through his nose. ‘I swear to God. .’

Chalmers held up her notebook, like a small shield. ‘We got chassis numbers off all the cars, and guess what: I found my Range Rover.’ Pause. ‘The Range Rover on the CCTV? The one that ram-raided the off-licence? ’

‘What about the Golf? ’

‘Reported stolen at half ten this morning. According to Control: the registered keeper says he drove down the Kintore chippy for his tea Friday evening, came back and parked outside his mum’s house, and when he woke up it was gone.’ She checked her notes. ‘The car, not his mum’s house.’

‘Go see him. Tell him sod all, just rattle his cage and see what flies out.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Chalmers wrote something in her notebook, then stashed it away in her jacket. ‘I was right about the Colombian drug cartel thing, by the way. Had a boyfriend who downloaded videos of them hanging there, on fire like they were these. . horrible Christmas decorations. He always got really horny after watching them too.’ She wiped her hands down the front of her jacket, then rubbed the fingertips together, as if they were dirty. ‘I broke it off: way too creepy.’

Logan just stared at her.

‘Ah. . Too much information from the new girl. Right.’ Chalmers backed away a couple of steps. ‘I’ll go chase up that. . yes.’ And she was gone.

‘I know, I know, I’m sorry.’ Logan shifted the mobile from one side to the other, pinning it between his ear and his shoulder as he took the battered Fiat Punto around the Clinterty roundabout, heading back along the dual carriageway towards Aberdeen. ‘You know what she’s like.’

Samantha sighed. ‘Logan McRae, you’re not supposed to let her walk all over you any more. You know that. We talked about this.

He changed gear and put his foot down. The Punto’s diesel engine coughed and rattled, struggling to haul the car up the hill. ‘I’m going to be a little late.’

Pfff. . I’ll forgive you this time.

‘Good. I’ll even-’

On one condition: you wash the dishes.

‘Why’s it always my turn to wash the dishes? ’

Because you’re too cheap to buy a dishwasher.’ There was a pause. ‘Or a decent car.

A Toyota iQ wheeched past in the outside lane. One-litre engine, and it was still faster than the bloody Punto.

‘I’m not cheap, I’m just-’

“Prudent” is another way of saying “cheap”. Why I put up with you, I have no idea.’ But it sounded as if she was smiling as she said it. ‘Don’t be too late. And stand up for yourself next time!

‘Promise.’ Logan hung up and fumbled with the buttons until the words ‘DS RENNIE’ appeared on the screen.

Ringing. . Ringing. . Ringing. . Then, ‘Mmmph, nnnng. .’ A yawn. A groan. ‘Time is it?

Logan checked. ‘Just gone ten.’

Urgh. .’ Scuffing noises. ‘I’m not on till midnight.

‘Yeah, well I was supposed to be off at five, so I think I’m winning the “Who Gets To Whinge About Their Day” game, don’t you? Jewellery heist.’

Hold on. .’ A clunk, followed by what sounded like someone pouring a bottle of lemonade into a half-filled bath. ‘Unnnng. .

For God’s sake.

Logan grimaced. ‘You better not be in the toilet!’

A long, suspicious-sounding pause. ‘I’m not in the toilet, I’m. . in the kitchen. . making a cup of tea.

Disgusting little sod.

‘I want a list of suspects for that jewellery heist before you clock off, understand? Go round the pawnshops, the resetters, and every other scumbag we’ve ever done for accepting stolen goods.’

But it’s the middle of the-

‘I don’t care if you have to drag them out of their beds: you get me that list. Or better yet, an arrest!’

But I’m-

‘And while we’re at it, what’s happening with those hate crimes? ’

It’s not. . I. .’ His voice broke into a full-on whine. ‘What am I supposed to do? I’m on night shift!

‘Rennie, you’re. .’ Logan closed his mouth. Sagged a little in his seat as the Punto finally made it over the crest of the hill. It wasn’t really fair, was it: passing on the bollocking, just because Steel had had a go at him? ‘Sorry. I know. Just. . tell me where we are with it.’

No one’s talking. All the victims say they fell down the stairs and stuff. Even the guy with two broken ankles won’t blab.

‘Still all Chinese? ’

Latest one’s Korean. Makes it four Oriental males in the last month and a half.

‘Well. . do what you can.’

You heading back to the ranch?

‘Going to see a man about a drugs war.’

Yeah.’ Another yawn. Then a whoosing gurgle. ‘Oops. I just. . Emma must’ve. . em. . flushed the washing machine?

The young woman in the nurse’s uniform scowled up at him, one hand on the door knob. ‘I don’t like this. It’s late. You shouldn’t be here.’ Her eyebrows met in the middle, drawing a thick dark line through her curdled-porridge face, as if trying to emphasize the razor-straight fringe of her bottle-blonde hair. Small, but wide with it, arms like Popeye on steroids. Hard. Shoulders brushing the tastefully striped wallpaper of the hallway.

Logan shrugged. ‘He said it was OK, didn’t he? ’

‘I don’t like it.’ She swung the door open, then stood to the side, face puckered around two big green eyes. Her finger waved an inch from Logan’s nose. ‘I’m warning you: if you upset Mr Mowat. .’

A thin, shaky voice came from inside: a mix of public school and Aberdonian brogue, rough as gravel. ‘Chloe, is that Logan? ’

The waggling finger poked Logan in the chest, her voice a low growl. ‘Just watch it.’ Then she turned on a smile. It would have been nice to say it transformed her face, but it didn’t. ‘He’s just arrived, Mr Mowat.’

‘Well, don’t just stand there, show him in.’

The room must have been at least thirty foot long. A wall of glass looked out on a garden lurking in the darkness, the occasional bush and tree picked out by coloured spotlights. Wee Hamish Mowat nudged the joystick on the arm of his wheelchair and rolled across the huge Indian rug. His pale skin was mottled with liver spots and looked half a size too big for his skeletal frame, the hair on his head so fine that every inch of scalp was visible through the grey wisps. An IV drip was hooked onto the chair, the plastic tube disappearing into the back of his wrist. It wobbled as he reached out a trembling hand.

Logan took it and shook. It was hot, as if something burned deep beneath the skin. ‘Hamish, how have you been? ’

‘Like a buggered dog. You? ’

‘Getting there.’

A nod, setting the flaps of skin hanging under his chin rippling. Then he dug a handkerchief from the pocket of his grey cardigan and dabbed at the corner of his mouth. ‘Are you on duty, or will you take a wee dram? ’ He pointed at a big glass display case, full of bottles. ‘Chloe, be a dear and fetch the Dalmore. . No, the other one: the Astrum. Yes, that’s it.’

She thumped it down on the coffee table and gave Logan another glare. ‘It’s late, and you need your sleep, Mr Mowat.’

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