Hand for a Hand (Detective Gilchrist)

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9781906817510: Hand for a Hand (Detective Gilchrist)

 

When DCI Andy Gilchrist is called to a crime scene to find an amputated hand clutching a note addressed to him, a note that contains only one word, MURDER, he is pulled into an investigation that will test him to the limit. Soon other single word clues are found along with amputated body parts and the murderer’s vengeful message becomes clear as the identity of the next intended victim is revealed. But when someone close to him disappears, Gilchrist knows he is too late. Together with Nance Wilson, the sexy DC with her own agenda, Gilchrist comes to see the answer to the present murders lies within the secrets of his past. Forced to confront his demons, Gilchrist must solve the cryptic clues and find the murderer before the next victim, a woman whose life means more to Gilchrist than his own, is served up to him piece by slaughtered piece. 

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About the Author:

 

Frank Muir was born in Glasgow and has been plagued from a young age with the urge to see the rest of the world. Twenty-five years of working overseas helped him appreciate the raw beauty of his home country. Frank is now a dual US/UK citizen, living in Lenzie and working in the US. His first novel Eye for an Eye was chosen by Louise Welsh as the winner of the Pitlochry Award for the best crime story by an unpublished author in 2004. Frank is currently working on the third novel in the Andy Gilchrist series Tooth for a Tooth. 

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1
Seventeenth Hole, Old Course
St. Andrews, Scotland

   Tam Dunn watched the golf ball take a hard kick left and slip
into the infamous Road Hole Bunker, a sandy-bottomed pothole
that fronted the seventeenth green.
   Bud Amherst, one of an American four-ball that teed off at
7:00 that morning, first on the ballot, threw his five-iron to the
ground. “Goddammit,” he shouted, turning to Tam. “Course’s
nuthin but sand traps. Why didn’t you tell me it was there?”
The way Bud played golf it would have made no difference if
Tam had first led him by the hand and stood him in the bunker.
But Tam the caddy, always hopeful of an American-sized tip, bit
his tongue. “My mistake, sir.”
   Close to the green, the bunker looked more like a hole in the
ground, its face a vertical wall of divot bricks that even the pros
struggled to overcome.                                                          
   “Whaddaya think?” Bud asked Tam.
   “Sand-iron, sir.”
   “I know that, goddammit. Which way’s it gonna break?”
   “About three feet from the left.”
   “As much as that?”
   “At least, sir.”
   Tam kept tight-lipped as Bud took a few clumsy practice
swings. The only way Bud was going to get the ball onto
that green, he thought, was to lift it and place it. Bud turned
to the bunker, prepared to step down into it, then stumbled
backwards.
   “Aw God, aw God.”
   “Sir?”
   Bud slumped to his knees. The sand-iron slipped from his
grip.
   One of the Americans, the tall one called JD, trotted across the
green. “Hey, Bud, you okay?”
   Bud stretched an arm out and flapped it at the bunker.
Tam stepped to its lip and stared down at the hand, at skin as
white as porcelain, bony fingers clawed like talons. Even from
where he stood he could tell it was a woman’s hand, a fine hand,
he thought, except the wrist looked butchered and bloodied, like
a cut of meat hacked, not sliced, the bone glistening like a white
disc smeared with blood.
   And all of Tam’s hopes for an American-sized tip evaporated
in the cold Scottish air.
   “You’d better get down here, Andy.”
   “Where’s here, Nance?”
   “Seventeenth green on the Old Course. Next to the Jigger.”
   Gilchrist drew his Mercedes SLK Roadster to the side of the
road and pressed his mobile to his ear. It had been a while since
he had heard DS Nancy Wilson as breathless. Not since they had
run the length of the West Sands chasing what’s-his-name. Blake.
That was it. Murray Blake. Rapist, serial shagger, petty thief.
How some people thought they could get away with it never
failed to amaze him.
   “What’s got you fired up?” he tried.
   “Severed hand in a bunker. Victim’s in her early twenties, late
teens—”
   “Her early twenties?”
   “Sorry. Yes. It’s a woman’s hand.”
   Gilchrist tugged the steering wheel, felt the tail-end throw out
as the Merc spun in a tight circle. “Any rings?” he asked. “Moles?
Scars?”
   “Nothing obvious. Fingernails are short. Not varnished. Skin’s
a bit rough.”
   “As in manual labour?”
   “As in someone who doesn’t use hand lotion.”
   “Or couldn’t afford to.”
   “Maybe.”
   “It couldn’t have come from the mortuary or been cut from—?”
   “Not a chance, Andy. She’s been murdered.”

Chapter 2


   “Get on to the University. Find out if any students have gone
missing, called in sick, not turned up, whatever.”
   “Got it.”
   “Has Mackie seen it yet?”
   “Just arrived. Along with the SOCOs.”
   “Make sure they take fingerprints and run them through the
AFR system.”
   “Got it.”
   If the victim had no criminal record, the Automatic
Fingerprint Registration System would draw a blank. But it was
worth a shot. “Estimated time of. . . .” He wanted to say, death,
then chose, “. . . amputation?”
   “Couldn’t say.”
   “How about the other bunkers?”
   “We’ve got a team walking the course. Nothing back from
them yet.”
   “Any thoughts?” he asked.
   “Nothing definite. The sand was smooth, which might suggest
the hand was placed in the bunker.”
   “As opposed to thrown in?”
   “Odd, don’t you think?”
   “Maybe.” Gilchrist was again struck by the undercurrent of
excitement in Nance’s voice. He thought back to her statement—
Not a chance. She’s been murdered—and knew from the firmness of
her response that there had to be more. “What’re you not telling
me, Nance?”
   “She, I mean . . . the hand was holding a note. Addressed to
you.”
   A frisson of ice touched his neck. He booted the Merc to seventy.
   “What’s it say?”
   “Murder.”
   Murder? “So whoever severed the hand is sending me a message.”
   “Looks that way.”
   “How was the note addressed?”
   “On the envelope. Your name. DCI Andrew Gilchrist.”
   Andrew. Not Andy. Was that significant? “Typed? Or handprinted?”
   “Looks like a computer printer. Ink hasn’t run. Maybe a laser
printer.”
   Something tugged at his mind. “I thought you said note.”
   “I did.”
   “Inside the envelope?”
   “Yes.”
   “Someone opened the envelope?”
   “It wasn’t sealed.”
   Although the envelope was addressed to him, found in the
clutches of a severed hand, it niggled him that it had been opened
and read. “Why use an envelope to put a note inside?” he asked.
   “Why not just the note? Why the envelope, then the note?”
   “To keep the note dry?”
   “Maybe.”
   “Greaves wants to assign you as SIO.”
   Senior Investigating Officer. Gilchrist laughed. “I would have
thought a severed hand clutching a note addressed to me would
make it obvious that I should be SIO.”
   Hearing his own words made something slump to the pit of
his stomach. He had always dreaded this moment, the day when
he would be targeted by some sick pervert. And the pervert who
severed the hand had asked for Gilchrist to be involved. No,
more than that, wanted Gilchrist to be involved. But why? Was
the woman someone he knew? At that thought, a surge of panic
jolted his system.
   “Describe the hand again, Nance.”
   “Left hand. Skin’s flawless, except for the fingernails. They’re
cracked.”
   “Not bitten?”
   “No.”
   Relief powered through him. It was every policeman’s fear
that their family would be the victim of revenge, their lives
threatened by some criminal bent on getting even for some
long-forgotten score. The thought that the hand could have
been his daughter’s had hit him with the force of a kick to the
gut. Maureen lived seventy miles away in Glasgow, but bit her
nails and picked the skin. Despite the gruesome task ahead he
almost smiled.
   “Fingernails look as if they’ve been trimmed,” Nance went on.
   “But the cracks still show.”
   “Meaning?”
   “Not sure. But it might help ID her.”
   Gilchrist was fast approaching traffic. He eased his foot off
the pedal. “I’ll be with you in ten minutes,” he said, and hung up.
Dear God. Now this. A young woman’s hand. What had happened?
Had her hand been severed in the course of torture? Was
she still alive? No, he thought. She was already dead. But where
was the rest of the body?
   He floored the pedal, overtook three cars.
   And why a hand? Why leave it where it was sure to be found?
Simple. Because the perpetrator of this crime wanted the hand
to be found.
   Hence the note. For him.
   But who was this young woman?
   Being forty-seven, Gilchrist did not know too many young
women. His daughter, Maureen, of course. But she had never
invited him to meet her flatmates or friends. Not that she hid
them from him, but she lived away from home, ever since Gail
left him. And then there was Chloe, his son’s girlfriend. And that
was about it as far as young women were concerned.
   Still, he needed to put his mind at rest.
   He located Maureen’s number and felt a flush of irritation as
her answering machine cut in. Leaving messages seemed to be
his way of communicating with her these days. He kept this one
short, ordered her to give him a call, then he called Jack. It was a
wild thought. But better to be sure.
   “Hello?” Jack’s voice sounded tired, heavy.
   “Did I wake you up?”
   “What time’s it?”
   “Almost eleven. The day’s nearly done.”
   Jack coughed, a harsh sound that seemed to come from his
chest, which made Gilchrist think he had started smoking again.
   “And to what do I owe this pleasure?”
   “Isn’t a father allowed to call his son and ask how he is?”
   “Come on, Andy. First thing in the morning?”
   Gilchrist let out a laugh. Jack was a freelance artist whose creative
side seemed to flourish only on the other side of midnight
and sobriety. Midday could be an early start.
   “How’s Chloe?” Gilchrist asked.
   “Fine why?”
   Gilchrist thought Jack’s answer was too quick. “I’d like to talk
to her,” he said.
   “Why? What’s up?”
   Because we’ve found a severed hand and I’m scared to death it might
be Chloe’s.
   “Might be interested in buying one of her paintings,” he said.
   “Can I talk to her?”
   “Sure. I’ll get her to call when she gets back.”
   “Out shopping, is she?”
   “Something like that.”
   Gilchrist pressed the mobile to his ear. Jack had a cavalier
attitude about most things, but his voice sounded lifeless.
   “Everything all right?” he tried.
   A sniff, then, “We had a lover’s tiff.”
   “And?”
   “And she’s stomped off to cool down.”
   “Sounds serious.”
   “She’ll get over it.”
   “Good.” And Gilchrist meant it. Chloe was the best thing
that had happened to Jack. An artist too, she had a calming effect
on his wild son, even assuring him that Jack no longer smoked
cigarettes or any other substances. He almost hated to say it, but
he trusted Chloe more than he did his own son. He held on,
expecting Jack to continue, but it seemed as if the topic of Chloe
was over.
   Gilchrist decided to change tack and felt a flicker of annoyance
that he had to bring the subject up. But he needed to know.
   “How’s Mum?” he asked, and grimaced as he waited for the
answer.
   “Not good, Andy. Not good at all.”
   “How long?”
   “Couple of months. Maybe less.”
   “Jesus.”
   “They’ve got her on morphine.”
   “Is she still at home?”
   “You know Mum.”
   Gilchrist pulled to a halt behind a traffic jam. Ahead, the grey
silhouette of St. Salvator’s spire and the Abbey ruins lined the
dark skyline. By the University buildings, black rocks fell to a
blacker sea. He closed his eyes, dug in his thumb and forefinger.
Gail. Sometimes he felt as if he still loved her. Other times he
was not sure if it was being betrayed that had given him the right
to wallow in self-pity. He never understood why he still cared for
her. Was it hurt over her infidelity? Or her utter rejection of him
once she left? Or jealousy at her having found someone else? And
now she was dying and—
   “Andy?”
   Gilchrist looked up. “Sorry, Jack. Stuck in traffic. Is Maureen
still helping out?”
   “I guess.”
   “You heard from her?”
   “About a week ago.”
   “I’ve left umpteen messages on her answering machine.”
   “That’s Mo for you.”
   “It runs in the family.”
   “Hey, we’re talking. Right?”
   Gilchrist chuckled. “If you talk to her, Jack, tell her to check
her messages and give me a call.” Jack grunted, which he took to
mean yes. The Citroën in front lurched forward with a burst of
exhaust. Gilchrist followed. “Thanks, Jack. Catch you later.”
   Gilchrist thought it odd how different his children had
become. Maureen and Jack were growing apart, had grown apart,
professionally, politically, socially and, even though he hated
to say it, financially. Where Mo was self-reliant and careful
with money, taking part-time jobs for extra cash, Jack could go
months without selling a sculpture or painting, and no commissioned
work in sight. He often wondered how Jack survived, then
ditched that thought for fear of the answer.
   But Mo was different. A young woman with definite views on
how to run her life, with no sympathy for those who struggled. If
Gilchrist struggled with his relationship with his daughter, what
chance did Jack have of getting through to her?
   He pulled onto the road that led to the Driving Range, then
powered towards the Old Course Hotel. He found a parking
spot close to the Jigger Inn. Beyond the stone dyke that bounded
the course, a white Transit van spilled Scenes of Crime Officers
in white hooded coveralls—six in total. The putting green was
encircled with yellow tape that trailed to the walls at the side of
the road for which the Old Course’s Road Hole was infamous.
Nance caught his eye as he cleared the dyke. Behind her, the
stooped figure of Bert Mackie, the police pathologist, was slipping
into the bunker, his assistant, Dougie Banks, helping him
down. Nance signalled to Gilchrist as she walked across the
green, away from the bunker and the SOCOs.
   Puzzled, he followed her.
   When she stopped, he said, “You look worried.”
   “Ronnie’s here.”
   “Ronnie?” Then the name slotted into the tumblers of his
mind with a surge of disbelief. “Ronnie Watt?” He eyed the
green, settling on the back of a broad-shou...

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