"Who with?" "The boss." Meaning Detective Chief Superintendent Gill Templer. Rebus nodded, satisfied that as yet it wasn't going any higher. "What will you say to her?" he asked.
"There's nothing to tell. I didn't have anything to do with Fairstone's death." She paused, another unasked question hanging between them: Did you? She seemed to be waiting for Rebus to say something, but he stayed silent. "She'll want to know about you," Siobhan added. "How you ended up in here."
"I scalded myself," Rebus said. "It's stupid, but that's what happened."
"I know that's what you say happened . . ." "No, Siobhan, it's what happened. Ask the doctors if you don't believe me." He looked around again. "Always supposing you can find one."
"Probably still combing the grounds for a parking space." The joke was weak enough, but Rebus smiled anyway. She was letting him know she wouldn't be pressing him any further. His smile was one of gratitude.
"Who's in charge at South Queensferry?" he asked her, signaling a change of subject.
"I think DI Hogan's out there." "Bobby's a good guy. If it can be wrapped up fast, he'll do it." "Media circus by all accounts. Grant Hood's been drafted in to handle liaison."
"Leaving us short-changed at St. Leonard's?" Rebus was thoughtful. "All the more reason for me to get back there." "Especially if I'm suspended . . ."
"You won't be. You said it yourself, Siobhan-you didn't have anything to do with Fairstone. Way I see it, it was an accident. Now that something bigger's come along, maybe it'll die a natural death, so to speak."
"'An accident.' " She was repeating his words. He nodded slowly. "So don't worry about it. Unless, of course, you really did top the bastard."
"John . . ." There was a warning in her tone. Rebus smiled again and managed a wink.
"Only joking," he said. "I know damned fine who Gill's going to want to see in the frame for Fairstone." "He died in a fire, John."
"And that means I killed him?" Rebus held up both hands, turning them this way and that. "Scalds, Siobhan. That's all, just scalds." She rose from the chair. "If you say so, John." Then she stood in front of him, while he lowered his hands, biting back the sudden rush of agony. A nurse was approaching, saying something about changing his dressings.
"I'm just going," Siobhan informed her. Then, to Rebus: "I'd hate to think you'd do something so stupid and imagine it was on my behalf." He started shaking his head slowly, and she turned and walked away. "Keep the faith, Siobhan!" he called after her.
"That your daughter?" the nurse asked, making conversation. "Just a friend, someone I work with." "You something to do with the Church?"
Rebus winced as she started unpeeling one of his bandages. "What makes you say that?"
"The way you were talking about faith." "Job like mine, you need more than most." He paused. "But then, maybe it's the same for you?"
"Me?" She smiled, her eyes on her handiwork. She was short and plain-looking and businesslike. "Can't hang around waiting for faith to do anything for you. So how did you manage this?" She meant his blistered hands.
"I got into hot water," he explained, feeling a bead of sweat beginning its slow journey down one temple. Pain I can handle, he thought to himself. The problem was everything else. "Can we switch to something lighter than bandages?"
"You keen to be on your way?" "Keen to pick up a cup without dropping it." Or a phone, he thought. "Besides, there's got to be someone out there needs the bed more than I do."
"Very public-minded, I'm sure. We'll have to see what the doctor says."
"And which doctor would that be?" "Just have a bit of patience, eh?"
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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