Brian Simpson had sat in his rental car, patiently allowing his quarry half an hour to settle in. He checked the time, buttoned the top of his shirt and put on his tie. Simpson got out of the BMW 7-Series and lifted his jacket. He checked his reflection in the window.
Satisfied that he looked the part he reached into the back seat and lifted his zipped leather folder. He noticed the red van he’d seen the previous evening was still parked in the small market square. The two occupants were missing. It made Simpson smile when he considered his own activities, but found other people suspicious.
He crossed the short distance to the bar. Simpson was a big man and had to duck under the lintel as he entered the place. He knew from his visits, many of the pubs in remote coastal towns were built with small windows and doors. It was integral to the design, keeping the heat in, and the weather out. When the weather was bad on Scotland’s north coast; it was bad.
Simpson approached the bar and glanced at his target. He looked around at the other customers before turning to the bearded, slightly-built man beside him.
“Hi there,” Simpson said.
The man nodded and turned away to stare at the upturned spirit bottles on display at the back of the bar.
“Hello sir,” the young barmaid said. “What can I get for you?”
“A pint of your best please,” Simpson said. “Have a wee glass of something yourself.”
“Thank you very much.” The attractive twenty-something pulled a pint of beer.
Apart from the man Simpson was interested in, there were only five other customers in the place. Of course, it was early in the evening.
He paid for his drink when placed in front of him.
“Cheers,” the barmaid said, lifting a glass of lemonade.
“Aye, cheers,” Simpson said and took a long drink. He placed the glass on the bar and licked the froth from his lips. “This was worth the wait.”
“Have you come far?”
“I’ve been all over Scotland,” Simpson lied. “I’m trying to find a fella who seems to have disappeared from the face of the Earth.”
“Is he a business acquaintance?”
“After a fashion,” Simpson said. “He’s inherited a large sum of money, but our company doesn’t think he knows.”
“You’ll be surprising him, then?” She gazed at Simpson’s two different coloured eyes.
“I will indeed,” Simpson said. “I’ve been searching for him for a few weeks.”
“Are you sure he’ll still be in the UK?” the barmaid said. “He might have gone abroad, and then you’ll have your work cut out for you.” She laughed.
“I’ve been informed that he doesn’t have a passport, and he loves Scotland, so I’m hoping he’ll surface somewhere. I’ll keep looking until I find him.”
“You sound determined.”
“They don’t come much more determined than me.” He lifted his pint.
The barmaid continually wiped surfaces, in the way bar staff do. She lifted her glass and took another sip of lemonade before going to collect glasses left on tables by recent customers.
“I know this is a long shot,” Simpson said on the barmaid’s return. “I don’t suppose you’d know a local guy called Des Grant?” Using the large mirror behind the bar, he watched the reaction of the man beside him. The eyes widened, and the lips parted.
Gotcha, you little bastard, Simpson thought.
“Des Grant?” the barmaid said. “The name doesn’t ring a bell.” She addressed the man beside Simpson. “Willie, have you ever heard the name Des Grant around here?”
“No, I can’t say I have, Barbara,” Des Grant said, teasing his month-old beard.
“Of course,” Barbara said. “You only arrived here in the last month or two, haven’t you, Willie?”
“Aye,” Grant said. “I worked in Aberdeen before I came here.”
“What did you do in Aberdeen?” Simpson asked, for amusement.
“I worked in the prison service for a while,” Grant said, which was true, although he’d never worked in HMP Peterhead near Aberdeen.
“That’s a coincidence,” Simpson said. “The guy I’m looking for was with the prison service for a couple of years.”
“How much money has this mystery fella inherited?” Grant said.
“You can’t go asking something like that, Willie,” Barbara said.
“It’s okay,” Simpson said, shaking his head. “People are always interested in these things.” He turned to the man beside him. “I can’t tell you the figure, but it’s got some zeros in it.”
“Lucky bastard,” Barbara muttered and busied herself once again along the bar.
Simpson took his time with his pint, using the mirror behind the bar to observe the man beside him.
“Barbara, isn’t it?” Simpson said to the barmaid.
“Yes, would you like another?”
“No thanks, I’ve got a bit of driving ahead of me, but I’ll leave you my card. If you hear the name
Des Grant, please call me.” He wrote a number on the card and handed it over.
“I’ll keep my eyes and ears open,” Barbara said, glancing at the card. “Goodbye, Mr. Taggart.”
Simpson nodded, turned and nodded to the bearded man, and left the bar.
When Simpson arrived at his car on the market square car park, he threw the zipped folder which contained nothing more than a newspaper, onto the back seat. A movement in his peripheral vision caused him to look across the square. The red van had an occupant. Simpson looked around as he shook off his jacket and threw it into the car. He sat behind the wheel and lowered the front windows to catch the breeze.
Ten minutes after settling down to observe the bar, Simpson saw Grant come outside. The ex-prison officer looked left and right before walking to the corner. He stopped at a weather-worn public phone box, looked around and stepped inside.
Simpson’s mobile phone burst into life. The device was plugged into the dashboard. He hit the speaker button.
“Bob Taggart,” he said. “How can I help you?”
“Hello Mr. Taggart,” Grant said. “Are you the guy who was at the bar a short while ago asking about a man called Des Grant?”
“I am,” Simpson said. “To whom am I speaking, please?”
“This is Des Grant, and I wondered if we could meet.”
“Due to the nature of my business, I’ll have to see some photographic identification, Mr. Grant.”
“Okay,” Grant said. “I’ll see you down by the sea wall at the cove. There’s an old stone shelter there.”
“It sounds peculiar Mr. Grant. I don’t know if I want to meet in such a place.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Grant said. “I’d prefer nobody around here to know my name and what I look like.”
“Okay,” Simpson said. “How long will it take before you get there?”
“Give me twenty minutes to get my identification.”
“Okay, twenty minutes it is. Bye.” Simpson hit End Call and shook his head. He watched Grant as he left the call box and headed down a narrow cobbled street. Simpson waited a few minutes before he started the engine and eased the big car across the tiny market square to go down the road.
Under the steering column, a button-sized transmitter relayed everything said within the car. Across the square, a motorcyclist in dark blue leathers stood beside his machine pouring a hot drink from a thermos. The man sipped his drink before capping his flask and taking a stroll away from the market square.
Halfway down the street, Simpson looked ahead at the sea wall 200 yards away. The North Atlantic hammered the outer wall, and the white spray lifted over the parapet. At the junction near the wall, Grant paused and turned right. Simpson let the car roll quietly down the narrow street and pulled over when he reached the wall.
Half a mile to the right, was the caravan site Grant was heading for.
Simpson saw the stone shelter near to where he’d stopped the car. He turned again to watch his prey as he entered the caravan site. Grant climbed into a static caravan which stood on four sturdy supports. Two minutes later, he reappeared.
Simpson parked the Beamer out of sight. He walked to the old stone shelter near the sea wall. It resembled a small bus shelter, allowing the sunlight in, but keeping the breeze out. Simpson got comfortable on the narrow seat inside and observed the caravan site.
A few minutes later, the bearded wanderer approached.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be honest in the bar,” Grant said. “I’ve got a few enemies out there in the wider world.”
“How unfortunate,” Simpson said. “I think your days of running are over now.”
“Nobody should notice us here,” Grant said. “Here’s my identity documents.” He handed over a plastic photo driver’s license and a birth certificate.
“These indeed confirm you’re the man I’ve been looking for,” Simpson said.
“How did you locate me in a tiny coastal place like this?”
“When I was making inquiries I discovered you had been working in a private clinic in Dunbartonshire,” Simpson said.
“You found the clinic?” Grant said.
“Yes, and they were mystified. The guy I spoke to told me you disappeared one day without any explanation.” He paused. “The peculiar thing was, it wasn’t a private clinic, it was a secure hospital, and one of the inmates was found dead not long after you disappeared.”
“It doesn’t explain why you came up this direction.” Grant’s brow furrowed.
“The guy at the clinic told me you didn’t have a passport,” Simpson said and gave a little laugh.
“Strangely, the fella told me you'd been an odd-job man on camping and caravan sites before you got the job in the clinic.”
“So you’ve been going around caravan sites in Scotland since mid-July?”
“Something like that,” Simpson lied.
“How much am I worth then?” Grant said.
“If we go to my car I’ll explain more.” He got up and left the shelter, knowing Grant would follow. Apart from any other reason, Simpson still had hold of the license and birth certificate.
They walked the short distance to the big BMW and Simpson flipped the boot open.
“In there,” Simpson said, turning with a smile.
“What’s in there?” Grant asked, his brow furrowing as he leaned forward. His eyes opened wider, and he turned, but recognition came too late. The big man’s fist was already on the way to Grant’s gut.
“You are in there,” Simpson said, laughing before he hoisted the doubled-up, gasping man into the cavernous space. “You make a fucking sound Grant, and you’re a dead man.” Simpson dropped the boot lid.
Simpson drove up the steep, narrow cobbled street toward the market square, and drove out of the small coastal town. He congratulated himself on how the abduction had gone. He drove past the space where the red van had been parked.
An hour later, Simpson reached the tiny cottage he’d rented in the Highlands. Like the rented car, the house had been paid for under an assumed name. The remote location would be ideal for the purpose of interrogating Des Grant, the elusive prison officer, and murderer.
On a hill a few miles south of Dunnet, a man stood beside a tree, a cigarette in one hand, and a pair of powerful binoculars in the other. He lowered the binoculars and took a pull on his smoke before he fished his mobile phone from his pocket. He hit speed dial.
“Hey, Archie,” Harry ‘Redhead’ Renton said and grinned. “We’ve got them.” A motorcycle had been on the road half a mile behind the BMW, but Renton didn’t take any notice. His interest was only in the car. Renton told his accomplice in the van, to hit the main road south from Dunnet. Renton meanwhile, walked down the other side of the hill and climbed onto the off-road bike to ride to the main road.
At last, he’d earn some credit for an idea.
Sunday 16th July 2017
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