As The Crow Dies

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Chapter Four

The Fight Begins

After leaving their rooms they stopped by the bar and waved goodbye to the colonel who signaled back with his third—or maybe fourth—cup of his special blend in his waving hand. They held onto their hats, boarded the helicopter and the soldiers in charge made sure they were safely buckled in and had their headsets on. Neither detective had served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, so they had a few questions.

“What kind of airship is this?” Lochlan asked the engineer.

“A Mi-28N Night Hunter. It’s one of our best.”

“Where are you based?”

“Top secret,” the soldier replied in a monotone voice.

“What’s its top speed?”

“Top Secret.”

Nathan tried his hand at the tight-lipped battler. “Officer. Did you know Chief Inspector Kincaid is a brother-in-law to Prime Minister Sturgeon?”

The man was all soldier. With his helmet and microphone hiding most of his face, the blue-eyed, redheaded warrior turned to his left and gave his answer.

“And did you know, sirs, that the Prime Minister is my uncle? I don’t recall ever seeing either of you at any of our family get-togethers. Please, now, relax and enjoy the ride.”

Knowing they’d met their match, they sat back and appraised the countryside. Scotland was a beautiful land, full of rolling hills, lakes known as lochs everywhere and the sight of picturesque cottages, known as crofts, dotting the landscape at intervals that showed their wanted privacy from the world. In about an hour of flight they saw the tent. They landed effortlessly and were quickly escorted to the crime scene. With at least seven people clad in white suits with hoods around the victim Lochlan said,

“Sonofabitch! The ground will look like a damn folk festival was played there. I wish we could’ve gotten here sooner.”

“No way we could, Guv.” Nathan said, trying to comfort his boss. “The killers are numerous and acted in four teams simultaneously. But, I’m with you on the air drop theory. Let’s take a walk down.”

They walked a few feet and then Lochlan came to a stop. He was in thought and turned to his partner. “You are entirely correct, young man, about the teams. This was a coordinated effort by an organized group and I have no idea who they may be. My compliments. You are adding to your reputation.”

“That’s what all our mates back in Dumfries say. If we put our heads together, we have one and one half brains,” Nathan said, cracking a smile.

The “halfie” was left to their own imaginations.

***

East Lothian Medical Examiner, Marcus Murray, met the “A” team—as they were now called—a few meters from the tent covering the body. He introduced himself and shook their hands. Murray was tall, a bit overweight, middle aged and mostly bald. His glasses hung loosely and he stopped to blow his nose as they entered the temporary tomb.

“Chief Inspector Kincaid, does this look familiar to you?” Murray asked.

“It’s the third one we’ve seen in two days, and before nightfall we will see the fourth. I hope it is the last one for a while. Tell me, Doctor Murray. Who reported this?”

“It was one of the helicopter pilots for Apex Oil and Gas. They fly over this way to get to the ocean oil rigs many times per day.”

“And who was first on the scene?” Lochlan asked.

“I was. My croft is only a half kilometer down the road.”

“Did you notice anything that peaked your interest?”

“Now that you mention it Aye, there was. There was a definite lack of footprints and tire tracks around the victim. And something else that makes no sense.”

“Pray tell,” Lochlan said. “What was that?”

“Well, I had a nature call about three am—too much scotch I suspect—and a helicopter was making a strange sound. It wasn’t like the typical flight sound when they fly over, it was … like they were hovering … oh Sweet Jesus. I know now how they delivered the body.”

Lochlan lit a cigarette. “You, my mate and I are all on the same page. Can I use your opinion at a later date?”

“Most assuredly. But the crow’s thing. It baffles me so,” Murray said as they approached the tent. “Do you have any thoughts into their factor?”

“No. Sad to say, I do not,” Lochlan answered as his head dropped a little. “Yet, I will found out before this week is done. Now, let us take a good look.”

They went into the all-white and sterile-looking tent to find the same scenario as before. One naked and dead man, face down. A bullet hole in the forehead with four dead crows nailed to the ground. Nathan jotted a few things in his notebook and they prepared to leave. Lochlan stalled, took another look at the man and had a chilling thought.

These men were killed by people who think they deserved to die. Who—or what—am I dealing with? I know where the answer lies, but I still don’t want to see the messenger.

They bid the forensic team adieu and boarded the helicopter for the two hour ride to Elgin where, eventually, he’d have to make that phone call.

-2-

Elgin is a historic center for Druid, and later Gaelic, culture. It’s like all small Scottish towns with the ancient architecture of days gone by nearly every street corner. About a kilometer off the North Sea, its climate is temperature considering the almost daily rainfall. As it was well past dark when they arrived and they had the choice to visit the crime scene then or wait till morning. It was not a hard call as Nathan faked a deep snore and Lochlan rolled his eyes back.

“Let’s do tomorrow. I’m bushed and he’s beat,” Lochlan said as he glanced at his partner.

Nestled in the world-famous whisky region, Elgin offers many pleasant characteristics, breathtaking scenery and a number of local distilleries which, at a different time, would be Lochlan’s dream come true. Filling their stomachs at the vending area with crumpets and such the Elgin Chief Constable set them up at a local hotel. They retired to their respective rooms and Lochlan again dove onto the bed. Lying there in a smoking room he lit a Silk Cut, his favorite brand. He finished the flask of Pinch and fell fast asleep, forgetting his Senryu commitment. Then, he had a dream, and woke sitting straight up with beads of sweat dotting his forehead.

What is this? he thought. Who are those men? Are they priests …Aye, they’re Druid priests. The long white robes, both men with beards and long hair, one with a short staff in his hand with flowers in his hair. Why would they do this? Someone please help those two children out. Who tied them to a bed of twigs? Was it these men? No, no no! Someone stop them. Knock that vial of oil from the priest’s hand and snuff out the torch the other devil has in his hand. Only animals sacrifice children to their pagan gods. What was it I heard? A clanging of metal? A … war hoop of some kind? Aye! There’s my hero. Clad in ancient Highlander gear, he is ready for battle. Good … good! Slay those men swiftly with your mighty longsword. Run them through … so that’s what a beheading looks like. Of well, they surely had it coming. Aye! Hurry and untie the bairns, return them to their mams. Why is he bringing them over to me. With a lad on his right and a lassie on his left, his sapphire-looking eyes are boring a hole in me. What did he say while putting his big and bloody hands on their shoulders?

Dìonaidh mi seo!

Would she be up this early? I don’t care. The man talked to me in Gaelic. Oh why didn’t I take her more seriously? It is time. I can forego this no longer.

***

Lochlan pulled himself off the bed and after an all-four-pants-pockets-there-it-is-under- the-bed search for his mobile, dialed his home phone.

“Hall…oh, hallo?” Kenna answered.

“Sweetheart,” Lochlan said in a calm and quiet tone, “I hate to wake you, but I have a problem only your grandmother can help me with.”

There came a period of uneasy silence, the sound of the receiver hitting their bedroom hardwood floor, the release of an “Oh shite” and then a long sigh which told Lochlan she wasn’t all that pissed.

“It is now five in the morning so please reassure me I’m not having a dream. What did you say?”

“I need to talk to Charlotte. There are some very strange things about this case that she can help me with. I will be here in Newtonmore for a while and considering her croft is a quick commute, I thought you might call her and make the arrangements.”

“You do know that Nanna will crawl up your arse and pitch a tent about your lack of language skills—do you not?” she said in a tone that made Lochlan love her all the more.

“Aye, I know. I know. But I need her interpretations about things in this case, and I will promise her to finally learn Gaelic.”

“Alright then. I’ll put the kettle on and call her. What time do you want to go through the obvious mental torture first?”

“Let’s say about lunchtime. The whole team is not in yet, so I ’m pretty sure there’ll be a two pm meeting. Can that be arraigned?”

“I don’t see why not,” Kenna said. “Should I pack a change of clothes?”

“Aye. But please don’t forget your pink nightie.”

“In my grandmother’s house? You want to do that? You are such a devil,” she answered, chuckling a little.

“Well … we haven’t ‘known’ each other for a while. What would be the harm?”

“But what if she hears?” Kenna asked.

“I’ll slip a little Pinch in her evening tea. That should make her slumber soundly.”

“And you’re supposed to be a policeman? A keeper of the laws? ” she asked.

“One of the best, my dear, and one of the horniest. I’ll see you around noon.”

-3-

Lochlan rose, showered, and went downstairs for a quick breakfast. To his delight, the breakfast bar of the Eagle’s View Hotel was adorned by fresh baked bread and several flavorful toppings to enhance one’s pallet. He put an egg-which looked over medium—on a piece of sausage then slipped it into an English muffin. Nathan had risen, got his tea and biscuits and quietly sat across from his boss. When two men stepped into the lounge, they knew the party was over.

Colonel Taggart entered first using his cane and a slow but perfect posture considering his age. Behind him was Chief Constable Alistair Robertson, the head of Police Scotland. His aura was picturesque as he was tall, trim and fit with a full head of snow-white hair. His gaze was straight at them. With that look, Lochlan and Nathan rose in respect. The colonel introduced them, and after he ordered all a round of tea—with instructions on his special blend—they got down to business.

“Gentlemen,” Robertson said in an authoritative tone. “We all know why we are gathered here, but let’s refresh our memories. At all four corners of our great nation a person, or persons, have deposited the bodies of four citizens in the most callous of ways. Preliminary reports say they were shot once in the forehead somewhere other than the dump site and something has been found that chills me to the bone.”

“What was that, Chief Constable?” Lochlan asked as he reached for his cup.

“All four entry wounds of the back were drilled out before the stake was placed. The inner cuts were of a spiral design, like that of a drill bit.”

Lochlan was in mid-sip, then placed his cup back into the saucer. “Chief, I am firmly convinced now we are dealing with a group of very sadistic individuals who are well trained in the matters of murder. No doubt these vigilantes planned this very carefully, not to mention the fact we have no one in our sights Yet is very telling, and disturbing.”

“Aye, it tis,” the colonel said. “But … the crows. I still can’t for the life of understand that. Does either of you have an insight to this?”

Lochlan remained silent, a que for his partner to chime in. “There is something medieval in all of this,” Nathen said. “I was thinking of that angle.”

“Then let us first enquire into that aspect. Do you know anyone qualified in this?”

“No, I don’t,” Nathan answered.

“But … I do,” Lochlan said. “What time will we all meet today?”

“I’d say around three o’clock this afternoon. All will be here and the equipment needed will be set up by then,” Robertson said. “Why, Chief Inspector? I hope you don’t have other commitments. I would’ve thought you’d cleared your calendar for this.”

“Oh, I have. This is research for the case and I’ll be back promptly at three. A good day to you, and Nathan, please don’t feel slighted. This is a cross only I should have to bear. Good morning, gentlemen.”

Lochlan rose, tipped his hat to their waitress and left her a good gratuity, knowing this day had to come sometime.

Dammit!

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