Extract 11 from Chapter 19
‘There’s been another killing, in much the same fashion as before.’
The pair sat, unmoved. Valentine checked them for a flinch, the gripping of hands perhaps, but nothing came. He turned his eyes towards DS Rossi, who was looking at the Urquharts with a perplexed expression playing on his face.
Valentine spoke again. ‘I have to ask… Does the name Duncan Knox mean anything to you?’
This time there was a reaction: Mrs Urquhart rose from the chair and stood behind her son, then she placed her hands on his shoulders and squeezed tightly. ‘No, why should it?’
Valentine registered how she snatched her words.
‘You seem very sure.’
DS Rossi turned in his chair to face the detective and made a taut wire of his mouth. Valentine rose to face Mrs Urquhart. ‘Is there something you’d like to tell me, Mrs Urquhart… This isn’t the reaction I was expecting to the news that your husband’s rather unusual death has been mimicked.’
Adrian shot from his chair and walked towards the middle of the room where the detective stood. ‘I wasn’t aware there was a grieving widow’s handbook that my mother was supposed to be acting out.’
‘That’s enough, Adrian…’ Mrs Urquhart walked round beside her son. ‘Mr Valentine, we are still in shock.’
‘I appreciate that.’
‘Then why on earth are you questioning us when you could be out hunting a killer?’
Valentine caught sight of DS Rossi rising from his chair; in the space of a few minutes the cordial atmosphere had turned nasty. ‘It’s very important that we ascertain any links between your husband and the latest victim, you must be able to see how that could assist us.’
‘What makes you think there are any links?’ said Mrs Urquhart.
‘Well, if there aren’t then it’s important that we eliminate that line of inquiry.’
Mrs Urquhart’s glass-smooth skin reflected the light from the window where she stood; she looked pale and fraught as she spoke to her son. ‘I don’t know this Duncan Knox, do you, Adrian?’
Adrian Urquhart shook his head. ‘No.’
A scowl settled on Mrs Urquhart’s face and then she touched the seam of her blouse nervously. ‘Well, there, that seems to be an end to it, doesn’t it now, Mr Valentine?’
DI Valentine’s facial muscles conspired against him as he eased out a slanting smile. His words came bluntly. ‘I suppose it does.’
‘Good. Then I’ll show you both out.’ She turned to the door and stood with one hand on the handle and with the other – palm outstretched – gesturing towards the hallway.
At the door Valentine halted. ‘Thank you for your time.’
The detectives walked through the doorway and followed the hall into the vestibule before being shown out the front door. As they stood in the driveway buttoning their coats, Valentine spoke. ‘I’m afraid, Mrs Urquhart, there are one or two other formalities that I’ll have to… address with you.’
‘Formalities?’ Her tone was clipped.
‘Regarding the investigation… I’ll be back in touch.’
Valentine dipped his head and made for the car; as he went he could sense angry eyes burning into his back, but his attention fixed on the sight of Ronnie Bell peering over the neighbouring wall. The detective turned to see if Mrs Urquhart had registered Bell, but she was already heading indoors.
‘More neighbourly concern, or was it the sight of the police that brought him out snooping around?’ said Valentine. As he spoke Bell turned away from the officers and gripped the handles of a wheelbarrow, which he started to push along the path – a squeak on each revolution – towards his home.
Inside the car, DS Rossi turned the key in the ignition and depressed the clutch, then started to shake his head and curse. ‘What the hell was that all about? Couldn’t wait to get us out of there… Jesus, you’d think we were the ones that murdered him, not the ones investigating the case.’
Valentine waited until they had left the Urquharts’ driveway and crossed the first of the broad Alloway streets before he spoke. ‘Don’t you concern yourself with that, Paulo; you’ve got other things to be worried about.’
The DS jerked the wheel. ‘What do you mean?’
Valentine raised his arm and made a show of exposing the watch face on his wrist. ‘By my guess, it’ll take you about nine minutes to get back to the station… That’s as long as you have to explain why your phone was dinging a call from Cameron Sinclair when I got in this car.’
Artefacts of the Dead by Tony Black, £7.99 paperback, Black & White Publishing.