Crime, p.1Irvine Welsh
About the Book
About the Author
Also by Irvine Welsh
Prelude: The Storm
2. Miami Beach
3. Fort Lauderdale
4. Edinburgh (1)
5. Two Ladies
7. Edinburgh (2)
8. Everything But the Girl
10. The Best Shake in Florida
11. Road Trip
13. Edinburgh (3)
14. Sea Legs
15. Fishing For Friends
16. Alligator Alley
17. Edinburgh (4)
19. Edinburgh: Two Dark Summers
20. Sales Conference
Six Days Later
About the Book
Bereft of both youth and ambition, Detective Inspector Ray Lennox has fled to Miami to escape the aftermath of a mental breakdown induced by stress and cocaine abuse, and a harrowing child sex murder case back in Edinburgh. But his his fiancée, Trudi, is only interested in planning their wedding, and a bitter argument between them sees Lennox cast adrift in Florida. A coke-fuelled binge brings him into contact with another victim of sexual predation, ten-year-old Tianna, and Lennox flees across the state with his terrified charge, determined to protect her at any cost. But can Lennox still trust his own instincts? And can he handle her inappropriate sexuality, while still trying to get to grips with the Edinburgh murder?
About the Author
Irvine Welsh is the author of twelve works of fiction, most recently Skagboys. He currently lives in Chicago.
ALSO BY IRVINE WELSH
The Acid House
Marabou Stork Nightmares
The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs
If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work …
You’ll Have Had Your Hole
Babylon Heights (with Dean Cavanagh)
The Acid House
For Dean Cavanagh and Bob Morris
SHE’D WANTED TO tell Momma that this one was no good. Like the one back home in Mobile. And that bastard in Jacksonville. But her momma was doing her eyes up in front of the mirror, and telling her to hush and make sure that all the shutters was fastened cause they reckoned a storm was going to be blowing in from the north-east tonight.
The girl went to the window and looked out. All was calm. The shining disc of a moon pulsed blue light into the apartment. It was broken only by the limbs of the dead oak tree in the yard outside; spreading keen varicose shadows, creeping across the walls, dark and vital. Snibbing down the springed catch to secure a slatted wooden barrier, mindful of pained fingers past, she strategically pulled her hand back, thinking of it as a smart mouse stealing cheese from a trap. Then she regarded the vacant intensity of her mother in the mirror’s reflection. She used to like to watch Momma fix herself up, all pretty, that way she would really concentrate with that little brush and make those big lashes dark.
Not now though. Something sour curdled in her stomach.
— Don’t go out tonight, the girl said softly, somewhere between wishing and begging.
Her mother’s small pink tongue darted out, wetting her eye pencil. — Don’t worry about me, baby, I’ll be okay, and then a car horn blared from downstairs and the thermostat clicked on the air con, making it colder in the room. They both knew it was him.
— Lucky this apartment’s got them shutters, her momma said, rising and picking her bag up from the table. She kissed the daughter on the head. Pulling away, her big made-up eyes stared at the kid. — Remember, bed before eleven. I’ll probably be back around then, but if I get held up I want you asleep, young lady.
Then she was gone.
For a while, the girl had the glowing pool from the television screen to make safe the things within its field by bathing them in its soft murky light. But beyond its scope she sensed something lurking. Coming closer.
A balmy eastern wind rapped with firm insistence on the shutter; ominous enough to be the harbinger of a more malign force. The rains started a few stretched heartbeats later, at first slowly pitter-pattering on the windows. Then she could hear the wind twisting and whipping. The distressed black arms of the tree signalled frantically. Suddenly a cannon of thunder roared, and somewhere outside, an object crashed to earth and shattered. Yellow light flared the room in a sulphurous glow for a full three seconds. The girl turned the handset volume up as the tempest raged on, the wind and rain thrashing at the window. After a bit, she retreated timidly to bed, scared of the darkness she tentatively journeyed through, but more afraid to prolong the agony by searching for a light switch.
Unable to sleep, she knew it was late when she heard the door downstairs click open and feet clop on the stone steps outside. The digital clock on her table burned 2:47 in accusation. She prayed it would be one set of footsteps, his were always so soft, he never wore anything but sneakers, but then she heard the voices and the muffled laughter. Her momma would sleep soundly with the pills she was on, right through the storm. But she would have to face it. Pulling her nightdress down and gripping its hem with a handful of bedclothes, the girl braced herself.
RAY LENNOX IS now entering an area of turbulence. Raising a bandaged right hand to his hooked nose, slightly askew after being badly set following a break some years back, he looks at his image reflected in the blank screen of the personal television, provided for his in-flight entertainment. A thin wisp of air struggles through one grouted nostril, provoking a protesting heave in his chest. Trying to sidetrack his agitated mind, he scans the body crushed next to him.
It’s Trudi, his fiancée; shoulder-length hair tinted a tasteful honey blonde indicating the attentions of a proper stylist. She’s oblivious to his discomfort. A manicured, polished nail turns a magazine page. Beyond her, there’s somebody else. Around them, still more bodies.
It’s only now registering: now, as he sits crammed into this economy-class seat on the London to Miami flight. The spiel he’d gotten from Bob Toal before he took stress leave. It was the altitude announcement that had sparked it.
We are now cruising at thirty-two thousand feet.
You’re a high-flyer, Ray, he recalled Toal saying, as he’d stared at the black hairs sprouting from his boss’s nose. A favoured son. It was a harrowing case. You did well; got the bastard under lock and key. Result. Take a long holiday. Look forward. A lot of us have invested heavily in your career, Ray. Don’t prove us wrong, son. Can’t have you taking the Robertson route, he’d said, referring to the suicide of Lennox’s old mentor. Don’t go down.
And Ray Lennox – gaunt, white-faced, clean-shaven, his trademark floppy fringe shorn at John’s in Broughton Street to reveal a short, sloping forehead – feels his pulse precipitously quicken.
We are now entering an area of turbulence. Please remain seated with your seat belts securely fastened.
Don’t go down.
They’d given him the third degree at the airport. He looked nothing like his passport picture. The sallow grey of his Scot
He’d been vexed by the attentions of airport security, for he was an officer of the law, but they were right to care. His Lothian Police ID helped him negotiate the mini-state the Americans had set up at Heathrow to pre-emptively protect their borders. — Sorry, sir, difficult times, the Homeland Security Officer had declaimed apologetically.
Now Ray Lennox’s eyes urgently scan the cabin. Nothing to worry about in front. Nobody looked like an al-Qaeda affiliate. But that guy looks Indian. Muslim? More likely a Hindu, surely. But might be Pakistani. Stop this. He himself was white, but not a Christian. Church of Scotland on the census form as recorded for official data, but not religious, until he boarded a plane. The drinks trolley approaching slowly; so slowly, he didn’t want to think about it. He turns, craning his neck, looks back at his fellow passengers. Nothing out of the obvious: holidaymakers in search of the sun. A cheap(ish) flight.
Next to him, Trudi, aloof with her hair brushed back and gathered up in a tight black clasp. Those dark, intense hazelnut eyes devouring, almost psychotically, the Perfect Bride magazine as her red-painted nail extension flips over the next page.
All lassies dream about the big day, about being the perfect bride: the enactment of the fairy-princess ideal.
Did that wee girl?
Nah, no that wee soul …
Turbulence rocks the plane and Lennox’s sweat ducts open up under its broadside, as he’s abruptly conscious of the fact that he’s travelling in a metal tube at six hundred miles an hour, six miles in the air over the sea. A drop in the ocean: just a speck waiting to fall into oblivion. He watches Trudi, unperturbed, small scarlet slash of a mouth, only briefly raising a thinly plucked brow in disdain. As if an aircraft disaster would merely inconvenience the wedding plans.
The shaking in the Boeing 747 stops as the engines thunder through the air. The buzz that permeates the plane constantly in his ears. Thrusting ahead. Into blackness. The pilots seeing nothing in front of them. The instruments in the cockpit would be blinking and twirling on the console.
You can see why terrorists and governments – those with the biggest stake in our fear, Lennox considers – are so focused on aircraft travel. We are scared shitless before we start out. All they need to do is fine-tune this dread through the odd atrocity or its consort, heavy-handed security.
Trudi has a blanket over her legs.
The magnetic dark around him. He can feel it beckoning.
Why should he worry? He’s on holiday. He’s done his job. What is there to regret? It’s self-indulgent. But he can’t help it. The metal taste in his mouth. Can’t help hurting himself with thoughts. Nerves prickling under his skin. He fears himself again. He wishes he’d taken more pills.
— What if we go down? Lennox whispers, swamped with notions of death as a vast bleak nothingness. — We’d be free from it all.
— I’m still thinking periwinkle for the bridesmaids, Trudi says without looking up from the magazine, — but I don’t want Adele upstaging me. Then she turns to him in real fear. — You don’t think –
Ray Lennox feels a surge of emotion as he recalls a picture of Trudi as a young girl, on the mantelpiece at her parents’ house. An only child: the couple’s one shot at immortality. What if anything were –
Another jag of trepidation rising in him. — Trudi, I’d never let anybody hurt you, you know that, don’t you? he announces in desperate urgency.
Her eyes expand in the stilted horror of the soap-opera heroine. — You think she’s pretty, don’t you? Don’t even try to deny it, Ray, it sticks out a mile.
Trudi thrusts her breasts out towards him and he sees the ribbing pattern of her tight brown sweater curve almost implausibly in a way that once aroused him. A few weeks back.
She wants to be the perfect bride. Like wee Britney Hamil might have dreamt of.
He grabs her, hugs her close, breathing in her perfume, the fragrance of the shampoo in her hair. Something in his throat is choking him. As if a foreign object is wedged there. His voice so thin he wonders if she can hear him. — Trudi, I love you … I …
She squirms in his grasp, wriggles free and pushes him away. For the first time on the flight, her searching eyes engage with him. — What’s wrong, Ray? What is it?
— That case I was working on … that wee lassie …
Her head shakes vigorously and she puts a shushing finger over his lips. — No shop talk, Ray. We agreed. You’ve to get away from the job. That was the plan. That was what Bob Toal said. If I remember correctly his exact words were: Don’t even think about the job. Don’t think. Have a good time. Relax. The purpose of this vacation is to relax and plan the wedding. But you’re drinking again, and you know how I feel about that, she exhales, protracted and peevish. — But it’s what you wanted, and the mug that I am, I reluctantly agreed. So relax. You have your pills for anxiety.
It occurs to Lennox that she’s used the American term ‘vacation’ instead of holiday. The word clatters around in his head. To vacate. To leave.
But to go where?
Where did you go when you left?
The stewardess arrives with the drinks service. Trudi orders a white wine. A Chardonnay. Lennox gets in a couple of Bloody Marys.
Trudi settles back in her seat. Her head tilted to the side. Voice cooing, in sing-song manner. — All jobs are stressful in this day and age. That’s why we have vacations.
— Ver’ near two glorious weeks of sun, sand, sea and the other, she nudges him, then sulks, — You do still fancy me, Ray? And she does that thing with her breasts again.
— Course ah do. Lennox feels a constricting of the muscles around his chest and throat. His windpipe has become a straw. He is trapped; hemmed in beside the window, far too small to offer escape into the oblivion of sky. He looks at his crippled, bandaged right hand, a bag of broken knuckles, phalanxes and metacarpals. How many more would go, how long would it take for both fists to be pulped trying to punch a hole through this plane? Between him and the aisle sits first Trudi, then a blade-faced older woman, spare-framed, with bony hands. Probably ages with his own mother. He breathes in the dirty, dry recycled air of the plane. The old girl’s skin is like melted plastic. Like it has been dried out by the air conditioning. There are orangey blotches. He wonders how many hours an eight-hour flight aged you. He didn’t want Trudi to know that he’d only brought a few pills; that he was planning to stop them in Miami.
Trudi drops her voice. — I’ll do it if you want, Ray. If it’s what you really want …
He raises the plastic beaker to his mouth and sips at the vodka. His hand trembles. Then his body. How many paltry measures from those little bottles will it take to stop this, to make it go away? — The thing is … he manages to cough.
— … because I want to please you in that way, Ray, I really do, she implores, perhaps a bit too loudly as she’d had a few drinks at the airport bar and with the wine and altitude they are digging in. She turns to the old dear sitting next to her and exchanges saccharine smiles followed by a greeting.
Lennox thinks about the crime. At his desk the morning he heard and –
Trudi’s elbow digs his ribs. Her voice now a low whisper. The faintest of downy hair on the top of her glossy pink lips. — It’s just that it shocked me at first. It was trying to reconcile the fact that you’re a normal, red-blooded, heterosexual male with you wanting to be … penetrated in that way …
Lennox fortifies himself with another swig of the Bloody Mary. It’s all but gone. — I never want you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with, he says, pulling his features into a shallow smile.
— You’re a honey, she kisses him on the side of the face, the kiss of an aunt, he thinks. She holds open Perfect Bri
Glancing at them, Lennox thinks, with mild parochial resentment, of Glasgow. — Too Weedgie. He then points at the Gothic illustrations. — I like this one better.
— Oh my God, no way! She gasps and laughs, — You are totally bonkers, Raymond Lennox! These are like funeral invitations! I’m not the Bride of Frankenstein. She raises her eyes and fills her wine beaker. — Just as well you’ve got me organising this wedding. I dread to think what kind of a joke it would be if it was left up to you. She turns to the old girl whose cheery, intrusive smile is beginning to nauseate Lennox. — Men. Honestly! Good for nothing!
— I’ve always said it, the old girl adds encouragingly.
They cluck enthusiastically over the contents of the magazine and Trudi’s ecstatic descriptions of her dress, as Lennox adjusts the seat to its stingy recline, his eyes growing heavy with sleep. Soon his mind is drifting back to the crime. His thoughts are like a landslide; they seem to subside and settle, then before he knows it they’re off again, heading for the same downhill destination. The crime. Always plummeting inexorably towards the crime.
You got the call that morning.
At your desk in that small, utilitarian office in Edinburgh’s police headquarters at Fettes. A frosty, late-October Wednesday, your sad African violet plant on the window ledge struggling in the meagre light and cold, as the noisy central heating, set to come on late for economy purposes, clattered and cranked into reluctant action. Preparing a case for court. Two youths cabbaged after drinking all day: one had stabbed the other to death in a flat. Something was said and taken the wrong way. A threat made; a counter, the escalation. One life ended, the other ruined. All in the time it took to buy a pint of milk. You recalled the murderer, stripped of bravado-giving intoxicants, in the interview room under the fluorescent lights; so young, broken and scared. But this case hadn’t bugged you. You’d seen so many like it.
Crime by Irvine Welsh / Thrillers & Crime / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes