Relative Bonds (McNamara Series, #3) - Roxana Nastase - ebook
Opis

McNamara’s on the hunt again. An apparent suicide leads the detective to a terrorist plot. What will he do when his lady’s life is on the line?

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RELATIVE BONDS

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ROXANA NASTASE

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SCARLET LEAF

2018

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organisations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

SCARLET LEAF

TORONTO

ONTARIO

CANADA

COPYRIGHT BY ROXANA NASTASE

All rights reserved. No part of this book can be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

For information address Scarlet Leaf at:

[email protected]

To my mother

Happy Birthday

CHAPTER ONE

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THE RING OF A CELL phone filled the silence of the night and awoke a very pissed-off McNamara. He grunted his frustration and rubbed his eyes.

That was the first time he had spent a full night in Bryony’s bed, and he hadn’t counted on being disturbed, although he had welcomed such distractions before. He could rush out of a woman’s bed faster than a fox chased by hounds, but that wasn’t the case then, which surprised him.

Things had changed, or maybe he had changed. He didn’t know for sure. However, he didn’t want to dwell on his strange behaviour. He was afraid to find out the truth.

Bryony murmured something, but he couldn’t make heads or tails of her words. A grin fluttered on his lips, feeling her warm body flush against his, and he leaned down and kissed the top of her head on the spur of the moment.

Bryony was sleeping half on top of him. She had thrown a leg over his. Yet, he didn't feel trapped, as he had in the past during the rare occasions when he shared a bed with a woman over the night. McNamara felt contentment. He stroked the woman’s back with the tips of his fingers and kissed her again.

“Answer the damn phone, Artair,” she ordered to him through her clenched teeth and reminded him why he was awake in the first place.

The strong impulse to say ‘Aye, ma’am’ almost pushed the words off his lips, but McNamara stopped himself just in time. A wider grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. He suspected that she wouldn’t appreciate his levity, and during the last few days, he had felt the brunt of Bryony’s temper whenever he provoked her.

She always spoke her mind, unafraid of riling him, and he had learnt his lesson by then. Not even his famous glowers would intimidate her, and that did raise his eyebrows. He had always counted on a good glower to chastise anyone into submission.

He held her close to him with his left arm and stretching, he turned on the light and picked up the cell phone he had left on the night table a few hours earlier. He answered in a harsh voice, good enough to chill his interlocutor to the bones.

“McNamara.”

A brief glance at his watch told him that he had slept only two hours, and his satisfied grin turned into a scowl. Now, he understood Bryony’s dismay better. He had already kept her awake half the night.

“Sorry, boss,” Mike’s apologetic voice came over the line. “We’ve got a bit of a problem here, sir, in Newington, on Salisbury Road. You know, close to The Salisbury Arms,” he continued hesitantly.

He never knew how McNamara would react when they called him at night. Most of the time, he would welcome their call, but lately, things seemed to have changed somewhat.

He would have preferred that somebody else made that call. However, nobody else was available. He had asked Jo to do it, but she had refused him.

“What kind of a problem?” McNamara asked in the same harsh voice.

McNamara wasn’t the man to give any quarter to anyone, and Mike wasn’t an exception, although he rated him as one of the best detectives in the Specialist Crime Division.  

“Well, police were called to something that seemed like a textbook suicide...” Mike started explaining, but then, he stopped once more, reluctant to continue.

“And...” McNamara nudged him to go on with his explanation, impatience rolling off his tongue.

“The uniforms thought it was a suicide, boss, and they didn’t treat the scene with too much care,” Mike sighed deeply. “In their defence, it does look like suicide, you know. Anyone would have been duped, I suppose... Not that a suicide would have granted them any leeway. They should have known better, after all... Anyway, sir, then, the forensics and the coroner came...” Mike said and stopped again.

“Do I need to beg for every single bloody sentence, Mike?” McNamara snapped, sarcasm dripping off his tongue.

He was already sick of the detective’s hesitation. Besides, he also felt Bryony’s impatient fingers, drumming on his chest. He just wanted to conclude the discussion.

“No, sir. Of course, not, sir,” Mike rushed to reassure him.

Immediately, he started speaking as fast as possible. “When the coroner came, he stated that it wasn’t suicide. He seems one hundred per cent confident, and if he says so, then it is so. You know David Stewart. When he stated that it was murder, you know what hit the fan,” Mike said.

McNamara sensed Mike's dismay in his tone of voice.

“Why?” McNamara inquired in a vexed tone of voice.

“As I’ve already said, people didn’t pay too much attention to the scene before the doctor ruled the suicide out. Now, everybody is shouting at everybody... It’s a hell of a fight, back there, sir,” Mike explained. “I tried to calm the waters but... I had to come outside to call. I couldn’t hear my own thoughts inside,” he confessed morosely. “A phone call would have been impossible.”

“I see,” McNamara concluded and closed his eyes in resignation. “I’ll have to come to the crime scene, I understand. Send me the coordinates,” he ordered, and then, he hung up rudely, without waiting for Mike’s reply.

McNamara didn’t feel the same impatience he used to when called to a crime scene. He would have preferred to remain and share the bed and warmth with Bryony, yet that wasn’t a valid option for him at that moment.

His train of thought surprised and astonished him, but McNamara didn’t waste any time to ponder his unusual reaction. He didn’t want to dig too deep into it and see what was there, even though the answer was right under his nose. He preferred not to know some things.

His callous palm stroked Bryony’s strawberry-blond hair with tenderness, and Bryony lifted her head off his chest and looked straight into his eyes with understanding. However, he also noticed a twinge of regret swimming in her dark blue eyes.  

She murmured to him, “Don’t worry about me, Artair. I know you have to go.”

When she chose to get involved in a relationship with him, she had made that choice with her eyes wide open. She had known that he was a detective and didn’t have a nine-to-five run of the mill job. Therefore, right from the beginning, she had promised herself not to interfere or become a nuisance for him. He had enough on his mind and didn’t need a girlfriend who would constantly nag him about his leaving or absences and complain about his work.

Her fingers brushed over his chest gently, and he immediately stopped the movement of her wandering hand. He knew he had to get dressed and leave her house, and her fingers made that difficult for him. They put unreasonable ideas into his mind.

He looked back at her and replied, “Yes, I do. But I’d have liked not to.”

His eyes told her that he had just stated the truth, but she already knew that. McNamara wasn’t the man to sugar-coat things, and he always said what he thought. He was anything else but tactful.  

With a tender kiss on her lips, he got out of bed, gathered the things he had left on the nightstand in the evening, and then, he picked up all his clothes. After he put out the light, he headed to the bathroom to take a shower before leaving.

He didn’t want to disturb her sleep on his way out. He had kept her awake long after the hour she used to go to bed, and he knew that she also had to go to work in the morning.

“Go back to sleep,” he ordered very matter-of-factly, turning his head to her briefly before getting into the bathroom. The moonlight coming through the slightly parted curtains defined her silhouette lying in bed. “I’ll see you later in the afternoon,” he promised, and then, he closed the bathroom door behind him.

‘Huh! I don’t think so,’ Bryony glowered in the dark, staring at the door he had just closed behind him. Even though she was still half asleep, she got out of bed, as well.

She didn’t bother to turn on the light. She remembered that she had left a large t-shirt on the armchair the day before.

She stumbled and stubbed her toes in the armchair, which was in the shadow. However, she found the t-shirt and pulled it over her head with quick moves.

She didn’t take orders very well, as a rule, especially when those orders went against the grain. ‘Artair should have known me better by now,’ she mumbled with annoyance.  

Then, she moseyed downstairs towards the kitchen, barefoot, leaning heavily on the handrail. She usually needed a little more than only two hours of sleep to feel human again. She yawned and rubbed her face vigorously to wake up. However, the stubborn drowsiness didn’t give any sign that it wanted to leave her brain.

However, she was intent on making some coffee and a sandwich for him. If the man thought she would let him go to work without having a bite for breakfast, he would soon find out how wrong his assumptions were. She was made of a sterner cloth than that.

***

MCNAMARA DIDN’T NOTICE she wasn’t in bed when he came out of the bathroom. Fully dressed and ready to leave, he hesitated in front of the door for a few moments, but the desire to touch her once more overrode any consideration.

He knew that he should have let her sleep, but he couldn’t just leave. He promised himself he would only kiss the top of her head and wouldn’t disturb her at all. He quietly strode to the bed and leaned down, only to find out that she wasn’t there.

Now, that surprised him. He straightened and braced his hands on his hips. He scowled and shook his head. Bryony seemed to be much more obstinate than he had thought. He shrugged and left the room, climbing down the stairs with noisy steps.

As he expected, he found her in the kitchen. She busied herself, setting the table with coffee cups and a plate filled with grilled sandwiches. He shook his head again, yet warmth spread inside his chest when he thought of her efforts.

Bryony turned to him when his steps warned her that he had come into the kitchen. They measured each other quietly for a few seconds, although Bryony expected to hear him protest against her actions any moment now.

Artair was looking at her with unreadable eyes, unsure of what he should say. It wasn’t every day a woman went out of her way to make him breakfast and especially when she didn’t get enough sleep.

He thought to thank her, yet that didn’t seem to cover what he thought and felt, so he kept his silence.

The silence stretched until Bryony decided she had had enough. She quietly waved towards the table to invite him to have his breakfast, and Artair just accepted her invitation wordlessly.

Anyway, it wasn’t as if he knew what to say to her. He didn’t have any similar experience to draw information from, and it wasn’t bloody likely he would dig something useful from his mind at that moment. His mind was blank, overwhelmed with awe.

She joined him at the table, and they sipped their coffee in companionable silence. However, he didn't understand why she drank the coffee. He knew she would go back to bed in a short while. He refrained from asking her any questions though.

He bit into one of the hot sandwiches, looking at her sideways, amazed she had gone to so much trouble for him.    

CHAPTER TWO

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THE SHOUTS REACHED McNamara’s ears as soon as he got out of his car. His eyes swept over the lit windows of the surrounding buildings, and then over the people gathered in front of the building where they had told him that the crime scene was. Those people looked far too animated for that hour at night, and they were chatting among themselves.

When he stepped onto the pavement, they looked at him sideways, but no one dared to approach him. His forbidding stance didn’t invite anyone to greetings or questions.

He was about to step into the stairway when a louder angry shout pierced the night. His eyes narrowed to slits, and his hands, which he had burrowed into his pockets earlier because of the icy wind swirling around him, clenched into fists.

He couldn’t wait to reach the floor upstairs and give a piece of his mind to that bunch of hens. They were shrieking at the top of their lungs with no care in the world that someone might hear them and their behaviour might raise questions.

Now, he understood why so many people had gathered downstairs, even though it was very early in the morning. He doubted someone could have slept with all that commotion.

When he stepped onto the landing, his eyes fell on Jo and Mike. They were leaning on the wall with resignation, their heads close one to the other. They were whispering something among themselves, but the sound of their voices drowned in the yelling, which was pouring out of the flat.

“What’s going on inside?” he asked them in a harsh voice, pointing his chin to the flat where all that shouting was taking place.

Both detectives winced at his words and straightened immediately. Jo stepped bravely forward and explained to him, “The forensic guys have a shouting match with the constables, sir.”

The frown on McNamara’s face deepened. He had hoped that they had finished by then because he didn’t feel like playing the referee. Not that he had the necessary skills for that.

He bowed his head in irritation and shook it. Afterwards, he went past the two apprehensive detectives, without another word for them, and entered the flat. His jaw was set, and his eyes were blazing. He was intent on blistering the ears of the people inside, who behaved so unprofessionally.

Jo and Mike followed at a short distance behind him. They didn’t want to get too close to the blast and get burnt in the process.  

The group of people gathered in the small flat were so focused on fighting each other that they didn’t even notice the DCI’s arrival. His eyes swept over them. A hard glint appeared in his eyes, and his lips pursed.

He was on the verge of joining the fray when he laid his eyes on David Stewart, the coroner. He seemed to have completed the examination of the body and just finished packing his things.

Stewart had left his medical case on the floor and just put his coat on. After he grabbed his bag, he straightened and started discussing with the two morgue technicians about the transport of the body to the morgue.

When the medical examiner chanced to glance over their heads, he noticed McNamara. The DCI was watching him outwardly, without paying attention to the argument that was still going on. 

Nonetheless, the doctor knew him better, and he felt a slight twinge of compassion for the other people in the room. He knew that their ears would be burning by the end of their encounter with McNamara, but after all, they had brought everything upon themselves. No one had forced their hand.

He waved at the DCI, motioning to him to come forward and talk to him. For one more second, the DCI’s glowering eyes swept over the group of people who were arguing noisily, and then, with a negligent shrug of his shoulders, he headed towards the coroner.

He thought he had enough time to intervene in the boisterous discussion afterwards. The ruckus had already woken the entire street, and he knew that it wouldn’t make much of a difference if it had continued for another minute or two.

However, his determined steps and purposeful stride across the room finally caught the other people’s eyes. Then, one by one, they stopped shouting and began watching him with apprehension. It was evident they hadn’t counted on his appearance at the scene, or they would have behaved differently.

“Hey, David, what’s the verdict?” he asked the coroner, satisfied that silence had claimed the room. Now, he could finally hear his own thoughts and voice.  

“McNamara,” David Stewart acknowledged him with a nod and shook his hand. “It’s a murder, all right,” he said, pointing his chin towards the bathroom. “The lad was held down until they slashed his wrists. You can see the telling bruises on his arms and torso. Initially, they subdued him with a blow in the jaw from what I could see. You can see for yourself, now, that you’re here. I didn’t think you’d be called,” the man admitted, leading him into the bathroom. ‘And neither have they or they had stopped the mayhem sooner,’ he mused.

“More than one murderer?” inquired McNamara, glossing over the doctor’s last words and looking at the body in the bathtub.

The medical examiner shrugged, “I can’t really say right now. Not even after the autopsy, I might not be able to determine that.  And any other clues you might have found...,” he stopped mid-sentence, turning his palms upwards in dismay.

“I see,” McNamara nodded. “When do you think you will finish with the autopsy?” he inquired, unbuttoning his coat. The flat felt like a furnace, and he couldn’t breathe at ease.

“I have the graveyard shift today, so I will start on it once I get the body back to the morgue. Luckily for you, I don’t have any other autopsies on my list at the moment,” the doctor grinned at him, and then signalled to the techs to do their job after McNamara had finished analysing the body.

He started to the door, buttoning his coat. “Talk to you later, lad,” he said with the same mischievous grin on his lips.

He knew that the DCI would be busy mediating the argument between his people, and he didn’t envy him at all. He didn’t envy the others, either, because he knew the DCI well.

McNamara’s wrath was well known in the station. Probably, the rumours about it had already made the tour of other stations, as well.

The medical examiner knew for a fact that they had because he had attended a conference a few weeks back and a colleague from the Isle of Skye had asked questions about the DCI with awe. McNamara had already become a famous man in the Scottish police force.

He was the youngest detective inspector to ever become DCI in the Scottish police force, and he was renowned for a few things, among which his high rate of arrests and his high expectations from his subordinates. Yet, no one would have said that he requested more from the others that he asked from himself.

McNamara waved his hand at the medical examiner, and then, he turned his attention to the body in the bathtub. He noticed the youth of the man whose wrists had been savagely slashed and shook his head ruefully. The lad was probably a student, given the location of the flat. He was barely over eighteen.

The chief inspector took note of the state of undress of the body and wondered whether he had taken his clothes off willingly. Probably, he had had some help with that because it didn’t seem likely that he would have wanted to take a bath. There wasn’t a drop of water in the bathtub.

And yet, he could have used one. The young man’s black hair hung around his face in disarray and didn’t seem to have seen soap or shampoo for the last week or so. Hygiene hadn’t rated too high on his to-do list.

His eyes had remained wide open, and the pupils had invaded the blue irises as if he had suffered a shock just before expiring. McNamara didn’t doubt that his premature death had come as a blow to the young man.

McNamara’s look lingered on the lad’s face, noticing a big bruise, the size of a fist near the man’s mouth and on the crack in his lower lip where he could see the trace of blood.

He shook his head in dismay. He couldn’t understand how the constables hadn’t been able to notice all those signs. At least, the blood in the corner of the mouth should have triggered some questions in their mind. When one slashed his wrists, there was no trace of blood there.

He turned to the morgue techs and waved at them to bag and take the body away. He waited quietly until the techs had cleared the room with the body in a black plastic bag, and then, he finally turned to face his people. By now, they were watching him with various degrees of dread.

“Does anyone care to enlighten me what happened here and why you felt like waking up the entire neighbourhood with your shouts?” he asked in a mild tone of voice, but that didn’t fool anyone.

His hard eyes glowered at them, and his mouth was set. That was a clear sign that he was beyond mere annoyance because of their behaviour.

Steven Gilchrist, the head of the forensic team, cleared his voice and stepped forward. “It’s quite simple, sir,” he began his explanation in a harsh voice. “When we got here, we found out that the guys in uniform didn’t take any care to preserve the scene. As you can see, there are four of them, and they trampled all over the place,” his voice thundered by the end of his speech. “I don’t even know if there’s anything left for us so that we could use to make a case,” he added with anger in his voice and opened his arms as if he had given up to try.

“I see,” McNamara observed and looked at the constables askance. “Anything to add, lads?” he inquired, his eyebrows climbing up his forehead.

Three of the four men didn’t dare to meet his eyes but kept staring intently at the wooden floor under their feet. The fourth looked him straight in the eye fleetingly, and only afterwards, he glanced at the wall on his right. The corners of his lips bowed in a fleeting grin as if he had known something that the others didn’t.

The inspector took note of the triumphant glimmer in the man’s eyes, even though it lasted only for one second. He didn’t show any outward sign that he had noticed anything but made a mental note to look into that man’s life more attentively.

McNamara also noticed that the constable showed signs that he had been in a fight, as well as one of the other three. He made a note in his mind to ask about their bruises and cuts.

He knew the constables by sight and names, but he had never thought that he needed to know more than that. He had been interested in how they did their job and nothing more.

Now though, he considered that the man’s peculiar behaviour deserved a few moments of his time. He remembered that his name was Bryce Fergusson and decided to ask James to look into his background and activities.

One of the other three constables, a ruddy and burly man around forty, answered apologetically, “We thought it was a suicide, sir.”

“So, what?” McNamara asked in the same mild tone of voice, which was already grating on everybody’s nerves.

They would have preferred that he shouted at them. They knew damn well that they would suffer the brunt of his anger soon enough.

McNamara wasn’t a compassionate soul and didn’t believe in keeping his disappointment in anyone under wraps.

“Well...,” the burly constable, Graham Fraser, tried frantically to find an explanation for their behaviour.

His brown eyes turned left and right, looking for some inspiration, while the DCI seemed to wait patiently, although everyone knew it was just for show. A long time ago, they had learnt that McNamara didn’t know what patience meant.  It was a foreign concept for him.

Suddenly, it dawned on Fraser that he didn’t have any explanation or excuse. Suicide or not, they still should have preserved the scene, and he felt like slapping himself silly.

It wasn’t as if he had been a young lad just coming out of school, and he should have known better. Nonetheless, he had followed his colleagues’ lead without questions. ‘Like I’m a bloody sheep, damn it!’

“No other excuses, then?” McNamara swept over the constables’ faces.

None of them dared to look him in the eye, not even Fergusson, who now, apparently, showed more interest in the wallpaper sporting a floral motive than in what they were discussing there.

“I see,” the DCI observed again. “Is there anything you didn’t touch?” he asked them in a harsher voice now.

It was always Fraser who answered to his inquiry because the others seemed to have lost their tongues.

“We stepped into the bathroom, but we didn’t touch the body or the bathtub, sir. No, we didn’t put our hands on any object in there. Of course, if there were any prints on the floor there...,” he stopped with a frown, staring at the wooden floor. Then, he looked up at McNamara again and continued, “The problem is that we did touch the desk in here,” he nodded towards the desk hosting a laptop and two rows of books, neatly arranged on the right side. “We wanted to see if there was a suicide note... And we found one, written on the computer... The screen was still on... We didn’t touch the shelf,” he said, and now, he nodded towards the shelf built above the desk. “And we only made a cursory walk in the kitchen... That’s all,” he admitted. His face had turned redder by the time he finished his accounting.

McNamara waited a few seconds to see if anyone would come up with something else. When he saw that no one was willing to add anything to the constable’s account, he ordered in a stern voice, “You can all leave now. Tomorrow, before your shift, report to the sergeant’s office and give your report, all of you.  Now, go and ask those people outside if they saw or heard anything tonight. Then, you’re dismissed. Return to the station and write a report explaining everything you’ve done and why, of course,” he thought to add because they hadn’t told him yet what led them to that uncharacteristic behaviour.

“Aye, sir,” the constables answered like one and turned to leave.

McNamara stopped them and asked Fergusson and Dunbar, “Why the two of you are so battered?”

Dunbar shuffled his feet, but Fergusson answered immediately. “We had an encounter with a group of five people, sir. They were drunk and became aggressive. Unfortunately, before we could call for reinforcements, they ran away. What you see is the result of the fight we had with them before that,” the constable shrugged.

“I see,” McNamara said, but he had his doubts that the constable spoke the truth. “You’re dismissed,” the chief inspector said.

The four constables left the flat in a rush, under McNamara’s inquisitive eyes, whose instinct had raised some rather upsetting questions in his mind.

He either had some very incompetent people in the force, which he doubted because he had worked with them in the past, and they had proved to him that they knew their job, or something else had happened. What he read into the facts aroused his fury and put a metallic glint into his eyes.

“Get to work,” he barked at Steven and immediately turned his back to him so that he couldn’t complain anymore. The DCI knew that more complaints wouldn’t make things right.

His eyes found Jo and Mike near the front door and waved at them to join him near the window. He wanted a few answers and wasn’t willing to disturb the forensic team’s work. However, he couldn’t very well go outside to discuss with the detectives. He doubted the onlookers had already left the front of the building. ‘It is amazing how curious people had become these days,’ he reflected.

“So, Jo, give me a clear report about how come we arrived at this murder scene and what happened here afterwards,” he invited the detective to talk once the two of them reached his side.

“Aye, sir,” she nodded, but she cringed inside with dismay.

She knew that she usually ran her mouth about unimportant details and the DCI didn’t seem in the mood to listen to her digressions that night. She would have preferred that he asked Mike’s account.  

“The dispatcher received a call around two in the morning. The lad who shares the flat with the victim had just come back home and almost tripped over the body in the bathtub. He’d had a few drinks – a little more than a few, in my opinion,” she mentioned, but when she noticed that McNamara’s eyes had narrowed, she returned to the facts at once. “He didn’t bother to turn on the light, you see, and went directly into the bathroom,” she explained with a wave of her hand.

Suddenly, she stopped, straightened her shoulders, and tilting her head, she reflected a moment. Then, she remarked, “This is quite strange, sir. He said that there wasn’t any light in the bathroom and that was why he tripped over the victim’s slippers and fell over him in the bathtub. His shirt does show spots of blood where he touched one of the victim’s wrists.”

“And did he mention that to the constables?” inquired McNamara, and his mouth tightened in a hard line.

“I think so,” Mike intervened. “The first time we heard about that, it was from them. We talked to the boy afterwards. So, that’s right. They knew about it damn well enough,” he explained in a determined tone of voice and nodded.

“So nobody wondered why the lad had decided to kill himself in the dark?” McNamara asked nonplussed.

“Not really,” Jo hesitated to say, “but when we asked about that, one of the constables advanced the idea that probably he’d killed himself when it was still daylight... But you know what, I haven't noticed any window in that bathroom, though. He’d have had to turn on the light anyway,” she observed, and a frown appeared between her eyebrows. “And the coroner did mention that the crime had taken place at night.”

Nodding, Mike agreed with her, and then, he remarked, “Someone made a mistake, boss. They put out the light before they left the flat. It is possible that they weren’t aware that the lad had a roommate and didn’t live alone. It is also possible that they were afraid that the light might attract someone’s attention. I think they might have intended to have the body found at a later time, probably in a day or two.  It would have definitely smelt by then with all this heat in the flat. As far as I can see, the victim kept two radiators on. Anyway, as Jo has already mentioned, the coroner stated that the lad had died not earlier than two or three hours before his friend found him so...”

“Where’s this lad? The roommate?” McNamara asked in a harsh voice.

“He’s with James, in one of the patrol cars downstairs,” explained Jo. “The poor lad was scared out of his mind. He was still raging on when we got here, and it took Mike and me over half an hour to reach this side of the town,” she reckoned.

Mike’s flat was in Leith and only the light traffic at night had helped them to get to Salisbury Road in such a short time. Jo hoped that McNamara wouldn’t ask her to explain why it had taken her so long to get to the crime scene. The DCI knew that she didn’t live so far from Newington. She didn’t feel like exposing her extracurricular activities with Mike.

“We were almost sure that we’d have to run him to the hospital, but luckily, James, who arrived just a little before us, managed to quiet him down enough and take him outside to the police cars. That’s where we spoke to him briefly,” she finished her explanation and breathed deeply.

“All right, Jo, I’ll talk to him soon. Now, go on.”

“So, when we got here, the coroner and the forensic team had already arrived. Not five minutes after our arrival, the coroner declared it wasn’t a suicide, but homicide, and Steven started shouting at the constables. They had already been arguing a bit before the coroner’s verdict but afterwards... What followed, sir... you saw for yourself,” she shrugged, and her mouth pursed. She wasn’t able to find the appropriate words to explain to the DCI everything that had happened.

“I see,” McNamara said, and then, he started pacing in front of the window, his thoughts on what he had already learnt from his detectives.

“All right, Jo,” he turned back to her. “Both of you remain here and monitor the forensic guys. Usually, Steven pays attention to details, but tonight he is furious and might not think straight. I don’t want any other mistakes. Mike, you keep an eye on that laptop,” he pointed to the victim’s laptop on the desk. “I want one of our experts to have a look at it and see if there’s anything in there to shade some light over this mess. Ask them if there’s a way to determine who wrote that suicide note. If there’s anything specific that could point to someone or something,” he shrugged, although he doubted that anything would come out of that. “Of course, we also need to see if there’s any hint for a motive in there. You never know,” he also said, and afterwards, he headed to the front door. “I’m still available on the phone if you need me,” he thought to mention. It wasn’t like he could go back to Bryony, so he didn’t mind any further intrusions now.

The detectives watched him leaving the flat, and then, they looked at each other. Mike sighed and then shouted, “Steven, give me one of those evidence bags. I have to bag this laptop.”

CHAPTER THREE

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MCNAMARA KNOCKED ON the car window, and James immediately came out of the car, leaving the young man, he had been babysitting for the last hour, in the company of his bleak mood.

James usually had a lot of patience in store, and yet, he started losing it during the last fifteen minutes. The man was continuously whimpering and sniffling, and James had already exhausted his reserve of platitudes.

“James,” McNamara greeted him in a grave voice.

“Sir,” replied James, closing the car door behind him so that the man inside didn’t hear them.

He looked up at McNamara and noticed the lack of sleep on the DCI’s face at once and cringed. McNamara's attitude went beyond difficult if he was exhausted.

“I’m happy you’re here, sir,” he felt compelled to mention, although he was aware that his notion of being happy didn’t necessarily match McNamara’s, especially in the light of having to talk to the young man who was still weeping uncontrollably in the car.

“I’m not very happy, James,” McNamara replied in a hard tone of voice. “I understand the lad who found the body is inside the car,” he added, nodding towards the patrol car.