Excerpt from A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Question of Blood

An Inspector Rebus Novel

By Ian Rankin

A Question of Blood
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2004,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2005,
    544 pages.

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And the next day.

And the whole of the following week. Unsure at first how to play it. She didn't know if her silences were working. They just seemed to make him laugh, made him try all the harder. She prayed he would tire, find something else to occupy him. Then he turned up at St. Leonard's, tried following her home. She'd spotted him that time, led him a dance while summoning help on her mobile. A patrol car had picked him up. Next day, he was curbside again, just outside the car park at the back of St. Leonard's. She'd left him there, exiting on foot instead by the front door, taking a bus home.

Still he wouldn't give up, and she realized that what had started--presumably--as a joke had turned into a more serious form of game. So she'd decided to bring one of her stronger pieces into play. Rebus had noticed anyway: the calls she wasn't taking, the time she spent by the office window, the way she kept glancing around her when they were out on a call. So eventually she'd told him, and the pair of them had paid a visit to Fairstone's public housing unit in Gracemount.

It had started badly, Siobhan soon realizing that her "piece" played by his own set of rules rather than anyone else's. A struggle, the leg snapping from a coffee table, pine veneer yielding to the MDF within. Siobhan feeling worse than ever afterwards--weak, because she had brought Rebus in rather than deal with it herself; trembling, because at the back of her mind lurked the thought that she'd known what would happen, and had wanted it to happen. Instigator and coward.

They'd stopped for a drink on the way back into town. "Think he'll do anything?" Siobhan had asked. "He started it," Rebus told her. "If he keeps on hassling you, he knows now what he's in for." "A hiding, you mean?"

"All I did was defend myself, Siobhan. You were there. You saw." His eyes fixing hers until she nodded. And he was right. Fairstone had lunged at him. Rebus had pushed him down onto the coffee table, trying to hold him there. Then the leg snapped and both men slid to the floor, rolling and struggling. It had all been over in a matter of seconds, Fairstone's voice shaking with rage as he told them to get out. Rebus pointing a warning finger, repeating his order to "back off from DS Clarke."

"Just clear out, the pair of you!" Her hand touching Rebus's arm. "It's finished. Let's go." "You think it's finished?" Flecks of white saliva spitting from the corners of Fairstone's mouth.

Rebus's final words: "It better be, pal, unless you really want to start seeing some fireworks."

She'd wanted to ask him what he'd meant, but instead had bought a final round of drinks. In bed that night, she'd stared at the dark ceiling before falling into a doze, waking with a sudden feeling of terror, leaping to her feet, adrenaline surging through her. She'd crawled on hands and knees from her bedroom, believing that if she got to her feet, she would die. Eventually it passed, and she used her hands on the hallway wall as she rose up from the floor. She walked slowly back to bed and lay down on her side, curled into a ball.

More common than you might think, her doctor would eventually tell her, after the second attack.

Between times, Martin Fairstone made a complaint of harassment, dropping it eventually. And he'd also kept on calling. She'd tried to keep it from Rebus, didn't want to know what he meant by "fire-works"... The CID office was dead. People were out on calls, or busy in court. It seemed you could spend half your life waiting to give evidence, only for the case to collapse or the accused to make a change of plea.

Sometimes a juror went AWOL, or someone crucial was sick. Time seeped away, and at the end of it all the verdict was "not guilty." Even when found guilty, it might be a question of a fine or suspended sentence. The prisons were full and seen more than ever as a last resort. Siobhan didn't think she was growing cynical, just realistic. There'd been criticism recently that Edinburgh had more traffic wardens than cops. When something like South Queensferry came up, it stretched things tighter. Holidays, sick leave, paperwork, and court...and not nearly enough hours in any given day. Siobhan was aware that there was a backlog on her desk. Because of Fairstone, her work had been suffering. She could still feel his presence. If a phone rang, she would freeze, and a couple of times she caught herself heading for the window, to check if his car was out there. She knew she was being irrational, but couldn't help it. Knew, too, that it wasn't the kind of thing she could talk to someone about ...not without seeming weak.

Copyright © 2003 by Ian Rankin.  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.

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