"Yes." But Fin didn't open the folder. He didn't need to. He remembered only too well the naked body hanging from the tree between the rain-streaked Pentecostal Church and the bank. A poster on the wall had read: "Jesus saves." And Fin remembered thinking it looked like a promotion for the bank and should have read: "Jesus saves at the Bank of Scotland."
"There's been another one," Black said. "Identical MO."
"Up north. Northern Constabulary. It came up on the HOLMES computer. In fact it was HOLMES that had the bright idea of attaching you to the inquiry." He blinked long eyelashes and fixed Fin with a gaze that reflected his scepticism. "You still speak the lingo, don't you?""
Fin was surprised. "Gaelic? I haven't spoken Gaelic since I left the Isle of Lewis.""
"Then you'd better start brushing up on it. The victim's from your home village.""
"Crobost?" Fin was stunned.
"A couple of years older than you. Name of" - he consulted a sheet in front of him - "Macritchie. Angus Macritchie. Know him?"
The sunshine sloping through the living-room window seemed to reproach them for their unhappiness. Motes of dust hung in the still air, trapped by the light. Outside they could hear the sounds of children kicking a ball in the street. Just a few short weeks ago it might have been Robbie. The tick-tock of the clock on the mantel punctuated the silence between them. Mona's eyes were red, but the tears had dried up, replaced by anger.
"I don't want you to go." It had become her refrain in their argument.
"This morning you wanted me to go to work."
"But I wanted you to come home again. I don't want to be left here on my own for weeks on end." She drew a long, tremulous breath. "With my memories. With . . . with . . ."
Perhaps she would never have found the words to finish her sentence. But Fin stepped in to do it for her. "Your guilt?" He had never said that he blamed her. But he did. Although in his heart he tried not to. She shot him a look filled with such pain that he immediately regretted it. He said, "Anyway, it'll only be for a few days." He ran his hands back through tightly curled blond hair. "Do you really think I want to go? I've spent eighteen years avoiding it."
"And now you're just jumping at the chance. A chance to escape. To get away from me."
"Oh, don't be ridiculous." But he knew she was right. Knew, too, that it wasn't just Mona he wanted to run away from. It was everything. Back to a place where life had once seemed simple. A return to childhood, back to the womb. How easy it was now to ignore the fact that he had spent most of his adult life avoiding just that. Easy to forget that as a teenager nothing had seemed more important to him than leaving.
And he remembered how easy it had been to marry Mona. For all the wrong reasons. For company. For an excuse not to go back. But in fourteen years all they had achieved was a kind of accommodation, a space that each of them had made for the other in their lives. A space that they had occupied together, but never quite shared. They had been friends. There had been genuine warmth. But he doubted if there had ever been love. Real love. Like so many people in life, they seemed to have settled for second best. Robbie had been the bridge between them. But Robbie was gone.
Mona said, "Have you any idea what it's been like for me these last few weeks?"
"I think I might."
She shook her head. "No. You haven't had to spend every waking minute with someone whose very silence screams reproach. I know you blame me, Fin."
"I never said that."
"You never had to. But you know what? However much you blame me, I blame myself ten times more. And it's my loss, too, Fin. He was my son, too." Now the tears returned, burning her eyes. He could not bring himself to speak. "I don't want you to go." Back to the refrain.
Excerpted from The Blackhouse by Peter May. Copyright © 2012 by Peter May. Excerpted by permission of Silver Oak. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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