The phone was ringing now. Not on her own desk, but on Rebus's. If no one answered, the switchboard might try another extension. She crossed the floor, willing the sound to stop. It did so only when she picked up the receiver.
"Hello?" "Who's that?" A male voice. Brisk, businesslike. "DS Clarke."
"Hiya, Shiv. It's Bobby Hogan here." Detective Inspector Bobby Hogan. She'd asked him before not to call her Shiv. A lot of people tried it. Siobhan, pronounced "Shi-vawn," shortened to Shiv. When people wrote her name down, it turned into all sorts of erroneous spellings. She remembered that Fairstone had called her Shiv a few times, attempting familiarity. She hated it and knew she should correct Hogan, but she didn't.
"Keeping busy?" she asked instead. "You know I'm handling Port Edgar?" He broke off. 'Course you do, stupid question." "You come over well on TV, Bobby."
"I'm always open to flattery, Shiv, and the answer is 'no.'" She couldn't help smiling. "I'm not exactly snowed under here," she lied, glancing across at the folders on her desk. "If I need an extra pair of hands, I'll let you know. Is John around?"
"Mr. Popular? He's taken a sickie. What do you want him for?" "Is he at home?" "I can probably get a message to him." She was intrigued now. There was some urgency in Hogan's voice. "You know where he is?" "Yes." "Where?"
"You never answered my question: what do you want him for?" Hogan gave a long sigh. "Because I need that other pair of hands," he told her. "And only his will do?" "So far as I know." "I'm suitably crushed."
He ignored her tone. "How soon can you let him know?" "He might not be well enough to help." "If he's anywhere short of an iron lung, I'll take him." She rested her weight against Rebus's desk. "What's going on?" "Just get him to call me, eh?" "Are you at the school?"
"Best if he tries my mobile. Bye, Shiv." "Hang on a sec!" Siobhan was looking towards the doorway. "What?" Hogan failed to mask his exasperation.
"He's just here. I'll put him on." She stretched the receiver out towards Rebus. His clothes all seemed to be hanging awkwardly. At first, she thought he must be drunk, but then she realized what it was. He'd struggled to get dressed. His shirt was tucked into his waistband, but only just. His tie hung loose around his neck. Instead of taking the phone from her, he came forward and leaned his ear against it. "It's Bobby Hogan," she explained.
"Hiya, Bobby." "John? Connection must be breaking up. . ."
Rebus looked at Siobhan. "Bit closer," he whispered. She angled the mouthpiece so it rested against his chin, noting that his hair needed washing. It was plastered to his scalp in the front, but sticking up in the back.
"That better, Bobby?" "Fine, yes. John, I need a favor." When the phone dipped a little, Rebus looked up at Siobhan. Her gaze was directed at the doorway again. He glanced around and saw Gill Templer standing there. "My office!" she snapped. "Now!"
Rebus ran the tip of his tongue around his lips. "I think I'm going to have to call you back, Bobby. Boss wants a word." He straightened up, hearing Hogan's voice becoming tinny and mechanical. Templer was beckoning for him to follow. He gave a little shrug in Siobhan's direction and began to leave the room again. "He's gone," she told the mouthpiece.
"Well, get him back!" "I don't think that's going to be possible. Look...maybe if you could give me a clue what this is all about. I might be able to help . . ."
"I'll leave it open if you don't mind," Rebus said. "If you want the whole station to hear, that's fine by me." Rebus slumped down on the visitor's chair. "It's just that I'm having a bit of trouble with door handles." He lifted his hands for Templer to see. Her expression changed immediately.
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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