picture of her, Mark and Nathan taken on the beach at Brodick in Arran, their first holiday together as a family. Nathan was clutching a toy police van in his hand. He had carried that with him the whole holiday. Lauren looking tired but contented. Two old golfers were on the course behind them, one in mid-swing. A moment captured in time forever.
He tried the desk drawer. Another notepad, Post-Its, a stapler, some business cards, a hole-punch, another neat pile of paperwork. Nothing unusual.
He shut the drawer and leaned on the desk with his knuckles, concentrating on breathing in and out. Looked around the office again then left, closing the door softly behind him.
As he passed through reception, the posh girl gave him daggers. There was a man waiting on a sofa, another of Edinburgh’s privileged in a pinstripe suit, handkerchief in the breast pocket, handsome, carefully trimmed wavy hair. He was ages with Mark but looked younger. Mark was sick of all these rich, beautiful people already. The man watched blankly as Mark gave a sarcastic smile to the receptionist and left. He could feel her stare on him as he stumbled out the door.
From outside, Portobello Police Station was a beautiful old building, all turrets and crenellations. Inside it was a dump – jaundiced striplights, fag-burned furniture, smell of piss.
Mark approached the front desk, where a spotty kid in uniform was doodling.
‘Is DC Ferguson about?’
The kid looked startled at being spoken to. ‘I’ll see if she’s available, sir. What’s your name?’
‘And will she know what it’s regarding?’
‘I spoke to her last night about a missing person.’
‘Take a seat, please.’
The kid picked up the phone. Mark examined the stains on the seats and stayed standing. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other and stared blankly at crime-prevention posters. No knives, better lives. Cut out hate crime. Boozed up, squared up, locked up.
He turned. DC Ferguson was short and slim, shoulder-length brown hair in an expensive cut, thin white blouse and black skirt. Her make-up was pristine and she had a smattering of freckles across her nose. She looked even younger than she sounded on the phone, and had an enthusiastic smile.
‘Hi, we spoke last night,’ Mark said.
‘I remember. Your wife. Has she been in contact?’
‘No, that’s why I’m here.’
‘Do you have some new information?’
‘I’ve just been up at her work. She left at lunchtime yesterday, took a half day. I didn’t know anything about that.’
Ferguson raised her eyebrows. ‘Well, that’s not necessarily bad news, Mr Douglas. It could mean there was an element of premeditation about her disappearance. She might’ve been planning something.’
‘If Taylor was telling the truth.’
‘Wait.’ Ferguson went to the spotty kid at the desk and borrowed his pad and pen. ‘Where does your wife work?’
‘Caledonia Dreaming. It’s a property place in the New Town.’
‘And what does she do there?’
‘She’s chief sales agent. Basically negotiates deals. She’s a junior partner in the company.’
‘And this Mr Taylor?’
‘He’s managing director.’
‘And you just spoke to him?’
‘Yeah, he said he had a meeting with Lauren yesterday morning, then she left at lunchtime. But . . .’
Ferguson frowned. ‘What?’
Mark tried to remember the conversation. ‘What if he’s lying?’
‘Do you have any reason to think he might be?’
Mark shook his head. ‘Not really. I don’t know. Just a feeling.’
‘Well, we can speak to Mr Taylor in good time, if we need to. I’m sure it won’t come to that, your wife will probably turn up very soon.’
Mark scratched at his scalp. ‘People keep telling me that, it really doesn’t help.’
Ferguson looked at her watch, then back towards the desk.
‘OK, look, I can see you’re upset. I think we can turn this into an