Out of bounds, p.1
Out of Bounds, p.1Val McDermid
OUT OF BOUNDS
Also by Val McDermid
A Place of Execution
Killing the Shadows
The Distant Echo
The Grave Tattoo
A Darker Domain
Trick of the Dark
The Vanishing Point
The Skeleton Road
TONY HILL NOVELS
The Mermaids Singing
The Wire in the Blood
The Last Temptation
The Torment of Others
Beneath the Bleeding
Fever of the Bone
Cross and Burn
Splinter the Silence
KATE BRANNIGAN NOVELS
LINDSAY GORDON NOVELS
Report for Murder
Conferences Are Murder
Booked for Murder
Hostage to Murder
SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS
The Writing on the Wall and Other Stories
Christmas is Murder
A Suitable Job for a Woman
OUT OF BOUNDS
Atlantic Monthly Press
Copyright © 2016 by Val McDermid
Jacket design by Marc Cohen/MJC Design
Jacket photographs: silhouette@GlebStock/Shutterstock; seascape©John Devlin/Alamy
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of such without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or anthology, should send inquiries to Grove Atlantic, 154 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition: December 2016
Printed in the United States of America
First published in Great Britain 2016 by Little, Brown
Atlantic Monthly Press
an imprint of Grove Atlantic
154 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011
Distributed by Publishers Group West
This is my 30th novel. And it’s for the indestructible,
indefatigable, implacable Jane Gregory who has been my
agent and my friend from the very beginning. Respected,
feared and beloved in the literary world, she has
fought my corner, had my back and through it all,
her laughter has rocked my world.
Some night, eh, boys?’ Ross Garvie flung a sweaty arm round the neck of Wee Grantie, his best mate in all the world.
‘Some night, right enough,’ Wee Grantie slurred. The two youths swung their hips in rough unison to the deep dark bass beat that shuddered through the club.
The two friends they’d been drinking with since they’d preloaded at Wee Grantie’s sister’s flat earlier jumped up and down, punching the air. ‘We are the boys,’ they chorused. ‘We are the Arab boys!’ Their Dundee United football shirts provided the explanation for their apparently bizarre chant, their team having scored a rare victory that afternoon.
‘Ah want to drive all night,’ Ross shouted, his body bouncing with the mix of Red Bull, vodka and some chemical cocktail that didn’t even have a name.
Wee Grantie slowed as the music segued into the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feeling’. ‘You dinnae have a car. None of us has a car.’
Ross stopped. ‘Have you no ambition?’
Wee Grantie looked at his feet, knowing there was no right answer.
Tam and Tozer, their partners in mayhem, punched each other in the shoulder. ‘That’s it,’ Tam shouted. ‘Tonight’s gonna be a good, good night. Like the song says. Gonnae do it, aye?’
Wee Grantie frowned. ‘How?’ He stuck his hands in his jogging bottoms and adjusted himself.
‘Come on, let’s get out of here. There’s no talent anyway. None of us is going to pull, we might as well hit the street.’ Ross was already halfway to the door, not needing to check whether his posse was on his tail.
Outside, urgency kicked in as the chill air wicked the heat from their bodies. The young men shivered. Tam and Tozer slapped their bodies with soft arms. Nobody else was around; it was still too early for punters to abandon a club they’d paid to enter.
‘Come on, Rossi boy, if you’re gonnae do it, do it before my balls climb so far inside my belly they’ll be sticking in my throat,’ Tozer whined.
Ross scanned the patch of rough ground that acted as a car park for the nightclub, looking for something easy to break into, simple to hotwire. The answer was in the middle row, high enough to be instantly visible above its compact companions. ‘There we go,’ he said, breaking into a run, jinking between parked cars till he got to the Land Rover Defender. One of the new generation, still clunky as fuck to drive, but a piece of piss to steal.
‘Find a rock,’ he called out to Wee Grantie, who obediently started frowning at the ground. He knew from experience what he was looking for – heavy enough to make an impact, pointed enough to break the toughened window glass. There were plenty of candidates compressed into the car park surface, but by the time he found one and heeled it out of the ground, the other three were dancing on their toes round the driver’s side of the vehicle.
Ross snatched the rock from him and set it just right in his hand, balanced and steady. He pulled his arm back and with a swift straight jab, he smacked it into the driver’s side window. The glass cracked and starred but didn’t break. That took a second blow. Then they were all inside, bouncing on the seats like toddlers needing a toilet break, while Ross took out his Swiss army knife, adeptly freeing wires, cutting them and reconnecting the ones that made the engine cough into life.
‘Ya beauty,’ he yelled, switching the headlamps on and grinding the car into gear. Barely seventeen, no licence, no lessons, but Ross Garvie had all the confidence of a boy who’d been stealing motors since he could reach the pedals.
The Defender lurched backwards, crunching into the headlamps and radiator grille of a VW Golf. Then into first, leaping forward, glass tinkling in their wake. The tyres screamed as Ross whipped the unwieldy Defender out of the car park and into the street. He hammered through the city centre, running red lights and cutting up sedate late-night drivers who didn’t want to draw attention to themselves.
The city lights slid past in a blur. The three passengers whooped and yelled as Ross delivered all the thrills of a car chase without the pursuit, not caring when his handbrake turn smacked them into the hard edges of the door furniture.
And then they were on the Perth road, pedal to the metal, flat out. The Defender protested when the speedo needle hit eighty, but it felt a lot faster because of
Hitting the roundabout kerb at top speed threw the four lads into the air and back down in disorganised heaps. Ross’s feet left the pedals and for a few seconds he felt he was in zero gravity, only his grip on the steering wheel keeping him in contact with the earth. ‘Way-hey,’ he screamed as he hit the seat and hammered the gas again. Somehow the Defender stayed on all four wheels, ploughing deep furrows through grass and flower beds before emerging on the other side.
‘Fuck the Young Farmers,’ Tozer gasped. ‘We are the country boys.’
A wobble over the far kerb and they were back on the dual carriageway. But now they had distant company. Far back, Ross could see the faint shimmer of a flashing blue light. Some bastard had phoned them in and the five-oh were coming to get them. ‘No way,’ he shouted, crouching over the wheel, urging the Defender onward as if that would make a difference to its paltry turn of speed.
The next roundabout loomed, higher in the middle. He wasn’t daunted. He wasn’t wasting time going round when he could go over. But this time, he misjudged the obstacle. Beyond the kerb was a low wall that struck the Defender at precisely the wrong point. For a long moment, it seemed to teeter between the tipping point and stability, before gravity finally won. Once it started turning, momentum took over. The Land Rover rolled end to end twice, tumbling the four youths head over heels like dice in a cup.
Then it clipped the far side of the roundabout, which hurtled it sideways, catapulting it into another complete roll in a different direction. As it smashed into the crash barrier across the carriageway, the engine cut out amid a shower of sparks. The only sound was the creak and grind of metal on metal as the Defender settled.
The two-tone siren of a police traffic car split the quiet, braking to a halt, its blue strobing light bathing the battered vehicle in an unreal glow. It illuminated dark stripes, stains and spatters on the inside of the windows. ‘See that?’ the driver said to his rookie colleague.
‘Tell me that’s not blood?’ The rookie felt slightly dizzy.
‘It’s blood all right. Stupid wee bastards. Looks like we’ll not need to bother with an ambulance.’
But as he spoke, the crumpled driver’s door of the Defender creaked open, spilling the ruined torso of Ross Garvie on to the tarmac.
‘Strike that,’ the cop sighed. ‘That’s what you call survival of the unfittest.’
Kinross was a small town, but it was big enough to have more than one kind of pub. There were hotel bars that supplied food as well as a predictable offering of beers, wines and spirits. There was one where younger drinkers congregated to drink fruit ciders and vodka shots to the accompaniment of loud music. There was another where patrons played pool and darts and watched football on a giant TV screen, washed down with cheap generic beer. And there was Hazeldean’s, tucked away off the Kirkgate, its wood-panelled décor apparently unchanged since the 1950s, its regular customers held fast by a range of craft beers and an eye-watering selection of malt whiskies. The walls were lined with padded booths, the tables topped with beaten copper. Bar stools were lined up along one side of the L-shaped bar; the other side provided a brass rail for customers to rest one foot on as they drank at the counter. It was the kind of pub where everyone knew their place.
Gabriel Abbott’s place was on the bar stool nearest the corner. Hazeldean’s was one of the fixed points in his universe, a reliable anchor when he felt he was navigating turbulent waters. To an outsider, it might seem that there was little in Gabriel’s existence to justify that sense of instability. After all, he didn’t have a job to worry about. He had a comfortable home, the rent taken care of without any effort on his part. He’d had some gnawing concerns about recent government policies that might affect his benefits, but he really didn’t think anyone could argue that he was well enough to be in work.
The reasons that made him unemployable were the same ones that filled him with a sense of turmoil. However hard he tried to appear calm and normal, he knew people thought him eccentric and strange. He couldn’t help his enthusiasms getting the better of him and making him garrulous and excitable. It was when he didn’t keep his mind busy with his interests that the trouble started for Gabriel. That was when the paranoia started to creep in, eating away at his peace of mind, robbing him of sleep, pushing him back to that terrible pitch of anxiety where he thought his head would explode with its overload of conspiracies and fear. He felt like a piece of paper torn up and scattered to the four winds.
It always ended the same way. He’d surrender himself to the medical profession again. A hospital bed. Drugs. Talking therapies of one sort or another. And they’d help him gather himself together again. He’d re-emerge into the world, fragile but recognisably himself. Till the next time.
He knew he didn’t look threatening. His untidy mop of black hair and his wardrobe of charity shop tweed jackets, shirts and trousers – never jeans – gave him the slightly dishevelled air that people imagined absent-minded academics to affect. Often, when he was sitting looking out over Loch Leven or walking from his cottage into town along the waterside path, strangers would strike up a conversation. And within minutes, his tongue would run away with itself and he’d be off on one of the obsessions that had filled his head for years, obsessions that had helped him to build an extraordinary network of contacts in a dozen countries. He could see the appalled expressions on the faces of those unsuspecting strangers as they tried to figure out how to escape a lecture on the resistance movements of Myanmar or the internal politics of North Korea.
But in Hazeldean’s, they were used to him. He went there most evenings, walking the couple of miles along the lochside path in all weathers. He’d arrive around nine and have two pints of whatever was the guest beer of the week. He’d exchange a few words about the weather with Jock the barman or Lyn the barmaid. If Gregor Mutch was in, they’d talk politics. If Dougie Malone was there, he’d join in. They both indulged his fascination with the history and geopolitics of South East Asia but they knew him sufficiently well to say when enough was enough and, although it was hard for Gabriel to switch off, he mostly managed it.
That Sunday night, though, Gabriel was troubled. Gregor was in, his bulk perched on the neighbouring bar stool like a turnip on a toothpick, and Gabriel started even before his first pint was put in front of him.
‘I’m worried,’ he said. ‘Very worried.’ Jock set his drink in front of him and he took a long swallow.
‘How’s that?’ Gregor asked warily.
‘You remember me telling you about Saw Chit? My friend in Myanmar? The one who’s been trying to document corruption in the political movements there?’
Gregor grunted noncommittally. Gabriel wasn’t put off. If Gregor wanted him to shut up, he’d tell him. ‘Well, I had an email from him last week, saying he’d uncovered some very important material relating to some very powerful figures who have made a big deal about being incorruptible. Apparently, Saw Chit has proof that they’ve been dealing in black market rubies—’
‘Black market rubies?’ Now he had Gregor’s attention. ‘What do you mean, black market rubies?’
‘Most of the big-name jewellery companies like Tiffany and Cartier and Bulgari won’t use rubies from Myanmar because of the absolutely deplorable conditions in the mines. It’s virtual slavery, and they’ve never heard of health and safety. But nevertheless there’s a huge market for high-quality gems. So there are always black marketeers who provide rubies with a false provenance. The whole supply chain is breaking the law, and the people at the very top turning a blind eye are the very ones who shout loudest about defeating the smugglers.’
‘And your pal is going to name and shame them?’
‘So he said in thi
‘Don’t tell me, let me guess,’ Gregor said. ‘Your pal’s been killed?’
Gabriel frowned. ‘No, not that. Actually, probably worse than that. No, he’s disappeared. His house has been trashed and he’s missing. Nobody saw anything or heard anything, which is frankly incredible. But if I lived there, I’d make a point of selective deafness and blindness.’ Gabriel had never been further east than a holiday in Crete, but his imagination was more than adequate to the task of picturing life in the countries he’d made his life’s study.
‘So why’s his brother got in touch with you?’
‘He was hoping Saw Chit had managed to escape. To get away before whoever smashed up his house got to him. He thought if Saw Chit had made it, he would have contacted me. Because naturally he’d want someone outside the country to know what had happened. I probably need to speak to a journalist. There’s someone at the Guardian I’ve talked to before. Or maybe our MP? Or should I wait for the mail? What do you think?’
Gregor drained his pint. ‘I think you’ve maybe been reading too many of those John le Carré novels, Gabe. Do you not think somebody might be jerking your chain?’
Genuinely puzzled by what seemed to him to be a bizarre conjecture, Gabriel shook his head. ‘Why would anyone do that? Besides, I’ve been friends with Saw Chit for years.’
‘But you’ve never met him.’
Gabriel grabbed a handful of his hair. ‘You don’t have to meet someone to know them.’ He took a breath and gathered himself, laying his hands flat on the bar. ‘Why would he make up something like this?’
‘I don’t know. But if what you say is true, why is he sending the stuff to a guy on the dole in a wee Scottish town instead of 10 Downing Street?’
Out of Bounds by Val McDermid / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes