“He locked me in a room with a naked girl, to convert me.”
“Did he succeed?”
“No, Sir. I just closed my eyes and thought of the Strathclyde Police.”
“Any particular member?”
- Stuart, McVitie & Jackie, ‘Apocalypse’
She spotted him immediately, even in the smoky atmosphere of the pub.
He was sitting side-on to the bar, wearing a faded blue & white striped
shirt splashed here and there with patches of dried white paint. His
sleeves were rolled up revealing the recent tan on his lightly haired
arms, his short blond hair was awry, strands hanging down across his
forehead. He looked to her then as he had done seven years ago. Before
Gary McDonald. Before the death of Jim Taggart.
At least there was a smile on Michael’s face now as he sat talking to
Robbie. She approached them, putting the present down on the bar.
“Happy house-warming.” In a moment of sheer bravery, she planted a kiss
on his mouth.
He accepted both gifts with a happy hum. “You shouldn’t have.”
“I know.” She smiled at Robbie. “Hi.”
“Jackie. What can I get you?”
She asked for a glass of white wine, pulling up another bar stool,
watching Michael opening the box she’d bought for him. “Decorating
He looked down at himself before grinning. “I couldn’t live with the
colour of the bedroom.”
“Like a kid with a new toy,” she teased him as Robbie handed her a
Michael placed the lava lamp on the bar. “That’s excellent!”
“It’s gold blobs in sparkling goo, should go with any décor.”
Leaning over, Michael returned her barely-platonic kiss. “Thank you.”
“It’s a little different to what he got from me,” Robbie piped in.
Jackie grinned. “What d’you get him?”
Robbie waited, but when the only answer from Mike was a thoughtful
glance, he sighed. “They’re called Beanie Babies.”
Michael nodded, “Beanie Babies.”
Jackie looked from one to the other in disbelief. “Beanie Babies.
“The big ones?” She nodded, knowing exactly what he was talking about
as he started to count them off on his fingers. “The kiwi, the camel,
“Red dog.” Michael put in.
Robbie nodded, “Yeah. Iguana, platypus, lobster, turtle, scorpion and a
“A Beanie Baby plant?”
“No! A houseplant.”
She shook her head. “Why?”
“Because usually I’d just buy someone a bottle of Moet. This time I had
to think about it.”
“And you came up with Beanie Babies?”
Robbie sat back, feigning offence. “What’s wrong with Beanie Babies?”
He indicated Michael, who stopped with his mineral water mid-way to his
mouth as Rob asked, “Doesn’t he strike you as the Beanie Baby type?”
“Hey! What do you mean by that?”
Jackie was quietly amazed. In the few months since Robbie had joined
Maryhill station, under Jardine’s command, he and Michael hadn’t really
seen eye-to-eye about anything. Yet the ease with which they were
swapping banter today, the companionable teasing that was going on,
anyone watching might have imagined they’d been friends for years.
“Sorry I’m late.” Stuart smiled as the other three turned. “I couldn’t
find it.” He handed Michael a wrapped box. “Happy housewarming.”
“Don’t worry, Stuart,” Rob reassured his sergeant. “It’s typical that
the boss should drag us all the way out here just because the pub’s next
to his house.”
“It’s not next to it! It’s half a mile away. And what are you talking
about, ‘all the way out here’?! It’s only five miles out of Glasgow.”
Robbie raised his eyebrows, grinning as he took Stuart’s drink order.
“Anyone else?” Jackie and Michael held up their glasses. “Oh, I see,
my round again!” But there was only jollity in his tone.
“You did ask.”
Michael tore the wrapping from Stuart’s gift and smiled happily. “A
sensible present! Thank you, Stuart.”
The young man grinned. “I heard you saying you needed a new Wok.”
“Aye, definitely. After letting Jackie use my old one….”
Jackie would always look back on that Sunday afternoon at Michael’s
local, and the evening spent at his new cottage with a Chinese
take-away, as the calm before the storm. Robbie especially was relaxed
and happy in his superior’s company. Sitting out on the bench in the
back garden, looking over the gorgeous view as the sun went down, she
felt elated, joyous even. When Michael put his arm around her and let
her snuggle against him she allowed herself to imagine she’d found a
small slice of heaven in their otherwise hectic existence. But the real
world was always waiting for them.
* * *
Despite all leaving from the same house, the differences in their
arrival times at the station was quite impressive. Jackie might even
have made something of it had she thought about it. Stuart was in
first, immaculately dressed as ever. Jackie wasn’t too far behind him.
She’d finally fallen asleep on the sofa around two a.m., wrapped in
Michael’s arms. But she’d woken alone. She picked up a paper and a
coffee and slumped down behind her desk. As it turned out, she didn’t
need the coffee to stimulate her system.
“Child Sex Fiend Killer Released.
Gary McDonald, who murdered ex-Primary School Gerald Rogers twenty-five
years after being subjected to eight months of sexual abuse by him, will
finally be released from prison this morning.
McDonald was convicted of murder in 1993, following an intensive
investigation by Strathclyde Police. But the judge cut his life sentence
to ten years, citing the unusual circumstances of the case, and the
obvious provocation felt by McDonald upon seeing his abuser again after
Campaigners for McDonald’s release say they are pleased that he has
finally been allowed out of prison after seven years, and that his crime
was one of self-defence.”
Jackie closed her eyes. “Oh, no....”
Robbie was next in, awake and frustratingly cheerful. “Headache,
Stuart grinned in reply. “Not at all, Sir.”
But Jackie didn’t hear him.
Michael arrived not long after Robbie, dropping a box of freshly baked
doughnuts onto the desk in the centre of the main office. “Morning,
everyone. Ready to face the mean streets again?”
Jackie looked up then, standing up. “Sir, can I have a private word?”
“Sure.” He shrugged a suspicious smile at the other two as they moved
in on the wonderful aroma of the fresh sweet dough.
Sitting down at his desk, he watched Jackie close the door. “That’s
sofa’s not made for two to sleep on,” he told her by way of an
She stared at him for a moment, trying work out what he was talking
about. And then it clicked. “Oh... yeah. I know. It’s all right.”
She unfolded the newspaper in her hands. “Michael... there’s bad news.”
“Already?” But his smile faded as she placed the paper down in front of
him on the desk. “God.” He glanced from the headline to the photo
frame on his desk. Jim Taggart’s smiling face looked back at him from
the black and white photograph Jean had given him. He swallowed,
closing his eyes. “I suppose it was too much to hope it was over.”
“I’m sorry, Michael.”
He took a deep breath, wrapping his hand around the back of his own
neck, rubbing it absently. “I’m okay,” he told her finally, meeting her
concerned gaze. “He had to come out sometime, right? He didn’t say
anything about me at the trial. Why would he say anything now?”
“I’m sure he won’t. He was sorry for what he did to you. He didn’t
talk about you to anyone as far as we know.”
“Aye, well... Jim made sure he didn’t get the chance, didn’t he? Would
have probably taken McDonald apart if he’d mentioned my name.” He
managed a wry smile. “He got a little over-protective.”
“You know how he felt about you, Michael.”
He smiled, nodding, and handed the paper back to her. “Thanks for
“I didn’t want you to find out some other way.” She hesitated. “I’ll
go and grab one of those doughnuts.”
Dr Stephen Andrews watched DCI Jardine and DI Ross fall out of the Rover
at a little after four am, almost half an hour after the first call had
“Good morning, Michael, Rob.”
Michael smiled in reply, but Robbie wasn’t going to let the pathologist
get off that lightly.
“It’s a wee bit early, isn’t it, Stephen?”
The pathologist grinned cheerfully. “It’s a beautiful morning!”
“Aye, and it still will be in three hours’ time.”
One of the scene-of-crime officers met them just in front of the
warehouse where the body had been discovered.
“It’s not a pretty sight for this time in the morning,” he warned.
“When is it ever?” Michael led the others into the cool darkness of the
building, following the officer.
“Oddly, it rings a bell. I’m sure I remember reading about something
like this years ago.”
Rob shrugged. “One dead body starts to become much like another after a
“Not this one. This one’s missing arms and legs.”
Michael and Stephen glanced at one another, and in that look they
communicated a silent conversation. ‘Coincidence.’
‘No such thing.’
‘He wouldn’t kill again.’
‘How do we know that?’
Rob stepped passed them, oblivious to their sudden concerns, and
continued deeper into the dim light until he could crouch by what
remained of the body. “Wonder where the rest of him is.”
Together, Michael and Stephen closed in, both seeing the familiar
features of the now deathly pale face. Michael closed his eyes, turning
away. Stephen sighed. “Gary McDonald.”
Standing up, Rob studied them both with confusion. “Who?”
“He was released from prison yesterday after serving seven years of a
ten year sentence for murder.” While he spoke, Stephen dropped his bag
and pulled out some latex gloves and a plastic overall. “The man he
killed was found in exactly this state. Well, almost exactly.”
“Almost?” Robbie’s question was directed at the pathologist, but his
concerned gaze never left his boss’ back. “You okay, Mike?”
Stephen turned in time to stop Robbie following the DCI as he left the
scene abruptly. “Give him a few minutes.”
“What’s going on?”
Stephen thought for a moment. “Call Jackie would you, ask her to come
All he’d told her on the phone was that a body had been found, that of
Gary McDonald. The name alone had been enough to wake her. She’d taken
advantage of the empty roads and broken several speed limits to get here
as fast as she could. She screeched the Ford to a halt behind the five
other police cars – two marked and three plain – already at the scene
and got out, slamming the door. The sound echoed in the otherwise quiet
Stepping from between two of the cars, she spotted Michael to her
right. He was sitting on a raised stone slab at the edge of the dock,
one knee bought up under his chin, arms wrapped around his leg. Part of
her wanted nothing more than to go to him, to comfort him. But she saw
Robbie, out of the corner of her eye, beckoning her over to the open
entrance of the warehouse around which the surprisingly small amount of
activity seemed to the centred.
“Jackie, Stephen told me to call you.” He indicated their boss. “He
saw the body and flipped out.”
“He didn’t ‘flip out’.” Stephen appeared just inside the doorway.
“You’d better take a look, Jackie.”
Together they walked across the concrete ground to the body dumped in
the centre of the large of expanse of floor. “Oh, God….”
“Gary McDonald, I’m afraid.”
Rob followed them. “Will somebody please tell me what the hell’s goin’
Jackie buried her hands deep in the pockets of her long coat. She took
a deep breath before starting, silently considering how much Robbie
needed to know, and how much should come out now. “We arrested Gary
McDonald back in 1993 for the murder of man named Gerald Rogers.
Rogers, it turned out, was an ex-Primary school teacher…”
“…who abused his pupils. Aye, I read about that in yesterday’s paper!”
He took another long look at their victim. “This is the same guy?
Well, at least that makes some sense. Someone’s been waiting for him to
“It looks that way.”
Robbie glanced back at her. “What it doesn’t explain is why Mike’s
sitting out there looking like he’s seen a ghost.”
“Michael found Rogers’ body.”
Frowning sympathetically, Robbie nodded. “I guess seeing this twice in
a lifetime would be too much for anyone.” He hoped he sounded
“Right. And Rogers was missing more than his arms and legs.”
For a moment, the thought process was actually visible on Rob’s face,
and then the flash of inspiration hit him. He shuddered once. “So our
man here wasn’t a nice guy.”
“He was one of Rogers’ victims, which was why the sentence was lenient.
DCI Taggart supported his case in court.”
“Taggart? Unusual, wasn’t it? For him?”
“He did have a heart, Robbie, despite what people thought.”
“Hi.” Jackie spoke first before dropping her hands to Michael’s
shoulders. She didn’t want to startle him. Sitting down, facing away
from the water, she rubbed her hand down his arm in what she hoped was
understanding and support. “I told Robbie that you found the body,
that’s all.” He nodded, but didn’t speak. “We could pass this across.”
Finally, after a long time, Michael shook his head. “No, Jackie. I
have to take this one. I feel… I owe him this.”
“Owe who? McDonald, after what he did to you?”
“Not McDonald.” His voice faltered. “I owe Jim.”
“He’d understand,” Jackie told him quietly. But she knew deep down it
wouldn’t change his mind.
Robbie stepped out of the warehouse, looking up as Stuart came bouncing
cheerfully along from his car.
“Come to join the fun, Stuart?”
“Couldn’t sleep, Sir.” He nodded his head over at the two on the
bench. “What’s goin’ on?”
“I don’t know exactly.” He filled his colleague in on what Jackie had
told him, and even Stuart noticed his less abrupt tone, his unusual
smile, his ease with life despite the case opening up before them.
“But... I dunno. There’s somethin’ else goin’ on. Mike’s seen worse
“Seeing it twice must have shaken him.”
“He’s not shaken, Stuart, he’s upset.” Rob watched them for another
second, then he tapped the constable’s arm. “Come and meet our
Michael was still sitting out there, alone, when Stephen finished up.
The pathologist sat himself down beside his old friend, putting a large
arm around the slumped shoulders and hugging him briefly. “Are you all
“Yeah. I just need to... prepare myself. It’s all goin’a come out,
Stephen. I could be a suspect for God’s sake.”
“Michael.” His tone was gently scathing. “I don’t think anyone would
believe you capable.”
Blinking back the tears that had been threatening for half an hour, Mike
turned to look at Stephen. “Not capable?”
“You couldn’t harm a living soul. I think that’s what Jim loved so much
Michael smiled sadly. “Not really a survival trait though, is it?”
“You’ve done so well, he’d be so proud of you. And you’ll get through
“I only got through it the first time with his help. I’d have never
done it on my own.”
“You’re not alone now either. Jackie’s there for you, and the other
two, they’d both be good friends.”
“I know.” Stephen looked up as the three detectives approached them,
Jackie smiling, Robbie and Stuart hanging back. With one last hug,
Stephen dropped his arm and stood.
“I’d better get the PM done, if someone would like to drop by for the
Jackie nodded, and what passed between them was unspoken understanding.
“I’ll be round this afternoon, Stephen.” Closing in, she dropped her
hand to Michael’s shoulder. “C’mon, I’ll give you a lift back.”
On the roof of the warehouse, he dangled his legs over the edge and took
one last drag on the cigarette, stubbing it out in the dirt. He’d been
right about Jardine, he felt good about that. There was no hurry. He
could wait. There were others to silence first.
Michael looked up from the paperwork covering his desk. “Come in.”
Jackie closed the door behind her. She met her boss’ gaze. “You know
what I’m goin’a say.”
He sighed. “You want the case notes from 1993.”
“I’m sorry, Michael.”
“No.” He shook his head. “I was expecting it.” He bit his bottom
lip. “Jackie... I need to ask a favour.”
She moved further into the office. “Anything.”
“I need you to tell Robbie.”
She wrinkled her forehead. “Tell him what?”
“Michael... are you sure?”
He nodded. “I can’t do it. I’ve thought about it, I’ve run it through
in my mind and I can’t....”
She regarded him with sympathy. “All right. If you’re absolutely
certain. I’ll take him out for lunch.”
“Thanks.” He sat back. “The case notes... they’ll be in archives,
under Taggart, 1993.” He glanced across at the photo on his desk,
distracted for a moment.
“You miss him,” she said uselessly. But he nodded anyway. “So do I.”
“Sometimes... I just wish... I could talk to him.” Reaching over,
Jackie offered her hand, and for a moment, Michael took it, accepting
the proffered comfort, the mutual understanding. “Sorry, Jackie.”
“Don’t be. He’s always with us, Michael. We’re never going to forget
They sat opposite one another at a table in a quiet pub in the city. A
pint of beer remained untouched in front of Robbie, whereas Jackie had
almost finished her first glass of white wine. “Well,” he grinned at
her. “This is very clandestine.”
She regarded him steadily. She’d always considered him handsome, in a
rough kind of way. Sexy, as opposed to Michael’s warm sensuality. “I
have something to tell you. It has to be in complete confidence, you
can’t tell another soul.”
He crossed his arms on the table, leaning in. “Jackie, you’re only
It took her by surprise. “What?”
He shrugged. “You have the hots for me. It’s nothing to be ashamed
of.” Her expression - part humour, part anger - shut him up. “Okay.
You have my word. It won’t go any further than the two of us.”
“This isn’t going to be easy.” She took a deep breath. “The body we
found this morning, Gary McDonald.”
He sobered immediately. “There is something more, isn’t there?”
“The guy McDonald murdered, Gerald Rogers.”
“The ex-Primary school teacher who was abusing his kids. Not a nice
“Robbie... Michael was one of those kids.”
She watched the information sink in, watched his expression go from
disbelief to dismay. “No....”
Jackie nodded. “He asked me to tell you. He couldn’t quite find the
Robbie shook his head. “I can’t believe it. No wonder he took it so
hard this morning. McDonald did him a favour.” He took a long drink of
his beer. “That bastard....” His mobile phone interrupted his thinking
aloud. Pulling it from his jacket pocket, he glanced at the LCD before
answering the call. “Stuart.”
“Sorry, Sir.” To his credit he did sound sorry. “There’s been
“Like this morning. Another body with no limbs, Sir.”
Robbie found himself relieved that Jardine hadn’t made himself present
at the second crime scene of the day. He was distracted himself,
letting Stuart and Jackie talk to a complaining Stephen Andrews. “Two
in one day, Jackie? I haven’t had time to finish the first one!” Yet
he looked around with concern for their DCI.
“He stayed behind,” she explained noncommittally.
The corpse was in the same state as McDonald had been that morning. At
least this time they didn’t instantly recognized the victim. But his
wallet was still in his jacket pocket, which was thrown over the body
where it lay on the floor of a farmhouse barn. “Mark Lithow.” He
handed the leather wallet to Jackie. “Same state as our friend this
morning, by the looks of it – same weapon I would have said.”
“There’s no blood,” she looked around. “Like this morning. They were
killed somewhere else and then dumped. Which means… they were probably
both dumped over night.” She glanced outside, where Stuart was taking a
statement from the poor farmer who’d found the body. “Cause of death,
He wiggled a finger at her. “Now, now. You know the rules. You’re as
bad as Michael. I’ll have a report for you just as soon as I can get
the autopsies done. If you could refrain from finding any more bodies
today, I might have a chance.”
She smiled. “Right.”
Jackie had forgotten just how much paperwork they’d accumulated during
the McDonald case. All the school reports, the photographs, the papers
they had taken from Rogers’ house were in storage, and when they
requested the case files it was all returned to them. Michael’s report
had been taken from the rest of them and kept out of circulation by
Taggart himself. He’d protected his sergeant as much as he had been
Jackie sighed, getting maudlin wasn’t going to help matters. She
grabbed an armful of school reports and dumped them on the desk between
Stuart and Robbie. “We’re going to have to search through these.”
“And look for what?” Stuart wanted to know.
Robbie had already put two and two together. “Mark Lithow’s report.”
Jackie nodded. “The connection between our two corpses might be Gerald
Rogers, they both might have been pupils of his.”
“Victims,” Robbie corrected.
“Victims.” She grabbed her coat.
“Hey, how come you get out of this?”
Hand on her hip, she faced him. “All right, Robbie. You go and tell
Mark Lithow’s wife that her husband’s dead, and I’ll search through the
Robbie looked down, immediately shifting his interest to the folders in
front of him.
Four coffees later, Stuart found him. “I’ve got it, Sir!” He leaned
forward, taking his feet off the desk and handing the report to his
Robbie read from the front sheet, “Lithow, Mark Peter. Born November
12th 1964. This is from Glasgow City Primary School.” He thought for a
moment. “Is McDonald’s report around.”
“Aye, that’s separate.” Stuart crossed to one of the boxes and took the
manila file from the top, passing it into Robbie’s waiting hands.
“Thanks. I thought I remembered that – McDonald was at the same school
as Lithow.” He read further. “In the same class.”
Stuart dropped back down into his seat. “So… someone’s waited for
McDonald to come out of jail… before killing him and another member of
his first primary school class?”
“Another victim of Gerald Rogers.” He sighed. “Right, we need to sort
through all these and find every report on pupils at Glasgow City
“You think they could all be in danger?”
“I don’t know, do I, Stuart?” He dropped the patronising tone. “But at
the moment it’s my best guess.”
It was just gone five when Jardine’s office door opened and he stepped
out. Robbie’s head snapped up, he hadn’t even been aware that his boss
Michael glanced at them. “Stephen’s just phoned, the autopsy results
are ready so I’m goin’ down there.” It seemed to be a statement of fact
rather than a subtle request for company, so Rob just nodded. “I might
not come back tonight. You’ve got my number if anything breaks.”
“Right, Sir.” He shot a quick glance at Stuart, knowing the constable
was ready to pipe up with what they’d already found. “We’ll keep you
At least Stuart waited until he was sure Jardine was out of earshot
before asking. “Why didn’t you tell him what we’ve found?”
“All in good time, Stuart.” Robbie knew what his subordinate would
think, but he just wanted to be sure before he said anything, and he
didn’t want to blurt it out in the middle of the office for all to watch
their DCI’s reaction.
Jackie returned soon after, just as Stuart was throwing the last of the
school reports onto the ‘other’ pile. He’d scribbled down a list of all
the names he’d found on Glasgow City Primary reports, and now he handed
it to his superior as he stood, stretching his legs by heading to the
coffee machine in the corridor. Robbie scanned quickly down the list
for one name, and to his relief it wasn’t there. If it had been, he’d
reasoned anyway, Stuart would have said something.
“You took your time,” he muttered as Jackie dropped her handbag to her
“She was devastated. We were worried she’d hurt herself.” She frowned,
not her usual expression of pained empathy. “Strange woman.”
“She is in mourning.”
“No… before that, before we told her she seemed… odd. Her husband’s
school photos are up on the walls, including a copy of one with
Rogers’. You’d think he’d just want to forget, wouldn’t you?”
“You’d have thought so.”
Stuart sat back down, blowing across the top of the plastic cup full of
murky brown liquid. “Perhaps he wasn’t one of Rogers’ victims, perhaps
he was just in the same class.”
Jackie had to agree. “We have jumped to the conclusion that these
school reports belonged to the children being abused.”
“Well,” Robbie handed her the list Stuart had compiled. “McDonald and
Lithow were in the same class, the intake class at Glasgow City
Primary. There are eight other names that we found on reports from that
school.” Jackie glanced down the list. “You think we should find the
“I dunno. Maybe we are jumping to conclusions. Or maybe we leave it
and someone else gets killed.”
Stuart picked up the pile of reports. “I’ll see if I can trace them,
“Good on you, Stuart.”
Jackie waited until he’d left the room before handing the list back to
Rob. “You’ve missed a name off that.”
Robbie stared at her. “His report....”
“... isn’t with the rest. Taggart and McVitie kept it out of the
Shaking his head, Robbie dropped the notepad to his desk. “Is there
anything else they kept out of the case files?”
She hesitated, but nodded. “Yes. You have to try to understand how
much Michael meant to Jim Taggart. Jim became... like a surrogate
father to the both of us.” She gazed at him. “Just... try to be
careful around Michael with this one. He’s not as invulnerable as he
likes to make out.”
Robbie opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again and just
Billy Joel’s ‘Captain Jack’ played quietly on the separates system while
Michael sat in the corner of the sofa cradling a mug of hot chocolate in
his hands. His eyes only focused when the doorbell rang.
“Rob, what’s up?”
The other detective stood under the outside light, hands in his
pockets. “Mike....” His hesitation said it all and Michael sighed,
letting the door swing open and stepping back inside the lounge. Robbie
closed the door behind him, following his boss through to the candle-lit
lounge. “Jackie spoke to me at lunchtime. She told me about Rogers.”
Michael sat back down into the corner of the sofa, facing Rob as he
settled into the opposite corner. “I asked her to... I can’t....” He
stumbled, uncertain about what he wanted to say. “I still have the
“I can understand that. You and McDonald... had something that linked
Dropping the side of his head against the back of the sofa, Michael
sighed. “Maybe we had, but I can’t forget what he did to me. I can’t
forgive him, and I’ve tried, believe me.” He looked up, looking perhaps
for understanding, but what he saw was confusion. “What he did to you?”
“What did Jackie tell you about McDonald?”
“Nothing, she told me about Rogers. Stuart did cut our lunchtime
short....” He read the expression on his colleague’s face. “Mike...?”
“I found the body,” he murmured, closing his eyes. “I actually found
McDonald dumping the body. He was... he was sitting on the corpses’
face, with his... penis in its mouth.” Robbie’s expression changed to
one of innate disgust. “When he saw me... he shifted his attentions.”
Not sure what to say, Robbie reached across and took a hold of his
friend’s hand. “He seemed to come back into himself, and he seemed
disgusted with himself, angry. He kicked me... but by then I was out of
it too. He left me in the corner, looking the corpse of my primary
school teacher who when I was five had threatened to rape me if I ever
told anyone that he was sexually abusing me.”
They sat in silence for a while, hands clasped in one another’s.
Finally, Michael spoke up. “Will you stay?”
“Do you really think you have to ask?”
Michael smiled his own patented little smile, and blushed slightly. “We
shouldn’t be doing this.”
“Why? Because of you being my boss? Or because you’re not sure how
you’d explain it to Jackie when you eventually get around to telling her
how you feel about her?”
“Either. Both.” He looked up, his expression alone convincing Rob to
close the physical gap between them. “Do you know the trouble we’d be
“From Internal Investigations or from Jackie?”
Michael chuckled, his eyes closing slowly as Robbie leaned in for a
kiss. The young inspector covered his boss’ mouth with his own, tracing
the other’s lips with the tip of his tongue before dipping into the
welcoming mouth. He took the mug from Michael’s hands, leaning to one
side to drop it to the floor without breaking the contact. Mike’s arms
went around him, one around his neck, the other snaking around his
waist, urging him closer.
Michael untucked his legs from under him, stretching out along the edge
of the sofa while Robbie manoeuvred himself until he was lying half over
his lover, half next to him. At the same time, Mike deepened the kiss,
scraping his tongue over the roof of Rob’s mouth, moaning into the
contact between them. This was something Rob had delighted in the first
time they’d slept together – Michael’s incredible sensuality, his
responsiveness to bring touched, kissed, to simply being loved. The
strained, tightly-laced personality that seemed to strangulate him in
public, in his everyday dealings with others, dissipated the moment he
was shown affection. Robbie had seen it, watched his mask fall when
Jackie touched him in a stolen moment. He’d known, long before Michael
had told him, that his boss and his female colleague shared something
special, something yet to be acknowledged by either of them.
Instead of jealousy he’d found himself wanting only to know that Mike
was loved. His daily defences were almost transparent to Robbie, who
was often amazed at how others missed seeing what was underneath. Last
Saturday night they’d discovered something very precious between them,
something he was only willing to give up if he could hand Michael over
to someone who could really love him.
Mike’s fingers were fumbling at his shirt buttons, and he had to break
the kiss to let the giggles bubbling up within him escape. “Easy
there,” he murmured, kissing Michael’s jawline. The other man dropped
his head back, giving Robbie better access. “You’re... so... damn...
gorgeous.” He punctuated his words with nips to Michael’s skin, slowly
starting his lover on the upwards slope toward the crescendo they had
shared the last time. They melted into one another, shutting out the
outside world for the night.
Still yawning, Michael pulled his front door closed and walked across to
his car, finding the right key on the bunch in his hand. It was a
beautiful day, the cool morning air tempered by the early rays of
sunshine. He whistled to himself as he stepped up to the driver’s side
of his car, finding the right key. The next thing he was aware of was a
knife blade pressing into his throat. He stayed still, waiting for
whatever came next.
“Hello, Michael.” The low, quiet voice spoke to something buried within
him. “You’re goin’a come with me now. You’re goin’a be my guest for a
“Why don’t we... go inside? We can talk about this.”
The man standing behind him chuckled. “I haven’t got time, I’m afraid.
Lots to do. I was even goin’a let you wait for a while. But you’re
getting a bit close so I’ve decided to take you off this case.” The
humour in his voice at his own joke was obvious. “And I don’t suggest
you try anything clever. If I moved my hand just right, I could open up
your throat right here and we could watch you bleed to death together,
all over your nice clean car. We wouldn’t want that would we, Michael?”
“Good. So you’ll just do as I tell you.”
The blade was taken from his throat, and a moment later something hard
cracked across the back of his head. He knew nothing after that.
Robbie glanced up at the clock as Jackie walked in. She caught the
movement of his eyes and sighed. “I know, I know. Late night.” She
put the plastic cup of sludge down on the desk and caught sight of
Robbie shaking his head.
“I wasn’t being sarcastic, for once. I was just wondering where Mike...
had got to.” Jackie noticed the use of their boss’ Christian name.
“He’s late in,” he added to the now curious regard of both his close
colleagues. “He’s never late in.”
Jackie shrugged, throwing her coat across the back of her chair and
sitting down. “Call his mobile if you’re worried.”
Robbie hesitated a beat before reaching for his phone. “With what’s
been going on recently, and the connection and all that....” The
explanation was greeted by even more curious gazes and he gave up,
dialling Michael’s mobile number from memory. There was no reply. He
tried again. Still no reply. He tried the number at the cottage and
reached the answering machine. Replacing the handset, he started to tap
his fingers against his desk.
It took a few minutes, but finally Jackie caved in. “If you’re that
worried, go over there.”
He stood. “Good idea. Stuart?” He threw his car keys at his
constable. “You’re driving.”
It took twenty minutes to reach Michael’s new home from the station.
Twenty-three minutes later, Jackie’s phone rang.
“Jackie...” Stuart’s voice was less than calm. “We’re over at Mike’s.
His car’s still here, there’s... spots of blood on the driver’s window
and door, and his keys are lying next to it.”
Jackie sat up. “God....”
“What do we do, Jackie?”
Michael opened his eyes, ignoring the sharp pain that drove through his
head. He was lying on his side on a cold, hard floor. That much was
clear to him immediately. His wrists were bound behind his back, and
one simple test confirmed that his ankles were tied too. He could taste
blood in his mouth, but the rest of his body seemed to be in one piece.
He closed his eyes, the rapidly increasing ache in his head making him
“You’re awake!” The accent was a soft Scottish one, possibly
Edinburgh. “Sorry about the accommodation, but it won’t be for long.”
Michael opened his eyes and stared at the man towering over him,
committing every detail that he could make out to memory, concentrating
through the haze of pain on the twinge of recognition just beyond his
grasp. “I have to do something now,” he cocked his thumb over to the
right of them, and Michael lifted his head with considerable effort,
catching sight of the still form dumped on the floor several metres from
them. “But I’ll get around to you soon, I promise.” Michael suppressed
a moan as he dropped his head back to the hard concrete.
The man moved away from him, and Michael made an effort to keep his eyes
open, instinct telling him to remember everything. But when his
abductor appeared back in his line of sight with a fire axe in his hand,
it was all he could to keep the panic in check. “What....” The word
came out as a muffled squeak, and he swallowed before he tried again.
“What do you want from me?”
The man turned, regarding him patiently with interest. “What was that,
The affectionate phrase struck a chord in Michael’s memory. “What do
He came toward him now, axe thrown over his shoulder like it was an
everyday item. “I want you to stay there until I’m ready for you.
Sorry it’s uncomfortable, but at least it’s not a stationary cupboard,
The comment threw him for a moment, and the guy turned away, heading
back to the form on the floor. “Please....”
He turned his head. “Sorry, Sunshine, I haven’t got time to chat right
now. Later, ay?”
He knelt down, and Michael cracked his eyes open once again in time to
see the figure on the floor move. Relief flooded him for a single
second, and then the axe came down and the resulting scream echoed in
the empty place that was now his prison. “No!” He surprised himself
with the ferocity of his cry. But his captor’s attention was elsewhere
now. Again, the axe came down, again and again and again. There was
only one more scream, but it was less intense and it was merged with
Michael’s answering cry.
Michael screwed his eyes closed, knowing the other victim was dead,
knowing he’d just witnessed a murder. He had to get out, and he centred
his whole concentration on that one thought. There were other sounds,
impossible to ignore, and then he heard his captor coming toward him.
He looked up, trying to hide his fear. The axe was nowhere to be seen.
“Right, well, I gotta go out now. But I’ll be back soon and then we can
have that wee chat, okay?”
He waited, all the time twisting his wrists to loosen his bonds.
Whatever he was tied with, it was starting to cut into him. He
listened, and when he heard an engine start up outside, he opened his
eyes and struggled to sit up. Somehow he got to his feet, finding his
ankles bound with the same wire he guessed was around his wrists. He
discovered he could shuffle, if his blurring vision would let him.
Looking around him he saw the door and made for it, moving as fast as he
was able, spurred on by the vivid memories of what had happened to the
Once there, he turned his back to the door and grasped the handle in his
fingers. He leaned down on it, and by some miracle it opened outwards.
He felt the cold air on his face and thanked God for the darkness
outside. His movements had loosened the bindings around his ankles
further, and he could almost run with small steps. He ran as fast as he
could, happy for the wire to cut into his flesh as long as he could
escape this prison and the horror that awaited him.
Coming out from the large garage onto an industrial estate, he looked
around and saw a light coming from one of the units several hundred
yards away. He headed for it, praying silently that he wouldn’t walk
into more danger, that he would find help in that light.
By the time he reached the assumed place of safety, he could feel the
blood soaking through his socks. But he wouldn’t allow himself to give
up, even to rest for a moment. His head was swimming and the blackness
continued to edge closer to his conscious mind, beckoning him into the
blissful state of sleep. He shook himself mentally, determined to make
it. The front door of the unit was open, and he staggered inside as a
woman appeared in the back of the small reception area with her coat
half-on, half-off. She stared at him blankly.
“Help.” It was all could say before he toppled forwards.
She caught him, lowering him to the floor gently. The last thing he
heard was her instructing someone to call for an ambulance.
The three of them practically ran through the main doors of the hospital
and didn’t stop until a doctor stepped in front of them. He smiled
reassuringly. “Sergeant Reid? Inspector Ross?” Jackie nodded, taking
his offered hand without thinking. “I’m Doctor Graham Lewis. I was on
duty when Michael was brought in. He’s going to be fine.” He imagined
he could see the relief as all three relaxed slightly. “He’s had a
rough day, but he’ll recover.” He walked them along the corridor to the
small emergency ward. “His ankles and wrists were badly cut by the wire
he was tied with, and he’s had a nasty bang on the back of his head.
Slight concussion, but nothing too serious.” He stopped at the open
entrance to the ward, letting them go ahead of him.
There were three beds on the left, three on the right. Michael was in
the far bed on the left-hand side, next to the window. It was more of a
relief to see him than it had been simply to hear that he was okay.
Jackie stepped up to the bed, touching the back of Michael’s hand where
it lay just next to his face as he slept on his side. For a second,
Robbie stood close behind her. “Thank God,” he murmured sincerely. She
turned to look at him.
“We should get some protection here.”
“Yeah.” He stayed for another few moments before leaving to find a
Doctor Lewis took his place behind her. “We’ll keep him in for
twenty-four hours under observation, just to be sure. You can stay with
“Thanks.” She turned to instruct Stuart. “Find out who called the
ambulance, go and see them. I don’t want to have to wait until
morning.” Stuart nodded, that was fine with him. They’d all been
running on adrenaline since finding Mike’s car this morning. He’d never
felt so awake in his life.
Robbie handed Jackie a mug of coffee and settled himself against the
windowsill on the other side of the bed. “Courtesy of Doctor Lewis,” he
explained as she held up the mug. She’d been expect a plastic cup of
foul tasting coffee, not the fresh aroma that teased her senses now.
They remained in silence for a time, sipping coffee. The ward was
darkened, the only other occupant lying in the bed on the other side of
the room at the opposite end. Michael slept peacefully, aided by some
gentle sedatives. A saline drip had been set up, and an oxygen monitor
was clipped to the end of one finger. Apart from that there was nothing
to disturb him, even the hourly checks of his temperature and blood
pressure were as uninvasive as they could be. After the most recent
checks, Jackie had wrapped her fingers around his hand, holding lightly.
Robbie put his mug down onto the windowsill and rocked to his feet,
going to find himself a chair. When he’d settled opposite Jackie he
reached for his mug again, cradling it in his hands.
“You don’t have to stay,” she told him quietly.
“I want to.” His gaze flicked from her to Michael and back. “Jackie,
can I tell you something in total confidence?” His words were merely
“The night before Mike’s housewarming, I went over there to take his
present. We got talking, about anything and everything. We just... we
got on better than I’d ever imagined we would outside work. I told him
things I’d never told anyone. I told him... that I was bi-sexual.”
Jackie’s eyes widened. “I know, everything I’ve said to Stuart....” He
shook his head. “I’d never admitted it even to myself. But I found
myself telling him, God knows why.”
Jackie was smiling at him. “He’s a good listener.”
“Aye. He told me some things about himself too. He told me... how he
felt about you, how much he loves you.” She looked away, and
immediately he knew that she’d already realised. “That night... we
slept together.” Her mouth fell open, but what she felt surprised her.
There was no immediate jealousy, no change in how she felt about Michael
or Robbie. And she found herself smiling at him.
“I don’t know what to say.”
“It was one of those things, it just... happened. It was irresistible.
I made the first move, probably the whiskey I’d been drinking. But he
was stone-cold sober, as usual, and he just....” Robbie let out a deep
breath, glad to have finally told her. “I’d have never imagined he
could be so passionate.”
“Oh, stop it.” But she was still smiling. “I wish I’d been there.”
She could barely believe she’d said it.
Robbie locked his gaze with hers. “We wished you were there too.”
For a long moment they just looked at each other, so much changing in
that short time by Michael’s bedside. Whatever this conversation would
eventually lead to, it would have to sit on the back burner for a
while. Michael, they were guessing, was an intended victim of their
killer. They had to find the man who’d done this.
A low moan drew their attention as Michael resettled himself on to his
back. A second passed, then he opened his eyes. Jackie smiled
brightly, rubbing her thumb over his hand. “Hi, there.” He smiled at
her, a wonderful expression of relief, then turned his head and smiled
at Robbie too. He reached out with his free hand, and Robbie took it
straight away, squeezing it lightly.
“You two....” Taking his hand back, he reached around to the back of
his head, touching the stitched wound there before bringing his fingers
around to the front of his neck. “He... put a knife to my throat,
outside my house, said I had to go with him. He threatened to kill me
there, and then he hit me with something.” He closed his eyes as his
memory slowly returned. “He killed a man... using an axe... right there
in front of me....” His voice cracked slightly, his distress obvious.
“I couldn’t do anything to stop him.” Jackie leaned forward, brushing
her hand over his forehead and hair.
“It’s all right, Michael.”
“I don’t know where I was.... Some... industrial park.”
Robbie touched his arm. “Stuart’s on to it now. We’ll find out where
you were held.”
The information seemed to relax him. He closed his eyes, but a moment
later he was wide awake. “Jackie... he knew about... the stationary
“That makes sense, if he’s another of Rogers’ victims,” she told him
“He called me ‘Sunshine’.”
Robbie frowned. “’Sunshine’? What’re you....”
But Jackie picked up on it immediately. “He knew? How?”
“I don’t know.” His eyes closed again, the sedatives starting to pull
him back into sleep.
Robbie looked across. “’Sunshine’?”
“Jim used to call him ‘Sunshine’. It was his... pet name for him, if
“Are you sure there’s nothing else I should know?” But it wasn’t a
serious question. “So, we have another body to find.”
“And by the sounds of it, Michael was supposed to be next.”
Robbie rubbed his eyes, finishing off his now cold coffee. “I’m goin’a
check in with the station, see if Stuart’s got anywhere.”
Stuart had got somewhere, in fact, he’d found the garage lock-up in
which Michael had been held and in which three men had been killed.
Jackie stared at the composite that Michael had managed to give them.
She’d always found it hard to look into the eyes of murderers. If eyes
truly were windows to the soul, there were some things she never wanted
to look upon. Three men were dead, their limbs hacked off while they
were still alive. If Michael hadn’t have managed to escape.... She
didn’t want to think about it. Robbie was with him at the hospital. It
was unspoken, but they weren’t going to leave him under the protection
of just one uniformed officer. They’d already agreed that he stay at
her place after he was discharged. Their killer wasn’t going to get a
second shot at him.
Jackie sat back in her chair when Stuart came to perch on the edge of
her desk. “Jackie... was DCI Jardine one of the kids Rogers’
assaulted?” She nodded, knowing she could reply on Stuart to be
discrete. “I’ve been thinkin’. There are two screaming possibilities
here. Either another member of the class is attempting to shut every
other member of that class up, in case they say something. Or someone
involved with the school is trying to keep it quiet, to avoid some
“Twenty five years later?”
“Perhaps he’s just landed a job where scandal would damage him.”
She handed him the print out of the face they were hunting. “Recognise
He gazed at it for a moment before shaking his head. “How’s the boss?”
“Awake, according to Rob. Complaining about the food.”
“Ay! Stop that!” It was the second time Robbie had caught Michael
playing with the dressings around his wrists. He sat down on the edge
of his boss’ bed, dropped the small pile of newspapers and books gently
onto the blankets before taking a pack of cards and a king-size Twix
from his jacket’s inside pocket and adding them to the pile. “An
attempt to stop you fiddling.” Michael smiled gratefully, lifting the
chocolate bar and opening it. “How do you keep that figure?” he
teased. “I’d never have pegged you as a chocolate fiend.”
“There are some things even you don’t know about me, Robbie.” Michael
offered his colleague a bite, but Rob shook his head.
“I munched a Mars bar on the way up.”
“Now the truth comes out!”
Robbie stood, dropping into the chair beside the bed. He watched their
ward sift through the paperback novels and tabloid newspapers. “Rob?”
“Don’t tell me, you actually read the Daily Mirror.”
Michael smirked. “No. Could you close your eyes? I need the toilet
and these gowns don’t exactly cover everything.”
It was Robbie’s time to smile. “I’ll give you some privacy. I’ll go
and see if I can get that nurse’s telephone number.” He wiggled his
eyebrows as he got up.
Rob went to the toilet himself, on his return he passed the reception
desk for the two small wards. “DI Ross?”
“Yeah.” He leaned on the desk, aware of a young man hovering nearby.
The nurse indicated him.
“You may want to speak to this gentleman. He’s been asking after your
Slipping into protective mode instantly, Robbie turned, bristling. “And
who might you be?”
“My name’s Iain, I’m Michael’s brother.”
Iain walked slowly into the ward, very aware of the DI behind him. He
wasn’t sure what reaction he would get, but when Michael looked up, the
smile spread over his face. Iain sat nervously on the edge of the bed.
“It was on the news....”
Michael reached out and took his brother’s hand. “Thanks for coming.”
Iain turned it in his own, touching the edge of the dressings. “Are you
“I’m fine.” Mike hesitated before reaching for his young brother. And
then he was pulled carefully into a hug. Rob watched, touched, as
Michael rested his forehead against his brother’s shoulder, his eyes
closed. He gave them a little privacy, going to the public telephone in
“Jackie? I didn’t know Mike had a brother?”
There was a smile in her voice when she replied. “Iain? Has he turned
“Aye. Just now. They look... pleased to see one another.”
“They’ve had a rough ride. I’m glad he’s there. You can trust him
“Maybe. I’m not leaving, Jackie.”
“I never suggested you should. We’re tracked down most of the other
pupils in the class. Stuart and I are going to contact a couple of them,
some of them have already been contacted. I’ll be over in a couple of
She’d just put the phone down when it rang again.
“Ah, Jackie.” He stood as she came closer, further into the hallway of
the derelict house. “There’s a good chance that this is the victim
Michael saw killed. The time of death is about right.”
“The credit cards in his wallet are in the name of C. Burns.” Stuart
took the list from his pocket. “Craig Burns. He’s on here.”
“Oh, God.” She stared down at the body, forcing herself to remember.
Something had to break in this investigation. The circulated composite
of the man they suspected couldn’t get into the papers fast enough.
Stephen stood up beside her, concern in his eyes. “How is he, Jackie?”
“Okay. Shaken up, but he’s in one piece.” It wasn’t supposed to be
ironic. She shook her head. “Sorry. I guess this is getting to us
He patted her arm. “It’s all right. I’ll get this one back to the lab
and call you when I’ve finished.”
She and Stuart headed out for the home of Patrick Skelton, the first
name on Stuart’s list. He answered the door of the upmarket detached
house, a sandwich in his mouth, mug and milk bottle in his hands. He
wore a suit with the tie half-undone. His eyes asked who they were and
in reply they held up their ID cards. “DS Reid, DC Fraser, Strathclyde
Police.” Patrick frowned, obviously not expecting them. “Can we come
in?” He nodded, leading them through to the kitchen.
Putting the mug and bottle down on the work surface, taking his
half-eaten sandwich from his mouth, he turned to them. “Sorry, I’m just
back from work on my lunch-break. I had to feed the dog.” He indicated
the small black Labrador running around in the back garden. “My wife
usually does it, but she’s on a course today. What can I do for you?”
“You are Patrick Skelton?”
“Yes.” He went white. “Has something happened to Marjory?”
“No,” Jackie was quick to reassure him. “No. We’re here on an
investigation into three murders that have been committed over the last
week. Do you recognise the names Gary McDonald, Mark Lithow and Craig
He frowned. “Gary McDonald’s the guy who was released from prison,
wasn’t he? The day before he was found dead?” Jackie nodded, “It’s
odd. I’ve heard the first two on the news, but when you say them
together they do ring a bell.”
“Which primary school did you go to, Mr Skelton?”
“Glasgow City. Why?” And then the expression on his face changed.
“That’s it, isn’t it? I was at school with them.”
“I don’t understand. Why would someone be killing children that went to
Jackie hesitated. “Did you have a teacher called... Gerald Rogers?”
“Aye. Mr Rogers taught the entry class. He was the man that McDonald
killed, wasn’t he?”
“Do you know why he killed him?”
“I read in the papers that he claimed Mr Rogers had abused him,
sexually. I didn’t believe it.”
“It’s true, I’m afraid.”
Burns shook his head. “I remember liking him, more than I liked the
rest of my teachers.”
Stuart stepped forward. “You never felt threatened by him at all?”
“No.” He looked from one detective to the other. “Look, do you think I
had something to do with these deaths?”
“We’re worried that you might be in danger, Mr Burns.”
He laughed. “Me? I’m a software engineer, Sergeant. Who’d want to
“I would advise that you just be wary.”
He shrugged. “If you really think so.”
Jackie checked her watch when they got back in the car. “Who’s next?”
“Peter Mitchell. Lansdown Road.”
She worked the route out in her head before starting the engine. “Mind
if we stop by the hospital on our way?”
They walked into the ward and saw the empty bed at the end, sheets and
blanket thrown back, no one to be seen. Jackie focused on the first
person she set her eyes on. “PC Donaldson, where’s DCI Jardine?” The
steady tone of her voice sounded deadly to Stuart.
“He... was with DI Ross.” The young officer panicked slightly, turning
as they heard laughter in the corridor. Robbie was walking toward them
and behind him Michael hobbled along, supported by his brother’s arm
around his waist. All three were giggling at some shared joke.
Jackie sighed, relieved enough to show it. “Will you not do that to
Rob regarded her sincerely. “Sorry, Jackie. Mike just wanted a change
of scenery so we took him to the cafeteria for a chocolate milkshake.”
He closed in on her and Stuart. “He’s a chocolate addict,” he told her
“I heard that.”
Iain took Michael back to his bed, dropping onto the mattress beside
him. They’d only been back a moment before a nurse was scolding them
for misbehaving. To Michael’s relief, she had a couple of pain killers
for him. “You should be staying off those ankles,” she told him. “We
could have found a wheelchair for you if you’d asked.”
He took the pills, washing them down with the water she handed him. In
response to her telling off he merely smiled and she shook her head with
a frown, checking his blood pressure and temperature before leaving them
Jackie sidled up to them, smiling at Iain when he looked at her
sheepishly. “I had to come.”
“It’s good to see you.”
“Thanks.” He saw Michael fighting the sheets to get himself
comfortable, and leaned down to untangle the blanket from his legs.
Robbie and Stuart fell into place beside her. “Any news?”
“Another body.” Michael caught her words and looked up in mid-movement,
mouth falling open. “Stephen thinks... it was the man you saw killed.”
He deflated, squeezing his eyes closed, grasping the sheets in his
fists. Iain reached over and covered one of his brother’s hands with
his own. “His name was Craig Burns.”
“Oh God....” Iain felt a tear fall to his hand. “He was... my friend
Jackie felt an irrepressible anger bubbling up inside her. She didn’t
know what to say that would make this any easier. Looking up, turning
his head, Iain asked, “What’s goin’ on?”
She hesitated. “I think that’s up to Michael to tell you.”
He turned back. “Well?”
“I want to know! You’re in danger. I’m your brother!”
“I know.” Mike agreed gently. “But you missed a lot of my life, like I
Giving them some space, Rob followed Stuart and Jackie away from the
bed. “You stay,” he told her. “Stuart and I’ll carry on.”
The young constable drove the rest of the way to Lansdown Road while
Robbie studied the list.
“You know, Stuart, sometimes these murder inquiries start to feel like
cartoon plots, all these suspects. It’s like, who’s our man? Is it
Sarge? No. Rosemary, the telephone operator? No. Penry, the mild
mannered janitor? Could be!”
Stuart looked over at his companion, raising one eyebrow. “Are you all
“Yeah.” He sighed, releasing the pent-up frustrations in one long
breath. “Iain seems... a little over protective, don’t you think?”
“DCI Jardine pulled him out of a religious cult a couple about five
years ago. It all got a bit violent.”
“With Iain and Mike?”
“No, although the boss did end up with a nasty blow to the head. He
collapsed in the back of an ambulance and spent three days in hospital
with concussion. The leader of the cult killed eight people when he set
light to the main hall. Most of us got out first, including Iain. As
far as I knew, Iain had moved up to the Highlands.”
“You’re a wealth of information,” Robbie told his colleague proudly.
Robbie knocked on the door for a second time and waited. Finally, the
door of the small terrace house was answered. "Hello?”
“Peter Mitchell?” He flashed his ID card. “DI Ross, Strathclyde
Police. This is my colleague, DC Fraser. Can we talk to you?”
He seemed nervous, and Robbie thought they might have problems with this
man, but the door was opened further. “Come in.” He led them through
to the living room. “Is this... about those two men who were murdered?
Gary McDonald and Mark Lithow?”
“Did you know them?” Rob stepped closer while Stuart had a nosy around.
“I went to school with them.”
“Glasgow City Primary.”
“Aye. That teacher... the one that McDonald killed....”
“Aye. He... he hurt me too.”
Rob tried to be sympathetic. “I’m sorry, Mr Mitchell. Have you noticed
anyone... following you recently? Noticed anything different?”
Horror crossed the man’s face. “You think... you think he’s gonna come
after me?” He glanced around the room. “Oh, God.... You have to
protect me. Please!”
Outside the windows, the moon was bright over the sprawling buildings of
Glasgow’s Royal Hospital. Robbie and Jackie sat opposite one another at
a small white table in the cafeteria, mugs of coffee and plates of limp
sandwiches in front of them.
“We’ve got him in protective custody,” Rob told her. “I’ve never seen
someone so happy to be sitting in a jail cell.”
“What about the others?”
Rob smoothed the paper list out onto the tabletop. He’d already asked
Stuart to put the list onto computer and print out a few copies, this
one was starting to get a bit battered around the edges. “Ten names.
Three are dead. You and Stuart saw Skelton, we saw Mitchell. Macey and
Bennett interviewed James Mackey and Kenneth McCredie. They said both
seemed none the worse for their childhood experiences. That leaves
three. Jake Cregs is residing at Her Majesty’s pleasure for armed
robbery and has been for the last nine months. Paul Banner is living
abroad in... Amsterdam. I spoke to him and to the Chief Superintendent
over there, that’s definitely where he is. The final one, Simon
Matthews, we can’t trace.”
She sighed, stirring her coffee for the eighth time in the last ten
minutes. “I feel almost like I’m ransacking Michael’s childhood.”
“It was already ransacked,” he told her gently.
Iain held his brother’s hand tight, listening to every difficult word.
Michael was three years older than him, always the older brother.
Finding out now that someone had done something so terrible to him, hurt
him so badly, was difficult to take in. All he could think was how much
closer he wished he were to his brother now. “I’m sorry, Mike.
Everythin’ I put you through after all that....”
“Don’t.” he shook his head. “There’s no point, it was too long ago.”
“No one’s gonna hurt you now, I won’t let them.”
Michael smiled at his brother’s words. “Iain, I think I’ve got enough
protection, don’t you?” Robbie and Jackie appeared in the entrance to
“I hear they are letting you out tomorrow?” Unconsciously, Jackie
played with the medical ID band on Michael’s wrist.
“Are you sure about me coming to your place?”
“Yes. Robbie and Stuart will pick up whatever you need from your house
and bring it to the station, in case they’re followed. I’ll bring it
back to the house. There’ll be an officer with you at all times.” She
smiled at him, “Probably Iain too, the way he’s been.”
“I don’t want him tangled up in this, Jackie.”
“I don’t think we can stop him.” She smiled. “I think he’s trying to
repay you, for what you did for him.”
“Is that good or bad?”
She looked around them. The ward’s other resident had gone home, and
they were alone. “It’s incredibly quiet, this place.”
“I thought that was you lot, keeping me on my own.”
“Not that I know of. Still, it gives you a bit of privacy.”
“Not enough,” he grouched.
She watched as he turned on to his side, closing his eyes for a time
before opening them to look at her. “Can I tell you something?”
She folded her arms on the bed, tilting her head to look at him.
Reaching out, he rested a hand on hers. “I... have... feelings for you,
Jackie. More than just platonic friendly ones.”
She smiled, opening her fingers so that his could drop between hers. “I
know.” Leaning down, she dropped a kiss to the back of his hand. “I
love you too, Michael.”
He knew better than to ask how. “Women’s intuition?”
“Something like that.”
His smile faded. “There’s something else.”
“You and Robbie?”
His eyes widened this time. “You can’t have guessed about that!”
“I should have done. But no, Rob told me last night, while we were
sitting here with you.”
“You don’t mind?”
“Mind?” She thought about it again. “Apart from being slightly
surprised that he was your type.... No, I don’t mind.” She lowered her
voice. “He said something about you two wishing I was there.”
“The first night we slept together, we ended up talking about you.”
“First night?! How many times since?” She frowned, doing a quick
calculation in her head. “How many chances have you had?”
“The night before last. Robbie left about fifteen minutes before me
She shook her head, still smiling. “Maybe... one evening... I could
join you two.”
It had been a long time since she’d seen him struggling for words. “Are
“I am serious? The chance to sleep with two gorgeous men, one of whom
I’ve loved for far too long? Of course I am.”
He squeezed her fingers between his. “I’m not sure Jim would have
approved of this.”
“I think he’d approve of you being loved. I think that’s what he always
wanted for you.”
It was two am when Robbie stepped into the dark hospital ward. Jackie
was asleep in the chair, hand still linked with Michael’s where it lay
on the bed. He was snoring softly. For a few precious moments, Rob
watched him sleep. Finding someone like Michael had been both a
surprise and a shock. It had turned his personal life upside down in
the space of one night. It wasn’t a discovery he would ever regret.
“Jackie,” he crouched down by the chair. “Jackie.” She opened her
eyes, smiling across at her colleague.
“Hey.” Glancing at the window she saw it was still dark outside. So it
wasn’t morning. “What time is it?”
“Two. There’s been another.” He nodded toward the entrance of the
ward, where Stuart was hovering. “I thought you and I should go.
Stuart’ll sit with Mike until we get back.”
“Okay.” She gave up her comfortable chair for the other detective. “Do
we know who it is?”
“Aye. Jake Cregs. Don’t ask me how.”
Stephen covered his yawn with his hand as he strode across the open-air
car park. “This is a change of scene isn’t it? Very open for our
“It is the same MO then?”
Stephen grinned at Jackie. “Could I reserve judgement until I’ve
actually seen the body?”
She smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.”
Ten minutes later, Stephen assured them that it was indeed the same
killer. “How did you know who it was?” Jackie asked Rob.
“There was a phone call... to the station....” The light dawned in his
eyes suddenly. “Shite!”
“You had him on the phone?”
“Just... I was just leaving the station and the phone rang. I picked it
up and a male voice said, “Jake Creg’s body’s been found in Straccy car
“Straccy car park?”
“That’s what he said. The desk sergeant knew that meant this place.”
Jackie nodded. “Aye, it’s what Michael always calls it. Don’t ask me
“Where did he get the name?”
“Michael.” Crouched by his bedside, Jackie stroked his hair back from
his forehead. “Michael.”
His eyes opened, and he muttered something that was definitely rude.
“I’m sorry, Love.” She missed the expression on Stuart’s face when he
heard the endearment. “We need to ask you something.”
“What’s goin’ on?”
“We need to know something.” She made sure he was awake, that what she
was about to ask would make some sense to him.
“Okay.” He looked bemused. “What?”
“Straccy car park. Why d’you call it that?”
“Straccy? It... used to be a kids play ground. We used to play there
“Can you remember who from your class used to play there?”
“No.... It’s a long time ago.”
She recalled him recognising the victim’s name this morning. “Michael,
if I read you some names, d’you think you could maybe say if you
He pushed himself up into a sitting position, fighting the exhaustion he
felt. “Aye... I’ll try.”
Rob handed her his copy of the list. “Patrick Skelton. Kenneth
McCredie. Craig Burns.” She finished the list. Michael just looked
confused. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head, obviously annoyed with
himself. “Straccy was somewhere all the kids used to play. We’d talk
about it at school.”
Jackie sighed softly. It had been a long-shot after all. None of the
men they’d interviewed had matched the composite Michael had given
them. She took his hand. “It’s all right, Michael. We’re just a bit
stuck, that’s all.”
“Anyone at Glasgow City Primary would know about it.”
Jackie and Robbie looked up guiltily when the ward sister cleared her
throat. She was standing at the foot of Michael’s bed, arms folded.
“If you wouldn’t mind letting my patient sleep?”
Robbie stood. “Sorry.”
Jackie also got to her feet, glancing at her colleagues. “Go home, you
two, get some sleep. I’ll stay.”
“Why don’t you all go home and get some sleep? You look like you need
But Jackie shook her head, taking the chair Stuart had occupied just a
second before. “Oh no, I am not leaving him.”
“He’s perfectly safe here,” the nurse tried to reassure her. “You’ve
got a constable outside the ward at all times.”
“He was abducted from his own driveway in broad daylight. I’m staying.”
Michael’s journey from the hospital to Jackie’s flat the next morning
was in true cloak and dagger style. Only Strathclyde Police weren’t
quite as slick as, say, the vice squad in south Florida. They didn’t
notice the old blue Ford Sierra that followed them from Glasgow Royal
hospital to the Victorian terrace tow in a quiet suburb of the city.
Michael stepped into Jackie’s spare room and smiled. His double duvey
had been thrown over the single bed. A few of his things had been
bought from his cottage – a suitcase of clothes, a couple of novels from
his bedside, and the small picture of Jim Taggart that he kept in his
room. He hobbled back into the living room, looking around at his
colleagues, all busy protecting his sorry ass.
“Jackie....” She stepped up to him.
“Will you take the weight off those ankles?!” She shook her head as he
dropped down into the armchair. “I can tell you’re going to be a
“Look... all this, it’s too much.”
“Popycock. We wanted to make you feel at home. There’s a couple of
officers house-sitting your place, just in case.”
“You really think he’s goin’a try again?”
“We’re not taking any risks.”
Rob threw the file onto his desk, dropping his gaze on Stuart. “Tell me
about Jim Taggart.”
“I never knew him very well. I know he and DCI Jardine were very
close. I think he was Mike’s boss from the start, when Mike was just a
“What was he like?”
Stuart gave it some thought. “Everyone looked up to him, respected him,
even though he gave them hell.”
“But he didn’t give Mike hell?”
“From what I know, Mike got the worst of it. But he got the best too.
He was Taggart’s protege. Why do you ask?”
Stuart sat back. “You really like him, don’t you?”
Robbie was caught by surprise. “Where did that come from?” Stuart just
grinned, going back to the paperwork in front of him. “Oy!” He got no
further, interrupted by the telephone. “DI Ross.”
“Robbie.” The voice struck a chord with the detective.
He sat up, glancing at his colleague. “It’s you.”
“You remember me. I’m touched. I haven’t quite finished yet, Robbie.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Oh, Robbie. And you call yourself a detective. You haven’t worked it
out yet? I don’t believe you. And I see you’ve moved Michael. It
won’t help. He has to die too, you must know that.”
“Why don’t you tell me why?” The line went dead. “Damn!”
“He’s taunting us,” Rob stated angrily. “He’s playing with us, and
we’re no where nearer finding him.”
Stuart looked up from his fourth cardboard box of the day, not used to
the sight of their rarely seen Superintendent McNeil standing beside
Rob’s desk. Mike’s boss was based elsewhere, and thus they were usually
saved his intimidating presence.
“You must have some idea, Robbie.” The thick pillar of his neck twisted
slightly. “How about you, Stuart? Any clues?”
“We’re still tracing the final name on the list, Sir?”
“And this list came from the school reports?”
“Umm... well, keep me posted. How’s young Michael?”
Robbie wondered if McNeil would still be calling DCI Jardine ‘young
Michael’ when the man retired. “Recovering, Sir.”
“Good, good.” He started for the doorway. “Don’t want anything
happening to him, Jim would never forgive me.”
Both detectives watched the older man disappear from sight. “Going the
same way as Stephen,” Robbie muttered, glancing at his companion when
there was no reply. Stuart was staring at something in the base of the
box he’d been riffling through. “Stuart?”
The ginger head lifted. “What’s the name of the man we’re still looking
Robbie frowned. “Er... Matthews. Simon Matthews.”
Reaching to the bottom of the box, Stuart lifted the small rectangle of
card lying there. “Doctor Simon Matthews, Carlton Street Clinic.” He
handed it to his boss as Rob walked around the desks to stand at his
“So what did he have to do with the original investigation?”
Robbie smiled at the young officer as he stepped into Jackie’s lounge.
“Why don’t you go home. I think Sergeant Reid and I can cope tonight.”
“Are you sure, Sir?”
“Absolutely.” He patted PC Brien’s arm. “I’m sure your girlfriend’d
appreciate it.” The light came on in the man’s eyes, and he grinned.
“Just be back first thing, okay?”
Michael stepped out of the kitchen, tea-towel over his shoulder, in time
to see his protection leaving. “Is everything all right?”
Rob closed in on him, glancing at Jackie and gauging her expression.
Then he handed the bottle of red wine to their chef with one hand and
wrapped the other arm around his waist. It was a joy to hear Michael
laugh. Robbie dropped a kiss to the long neck. “Everything’s fine. We
just thought young Brien could take the night off, and Jackie and I
could look after you tonight.”
Michael pulled back from Rob’s embrace, but instead of shying away, he
met the intense green eyes roaming his face. “And here was I thinking
you hadn’t got any imagination.” He focused on the other person in the
room. Robbie could feel the existing tension notch up several hundred
percent, and he took the bottle back from Mike’s hand, disappearing with
it into the kitchen.
Jackie got to her feet from the arm of the chair, meeting Michael half
way. He wrapped his arms around her waist, feeling hers going around
him. There was a moment when they looked at one another, mutually
acknowledging at last what had always been there. She’d been waiting a
long time to kiss him. He tasted as good as she had always imagined he
would. He felt like heaven in her arms. She lost track of time,
knowing only him until Robbie’s hand touched her shoulder, and she came
back to herself. Slightly embarrassed, she thought she might have even
blushed when she caught Robbie’s eye. But his expression was only one
of contentment as he headed for her CD collection.
“Mike?” Rob stepped into the kitchen, waiting until he’d strained the
pasta. He looked at the pans on the stove, could smell the wonderful
aroma. “I didn’t know you could cook!”
“Like I told you, there’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Michael teased
He smiled. “Look. I’m sorry to do this now, but I have to show you
something.” He fetched the business card from his pocket, holding it
out. “One of the names on our list is Simon Matthews.” Michael took
the card from Robbie’s fingers, and as he stared at it, he knew. The
memories flooded him, an overwhelming flashback. “Oh no....”
“Stuart found that in the bottom of one of the boxes from 1993.”
“Aye. Matthews was the hypnotist Jim took me to.” He shook his head,
angry with himself. “It’s him. I know now, I can place him now.”
Jackie wandered into the kitchen, peering between them at the card.
“I’ve got a car going over to the clinic, and there are officers working
this. Let us deal with it.” Robbie stepped out of the kitchen, taking
his mobile from his pocket and tapping in Stuart’s number as he went.
Jackie slipped her arms around Michael’s waist, hugging him gently.
“Are you all right?”
He nodded as he stirred the pasta sauce. “Just... I told Matthews
everything. I trusted him. Jim trusted him.”
“You weren’t to know. There were so many of those school reports lying
around, and we weren’t looking in the same place.”
“It’s not that.” He turned in her arms, enjoying for once just being
held. Past relationships hadn’t ever gotten to the stage of simply
holding one another. The last person who’d really cuddled him was
Taggart. “No one had ever known but me. Now... everyone must at least
“Michael,” she combed her fingers through his hair. “No one’s thinking
about it. They’re working to catch Matthews.”
“But they know.”
“They know you were a victim. You were just a child.” She hugged him
closer, in turn being held tighter. “No one blames you. No one’s
goin’a have any less respect for you.”
He felt another arm wrap around his shoulders, one that couldn’t
possibly have been Jackie’s, and a kiss was pressed to his hair. “You
two better let me take care o’this before we end up with charcoal
instead of Bolognaise.” The gentle humour in Rob’s voice served to
intensify the warmth spreading through Michael’s soul despite the
current circumstances, and before he followed Jackie through to the
living room he paused next to Robbie, one foot next to the other man’s.
They didn’t speak, they didn’t have to. Michael initiated the contact,
touching his mouth to Rob’s, parting his lips under the probing tongue
that sought to taste him.
Robbie lifted his hand to Michael’s waist sliding it gently down to the
swell of his buttock. No pressure, no coaxing. They simply stood
together, kissing one another until Mike broke the contact with more
difficulty that he had initiated it. They smiled at one another, then
Michael left him to it, joining Jackie in the living room.
The meal was finished, the plates scattered over the living room
carpet. Michael’s empty glass stood along side the other two. From the
sofa, a trail of discarded clothing marked a path direct through the
open door of Jackie’s bedroom to the king-size bed pushed against the
Sated, Jackie lay on her back with her lover wrapped over her, his leg
hooked over hers, his ass exposed to the second man, spooned up behind
him. Michael had driven her slowly insane with his fingers, his tongue
and finally with his cock, stroking her agonizingly slowly to a strong
of orgasms. She’d left scratch marks on his back, marks that Robbie was
now kissing one by one, alternating feather-light touches of his lips
with long sweeps of his tongue.
Michael’s head dropped back, Jackie’s fingers playing lightly over his
nipples as Rob’s tongue soothed the scratches and his fingers teased the
sensitive area at the base of his spine.
“Would you like me...” Rob moved up, drawing the tip of his tongue up
across Michael’s smooth back to his shoulders, following the line of his
collarbone and the curve of his jaw, “...to drive you as crazy...” he
nipped his lover’s earlobe, “...as you drove her?”
Jackie heard the sensually murmured words, feeling her exhausted body
react to the suggestion. She watched Michael’s face, fascinated by the
total control he would be handing over.
“Do you, Michael?”
“Yes.” He turned his head, opening his eyes to meet Rob’s gaze. “Yes.”
Robbie kissed his mouth before dropping back again, trailing his tongue
around the shell of Michael’s ear. Stark blue eyes lifted to meet
Jackie’s, and he smiled at the heated gaze that was returned. “Do you
It seemed a ridiculous question to her ears, but she realised quickly
that he had to ask, because he loved her. “I want him to.” She stroked
the palm of her hand over Michael’s chest to his side, down over the
slim waist and hip, curving around his buttock to his thigh. Slowly she
lifted the leg higher, opening him more to Rob’s fingers when they
slipped down from the small of his back into the crack of his ass.
They might have slept together, masturbated one another, sucked one
another off with the urgency and desperation of two men starved. But to
allow another man to penetrate him, up to this point, had been more than
Michael could deal with. Now though, with Jackie there, it seemed
easier to come to terms with the idea. A part of him wanted this, had
wanted it from the moment Robbie had first kissed him. With her there
he felt less vulnerable opening himself to his subordinate officer.
Rob’s arm curled over Michael and his hand settled on Jackie’s stomach.
He silently asked her permission as he gazed at her over Michael’s
shoulder, and she raised her eyebrows, bending her knee invitingly.
Robbie stroked his fingers through the soft pubic hair, teasing her
gently before carefully pushing two digits into her wet vagina. She
moaned, thrusting forward slightly against him as much as Michael lying
over her would allow. She glanced at the blond, seeing his eyes glued
to the movements of Robbie’s hand. She couldn’t help but play to that
attention. It had been a while since she’d had one man in her bed, this
was the first time she’d had two. She looked from one to another,
groaning low in her throat as Robbie’s fingers caressed her deeply.
They were both beautiful in their own unique ways.
Satisfied that he’d teased her enough, and that he’d fulfilled his own
requirements, Robbie shifted his attentions to the other man, using the
mix of Mike’s semen and Jackie’s natural lubrication to coax the tight
ring of his lover’s anus into submission. Jackie’s hand dropped to
caress the tired cock that had driven her so mad, and Michael pushed
against her, his own hands rested on her body. But his attention was
centred on the single finger pressing determinedly into him, slowly
passing the ring of muscle.
Robbie’s breath caressed Michael’s shoulders. His finger pushed
further, his mind translating the crushing pressure on that digit into
what it would be like having the same hot channel pulsing steadily
around his cock.
“So tight.” He barely knew he’d spoken the words out loud, but
Michael’s answer was a long moan, a sound that Rob’s soul sang in reply
to. Jackie’s hand hooked under Michael’s muscled thigh and drew it up
further while she leaned in to capture his mouth in a deep kiss.
Robbie eased a second finger passed the tight entrance of Michael’s
body, twisting both inside him, deliberately scraping a rough finger-pad
over the long-neglected prostate. Michael’s low cry was caught in
Jackie’s kiss, something Rob didn’t want. He nibbled his lover’s ear,
“I want to hear him, Jackie. He’s so gorgeous, so beautiful when he’s
Jackie broke the kiss, meeting Rob’s mouth for a moment over Michael’s
shoulder. “My pleasure,” she murmured.
Again, Rob pressed inside his lover’s body, turning his hand slightly.
Michael moaned, swearing sweetly, caught between the extreme sensations
Rob was coaxing from him and the heated presence of Jackie’s naked body
moving beneath him. He was incredibly relaxed after his orgasm, and he
managed to relax further, seeming to melt around Robbie’s fingers.
Finally Rob drew out and positioned the head of his cock against the
loosened ring. “Take a deep breath for me, Mike,” he instructed,
feeling his lover do as he was told. “Now release it, slowly.” As the
breath escaped his lungs, Robbie pressed into him in one long stroke.
Michael’s sharp cry was contrasted by Rob’s groan of pleasure. He
pushed until he was completed sheathed in his lover, the head of his
cock buried deep inside the gorgeous body he now grasped to him, one arm
around Michael’s waist. He remained still for a short time, letting
Michael become accustomed to his length and girth. “I can stop,” he
whispered, meaning it possibly for the first time in his life. After
all that this man had suffered, there was no way he was going to add to
“God, no.” Michael pushed back, impaling himself on the hard cock
within him. “Don’t stop!”
Robbie smiled, chuckling softly as he kissed his lover’s back. He
pulled out and with one easy thrust he sank himself again inside
Michael’s rectum. Mike yelled hard when his prostate was battered. He
reached back, digging his fingers into Rob’s thigh, pressing back,
wanting more now, wanting it all. “Rob!”
Robbie lifted himself up slightly on his elbow, gripping Michael’s hip
and positioning them both before he thrust forward again, knowing each
movement would stimulate the gland that was causing the other man such
Michael was trapped, Rob’s weight pining him against Jackie’s body. He
wanted to react but all he could do was feel. Jackie’s hand on his
cock, her breath in his hair. Rob’s body pressing against his own, his
hand on his hip, mouth on his shoulders and neck. And the constant
unrelenting waves of pleasure crashing over him, centred in his ass,
overwhelming his entire being. His own cock was hardening, and although
he doubted he could come for a second time so soon, it felt so good...
Rob’s thrusts became harder as the first tinges of orgasm teased him.
His lover’s arousal, his moans of pleasure and his quiet pleas all fired
Robbie’s own excitement. Never had he made love to anyone so
responsive, to anyone who had felt so good underneath him, so utterly
perfect all around him. “Say you’ll return this,” he uttered
breathlessly. “Promise me, Mike. I want to feel you inside me, buried
as deep as I am inside you now.”
Michael managed to say yes, pushing back as much as he could, his own
muscles trying to push the invader out while all he wanted was for that
cock to go deeper, as deep as Robbie could be. “Rob....”
The sound of his own name spoken in such absolute passion broke him, and
he came hard. “Mike! God, Michael....” He pressed inside his lover,
trembling head to foot, breath coming in short gasps until he collapsed
bodily onto him. They lay together for a long time, Robbie’s awareness
consisting of only the calming waves rolling over him and Michael’s
fingers lacing between his.
“We can’t sleep like this,” Jackie muttered eventually. Not that she
really wanted to move. Michael’s weight upon her, his arm around her,
the wonderful sweaty scent of two men was all too good to lose. Robbie
eased Mike’s leg down until only his still-bandaged ankle remained
hooked over Jackie’s. Reaching back, he grabbed the duvet from where
they’d thrown in it onto the edge of the bed, hitching it over them all.
“I think we’ll have to,” he murmured, indicating their sleeping lover.
Michael was snuggled between the two of them, snoring softly.
By the time PC Brien arrived back the following morning, the three of
them were up, showered and dressed. The young constable was oblivious
to the furtive glances being exchanged by his superior officers. He was
in the kitchen making a pot of coffee when Jackie and Rob left, each
risking their careers for a short kiss with their boss in the hallway of
“So what’s the plan for today,” Jackie enquired as Rob started the car
“Simon Matthews. We’re goin’a find him, Jackie, whatever it takes.”
The glass shattering had two effects. The axe blade that smashed the
window struck the officer, who happened to be standing in front of it,
in the back, killing him instantly. And the sudden, terrible sound
startled Michael into dropping his book and getting to his aching feet.
Sharp pain shot from his protesting ankles at the harsh treatment, yet
he barely noticed over the rapid beat of his heart. He knew, without
any doubt, what was coming next.
Throughout his career he’d seen the bodies of people killed in their own
homes, and had often wondered why they’d felt the need to investigate
rather than simply getting out of the house and calling the police.
Yet he found himself walking not toward the front door, but toward the
back of the ground floor flat. He didn’t get very far. Something hit
him hard across his shoulders, collapsing him onto the lounge carpet.
He turned immediately onto his back, ignoring the pain in his arms and
neck, scrambling to get up. A foot was placed very deliberately and
very carefully against his groin. This time, without the concussion
blurring his vision, he recognised Doctor Simon Matthews.
“Hello again, Sunshine.”
“Don’t call me that.” He shifted under the slight pressure of Matthews’
foot, and the heel dug in very slowly. Michael bit into his bottom lip
as his surroundings tilted for a moment.
“Don’t make me do this, Michael. I don’t want to do this, but it seems
a good way of getting your undivided attention.” He waited a beat, and
then removed his foot from its threatening position.
He stepped around his captive, letting him rise to his knees, bring one
leg out from under him. Without warning, Matthews swung the
double-bladed axe in a controlled arc at the height of Michael’s neck.
He watched with fascination as the lids closed over the large blue
eyes. And he stopped the blade’s progress just as it touched the
delicate skin at the base of his next victim’s neck.
“I didn’t know about you,” he started, leaving the weapon where it
rested, crouching down to bring himself eye level with Michael. “I
thought I was the only one. And then I met you, and I listened to you
describe the very things that bastard did to me. I thought that if
McDonald went to jail for life – after all, he had murdered a man in
cold blood, and sexually assaulted a police officer – that he wouldn’t
ever be able to tell anyone. I thought that if he knew about you, he’d
know about all of us.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “But he got
out. Because that boss of yours determined that he was going to protect
his sergeant rather than get justice. McDonald had to die. So I killed
him. And I had to kill the rest of them too, in case one of them knew.
I knew you’d drag them all in eventually. And you.... I can’t let you
live, despite how much I know you’ve already suffered. I can end the
cycle of nightmares. I can end it all.” He reached up with his free
hand, touching the strands of blond hair that fell over Michael’s
forehead. “I’ll let you die quickly. I won’t let you linger, you have
“I don’t want to die.” Michael struggled to keep his voice steady,
thinking quickly. “You might have nightmares, but I don’t, not after I
spoke to you. You helped me!”
“But I can’t help myself! I can’t get it out of my mind! It’s ironic,
don’t you think? That afternoon I stopped your nightmares and started
Very gently, he dragged the blade of the axe at a slight angle against
the flesh of Michael’s throat, slicing the skin open in a fine cut.
Michael swallowed back a cry of fear, remaining very still as Matthews’
finger traced down the side of his face and across his throat to collect
a drop of blood as it ran down over the pale collarbone, soaking into
the light material of Michael’s polo shirt. “You’re very beautiful, do
you know that? What was it that newspaper said about you last year?
...A puritan, they called you. That’s how they described you. You
don’t drink and you don’t smoke. But they don’t know everything, do
they? They don’t know... that you’re sleeping with your male Detective
Inspector.” He smiled at the expression that flicked across the boyish
features. “It’s all right. I don’t care, I’m not homophobic. I even
tried it once or twice myself. With the right person, it’s very nice.”
He moved his finger from just inside Michael’s clothing to his own lips,
tasting the warm copper liquid. “You enjoy sex, like I do. At least
Rogers didn’t take that from us.”
Michael stayed silent, trying to judge his captor’s mood, trying to work
out what would come next. “If we’d met under different circumstances...
perhaps....” He shrugged, his movement opening the wound slightly with
the blade. “Perhaps not, ay? It’s not really you, is it? You don’t
see yourself as bi-sexual. You see yourself as straight, and somehow
your DI Ross has wormed his way into your affections. Good for him. I
hope he appreciates what you two shared. It’ll give him something to
remember you by.”
Matthews pulled the blade back, rising to his feet as he scraped it
gently over the skin.
“No, please. You don’t have to do this.”
“But I do. My career would never survive people finding out about what
Rogers did to me. I’d be ruined.”
Michael recognised the words as a bad sign. The killing was incidental,
a means to an end. “Don’t you think they’ll know? When you’re the only
one who’s left?”
“But they won’t have any proof. I am sorry.”
Lifting the axe, Matthews swung it in the same arc as before, but this
time he had no intention of stopping.
In one graceful movement Michael pulled his leg from under him and
kicked out at his attacker’s shins. At the same time he dropped back,
letting the swing of the weapon chop through the air. Matthews toppled
and Michael took advantage of his loss of balance. He grabbed hold of
Matthews’ arm, using it to pull himself to his feet while hooking one of
his feet around the other’s leg and knocking him forward. Angry,
Matthews lashed out with the axe with no clear target, catching
Michael’s thigh on the upswing.
Michael yelled in pain as the heavy blade slashed into him and he felt
the blood run in streams down his leg. But he didn’t dare let the blaze
of agony detract from his fight. He grabbed Matthews’ fist with both
hands, trying to wrestle the axe from his grip. But the man wouldn’t
let go, even as Michael’s pull on his knee caused him to lose his
balance completely and fall forward. Michael leapt on him, straddling
his back, using his own body weight to pin him to the floor, never
releasing his attacker’s wrist.
Matthews’ struggle became more frustrated, more vicious. Michael leaned
forward on that wrist, avoiding the blade with which Matthews was still
trying to hack him to death, pushing up until the force on the bone
caused it to break with a clean snap. Matthews screamed, releasing the
wooden handle of the axe, dropping it into the waiting grasp.
Michael sat back, shifting his weight, pulling in a deep, agonising
breath. The moment he did so, Matthews turned under him, somehow
finding the strength to throw him bodily off onto the floor. He pulled
his knee up into Michael’s groin, meaning to subdue rather than really
hurt him. Michael clung to the wooden axe handle as if his life
depended on it. Matthews shifted up, straddling his thighs, crushing
Michael’s own hands under his own as he fought for the weapon. His eyes
blazed and he leaned forward, grinning madly while he watched the sharp
tip of the blade slice through the light blue material of his victim’s
shirt, slowly splitting open the skin, cutting through to the rib cage
and causing a crimson rose to blossom over his chest.
Michael groaned low in his throat, and pushed back with every ounce of
strength he could find within himself. His will to live was greater
than Matthews’ need to kill him, and it gave him that extra little bit
he needed to push the axe away from him. The other edge of the double
blade sunk into Matthews’ chest. A terrible gurgling sound bubbled up
from the man on top and with whatever he had left Michael pushed.
Matthews toppled off him, falling to the carpet at his side, one leg
still rested over Michael’s as he settled back to die.
Fighting the blackness that was threatening to cloud his brain, Michael
looked around him, spotting the telephone on the table just above his
head. He reached up, this time allowing himself the momentary relief
from the pain by yelling it out into the room. He grabbed the receiver,
pressing the ‘9’ key three times, answering the short list of questions
and giving Jackie’s address before passing out.
Jackie pulled her phone out from her jacket pocket, reader the caller’s
name on the display. “Yes, Stuart?”
“Jackie! A 999 call’s just come in.... It was from your address.”
“Oh, God....” She turned to Robbie, but by the handbrake turn he’d just
pulled, he’d heard already.
“Careful,” Rob mouthed to her. Jackie nodded, sliding her key into the
front door lock, turning it without a sound. Robbie stepped through
into the hallway, edging along the corridor until he could peer into the
living room. “Jesus.” He crossed the lounge in two strides, dropping
to his knees and pressing two fingers to the pulse point at the side of
Michael’s throat. “Please, just be there, please.” He muttered the
plea under his breath, glancing up at Jackie who was kneeling beside
him, colour drained from her. She stared at him, and watched in utter
relief as he breathed again. “His pulse is fairly strong.”
Robbie pulled the phone handset from Michael’s light grasp as Jackie
returned with a first aid kit. Blood was soaked through the blue
material of Michael’s shirt and collar, as well as through the right
thigh of his jeans. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”
“Get out the way, Rob,” she prompted gently.
He backed out, giving her access to Michael while he moved over to check
Matthews. “He’s dead.”
Jackie looked up at him briefly. “I’d guessed that. There’s an axe
buried in his chest. You’d better look for PC Brien.”
The sirens were audible now in the distance, and by the sound of it the
ambulance was being accompanied by a whole convoy of police cars. Rob
came back into the lounge and sat down on the floor at Michael’s feet.
In anger, he grabbed Matthews’ leg and flung it off his DCI. “Brien’s
dead,” he told Jackie flatly. “I doubt he ever knew what hit him.”
Jackie took his hand and pressed it to the sterile dressing she’d placed
over the deep wound in Michael’s leg. “Hold that there.” Her tone was
gentle and understanding. They could save one person’s life here.
Already she’d taped a large dressing over the cut in his neck and was
working on covering the bleeding hole in his chest when the room seemed
to fill with people.
Jackie refused to leave Michael’s side. His fingers were deathly cold,
his skin too pale. As often as the paramedics reassured her that he was
going to be fine, she couldn’t leave him, couldn’t let go of his hand.
Unaware of their Superintendent standing in the doorway, Robbie crouched
down behind his colleague.
“Come on, Jackie. Let them help him now.” He eased his arm around her
shoulders, sliding his other hand between hers and Michael’s. “Come
on. You’ve done everything you can for him and he’ll be fine. He isn’t
goin’a die on us, Jackie.” She shook her head. “Come on.” Gently, he
drew her back, away from their superior. “Why don’t we get some air,
As shaken as he felt, Rob coaxed her out of her flat. They stepped on
to the path as Stuart pulled his Rover up onto the pavement, exiting the
car practically before it had come to a stop. “Is he all right?”
Robbie nodded, keeping his arm around Jackie’s shoulders, sitting her on
the low wall that ran the length of the terrace. “There’s a lot of
blood. PC Brien’s dead, so is Matthews. It looks like there was a
fight, and Mike killed him in self defence.”
Stephen looked in horror at the small crowd gathered outside the flat.
“He’s all right,” Robbie reassured him automatically, and Stephen nodded
his relief before stepping through the doorway. It was the strangest
use of the words ‘all right’ he’d ever known. Three paramedics were
working quickly to keep Michael’s blood inside his veins, where it
should be. They already had him on a transfusion, replacing some of the
blood that he’d lost into Jackie’s living room carpet.
Superintendent McNeil smiled ruefully at their pathologist. “PC Brien
is dead, he’s in the dining room. That, I believe, is Matthews.” He
pointed to the body lying just outside the area of organized chaos. But
Stephen was standing back, watching the medical crew as they readied
Michael for the ambulance journey. “Stephen?”
The older man looked up. “Sorry.” He crossed the room to join the
senior officer. “Jim would....”
“I know. We both know. But he’s going to live.”
The small group of three all looked up when there seemed to be a lot of
activity in the hallway. The paramedics talked quietly between them as
they carried their patient out carefully on the stretcher. Jackie
trembled under Robbie’s hand as she tried to stand. He held her
gently. “Stuart, go with him would you? I’ll bring Jackie straight to
the hospital, and I’ll phone Iain.”
Rob watched as Stuart approached the small entourage positively, and
reached out to touch Michael’s hand with no hesitation. “The hospital
food’s that good is it, Sir?” they heard him say cheerfully.
Rob smiled down at Jackie, relieved to find that smile mirrored back at
Stuart met a calmer Jackie at hospital reception. Robbie wasn’t far
behind, having rung Iain from his mobile. The younger Jardine was none
too happy by the police’s protection of their own. He was on his way.
Always cheerful, Stuart’s smile did much to ease the concerns of his
colleagues. “He’s all right. They’ve still got him in A&E but Doctor
Lewis told me he’d be moved into a private room within the hour. He
needs a load of stitches and he’s lost a lot of blood, but apart from
that he’s much better than he should be given the circumstances.”
His thoroughness never failed to amaze Jackie. She breathed a little
easier. “Can we see him?”
“Not until he’s been moved. He regained consciousness in the ambulance
and he was still awake when we arrived here.”
But Stuart touched Jackie’s arm reassuringly. “He was talking, telling
me what happened. He asked about PC Brien, I told him I didn’t know.”
“PC Brien’s dead.” The smiled faded from Stuart’s face, and for a while
they stood in silence.
“Hello again.” Doctor Lewis approached them smiling.
“No need to look so worried.” He directed them to one side of the
reception desk. “We’re moving him into a private room now, you can see
him in a few minutes.”
“How is he?”
“Well, considering he fought off an axe-wielding manic, he’s in
surprisingly good shape.” The slight humour was obviously lost on the
two officers. “As I’m sure Stuart’s told you, he woke in the ambulance,
he’s been awake ever since. He’s had five stitches in his neck, four in
his chest and ten in his thigh, and there’s a nasty bruise running
across his shoulders, over his spine, but it’s nothing to worry about.
He’s wide awake. We’ve given him a couple of pain-killers, but that’s
all. He’s getting two further units of blood to make up for what he
lost.” He glanced from one concerned gaze to the next. “Come on, I’ll
take you to him, it’s obviously the only way you’re going to believe
Michael was sitting up in the hospital bed, watching one of the nurses
check on the intravenous valve in the back of his hand. He smiled as
the doctor led the small group into the private room. He was happy just
to be alive. Jackie took his hand as soon as she was close enough,
desperately needing the physical contact. She shook her head, grinning
her own relief.
“These green gowns don’t suit you that well,” she commented lightly.
Michael shrugged, grimacing as the action pulled at the stitches
underneath the dressing at the side of his throat. The nurse put a
steadying hand on his shoulder. “Try not to inflict any more damage on
yourself,” she asked him jokingly. “If you want anything, press the
call button.” She regarded the three that Doctor Lewis had showed in.
But she decided that to point out the ‘two at a time’ visitors rule
would be absurdly inappropriate. She left them to it.
Lewis checked Michael over quickly, and happy with his short-term
progress he went about his business. Stuart announced he would sort
things out back at the station, that he would deliver the good news
about Michael and speak to Doctor Andrews to confirm the cause of
Matthews’ death. Jackie was quietly impressed. She wasn’t sure she
could think straight about anything at the moment.
Michael squeezed her hand. “Are you two goin’a sit down?”
They settled either side of him, Jackie perching on the edge of the bed
and Robbie taking in the chair on the other side. Neither could think
of what to say now. ‘I’m glad you’re alive,’ didn’t seem adequate.
“We were worried,” Robbie told him eventually.
He laughed. “Worried? Why? I can look after myself, you should know
that by now.” But the joking in his voice disguised the slight
trembling that they knew had to be there. Jackie rubbed his arm. “It’s
over,” she told him gently. “Matthews is dead.”
“Aye.” The humour vanished. “I killed him.”
“In self-defence, Michael. No one’s goin’a question that, believe me!”
He nodded, dropping his head back to the pillows and closing his eyes,
holding onto her hand. He felt Robbie briefly touch the fingers of his
other hand and smiled. “I love you both,” he murmured, before finally
giving in to the lull of the pain killers working through his system.
* * *
The sun streamed down through the trees, casting odd shadows on the path
in front of him as he walked. After several hundred yards, he turned
and stepped onto the grass, crossing to the edge of the cemetery to stop
in front of a single headstone. He crouched down there, placing the
white rose down onto the slight rise in the earth.
‘To Honour the Memory of DCI James Taggart, beloved father, husband and
“I miss you, every minute of every day.” Michael touched the grass
beneath his feet. “All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me. I
hope you are. With everything that’s happened... I wanted to come and
tell you myself. I’ve fallen in love, Jim. I think perhaps I fell in
love ten years ago, but I still remember you warning me that if I got
any friendlier with her you’d have me reassigned.” He smiled to himself
at the memory, at his own sarcastic answer. “Life’s too short to lie to
myself,” he continued, “or to you, any longer. Whatever happens between
Jackie, Robbie and I, I want you to know that you were, and remain, the
most important person in my life.”
During the silence that enveloped him, Jackie dropped a gentle hand to
his shoulder and he stood. “We know he’s looking out for you,” she
“I hope he can understand.”
She smiled and nodded. “I’m sure he does.”
Together they headed back to the car, hand in hand, Michael hobbling as
he tried to keep most of his weight off his injured leg. Robbie was
waiting for them, knowing that what had gone before, the times they’d
shared with Taggart, were times he would never be a part of. He stood
with his arms folded on top of Michael’s new car, keys in his hand. He
smiled, saying nothing until they were both leaning against the other
side of the Audi.
Michael leaned heavily on the vehicle, smiling his thanks. “My place?”
“Sounds like a perfect way to spend a Sunday.” Rob unlocked the car.
“I bet you’ve been neglecting your Beanie Babies.”
Michael frowned, reaching for the door handle. “Neglecting them? I
wasn’t aware I had to care for them.”
“You have to feed them! And let them out once in a while! They’re not
house-trained yet. And that plant won’t water itself.”
Robbie pulled the silver Audi away across the gravel, driving slowly
toward the exit.
“I could cook us a nice Chinese,” Jackie offered innocently.