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Authors: Quintin Jardine

Tags: #Police Procedural, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction

Skinner's Rules

BOOK: Skinner's Rules
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Skinner's Rules
Copyright © 1993 Quintin Jardine
The right of Quintin Jardine to be identified as the Author of
the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published as en Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2009
All characters in this publication are fictitious
and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.
eISBN : 978 0 7553 5383 5
This Ebook produced by Jouve Digitalisation des Informations
Headline Publishing Group
An Hachette Livre UK Company
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
Table of Contents
Book One Right and Righteous
As a city, Edinburgh is a two-faced bitch.
There is the face on the picture postcards, sunny, bright and shining, prosperous and smiling at the world like a toothpaste ad.
But on the other side of the looking glass lies the other face: the real world where all too often the wind blows cold, the rain lashes down and the poverty shows on the outside. That cold hard face was showing as Bob Skinner made his way to work.
The wind whistled down from the North, driving the rain across Fife, with the threat of snow not far behind. It was 6.43 a.m. on one of those fag-end of the year November days when it seemed impossible to relate the dull, grey city to the cosmopolitan capital of the August Festival weeks, or the friendly town invaded on bright, sparkling Saturdays in January by hordes of visiting rugby followers.
Detective Chief Superintendent Robert Skinner brought his Granada to a halt at the High Street entrance to Advocates’ Close. The tiny gateway, unnoticed every day by hundreds of passers-by, led into one of the many alleyways which flow from the ancient Royal Mile, down to Cockburn Street, to the Mound, and to Cowgate.
Skinner stood framed in the entry, the disapproving bulk of St Giles Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, looming behind him. He looked as grey as the city itself. Steely hair which sometimes sparkled in the sun now flopped lustreless over his forehead. The last of the summer tan was long gone, and the face bore the lines of one wakened too often from too little sleep.
He was dressed for the occasion, in a long leather coat, black and Satanic, over a grey suit. Only the shoes, light leather moccasins, were incongruous. But even in the ungodly gloom, there was no masking the presence of the man. Standing two inches over six feet tall, he filled the gateway as he surveyed the carnage in the Close. Skinner was forty-three years old, but he retained the grace of an athlete. Power was written in every movement, and in the set of his face, where deep blue eyes, a classically straight nose and a strong chin seemed to vie with each other to be the dominant feature.
He stepped over the tape which had been stretched across the entry way. A group of men, some in uniform, stood around a huddled heap of something, lying where the Close emerged from the shelter of the building above into the open air. Daylight was only a vague promise in the eastern sky as he stepped forward into the poorly-lit alley, hunching his shoulders against the rain and screwing his eyes against the wind.
One of the kneeling men, his back to Skinner, looked over his shoulder, as if sensing his presence, and jumped to his feet.
‘Morning, boss!’ Detective Inspector Andy Martin used the form of address beloved of policemen and professional footballers. He was shorter than Skinner, but broader in build. He was fresh-faced, and looked younger than his thirty-four years. His hair, cut close, was unusually blond for a Scot, and his eyes were a bright green, accentuated by a tint in his soft contact lenses. He was dressed in black Levis and a brown leather bomber jacket.
Skinner nodded to his personal assistant. ‘Morning, Andy. Just how suspicious is this suspicious death, then?’ The whole force knew that the Head of CID did not like to be called in on obvious suicides by nervous divisional commanders.
Martin stood between him and the heap. ‘You’d better prepare yourself for this one, boss. This boy’s been chopped to pieces, literally. I never want to see anything like it again.’
Even in the dim light which crept in from the High Street, Skinner could see that Martin’s face was paler than usual.
His expression grew grim. ‘Just fucking magic,’ he muttered, and stepped forward, past the younger man, towards the lamp-lit heap, which not long before had been a human being.
The first thing that he saw clearly was the face, which seemed to stare at the truncated body with unbelieving eyes. The man had been decapitated. Even as he saw the two pools of vomit on the slope below the corpse, his own stomach churned. In all his years on the force, this was as bad as anything he had seen.
But to his people he was the Boss, and the Boss could not show any trace of weakness. So, switching off the horror, he turned his eyes back towards the scene. The head lay about four feet away from the rest of the body. It had landed, or had been placed upright. Skinner noted that it had been severed neatly, as if by a single blow. He looked again at the face and shuddered. The man, apart from the dull, dead eyes, bore a fair resemblance to Andy Martin.
‘Is everything in the position it was when it was found?’
‘Of course, boss.’ Martin sounded almost offended. Then his tone changed, to an awed murmur. ‘It’s as if the bastard left the head like that on purpose.’
‘Who found him?’
‘Two polis from down the road. One of them, PC Reilly, he’s in the Royal, in shock. The other, WPC Ross, she’s over there. Tough wee thing, eh!’
‘Maybe too tough,’ said Skinner, almost to himself.
He forced himself to turn away from the staring eyes, and from the stream of blood which wound down the close into the darkness, to look at the rest of the body. The belly had been slashed open; the intestines were wound around the fingers of the bloody left hand, as if the victim had been trying to hold them in. The right hand had been severed and lay beside the body. It had been cut off, like the head, by a single stroke, the wound running diagonally from a point two inches above the wrist to the base of the thumb.
Because of the blood, and because of his soiling himself in death or in fright, it was difficult to say with certainty what the man had been wearing. Skinner forced himself to look closely and identified black flannel trousers, once supported by a black leather belt, which had been severed by the disembowelling stroke. The shirt was of a heavyweight woollen check cloth, and had been worn over a thick undervest.
‘No jacket or coat found?’ he asked, then failed to see Martin’s shake of his head as he spotted the briefcase under the body. ‘Did the photographer get all this?’ He directed the question over his shoulder.
‘Yes, sir!’ barked a thin man, anorak-clad and carrying a camera.
Gently, taking care to spill no more innards into the close, Skinner drew the case out from beneath the corpse.
It was hand-stitched, in brown leather. The initials ‘MM’ were embossed on the lid in what looked like gold leaf. There were combination locks on either side of the handle. Skinner tried them. They stayed firmly closed.
‘Bugger!’ he swore softly.
He leaned over the body again. The check shirt had two button-down chest pockets. He undid the flap on the left side, and withdrew a small black calf-skin wallet.
A wad of notes was wound around a central clip. Four plastic cards, two of them Gold, were held in slots to the left, and to the right, under a plastic cover, was an identity card.
Advocates’ Library Parliament House 031-221 5706
67 Westmoreland Street Edinburgh 031-227 3122
‘Christ, that opens a thousand avenues of possibility,’ said Skinner, showing the card to Martin. ‘If this guy was a criminal advocate, and from memory, I think he was, we’ll have to check on every dissatisfied customer he’s ever had, and their relations. If anyone did that for revenge, he must have had a hell of a grudge.’
‘Too right!’ said Martin.
Skinner’s eyes swung toward him. ‘Is the doctor here?’
A slim figure heard the question and detached herself from a group further down the alley.
Skinner watched her approach. ‘Surely to Christ,’ he said heatedly to Martin, ‘they could have sent one of the old lags to a thing like this!’
The woman heard him. ‘Hold on just one minute, Skinner. I am a medical practitioner with scene of crime experience. Since not even you would doubt my qualifications, you must be saying that this is no job for a woman. That is sexist!’
But Dr Sarah Grace’s soft smile was at odds with her combative speech. As she came to stand beside Skinner and Martin, she said, ‘I just happen to be on call this month. There are no favours in this job. But just to restore your belief in the weakness of women, one of those little pools of sick down there is my breakfast!’
The duty police surgeon was young for the job, at twenty-nine. She was around five feet six inches tall, with auburn hair and dark hazel eyes, in which, Skinner thought as he looked at her, a man could easily drown. She was American. Normally she dressed with all the sophistication of a New Yorker, but in Advocates’ Close, in the chill November drizzle, she wore denims and a wraparound parka.
BOOK: Skinner's Rules
12.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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