Anywhere But There
It was about seven in the morning when Lochlan and Nathan entered their rooms. The good people at the Heatherlea B&B had everything perfect for a daytime slumber. The room-darkening blinds were pulled down past the windowsill, one light by the bed was on and the sheets were pulled down with four pillows available if needed. Lochlan took one good look at his surroundings, took a two-ounce swig of the Pinch and collapsed onto the warm bed.
He slept soundly until about noon, when nature called. He rose, did his duty and immediately wondered if anyone was scheduled to notify the MacGonigal’s about James’ untimely demise. He tried to get back to his slumber, but the “good cop” in him wouldn’t comply. The whole establishment was non-smoking, so he stood on a chair, removed the battery from the smoke detector and lit a cigarette.
Calling Dumfries Station, he found from the Desk Sargent no one was appointed to inform the next of kin. It was generally understood that since they were there, they’d do it. Lochlan gladly volunteered, took a long, hot shower and dressed for the day. Not wanting to arouse Nathan, he strolled quietly by Nathan’s room, only to discover his mate snored louder than he did. He filed that information under “future shots.”
As any good B&B would do, Heatherlea had a small room with tea, coffee, crumpets and cinnamon rolls on hand for those who couldn’t make breakfast. Lochlan filled a cup of tea and hurriedly wolfed down two cinnabuns. A young lady with the name of Emily on her nametag was cleaning things up here and there, and when Lochlan spoke a kind word to her, she seemed eager for a conversation. He told her his business and then found Emily knew everybody’s family trials and tribulations in Glencoe. He asked her if she knew the MacGonigal’s.
“Aye,” she said as she wiped a table clean like it was an operating table. “The only child, Jeremey, is a strange one, indeed. Always keeps himself to himself and seldom gives out much more than a grunt when he delivers here.”
“What does he drop off ?” Lochlan asked.
“Fresh bread and milk. He’s a lorry driver and a cute one at that,” she said as she blushed a little and looked away. Emily was in her twenties with blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, and she looked so fine it made Lochlan wish he was twenty-five again. “In fact, today is his drop off day. He comes in like clockwork, close to two in the afternoon.”
“Thank you for the kind words and help, Emily. You are indeed a champion conversationalist. Can you direct me to the delivery entrance.”
“Straight back to the alley,” she said. “And would you do us a favor?”
“Surely, if I can.”
“Brag us up a little back in Dumfries. We hear you chaps are really hard to please wherever you stay, don’t ya’ know.”
Is there anything this lady doesn’t know?
“Rest assured, my lady, that you will get a five star recommendation when I return. Have a good day now and thank you for your help and … inspiration.”
They parted ways smiling, even laughing a little. Lochlan made a mental note to suggest she be put on the Glencoe Police’s payroll. With her knowledge, Lochlan knew she’d be a real find.
At precisely two pm the aging and fender-flapping delivery van pulled up to the Heatherlea. As the brakes groaned and the engine backfired, young Jeremey exited this death trap with two milk cartons and a basket of fresh bread. He was of medium build with long, brown hair being parted everywhere by the Highland winds. Lochlan let him do his job and then approached him before he could get back to the van, where Lochlan definitely didn’t want to ever take a ride in.
“Jeremey MacGonigal, I assume?” Lochlan asked.
“Who’s asking?” the man answered, like a typical smartarse.
“Chief Inspector Lochlan Kincaid, Police Scotland Dumfries Division,” Lochlan quickly and curtly answered, flashing his credentials along with a cold, hard stare to let Jeremey know he didn’t take no shite from nobody.
“Oh … Aye, I’m he. What can I do for you, officer?” he asked, politely.
“Let’s get in your timebomb and sit. We must talk.”
Jeremey got into the driver’s seat and Lochlan the shotgun side after he brushed a years’ worth of dust off the seat. He told him calmly about his father’s death and the manner thereof, Yet the boy didn’t seemed surprised or show any emotion, which Lochlan found telling.
“Do you wish me to tell your mam, or would you rather do it?” Lochlan asked as sympathetically as he could.
“No need. She passed away six months ago. The cancer got her.”
“You don’t seem to … too upset about your da’.”
“ ’Cause I’m not,” Jeremy said, looking straight at Lochlan. “Me be glad the perverted sonofabitch is dead.”
“So, I take you and your father didn’t get on?”
“How can a son get on with a man who would …” His voice trailed off into nowhere. He looked straight ahead and lit a cigarette. “Me mam always told me it is disrespectful to speak ill of the dead, so I’ll say no more. But I will help you out. Go to his home and check his computer and take it to your forensic expert. You’ll need that to discover his whole hideous lifestyle. As for now, I must scoot, lest I be late.”
Lochlan knew when he’d milked the cow dry so shook hands with the boy and bid him adieu, knowing the first line of this day’s Senryu already.
Back at the B&B, Lochlan found Nathan up, awake and chatting up a storm with Miss Emily. They were laughing, flirting and once she put her hand on his shoulder as she did a belly laugh. Lochlan had heard his new partner was a real cockster, but they were on a case and things needed to be talked about.
“Hate to break up your funfest, but I need to talk privately with my partner,” Lochlan said, “because sometimes he forgets to take his little blue pill. Ya’ know? The ED thing and all.”
At first Emily’s sexy smile disappeared until she caught the glint in Lochlan’s eyes and resumed her laughing. As she walked away, Nathan calmly held up two fingers, tugged on one earlobe and we all know by now what that signified. With the formalities over, they got down to business. Lochlan told him about the interview with Jeremey and how he took the news.
“His father did something sinister in his past life, that’s fer sure,” Nathan said, downing another cup of tea. “But nothing’s come to light about it Yet, just like this man here.”
“Do we know anything about him yet?” ;Lochlan asked as he downed another cinnabun.
“Aye, we do,” Nathan answered as he got his pad and pen out of his jacket pocket. “His name is … was Boyd Thomson, forty-three years old, single, an entrepreneur of sorts and is classified by the taxman as one of those ‘Import-Export’ types, which means he dabbles in everything, particularly China.”
“That could be a thousand things. Does … did he have any outright enemies?”
“Not any the local Constabulary could find. He’s a mystery alright, but they have his home computer.”
Another light bulb went off. “Tell them here not to touch them. I am sure we’ll need an expert to dig deep into his hard drive. His and MacGonigal’s. Trust me on this. Do you know we’re going for a big ride shortly?”
“I’ve been briefed. And by someone other than my wandering partner,” Nathan answered.
Lochlan knew a shot when he heard it, but he always had a comeback. He leaned back in his chair, sipped on his tea and told his flippant partner a wisdom that he’d learned many years from his first—and older—partner, just about the time Lochlan was courting Kenna..
“Ya’ know, young man, the Lord God gave man two, great and mysterious things; a brain and a penis. The only problem is, He only gave us enough blood to operate one at a time. Now, I suggest you concentrate on the matters at hand rather than what you want in both hands. Or if you’re unlucky, maybe just your right hand, then we could both be more productive as a team. Do we have an understanding?”
“Aye, we do,” Nathan answered and humbly to boot, thankful a helicopter was landing close to Heatherlea.
Colonel Thomas Stewart, retired, exited the helicopter slowly, as he was up in years. He saluted the pilot, then walked proudly and as straight as an eighty-year old man with a cane could. Having lost his left eye in the Falklands dispute, he opted for an old-fashioned patch held in place by an elastic drawstring rather than a glass eye. He always detested that invention because if your suspect to be questioned had one, it was hard to concentrate on a man’s lying eyes when one never moved.
Twenty-five years in the Scottish Army had led him into a career with Police Scotland, a good and workable relationship with the ‘southerners’—as Lochlan called the English—at MI6, which Lochlan’s employment there was not in his karma, and never would be. Lochlan and Nathan watched him walk to the Heatherlea.
“When he comes in, stand up, like at attention,” Lochlan stated.
The colonel, also a member of a Highlander clan, walked in, surveyed his surroundings and found two men standing up looking at him. He walked up to them calmly.
“I see I’m in the company of two of the finest officers that Dumfries had to offer. Am I correct?” he said.
And Lochlan was thinking, Where does he get the ‘two’ shite? The one on my right is still a pup.
“You do, sir,” Lochlan said as he offered the gentleman a hand to shake, as did Nathan. Lochan did the introductions and signaled for Emily to bring another round of tea, but the colonel had further instructions.
“My dear lady. Please bring me a double shot of scotch whiskey, accompanied by one sugar and a spot of cream in my cup, all in one.”
This can be a fruitful chat with a man after me own heart.
After Emily brought two teas and one eye-opener, they got serious. “You two know why I am here. Our nation has been hit with a series of despicable crimes against four of our citizens,” the colonel said after a sip of the cup and a long ahhhh. “It has been determined one team of investigators should tackle this whole scenario with a command post set up closer to the middle of our great nation. We have decided on the hamlet of Newtonmore, to the east of here.”
Newtonmore! Did he say Newtonmore? Oh please, anywhere but there. Siberia would be better.
The colonel continued. “There is a large hostel available and we will be in control of the whole building. No guests will be allowed in until we have finished our work. I would consider it a personal favor if you two would accept the primary position.”
What could they say but Aye?
“Capital then. Lochlan, your reputation proceeds you in my decision. And Nathan? I assume you are still working on yours,” he said with a smile as he downed his last gulp.
Now it was Lochlan’s turn to bite his lip, and he did in a most professional way, although he kicked Nathan’s foot under the table. Nathan took it well, and then felt free to give his input.
“Aye, sir,” Nathan said, now sitting straight up. “Yet, sometimes my mentoring leaves a lot to be desired. But, I’m sure it will all prove fruitful in the end.”
A cold and stern look came over the colonel’s face as he stared straight into what seemed Nathan’s very soul. That gaze meant he wouldn’t be called anything but ‘Sir’, even on a long distance phone call. He eased some, looked at Lochlan and smiled.
“That may come quicker than you think, Deputy Inspector Dunbar, but let us not dwell on that today. As for now, you two gather your belongings and board the helicopter. A driver will take me back to Edenborough.”
“Where do we travel to first?” Lochlan asked.
“Haddington. The scene is now protected by the forensics team, but Elgin is in very rugged and dangerous terrain. By the time you’ve finished at Haddington, Elgin will be ready. By the way, what is that dear young lady’s name serving today?”
“Emily,” Nathan answered.
Colonel Stewart caught her attention, held a finger to his empty cup, and ordered one more cup of his special blend. He noticed his men were still sitting.
“Shouldn’t you all be packing?” he said.
And pack they did. As Lochlan was gathering his dingys, that day’s Senryu recap came to him.
Stewart told it all
to Haddington and Elgin
much to my chagrin