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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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2004, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2005, 544 pages

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Patience: the one thing he had no time for. "Maybe you'll have some more visitors," the nurse added. He doubted it. No one knew he was here except Siobhan. He'd got one of the staff to call her so she could tell Templer that he was taking a sick day, maybe two at the most. Thing was, the call had brought Siobhan running. Maybe he'd known it would; maybe that's why he'd phoned her rather than the station.

That had been yesterday afternoon. Yesterday morning, he'd given up the fight and walked into his GP's office. The doctor filling in had taken one look and told him to get himself to a hospital. Rebus had taken a taxi to A&E, embarrassed when the driver had to dig the money for the fare out of his trouser pockets. "Did you hear the news?" the cabbie had asked. "A shooting at a school."

"Probably an air gun." But the man had shaken his head. "Worse than that, according to the radio. . ."

At A&E, Rebus had waited his turn. Eventually, his hands had been dressed, the injuries not serious enough to merit a trip to the Burns Unit out at Livingston. But he was running a high temperature, so they'd decided to keep him in, an ambulance transferring him from A&E to Little France. He thought they were probably keeping an eye on him in case he went into shock or something. Or it could be they feared he was one of those self-harm people. Nobody'd come to talk to him about that. Maybe that's why they were hanging on to him: waiting for a psychiatrist with a free moment.

He wondered about Jean Burchill, the one person who might notice his sudden disappearance from home. But things had cooled there a little. They managed a night together maybe once every ten days. Spoke on the phone more frequently, met for coffee some afternoons. Already it felt like a routine. He recalled that a while ago he'd dated a nurse for a short time. He didn't know if she still worked locally. He could always ask, but her name was escaping him. It was a problem: he had trouble sometimes with names. Forgot the odd appointment. Not a big deal really, just part and parcel of the aging process. But in court he found himself referring to his notes more and more when giving evidence. Ten years ago he hadn't needed a script or any prompts. He'd acted with more confidence, and that always impressed juries - so lawyers had told him.

"There now." His nurse was straightening up. She'd put fresh grease and gauze on his hands, wrapped the old bandages back around them. "Feel more comfortable?" He nodded. The skin felt a little cooler, but he knew it wouldn't last.

"You due any more painkillers?" The question was rhetorical. She checked the chart at the bottom of his bed. Earlier, after a visit to the toilet, he'd looked at it himself. It gave his temperature and medication, nothing else. No coded information meant to be understood only by those in the know. No record of the story he'd given when he was being examined.

I'd run a hot bath...slipped and fell in. The doctor had made a kind of noise at the back of his throat, something that said he would accept this without necessarily believing it. Overworked, lacking sleep -not his job to pry. Doctor rather than detective.

"I can give you some paracetamol," the nurse suggested. "Any chance of a beer to wash them down?" She smiled that professional smile again. The years she'd worked in the NHS, she probably didn't hear too many original lines. "I'll see what I can do."

"You're an angel," Rebus said, surprising himself. It was the sort of thing he felt a patient might say, one of those comfortable clichés. She was on her way, and he wasn't sure she'd heard. Maybe it was something in the nature of hospitals. Even if you didn't feel ill, they still had an effect, slowing you down, making you compliant. Institutionalizing you. It could be to do with the color scheme, the background hum. Maybe the heating of the place was complicit, too. Back at St. Leonard's, they had a special cell for the "maddies." It was bright pink and was supposed to calm them down. Why think a similar psychology wasn't being employed here? Last thing they wanted was a stroppy patient, shouting the odds and jumping out of bed every five minutes. Hence the suffocating number of blankets, tightly tucked in to further hamper movement. Just lie still...propped by pillows. . . bask in the heat and light...Don't make a fuss. Any more of this, he felt, and he'd start forgetting his own name. The world outside would cease to matter. No job waiting for him. No Fairstone. No maniac spraying gunfire through the classrooms. . .

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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