As The Crow Dies

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Chapter Eight

Nathan’s Turn to Shine

To say that opposites attract was an understatement when it came to Nathan Dunbar and Lochlan Kincaid. Lochlan was old school, content to take his time with a case so when the suspect was arrested he more or less spent the rest of his life in prison. Occasionally, the elder sleuth would take a shortcut as in breaking into a place, finding what he needed for a search warrant and then petition a judge for one. Nathan, on the other hand, was prone to take a criminal into a dark alley and beat the shite out of him.

So, after his “nooner” with the bartender, Nathan shaved, showered and put on his best suit. Quietly, he made his way to the café and saw Arnott sitting and chatting with someone Nathan didn’t recognize. He then snuck up to Room 213 and gingerly tapped on the door. Shortly, Berwick answered and invited him in. They were never formally introduced so they shook hands and Berwick asked him to sit.

Callum Berwick was thirty-something and looked like the a-typical Scotsman, minus the kilt. His bright red hair shined in the sunlight, whenever it wasn’t raining that is, and his build was muscular. Room service had brought tea so he offered Nathan a cup and they did a little small talk. Nathan was a good detective and knew just what question to ask first.

“Tell me Cal,” Nathan said as he sipped his tea. “Why aren’t you downstairs with your mate?”

Callum didn’t immediately answer, which was very telling. He kept his head down and wouldn’t look Nathan in the eye. Finally, he spoke in a soft tone.

“Nathan, I know you and Lochlan are a tight team. Before I go any further, can I have your word, as one man to another, that what is said here stays here?”

“My friend, you have my solemn promise. But, I must warn you. If you tell me of a crime committed by so-and-so, even one of our own, I will have to follow my conscience.”

What Nathan didn’t say was he didn’t have many principles to begin with. But nobody in this town knew it. He hoped.

“Good then,” Callum said as he breathed a sigh of relief. “I don’t dine with Chief Inspector Arnott because I neither like nor respect the man. I’ve seen him, way too many times, ignore crimes committed if done so by one of his ‘mates’, and that is not what I am or what I want to be.”

“Can you give me a ‘for instance’?” Nathan asked.

“He knew Boyd Thomson, and personally.”

To know the man murdered in his territory but never mentioning it was cause for suspicion. Nathen now had a hundred questions but he’d learned a few things from Lochlan. One, don’t ask the important questions first. Save it for later, and every third query say something to make your informant smile, or even laugh out loud.

“Really?”

“Really. Really good,” Callum answered.

“As in … taking vows together kinda really good?” Nathan asked with a slight grin.

“No, no,” Callum answered as he started to laugh. “Nothing that serious. Just good mates who seemed to know each other.”

“Did you ever hear any of their conversations?”

“No. I was always told to stay in the car, which pissed me off a little. I even brought me Mam’s hearing aids once and cracked the window to see if I could hear anything.”

“Did you pick up anything?”

“Very little, but I got one helluva earache though.”

“That was probably your Mam yelling at you to bring them back.”

“Aye. It probably was,” Callum said, smiling again. “She was going to Bingo down at Saint Mary’s that night and I forgot about it.”

“Other than her, did you hear them say anything?”

“One word comes to mind. Arnott mentioned the word ‘fair children’ or ‘fair chair’ … or something like that. When he did, it seemed the color went out of Thomson’s face and he even shook a little. They parted ways, and then Thomson was dead.”

“I wonder if that’s an Olde English word?” Nathan asked.

“You mean Gaelic? Do you know someone who speaks it?”

“Aye … I know an expert. But, me thinks she’s a witch. So I’ll have to approach her cautiously.”

They both got a chuckle out of that and bid each other a good day. Nathan got into his police files and found Nanna’s address, checked Google Maps to make sure Lochlan was gone and slipped into his rental and headed south.

And he wasn’t smiling either.

-2-

Sitting in his car right outside of Charlotte Mackenzie’s croft. Nathan knew he’d have to present himself in a most mannerly fashion. From the little he’d learned from Lochlan, Charlotte was no one to bullshite with. He checked his look in the rear view mirror, straightened his tie and knocked gently on her huge and rounded-at-the-top oak door.

“Aye,” she said as she opened the door fearing neither beast nor burglar. “What can I do fer ye?”

Nathan introduced himself, showing his badge and warrant card while he told her about his association with Lochlan.

“Humph,” she said as she crossed her arms. “Are ye as stubborn as that man?”

“Not in the least, ma’am. Many’s the time we disagree.”

“Then come right in, young man, and I’ll put the kettle on,” she said in a surprisingly welcoming tone.

He followed her into the kitchen and sat at the chair she pointed. While she fiddled with a tray of cream, sugar and a few delicious looking crumpets, Nathan examined her house. It was picture perfect and not at all what he’d expected from a “conjurer” as Lochlan called her once. In fact, he felt quite at home with the lady, and started thinking about the proper way to approach her.

“Thank you,” he said as he accepted her beverage and deserts. “I don’t know how much me boss has told you about this case, but I feel the need to seek your advice, if you may be so inclined.”

Nathan was laying it on thick, but he felt the need to be old fashioned with her.

“Ye are welcome, and Lochlan has shared enough with me to know you are up against some dangerous and determined characters.”

“Aye, we are. But the big question is … to whom?” Nathan answered while raising his eyebrows to the twelve o’clock position.

She caught his hidden meaning in that question and leaned back in her chair, sipping on her tea. “Aye, that is the important query. I feel if one is a law abiding and God fearing person, ye’d have no cause for panic. How close am I, Deputy Inspector Dunbar?”

Instantly, their eyes and minds met. She knew what was afoot, and Nathan thought it time to share his prognosis with a civilian. “Madam, I feel the need to take you into my confidence, but I need your assurance the topics discussed will stay in these lovely walls.”

“Ye most certainly have that. Now, tell me what you know about the perverts in our clans.”

Nathan was taken aback by her bluntness, but he now knew he could be open with her as her instincts were full stop on this.

’Do I smell tobacco on ye?” she asked.

“Aye, you do. I am one of those evil smokers.”

“A little evil never hurt anyone from time to time. Break out the smokes while I goes and fetches us an ashtray.”

Nathan laid his pack of Marlboro’s and an old, Zippo lighter on the table. He tried the Bic’s, but the constant wind in Scotland made that brand inoperable. Charlotte came back with an antique-looking butt basin; all glass and the size of a dinner plate. Inside was a shiny flask that looked familiar to him.

“Did Lochlan give that to you?” he asked.

“He surely did.”

“Aye, but was there anything in it? My Guvnor is such a tightarse.”

This caused the lady to pause a second and when she realized it was a pun, she broke out in laughter.

“Aye, it was full of good Scotch whiskey. That man knows damn well better than to try and schnooker me. Care for a nip?”

Most people of today are wary of drinking out of a container with others, but Nathan took a swig and wiped the lid off Highlander style—on his shirt sleeve—and gave it back to his host. To his surprise, she did the same thing and offered him another, but he declined as he was driving back to Dumfries that day. She was relaxed and Nathan knew it was time to get down to business.

“The reason I stopped by is this. My informant said they overheard one of our detectives say a word that seemed to shake up Mr. Thomson, the deceased. We both think it’s a Gaelic, and we need an interpreter. Would you consider helping me with this?”

Her receptive mood faded quickly, and the aura of a taskmaster returned.

“I take it ye doesn’t speak Gaelic either?” she ask, while tapping the table with her fingers.

“Sad to say … but nay.”

“I will help you under one condition. Keep the third Wednesday of every month, between the hours of seven and nine in the evening, open.”

Nathan knew there had to be a catch. “ … Why that date?”

“That is when I give lessons in Gaelic, teaching the slackers to respect their heritage. You can ride up with Lochlan if you’d like.”

“Why Lochlan?”

“’Cause he will be my star pupil,” she said as she learned forward towards her startled guest. “If he is not, I will know the reason why. If ye get me meaning.”

“You are coming in loud and clear,” Nathan said as he gained his composure. “Suffice it to say, I will be here then and every lesson for the foreseeable future.”

“’Foreseeable’ is a bullshite term,” she said as she sat back and relaxed. “You coppers use that terminology all the time to slip out of commitments. I want yer word.”

“As a gentleman?”

“Nay. You are not one of those; I can tell. As a man.”

“The you have my word, as a fine upstanding young man, that I will be here.”

Nathan took it she found the “upstanding” amusing, because she cracked a smile.

“Capital, then. What be the word in question?”

“It sounded like a fair child, or fair chair, to my source.”

What little blood Charlotte had left seemed to drain from her face. She looked down at the floor and shook her head from side to side. She looked straight at Nathan, then off to one side.

“Are ye sure you want the truth?” she asked.

“The whole and nothing but.”

“The word your source spoke is pronounced Faireachaile, as in ‘Fair-a-chail-e’ and it has a long history of violent ends and new beginnings. In Gaelic, it means ‘Vigilantes.’ Those four men were associated with—or belonged to—a group of very evil men, both here and world-wide. They are close-knit, and for the most part, very crafty. They are pedophiles, the lowest of the low, and have sought to quench their loathsome desirers here in our land and abroad. Me thinks your four victims got what they so rightly deserved but you, as an officer of the court, may deem them guilty for denying these animals due process.”

Nathan was very honest about it. “No, ma’am. I, for one, am not. I would’ve executed those men meself, given the opportunity. Yet, I am but a cog in a very big wheel, and me boss may not feel the way I do. Ya’ know how he is about the ‘due process’ thing.”

“Aye. In many ways Lochlan is a find, law abiding citizen. Yet, me thinks he can be persuaded to look the other way on this. All he needs is a little nudge to see the light.”

“And you think maybe I can do that?” Nathan asked.

“Aye. From what I’ve learned in this short period of time is that you could sell sand to an Arab. Tell him what I’ve told ye but keep you thoughts to yourself until he makes a judgement.”

Nathan, not knowing if the sand thing was a compliment or a slight said,

“… Thank you. I will tell you that I’ll be here on the appointed Wednesday’s from now. I can see there’s a shiteload of knowledge in this croft I need to learn.”

“Good then. But could you answer a question I have had for years?” she asked in a questioning manner.

“And what is that?”

“Exactly what is a ‘shiteload’?”

“Seven hundred and forty seven of anything, plus one more if you have room in the boot. But, as for now, I must return to Dumfries. My new-found mission awaits me. I can’t thank you enough for your hospitality. I bid you a good day, Madam.”

Quickly Nathan got into his car and headed home, confident it would take some time for Charlotte to realize he pulled the shiteload answer out of his arse.

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