The Hanging Gardens of Babylon... The hanging of four French villagers in World War II... The hanging of an old man in a Scottish cemetary... Seemingly random facts linked to one man...
Detective Inspector John Rebus is buried under a pile of paperwork generated by his investigations into a suspected war criminal, and his immediate supervisors are more than happy to have him tucked away in a quiet backwater for several months. However, the escalating dispute between upstart Tommy Telford and Big Ger Cafferty's gang soon gives Rebus an escape clause. Telford is known to have close ties to a man nicknamed Mr. Pink Eyes, a brutal gangster running a lucrative business bringing Chechen refugees into Britain to work as prostitutes. And when Rebus takes under his wing a distraught Bosnian call girl, it gives him a personal reason to make sure Telford takes the high road out of town. Within days, Rebus's daughter is the victim of an all-too-professional hit-and-run, and Rebus knows that there's nothing he won't do to bring down prime suspect Tommy Telford--even if it means cutting a deal with the devil.
A chilling glimpse into the darkest extremes of human cruelty, a page-turning literary thriller, this ninth entry in Ian Rankin's award-winning series confirms his reputation as a writer of rare and lasting gifts.
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January 01, 2010
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Excerpt from The Hanging Garden by Ian Rankin
JOHN Rebus kissed his daughter.
"Sure you don't want a lift?"
Samantha shook her head. "I need to walk off that pizza."
Rebus put his hands in his pockets, felt folded banknotes beneath his handkerchief. He thought of offering her some money-- wasn't that what fathers did--but she'd only laugh. She was twenty-four and independent; didn't need the gesture and certainly wouldn't take the money. She'd even tried to pay for the pizza, arguing that she'd eaten half while he'd chewed on a single slice. The remains were in a box under her arm.
"Bye, Dad." She pecked him on the cheek.
"I'll phone you. Maybe the three of us . . . ?" By which she meant Ned Farlowe, her boyfriend. She was walking backwards as she spoke. One .nal wave, and she turned away from him, head moving as she checked the evening trafic, crossing the road without looking back. But on the opposite pavement she half-turned, saw him watching her, waved her hand in acknowledgment. A young man almost collided with her. He was staring at the pavement, the thin black cord from a pair of earphones dribbling down his neck. Turn round and look at her, Rebus commanded. Isn't she incredible But the youth kept shufing along the pavement, oblivious to her world.
And then she'd turned a corner and was gone. Rebus could only imagine her now: making sure the pizza box was secure beneath her left arm; walking with eyes . xed rmly ahead of her; rubbing a thumb behind her right ear, which she'd recently had pierced for the third time. He knew that her nose would twitch when she thought of something funny. He knew that if she wanted to concentrate, she might tuck the corner of one jacket-lapel into her mouth. He knew that she wore a bracelet of braided leather, three silver rings, a cheap watch with black plastic strap and indigo face. He knew that the brown of her hair was its natural colour. He knew she was headed for a Guy Fawkes party, but didn't intend staying long.
He didn't know nearly enough about her, which was why he'd wanted them to meet for dinner. It had been a tortuous process: dates rejigged, last-minute cancellations. Sometimes it was her fault, more often his. Even tonight he should have been elsewhere. He ran his hands down the front of his jacket, feeling the bulge in his inside breast pocket, his own little time-bomb. Checking his watch, he saw it was nearly nine o'clock. He could drive or he could walk--he wasn't going far.
He decided to drive.
Edinburgh on .rework night, leaves blown into thick lines down the pavement. One morning soon he would .nd himself scraping frost from his car windscreen, feeling the cold like jabs to his kidneys. The south side of the city seemed to get the rst frost earlier than the north. Rebus, of course, lived and worked on the south side. After a stint in Craigmillar, he was back at St. Leonard's. He could make for there now--he was still on shift after all--but he had other plans. He passed three pubs on his way to his car. Chat at the bar, cigarettes and laughter, a fug of heat and alcohol: he knew these things better than he knew his own daughter. Two out of the three bars boasted "doormen." They didn't seem to be called bouncers these days. They were doormen or front-of-house managers, big guys with short hair and shorter fuses. One of them wore a kilt. His face was all scar tissue and scowl, the scalp shaved to abrasion. Rebus thought his name was Wattie or Wallie. He belonged to Telford. Maybe they all did. Grafti on the wall further along: Won't Anyone Help? Three words spreading across the city.
REBUS PARKED around the corner from Flint Street and started walking. The street was in darkness at ground level, except for a cafe and musement arcade. There was one lamppost, its bulb dead. The council had been asked by police not to replace it in a hurry--the surveillance needed all the help it could get. A few lights were shining in the tenement ats. There were three cars parked kerbside, but only one of them with people in it. Rebus opened the back door and got in.
A man sat in the driver's seat, a woman next to him. They looked cold and bored. The woman was Detective Constable Siobhan Clarke, who had worked with Rebus at St. Leonard's until a recent posting to the Scottish Crime Squad. The man, a Detective Sergeant called Claver house, was a Crime Squad regular. They were part of a team keeping twenty-four-hour tabs on Tommy Telford and all his deeds. Their slumped shoulders and pale faces bespoke not only tedium but the sure knowledge that surveillance was futile.
It was futile because Telford owned the street. Nobody parked here without him knowing who and why. The other two cars parked just now were Range Rovers belonging to Telford's gang.
Anything but a Range Rover stuck out. The Crime Squad had a specially adapted van which they usually used for surveillance, but that wouldn't work in Flint Street. Any van parked here for longer than've minutes received close and personal attention from a couple of Telford's men. They were trained to be courteous and menacing at the same time.
"Undercover bloody surveillance," Claver house growled. "Only we're not undercover and there's nothing to survey." He tore at a Snickers wrapper with his teeth and offered the .rst bite to Siobhan Clarke, who shook her head.
"Shame about those .ats," she said, peering up through the windscreen. "They'd be perfect."
"Except Telford owns them all," Claver house said through a mouthful of chocolate.
"Are they all occupied?" Rebus asked. He'd been in the car a minute and already his toes were cold.
"Some of them are empty," Clarke said. "Telford uses them for storage."
"But every bugger in and out of the main door gets spotted," Claver house added. "We've had meter readers and plumbers try to wangle their way in."
"Who was acting the plumber?" Rebus asked.
Rebus shrugged. "Just need someone to .x a tap in my bathroom."
Claver house smiled. He was tall and skinny, with huge dark bags under his eyes and thinning fair hair. Slow-moving and slow-talking, people often underestimated him. Those who did sometimes discovered that his nickname of "Bloody" Claver house was merited.
Clarke checked her watch. "Ninety minutes till the changeover."
"You could do with the heating on," Rebus offered. Claver house turned in his seat.
"That's what I keep telling her, but she won't have it."
"Why not?" He caught Clarke's eyes in the rear view. She was smiling.
"Because," Claver house said, "it means running the engine, and running the engine when we're not going anywhere is wasteful. Global warming or something."
"It's true," Clarke said.
Rebus winked at her re.ection. It looked like she'd been accepted by Claver house, which meant acceptance by the whole team at Fettes. Rebus, the perennial outsider, envied her the ability to conform.
"Bloody useless anyway," Claver house continued. "The bugger knows we're here. The van was blown after twenty minutes, the plumber routine didn't even get Ormiston over the threshhold, and now here we are, the only sods on the whole street. We couldn't blend in less if we were doing panto."
"Visible presence as a deterrent," Rebus said.
"Aye, right, a few more nights of this and I'm sure Tommy'll be back on the straight and narrow." Claver house shifted in his seat, trying to get comfortable. "Any word of Candice?"
Sammy had asked her father the same thing. Rebus shook his head.
"You still think Taravicz snatched her? No chance she did a runner?"
"Just because you want it to be them doesn't mean it was. My advice: leave it to us. Forget about her. You've got that Adolf thing to keep you busy."
"Don't remind me."
"Did you ever track down Colquhoun?"
"Sudden holiday. His office got a doctor's line."
"I think we did for him."
Rebus realised one of his hands was caressing his breast pocket. "So is Telford in the cafe or what?"
"Went in about an hour ago," Clarke said. "There's a room at the back, he uses that. He seems to like the arcade, too. Those games where you sit on a motorbike and do the circuit."
"We need someone on the inside," Claver house said. "Either that or wire the place."
"We couldn't even get a plumber in there," Rebus said. "You think someone with a .stful of radio mikes is going to fare any better?"
"Couldn't do any worse." Claver house switched on the radio, seeking music.
"Please," Clarke pleaded, "no country and western."
Rebus stared out at the cafe. It was well-lit with a net curtain covering the bottom half of its window. On the top half was written "Big Bites For Small Change." There was a menu taped to the window, and a sandwich board on the pavement outside, which gave the cafe's hours as 6:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. The place should have been closed for an hour.
"How are his licences?"
"He has lawyers," Clarke said.
"First thing we tried," Claver house added. "He's applied for a late-night extension. I can't see the neighbours complaining."
"Well," Rebus said, "much as I'd love to sit around here chatting . . ."
"End of liaison" Clarke asked. She was keeping her humour, but Rebus could see she was tired. Disrupted sleep pattern, body chill, plus the boredom of a surveillance you know is going nowhere. It was never easy partnering Claver house: no great fund of stories, just constant reminding that they had to do everything "the right way," meaning by the book.
"Do us a favour," Claver house said.
"There's a chippy across from the Odeon."
"What do you want?"
"Just a poke of chips."
"Oh, and John" Claver house added as Rebus stepped out of the car. "Ask them for a hot-water bottle while you're at it."
A car turned into the street, speeding up then screeching to a halt outside the cafe. The back door nearest the kerb opened, but nobody got out. The car accelerated away, door still hanging open, but there was something on the pavement now, something crawling, trying to push itself upright.
"Get after them!" Rebus shouted. Claver house had already turned the ignition, slammed the gear- shift into .rst. Clarke was on the radio as the car pulled away. As Rebus crossed the street, the man got to his feet. He stood with one hand against the cafe window, the other held to his head. As Rebus approached, the man seemed to sense his presence, staggered away from the cafe into the road.
"Christ!" he yelled. "Help me!" He fell to his knees again, both hands scrabbling at his scalp. His face was a mask of blood. Rebus crouched in front of him.
"We'll get you an ambulance," he said. A crowd had gathered at the window of the cafe. The door had been pulled open, and two young men were watching, like they were onlookers at a piece of street theatre. Rebus recognised them: Kenny Houston and Pretty- Boy. "Don't just stand there!" he yelled. Houston looked to Pretty-Boy, but Pretty-Boy wasn't moving. Rebus took out his mobile, called in the emergency, his eyes .xing on Pretty-Boy: black wavy hair, eyeliner. Black leather jacket, black polo-neck, black jeans. Stones: "Paint It Black." But the face chalk-white, like it had been powdered. Rebus walked up to the door. Behind him, the man was beginning to wail, a roar of pain echoing into the night sky.
"We don't know him," Pretty-Boy said.
"I didn't ask if you knew him, I asked for help."
Pretty-Boy didn't blink. "The magic word."
Rebus got right up into his face. Pretty-Boy smiled and nodded towards Houston, who went to fetch towels.
Most of the customers had returned to their tables. One was studying the bloody palm print on the window. Rebus saw another group of people, watching from the doorway of a room to the back of the cafe. At their centre stood Tommy Telford: tall, shoulders straight, legs apart. He looked almost soldierly.
"I thought you took care of your lads, Tommy!" Rebus called to him. Telford looked straight through him, then turned back into the room. The door closed. More screams from outside. Rebus grabbed the dishtowels from Houston and ran. The bleeder was on his feet again, weaving like a boxer in defeat.
"Take your hands down for a sec." The man lifted both hands from his matted hair, and Rebus saw a section of scalp rise with them, like it was attached to the skull by a hinge. A thin jet of blood hit Rebus in the face. He turned away and felt it against his ear, his neck. Blindly he stuck the towel on to the man's head.
"Hold this." Rebus grabbing the hands, forcing them on to the towel. Headlights: the unmarked police car. Claver house had his window down.
"Lost them in Causeway side. Stolen car, I'll bet. They'll be hoofing it."
"We need to get this one to Emergency." Rebus pulled open the back door. Clarke had found a box of paper hankies and was pulling out a wad.
"I think he's beyond Kleenex," Rebus said as she handed them over.
"They're for you," she said.