Macbeth | Chapter 36 of 54

Author: Jo Nesbo | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 12814 Views | Add a Review

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27

DUFF STOOD IN THE GALLEY looking at the men in the mess. They had eaten lunch and now they were rolling cigarettes and talking in low voices, laughing, lighting their cigarettes, drinking their coffee. Only one man sat on his own. Hutchinson. A big skin-coloured plaster on his forehead told those who hadn’t been present about the beating he had been given. Hutchinson tried to look as though he were thinking about something that required concentration as he puffed on his roll-up, but his acting ability wasn’t good enough for him to look anything but lost.

‘We’ll be docking tomorrow,’ the steward said, who himself had lit a cigarette and was leaning against the cooker. ‘You’ve learned fast. Fancy some more peggy?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Are you staying on for the next trip?’

‘No,’ Duff said. ‘But thank you for asking.’

The steward shrugged. Duff watched someone who was late for lunch balance his soup dish and make for Hutchinson’s table, look up, see who was sitting there and instead squeeze onto a full table. And Duff saw that Hutchinson had registered this and was now concentrating on his fag even harder while blinking furiously.

‘Any of that cheesecake left from yesterday?’

Duff turned. It was the first engineer; he was standing in the doorway with a hopeful expression on his face.

‘Sorry,’ the steward said. ‘All gone.’

‘Hang about,’ Duff said. ‘I think I wrapped up a small slice.’ He went into the freezer room, found a plate wrapped in foil and came back. Passed it to the first engineer. ‘It’s a bit cold.’

‘That’s OK,’ said the first engineer, licking his lips. ‘I like it cold.’

‘One thing . . .’

‘Yes?’

‘Hutchinson . . .’

‘Hutch?’

‘Yes. He looks a bit . . . erm downcast. I was wondering about something the captain said to me. He said he was a good engineer. Is that right?’

The first engineer rocked his head from side to side looking at Duff a little uncertainly. ‘He’s good enough.’

‘Perhaps it’d be a good idea to tell him.’

‘Tell him what?’

‘He’s good enough.’

‘Why?’

‘I think he needs to hear it.’

‘I don’t know about that. If you build people up they just want more money and longer breaks.’

‘When you were a young engineer did you have a first engineer who gave you the feeling you were doing a good job?’

‘Yes, but I was.’

‘Try and remember how good you really were then.’

The first engineer stood with his mouth ajar.

At that moment the boat rolled. Screams came from the mess, and there was a loud bang behind Duff.

‘Fuckin’ Ada!’ the steward shouted, and when Duff turned he saw the big soup tureen had fallen on the floor. Duff stared at the thick, green, pea soup oozing out. Without warning his stomach lurched, he felt the nausea in his throat and just managed to grab the doorframe as it spurted from his mouth.

‘Well, rookie,’ said the first engineer, ‘any other good advice?’ He turned and left.

‘Bloody hell, Johnson. Haven’t you finished with all that?’ the steward groaned, handing Duff a kitchen roll.

‘What happened?’ Duff asked, wiping his mouth.

‘Hit a swell,’ the steward said. ‘It happens.’

‘Have a breather. I’ll clean up here.’

When Duff had finished scrubbing the floor, he went into the mess to collect the dirty crockery. Only three guys were sitting at one table, plus Hutch, who hadn’t stirred from his place.

Duff listened to their chit-chat as he piled dishes and glasses on a tray.

‘That breaker must have come from an earthquake or a landslide or something,’ one of them said.

‘Perhaps it was a nuclear test,’ suggested one of the others. ‘The Soviets are supposed to have some shit going on in the Barents Sea and shock waves apparently go all the way round the world.’

‘Any messages about that, Sparks?’

‘No.’ Sparks laughed. ‘The only excitement is a search for a guy with a white scar right across his face.’

Duff stiffened. Kept piling dishes as he listened.

‘Yeah, it’s gonna be good to get ashore tomorrow.’

‘Is it hell. Missus says she’s pregnant again.’

‘Don’t look at me.’

Good-natured laughter around the table.

Duff turned with the tray in his hands. Hutchinson had lifted his head and suddenly sat bolt upright. The few times they had met after their skirmish Hutchinson had looked down and avoided Duff’s face, but now he was staring at Duff with wide-open eyes. Like a vulture that has unexpectedly and happily spotted a helpless, injured animal.

Duff shoved open the door to the galley with his foot and heard it clatter behind him. Put the tray down on the worktop. Damn, damn, damn! Not now, not with less than twenty-hours to land.

‘Not too fast here,’ Caithness said, looking through the windscreen.

The taxi driver took his foot off the accelerator, and they drove slowly past the Obelisk, where people were streaming into the street from the main entrance. Two police cars were parked on the pavement. The blue lights rotated idly.

‘What’s going on?’ Lennox said and thrust his blue face between the two front seats. He was – like Caithness – still wearing his uniform, as the taxi had collected them from outside the church straight after Duncan’s funeral. ‘Has the fire alarm gone off?’

‘The Gambling and Casino Board closed the place today,’ Caithness said. ‘Suspicion of breaching the Casino Act.’

They saw one of the policemen leading out an angrily gesticulating man in a light suit and flowery shirt with impressive sideburns. It looked as if the man was trying to explain something to the policeman, who was obviously turning a deaf ear.

‘Sad,’ the driver said.

‘What’s sad?’ Lennox asked. ‘Law enforcement?’

‘Sometimes. At the Obelisk you could at least have a beer and a game of cards without dressing up and coming home ruined. By the way, do you know that the factory you want to go to is closed?’

‘Yes,’ Caithness answered. Thinking that was all she knew about it. Police Officer Angus had rung that morning and implored her to bring Inspector Lennox from the Anti-Corruption Unit with her to Estex. They would find out the rest when they got there. It was about corruption at the highest level and for the moment they mustn’t mention their meeting to anyone. When she said she didn’t know any Police Officer Angus, he had explained to her that he was the guy in SWAT with the long hair who she smiled at and said hello to in the lift. She remembered him. He was cute. Looked more like an affable, unworldly hippie than a SWAT man.

They glided through the streets. She saw the unemployed men leaning against the walls sheltering from the rain, fags in mouths, wet coats, hungry, weary eyes. Hyenas. Not because they were born like that; it was the town. Duncan had said if carrion was all there was on the menu, you ate carrion, whoever you thought you were. And irrespective of what they did at police HQ the best way to reduce crime was to get the town’s citizens back to work.

‘Are you opening Estex again?’ the driver asked, squinting at Caithness.

‘What makes you think that?’

‘I think Macbeth is smarter than Duncan, the blockhead.’

‘Oh?’

‘Closing a great factory just because it’s leaking some gunge? Christ, everyone who worked there smokes. They’ll die anyway. That was five thousand jobs. Five thousand jobs this town needed! Only some upper-class twit from Capitol could be so snobbish. Macbeth, on the other hand, is one of us – he understands and he does something. Let Macbeth take charge for a bit and maybe people will be able to afford a taxi again in this town.’

‘Talking of Macbeth,’ Caithness said, turning to the back seat. ‘He’s cancelled the morning meeting two days in a row and he looked very pale in church. Is he ill?’

‘Not him,’ Lennox said, ‘but Lady. He’s barely been at HQ.’

‘Of course it’s good of him to look after her, but he’s the chief commissioner and we have a town in our charge.’

‘Good job he has us there.’ Lennox smiled.

The taxi stopped in front of the gate, from which hung a chain with a padlock. The CLOSED sign had fallen onto the potholed tarmac. Caithness got out, stood by the driver’s open window and scanned the abandoned industrial wasteland while waiting for her change. No telephone boxes, and the telephones at Estex had probably been cut off.

‘How will we get hold of a taxi when we want to go back?’ she asked.

‘I’ll park here and wait,’ the driver said. ‘There’s no work in town anyway.’

Inside the factory gate was a rusty fork-lift truck and a tower of rotting wooden pallets. The pedestrian entrance beside the big retractable door was open.

Caithness and Lennox stepped into the factory building. It was cold outside, even colder under the high vaulted roof. The furnaces stood like gigantic pews inside the rectangular hall as far as the eye could see.

‘Hello?’ Caithness called, and the echo sent shivers down her spine.

‘Here!’ came the answer from up on the wall where the foreman’s office and surveillance platform were located. Like a watchtower in a prison, Caithness thought. Or a pulpit.

The young man standing up there pointed to a steel staircase.

Caithness and Lennox went up the steps.

‘Police Officer Angus,’ he said shaking hands with them. His open face displayed his nervousness, but also determination.

They followed him into the foreman’s office, which smelled of a marinade of dried sweat and tobacco. The large windows facing the factory floor had a strange yellow frosted glaze which looked as if it had been burned into the glass. On the tables there were open files that had clearly been taken from the shelves along the walls. The young man was unshaven and wearing tight faded jeans and a green military jacket.

‘Thank you for coming at such short notice,’ Angus said, indicating the peeling wooden chairs.

‘I don’t want to pressurise you, but I hope this is important,’ Lennox said, taking a seat. ‘I had to leave an important meeting.’

‘As you haven’t got much time, indeed as none of us has got much time, I’ll get straight to the point.’

‘Thank you.’

Angus crossed his arms. His jaws were working, and his eyes roamed, but there was a determination about him – he was like a man who knows he is right.

‘Twice I’ve been a believer,’ Angus said, swallowing, and Caithness knew he was memorising something he had written and rehearsed for the occasion. ‘And twice I’ve lost that belief. The first was in God. The second in Macbeth. Macbeth is no saviour, he’s a corrupt murderer. I wanted to say that first so that you know why I’m doing this. This is to rid the town of Macbeth.’

In the ensuing silence they could hear the deep sighs as drops of water hit the floor of the factory. Angus breathed in.

‘We were—’

‘Stop!’ Caithness said. ‘Thank you for your honesty, Angus, but before you say any more, Inspector Lennox and I have to decide whether we want to hear.’

‘Let Angus finish,’ Lennox said. ‘Then we can discuss it later without anyone else present.’

‘Wait,’ Caithness said. ‘There’s no way back if we receive information which—’

‘We were sent to the club house to kill everyone,’ Angus said.

‘I don’t want to hear this,’ Caithness said and stood up.

‘No one was going to be arrested,’ Angus said in a louder voice. ‘We started shooting at the Norse Riders, and they managed to fire off one—’ he held up a forefinger which trembled as much as his voice ‘—one single bloody shot in self-defence! Unlike at—’

Caithness stamped on the floor to drown out Angus’s voice, opened the door, was about to step outside and leave when she heard his name and froze.

‘—Duff’s place in Fife. Not a single shot was fired there. Because he wasn’t at home. When we entered the house after we’d shot it to pieces we found a girl and a boy and their mother—’ Angus’s voice failed him.

Caithness turned to him. The young man leaned against the table and squeezed his eyes shut, ‘—who had tried to cover them with her own body in the bedroom.’

‘Oh, no, no, no,’ Caithness heard herself whisper.

‘Macbeth gave the order,’ Angus said, ‘and Seyton ensured it was carried out to the letter by SWAT, including—’ he coughed ‘—me.’

‘Why on earth would Macbeth give orders for these . . . liquidations?’ Lennox asked with disbelief in his voice. ‘He could have just arrested them, both Duff and the Norse Riders?’

‘Maybe not,’ Angus said. ‘Maybe they had something on Macbeth, something that made him need to silence them.’

‘Such as what?’

‘Haven’t you asked yourselves why the Norse Riders took their revenge on Banquo? Why not kill the person who gave the orders, Macbeth himself?’

‘Simple,’ Lennox snorted. ‘Macbeth is better protected. Have you any proof at all?’

‘These eyes,’ Angus said, pointing.

‘They’re yours, and the same applies to your accusations. Give me one reason why we should believe you.’

‘There’s one reason,’ Caithness said, walking slowly back to her chair. ‘It’s easy enough to get Angus’s accusations confirmed or denied by the other SWAT officers, and if they’re false, he’ll lose his job, find himself on a charge and, to put it mildly, his future prospects will be poor. And he knows that.’

Angus laughed.

Caithness raised an eyebrow. ‘Excuse me, did I say something stupid?’

‘It’s SWAT,’ Lennox said. ‘Loyalty, brotherhood, baptised in fire, united in blood.’

‘Sorry?’

‘You’ll never get anyone in SWAT to say a word that will harm Macbeth,’ Angus said. ‘Or Seyton. Or any of the brothers.’

Caithness dropped her hands to her sides. ‘So you come to us with these claims of executions even though you know there’s no way to prove them?’

‘Macbeth asked me to burn the body of a baby killed in the club house massacre,’ Angus said. He fidgeted with his necklace. ‘Here, in one of the furnaces.’

Caithness shuddered. And regretted staying. Why hadn’t she turned on her heel? Why wasn’t she already sitting in the taxi leaving this behind her?

‘I said no,’ Angus continued. ‘But that means someone else has done it. Perhaps he did it himself. I’ve looked through the furnaces and one of them has been used recently. I thought that if you got your Forensics people to examine the furnace you might find clues. Fingerprints, remains of bones, what do I know? And if you did, the Anti-Corruption Unit could take the case further.’

Lennox and Caithness exchanged glances.

‘The police can’t investigate their own chief commissioner,’ Lennox said. ‘Didn’t you know?’

Angus frowned. ‘But . . . the Anti-Corruption Unit, isn’t it . . . ?’

‘No, we can’t do internal enquiries,’ Lennox said. ‘If you want to go after the chief commissioner you’ll have to present your case to the town council and Tourtell.’

Angus shook his head desperately. ‘No, no, no, they’re bought and paid for, the whole bunch of them! We have to do this off our own bat. We have to bring Macbeth down from the inside.’

Caithness didn’t answer. Confirming only that Angus was right. No one on the town council, Tourtell included, would dare to come out into the open against Macbeth. Kenneth had made sure that the chief commissioner had the legal authority to stamp down hard on that kind of political rebellion.

Lennox looked at his watch. ‘I have a meeting in twenty minutes. I recommend you drop the matter until you’ve got something concrete, Angus. Then you can take your chances with the town council, can’t you.’

Angus blinked in disbelief. ‘My chances?’ he said in a thick voice. He turned to Caithness. Despair, supplication, fear and hope flitted across his face like a narrative. And instantly she realised that Angus hadn’t only asked her to come along because he needed Forensics to examine the furnaces. Angus needed a witness, a third person to ensure that Lennox couldn’t pretend he hadn’t received the information and, regardless of the outcome, then make his life uncomfortable. Angus had chosen Caithness simply because she had smiled at him in the lift. Because she looked like someone he could trust.

‘Inspector Caithness?’ he begged in a low voice.

She took a deep breath. ‘Lennox is right, Angus. You’re asking us to attack a bear and all we have is a cardboard sword.’

Angus’s eyes were watery. ‘You’re frightened,’ he stuttered. ‘You believe me. Otherwise you wouldn’t still be here. But you’re frightened. You’re frightened because you believe me. Because I’ve shown you what Macbeth is capable of.’

‘Let’s agree that this meeting never took place,’ Lennox said, making for the door. Caithness was about to follow when Angus grabbed her arm.

‘A baby,’ he whispered, close to tears. ‘It was in a shoebox.’

‘It was an innocent victim in the fight against a crime syndicate,’ she said. ‘It happens. Macbeth wanting to hide it from the press to avoid a police scandal doesn’t make him a murderer.’

Caithness saw Angus let go of her arm as if he had burned himself. He took a step back and stared at her. Caithness turned and left.

On the steel staircase to the factory floor the chill hit her warm cheeks.

As she made for the exit she stopped by one of the furnaces. There were stripes and marks made of grey dust.

Lennox stood in the factory doorway waving to the taxi to drive through the gate so that they wouldn’t have to walk through the driving rain. ‘What do you think Angus is after?’ he asked.

‘After?’ Caithness turned and looked up at the foreman’s shed-like office.

‘He must know he’s too young for a management post,’ Lennox said. ‘Hey! Over here! Is it about honour and fame?’

‘Perhaps it’s what he said. Someone has to stop Macbeth.’

‘Duty calls?’ Lennox chuckled, and Caithness heard the crunch of tyres on gravel. ‘Everyone wants something, Caithness. Are you coming?’

‘Yes.’ Caithness could just make out the shape of Angus behind the window – he hadn’t moved since they left him. He was just standing there. Waiting for something, it seemed.

How long would it be before Lennox informed Macbeth about this attempted mutiny?

What was she going to do with what Angus had told them?

She put her hand to her cheek. She knew why it was warm. She was blushing. Blushing with shame.

Lennox took the short cut through the station concourse. He liked short cuts. Always had. He had bought sweets to make friends, lied about diving off the crane on the harbour quay and about paying for a hand job from the girl working at the Indigo kiosk. He had worn higher platform shoes than anyone else, cheated in exams and still had to blag up his grade when the results came out. His father used to say – generally at family gatherings and without any attempt to conceal who he was referring to – that only a man with no spine would take short cuts. When his father had given a smallish gift to the town’s private university, thereby saving himself and Lennox the disgrace of his son studying in the public sector, Lennox had also forged his degree certificate. Not to show potential employers but his father, who had asked to see it. Of course this was a fiasco because Lennox didn’t have the spine to resist his father’s suspicious looks and questions, and his father told him he didn’t know how a mollusc like Lennox could stand up straight; he didn’t have a single bone in his body!

Fair enough, but he definitely had enough spine to ignore the drug dealers who came up to him mumbling their offers. They recognised a user when they saw one. However, this wasn’t how he got his brew; he had it sent in anonymous brown envelopes. Or when he occasionally asked for special treatment, they blindfolded him and led him – like a prisoner of war to a firing squad – to the secret kitchen, where he got his shot straight from the pot.

He passed Bertha Birnam, where Duff had fallen for his bluff about the judge from Capitol. But Hecate hadn’t said anything about Macbeth killing Duff’s wife and children. Lennox stepped up his tempo across Workers’ Square, as though he had to hurry before something happened. Something inside him.

‘Macbeth’s busy,’ said the little receptionist at Inverness Casino.

‘Say it’s Inspector Lennox. It’s important and will only take a minute.’

‘I’ll ring up, sir.’

While Lennox waited he looked around. He couldn’t put his finger on what, but there was something missing. Some final touch. Perhaps it was only the atmosphere that had changed; perhaps it was that some less well-dressed guys were laughing too loudly as they walked into the gaming room. This type of customer was new.

Macbeth came down the stairs.

‘Hello, Lennox.’

‘Hello, Chief Commissioner. The casino’s busy today.’

‘Daytime gamblers straight from the Obelisk. The Gambling and Casino Board closed down their place a few hours ago. I haven’t got much time. Shall we sit here?’

‘Thank you, sir. I just wanted to inform you about a meeting that took place today.’

Macbeth yawned. ‘Oh yes?’

Lennox breathed in. Hesitated. Because there were millions of ways to start. Thousands of ways to formulate the same message. Hundreds of first words. And yet only two options.

Macbeth frowned.

‘Sir,’ the receptionist said. ‘Message from the blackjack table. They’re asking if we can provide them with another croupier. There’s a queue.’

‘I’m coming, Jack. Sorry about the interruption, Lennox. Lady usually deals with this. Well?’

‘Yes. The meeting . . .’ Lennox thought about his family. Their house. The garden. The safe neighbourhood, where the kids hadn’t got involved in any nastiness. The university they would go to. The pay cheque that made all this possible. Plus the cash on the side that had now become a necessity to make ends meet. This wasn’t for him; it was for the family, the family, the family. His family, not a house in Fife, not . . .

‘Yes?’

The front door went.

‘Sir!’

They turned. It was Seyton. He was out of breath. ‘We’ve got him, boss.’

‘We’ve found . . . ?’

‘Duff. And you were right. He’s on board a boat that sailed from here. The MS Glamis.’

‘Fantastic!’ Macbeth turned to Lennox. ‘This will have to wait, Inspector. I’ll have to be off now.’

Lennox remained seated as the other two went through the door.

‘A busy man,’ the receptionist smiled. ‘A coffee, sir?’

‘No, thanks,’ Lennox said, staring ahead. Darkness had already started to fall, but there were still several hours before his next shot. An eternity. ‘I think I’ll take you up on that coffee. Yes, please.’ An eternity for a man with no spine.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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