Ellen Wylie hunched her shoulders. "There's a real ... atmosphere in here, isn't there?"
"My wife saw a ghost," Joe Dickie said. "Lots of people who worked here did. A woman, she was crying. Used to sit on the end of one of the beds."
"Maybe she was a patient who died here," Grant Hood offered.
Gilfillan turned towards them. "I've heard that story, too. She was the mother of one of the servants. Her son was working here the night the Act of Union was signed. Poor chap got himself murdered."
Linford called down that he thought he could see where the steps to the tower had been, but nobody was listening.
"Murdered?" Ellen Wylie said.
Gilfillan nodded. His torch threw weird shadows across the walls, illuminating the slow movements of cobwebs. Linford was trying to read some graffiti on the wall.
"There's a year written here . . . 1870, I think."
"You know Queensberry was the architect of the Act of Union?" Gilfillan was saying. He could see that he had an audience now, for the first time since the tour had begun in the brewery car park next door. "Back in 1707. This," he scratched a shoe over the bare floorboards, "is where Great Britain was invented. And the night of the signing, one of the young servants was working in the kitchen. The Duke of Queensberry was Secretary of State. It was his job to lead the negotiations. But he had a son, James Douglas, Earl of Drumlanrig. The story goes, James was off his head..."
Gilfillan looked up through the open hatch. "All right up there?" he called.
"Fine. Anyone else want to take a look?"
They ignored him. Ellen Wylie repeated her question.
"He ran the servant through with a sword," Gilfillan said, "then roasted him in one of the kitchen fireplaces. James was sitting munching away when he was found."
"Dear God," Ellen Wylie said.
"You believe this?" Bobby Hogan slid his hands into his pockets.
Gilfillan shrugged. "It's a matter of record."
A blast of cold air seemed to rush at them from the roof space. Then a rubber-soled Wellington appeared on the ladder, and Derek Linford began his slow, dusty descent. At the bottom, he removed the pen from between his teeth.
"Interesting up there," he said. "You really should try it. Could be your first and last chance."
"Why's that then?" Bobby Hogan asked.
"I very much doubt we'll be letting tourists in here, Bobby," Linford said. "Imagine what that would do for security."
Hogan stepped forward so swiftly that Linford flinched. But all Hogan did was lift a cobweb from the young man's shoulder.
"Can't have you heading back to the Big House in less than showroom condition, can we, son?" Hogan said. Linford ignored him, probably feeling that he could well afford to ignore relics like Bobby Hogan, just as Hogan knew he had nothing to fear from Linford: he'd be heading for retirement long before the younger man gained any position of real power and prominence.
"I can't see it as the powerhouse of government," Ellen Wylie said, examining the water stains on the walls, the flaking plaster. "Wouldn't they have been better off knocking it down and starting again?"
"It's a listed building," Gilfillan censured her. Wylie just shrugged. Rebus knew that nevertheless she had accomplished her objective, by deflecting attention away from Linford and Hogan. Gilfillan was off again, delving into the history of the area: the series of wells which had been found beneath the brewery; the slaughterhouse which used to stand nearby. As they headed back down the stairs, Hogan held back, tapping his watch, then cupping a hand to his mouth. Rebus nodded: good idea. A drink afterwards. Jenny Ha's was a short stroll away, or there was the Holyrood Tavern on the way back to St Leonard's. As if mind-reading, Gilfillan began talking about the Younger's Brewery.
Set In Darkness by Ian Rankin. Copyright Ian Rankin 2000. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be reproduced without permission from the publisher, St Martin's Press.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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