Death in Edinburgh by R. E. Syme



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CHAPTER one

Buzz, buzz, buzz. Angus groaned and hugged the pillow closer to him. Maybe if he pretended to be asleep the noise would just go away. Buzz, buzz. It stopped. But there was someone hammering on the wall. Or, no, it seemed to be closer. It seemed to be coming from inside his head. Buzz, buzz, buzz. Angus groaned again, stretched out his arm and pulled the ringing phone to his ear.

“Good morning, Angus,” he heard Ross’s voice say, “Or should that be ‘Good afternoon’? How’re you feeling?”

“I’m dying. Leave me alone,” was Angus’s mumbled reply.

“Nah, that wouldn’t be much fun.” Ross sounded like he was enjoying himself.

Angus turned over, wincing as the sunlight hit his eyes. “What are you doing up so early? Why are you so cheerful?”

“I’m not cheerful, it’s just Schadenfreude. And it’s not early, it’s 1 o’clock and I’ve been up since eight. Some of us have real jobs, you know.”

“Uh-huh,” was Angus’s response.

“So, you had a good time last night, then? Susie and you seemed to be having a good chat when I left.”

“Oh?” The mention of Susie’s name had finally woken Angus up.

“In fact, I was wondering if you know where she is? A body’s been found and everyone has to get to Arthur’s Seat now.”

Angus pulled himself into a sitting position, and rubbed his eyes while he tried to understand the implications of Ross’s question. It took a moment but then he felt himself blush to his ears.

“No, no! I’ve no idea where she is,” he protested. “Wh-why? Can you not get hold of her?”

“No, she’s not answering her phone, so I put two and two together…” Ross still sounded amused, but became serious, “But she really needs to come to work, the boss is not pleased, so if you hear from her…”

“Of course. You said Arthur’s Seat and a body?”

“That’s right. I’m heading over there now.”

“OK, well I hope you find Susie soon.”

“Right you are, bye.”

Angus sat a moment, the phone quiet in his hand. A body on Arthur’s Seat, now that didn’t happen every day of the week, maybe he’d walk up there himself, see what was going on. He might see Susie… and some fresh air would help his sore head. But first things first: he needed a cup of tea.

Thirty-five minutes later, Angus stumbled out of the front door of the Marchmont tenement he had lived in for a little over a year and began to walk in the direction of Newington. It was warmer than he had expected and he was soon regretting the jacket he’d grabbed on his way out. He quickly forgot about that as he turned into Holyrood Park Road and saw the police vans parked at the end, sirens off but blue lights flashing. He was surprised that they were still there, as he had taken a long time to get ready. It must be very serious.

As he neared the entrance to Holyrood Park, he could see a police-tape barrier strung across the road and pavement. A group of students from the nearby university accommodation were smoking and texting; a couple of joggers had also paused and were chatting to an elderly couple; off to the side was a young woman. She stood out with her amazing, fiery-red hair which was blowing across her face in the breeze. It contrasted perfectly with her green dress, and Angus was momentarily distracted by this vision.

He quickly turned his attention, however, to the men and women on the other side of the plastic barrier: police officers, forensic scientists and other miscellaneous people who had a job to do at a crime scene. He caught sight of Ross standing near a van, talking to his superior. Looking around, he saw Susie approach them – so Ross had managed to find her. He watched as she greeted Ross and their chief, who didn’t look very pleased. He gestured towards the crowd of people and Susie started walking in their direction.

As he waited for her to cross the 100 yards or so to where he and the others were standing, his attention was again diverted, this time to two paramedics carrying down a covered body and a police officer pulling at the lead of a dog. The animal, a Border Collie, was tugging at its restraint and barking quite fiercely. The uniformed officer was clearly having some trouble keeping the dog under control.

“Thank you everyone, there’s nothing to see here. Please be on your way and clear the area, so that we can get on with our investigation.” Susie seemed less than happy to have this task and stood with arms crossed as the collection of people moved off a few more yards. Job done, she turned to Angus.

“Afternoon. What you doing here then?” The tone was neutral but there was a hint of a smile on her face.

“Well, Ross woke me up and so I thought I might as well come and have a look…” Angus smiled and trailed to a halt. “Um, so how are you?”

“Couldn’t be better.” Angus nodded at the sarcasm and asked: “What happened here anyway?”

“Now Angus, you know I can’t tell you anything. You’ll just have to read about it in the paper. Besides, I’d better be getting on. See you later.”

“Yes, fine. Take care.”

Angus watched as Susie started to walk away. Behind her he could see the struggling officer and dog, which was still pulling at its lead. Angus imagined it desperately trying to return to its master’s side, the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby, the dog who wouldn’t leave his master’s grave, coming to mind… And at that moment, the collie finally broke free of the young officer and went tearing off, dodging parked cars and outstretched arms, before vanishing into the undergrowth.

There were shouts and arm-waving from the police officers but nothing more of interest to see. Angus turned his back on the scene, and wondered what he should do now. It was a lovely day and he was in no hurry to return to his messy flat; he’d go for a walk and clear the cobwebs. Removing the too-warm jacket, he meandered off, with only one more glance at the action behind him, the mound of the Crags and Arthur’s Seat bathed in the soft April sunlight.

 

 

CHAPTER two

Edinburgh had been Angus Fleming’s home for eleven years now, but he hadn’t lost the feeling of wonder at walking through its winding streets with their grey-yellow sandstone buildings, small gardens and multitude of chimneys. He had arrived here as a naive 18-year-old and the move from a small Hebridean island to this elegant and eerie city had been a shock to the system. In time, however, the streets, at least in the area around the university, had become as familiar to him as the paths he’d played on as a child growing up on Harris.

Today, he wasn’t concentrating on the buildings but was instead thinking about recent events. Nine months earlier his first novel, a crime story, had been published and had been an instant success. After years of uncertainty about his future, it had come as a complete surprise and still hadn’t really sunk in. He’d just returned from a few weeks of PR stuff in England – the party the night before had been in celebration of that – and now he had some time to recover from it all. His publisher wanted him to start work on the next book, but he didn’t fee under any pressure to get started. Plus he had no idea what it should be about.

Pushing those thoughts to one side, he remembered how touched he was that his friends, Ross especially, had organized a party for him. He smiled to himself; everyone had been so complimentary and Susie in particular had looked at him differently. Or, at least, so it had seemed to him. He just hoped he hadn’t made a fool of himself – the end of the evening was a bit of a blur.

Sighing, he stopped to work out where he was. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a black shape. It disappeared as he turned around. Was he still hungover? No, there it was again: two dark eyes, a pink tongue and a quizzical expression. The lead hanging from its collar confirmed Angus’s suspicion. The runaway dog. Now, would it let him catch it?

Angus stood, eyes fixed on the dog; the dog stared back; they both seemed to be thinking. Then Angus raised his eyebrows, he’d had a brainwave. The dog sat down, intrigued by Angus’s actions. He had lifted up his jacket and was patting the pockets, muttering to himself, “I’m sure it’s still here. What did I do with it?” before smiling, “Aha!” He pulled out a crumpled crisp bag, opened it and lay it flat on the ground, the flattened contents letting off an appetizing aroma of salt and vinegar. He took a step back and waited.

The dog looked at the crisp bag, looked at him, looked back at the bag, and after a brief hesitation moved forward to lick up the tasty mixture, tail wagging. Angus saw his chance and picked up the end of the lead.

The dog raised its head again but with a seemingly defeated air, finished off the crisps before letting Angus quietly lead him down the road.

CHAPTER three

Walking back the way he had come, Angus could see police officers clustered around the police station on St Leonard’s Street. Ross and Susie were there, too. They spotted him with the dog and a small group came to meet him a few steps away from the station. The dog started whining, then began barking again.

“How’d you find her? We’ve been looking everywhere!” asked a young officer, taking the lead from Angus. The dog pulled on it.

“Well, I was just walking through Dumbiedykes, when I…” Angus didn’t get any further, because everyone turned to watch as a car drew up. An elegant woman, her face set tight in disbelief, got out.

Susie muttered, “That must be the wife.”

Beside them the dog’s barking grew louder and it pulled at the lead. Taking the officer by surprise, it once again got free and ran in the direction of the woman. She turned and was greeted by outstretched paws, a wagging tail and silence…

Angus frowned slightly but before he could articulate his thoughts – the quietness of the dog around somebody it knew – the others were patting him on the back, “Well done Angus” and wandering off, back to their duties.

“I’ll give you a call later, thanks for your help,” Ross shouted over his shoulder and was gone.

Angus stuck his hands, now free of a lead, in his pockets, his jacket slung over the crook of his arm, shrugged and turned towards home.

He was hungry so he popped into a cafe for something to eat before walking over the Meadows. As he crossed the grass on his way to Jawbone Walk, he spotted the red haired girl from earlier. The intensity of the colour combined with the emerald green dress she was wearing made her unmistakeable.

She was standing at the edge of the path talking to a young man. Something in her body language – her shoulders hunched, one arm held tight around herself – said here was someone who was unhappy. There was something else about her posture that reminded Angus of something but he couldn’t pinpoint what.

As he walked past them he caught bits of what they were saying. From her:

“… can’t believe he’s gone. What am I going to do?”

And him:

“You’re well rid of …”

When he was safely past them, Angus stopped and turned back, but they had also started walking, going up the hill towards George IV Bridge, her long red hair moving in rhythm to her step.

 

 

CHAPTER four

Angus found the events of the day difficult to put out his mind. Who was the murdered man? Was the girl with red hair connected to him? But until he saw Ross and Susie, he’d have to leave his questions unanswered. And even when he saw them, he knew there was little they’d be allowed to tell him.

Instead, he decided to try and do some writing, get back into a routine after weeks of being on the road. But his heart wasn’t in it, and he spent the following two days staring at a blank computer screen, pacing his flat and trying to persuade his brain to cooperate. It ignored all his entreaties and so Angus contemplated the pile of ironing instead, pondered about dinner, wondered at the football results and dreamt about Susie’s blue eyes and dimply smile.

The only break from this mental torture had been popping out to buy some milk and the evening newspaper. This could at least satisfy some of his curiosity regarding the dead man: news of the murder had been made public and the local paper provided some basic details about the victim.

He was the owner of a small gallery in Stockbridge, married with no children. The police had released his name, Geoffrey Brodie, and were asking for witnesses to come forward with any information about the night of the murder.

Having read these few facts, Angus was about to Google the name when his phone beeped. Ross hadn’t been in touch since Angus had returned the dog – no doubt working day and night on the case – so Angus was surprised but happy to read his text message:

“Drink? Blind Poet? In 20 mins?”

Angus tapped in “Great! CU at the pub!” while he looked for his keys and jacket, all thought of Geoffrey Brodie suddenly forgotten. He was about to leave when he had a thought: maybe Susie would be there… There was a sudden panic as he quickly shaved, dug out a crumpled but clean T-shirt and dragged a comb through his hair. Ten minutes later he ran out the door.

Arriving late, cheeks pink and out of breath, he found Ross alone except for a half-finished beer. They exchanged greetings, Angus got himself a pint and sat down.

“How’s it going?”

“Well, could be better. It’s been mad at the station, as you can imagine. It’s not been going well, though we think we’ve got a lead now. But all these people keep calling with information that turns out to be completely bogus.”

“Umm,” Angus said sympathetically, “So, what’s the theory?”

“I can’t say much. But, well, let’s put it this way: Brodie seems to have had some very shady friends.”

“What kind of thing? Handling stolen goods? Drugs?”

Ross gave a non-committal shrug.

Angus was quiet a moment: “So, do you think a deal went wrong, or something, and ended badly for him?”

“Something like that.”

Angus nodded, the germ of an idea had been planted, perhaps the start of a new story? His mind wandered as he supped his pint and looked unseeingly at the familiar poster-covered walls of their favourite pub.

His daydreaming was interrupted by Ross getting up to greet Susie, who had just walked in the door. Angus’s heart began beating just that little bit faster.

“You made it then. Angus is in his own world again, so I could use the company.” Ross grinned, “Same as usual?”

Susie just nodded as she sat down with a sigh.

“Hi, Susie, lo-long day?” Angus stammered.

“Urn, yeah. It’s been non-stop.” She did look tired, but Angus would never have let on he thought this. They were silent while they waited for Ross to return with her drink. “Thanks,” was her reply, when Ross brought over her G&T. She took a sip and finally smiled: “That’s better! So, Angus, how are you? What have you been up to?…”

With that the conversation started up again. A few hours later, as they stood on Buccleuch Street, ready to go home, Angus remembered the girl: “Ross, mate, I meant to tell you, there was this girl – had amazing red hair – standing watching at Arthur’s Seat the other day. And, well, I saw her again and overheard her talking. Something about it being good he was gone. Do you think she had anything to do with the murder?”

Ross thought a moment but then shook his head, “I doubt it, she could have been talking about anything. But I’ll get someone to look into it, just in case.”

“OK. ‘Night then. ‘Night Susie.”

“‘Night.”

“‘Night Angus, sleep tight…” Susie answered with a giggle and a wave.

Angus went home, feeling happy to be back in Edinburgh and to already have a vague idea for his next book.

CHAPTER five

In the cold light of day, the story idea still seemed to have potential, but Angus knew he would need to do some research before he could start building on it. He jotted down a few notes but quickly turned his attention to Google and Wikipedia, surfing for anything he could find on gallery owners, contemporary painting and the Edinburgh art scene.

As a child he’d loved reading, losing himself in new worlds which couldn’t have been more different from the reality of his island life. He’d also written short stories and poems, but it was only when he started writing his first novel that he felt he’d finally found something he was good at. Nevertheless, the amount of research involved had surprised him but had also thankfully turned out to be a pleasant, if sometimes frustrating, task.

At the moment, though, he could relax and enjoy it. After hour or two’s work, while taking a break from the computer, Angus remembered a university friend, who conveniently worked in a local gallery run by a Kathleen Reid. She could perhaps help with some general information about what was involved in running a gallery, and also might have some gossip about Geoffrey Brodie, who Angus still couldn’t get out of his mind.

He sent her a message on Facebook to ask if they could meet. She clearly had time to kill, as an answer arrived only half an hour later. By 12.30 Angus and Amy were sitting on a bench with take-away rolls from the deli, a few tulips swaying in the breeze beside them.

“So, what is it you’d like to know?” Amy asked as she tucked into her panini.

“I’ve got an idea for a story and it’s revolves around a gallery owner from Edinburgh…”

“Is this to do with Brodie?”

“Um, yes, in a way. He’s the spark for the whole thing. Why, did you know him?”

“Only by reputation: Kathleen knows – knew – him and I’ve often heard her talk about him. From what I can gather, he was a terrible flirt with a penchant for young female artists. He’d offer them his support and, as his gallery was successful, it was good to have him on your side. In return… well, who knows what he expected in return, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his debt.”

“But his wife… Did she know?”

“Must have done. But she had a good life with him, could swan about the city and jet off to Paris for the weekend, so why would she rock the boat?”

They were quiet for a moment, eating their lunch; Angus turned over this new information. He wondered if this was common knowledge … maybe he should give Ross a call and tell him, though he probably knew about it already.

“Was there anyone in particular he was meant to be involved with?”

“I don’t know. There seem to have been several over the years. Can you use that for your story?” Amy looked at him hopefully.

“Ah, yes, possibly. It’s still in the very early stages, and I’m not sure what direction it might take, so everything could be useful. Thanks.”

“Not at all,” she replied, satisfied, “Glad I could help. But I’ve got to be getting back. Catch up again soon?”

Angus nodded and watched Amy as she walked back towards her work. He found his phone and called Ross. He repeated the gossip Amy had passed on, but Ross didn’t seem that interested.

“We think we’ve got our man. Found a connection between Brodie and a guy we’ve been watching for years, deals in stolen art, but has never been convicted. He’s being brought in for questioning.”

The call ended, but Angus stayed sitting, people watching and enjoying the spring sunshine. A group of art students walked past and he was reminded of the red-headed girl in the green dress: who was she? And was she connected to Brodie? Why did he even assume she was an artist? And what about Brodie’s wife, would she really just sit back and let her husband have affairs? The police may well have found the murderer, but Angus couldn’t help wanting to know more about the people connected to the dead art dealer. Perhaps a visit to Brodie’s gallery would provide some of the answers.

 

 

CHAPTER six

As the sun burned through the morning haar, Angus set off on foot in the direction of Stockbridge, the arty area of the New Town. Brodie’s gallery was located in Raeburn Terrace, the main street running through Stockbridge. It would be a fairly long walk but a pleasant one, taking him through the Old Town and into the Georgian terraces of the New. With any luck the mist would lift enough to allow a view over to Fife and the hills to the north of the city.

Angus found walking helped the creative process. Today though, he simply let his mind wander; it was too glorious a day to think about work.

And in no time, it seemed, he’d arrived at the gallery, ‘Brodie’s’ written in chic silver lettering above the door. Looking through the window, Angus could see the cliched interior of a gallery: white walls, pale wooden floors, minimal furniture. Some brightly-coloured canvases were hung on the walls and a roughly-hewn sculpture sat in the corner.

Stopping to compose himself, he was surprised to see the crisp-loving Border Collie tied up to some railings: Brodie’s wife must be here.

As he turned towards the door, he almost collided with two large men striding out of the door, their leather jackets and aggressive demeanour not what you’d expect in an Edinburgh gallery.

Slightly flustered, he watched them walk away before entering the gallery. He stopped in front of the first picture and stared at it, but didn’t really see it. He was wondering who the men were and what they wanted.

Slowly, he forced himself to focus; he’d tie himself in knots if he weren’t careful, always imagining the worst.

Calm again he concentrated on what he was looking at: a landscape of a sunny beach, the sea gently lapping at the shore.

Adopting the manner associated with people looking at paintings, he moved slowly and quietly around the room, head tilted slightly so as to better enjoy the pictures. As he walked past, he noticed that a door at the back of the gallery – probably to an office or a storeroom – was slightly ajar. However, he couldn’t hear anything, so continued. Back at the front door he started again, this time reading the captions and moving more randomly here and there.

It didn’t take long to realize the paintings were all by the same person, a woman called Katrina McPhair. Finding a leaflet on the desk at the front, he read a short biography of her. She was from Inverness, in her late 20s, had studied in Edinburgh and was a fan of the Colourist movement, something which was evident in her paintings: bold colours, vivid landscapes and still-lifes, an enthusiasm for all things Scottish.

There was no photo of her, but Angus couldn’t help wondering if this was the girl with the red hair.

Deep in thought, he was startled by a voice: “Hello, I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.”

He recognized the tall woman as Mrs Brodie. She was expensively dressed and could have been anything between 40 and 60. She looked poised and steady, but a slight redness around the eyes and nose belied this. She also didn’t look too happy to have a visitor.

“Hello, the paintings caught my eye so I came in for a closer look.”

He stopped and waited for a reply. Mrs Brodie turned to look at the painting nearest them, a brief appearance of pain on her face.

“Is… is everything all right? You look… I’m sorry…” Angus reached out a hand towards her. He suddenly felt very guilty for intruding on this woman’s grief and misfortune. He was ashamed of letting his curiosity get the better of him, but didn’t know how to put it right.

She had now completely turned away from him, her hands held up to cover her face, clearly trying not to cry.

“Should I go? I should go.” Angus took a step towards the door.

“No, no, please stay. I’m sorry. I just need a moment. Please have a look around.”

With her head bowed, she walked back to the small office. Angus hovered, unsure of what to do but, as she had left the door open, he took a few steps towards it. He could see her sitting at a small table and on the counter beside her a kettle and some mugs.

“Would you like me to make a cup of tea?” He asked hesitantly and received a nod in reply.

CHAPTER seven

Shortly after, they were sitting opposite each other, cups of tea on the table. Mrs Brodie had recomposed herself. Angus introduced himself: “I’m Angus.”

“Eleanor Brodie. Did you know my husband?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Well, that’s no great loss.” She sounded bitter. “He’s gone and now I have to clear up his mess. It appears the successful gallery owner wasn’t so canny after all. Seems he wasn’t just cheating on me…”

Angus raised his eyebrows slightly but didn’t say anything. Mrs Brodie didn’t appear to notice. “I thought Geoffrey had saved, but it turns out he owes thousands of pounds. And to whom? Some thug! God! I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

The muscles in her jaw tightened as she said this. She glanced at him quickly before continuing. “I don’t why I’m telling you this. I don’t even know you.” She stiffened a moment, her gaze once more directed at him: “You’re not from the press, are you? You look familiar.”

Angus blushed, “No, I’m not a journalist, Mrs Brodie. But I’ve written a book, maybe…”

She interrupted him, “Of course, you’re the crime writer. What exactly are you doing here? What do you want?” Her tone was accusatory.

Angus squirmed in his seat, feeling deeply ashamed. The words came tumbling out as he tried to explain.

“I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to pry. I heard about what happened and I’m trying to write a new story and it seemed like a good idea, you know, and I saw the dog run away and then stumbled across her and brought her back, and then I saw her, and… I’m sorry.”

“It was you who found Jessie?” Angus nodded. They sat in silence while Eleanor Brodie thought about this piece of information.

At last, she spoke, “You’re going to use my husband’s death in a story?”

“No, not exactly, I’m not sure.” Angus took a deep breath, “I’m not explaining myself very well, I’m sorry. I’m… I’m here because I’m nosy, I really am sorry, it was very thoughtless of me. The story is just a vague idea at the moment, I don’t know how it’ll turn out, what it’ll be about.”

Mrs Brodie didn’t answer and Angus wondered how he could make the situation better. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” he asked, as Mrs Brodie stood up to clear the table.

She placed the mugs in the sink and turned to face him, hands tightly gripping the edge of the sink. She looked exhausted.

“You seem to be good with dogs… you could take Jessie for a while. I can’t look after her at the moment. You can come round to the house to collect some food and things for her.”

All Angus could do was agree.

CHAPTER eight

Back at his flat, Jessie exploring her temporary home, Angus thought back over the afternoon. It occurred to him that he should check if it was OK for him to have the dog, seeing as it was involved in a police investigation. And he wanted to fill Ross in anyway, so he dialled his number.

Ross sounded angry and began talking before Angus could really speak. Apparently the main suspect, the guy who had been questioned, had an airtight alibi, so he was free, and the police were back to square one.

They had done some research regarding Brodie’s indiscretions – something which had been brought up by more than one acquaintance of the deceased, and had a new suspect. Some officers were on their way at that moment to bring her in for questioning.

Angus felt himself go cold, “Wh-who are you bringing in?”

“The wife,” was the grim reply.

“Are you sure?”

“Not yet but she had a motive and knew where her husband was going. We just need to establish her whereabouts more exactly at the time of the murder. Why?”

Angus told Ross about his meeting with Eleanor Brodie, ending with his question about Jessie.

“Well, it’s a bit irregular, but I’ll ask the chief and let you know. And I know she seems respectable and he was a scumbag but that doesn’t mean she didn’t do it. I’ve got to go but I’ll get back to you shortly. In the meantime, keep the dog with you and take care of her.” With that they hung up and Angus went to find Jessie. Sitting down beside her on the living room floor, he  couldn’t help but feel sorry for Mrs Brodie. He also felt a shiver at the idea that he may have just had tea with a murderer.

chapter nine

Angus had a restless night. He couldn’t stop thinking about the case. What had started as a bit of harmless nosiness – just research for a story – had turned into something more serious: he’d had tea with a suspected murderer and was looking after her dog.

He knew he should disentangle himself but was finding the whole situation quite thrilling. It was a puzzle and he liked puzzles. Though he didn’t have access to all the information the police did, he still wanted to solve the mystery of the red-haired girl, even if it was only for his own satisfaction.

He struggled with his conscience telling him to leave well alone and only finally fell asleep, having decided to put off the decision until the morning.

It was another sunny day, white clouds dotted a blue sky, as Angus got up and went to get showered. With the water beating down on him, he reached a decision: he’d stop meddling in the case. He had wanted to relax after all his PR stuff and that was what he’d do, no more research and asking questions. With the decision made, he hurried to get dressed – he wanted to be outside and making the most of the lovely weather.

He had a quick breakfast and then left the flat, Jessie following behind him. It felt a bit tactless to take her to Arthur’s Seat, so the Meadows would have to do for a morning walk. With one of the many paperpacks beside his bed stuffed into his pocket – in this case, one that Susie had recommended – they set off along the quiet street.

The park looked lovely in the early-morning light. The cherry trees which lined Middle Meadow Walk had only just blossomed and a glorious haze of pink set against sharp green leaves and the blue sky created a gorgeous canopy over his head. He turned off the path in the direction of the tennis courts.

Arriving at the triangle of grass at the east end of the park, he let Jessie off her lead and found a stick to throw to her. She brought it back so obediently to him that he sat down on a bench and started to read his book, only looking up when she reappeared.

Time passed and he was so absorbed in the novel, everything to do with the case forgotten, that he didn’t immediately notice that Jessie hadn’t come back. When he did, he stood up to get a better look but couldn’t see her. Panic mounted as he pictured her running out into the road behind him. He rushed towards the centre of the grass, hoping to see around the hedge that bordered the tennis courts while also looking over his shoulder for any signs of a black and white shape on the road.

With a sigh of relief he spotted her wagging tail after only a few steps. He found her being petted by a red headed girl he recognized at once: it was the girl from Arthur’s Seat, and possibly, if he was right, the artist in Brodie’s gallery. Should he speak to her?

“Hello, hi there,” he said to the figure crouched down beside Jessie.

She looked up, startled, and blushing slightly stood up. He understood at once what had struck him about her before: she was pregnant, perhaps five or six months along.

“I’m sorry, is she your dog? I thought I recognized her …” she trailed off.

“Uh, yes, well no, I’m just looking after her for someone.”

There was a moment’s awkward silence and she looked as if she was about to go: “I think I’ve seen you before. At Arthur’s Seat when the body was found,” Angus voiced the first thing that came to mind, wanting to see how she would react. And was both pleased and disappointed to see the colour drain from her face and her air of discomfort be replaced by one of anxiety.

“No, I think you must be mistaken. I really must be going now.” And with that she turned and was halfway up the path before Angus could do anything.

He knelt beside Jessie, stroking her soft ears while his mind went over what had just happened. For a dog that so disliked strangers, Jessie had been incredibly calm and quiet with the woman. She must know her, but what did that prove?

Suddenly, he realised that he just had to find out who she was, and all his intentions of doing the right thing went straight out the window.

Attaching Jessie’s lead to her collar, they set off in the direction the woman had gone in.

Rounding a corner, he saw her and then continued to follow her as she walked along Bucchleuch Terrace and over George Square. He almost lost sight of her as she weaved around the students that were going to and from classes.

At Bristo Square, she turned right and, disappearing under the overpass at Potterrow and going against the stream of law students, hurried down the cobbled lane to Chamber’s Street.

Nearly colliding with a skateboarder, he reached the street corner and didn’t know at first which way she had gone. Standing on tiptoe, trying to get a better look, he finally thought he saw someone with red hair going through the revolving door of the museum.

Apologizing to Jessie as he tied her up outside, he also entered the light-filled Victorian atrium and stopped again. The place was packed: tourists, pensioners meeting for lunch, school kids crowded round the fountains with the goldfish and museum wardens directing people to different parts of the collection.

She could have gone anywhere – Angus would just have to take his chances, maybe he’d be lucky.

Climbing the stairs to the second floor, he walked into the calm and quiet of the Asian collections: ceramics, glassware and textiles were all neatly displayed behind glass in metal-framed cabinets.

The museum was a maze and it wasn’t long before Angus was lost in its charm, his hope of finding the girl fading. He became absorbed in the artefacts around him and nearly jumped out of his skin when someone said:

“Why are you following me?”

It was the girl with red hair and, though she spoke quietly, she was clearly angry. Angus again said the first thing that came to mind: “Are you Katrina McPhair?”

“Why do you want to know?”

Angus took that as a yes. “I saw you at Arthur’s Seat when they found… when they brought down the body.” The girl didn’t react, so Angus continued: “He was – or still is – exhibiting your paintings. So you must have known him. And I think you knew him very well, is that right?”

“Who are you? What has this got to do with you?”

“Nothing, it’s got nothing to do with me,” Angus admitted. “I was just intrigued.”

He was aware of how lame this sounded and waited for her reply. She looked him up and down and must have decided he looked harmless as her posture relaxed a little.

“Yes, I knew him, knew him well,” she touched her rounded stomach and her look confirmed what Angus had suspected – Brodie was the father. “But I didn’t kill him, if that’s what you think. I was angry but I would never have done that. I loved him,” she added softly, eyes on the ground. Then she looked up at him, expression firm once again, “So, leave me alone! I don’t ever want to see you again.”

Angus nodded shamefacedly, and waited until she had left before slowly making his way to the exit to collect Jessie and go home.

He believed her and only wondered what that meant for Eleanor Brodie.

 

 

CHAPTER ten

He heard nothing from Ross or Susie for a few days and didn’t want to bother them by calling. He had to make do with the newspaper and whatever they printed but, besides learning more about Brodie in his obituary, there was very little new information.

He tidied his flat, walked Jessie and spent as much time outside as he could. Coming out of the cinema one afternoon – a sudden shower having forced him to take cover – he turned on his phone to find Ross had tried to call. Dialling his number, he was surprised when Susie answered:

“Hi, Angus, Ross is just at the bar. We’re at the Peartree House. Do you want to come and join us?”

“Hi, Susie, does that mean you’ve solved the case, then?”

“Yes! We’re celebrating, or rather recovering from the whole thing. So, are you going to come or not? I haven’t seen you for a few days.”

Angus’s smile widened at her use of the first person singular and assured her that he was on his way. But could she say first who they’d charged with the crime?

“Well, you know I can’t do that, but I suppose there’s no harm in you guessing…”

“Was it Eleanor Brodie?”

“Yup. But you’ll have to wait for the papers to find out more. Now, get a move on, your beer won’t wait forever!” Angus laughed and hurried off towards the pub and his friends.

– THE END –

 




8 thoughts on “Death in Edinburgh by R. E. Syme

  1. Mac McCaskill says:

    Wow! That was a sudden and rather unsatisfactory ending.
    A bit like an exam essay you've got to finish hurriedly when you realise you've only 2 mins left before the invigilator instructs "Pens down!"

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