Or, in Rebus's case, as punishment.
There were four other officers in the seminar room when Rebus and McCullough arrived. "The Wild Bunch," DI Francis Gray had called them, first time they'd been gathered together. A couple of faces Rebus knew DS Stu Sutherland from Livingston; DI Tam Barclay from Falkirk. Gray himself was from Glasgow, and Jazz worked out of Dundee, while the final member of the party, DC Allan Ward, was based in Dumfries. "A gathering of nations," as Gray had put it. But to Rebus they acted more like spokesmen for their tribes, sharing the same language but with different outlooks. They were wary of each other. It was especially awkward with officers from the same region. Rebus and Sutherland were both Lothian and Borders, but the town of Livingston was F Division, known to anyone in Edinburgh as "F Troop." Sutherland was just waiting for Rebus to say something to the others, something disparaging. He had the look of a haunted man.
The six men shared only one characteristic: they were at Tulliallan because they'd failed in some way. Mostly it was an issue with authority. Much of their free time the previous two days had been spent sharing war stories. Rebus's tale was milder than most. If a young officer, fresh out of uniform, had made the mistakes they had made, he or she would probably not have been given the Tulliallan lifeline. But these were lifers, men who'd been in the force an average of twenty years. Most were nearing the point where they could leave on full pension. Tulliallan was their last-chance saloon. They were here to atone, to be resurrected.
As Rebus and McCullough took their seats, a uniformed officer walked in and marched briskly to the head of the oval table where his chair was waiting. He was in his mid-fifties and was here to remind them of their obligation to the public at large. He was here to train them to mind their p's and q's.
Five minutes into the lecture, Rebus let his eyes and mind drift out of focus. He was back on the Marber case . . .
Edward Marber had been an Edinburgh art and antiques dealer. Past tense, because Marber was now dead, bludgeoned outside his home by assailant or assailants unknown. The weapon had not yet been found. A brick or rock was the best guess offered by the city pathologist, Professor Gates, who had been called to the scene for a PLE: Pronouncement of Life Extinct. Brain hemorrhage brought on by the blow. Marber had died on the steps of his Duddingston Village home, front-door keys in his hand. He had been dropped off by taxi after the private viewing night of his latest exhibition: New Scottish Colorists. Marber owned two small, exclusive galleries in the New Town, plus antiques shops in Dundas Street, Glasgow, and Perth. Rebus had asked someone why Perth, rather than oil-rich Aberdeen.
"Because Perthshire's where the wealth goes to play."
The taxi driver had been interviewed. Marber didn't drive, but his house was at the end of an eighty-meter driveway, the gates to which had been open. The taxi had pulled up at the door, activating a halogen light to one side of the steps. Marber had paid and tipped, asking for a receipt, and the taxi driver had U-turned away, not bothering to look in his mirror.
"I didn't see a thing," he'd told the police.
The taxi receipt had been found in Marber's pocket, along with a list of the sales he'd made that evening, totaling just over £16,000. His cut, Rebus learned, would have been twenty percent, £3,200. Not a bad night's work.
It was morning before the body was found by the postman. Professor Gates had given an estimated time of death of between nine and eleven the previous evening. The taxi had picked Marber up from his gallery at eight-thirty, so must have dropped him home around eight forty-five, a time the driver accepted with a shrug.
The immediate police instinct had screamed robbery, but problems and niggles soon became apparent. Would someone have clobbered the victim with the taxi still in sight, the scene lit by halogen? It seemed unlikely, and yet by the time the taxi turned out of the driveway, Marber should have been safely on the other side of his door. And though Marber's pockets had been turned out, cash and credit cards evidently taken, the attacker had failed to use the keys to unlock the front door and trawl the house itself. Scared off perhaps, but it still didn't make sense.
Copyright © 2002 by John Rebus Limited
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