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Stuart MacBride

Shatter the Bones

six days later

Chapter 1

‘Three minutes.’

‘Fuck.’ DS Logan McRae leant on the horn, its harsh breeeeeeep barely audible over the wailing siren and the burbling radio. ‘Get out of the bloody way!’

‘…to show we’re all thinking about them. So, this is Alison and Jenny McGregor with Wind Beneath My Wings…’ There was a swell of violins, and then the singing started: ‘Did-’

‘Christ, not again.’ DC Rennie switched the car radio off and ran a hand through his spiky-gelled mop of blond hair. Checked his watch again. ‘We’re not going to make it, are we?’

Another blast on the horn.

‘Finally!’ The moron in the Toyota Prius edged closer to the kerb and Logan floored the accelerator, sending the CID pool car roaring around the outside, hands wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel his left palm ached. ‘Time?’

‘Two minutes forty.’ Rennie grabbed the handle above the passenger door as Logan threw the manky Vauxhall around the Hazlehead roundabout. A screech of tyres, the pinging clunk of a plastic hub-cap parting company with one of the wheels. ‘Aaagh…’

‘Come on, come on.’ Logan overtook the 215 bus to Westhill — a Range Rover coming the other way slammed on its brakes, the driver wide-eyed and swearing.

Through the lights, ignoring oncoming traffic.

Logan wrenched the wheel to the left, the pool car’s back end kicking out as he chucked it around the corner onto Hazledean Drive.

Rennie squealed. Closed his eyes. ‘Oh God…’

‘Time?’

‘We’re going to die…’

‘TIME, YOU IDIOT!’

‘One minute fifty-six.’

A group of schoolchildren milled about outside the swimming pool, turning to watch as the car flashed past.

Logan changed down, aiming the Vauxhall at a rust-red speed bump. Catch it dead centre and the wheels would go either side of the four-foot-wide lump. No problem… The car lurched into the air, and battered back down against the potholed tarmac.

‘Are you trying to kill us?’ Rennie checked his watch again. ‘One minute thirty.’

The constable was right: they weren’t going to make it. Logan took the next speed hump without slowing down.

‘Aaaagh! One minute ten.’

Couldn’t even see the phone box yet.

‘Come on!’

The car slithered around the next corner, wheels kicking up a spray of grit as they fishtailed towards Hazlehead Park. No way in hell they were going to make it.

‘Thirty-nine, thirty-eight, thirty-seven, thirty-six…’ Rennie braced himself against the dashboard. ‘Maybe they’ll wait?’

Logan stuck his foot hard to the floor, rocking back and forth in his seat. ‘Come on you piece of shit.’ Left hand throbbing where it was wrapped around the wheel. Bushes flickered past the window, a drystane dyke little more than a grey knobbly blur. Sixty-five miles an hour. Sixty-six. Sixty-seven…

‘Five, four, three, two, one.’ Rennie cleared his throat. ‘Twenty past.’

The police radio crackled. ‘Control to Charlie Delta Fourteen, is she-’

Rennie snatched up the handset. ‘Still en route.’

‘Still en…? It’s twenty past-’ ‘We bloody know!’ Logan took another speed bump at seventy, the car jerking as it leapt into the air. This time when it hit the tarmac there was a loud metallic banging noise followed by a deafening growl. Then the whole car juddered, a scraping sound, and the rear wheels bounced over something.

Logan glanced in the rearview mirror. The exhaust was lying dented and battered in the middle of the road. ‘Tell them to get roadblocks up all round the park — every exit!’

One more corner, the engine roaring like an angry bear, and there it was. A British Telecom phone box — its Perspex skin covered with spray-paint tattoos — sitting outside the grubby concrete rectangle of a public toilet. No sign of anyone. No parked cars. No passersby.

The Vauxhall skidded to a halt in a cloud of pale dust. Logan hauled on the handbrake, tore off his seatbelt, jumped out, and sprinted for the phone box.

Silence, just the crunch of his feet on the gravel.

He yanked the box’s door open and was engulfed in the eye-watering reek of stale urine. The phone was sitting in the cradle, the shiny metal cord still in place. It was about the only thing in there that hadn’t been vandalized.

But it wasn’t ringing. ‘Time?’

Rennie staggered to a halt beside him, sunburnt face an even deeper shade of pink than usual. Panting. ‘Two minutes late.’ He twirled around on the spot. ‘Maybe they haven’t called yet? Maybe they’ve been held up? Or something…’ He stared at the padded brown envelope sitting on the shelf where a telephone directory should have been.

Logan dug a pair of blue nitrile gloves out of his pocket and hauled them on. He picked up the envelope. It was addressed to ‘THE COPS’.

Rennie wiped a hand across his mouth. ‘You think it’s for-’

‘Of course it is.’ The flap wasn’t sealed. Logan levered it open and peered inside. ‘Jesus.’

‘What? What did they…’

He reached inside and pulled out a crumpled ball of white paper, stained red in the centre. He eased the bundle open.

A little pale tube of flesh lay in the middle — a pink-varnished nail at one end, a bloody stump at the other. A little girl’s toe.

The wrapping paper was covered in congealed blood, but Logan could still make out the laser-printed message: ‘MAYBE NEXT TIME YOU WON’T BE LATE’.

Chapter 2

‘Did your mother find you under the idiot bush?’ DCI Finnie jabbed his finger toward the graffitied phone box, where a lone Investigation Bureau technician in full SOC get-up was dusting for prints. ‘Is that why you thought it’d be a good idea to compromise every tenet of evidentiary procedure by opening the envelope, when any halfwit-’

‘What if it was instructions? Where to go next?’ Logan jerked his chin forward. ‘Would you have left it?’

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