Rebus dropped the whisky bottle into the evidence bag and sealed it up. He was pretty certain it would reveal DNA and fingerprints belonging to Big Malky “Peer Boy” Offord. Offord had risen without trace in Edinburgh’s murky world of unelected junior ministers at the Scottish Office. Now, he was a prime suspect in the mystery of the disappearing glass bottle return scheme. As usual with Edinburgh, the story involved the highest and lowest of human motives. Rebus texted a note to DS Soibhom Clark to say he now had two suspects, Peer Boy Offord and Alister “Farmer” Jack.
Farmer Jack was the public face of a notorious gang that had been causing mayhem and havoc in Scotland for decades. Things the people wanted to happen didn’t happen because the gang controlled the country, even though they had no visible popular support in the leafy suburbs, gritty schemes or Highland villages.
The gang’s biggest crime was theft. It was not a normal theft. It was a truly gargantuan theft. The dastardly crime was done in full view of the people, even though the people shouted in huge numbers and very loudly, “Ye canny dae that.” They did it anyway. The loss was terrible. It made all of Scotland poorer, snatched opportunity away from its young people and trade from its businesses. It was a crime Scotland was told could never happen if it stayed wedded to the Scottish Office’s capo di tutti capi in London . We’ll be better together, said all the gang’s big bosses. Called Brexit, the crime remained unsolved and unpunished.
The majority of the news media in Scotland were happy to not to stir up feelings about Brexit, even though most of their readers, listeners and viewers were bloody furious about it. They were so furious they wanted the whole thing reversed.
Rebus was scunnered. He usually kept well away from the Scottish Office gang, preferring a quiet pint in The Oxford. But his ire was up. He’d discovered that Big Malky owned shares in a couple of whisky businesses and that the drinks industry had doshed up the gang to the tune of £20,000, not long before the glass bottle return scheme was to begin. Rebus knew a rat when he smelled one and he smelled one now. It wasn’t an offence in the same category as Brexit, but investigation was needed to establish the truth.
Chief Inspector Rebus could not say he was over-fond of the bunch that ran the Holyrood gang, but the Scottish Office lot had declared a gang war and were firing off their big guns in all directions.
Rebus was a Fifer and felt that Fife knew a thing or two about putting people in their place who get above themselves. Ordinary folk were always the victims in gang wars and he couldn’t have that.
An e-mail from the forensic science laboratory confirmed that Malky Offord had been in the vicinity of the whisky bottle and the £20,000.00. Rebus took a walk and burned through some cigarettes. He knew his Police Scotland superiors would have him over hot coals if he as much as suggested he was investigating the Scottish Office gang. He’d find another way to rattle their cage.
If John Rebus was a thorn in the flesh of the big bosses at police Scotland, he was much admired among the other ranks for his thrawn refusal to be brow-beaten, or just beaten. He had pals in every part of the land. His network was at its strongest in the Highlands, Islands and Grampians. This was handy as these are prime whisky producing parts of Auld Caledonia. Rebus hoped all their trucks were all 100% in perfect working order, as he stretched out a hand to make his first call. Sargent Donald Murdo McCrae answered the call as he drove over the Skye bridge.
“So, John, you say there’s been intelligence that evil forces opposed to a decent glass of Uisge Beath might be sabotaging whisky trucks, is that what you’re telling me? And we’ve to check every last truck coming on and off the island for the next three months, night and day?”
“I know it will annoy the hell out of the whisky folk but we can’t take any risks. By the way, Donald Murdo, not a word to anyone higher up. It’s a very leaky ship up on the bridge of Police Scotland.”
“Not a word, John. Not a word. Mind how you go.”