He tried to arrange a neighbourly smile on his face as he opened the door, but the actor in him had left for the evening. So there was something not unlike pain rippling his lips as he stared at the visitor on his doormat.
Funny how people with disabilities had that special gift of making you seem less able than them.
He prised himself out of bed and stood up. The alcohol inside him stood up too; then it began to pogostick its way around his head. Red wine and whisky. Bad news and a chaser.
‘It’s natural for me to worry, Brian. You’re like a son to me.’
‘And you’re like a father to me,’ Holmes replied, heading for the door. ‘The fa-ther I get from you, the easier my life seems to be.’
‘I make the jokes around here, son,’ he warned.
Curt was smoking a cigarette. At the age of fifty-five, he’d decided he might as well start, since nothing else had so far managed to kill him. Rebus might have taken a cigarette from him, but they were Player’s untipped, the smoking equivalent of paint stripper.
There was music, the kind that never went away: the Stones and the Doors, Janis Joplin, very early Pink Floyd. It was one of those evenings.
Rebus shook his head slowly. He knew what was coming. He’d seen Curt examine headless bodies and mangled bodies and bodies that were little more than torsos or melted to the consistency of lard, and the pathologist always said the same thing.
‘Poor chap’s dead.’
‘I’m in charge.’ The smile told Rebus he was as welcome as haemorrhoids at a rodeo.
He didn’t often drive fast; dangerously… almost never. It was car smashes that did it, being on the scene at car smashes. You saw heads so messed up you didn’t know which side was the face until it opened its mouth to scream.
Bothwell was sitting in his chair, prevented from movement by a sudden case of death. His neck flopped over to one side in a way necks shouldn’t.
‘Sign here,’ the DS said. He had a typed chitty: RECEIPT OF ALL CASE-NOTES (8 BOXES) CONCERNING DERWOOD CHARTERS. Rebus signed.
‘Date and time, too,’ said the DS.
‘You’ll be wanting a tip next,’ Rebus muttered.
‘If you’re offering.’
‘Well, here’s one for you: when lifting, bend your knees, not your back.’
The Farmer shifted – so far as he was able – in his chair. He was not a small man; it was not a large chair.
‘This is unlawful entry.’
‘Keep yapping, I’ll show you unlawful entry.’
When someone announced that the karaoke would start in five minutes, Rebus knew it was time to leave. Been there, done that.
The paper was recycled, and so was the text.
Her eyes were small, as were nose and mouth. He tried not to think of a hamster, but then she twitched her nose and the picture was complete.
The morning was bright and clear, but Bill Costain was dull and overcast.
‘Besides,’ Rebus went on, ‘I’ve got the mother and father of a headache. In-laws, too. Kids, neighbors, town and country.’
‘He’ll be ready. Wouldn’t it be better to catch him off-guard?’
‘That little bastard hasn’t been off-guard since he was lifted from the cradle.’
‘Me?’ Rebus had offered hs own shrug. ‘I just drink to be sociable.’
‘And when does it start working?’
‘We could get a table at a pub. Down by the rail bridge, there’s a place called The Boatman’s…’ She stared at him. ‘It’s an Edinburgh tradition,’ he explained with a shrug. ‘In times past, professionals ran their businesses from the local howff.’
‘We wouldn’t want to mess with tradition.’