When Lochlan and Nathan walked into the hotel’s conference room, the first thing they noticed was how small it was. Lochlan counted sixteen empty chairs around four folding tables that led into a square with a space in the middle for someone to walk around and deliver paperwork. Lochlan took advantage of the momentary silence to give Nathan pens and notepads for the team’s thoughts. He then neatly placed copies of the synopsis he’d made of the case, one by each chair, and Nathan positioned pens on the left, pads on the right.
When Lochlan came to a small piece of machinery there was a wooden pole about a meter long with a rubbery, pointy tip. Looking to his left, he saw a projector screen and instinctively knew it was an old-fashioned teacher’s pointer. He knew he’d have to do the presentation and this would come in handy. They sat and prepared themselves.
Gradually, and calmly, the new team filed in one by one and were greeted with handshakes by Lochlan and Nathan. They were seated this way:
North table, Chief Inspector Cameron Davidson and Deputy Inspector Aaron Dewine.
West table, C. I. Oliver Arnott and D. I. Callum Berwick.
East table, C. I. Matthew Abercrombie D.I. Mason Garrow.
South table, Lochlan and Nathan when they had time to sit.
Following them came Sanjay Patel with a carry-on filled to the brim with something and wires coming out the top and one side. When Lockland looked at the bag, Sanjay tapped the side of it and pointed to the projector. Amos MacGregor, the lead Medical Examiner, came next and seated himself by Sanjay. Sanjay was connecting his electronics to the magic lantern when someone did a “harrumph” and everyone stood up. In came Colonel Taggart and Chief Constable Robertson, slowly seating themselves at the East table, closest to the screen. They sat and the entourage followed suit. As soon as they were comfortable, Lochlan diplomatically opened the conclave.
“Right up front, I’d like to thank Colonel Taggart and Chief Constable Robertson for arranging this meet in such a short time. I’m sure we will all be made as comfortable as can be, considering the circumstances, as the staff of this hostel have been very hospitable. Now, with all the introductions having been made, let us get down to business. Sanjay, will you please show the pictures of the victims.”
“First found to the last?” Sanjay asked.
“…But of course,” Lochlan stated in his usual I-didn’t-mean-to-sound-condescending-it-just-sounds-that-way manner. Sanjay did as commanded.
“This is James MacGonigal,” Lochlan said as he pointed to James’ Facebook picture as Sanjay posted it on screen. James was a respectable looking gent, in his forties, with greying, dark brown hair wearing a shirt and sweater. “We found him, deceased, on the moors of Dumfries.”
“Second planted, and I do mean planted, is Boyd Thomson from the Glencoe area.” Boyd was another forty-ish man dressed in a suit standing in front of an YWCA sign. He sported a minimal beard and with round-framed glasses.
“Third is Lucas Campbell, found on the eastern end of Haddington. In my opinion, he looks like a nutter,” Lochlan added. Lucas was in his twenties with a full head of blond hair combed straight down. He had striking blue eyes wrapped inside a scowling face. He looked, for all intents and purposes, perpetually pissed off.
“Lastly is Owen Mitchell, found late yesterday outside Elgin.” Owen was another man in his forties who proudly wore a full, Scottish uniform complete with a kilt and plaid shirt. His hair was brown, close-cropped and he had a full beard.
Lochlan laid his pointer on the table and began his presentation.
“Gentlemen, we have precious little to go on here. We all know how the bodies were laid out with the dead crows tacked at all four corners of the corpse. What our purpose is to see if there were any discrepancies, if any, in the manner of these men’s terminations. Anything, any ‘trifles’ as Sherlock would say, different in the manner of dispatch, I’d like to know. I think it would be best to explore the medical side of these travesties, therefore I will turn the meeting over to Mr. MacGregor who has forgotten more about forensics than I will ever know.”
As Amos stood to take center stage, Lochlan moved to the far right and out of sight.
“The manner of death,” Amos said in his as usual professional manner, “was clear cut for all of them. One .22 caliber shot to the forehead and death was almost instantaneous. No shell casings were found at the scenes so I suspect they were killed off sight. They were then stripped of all clothes and a hole was drilled—and I do mean drilled—in their backs approximately one and one third centimeters in diameter to accommodate the one and one half meter pole—or stake—used to anchor the victims to the earth. Any questions so far?”
“How could you possibly ascertain the hole was made by a drill bit?” C. I. Davidson asked. He was mostly a cynical man, but forty years of chasing murderers down would give anyone his snow-white hair and a no-shenanigans aura. “Are you saying someone stood over these men with a hammer drill and made the hole?”
“Exactly, Chief Inspector. Or, they laid them on an enormous drill press and did it. That option is open.”
Before Davidson could utter a sigh of disbelief, D. I. Garrow offered his two and sixpence worth. Garrow was younger than the rest and very inquisitive for his age. He had bright red hair, with not one follicle out of place. “Was this dastardly act done pre or postmortem?”
“Post,” MacGregor answered swiftly. “The skin inside the hole has small, spiral markings as a drill bit would make, but there was no tearing of the tissue either on the inner or outer skin. I would assume if one is being drilled—by a drill bit, not a policeman, of course—there would be a struggle that would definitely damage the tissue. Any more questions?”
Mathew Abercrombie looked more like a banker than detective. He wore a three piece, grey suit that blended well with his hair and the inside of his suitcase wasimmaculately arraigned. “My query is, how did these bodies get there so well laid without anyone knowing?” Plus, the dead crows I find interesting, but puzzling too.”
“For that answer, I’ll turn it over to Inspector Kincaid,” Amos said as he gave the stage with a hand gesture to the chairman. Lochlan regained the middle, thought for a few seconds, cleared his throat and began, thinking,
Are these mates of mine gonna believe my theories? They are so far-fetched even I don’t totally believe them..
“That answer is two-fold,” he said as he crossed his hands over his waist. “The delivery part is quite simple and some of the local constables are in agreement with me. We ascertain the bodies were delivered by helicopter.” After giving them a moment to digest something that was only possible on television, he continued. “Many of these vehicles traverse our nation day and night bringing fresh crews and supplies to the numerous oil rigs off our shores. Which one of us even looks up anymore when we hear them? Considering what a heavy task it is to drag a body from well off the beaten path to the sight, no signs of that were found. Directly around all four bodies there is only one set of footprints. It is unimaginable that one man, even being stronger than an ox, could complete the task. When they were nailed in place, the stake was inserted effortlessly to save time. Before I go any further, what say you all?”
Every man looked at each other, trying to comprehend the complexity of such a feat without the benefit of air power. Eventually, Colonel Taggart stood and saved Lochlan’s bacon.
“Aye. I agree with Chief Inspector Kinkaid. Being a long-time member of our fighting forces, and serving two tours in Iraq, I can testify personally how hard it would be for one man to accomplish this. Even loading one injured and immobile man is a suffering for two hearty and experienced warriors, let alone just one. I say let us run with this theory of transport.”
Taggart sat, and gave the floor to Lochlan. Now, he had to deal with the unbelievable part of this scenario.
“Gentlemen. I have spent the last few hours talking to a source who wishes to remain anonymous. This person is the best expert I know concerning our ancient Gaelic culture. They have told me—and I believe with all my heart they are right—the ‘crow’ factor can be taken several ways. It can be a messenger of bad tidings and also a prophet of the new and good. According to this person, when anyone dies and a crow dies anywhere around that body it means an end to the old order and the beginning of a new and good period for the people. After much thought and soul-searching, I theorize these four men are connected to something so heinous their actions we could never understand. Any questions on this?”
The room fell silent then D. I. Dewine stood. “I think I speak for all us, Lochlan, when I say this is a daunting challenge for us, but might I remind you it’s 2019, not 1619. Do we now give credence to these old myths and fables? Have we not progressed scientifically from the old into the new? I like to think we have, but I am only one man with one opinion. I shall sit now and await your reply.”
Lochlan was expecting a question like this and he had one ace up his sleeve.
“Mr. Patel,” Lochlan said as he almost bowed to the wiz kid. “Please post the nails.”
Remembering too late he hadn’t even seen them himself, Lochlan breathed a sigh of relief when they shone brightly onscreen. Yet, he knew this would need some explanation.
“What we are looking at is the national symbol of Scotland. We are a lion, poised to fight when needed. All sixteen nails had this stamped on each head. How that was done is a mystery to me. Sanjay can explain it later, but this was a warning to everyone involved that if they align themselves with the four who were executed, this would be their fate. Mates, I know this is hard to fathom, but I urge you all to consider my theory for, at the moment, it’s the only speculation I have.”
Chief Robertson stood and spoke for the first time. “Then, let’s put it to a vote. All those willing to follow Inspector Kincaid’s hypothesis, please signify with an ‘aye’.”
Eleven ayes were plainly heard.
“Those opposed signify with a ‘no’.”
“Then it is settled. Our investigations will fall along Inspector’s Kincaid’s lead,” Robertson said as he sat down. Lochlan nodded a thank you at his superior. He checked his watch and found it was past teatime.
“I believe we’ve had a fruitful meeting of the minds. I move to recess till morning and then resume. We all have a lot to think about, so let’s take some quiet time to find our own path. Nathan and I will dig deep into Mr. MacGonigal’s past, searching every cubic inch of his life; both formal and digital. I surmise these men have clues buried deep into their personal computers and I urge you to seek Sanjay’s council. There is nothing he can’t find.”
Other than a way to hide his debauchery with two Glasgow dollies and their pot party. I have eues everywhere.
“All in favor say aye.”
Twelve ayes later they left the conference for their respective accommodations. Lochlan’s room was next to Nathan’s and he sat on the bed and tried to think, but his mind was awhirl. Finally, he knew what he needed.
Each team had been assigned their own vehicles and, after finding Nathan just wanted to relax and watch the telly, Lochlan took their car south to Happy Land.
Lochlan checked his Pinch supply and stopped at a “Spirits” cottage to refresh. He bought a fifth of his favorite blend and refilled the two flasks he had left. Pulling into Charlotte’s croft a bit after eight, he knew she’d still be up and possibly partaking of his gift flask by now. As the sun slowly set on Charlotte’s humble abode, he knew he’d have to get clever.
True to form, Nanna and Kenna were sitting by the telly watching a rerun of Braveheart. Nanna had the flask in her lap and she smiled at him which caught Lochlan off guard. She’d never done that before, but maybe he was finally in her good graces and the fact she was getting tuned in to more than William Wallace didn’t hurt either. After her head bobbed down twice, Kenna suggested she retire for the night.
Kenna helped her up the steps and made sure she was safely tucked in, then changed into her “night clothes.” Walking slowly down the steps, she could see her hubby gazing at her in that special way of his. He so loved this woman and desired her like no other woman he’d ever known before. Kenna sat in a chair across from him, crossed her legs once to give her lover a glance at the “coming attractions.”
“Isn’t it your pinch time?”
“There are two pinches in my mind right now, and one of them ain’t in this flask,” he said softly. “Last I heard you needed a good pinch.”
She smiled at him and slowly walked up the steps, turning around and giving Lochlan “The Look.”
And they just “pinched “ the hell out of each other.