DISCLAIMER: See part 1
As Anna drove back to the farm, the Land Rover was filled with a stony silence. Pete sat in the passenger seat occasionally throwing a quick glance in her direction. Under normal circumstances he would give her time to cool off, but being as he had just spent another night sinking pints of lager at the Marine bar, he was feeling less inhibited and less intimidated by Anna’s fury.
“C’mon, Anna, it wasn’t that bad.”
Pete was met with absolute silence. Anna continued to stare at the road in front of her. Her jaw set hard and her posture rigid. For the entire evening she had endured sexist comments and lewd overtures from Jim Wallace. If his constant bragging wasn’t bad enough, that had just been the icing on the cake. The guy thought he was God’s gift to women and had constantly invaded her personal space. Under normal circumstances she would have put a stop to his antics with a few well-chosen words. Instead she had bitten her tongue and endured his bragging and fondling to the point where her jaw ached from clenching it. By the end of the night, all she wanted to do was deck him with a swift right hook and leave him lying in a heap.
“And could you please try and be a little nicer to him,” Pete continued. “I mean, it’s okay to use his nickname, but you managed to make it sound like an insult.”
“If that idiot is stupid enough to ask me to call him Wally, then I’m more than happy to oblige.” Anna replied, in a deceptively mild tone. In truth that had been the one thing that helped her retain her composure throughout the evening. She used it as a mental trade off while she waged an internal battle between her natural instincts and her common sense.
“Don’t worry, Pete, I won’t blow it with him.”
“Fair enough. So, how are things going with the community worker?”
Anna pulled up in front of the farmhouse as she contemplated her answer.
“Slowly in truth. She isn’t the type of person who spills her life story five minutes after she meets you. She certainly isn’t a natural gossip, unlike her mother. Maybe I should have taken those flower arranging classes after all.” She blew out a breath showing her frustration at her lack of progress. Normally a woman of direct action, it was difficult to adopt such a slow approach to gathering information. Today it would have been easy to completely forget what her true purpose for being here was. She slammed the door closed as she headed inside.
Pete headed to his room and Anna to the kitchen. When Pete returned, he found her sitting at the kitchen table nursing a cup of tea, her mood was clearly dark. She didn’t look up when he returned until she heard a thump on the table. Before her was a bottle of Royal Lochnagar. A Twelve-year-old single malt whisky.
Anna raised an inquisitive brow.
“Care to join me?” Pete motioned to the unopened bottle.
Anna nodded her agreement. Pete poured himself a small nip and made sure to give Anna a more generous helping. They sat in companionable silence for a while before, much to Pete’s surprise, Anna broke it.
“Did you ever go on one of those outdoor education trips at school?”
Pete blinked, confused by the question that seemingly came out of nowhere. “What like canoeing and orienteering?” Anna nodded. “Sure I remember spending a week in one of the outdoor centre’s … Braemar I think.”
Anna nodded again; she hadn’t been to that one, but knew of it. “I spent a week up at the Lagganlia Centre near Kingussie.” She pointed to the bottle. “Lochnagar is one of the mountain ranges in the Cairngorms.” She shook her head as a small smile came over her face. “We went up into the Cairngorms as one of the activities. On the western edge somewhere. It turned into quite an adventure.” She stopped to take a sip of her whisky, savouring the rich smooth liquid that carried a hint of butterscotch. She swirled it slowly over her tongue then felt it blaze a path down her throat.
Pete sat in rapt fascination, as Anna’s low lilting voice seemed to take on a hypnotic quality, pulling him in as she told her story.
“The further we got up the mountain the more it seemed to be pushing us back down. A couple of the smaller, lighter kids were literally being blown off their feet, so our guide had us walk single file behind him, so we could put a steadying hand on any kids struggling to keep upright. Eventually we came across a bothy, though it was nothing more than a small hut, we were thankful for the shelter. We all huddled inside, sheltering from the constant battering of the wind. We had hot drinks and recovered some energy for the walk to the top. A few of the kids didn’t want to keep going, but we were a team and we all wanted to help each other complete all the activities. So on we went and when we got there the view was brilliant. Amazing really, the sun was shining, even though the wind was biting cold. It felt like it had cleared especially for us, so we could have this memory. We settled down to have our lunch and were no sooner tucking into our food than the guide was up and urging us to get going.” Anna paused for a few seconds. “There was a moment’s confusion, almost like we didn’t believe he was serious, till we looked behind us. The mist and clouds were rolling up the gully so fast it was unbelievable. It was like watching a big ball of black smoke approaching.” Anna paused again taking another mouth full of neat whisky.
“Some of the kids started to panic. It was clear we had to get off the mountain quickly or we would have a lot of trouble finding our way down safely. We had the right gear for a few hours of daylight walking, but nothing for overnight in the middle of winter. It was December, a couple of weeks before Christmas. By the time we were organised our guide was already off and running and, if there had ever been any doubt as to the seriousness of our situation, that image certainly put paid to it.”
Anna stopped talking and sat calmly sipping her drink. Pete sat looking at her expectantly. Anna seemed to be lost in her thoughts for a moment then she looked at Pete. He urged her to continue.
“It was strange really, almost a surreal moment for me. There, in the midst of the panic and urgency, a sense of complete calm washed over me. I wasn’t afraid that we wouldn’t get off the mountain. I can’t explain it rationally, but it kind of felt like she had been looking after us. First she was trying to push us back the way we came, then at the top, there was the break in the sky and the first sunshine on our faces that day.”
“So, what happened?”
Anna offered a rueful smile. “We took off en masse, charging down the mountainside while screaming at the top of our lungs. It was totally thrilling. At the bottom everyone felt exhilarated even though most of us were collapsed on the ground trying to get as much air into our lungs as possible. I remember looking round at all the smiling faces, watery eyes, runny noses and rosy pink cheeks.”
Pete smiled in response to the sparkle in Anna’s eyes. They sat in silence again; Pete trying to garner some sense of what Anna, in her own way, was trying to tell him. Then a sudden thought came to him. “Is it still like that for you, Anna?”
She looked up, silently asking for clarification.
“I mean that feeling of calm washing over you when others might panic. The exhilaration after it.”
“Oh yeah, it’s what keeps me wanting to do this job. The unexpected quality of it, the potential danger that lurks in the shadows.”
Pete nodded. “You must be finding this operation a wee bit tough. You know, it is kind of mundane most of the time.’ Pete softened hoping he hadn’t overstepped the mark.
Anna shrugged and he decided not to press the issue. He picked up the bottle of whisky and motioned to Anna’s glass.
“You trying to get me drunk, McGinty?” Though her voice was serious, it held an underlying hint of playfulness to it.
Pete refilled the glass and laughed. “Somehow I think I would be under the table long before you.”
Anna glanced at Pete and wasn’t so sure about that. In truth, she wasn’t much for drinking to excess. Perhaps it was growing up surrounded by alcohol and bearing witness to its effects from a very young age. She also hadn’t missed his gentle flirting every time he was under the influence.
“Oh, I don’t know about that, Pete. I think you can pretty much hold your own.” She pinned him with her keen blue eyes making sure he got the message.
Pete silently acknowledged what Anna was conveying to him. Unspoken though the signal was, he knew that no amount of alcohol was going to get her between the sheets with him
Anna rose from the table and rinsed her glass in the sink. “Night, Pete.”
“Sleep tight, Anna.”
As Pete watched her go, he couldn’t help but wonder at the total enigma that was Anna Lynch. He felt like she had just opened up to him a little, yet he still didn’t know nearly enough about her. The fact that she had opened up at all was something though, he mused, but she had quickly made sure there would be no misread signals.
He snorted as he picked up his glass, recalling her words. She was classy with a wicked sense of humour; he had to give her that. ‘Holding my own?’ he muttered, while shaking his head. He had certainly been doing plenty of that, especially when he thought of Anna, just a short distance away each night. Now she had given him a clear message that she was more than aware of his interest and holding his own was all he could expect.
Anna parked outside the community centre. It was a warm evening with a salty breeze coming in off the sea. She could think of many better ways to spend a Friday night than babysitting a bunch of teenagers at a disco, but as she saw the visage of Heather Keith standing looking out over the North Sea, with the sun outlining her blonde hair in a halo like glow, she found herself hard pressed to think of any of them.
She paused before getting out of the car and gave herself a moment or two longer to gaze upon the sight.
Heather was shorter than Anna by a good six or seven inches. Her frame was lean, with a bit of muscle definition indicating that she probably worked out. Her hair was reasonably short and cut in a fashionable layered style. Anna couldn’t see her face but imagined a smile upon it in this unguarded moment. As she shut the heavy door of the Land Rover, Heather turned and offered a small wave in greeting as she walked towards her.
“Hi, Anna, you’re early.” Heather had been looking out to sea lost in thought as she pondered the ins and outs of her life. She was not, by nature, a melancholy individual but, just lately had found herself tending to these bouts of deep thought. A tendency that was often accompanied by a sense of ‘something’ she knew not what, hovering on the edge of her consciousness, just waiting for her to reach out and grasp it.
The sight of Anna had instantly raised her spirits. Ever since that first evening in the pub, she had been keen to get to know the dark haired woman better. They seemed to click almost instantly and got along so easily. Heather had always believed it was a gift to be cherished when you met someone with whom you could instantly feel that comfortable. She wasn’t quite sure what it was. Perhaps they were kindred spirits or even opposites, it was really too soon to tell. But she knew, even after such a short time, that she would like to get to know Anna a lot better.
“Hi there.” Anna offered her a toothy smile, which instantly had Heather marvelling at just how beautiful she was. With her long dark hair and piercing blue eyes, not forgetting those cheekbones and lovely white teeth, she really was quite a vision to behold.
“How is the sheep farming coming along?”
“Oh you know, Pete’s happy, I’m happy.” Anna shrugged her indifference.
“Change of pace taking a bit of getting used to?”
Anna nodded and cringed inwardly, God how she hated lying to this woman. She quickly pushed those feelings aside. She knew she had a job to do and this was part of it. “Yeah, I’ve been having a bit of trouble filling up my time, you know. I’m used to the fast pace of city life and lots of amenities within walking distance. Shops, bars, restaurants.” Eyes widening playfully as she finished.
Heather seized the opportunity developing in front of her. “Hey I know some good places to eat and they’re not too far. We could, well … you know … I mean, …” She trailed off, suddenly feeling a bit self conscious at her sudden forwardness.
“I’d love to.” Anna replied easily, immediately dispelling Heather’s discomfort.
“Great! I’ll arrange something, maybe for next weekend?”
“Sure, how about Saturday and maybe something a bit spicy?” Anna added hopefully.
“No problem, I know just the place.” Heather smiled, the bridge of her nose crinkling in just that way Anna had come to notice.
And, had to admit to herself, it was cute.
Just then a group of four girls arrived on foot, giggling and screaming. Anna took in their attire and rolled her eyes. She decided that it wasn’t so much a question of what they were wearing as what they weren’t wearing. There was definitely a distinct lack of cloth covering skin. They all seemed to be wearing the same style of clothes, but in different colours like four variations of the same outfit. Short skirts, which were no longer than a pelmet; spaghetti strapped tight fitting Lycra tops in bright colours and calf length, light suede boots, housing artificially tanned legs. The outfits were accessorised with a good helping of gold to increase the bling factor and a healthy slathering of make-up. She glanced across at Heather with a raised eyebrow, only to see her chuckle in response as she went to greet the girls.
Anna stood in the club that was the venue for the youth disco. It amazed her that this really was a nightclub, which, after the disco was finished, would be cleared and ready to admit late night clubbers from eleven p.m. onwards. The only difference right now was that the bar thankfully, was dry. It was serving non-alcoholic drinks to these under eighteens. Anna knew of these discos, they were the latest money making venture for clubs who would normally be doing little or no business this early in the evening. They didn’t begin to fill up usually until after midnight, when the pubs started to close. Setting up these youth discos with their £5:00 admission fee for three hours of boogying and selling the kids over-priced soft drinks, was actually good business for the owners. It really did have the atmosphere of a nightclub, but with underage patrons. Anna could understand the appeal to the youths attending.
She had found herself a wall to lean against, allowing her to casually observe what was happening. It was beginning to get hot in the club, but not uncomfortably so. The music was loud with a heavy, underlying bass beat. There seemed to be a preference for the more laid-back hip hop/rap style of music, containing lyrics about sexual prowess and with a healthy dose of profanity thrown in for added emphasis. Anna wasn’t by any means a prude; she recalled her own teenage angst preferences of stuff like Sinéad O’Connor, while her brother had gone for the Happy Mondays with their swearing and references to drugs. They would play the music louder and louder until their parents had to intervene. Seems the music genre had changed but, not the content of the lyrics nor the reasons behind the choices of the music.
It was going on for nine-thirty when Anna glanced at her watch again. The disco hadn’t been too bad, she had managed to wander a little and stretch her legs. Glancing around the dance floor she caught sight of Heather dancing energetically with a couple of the girls from the youth club. She was smiling and laughing, clearly enjoying herself. Anna couldn’t help but let her gaze linger on Heather’s compact body, which was moving with co-ordinated ease. Just then Heather looked her way and caught her eye, motioning for Anna to join her on the dance floor. The tall brunette shook her head no, but watched as the blonde smiled and spoke to one of the girls, then headed straight for Anna with a mischievous glint in her eye.
Reaching her, Heather grabbed Anna by the wrist and gently pulled her towards the dance floor. Even while she half-heartedly protested, Anna already knew it was a lost cause.
“Just one dance, Anna,” Heather implored. “Then you can go back to hanging out in the dark.” She laughed when the brunette gave her a wry look and started dancing. Anna couldn’t deny that, under different circumstances, this would have been a very enjoyable activity, but she was undercover and, even if she weren’t, Heather was engaged. So she endeavoured to enjoy the moment for what it was, a dance between two friends. As she looked into Heather’s face full of genuine joy and fun, she dearly wished it were more.
When the song ended Heather excused herself and headed towards the toilets. On her way she bumped into Mark, one of the boys from her youth club, standing there with a huge grin plastered to his face.
“Heather, this is pure magic. Have a’ ever told ye how brilliant you are for doin’ all this for us? You’re just great, Heather.” Mark then proceeded to throw his arms around her, hugging tightly. Heather untangled herself from his rubbery limbs. She tilted his face towards her to get a good look at his eyes. She knew Mark was on something, he was never this demonstrative, normally he was quite shy around her.
Heather spoke to him in quiet, serious tones “Mark, please tell me what you’ve taken?”
“Aww, it was just a wee pill, Heather.” Mark drawled putting his thumb and forefinger up in front of her to indicate just how small the pill was. “The guy said it was safe, he took one as well.” He spread his arms wide and smiled to indicate that he was doing just fine.
Heather cursed quietly under her breath. “Mark, please tell me who gave it to you.” she pleaded.
He seemed to give her question serious thought as he frowned then suddenly his face transformed into one of comprehension. “Oh, I see, you want one too. No problem … C,mon.” He motioned for Heather to follow him.
She was deeply grateful that Mark, at this time seemed to be coping physically with the effects of whatever drug was in his system, but inside she was extremely angry with the knowledge that he had been stupid enough to have taken something. But, even more than that, she was absolutely furious with whoever was dealing the drugs in this environment. As they got closer to a table off to the right of the bar, Mark pointed out a man who looked to be in his early twenties.
“Is that definitely him?” She asked firmly.
“Yep, that’s the guy.”
Heather marched to the man. No other thought in her head than to confront this drug dealer face to face.
“Excuse me, which group are you here with?” Heather glared at him, arms stiffly by her side, fists clenched.
He looked at Heather cautiously. “What’s it to you?” He stood up from his seat, where he had been in the company of a few teenage girls, eyes never leaving hers.
“I want to know who to contact about your selling illegal drugs on these premises.”
“Fuck-off, you don’t know what you’re talking about!” He laughed derisively.
It was at that point that Mark decided to say something himself; too far-gone to register the potential volatile nature of the situation. “Aye, you sold me something. She just wants the same.”
The stranger grabbed Mark forcefully by the front of his shirt and pulled him close. “Shut your fucking mouth.” He growled.
Heather attempted to intervene when he didn’t look like he was going to let him go. Mark attempted to dislodge himself from the vice like grip on his clothing. With arms starting to flail around, a scuffle quickly ensued which ended with Heather receiving an elbow to her left eye and Mark lying sprawled on the floor.
“Fuck!” Heather scrambled to her feet just in time to see the stranger make a run for the fire exit. As she began to make her way across the dance floor she caught sight of Anna running out the exit after him. By the time Heather made it outside and into the car park she found the drug pusher flat on his stomach with Anna holding him down, a knee placed firmly between his shoulder blades, his arm twisted behind his back.
“What the fuck! Get off me!” The dealer was shouting, clearly startled.
“Shut up and stop squirming.”
“What are you doing?”
“Making a citizens arrest.” Anna hissed through clenched teeth.
Heather caught up with them and, right on her heels were half the disco goers.
Anna glanced at Heather who seemed momentarily speechless by the vision before her.
“What did he do, Heather?”
“He was selling drugs to the kids.” Her voice strongly conveyed her anger.
Anna immediately started directing traffic. “Okay, call the police and tell them we have a drug pusher in custody. Tell them we also need an ambulance to check out the kids who have taken whatever it was he’s been selling. Get the kids back inside while we wait for them to arrive. Oh and, Heather, get some ice on your eye.”
Heather nodded and immediately did as Anna had asked, too dazed to register the ease with which the woman had taken control.
When it was again quiet, Anna leaned in really close to her suspect’s ear. “Right, lets cut down on some time and tell me what you were selling?”
“I’m saying nothing.” He spat out and started to struggle, only for Anna to apply more pressure till he stopped moving. He was breathing deeply from the exertion of struggling and the pain Anna’s hold was inflicting on him.”
“Let me fucking go.” He hissed out between breaths.
Anna leaned in again as she used even more pressure. “No way, but … if you tell me what you were selling I’ll ease up a little, how’s that?” Anna asked in a menacing tone.
“No way, bitch.” He squirmed again only to have Anna push harder.
“Ahh, fuck!” He felt like his arm was going to be ripped from its socket.
“Okay,” he gasped, “Ecstasy.”
“Good boy.” Anna cooed lightly and eased off a little. She called back to a guy standing at the fire exit door, instructing him to inform Heather what the drug was. Just then, the sirens could be heard in the distance, Anna estimated she had two more minutes, tops to wait.
“Who the fuck are you?” He wheezed, as he attempted to take in a lungful of air.
“Me? …I’m a sheep farmer.” Anna answered mildly.
Her captive grunted. “Must be some really big sheep on your farm darling.” He chuckled at his own joke, appreciating the irony of the situation.
“Something like that.” Anna mumbled.
Just then, two police cars drew up, doors opening and then slamming dramatically.
“Is this the suspect, Madam?” Anna groaned internally, biting back a snide answer that was on the tip of her tongue.
“Yes, officer.” She relinquished her hold on the suspect as two policemen took over. A third officer then led Anna towards the front of the building. Anna began giving her statement to a female officer as she watched the paramedics arrive.
‘So, Mrs Thomson, you apprehended the suspect?” The officer asked, clearly impressed.
Anna nodded as she ran a hand through her long dark hair, which now looked jet-black, without any sunlight to bring out the auburn in it. “Yeah I just kind of reacted, you know.” She was cringing inside. ‘Wait till the boss gets wind of this, he’s going to blow a gasket.’ Anna thought. She was desperate to get this over with and check on Heather, wanting to make sure she was okay after the blow she took to her eye.
Several more police officers had arrived on the scene, which sped up the process of the interviews. By the time everyone had finished it was close to midnight. Heather had been phoning round the parents to let them know they would be late back. Fortunately only Mark from her group had taken the ecstasy and was being kept overnight for observation, along with three other youths from another group, at the Montrose Royal Infirmary. If anyone else had taken anything, they hadn’t admitted to it, which was likely for fear of their parents finding out.
Heather watched as the last of the youths got into their parent’s cars to head home after an eventful night. They certainly didn’t seem any worse off for the experience, quite the opposite in fact. On the short journey back to the community centre, the bus had been buzzing with tales of Anna and Heather’s heroics in apprehending a drug dealer and holding him until the police arrived. As a result the guys had nicknamed the two women, calling them Rocky and Rambo. While most of the girls were positively hyper, letting out loud squeals as they recalled the action and the drama that had unfolded.
Heather let out a long slow breath as she began to allow the events of the evening to wash over her for the first time. She had been so caught up in the mayhem, then ensuring that all the parents were aware of the delay, and finally discussing the matter with the ones who were waiting to pick up their kids, she just hadn’t yet had time to take it all in. She leaned back against the nearest available object, not even noticing that it was Anna’s vehicle.
“How are you doing?”
The question was asked in soft, comforting tones, which immediately helped soothe Heather’s tension. She rubbed her hands over her face, wincing at the pain around her left eye socket. She could feel the swelling despite having iced the area fairly quickly. “I’ve been better.” She mumbled.
“C’mon, I’ll give you a lift home and you can get some more ice on that eye.”
Heather was about to refuse, then thought better of it. She watched as Anna unlocked the passenger door then closed it after Heather got in. “Where to?”
“Drive down the hill and take the second left. It’s the fifth cottage on the right.”
A short while later they pulled up in front of the cottage and Anna insisted on escorting Heather right up to the front door.
“I’ll be alright, honest.”
“I’m sure you will, but … humour me?”
Heather nodded “You better come in then.”
Anna followed Heather into the cottage. She squinted briefly as Heather flicked on the hall light, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the sudden brightness. They went into the kitchen where she was able to get her first good look at Heather’s black eye.
“Tea, coffee?” Heather asked as she went to the sink to fill the kettle.
“Tea, thanks.” Anna took a seat at the small, round, beech wood table. She watched as the community worker pulled a couple of mugs from a cupboard, and then went to the fridge to get some milk.
“Do you have ice in your freezer?”
“Good.” Anna moved from her seat and went to the freezer where she removed two bags of ice cubes.
“Clean dish towels?”
Heather opened a drawer and gave one to Anna. While she made the tea, Anna wrapped the dishtowel around the bags of ice cubes.
They made their way to the living room and settled down into a comfortable sofa. Anna sipped her hot tea and took in her surroundings. The room was decorated in light colours and gave off a feeling of comfort and relaxation. There was a distinctly feminine feel to the décor. A soft, neutral coloured, woollen carpet was fitted wall to wall. The walls were a basic barley shade. The sofa and armchairs were a buttery colour and accessorised with cushions and throws in shades of grey and yellow, with the occasional pattern on them. On the opposite wall from where Anna was sitting there was an original open stone fireplace and she could understand anyone wanting to keep such an exquisite feature despite the more practical, newly installed, central heating. She imagined that it must be very romantic on cold winter evenings, then immediately quashed that thought not wanting to imagine Heather and Greg together. She did wonder where he was though.
“Greg not home?” Anna asked nonchalantly.
“No, he’s out on the boat.” Heather leaned forward, settling her forearms on her knees. Her voice sounded flat, its usually cadence gone.
“How long is he usually away for?” Anna prodded.
Heather shrugged, “It’s several days at a time, depending on how quickly they locate the fish.”
“There must be some tough times out there.”
“Yeah… “ Heather sighed “Listen, Anna, about tonight. I want to thank you, for what you did.”
“Oh, don’t mention it, I was glad to help… Really.”
“You did more than help, Anna. You were amazing. I mean the way you got that guy and held him until the Police arrived.” Heather shook her head in awe. “You were great. I wish I had thought about what I was doing, instead of just charging in there and confronting him. It was a stupid thing to do”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. Those kids mean a lot to you. I’m not sure I would have reacted any differently in those circumstances.”
Anna’s words didn’t seem to have any effect on her. “It’s just… Damn! I can’t believe that was happening and right under our noses. How can I expect the parents to trust their kids to our care when they find out that drugs are being sold to them?” Heather started to tear up, her emotions beginning to take over. “I hate drugs, Anna. The kids are the most vulnerable group and these people are preying on them. I mean, this is a quiet village most of the time, but the surrounding towns and cities are rife with drugs, especially Aberdeen. The north-east coast is often where drugs are smuggled in, so it makes them even more easily available round here.”
Heather wasn’t telling Anna anything she didn’t already know. It was common knowledge both within and outside the police force. “Hey, c’mon. It’s not your fault. You could never have known that some idiot would choose to operate that way. You do everything you can to make the kids feel safe. You weren’t the one to allow that drug dealer to volunteer. He was with another youth group”
Heather let go a sob she had been trying to hold back. “God, I’m sorry.”
“Hey, no need to apologise.” Anna put a comforting arm around Heather’s shoulder and the blonde went willingly into the embrace.
They both sat together on the sofa for several moments. Anna gently rubbing Heather’s back to try and soothe her distress. Eventually she lifted her head from Anna’s shoulder and offered her an embarrassed smile.
“Hell, look at me, crying all over you.” She rubbed her tears away, as she attempted to regain her composure.
Anna smiled in return. “No problem.” She held Heather’s gaze for a few more seconds, conveying her sincerity.
“Listen, I better get going. Will you be okay?”
“Yeah, I will, and thanks again, Anna.”
“Don’t mention it.” Anna got up from the sofa and made her way to the front door. Heather followed behind her.
“Will we see you at the youth club on Tuesday?” Heather had been almost afraid to ask.
“Count on it.” They shared a weary smile before Anna left the cottage.
Anna was still cursing herself as she drove along the lane towards the farm. She just knew her boss was going to be on the phone first thing tomorrow with a stern reminder not to blow her cover. There would be the usual rant reiterating the amount of the time and effort being put into this exercise, not to mention the money it was costing. And how it was important that she not fuck up. As if that wasn’t bad enough she was genuinely attracted to Heather Keith. If there had been any doubts before, they had been well and truly blown away on more than one occasion tonight.
She had seen so many sides to Heather’s personality that evening and each one of them had left her craving more. Anna also knew that her biggest mistake had not been her apprehending a drug dealer, but taking a 5 foot 4”ish blonde dynamo into her arms and offering her comfort. Worst of all, she knew she could not have stopped herself, even if she had had the foresight to try.
As Anna parked the Land Rover in front of the farmhouse, she pounded her fists on the steering wheel in frustration, before finally making her way inside. Heading straight to the kitchen she located Pete’s bottle of single malt and poured herself a large dram. She made her way upstairs wearily, whisky glass in hand and switched on the lamp on the bedside table.
Anna sat on the edge of the bed, fully clothed, sipping on the whisky and staring out through the window into the inky blackness. The lack of street lighting reinforced the feeling of there being nothing out there. Fuck! This can’t be happening to me. Was her last thought before angrily stripping of her clothing and slipping between the cool sheets.
“It was nothing, really.” Anna answered almost pleading with Heather’s mother to shut up.
“Nonsense, dear. What you did was simply wonderful. I mean really, how many young women or men for that matter, would actually apprehend a suspect single-handed? It’s marvellous. I’m sure you must be very proud of her, Peter? Hmm.”
“Oh, absolutely, Mrs Keith. I mean, who knew my wife had it in her to actually catch drug dealers. It’s certainly come as a great surprise to me.” Pete was milking this for all he could get and there was no doubt he was enjoying himself.
Anna shot him a look that clearly indicated he would pay for that jibe later, but Pete just carried on lapping up the praise and perversely enjoying Anna’s discomfort due to all the attention.
Mrs Keith continued on oblivious to all around her, gesturing dramatically to convey her point. “You know when I saw Heather’s face, well I almost fainted. My daughter with a black eye, it was such a shock I can tell you. I mean, I just don’t think she’s cut out for that sort of thing. No disrespect, Anna dear, but you do look like you could handle yourself a bit better than Heather. She’s just a slip of a girl really. Perhaps Greg can talk some sense into her when he returns from the sea.”
‘God, does this woman ever shut up?’ Anna thought. To make matters worse Heather was standing not two feet away from her. Mrs Keith carried on regardless as though Heather were not even party to her rant. Anna looked at Heather and could see the hurt and anger clearly visible on her friend’s normally bright face. She had heard enough.
“I can assure you, Mrs Keith, Heather does a wonderful job at the youth club. The kids think very highly of her.” She offered a smile of support in the blonde’s direction, who looked duly grateful.
“Be that as it may, Anna, I’m just not convinced it’s the right job for a young woman like Heather,” Mrs Keith replied testily, clearly a little put out at Anna’s audacity. Disagreeing with Mrs Keith was obviously something that didn’t happen often.
Anna looked challengingly at her. “I’m sure that decision is Heather’s to make,” she added injecting a touch of ice to her voice.
Heather decided to put an end to her mother’s rant. “Yes it is, Mother. We’ve been over this many times before. I don’t want to discuss it again. Especially not here.”
“Fine. We’ll see what Gregor has to say about it.” With that parting shot, Mrs Keith walked off in search of new prey.
Anna looked at Heather, her eye had darkened in the two days since she had last seen her. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good, I just have to deal with my mothers meddling all over again, now that she has some new ammunition.” She rolled her eyes to convey her exasperation.
Changing the subject she continued, “listen, I booked us into a restaurant for next Saturday, spicy just like you requested.”
“Oh, great. I’m really looking forward to it.” She smiled at the blonde, who looked more relaxed now that her overbearing mother had moved on.
“Me too. I’ll see you Tuesday?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Anna replied, genuinely looking forward to spending more time with Heather.
“You wanna tell me what the fuck that was all about?” Anna had sensed Pete had something on his mind. He had been too quiet for the duration of the drive back from church.
“First the stuff with Mrs Keith. Did you have to antagonise her?”
“Oh come on, Pete, the old battle axe had it coming.”
“Yeah and you just had to be the knight in shining armour?’
Anna glared at him. ”You want to explain exactly what that’s supposed to mean?” she asked, her tone turning menacing.
“Look, Anna, I know the two of you are getting on well, but it seems to me that it might be a little too well.”
“What, me and Mrs Keith…are you jealous?” Anna opted for humour, which only served to upset Pete further.
“Don’t do this, Anna.”
“Do what!?” Anna stared at him hard before continuing. “My job? Isn’t this exactly what we’re supposed to be doing, hmm? Getting people in the community to trust us so that they tell us what we need to know. Then we just waltz out of their lives like we were never here in the first place. Easy as that,” Anna spread her arms wide “So would you care tell me which part I’m doing wrong, Pete?”
“Its not that you’re doing it wrong, Anna, it’s more like you’re doing it too well!” They were both shouting, needing to let off steam.
“Aww, hell! C’mon, Pete give me a break here. Yes, I like Heather, this kind of thing happens. We’re not machines after all. I just keep doing my job and deal with it.”
“Fair enough. That’s all I need to know.”
Anna looked at him and nodded. She felt it was time to get Pete to back off a bit and allow her some breathing space. “You know, Pete, you have to trust me here. I’m not prone to fucking up and I’m not about to start. I appreciate the reality check, but I don’t need coddling.”
Pete nodded, the tension beginning to ease from his body. “I’m sorry. I just can’t afford to mess up here. Not after the last fiasco I was involved in.”
“I understand, and I really do appreciate the effort you are putting in. Just allow me the space that I need to do my job.” She made sure to make direct eye contact with him; “I won’t let you down.” Her tone conveyed the seriousness of her statement.
It was important for Pete to hear those words. The last big operation he had been involved in had ended with the main target evading arrest. The only arrests made were small time drug dealers. Guys like the one Anna had apprehended at the Youth disco. It was a very small return on a big operation. And because of that, it was a black mark against Pete and his chances of promotion in the near future. It was also one of the reasons why Anna had been reluctant to pair with Pete. She didn’t know exactly why the operation had largely failed, but was now beginning to suspect that it wasn’t down to Pete McGinty. The truth of the matter was she had been impressed with his hunger and dedication so far in this project. He definitely had a point to prove and was setting about doing that in the best way possible, by doing his utmost to deliver a result. The one thing Anna was good at was delivering big. She had developed that good habit over the years and she wasn’t about to let anything mess that up. Anna would do everything in her power to ensure this operation was a success. That meant that Pete had every chance of succeeding by association.
Dinner at the Keith household the following Wednesday was a tense affair. Greg was back on dry land and had accompanied Heather this time. Mrs Keith had spent the duration of the meal putting ideas and thoughts into Greg’s head about what was and was not appropriate for her daughter. Heather had caught her father’s eye several times, offering him a pleading look. He had said nothing, instead returning her gaze with a look that was unreadable to Heather. It was as if he had chosen to remain completely neutral, not wishing to be seen to take sides. On a fundamental level, it angered Heather. He would normally side with her when he deemed his wife to be taking something too far. Heather felt this was such an occasion, yet her father remained silent.
Heather and Greg returned home around eight p.m. She was tired and irritable, a feeling which was becoming familiar and more prevalent with her around both Greg and her mother. She made some tea and settled down on the sofa to watch television with Greg. He was channel surfing and eventually settled for a home improvement style show. Heather really wasn’t much interested in finding out how to give your sitting room a makeover within a limited budget, it seemed after a few minutes neither was Greg, when he abruptly shut the TV off with the remote. Heather looked at him over the rim of her cup. He obviously had something on his mind judging by the pensive look on his face. She couldn’t help but feel a sense of foreboding regarding the impending conversation.
Greg turned to face her, “I think your mum’s right, Heather.”
Greg could tell by the look on her face she was about to object so he continued quickly, “Just hear me out.”
Against her better judgement she agreed, “alright.”
“Maybe it would be a good thing if you got a job that’s less risky. I don’t want to have to worry about coming back from sea and find you with a black eye again or some other injury. You know you’ll be giving it up when we start a family anyway, so what would be the harm in finding something simpler till then?”
Heather found herself speechless for a good thirty seconds. She could not believe what she was hearing from Greg. She exhaled a long slow stream of air out through her nostrils to calm her ragged nerves.
“Greg, I don’t even know where to start.” She looked at him and shook her head. “You fish in deep waters in all kinds of weather. Not only are you at risk from the elements but, also there is an added danger from the equipment you use. Boats have even been dragged under unexpectedly when submarines have caught their nets. Any number of things could happen to you when you leave harbour. Yet never once have I asked you to reconsider what you do. I accept the inherent risk and danger that go with your job. And do you know why?” Heather paused to give Greg a moment to think about what she was telling him.
“I’ll tell you. Its because I know you love what you do.” She waited for her point to hit home before continuing. “I have one incident and this is your knee jerk reaction. I’m not a little girl, Greg, I can take care of myself and I will not be giving up the job I love just because you or my mother want me to.”
There was a tension that hung in the air between them. Greg was thinking over Heather’s answer, but he still had a point to make.
“What about starting a family?”
Heather’s brow furrowed, this was a subject that they had broached in the past. It had remained a given that when they married things would progress in that direction. Heather did want children, but she also wanted a secure future, or for it to be as secure as they could make it. This was a point she had made clear to Greg and thought he understood and shared her wishes.
“You want me to give up my job when we decide to start a family?”
“I thought that would be the plan, yes.”
Heather could not hold back her frustration any longer.
“Tell me, Greg, how are we supposed to remain financially solvent if I give up my job? Where is the money going to come from to feed and clothe ourselves and any children we may have?” She ran a hand through her short hair, exasperation showing in every movement. “I have no plans to give up my job. I enjoy it and we need the money.” She looked at him, pleading with him to understand, her hands moving to emphasise every point. “Your job isn’t stable, why will you not acknowledge this?”
Greg stood up and paced back and forward in front of Heather. “The boat is making money and it will continue to make money.”
“Then help me understand, Greg? How can that be? What has changed?”
“It’s nothing that you need concern yourself with!”
“You can’t keep me in the dark over this, I won’t have it!”
Greg walked into the hall and reached for his jacket.
Heather followed him. “Where are you going?”
“Out.” He turned to look at her as he opened the door. “You know, Heather, my mother never asked about my father’s business with the boat. That side of things was left up to him.”
“For one thing, Greg, there were plenty of fish in the sea when your dad went fishing!” She lowered her voice hoping to get through to him the importance of the matter. “How can you not see that this affects us both? It’s not just your future.”
He didn’t reply and instead made his way out of the cottage. As the door closed, Heather slumped to the floor in defeat, wondering not for the first time just what was going on. She felt that things were spiralling out of control and there was nothing she could do about it until Greg was willing to talk openly.
Anna was putting the finishing touches to her outfit, selecting a rectangular shaped Mother of Pearl pendant on a silver chain. She wasn’t much for lots of jewellery, preferring to go for an understated look. She had on her usual watch, which was a simple linked, stainless steel, bracelet with a light blue watch face. The only other piece of jewellery was the platinum wedding band on her ring finger, which she had been wearing since the beginning of this operation. She had opted for a tight fitting knitted crew olive tank top with a pair of grey dress trousers that had a flat front and side pockets. The outfit showed off her toned, tanned arms, while accentuating her trim waist. On her feet she wore a pair of casual, natural suede mules. She applied some light make-up, added a squirt of perfume, then grabbed a dark denim jacket and headed downstairs to wait for Heather who would be picking her up just after seven p.m.
Anna stood just outside the farmhouse, next to an old wooden, park style, bench. Its green paint was cracked and peeling, giving it a weathered look. The brunette popped her jacket down on the bench seat and sat on top of it to give her a little comfort. She glanced out over the fields, she could make out the sheep far off in the distance, beyond that were rolling hills, which had a purple hue from the abundance of heather covering them. It was quite a spectacular view, especially given the time of year, the evening sunshine bringing out every colour the landscape had to offer. The poor summer had prevented the grass from taking on the dry, sun-bleached look that it would normally have this time of year. Instead, it was a lush green colour, usually associated with early summer.
Anna glanced to her left and saw a small white car making its way along the private road up to the farmhouse. As it got closer she saw the familiar blonde head behind the steering wheel. The sight instantly bringing an unconscious smile to her lips.
Heather put her Corsa in park, grinning at the brunette making her way towards the passenger side. Heather leaned across to open the door and then watched Anna carefully fold her tall frame into the car.
As Anna reached for the lever to move the seat back Heather grinned her apology, “Sorry, my mother was the last front seat passenger.”
“S’alright,” replied Anna as she moved the seat back.
Since Agnes Keith was around two inches shorter than her daughter that was all the explanation Anna needed. She smiled at the blonde as she casually took in Heather’s appearance. Heather wore a low-necked, sleeveless top that was white in colour. It had a smattering of small, delicate flowers decorating it. She was wearing a pair of lilac coloured slacks, but that was as much as Anna could see at the moment.
“So you up for some spicy food?”
“I’m always up for spicy food.” Anna replied with mock seriousness. “And I’m incredibly hungry.”
“Better get going then, it’ll be worth the wait, trust me.”
Anna mused that she would be hard pressed to think of a more trustworthy person than her blonde companion, as her brain was busy trying to pin down the scent of Heather’s perfume, which was eluding her at that moment in time.
Twenty minutes later Heather was leading Anna into a restaurant called The Spice of Life. The brunette thought that the title was definitely a good omen, as she ogled Heather’s toned backside. The trousers had turned out to be a three-quarter length Capri style, which the blonde wore with a pair of fashionable sandals. Anna thought Heather looked incredible, even a little like Doris Day. She was a sucker for the good girl look, but thought she better keep that little titbit to herself.
“How’s your food?”
“Mmm, its great, lots of flavour and nice and spicy.”
Anna had opted for the chicken madras, one of the hotter dishes on the menu. That had earned her a raised eyebrow from Heather; she didn’t like anything too hot and spicy and on this occasion had gone for a lamb bhoona.
“Wanna try some?”
“Eh, no. I think I’ll pass. I don’t think there’s enough water left on the table.”
Anna chuckled, “Not into the hot stuff, huh?”
“No, it doesn’t seem to agree with me too well.”
They continued making small talk while enjoying their main courses accompanied by sweet naan bread, rice and a pleasant house white wine. Anna eventually decided to do a little prodding.
“Greg doesn’t mind you being out tonight?” One look at Heather’s face had Anna instantly regretting that question. She had witnessed a flash of pain, which was quickly followed by a forced smile.
“Sorry. Forget I asked,” Anna added, feeling contrite.
“No, it’s okay. Things are just a little tough at the moment. What with the fishing restrictions and then Greg siding with my mother about me giving up my job.”
“I’m sorry, that must have been hard.”
Heather sat for a moment, contemplating opening up to Anna. She had been feeling the weight of carrying this burden. She didn’t really have anyone to open up to, as everyone around her was too close to the problem.
Heather let out a frustrated sigh. “I just don’t get what’s going on with him at the moment. He doesn’t seem to be thinking clearly right now. He’s a fisherman, Anna…it’s a dying industry. There’s no money to be made at the moment…it’s simply a case of survival and not everyone is surviving. Yet he won’t even talk to me about the boat…said it’s not women’s business! Can you believe that?”
Heather shook her head in disbelief, while Anna was thinking about what a prick Greg was being.
“To top it all off he sides with my mother, then casually mentions that I’ll be giving up my job when we start a family anyway. How Greg can think we can afford to raise a family without my financial contribution just baffles me.”
“I’m sorry, Heather.” Anna wanted to say so much more than that. She was getting exactly the type of information she needed from Heather in terms of her job, but she felt nothing but guilt at gaining it. She was getting it because Heather trusted her. That meant she was doing her job well, but she gained absolutely no pleasure from that knowledge. She felt inept because the only word she seemed to be able to say to her younger companion was sorry. She was sorry, but for so much more than Heather could know.
The meal had now become a bit subdued so Heather decided to try a change of topic.
“How long have you and Pete been together?”
Anna winced inwardly and wondered if this night could get any worse.
“Oh, about five years or so. We met at work.” Well at least part of that was true, Anna thought.
“How did you know he was the one?”
Anna contemplated her answer knowing she had to sell this. She had a sudden thought and decided to go with it.
“Almost from the moment we met I was drawn to him. His zest for life, his natural enthusiasm, it’s infectious, and before you know it, it rubs off on you. He cares about people and he wants to make a difference. Of course, he’s also very easy on the eye. It was all those things and more.” Anna shrugged not really wanting to go on, especially when the person she was actually describing was the woman sitting opposite her.
Heather smiled at Anna’s explanation, “You’re very lucky,” she said softly.
Their eyes met and they held each other’s gaze.
“Perhaps,” Anna replied cryptically, softly, not breaking the tension.
Heather suddenly felt herself blush and ended the moment with a nervous clearing of her throat.
“So, you want to head back?”
Anna cursed internally, her behaviour had been inappropriate, but she was loath to regret it, instead she decided to enjoy the connection they had shared. She knew she was falling for Heather and, for the first time, she had felt something in return and that warmed her greatly. Tomorrow she could worry about the implications of what that meant.
The journey back to Havensburgh was relatively quiet, both women seemingly lost in their own thoughts, till Heather broke the silence.
“Would you mind if we stopped off somewhere?”
“No. Not at all.” Anna was secretly intrigued.
Heather turned off the road and after a couple of minutes, pulled up into a parking spot that overlooked the sea. This was one of her favourite places and she wanted to share it with Anna.
“Grab your jacket it’s getting a bit cooler.”
They exited the car and Heather opened the boot to remove two travel blankets. She grabbed her tall companion’s hand and led her down a small path, which opened onto a secluded stretch of beach.
“I love coming down here on a clear night, especially when it isn’t too cold. Sometimes I’ve even been lucky enough to see the Aurora Borealis,” Heather added wistfully.
They walked a little farther towards the shore, then lay the blankets on top of the sand and sat on them. Anna could see the attraction of this place for Heather. It was beautiful and tranquil, like having your own little piece of paradise.
“What was it like for you growing up, Anna?”
“Pretty normal; pretty average … it was stable.”
With Heather’s encouraging look she continued, “I grew up in a farming community down in the borders. That’s where my parents have the pub. It was fairly quiet, though my brother Liam and myself still found lots of trouble to get into. I suppose it must have been similar to yours. You know how it is, everybody knows everyone else. A close knit community, everyone knows your business.”
Anna paused for a moment, “You don’t have any siblings?”
The question seemed to take Heather completely by surprise, “Actually I do. I have an older brother…I haven’t seen him in a few years.” Heather added, her voice taking on a melancholy tone.
Anna waited for more information and when none was forthcoming, she knew there was a story there somewhere. Perhaps Heather and her brother just didn’t get along.
The wind was beginning to pick up coming off the sea, but neither woman seemed ready to move from their little haven. Anna took her blanket and wrapped it around Heather’s shoulders, leaving herself sitting on the cool sand.
“Here, it’s getting cold.”
Heather was initially stunned by the gesture, then marvelled at the thoughtfulness of it. Without hesitation, she shifted over a bit on her blanket to provide space for Anna.
“C’mon, you must be getting cold as well.”
When Anna moved onto the blanket Heather wrapped the other one around Anna’s shoulder to share with her. They were so close it just seemed like the most natural thing in the world to move towards the other’s body heat. Anna drew her arm around Heather and they sat quietly enjoying the other’s company. There was nothing but the hypnotic sound of the small waves lapping at the shore as the tide began to come in, and the sound of the other’s breathing. It was a moment so perfect Anna knew she had never experienced anything like it before. It was so beautiful it almost hurt.
Heather dropped Anna off back at the farmhouse. As she made the short journey home she was, for the first time, able to admit that she had a crush on another woman. The evening she had just shared with Anna had felt romantic to Heather. More so than anything she shared with Greg in recent memory. It had been a long time since Heather had felt this way. She thought that perhaps she should be a little shocked that she was attracted to another woman, but she didn’t feel that way at all. Instead, she felt a little giddy, even a little naughty. She had no thoughts of this crush being anything other than her own personal secret. Anna was a happily married woman after all. The way she had spoken about Pete earlier in the evening had actually left Heather feeling a little jealous of him. She shivered as a memory of her and Anna wrapped up in the blankets sitting on the beach came to mind. Heather had been enthralled by the very nearness of her friend. Anna had smelled wonderful, an earthy scent that reminded Heather of woods and spices, with a hint of jasmine. Whatever perfume Anna had worn, Heather loved the scent. It suited her tall, dark haired companion very well.
Pete half groaned and half grunted. He made his way to the kitchen in search of coffee. Finding half a pot left warming he quickly poured a mug of the strong brew. He had left yesterday lunchtime to watch Aberdeen play their opening home game of the football season. He was only now returning to the farmhouse.
“Ahh, that’s better,” he sighed.
“So, what kept you out all night?” Anna asked clearly amused at Pete’s dishevelled appearance and obvious hangover.
“Let’s just say, the bait is there waiting to see if Wally bites.” He took another gulp of black coffee before continuing. “He thinks that I’ve cheated on you with a buxom, leggy blonde.”
Anna raised an eyebrow, “And did you?” She asked, clearly amused.
“I never kiss and tell, Anna.”
“Since when?” She snorted in disbelief. Pete had never been shy in the past, but she supposed this wasn’t the same situation, as there was really no one to brag to.
“Wally has agreed to cover for me, in fact he came up with the story. I have just spent the night in police custody, sleeping off my drunken stupor in a cell as did Wally.”
“And did he?” Anna asked curiously.
Pete shook his head negatively, instantly regretting the manoeuvre as his head started to pound. “He spent the night in the same hotel I did. He drove us back this morning.”
“Okay, we wait and see if he uses any of this to his advantage. Maybe call in a favour from you in return for keeping quiet. Might give us something.”
“How did your evening go?”
Anna immediately felt a pang of guilt as she was reminded of her task the previous evening. “Not too bad actually. Seems Heather is worried about Greg, thinks he might be keeping secrets. Could be something, could be nothing, but worth keeping tabs on, that’s for sure. Said he had been talking about decommissioning the boat a few months back and now he won’t entertain that thought anymore.”
“Good work,” praised Pete.
“I’d say the same, but I think it was just a normal night out on the pull for you.”
“Ha ha, very funny,” grumbled Pete.
“Davidson is starting to get antsy about the operation. He’s expecting us to give him something positive by tomorrow. What we have could be something or it could be nothing.” Anna poured herself more coffee and sat opposite Pete, making sure to drag the chair across the wooden floor. She loved to watch him suffer.
“Jesus, Anna do you have to do that?”
Anna feigned innocence, “So, what should we tell him?”
“There are six boats working out of this harbour. So far we only have contact with three of the six skippers. The only one that looks remotely suspicious is the Laissez Faire and that could turn out to be nothing.” Pete looked at Anna, “He’s going to go nuts, isn’t he?”
“Well he is if we just tell him that.” Anna pursed her lips, she knew they needed to buy more time from Chief Inspector Davidson, time in which he would allow them to follow their instincts, without pressure from external sources.
“We have three boats under close surveillance, the other three we are monitoring for any signs of illegal activity. Of the three we are closely monitoring, two are worth more in-depth scrutiny. Namely, The Laissez Faire and the North Star. Both skippers could be involved in illegal activity and we have made strong inroads with them socially. We tell him specifically of the bait you have offered Wally and the relationship I have built up with the fiancée of Greg Moir. We give details of the activities of both men. Greg Moir recently changed his mind about decommissioning his boat and thinks his fiancée should give up her job, while she thinks they can’t afford to. That is definitely worth pursuing, something is going on there.”
“What about Wally? I’m not sure that we really have much on him.”
“We just need to give Davidson the information he wants to hear. Wally is worth keeping close tabs on. Sure there has been nothing specific going on with him, but there is something about him that tells me to keep watching.”
“So, what do we tell Davidson?”
“That Wally is a fisherman without a care in the world, while everyone around him is showing the strain. He is definitely worth the effort even if it’s just because he has a big mouth and likes to brag. He might give us something on someone else.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you should be working in politics? Gordon Brown could find a job for you as a spin doctor.”
Anna shrugged, “We need to buy time with Davidson and keep him off our backs. Hopefully by the time he realises that we really don’t have much, we might have something more.”
She looked at Pete, “You know, this isn’t exactly the most dynamic operation I’ve ever been on, but if we get what we’re after then it will have all been worth the effort, including the sitting around twiddling our thumbs part. When it’s time to move on this operation that will be it. The only chance we get. We’re the ones everyone else is relying on to make that call. There will be no second chances with this one. When we call it, everyone in this village will know what has just gone down. So, if it’s the wrong call, it’s over. Anyone who is involved in something illegal will know to move their operation elsewhere.”
Pete nodded his agreement. He also knew that call would be Anna’s to make, but the information he supplied would be vital in helping her make it. He understood that she was stressing the importance of the timing of this operation and the information gathering. He was beginning to see what made Anna Lynch the proficient detective she was and why she had a sound reputation amongst her fellow officers. He knew this woman could help make him a better detective if he paid attention.
Anna stood up from the table. “Right, we are not missing church because you have a hangover, anyway a guilty man would go just because he feels guilty.” Anna pinned Pete with an icy glare. “So, you cheating rat bastard, get a shower and clean yourself up!” She walked energetically from the kitchen, chuckling at her own teasing made at Pete’s expense. Knowing her good mood and vitality would only irritate him more due to his delicate condition.
On his return from church, Pete had headed straight to bed opting to try to sleep of his hangover. Anna decided to scout around the area. She wanted to familiarise herself with as much of the coastline and outlying area as possible. She would also be on the look out for anything that raised her suspicions. Changing into clothing more suitable for her excursion and, under the guise of sightseeing, Anna jumped into her Land Rover armed with binoculars and a digital camera. She had taken a few of these trips before and each one increased her knowledge of all the local back roads and out of the way secluded spots.
There were two locations that Anna was constantly drawn to. She had viewed them during daylight hours and after dark. The first was in the next village up from Havensburgh. The population of this village was similar in size, but it had more secluded spots nearer the shoreline, as the actual village was perched about fifty feet above sea level. There was a small road that led down to the bay but a vehicle could drive off to the left and park beneath the large, arched structure of the bridge alongside its very foundations. There was no proper road but, it was accessible, this was a spot that Anna would consider using if she wanted to conduct business away from prying eyes.
The second spot was in the most sparsely populated village, just another three miles away. It had a small functional harbour that no longer saw any commercial fishing activity. With the tide in, a large fishing boat could use the harbour to offload its catch, or anything else it was carrying. Anna favoured this spot, as a boat could come into the harbour and leave again without anyone knowing it was ever there. It was also on the main stretch of water between Peterhead, where most fishing vessels landed their catch and Havensburgh, where the boat would dock. A trip into this harbour would be a short detour for any of the boats from Havensburgh. Reaching the harbour by car involved driving down a winding road that was used, almost exclusively, by the few residents located sporadically throughout the area.
Anna raised her binoculars to get a closer look at a specific area from her vantage point, scouting what would be her last location for the day. She let the binoculars hang around her neck again then used her digital camera to take a few more pictures that she could download to her laptop and review later. She was hungry so decided to stop off at a chip shop she had heard good things about. Not the healthiest food available, but it would do for this evening. One of the bonuses of this operation was that Anna had time to devote to improving her dietary needs. She was usually grabbing a quick bite to eat or skipping meals altogether. At the Farmhouse, she and Pete were actually cooking main meals.
Anna juggled the hot food in her hand while holding on tightly to the bottle of Irn-Bru she had tucked under her arm. She quickly used her keys to open the front door, then made her way to the kitchen before she dropped something. Leaving the unhealthy food wrapped, she headed to Pete’s bedroom to wake him.
Anna banged on the door, ‘Hangover Harry, you’re dinner’s out!”
She heard a groan from behind the door. “C’mon, Pete, trust me on this, it’ll do you the world of good.”
Upon hearing the sound of movement from within the room, she headed back to the kitchen to plate the food. Pete entered grumbling to himself.
“Anna, I’m not sure I’m going to manage any…” Pete stopped as his brain registered the smells wafting through the air.
Anna chuckled, this hangover cure rarely failed.
“Yep. White pudding supper and Irn-Bru.”
For some strange reason, this seemed to be the food and drink of choice that hung-over Scots seemed to prefer. No one knew exactly why, it just was. Irn-Bru, a fizzy drink that tasted like no other and was the colour of rusted girders; white pudding made from oatmeal and beef dripping with some spices and seasoning and chips with lashing of salt and vinegar.
Pete sat gingerly at the kitchen table and took his first bite. In no time at all he was digging into his food and washing it down with the Irn-Bru.
“How’s your fish?”
“Very good,” Anna replied. She had been pleasantly surprised with her fish supper. The food might not be the healthiest, but she could understand why the chip shop she used had a good reputation.
“You know, Anna, as far as acts of kindness go, this one is right up there.” Pete was clearly feeling a lot better. He never teased when he felt bad.
“Yeah. Well don’t get used to it. It’s a one off.”
“So you want to watch a DVD or something?”
“Depends,” Anna replied cagily. “What have you got?”
That was met with a so-so look.
“The Usual Suspects?” Pete hedged.
“Yeah, I could watch that one again.”
“You like it?”
“It’s one of my favourite films.”
Pete nodded, “you know after watching it three times, I still can’t figure out who was Keyser Söze.”
Anna looked incredulously at Pete, hoping he was joking.
At the end of the film, Anna glanced over at Pete who appeared to be deep in thought.
“A penny for them.”
Pete glanced at her with a look of mild confusion on his face, which changed rapidly as comprehension dawned.
“Oh.” He chuckled and leaned his head back to rest on the sofa, as he stretched out his body. “I was just wondering what it’s like…you know, taking a life. I mean, not that I’m anxious to find out or anything, just curious, you know?” He turned to look at Anna, waiting for her to respond to his musings. She was sitting, staring straight ahead, her body completely still. Eyes unblinking.
“Ah, Christ,” Pete almost whispered. “I’m sorry, Anna, I just wasn’t thinking.”
Anna turned to look at Pete, his apology had barely registered with her, having just been plunged into a dark memory from her past. One she tried not to think too much about, if she could help it.
“It’s not anything a person who is capable of feeling remorse would want to experience.”
Pete sat transfixed on the woman next to him. He wasn’t aware of her ever speaking to anyone he knew about this part of her.
“Until you find yourself in a certain situation which causes you to react, I don’t think you can ever be truly aware of what you are capable of.” Anna’s gaze never once moved from Pete’s. He found himself virtually spellbound.
“Then, in the cold light of day, you are left to deal with the aftermath of your actions. The strange thing is, I don’t find that reality the most difficult to deal with. It’s the fact of knowing, for certain, that I would do it again, that’s the most harrowing part. Living with the knowledge that you are capable of taking a human life.”
Pete felt himself shudder involuntarily. He wasn’t the type of guy to be easily spooked, but hearing Anna talk in such a calm, detached manner about the subject of taking a life had left him feeling a little uneasy. Not because he feared the woman sitting next to him, he both respected and trusted her more each day. His feelings of unease had more to do with the realisation that there were some things in life you just didn’t want to experience. No matter how curious you were. He wondered just what price that experience really came with.
Return to the Academy