Out of bounds, p.38
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       Out of Bounds, p.38

           Val McDermid

  They came to a halt outside a freshly painted shopfront. The signboard said, ALEPPO – SYRIAN CAFÉ, and beneath that, a line of Arabic script that Karen presumed repeated the same thing. The interior was crowded with people, Middle Eastern and locals, glasses in hand. Teenagers moved among them with bowls of olives and plates of meze. She took a deep breath, mentally girding her loins. ‘Come on, then. Let’s be sociable.’

  They had barely crossed the threshold when Miran appeared in front of them. ‘Inspector,’ he shouted. ‘I have been waiting for you.’ He turned and ushered a woman forward. Fine features, big brown eyes and a wide smile, a small gap between her front teeth, the bump of her pregnancy preceding her. She inclined her head towards Karen. ‘This is my wife,’ Miran said. ‘This is Amena. Amena, this is the inspector. She is the reason we are here.’

  Karen shook her head. ‘No, Miran. You’re the reason we’re both here.’

  Before anyone could say more, the hubbub of conversation was broken into by the tinkle of metal on glass. The noise died away. Time for speeches. Someone gave a short speech in Arabic, then Tarek took over. ‘Welcome, everyone. Welcome to the new Aleppo. Now we have a place to meet, we can start to belong here. We thank everyone who helped us. We thank Inspector Pirie because she started this. And MP Grassie who help us make it happen. We thank too the city council and all our friends who work on the café to make it good. Enjoy tonight and enjoy coming back to Aleppo many times.’ Applause, then conversation broke out again.

  River squeezed her arm. ‘You did a good thing, Karen.’

  ‘River, they probably saved my life. What I did for them doesn’t even come close.’

  ‘Yeah, but you didn’t know that when you helped them make the right connections.’

  Karen thought about the past year. Things lost, things found. And in the thick of it, an unimagined way forward. ‘Right enough,’ she said. ‘But this isn’t my place. Come on, let’s walk.’


  Because Karen Pirie always has one foot in the past, I need to find people with arcane bits of knowledge to help me get the details right. Thanks to everyone who chipped in, and in particular, thanks to:

  Andy Preece for period bus details;

  Professor Niamh Nic Daeid for explosive information and for letting me blow things up in her lab;

  Professor Dame Sue Black for the Vet School suggestion;

  Rachael Kelsey for Scots family law and legal standing of a dead man’s DNA;

  Tom Phillips for that crucial wee detail about Fife office buildings;

  Ellie MacKinnon for generosity in donating to Breast Cancer Now and the Sick Kids Friends Foundation in exchange for lending me her name;

  The McCredie brothers for their totally shan help;

  Pete Wishart MP for parliamentary detail;

  Steve Bruce from the General Register Office for making sure I got the adoption details right.

  I have a team of hard-working and committed people whose support makes my life so much easier. My perceptive and demanding editors David Shelley and Lucy Malagoni at Little, Brown and Amy Hundley at Grove Atlantic; copy editor Anne O’Brien who knows how many days there are in the week; publicist Jo Wickham who knows where I should be on every one of those days; the rest of the design, sales and marketing teams who help to get my books out there and into the hands of readers; and the booksellers and librarians who have generously supported every one of my 30 novels with enthusiasm and persistence.

  Finally, my staunch friends and family, particularly my bidie-in Jo and my son Cameron, who treat my addiction to words with compassion, pity and humour.



  Val McDermid, Out of Bounds



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