"You think I killed her, don't you?"
He sat well forward on the sofa, head slumped in towards his chest.
His hair was lank, long-fringed. Both knees worked like pistons,
the heels of his grubby trainers never meeting the floor.
"You on anything, David?" Rebus asked.
The young man looked up. His eyes were bloodshot, dark-rimmed. A
lean, angular face, bristles on the unshaved chin. His name was
David Costello. Not Dave or Davy: David, he'd made that clear.
Names, labels, classification: all very important. The media had
varied its descriptions of him. He was "the boyfriend", "the tragic
boyfriend", "the missing student's boyfriend". He was "David
Costello, 22" or "fellow student David Costello, in his early
twenties". He "shared a flat with Ms Balfour" or was "a frequent
visitor" to the "disappearance riddle flat".
Nor was the flat just a flat. It was "the flat in Edinburgh's
fashionable New Town", the "quarter-million flat owned by Ms
Balfour's parents". John and Jacqueline Balfour were "the numbed
family", "the shocked banker and his wife". Their daughter was
"Philippa, 20, a student of art history at the University of
Edinburgh". She was "pretty", "vivacious", "carefree", "full of
And now she was missing.
Detective Inspector John Rebus shifted position, from in front of
the marble fireplace to slightly to one side of it. David
Costello's eyes followed the move.
"The doctor gave me some pills," he said, finally answering the
"Did you take them?" Rebus asked.
The young man shook his head slowly, eyes still on Rebus.
"Don't blame you," Rebus said, sliding his hands into his pockets.
"Knock you out for a few hours, but they don't change
It was two days since Philippa - known to friends and family as
"Flip"- had gone missing. Two days wasn't long, but her
disappearance was out of character. Friends had called the flat at
around seven in the evening to confirm that Flip would be meeting
up with them within the hour at a bar on the South Side. It was one
of those small, trendy places which had sprung up around the
university, catering to an economic boom and the need for dim
lighting and overpriced flavoured vodkas. Rebus knew this because
he'd walked past it a couple of times on his way to and from his
place of work. There was an old-fashioned pub practically next
door, with vodka mixers at a pound-fifty. No trendy chairs though,
and serving staff who knew their way around a brawl but not a
Seven, seven fifteen, she probably left the flat. Tina, Trist,
Camille and Albie were already on their second round of drinks.
Rebus had consulted the files to confirm those names. Trist was
short for Tristram, and Albie was Albert. Trist was with Tina;
Albie was with Camille. Flip should have been with David, but
David, she explained on the phone, wouldn't be joining them.
"Another bust-up," she'd said, not sounding too concerned.
She'd set the flat's alarm before leaving. That was another first
for Rebus student digs with an alarm. And she'd done the mortice
lock as well as the Yale, leaving the flat secure. Down a single
flight of stairs and out into the warm night air. A steep hill
separated her from Princes Street. Another climb from there would
take her to the Old Town, the South Side. No way she'd be walking.
But records from her home telephone and mobile had failed to find a
match for any taxi firm in the city. So if she'd taken one, she'd
hailed it on the street.
If she'd got as far as hailing one.
"I didn't, you know," David Costello said.
"Didn't what, sir?"
"Didn't kill her."
"Nobody's saying you did."
"No?" He looked up again, directly into Rebus's eyes.
"No," Rebus assured him, that being his job after all.
"The search warrant . . ." Costello began.
"It's standard, any case of this kind," Rebus explained. It was,
too: suspicious disappearance, you checked all the places the
person might be. You went by the book: all the paperwork signed,
clearance given. You searched the boyfriend's flat. Rebus could
have added: we do it because nine times out of ten, it's someone
the victim knows. Not a stranger, plucking prey from the night.
It was your loved ones who killed you: spouse, lover, son or
daughter. It was your uncle, your closest friend, the one person
you trusted. They'd been cheating on you, or you'd cheated them.
You knew something, you had something. They were jealous, spurned,
If Flip Balfour was dead, her body would turn up soon; if she was
alive and didn't want to be found, then the job would be more
difficult. Her parents had appeared on TV, pleading with her to
make contact. Police were at the family home, intercepting calls in
case any ransom demand should arrive. Police were wandering through
David Costello's flat on the Canongate, hoping to turn up
something. And police were here - in Flip Balfour's flat. They were
"babysitting" David Costello - stopping the media from getting too
close. This was what the young man had been told, and it was partly
Flip's flat had been searched the previous day. Costello had keys,
even to the alarm system. The phone to Costello's own feat had come
at ten p.m.: Trist, asking if he'd heard from Flip, only she'd been
on her way to Shapiro's and hadn't turned up.
"She's not with you, is she?"
"I'm the last person she'd come to," Costello had complained.
"Heard you'd fallen out. What is it this time?" Trist's voice had
been slurred, ever-so-slightly amused. Costello hadn't answered
him. He'd cut the call and tried Flip's mobile, got her answering
service, left a message asking her to phone him. Police had
listened to the recording, concentrating on nuance, trying to read
falseness into each word or phrase. Trist had phoned Costello again
at midnight. The group had been to Flip's flat: no one home. They'd
been ringing round, but none of her friends seemed to know
anything. They waited until Costello himself arrived at the flat,
unlocking it. No sign of Flip inside.
In their minds, she was already a Missing Person, what police
called a "MisPer", but they'd waited till next morning before
calling Flip's mother at the family home in East Lothian. Mrs
Balfour had wasted no time, dialing 999 immediately. After
receiving what she felt was short shrift from the police
switchboard, she'd called her husband at his London office. John
Balfour was the senior partner in a private bank, and if the Chief
Constable of Lothian and Borders Police wasn't a client, someone
certainly was: within an hour, officers were on the case - orders
from the Big House, meaning Force HQ in Fettes Avenue.
David Costello had unlocked the flat for the two CID men. Within,
they found no signs of a disturbance, no clues as to Philippa
Balfour's whereabouts, fate, or state of mind. It was a tidy flat:
stripped floors, fresh paint on the walls. (The decorator was being
interviewed, too.) The drawing room was large, with twin windows
rising from floor level. There were two bedrooms, one turned into a
study. The designer kitchen was smaller than the pine-paneled
bathroom. There was a lot of David Costello's stuff in the bedroom.
Someone had piled his clothes on a chair, then placed some books
and CDs on top, crowning the structure with a wash-bag.
When asked, Costello could only assume it was Flip's work. His
words: "We'd had a falling-out. This was probably her way of
dealing with it." Yes, they'd had arguments before, but no, she'd
never piled up all his stuff, not that he could remember. John
Balfour had traveled to Scotland by private jet - loaned him by an
understanding client - and was at the New Town flat almost before
"Well?" had been his first question. Costello himself offered an
answer: "I'm sorry."
Much had been read into those words by CID officers, discussing the
case in private. An argument with your girlfriend turns nasty; next
you know, she's dead; you hide the body but, confronted by her
father, innate breeding takes over and you blurt out a
So many ways to read those two short words. Sorry we argued; sorry
you've been troubled; sorry this has happened; sorry I didn't look
after her; sorry for what I've done . . .
And now David Costello's parents were in town, too. They'd taken
two rooms at one of the best hotels. They lived on the outskirts of
Dublin. The father, Thomas, was described as "independently
wealthy", while the mother, Theresa, worked as an interior
Two rooms: there'd been some discussion back at St Leonard's as to
why they'd need two rooms. But then, when David was their only son,
why did they bother to live in an eight-bedroom house?
There'd been even more discussion about what St Leonard's was doing
in a New Town case. The nearest cop shop to the flat was Gayfield
Square, but additional officers had been drafted in from Leith, St
Leonard's and Torphichen. "Someone's been pulling strings," was the
universal view. "Drop everything, some posh bit's done a
Privately, Rebus didn't disagree.
"Do you want anything?" he said now. "Tea? Coffee?"
Costello shook his head.
"Mind if I . . . ?"
Costello looked at him, seeming not to understand. Then realisation
dawned. "Go ahead," he said. "The kitchen's . . ." He started to
"I know where it is, thanks," Rebus said. He closed the door after
him and stood for a moment in the hallway, glad to be out of the
stifling drawing room. His temples throbbed and the nerves behind
his eyes felt stretched. There were sounds coming from the study.
Rebus stuck his head round the door.
"I'm sticking the kettle on."
"Good idea." Detective Constable Siobhan Clarke didn't take her
eyes from the computer screen.
"Nothing yet. Letters to friends, some of her essays. I've got
about a thousand e-mails to go through. Her password would
"Mr. Costello says she never told him."
Clarke cleared her throat.
What does that mean?" Rebus asked.
"It means my throat's tickly," Clarke said. "Just milk in mine,
Rebus left her and went into the kitchen, filled the kettle and
searched for mugs and tea-bags.
When can I go home?"
Rebus turned to where Costello was standing in the hall.
"Might be better if you didn't," Rebus told him. "Reporters and
cameras . . . they'll keep on at you, phoning day and night."
"I'll take the phone off the hook."
"Be like being a prisoner." Rebus watched the young man shrug. He
said something Rebus didn't catch.
"I can't stay here," Costello repeated.
"I don't know . . . it's just . . ." He shrugged again, ran his
hands through his hair, pulling it back from his forehead. "Flip
should be here. It's almost too much. I keep remembering that the
last time we were here together, we were having a row."
"What was it about?"
Costello laughed hollowly. "I can't even remember."
"This was the day she disappeared?"
"The afternoon, yes. I stormed out."
"You argue a lot then?" Rebus tried to make the question sound
Costello just stood there, staring into space, head shaking slowly.
Rebus turned away, separated two Darjeeling tea-bags and dropped
them into the mugs. Was Costello unraveling? Was Siobhan Clarke
listening from behind the study door? They were babysitting
Costello, yes, part of a team running three eight-hour shifts, but
they'd brought him here for another reason, too. Ostensibly, he was
on hand to explain names that occurred in Philippa Balfour's
correspondence. But Rebus had wanted him there because just maybe
it was the scene of the crime. And just maybe David Costello had
something to hide. The betting at St Leonard's was even money; you
could get two-to-one at Torphichen, while Gayfield had him odds-on
"Your parents said you could move into their hotel," Rebus said. He
turned to face Costello. "They've booked two rooms, so one's
probably going spare."
Costello didn't take the bait. He watched the detective for a few
seconds more, then turned away, putting his head around the study
"Have you found what you're looking for?" he asked.
"It could take some time, David," Siobhan said. "Best just to let
us get on with it."
"You won't find any answers in there." He meant the computer
screen. When she didn't answer, he straightened a little and angled
his head. "You're some sort of expert, are you?"
"It's something that has to be done." Her voice was quiet, as
though she didn't want it to carry beyond the room.
He seemed about to add something, but thought better of it, and
stalked back towards the drawing room instead. Rebus took Clarke's
"Now that's class," she said, examining the tea-bag floating in the
"Wasn't sure how strong you'd want it," Rebus explained. "What did
She considered for a moment. "Seems genuine enough."
"Maybe you're just a sucker for a pretty face."
She snorted, fished the tea-bag out and tipped it into the waste
bin. "Maybe," she said. "So what's your thinking?"
"Press conference tomorrow," Rebus reminded her. "Reckon we car
persuade Mr. Costello to make a public appeal?"
Two detectives from Gayfield Square had the evening shift. Rebus
headed home and started to fill a bath. He felt like a long soak,
and squeezed some washing-up liquid under the hot tap, remembering
it was something his parents had done when he was a kid. You came
in muddy from the football pitch, and it was a hot bath with
washing-up liquid. It wasn't that the family couldn't afford
bubble-bath: "It's just washing liquid at a posh price," his mother
Philippa Balfour's bathroom had boasted over a dozen different
"balms", "bathing lotions" and "foaming oils". Rebus did his own
stock-take: razor, shaving cream, toothpaste and a single
toothbrush, plus a bar of soap. In the medicine cabinet: sticking
plasters, paracetamol and a packet of condoms. He looked in the
packet--one left. The sell-by was the previous summer. When he
closed the cabinet, he met the gaze of his reflection. Grey-faced,
hair streaked grey, too. Jowly, even when he stuck out his chin.
Tried smiling, saw teeth which had missed their last two
appointments. His dentist was threatening to strike him from his
"Get in line, pal," Rebus muttered, turning away from the mirror
The retirement party for Detective Chief Superintendent "Farmer"
Watson had commenced at six. It was actually the third or fourth
party of its kind, but was to be the last - and the only official
gathering. The Police Club on Leith Walk had been decked out with
streamers, balloons and a huge banner which read FROM UNDER ARREST
TO A WELL-DESERVED REST. Someone had dumped a bale of straw on the
dance-floor, completing the farmyard scene with an inflatable pig
and sheep. The bar was doing roaring business when Rebus arrived.
He'd passed a trio of departing Big House brass on his way in.
Checked his watch: six forty. They'd given the retiring DCS forty
minutes of their valuable time.
There'd been a presentation earlier in the day at St Leonard's.
Rebus had missed it; he'd been babysitting at the time. But he'd
heard about the speech made by Assistant Chief Constable Colin
Carswell. Several officers from the Farmer's previous postings some
now retired themselves were on hand to say a few words. They'd
stuck around for the evening's proceedings, and looked to have been
drinking the afternoon away: ties discarded or hanging limply
askew, faces shiny with alcoholic heat. One man was singing, his
voice battling the music from the ceiling-mounted
"What can I get you, John?" the Farmer said, leaving his table to
join Rebus at the bar.
"Maybe a small whisky, sir."
"Half-bottle of malt over here when you've a minute!" the Farmer
roared at the barman, who was busy topping up pints of lager. The
Farmer's eyes narrowed as he focused on Rebus. "Did you see those
buggers from the Big House?"
"Passed them as I came in."
"Bloody orange juices all round, then a quick handshake before
home." The Farmer was concentrating on not slurring his words,
overcompensating as a result. "Never really understood the phrase
"biscuit-ersed" before, but that's what those lot were:
biscuit-ersed to a man!"
Rebus smiled, told the barman to make it an Ardbeg.
"A bloody double, mind," the Farmer ordered.
"Been enjoying a drink yourself, sir?" Rebus asked.
The Farmer blew out his cheeks. "Few old pals came to see me off."
He nodded in the direction of the table. Rebus looked, too. He saw
a posse of drunks. Beyond them stood tables spread with a buffet:
sandwiches, sausage rolls, crisps and peanuts. He saw faces he knew
from all the Lothian and Borders Divisional HQs. Macari, Allder,
Shug Davidson, Roy Frazer. Bill Pryde was in conversation with
Bobby Hogan. Grant Hood was standing next to a couple of Crime
Squad officers called Claverhouse and Ormiston, and trying not to
look as though he was sucking up to them. George "Hi-Ho" Silvers
was finding that DC Phyllida Hawes and DS Ellen Wylie weren't about
to fall for his chat-up lines. Jane Barbour from the Big House was
exchanging gossip with Siobhan Clarke, who'd at one time been
attached to Barbour's Sex Offences Unit.
"If anyone knew about this," Rebus said, "the bad guys would have a
field day. Who's left to mind the store?"
The Farmer laughed. "It's a skeleton crew at St Leonard's, all
"Good turn-out. Wonder if I'd get as many at mine."
"More, I'd bet." The Farmer leaned close. "The brass would all be
there for a start, just to make sure they weren't dreaming." It was
Rebus's turn to smile. He lifted his glass, toasted his boss. They
both savoured their drinks, then the Farmer smacked his lips.
"How long d'you think?" he asked.
Rebus shrugged. "I've not got my thirty yet."
"Can't be long though, can it?"
"I'm not counting." But he was lying: most weeks he thought about
it. "Thirty" meant thirty years of service. That was when your
pension hit the max. It was what a lot of officers lived for:
retirement in their fifties and a cottage by the sea.
"Here's a story I don't often tell," the Farmer said. "My first
week on the force, they had me working the front desk, graveyard
shift. This young lad not even in his teens - comes in, walks
straight up to the desk. "I've broke my wee sister," he says." The
Farmer's eyes were staring into space. "I can see him now, the way
he looked, the exact words . . . "I've broke my wee sister." I
hadn't a clue what he meant. Turned out he'd pushed her down the
stairs, killed her." He paused, took another gulp of whisky. "My
first week on the force. Know what my sergeant said? "It can only
get better."" He forced a smile. "I've never been sure he was right
. . ." Suddenly his arms went into the air, the smile broadening
into a grin. "Here she is! Here she is! Just when I thought I was
being stood up."
His embrace almost swamped DCI Gill Templer. The Farmer planted a
kiss on her cheek. "You're not the floor-show by any chance?" he
asked. Then he mimed a slap to his forehead. "Sexist language - are
you going to report me?"
"I'll let it go this time," Gill said, "in exchange for a
"My shout," Rebus said. "What'll you have?"
Bobby Hogan was yelling for the Farmer to go settle an
"Duty calls," the Farmer said by way of an apology, before heading
unsteadily across the floor.
"His party piece?" Gill guessed.
Rebus shrugged. The Farmer's speciality was naming all the books of
the Bible. His record was just under a minute; no way would it be
"Long vodka," Rebus told the barman. He raised his whisky glass.
"And a couple more of these." He saw Gill's look. "One's for the
Farmer," he explained.
"Of course." She was smiling, but the smile didn't reach her
"Fixed a date for your own bash?" Rebus asked.
"Which one is that?"
"I just thought, first female DCS in Scotland . . . got to be worth
a night out, hasn't it?"
"I drank a Babycham when I heard." She watched the barman dribble
angostura into her glass. "How's the Balfour case?"
Rebus looked at her. "Is this my new Chief Super asking?"
"John . . ."
Funny how that single word could say so much. Rebus wasn't sure he
caught all the nuances, but he caught enough.
John, don't push this.
John, I know there's a history between us, but that's
Gill Templer had worked her arse off to get where she was now, but
she was also under the microscope - plenty of people would want her
to fail, including some she probably counted as friends.
Rebus just nodded and paid for the drinks, tipping one of the
whiskies into the other glass.
"Saving him from himself," he said, nodding towards the Farmer, who
was already on to the New Testament.
"Always the willing martyr," Gill said.
A cheer went up as the Farmer's recitation finished. Someone said
it was a new record, but Rebus knew it wasn't. It was just another
gesture, another version of the gold watch or mantel-clock. The
malt tasted of seaweed and peat, but Rebus knew that whenever he
drank Ardbeg from now on, he'd think of a small boy walking through
the doors of a police station . . .
Siobhan Clarke was making her way across the room.
"Congratulations," she said.
The two women shook hands.
"Thanks, Siobhan," Gill said. "Maybe it'll be you one day."
"Why not?" Siobhan agreed. "Glass ceiling's what truncheons are
for." She punched her fist into the air above her head.
"Need a drink, Siobhan?" Rebus asked.
The two women shared a look. "About all they're good for," Siobhan
said with a wink. Rebus left the pair of them laughing.
The karaoke started at nine. Rebus went to the toilets and felt the
sweat cooling on his back. His tie was already off and in his
pocket. His jacket was slung over one of the chairs near the bar.":
1sornel at the party changed as some headed off, either to prepare
for the night shift or because their mobile or pager had news for
there. Others arrived, having been home to change out of work
clothes. A female officer from the St. Leonard's comms room had
turned up in a short skirt, the first time Rebus had seen her legs
A rowdy quartet from one of the Farmer's postings in West Lothian
arrived bearing photos of the Farmer from a quarter-century before.
They'd slipped a few doctored prints into the mix, grafting the
Farmer's head on to beefcake bodies, some of them in positions
which went several leagues beyond compromising.
Rebus washed his hands, splashing some of the water on to his face
and the back of his neck. Then of course there was only an electric
hand-drier, so he had to use his handkerchief as a towel. Which was
when Bobby Hogan walked in.
"See you're bottling it too," Hogan said, making for the
"Ever heard me sing, Bobby?"
"We should do a duet: "There's a Hole in My Bucket"."
"We'd be about the only buggers who knew it."
Hogan chuckled. "Remember when it was us that were the young
"Long dead," Rebus said, half to himself. Hogan thought he'd
misheard, but Rebus just shook his head.
"So who's next for the golden cheery-bye?" Hogan asked, ready to
head out again.
"Not me," Rebus stated.
Rebus was wiping at his neck again. "I can't retire, Bobby. It
would kill me."
Hogan snorted. "Same here. But then the job's killing me too." The
two men studied one another, then Hogan winked and yanked open the
door. They walked back out into the heat and noise, Hogan opening
his arms wide to greet an old friend. One of the Farmer's cronies
pushed a glass towards Rebus.
Rebus nodded, sucked at where some had spilled on to the back of
his hand, then, picturing a small boy with news to impart, raised
the glass and downed it.
He took the set of keys from his pocket and unlocked the main door
of the tenement block. The keys were shiny new, cut just that day.
His shoulder rubbed against the wall as he headed for the stairs,
and he kept a tight grip on the banister as he climbed. The second
and third shiny keys unlocked the door to Philippa Balfour's
There was no one inside, and the alarm hadn't been set. He switched
on the lights. The loose rug underfoot seemed to want to wrap
itself around his ankles, and he had to fight his way loose,
holding on to the wall. The rooms were just as he'd left them,
except that the computer was now missing from its desk, having been
transferred to the station, where Siobhan was certain someone from
Balfour's Internet service provider could help bypass the
In the bedroom, someone had removed the neat pile of David
Costello's clothes from the chair. Rebus presumed the culprit to be
Costello himself. He wouldn't have done so without permission
nothing left the flat unless okayed by the bosses. Forensics would
have checked the clothes first, maybe taken samples from them.
Already there were rumours of belt-tightening. A case like this,
the cost could spiral skywards like smoke.
In the kitchen, Rebus poured himself a big glass of water and went
through to sit in the drawing room, pretty much where David
Costello had sat. A little of the water dribbled down his chin. The
paintings on the walls framed abstracts - were playing tricks,
moving with him as he moved his eyes. He bent down to place the
empty glass on the floor, and ended up on his hands and knees. Some
bastard had spiked the drinks, only explanation. He turned and sat
down, closed his eyes for a moment. MisPers: sometimes you worried
in vain; they either turned up, or didn't want to be found. So many
of them . . . photos and descriptions were always passing through
the office, the faces slightly out of focus as though they were in
the process of becoming ghosts. He blinked open his eyes and raised
them to the ceiling, with its ornate cornicing. Big flats, the New
Town had, but Rebus preferred it where he lived: more shops, not
quite so smug . . .
The Ardbeg, it had to've been spiked. He probably wouldn't drink it
again. It would come with its own ghost. He wondered what had
happened to the boy: had it been accident or design? The boy would
be a parent himself these days, maybe even a grandparent. Did he
still dream about the sister he'd killed? Did he remember the
young, nervous uniform standing behind the reception desk? Rebus
ran his hands over the floor. It was bare wood, sanded and sealed.
They hadn't taken the boards up, not yet. He felt for a gap between
two planks and dug his nails in, but couldn't get any purchase.
Somehow he knocked the glass and it started rolling, the noise
filling the room. Rebus watched it until it stopped in tile
doorway, progress blocked by a pair of feet.
"What in the hell's going on?"
Rebus stood up. The man in front of him was in his raid-forties,
hands in the pockets of E:. three-quarter-length black woolen
overcoat. The man opened his stance a little, filling the doorway
"Who are you?" Rebus asked.
The man slid a hand from his pocket, angled it towards his ear. He
was holding a mobile phone. "I'm calling the police," he
"I'm a police officer." Rebus reached into his own pocket, brought
out his warrant card. "DI Rebus."
The man studied the card and handed it back. "I'm John Balfour," he
said, his voice losing a little of its edge. Rebus nodded; he'd
already figured as much.
"Sorry if I . . ." Rebus didn't finish the sentence. As he put the
warrant card away, his left knee unlocked for a second.
"You've been drinking," Balfour said.
"Sorry, yes. Retirement do. Not on duty or anything, if that's what
"Then might I ask what you're doing in my daughter's flat?"
"You might," Rebus agreed. He looked around. "Just wanted to . . .
well, I suppose I . . ." But he couldn't find the words.
"Will you leave, please?"
Rebus bowed his head a little. "Of course." Balfour moved so that
Rebus could pass him without any contact. Rebus stopped in the
hallway, half turned, ready with a further apology, but Philippa
Balfour's father had walked over to the drawing-room window and was
staring out at the night, hands gripping the shutters at either
He walked downstairs quietly, halfway sober now, closed the main
door after him, not looking back, not looking up at the first-floor
window. The streets were deserted, pavements glistening from an
earlier downpour, street light reflected in them. Rebus's shoes
were the only noise to be heard as he started the climb back up the
slope: Queen Street, George Street, Princes Street, and then North
Bridge. People were heading home from pubs, seeking taxis and lost
friends. Rebus took a left at the Tron Kirk and headed down the
Canongate. A patrol car was parked curbside, two bodies inside: one
awake, the other asleep. They were detective constables from
Gayfield, and had either drawn the short straw or were disliked by
their boss: no other way to explain this thankless night-shift.
Rebus was just another passer-by to the one who was awake. He had a
newspaper folded in front of him, angled towards what light there
was. When Rebus thumped the roof of the patrol car, the paper flew,
landing on the head of the sleeper, who jerked awake and clawed at
the smothering sheets.
As the passenger-side window was wound down, Rebus leaned on the
sill. "Your one o'clock alarm call, gentlemen."
"I nearly shat myself," the passenger said, trying to gather up his
newspaper. His name was Pat Connolly, and he'd spent his first few
years in CID waging a campaign against the nickname "Paddy". His
colleague was Tommy Daniels, who seemed at ease - as he did in all
things - with his own nickname of "Distant". Tommy to TomTom to
Distant Drums to Distant was the logic behind the name, but it also
said much about the young man's character. Having been so rudely
awakened from sleep, upon seeing and recognising Rebus all he'd
done was roll his eyes.
"Could've fetched us a coffee," Connolly was complaining.
"Could have," Rebus agreed. "Or maybe a dictionary." He glanced
towards the newspaper crossword. Less than a quarter of the grid
had been filled in, while the puzzle itself was ringed by doodles
and unsolved anagrams. "Quiet night?"
"Apart from foreigners asking directions," Connolly said. Rebus
smiled and looked up and down the street. This was the heart of
tourist Edinburgh. A hotel up by the traffic lights, a knitwear
shop across the street. Fancy gifts and shortbread and whisky
decanters. A kiltmaker's only fifty yards away. John Knox's house,
hunched against its neighbours, half hidden in scowling shadow. At
one time, the Old Town had been all there was of Edinburgh: a
narrow spine running from the Castle to Holyrood, steep vennels
leading off like crooked ribs. Then, as the place became ever more
crowded and insanitary, the New Town had been built, its Georgian
elegance a calculated snub to the Old Town and those who couldn't
afford to move. Rebus found it interesting that while Philippa
Balfour had chosen the New Town, David Costello had elected to live
in the heart of the Old.
"Is he home?" he said now.
"Would we be here if he wasn't?" Connolly's eyes were on his
partner, who was pouring tomato soup from a thermos. Distant
sniffed the liquid hesitantly, then took a quick gulp. "Actually,
you could be the very man we want."
Rebus looked at him. "Oh aye?"
"Settle an argument. Deacon Blue, "Wages Day" - first album or
Rebus smiled. "It has been a quiet night." Then, after a moment's
"Ten notes you owe me," Connolly told Distant.
"Mind if I ask one?" Rebus had crouched down, felt his knees crack
with the effort.
"Fire away," Connolly said.
"What do you do if you need a pee?"
Connolly smiled. "If Distant's asleep, I just use his
The mouthful of soup almost exploded from Distant's nostrils. Rebus
straightened up, feeling the blood pound in his ears: weather
warning, forgotten hangover on its way.
"You going in?" Connolly asked. Rebus looked at the tenement
Thinking about it."
"We'd have to make a note."
Rebus nodded. "I know."
"Just come from the Farmer's leaving do?"
Rebus turned towards the car. "What's your point?"
"Well, you've had a drink, haven't you? Might not be the best time
for a house call . . . sir."
"You're probably right . . . Paddy," Rebus said, making for the
"Remember what you asked me?"
Rebus had accepted a black coffee from David Costello. Popped two
paracetamol from their foil shroud and washed them down. Middle of
the night, but Costello hadn't been asleep. Black T-shirt, black
jeans, bare feet. He'd made an off-license run at some point: the
bag was lying on the floor, the half-bottle of Bell's sitting not
far from it, top missing but only a couple of decent measures down.
Not a drinker then, Rebus surmised. It was a non-drinker's idea of
how you handled a crisis - you drank whisky, but had to buy some
first, and no point lashing out on a whole bottle. A couple of
drinks would do you.
The living room was small, the flat itself reached from a turreted
stairwell, winding ever upwards, the stone steps worn concave. Tiny
windows. They'd planned this building in a century where heat was a
luxury. The smaller the windows, the less heat you lost.
The living room was separated from the kitchen only by a step and
what looked like partition walls. An open doorway, double-width.
Signs that Costello liked to cook: pots and pans hanging from
butcher's hooks. The living area was all books and CDs. Rebus had
trawled the latter: John Martyn, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell.
Laid-back but cerebral. The books looked like stuff from Costello's
English literature course.
Costello was seated on a red futon; Rebus had chosen one of two
straightbacked wooden chairs. They looked like the stuff he saw on
Causewayside, placed outside shops for which the description
"antique" encompassed school desks from the sixties and green
filing cabinets salvaged from office refits.
Costello ran his hand through his hair, didn't say anything.
"You asked if I thought you did it," Rebus said, answering his own
"Killed Flip. I think that's how you phrased it: "You think I
killed her, don't you?""
Costello nodded. "It's so obvious, isn't it? We'd fallen out. I
accept that you have to regard me as a suspect."
"David, right now you're the only suspect."
"You really think something's happened to her?"
"What do you think?"
Costello shook his head. "I've done nothing but rack my brains
since this all started."
They sat in silence for a few moments.
"What are you doing here?" Costello asked suddenly.
"As I said, it's on my way home. You like the Old Town?"
"Bit different from the New. You didn't want to move nearer
"What are you trying to say?"
Rebus shrugged. "Maybe it says something about the pair of you, the
parts of town you prefer."
Costello laughed drily. "You Scots can be so reductive."
"Old Town versus New, Catholic/Protestant, east coast/west . . .
Things can be a mite more complicated than that."
"Attraction of opposites, that's all I was getting at." There was
another silence between them. Rebus scanned the room.
"Didn't make a mess then?"
"The search party."
"Could have been worse."
Rebus took a sip of coffee, pretended to savour it. "You wouldn't
have left the body here though, would you? I mean, only perverts do
that sort of thing." Costello looked at him. "Sorry, I'm being . .
mean, it's just theoretical. I'm not trying to say anything. But
the forensics, they weren't looking for a body. They deal in things
you and me can't even see. Flecks of blood, fibres, a single hair."
Rebus shook his head slowly. "Juries eat that stuff up. The old
idea of policing, it's going out the window." He put down the
gloss-black mug, reached into a pocket for his cigarette packet.
"Mind if I . . .?"
Costello hesitated. "Actually, I'll take one from you if that's all
"Be my guest." Rebus took one out of the packet, lit it, then
tossed both packet and lighter to the younger man. "Roll yourself a
joint if you like," he added. "I mean, if that's your thing."
"Student life must be a bit different these days."
Costello exhaled, studying the cigarette as if it was something
alien to him. "I'd assume it is," he said.
Rebus smiled. Just two grown-ups having a smoke and a chat. The wee
sma' hours and all that. A time for honesty, the outside world
asleep, no one eavesdropping. He got up and walked over to the
bookshelves. "How did you and Flip meet?" he asked, picking a book
at random and flipping through it.
"Dinner party. We clicked straight away. Next morning, after
breakfast, we took a walk through Warriston Cemetery. That was when
I first felt that I loved her...I mean, that it wasn't just going
to be a one-night stand."
"You like films?" Rebus said. He was noticing that one shelf seemed
to be all books about movies.
Costello looked over towards him. "I'd like to try writing a script
"Good for you." Rebus had opened another book. It seemed to be a
sequence of poems about Alfred Hitchcock. "You didn't go to the
hotel?" he asked after a pause.
"But you've seen your parents?"
"Yes." Costello took another draw, sucking the life from the
cigarette. He realised he'd no ashtray and looked around for
something suitable: candle-holders, one for Rebus and one for
Turning from the bookshelves, Rebus's foot brushed something: a
metal toy soldier, no more than an inch high. He stooped to pick it
The musket had been snapped off, the head twisted over to one side.
He didn't think he was responsible. Rebus placed it quietly on a
shelf before sitting down again.
"Did they cancel the other room then?" he asked.
"They sleep in separate rooms, Inspector." Costello looked up from
where he'd been tidying the tip of the cigarette against the rim of
the makeshift ashtray. "Not a crime, is it?"
"I'm not best placed to judge. My wife left me more years ago than
I can remember."
"I'll bet you do remember."
Rebus smiled again. "Guilty."
Costello rested his head against the back of the futon, stifled a
"I should go," Rebus said.
"Finish your coffee at least."
Rebus had already finished it, but nodded anyway, not about to
leave unless pushed out. "Maybe she'll turn up. People do things
sometimes, don't they? Take a notion to head for the hills."
"Flip was hardly the hill-heading type."
"But she could have had a mind to take off somewhere."
Costello shook his head. "She knew they were waiting for her in the
bar. She wouldn't have forgotten that."
"No? Say she'd just met someone else . . . you know, an impulse
thing, like in that advert."
"It's possible, isn't it?"
Costello's eyes darkened. "I don't know. It was one of the things I
thought about - whether she'd met someone else."
"You dismissed it?"
"Because something like that, she'd have told me. That's the way
Flip is: doesn't matter if it's a grand's worth of designer dress
or a Concorde flight courtesy of her parents, she can't keep it to
"Don't we all, from time to time?"
"She wouldn't pull a stunt, would she, just to get us all looking
"Fake her own disappearance?" Costello shook his head, then stifled
another yawn. "Maybe I should get some sleep."
"What time's the press conference?"
"Early afternoon. Something to do with catching the main news
Rebus nodded. "Don't be nervous out there, just be yourself."
Costello stubbed out his cigarette. "Who else could I be?" He made
to hand the packet and lighter back to Rebus.
"Keep them. Never know when you might feel the need." He got to his
feet. The blood was beating in his skull now, despite the
paracetamol. That's the way Flip is: Costello had spoken of her in
the present tense - a casual remark, or something more calculated?
Costello stood up too, now, and he was smiling, though without much
"You never did answer that question, did you?" he said.
"I'm keeping an open mind, Mr. Costello."
"Are you now?" Costello slipped his hands into his pockets. "Will I
see you at the press conference?"
"And will you be on the lookout for slips of the tongue? Something
like your forensic buds?" Costello's eyes narrowed. "I may be the
only suspect, but I'm not stupid."
"Then you'll appreciate we're on the same side . . . unless you
Why did you come here tonight? You're not on duty, are you?"
Rebus took a step closer. "Know what they used to think, Mr.
Costello? They thought murder victims kept an imprint of their
killer on their eyeballs - last thing they ever saw. Some killers,
they gouged out the eyes after death."
"But we're not so naive these days, Inspector, are we? You can't
hope to know someone, to get the measure of them, just from eye
contact." Costello leaned in towards Rebus, his eyes widening
slightly. "Take a good long look, because the exhibit's about to
Rebus met the gaze, returned it. Costello was the first to blink,
breaking the spell. Then he turned away and told Rebus to leave. As
Rebus made for the door, Costello called out to him. He was wiping
the cigarette packet with a handkerchief. He did the same with the
lighter, then tossed both items towards Rebus. They fell at his
"I think your need's probably greater than mine."
Rebus stooped to pick them up. "Why the handkerchief?"
"Can't be too careful," Costello said. "Evidence can turn up in the
Rebus straightened, decided against saying anything. At the door,
Costello called out goodnight to him. Rebus was halfway down the
stairwell before he returned the sentiment. He was thinking about
the way Costello had wiped both lighter and packet. All the years
he'd been on the force, he'd never seen a suspect do anything like
that. It had meant Costello was expecting to be set up.
Or, perhaps, that was what it was intended to look like. But it had
shown Rebus a side of the young man that was cool and calculating.
It showed someone who was capable of thinking ahead...
Excerpted from THE FALLS: The Inspector Rebus Series #14 ©
Copyright 2011 by Ian Rankin. Reprinted with permission by St.
Martin's Minotaur, an imprint of St. Martin's Press. All rights
The Falls: The Inspector Rebus Series #14