It had to be snowing, thought Michael as he walking through the car park. First day, new job, good shoes ruined by salt and slush. He pushed into the warmth of the police station and nodded to the desk sergeant.
“Good morning Super Intendant,” said the sergeant. “We have your new pass card ready for you.”
Michael picked up the card; Super Intendant Michael Paterson.
“Good to be back home, Sir?” the sergeant asked.
“Yes,” said Michael automatically. Home, he thought, is this home? Paisley had not been home for years, and when he left he had been so glad to go. It had become a place to come to visit family, for funerals and weddings, a place of obligation. But it wasn’t home, not any more, hadn’t been for a long time.
Michael headed up to his new office, the one that looked out over to the swimming pool. He stood for a moment and looked out through the window. The early morning rumble of traffic, the whoosh of sleet spraying from car wheels, the glare of headlights on snow splattered glass; lovely view thought Michael before turning to his desk. All the offices on the other side of the building looking towards the river and the Abby were taken. Still he wasn’t here to look out the window.
Better get started Michael thought and picked up the case notes that were piled up on his desk.
“Coffee, sir?” asked a detective popping their head through the door. Michael nodded absently and the detective returned a few moments later with a mug of coffee.
“It’s just from the machine in the hall,” the detective said.
“Thanks…” Michael paused, waiting for the detective to give his name.
“Callum,” the detective said, “Detective Constable Callum Morgan.”
“Thanks Constable,” said Michael. “Machine coffee is fine.”
He placed the coffee on his desk and started reading.
“Tell the crew, I’ll be through shortly for briefing,” said Michael.
He took a sip of the coffee being careful not to spill any onto his shirt.
On his desk sat three files. He’d asked for them to be brought up from the archives. Of course he knew those files inside out. He’d read them many times over. He’d poured over them again and again. Every detective had cases that stayed with them; unsolved cases. These were his.
He pushed the top file aside and looked at the other two; Sofia Brown, six years old, disappeared, August 1974. Gale Wilson, seven years old, disappeared August 1974.
He held the three files. Three missing children from one town in one month in 1974. He had been twelve then. The summer was in full swing. School had just re-started. Then three children gone, one after the other. There had been panic and tension. Children went to school in convoys and no one played outside even in the heat. Strangers, single men, immigrants, the Irish, all looked on with suspicion.
The media came to town, interviewing people in the street, asking them what they thought. As if the people in the street would make sense of it all. But it made no sense.
And then just as suddenly it was over. A girl disappeared in Falkirk and then one in Edinburgh; it seemed like the abductor had move moved on. It seemed like the town was safe now, like it could breathe again. It was over, at least for some people; although the perpetrator, no one wanted to call them the killer, that would be admitting the girls were dead, the perpetrator was never found. No bodies, no killers, no answers; just over, just finished. Move on.
Michael left the files on his desk, and went to speak to his new squad. There would be real police work to do. That always helped, do what you can.
The team sat at their desks and when he entered they stood up.
“Sit,” Michael told them. “This won’t take long. No doubt some of you remember me. So you know I like to make things as simple as possible. I believe you’re all currently working on cases, and I don’t see the need to swap things around. If you could send me the summary files, I’ll read them over and get up to speed. If there is anything you think needs my attention straight away let me know.”
Here Michael paused and let his eye wander over the detectives. A few shook their heads, others said nothing.
“So nothing urgent,” Michael suggested. “I know you’re all capable and that you probably want as little interference from the Super as possible. And I’m happy to interfere as little as possible, provided you keep me up to date.”
There were a few grunts of assent. Seems like they would be happy with that arrangement. Michael knew that was the kind of Super Intendant he had wanted to work for; one that kept abreast of things but let you get on with your job. That was the kind of Super Intendant he was going to be.
This promotion, it wasn’t exactly what he’d wanted. Coming back to a back-water dive like Paisley was not something he would have planned, not for all sorts of reasons. But here he was, he was going to do the job and do it well. And that meant every one of his team would be doing their job and doing it well too.
An extract from BRITTLE WHITE BONES by David Rae