a police officer—no one knows my background, I don’t need to be associated with that—”

“I could interview you at home if you like. Or you’d be welcome to come to my office.”

The lights were approaching, slowing at the fork in the road, choosing the incline and turning, penetrating the soupy dark as the van took the sharp slope.

“No.” She hung up on both calls.

Guilty as a schoolgirl caught with a cigarette, she fixed an awkward smile on her face and watched the armored van pull up in front of her.

It didn’t look like anything special, just a small black van with a camera on top. It was inside that it was different. The back doors opened to another door, a safe door with a timed lock. The box was welded to the floor so that robbers would have to cut the van in half to get the box out. It was used to transport drug hauls and big money. Even training the drivers was costly.

The van cringed as the handbrake was pulled on. Bannerman opened the passenger door and climbed out, slamming it behind him, furious. He stomped over to her, as if she didn’t already know that he was angry, stopped at the bottom of the steps and muttered a curse at the driver.

“He took me to a cashmere shop called Glenarvon in the next village.”

Morrow didn’t give a shit. “I see.”

“Where is it?”

“The body?”

“No, the money.” Typical Bannerman, he’d climb over a dead woman to get straight to the kudos item. Even if the money wasn’t drugs-related he’d get a spot on the front page of the Strathclyde Police newsletter. Bosses read the newsletter, they were the only people who did. They felt it kept them in touch with the men and Bannerman liked being seen in it.

They heard a door open as the driver stepped cautiously out of the van. His visor was down, he had his gloves on and he scanned the area for robbers. Just off training, guessed Morrow. Taking it seriously. She felt sorry for him. He looked across at them standing on the steps and faltered, reluctant to come over while Bannerman was still there.

Morrow gestured impatiently to him. She couldn’t leave for the office until she handed over responsibility for the money. He stepped slowly, stopping ten feet away. Bannerman glared, daring him to approach.

They were wasting time rattling their bollocks at each other and she still had Sarah’s solicitor waiting to be questioned at the station, needed to get through some of the preliminary reports before she went home. For a moment spite made her consider taking them past Sarah Erroll without a warning, but she caught herself: “You should both go in around the back—they’re moving her now, it’s not nice. There’s a kitchen door round there and they came in through the window.”

“What, go round the back because the body’s up there?” Bannerman took one of the steps. “I can take it, I know it’s bad—”

“No, you’ll disturb the scene. The money’s in the kitchen.” She looked over his head. “Driver, you, what’s your name?”

He told her but his voice was muffled by the visor and Morrow wasn’t listening anyway. She was congratulating herself on her courtesy to underlings.

“OK,” she said, “well, you go around the back and have a look at the money. I’d like it taken in as it is, on the board.”

“Round here?” It was dark around the side of the house now and he seemed reluctant to go.

“Aye, follow it around to the back. The lights are on, you’ll see the door open.”

He walked off, wading through the long wet grass, disappearing behind a tree.

Bannerman looked up at her. “How are you? You OK?” he said, sounding intimate.

Morrow feigned confusion. “Fine, yeah.”

“Not too much for you?” He nodded to the house.

“No, no, ’m fine. Although I do feel,” she stroked her stomach as she dropped down the steps to his side, “that I could do with a long lie-in tomorrow.”

Bannerman laughed joylessly. “Ah, I think I like you better pregnant. Hormones are making you mellow.” He touched her then, patted her on the upper back in a way he would never have dared to before.

She was changed, she knew that, but it wasn’t chemical. That she was about to have twins was life-changing enough, and he knew that Gerald had died. He seemed to think she wanted to talk about her feelings now, wanted to be touched and have allowances made for her. To avoid saying anything stupid she turned her face up to the open door.

“The men don’t give a shit about this,” she said quietly.

“How come?”

She sighed back up at the house. “Big house, no close relatives to cry over her, loads of obviously shady money in the kitchen. Her face is gone.”

“They’ll come around, we’ll find some pictures of her as a kid.”

“Boss, they’ve already got jokes about her.”

“I heard that.” He smirked a little. “The legs…”

Morrow didn’t know how to say it to him but the men were offended because the dead woman’s genitals were on display. They were old-fashioned, sympathetic to women who kept their knees together and their underpants high. The merest hint that a woman was promiscuous could negate their sympathy. Morrow tried not to think about it too much but wore her shirts done up to the neck.

“Crisis of commitment,” he said loudly. “A lot of them just want their paycheck.”

ed vaguely. Bannerman wasn’t really making an observation, he was repeating an indignant conversation he’d had with a golf buddy. The men had every right to be in it for their pay but the problem was deeper, their lack of engagement was becoming entrenched, a badge of honor, something they boasted about to each other. The deeper it went the less they’d get out of them and the bosses were despairing, trying to tackle a problem of hearts and pride by starting rumors of a bonus scheme.

The driver reappeared around the side of the house. He had taken his helmet off, revealing his big bonny baby face. “Boss, we’ll need another few vans. There’s too much.”

Morrow saw the van he’d arrived in. It had plenty of space for what was under the table. “Nah, you can fit that in.”

“No.” He held his hand up and shut his eyes conclusively. “Under the regs we’re not allowed to carry more than seventy-five k at any one time. By my calcs we’ll need nine vans.”

Bannerman looked back at Morrow and they smirked.

“So,” he continued sadly, “we haven’t got seven vans avail. So we’re gonna need to unload, come back, return and come back.” He saw them smile and misunderstood. “Yeah, massive. Drugs, is it?”

Morrow frowned to stop herself giggling and leaned back into the house, shouting in for DC Wilder to come. “I’ll let you sort this out,” she said to Bannerman. “Make sure nothing’s moved—”

“—until it’s photographed, I do know that, Morrow,” grinned Bannerman.

Wilder came out of the front door, guilty when he saw Bannerman and Morrow laughing together on the step.

“Wilder,” she said as he nodded hello to Bannerman, “drive us up the road.”

Morrow and Bannerman sniggered their goodbyes, as Wilder tripped down the steps to the car. Morrow followed him, got in and they pulled on their seat belts, driving past the front door in time to see Bannerman and the driver walking up the steps to the front door.

“Good luck,” muttered Wilder.

Morrow appreciated him saying that; it softened her to him. She’d never liked him very much. He was a bit beige, even for a policeman. His hair was the same color as his skin and he never said anything interesting. She suspected him of being at the heart of the belligerent donkeys on his shift, him and Harris, though she had no real reason for thinking that of him, other than she didn’t like him much to start with.

He pulled the car carefully past the parked mortuary van and down the steep dip of the tarmacked drive.

Along the avenue the headlights licked big trees and picked out bushes. The houses were set back from the road, each with lights along their driveway like landing strips. They were nearly at the end of the avenue when they saw a woman in a raincoat walking at the side of the road, her head down, a handbag slung on a thin strap across her body. She looked up at the headlights and Wilder tutted, pulling into the side of the road in front of her. Morrow saw an inch of roots, brown and wild gray mingling, the weather-warp on the shoulders of the coat and the leatherette flaking off the strap of the handbag.

Her face was bleached by the lights and she looked up at the car, cocked her head at the shadow of faces and squinted, before walking over to the car.

Kay looked in the window, her mouth open to speak but she smiled, open-mouthed, genuinely delighted. Morrow caught her breath: Kay Murray, unchanged.

Morrow opened the door and stepped out, slamming it shut behind her.

“God Almighty,” said Kay, “you look about twelve.”

“Kay,” Morrow wanted to touch her face, “Kay.”

BOOK: AM02 - The End of the Wasp Season
12.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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