Dead Souls

Dead Souls by Ian Rankin Read Free Book Online

Book: Dead Souls by Ian Rankin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ian Rankin
fire’. The room was overheated. A pot of tea was produced, and on the table by Rebus’s armchair sat enough slices of cake to feed a football crowd.
    ‘He’s a brainy one,’ Janice’s mother said, handing Rebus a framed photograph of Damon Mee. ‘Plenty ofcertificates from school. Works hard. Saving to get married.’
    The photo showed a smiling imp, not long out of school.
    ‘We gave the most recent pictures to the police,’ Janice explained. Rebus nodded: he’d seen them in the file. All the same, when a packet of holiday snaps was handed to him, he went through them slowly: it saved having to look at the expectant faces. He felt like a doctor, expected to produce both immediate diagnosis and remedy. The photos showed a face more careworn than in the framed print. The impish smile remained, but noticeably older: some effort had gone into it. There was something behind the eyes, disenchantment maybe. Damon’s parents were in a few of the photos.
    ‘We all went together,’ Brian explained. ‘The whole family.’
    Beaches, a big white hotel, poolside games. ‘Where is it?’
    ‘Lanzarote,’ Janice said, handing him his tea. ‘Do you still take sugar?’
    ‘Haven’t done for years,’ Rebus said. In a couple of the pictures she was wearing her bikini: good body for her age, or any age come to that. He tried not to linger.
    ‘Can I take a couple of the close-ups?’ he asked. Janice looked at him. ‘Of Damon.’ She nodded and he put the other photos back in the packet.
    ‘We’re really grateful,’ someone said: Janice’s mum? Brian’s? Rebus couldn’t tell.
    ‘You said his girlfriend’s called Helen?’
    Brian nodded. He’d lost some hair and put on weight, his face jowly. There was a row of cheap trophies above the mantelpiece: darts and pool, pub sports. He reckoned Brian kept in training most nights. Janice … Janice looked the same as ever. No, that wasn’t strictly true. She had wisps of grey in her hair. But all the same, talking to her was like stepping back into a previous age.
    ‘Does Helen live locally?’ he asked.
    ‘Practically round the corner.’
    ‘I’d like to talk to her.’
    ‘I’ll give her a bell.’ Brian got to his feet, left the room.
    ‘Where does Damon work?’ Rebus asked, for want of a better question.
    ‘Same place as his dad,’ Janice said, lighting a cigarette. Rebus raised an eyebrow: at school, she’d been anti-tobacco. She saw his look and smiled.
    ‘He got a job in packaging,’ her dad said. He seemed frail, chin quivering. Rebus wondered if he’d had a stroke. One side of his face looked slack. ‘He’s learning the ropes. It’ll be management soon.’
    Working-class nepotism, jobs handed down from father to son. Rebus was surprised it still existed.
    ‘Lucky to find any work at all around here,’ Mrs Playfair added.
    ‘Are things bad?’
    She made a tutting sound, dismissing the question.
    ‘Remember the old pit, John?’ Janice asked.
    Of course he remembered it, and the bing and the wilderness around it. Long walks on summer evenings, stopping for kisses that seemed to last hours. Wisps of coal-smoke rising from the bing, the dross within still smouldering.
    ‘It’s all been levelled now, turned into parkland. They’re talking about building a mining museum.’
    Mrs Playfair tutted again. ‘All it’ll do is remind us what we once had.’
    ‘Job creation,’ her daughter said.
    ‘They used to call Cowdenbeath the Chicago of Fife,’ Brian Mee’s mother added.
    ‘The Blue Brazil,’ Mr Playfair said, giving a croaking laugh. He meant Cowdenbeath football club, the nickname a self-imposed piece of irony. They called themselves the Blue Brazil because they were rubbish.
    ‘Helen’ll be here in a minute,’ Brian said, coming back in.
    ‘Are you not eating any cake, Inspector?’ added Mrs Playfair.
    On the drive back to Edinburgh, Rebus thought back to his chat with Helen Cousins. She hadn’t been able to add much to Rebus’s

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