Malice in the Highlands

Malice in the Highlands by Graham Thomas Read Free Book Online

Book: Malice in the Highlands by Graham Thomas Read Free Book Online
Authors: Graham Thomas
completely off guard and confessed on the spot.”
    Warburton was transfixed. “Absolutely incredible!”
    “Wait, you haven't heard the half.”
    “You mean there's more?” Warburton gasped.
    “The ghost or spirit or whatever in hell you'd call it— you'll never guess what, or rather who, it was.”
    “Don't keep me in suspense, for God's sake!”
    Powell lowered his voice to a hoarse whisper. “It was the Flower of Culloden, the Bonny Prince himself.”
    The color had drained from Warburton ‘s face like port from a glass, and for several seconds he seemed incapable of speaking. Eventually he managed to sputter, “You— you can't be serious!”
    “If there's one thing I've learned, Pinky, it's never to underestimate the Celtic mind.”
    Warburton struggled to his feet. “Christ, I need another drink.” The thought of Barrett communing with the Young Pretender was evidently too much for him.
    He returned with the whiskies and gave Powell a resentful look. “You know I'm superstitious, you bugger.”
    Powell laughed. “Not to worry, Pinky, we've got only Alex's word for it.”
    They nursed their drinks in silence until Warburton spoke.
    “Now that I have the opportunity, Erskine, I—well, I'd like to thank you for having me along. Quite honestly, I can't remember when I've enjoyed myself as much. I can see now how badly I needed to get away.”
    “Don't mention it, Pinky. But my motives were not entirely unselfish. It's been far too long since we've got together for a good natter.”
    “There's been a lot of water under the bridge, all right. But I'm pleased to see that you've enjoyed continuing success in your profession; I seem to recall that you'd just made chief inspector when we last lunched at the Savoy.” He regarded Powell thoughtfully. “You know, Erskine, I've always regarded you as a kind of Prometheus in plainclothes, gallantly striving to dispel the darkness in the world—or at least your own small corner of it.”
    Powell smiled weakly. “I think Sisyphus is more my style.” He hesitated, not quite sure how to broach a potentially delicate subject. He decided it was pointless to avoid the issue. “And you, Pinky, how have you been getting on?” It came out more awkwardly than he had hoped.
    “Oh, I can't complain. You may be interested to knowthat I've recently embarked on a new career as an estate agent. I've decided to specialize in sporting properties, since I've had a bit of experience in that line.”
    Powell searched for any sign of bitterness in Pinky's voice and was relieved to find none; if anything, there was perhaps a hint of irony. “Well, it would seem that your timing is impeccable. I understand that property sales are beginning to pick up.”
    Warburton smiled. “So far I've managed to keep the wolves from my door. I don't wish to seem immodest, Erskine, but I do believe that I have a certain aptitude for the profession.”
    Powell chuckled. “I don't doubt it for a moment, Pinky. You could charm the—”
    He was interrupted by the clamorous arrival of Barrett and a uniformed police constable who appeared distinctly ill at ease. It was obvious that Barrett was not happy as he threw himself onto the settle.
    “Chief Superintendent Powell and Mr. Warburton, Police Constable Shand. Sit down, Shand, and have a drink.”
    “Er, I'd better not, sir. Thanks all the same.”
    “Suit yourself. But I'll have one, if you don't mind.”
    “What's up?” Powell asked.
    Barrett scowled. “A routine bloody accident and it seems that I'm the only one in the entire force competent to deal with it.” But his expression suddenly brightened as his attention fixed on PC Shand. “I trust, however, that the good constable here will be able to do most of the leg-work, leaving me ample time for more, em, rewarding pursuits.”
    Powell noticed that the good constable was fidgeting in his seat.
    “Well, Shand, what is it?” Barrett snapped.
    “I thought I should tell you,

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