The train pulled in to King's Cross five minutes late. It was a quarter past eleven. Rebus was in no hurry. A hotel room had been booked for him in central London, courtesy of the Metropolitan Police. He carried a typed list of notes and directions in his jacket pocket, again sent up from London. He had not brought much luggage with him, feeling that the courtesy of the Met would extend only so far. He expected the trip would last two or three days at most, after which time they would realise, surely, that he was not going to be much help to them in their investigations. So: one small suitcase, one sports bag and one briefcase. The suitcase contained two suits, a change of shoes, several pairs of socks and underpants and two shirts (with matching ties). In the sports bag were a small washbag, towel, two paperback novels (one part read), a travel alarm clock, a thirty-five millimetre camera with flashgun and film, a T-shirt, retractable umbrella, sunglasses, transistor radio, Bible, a bottle containing ninety-seven paracetamol tablets and another bottle (protected by the T-shirt) containing best Islay malt whisky.
The bare essentials, in other words. The briefcase contained notepad, pens, a personal tape recorder, some blank tapes and prerecorded tapes and a thick manila file filled with photocopied sheets of Metropolitan Police paper, ten-by-eight inch colour photographs held together in a small ring-binder affair and newspaper clippings. On the front of this file was a white sticky label with one word typed upon it. The word was WOLFMAN.
Rebus was in no hurry. The night - what was left of it - was his. He had to attend a meeting at ten on Monday morning, but his first night in the capital city could be spent however he chose. He thought he would probably choose to spend it in his hotel room. He waited in his seat until the other passengers had left the train, then slid his bag and briefcase from the luggage rack and made for the sliding door to the carriage, beside which, in another luggage rack, sat his suitcase. Manoeuvring these out of the train door and onto the platform, he paused for a moment and breathed in. The smell was not quite like any other railway station. Certainly it wasn't like Waverley Station in Edinburgh. The air wasn't quite foetid, but it did seem to Rebus somehow overused and tired. He felt suddenly fatigued. And there was something else in his nostrils, something sweet and revolting at the same time. He couldn't quite think what it reminded him of.
On the concourse, instead of making directly for the Underground, he wandered over to a bookstall. There he purchased an A-Z of London, slipping it into his briefcase. The next morning's editions were just arriving, but he ignored them. This was Sunday, not Monday. Sunday was the Lord's day, which was perhaps why he had packed a Bible along with his other possessions. He hadn't been to a church service in weeks… maybe even months. Not since he'd tried the Cathedral on Palmerston Place in fact. It had been a nice place, light and bright, but too far from his home to make it a viable proposition. And besides, it was still organised religion and he had not lost his mistrust of organised religion. If anything, he was warier these days than ever before. He was also hungry. Perhaps he would grab a bite on his way to the hotel…
He passed two women having an animated discussion.
'I heard it on the radio just twenty minutes ago.'
'Done another, has he?'
'That's what they're saying.'
The woman shivered. 'Don't bear thinking about. Did they say it was definitely him?'
'Not definitely, but you just know, don't you?'
There was a truth in that. So, Rebus had arrived in time for another small piece of the drama to unfold around him. Another murder, making it four in all. Four in the space of three months. He was a busy little man, this killer they had named the Wolfman and then they had sent word to Rebus's boss. Lend us your man, they had said. Let's see what he can do. Rebus's boss, Chief Superintendent Watson, had handed the letter over to him.
'Better take some silver bullets with you, John.' he had said. 'It looks like you're their only hope.' And then he had chuckled, knowing as well as Rebus knew himself that he could be of little help in the case. But Rebus had gnawed on his bottom lip, silent in front of his desk-bound superior. He would do everything he could. Until they saw through him and sent him back home.
Besides, perhaps he needed the break. Watson seemed to be glad to be rid of him, too.
'If nothing else, it'll keep us out of one another's hair for a while.'
The Chief Superintendent, an Aberdonian, had earned the nickname 'Farmer Watson', a nickname every police officer beneath him in Edinburgh understood. But then one day Rebus, a nip of malt too many beneath his belt, had blurted out the nickname in front of Watson himself, since when he had found himself assigned to more than his fair share of tedious details, desk jobs, lookouts and training courses.
Training courses! At least Watson had a sense of humour. The most recent had been termed 'Management for Senior Officers' and had been a minor disaster - all psychology and how to be nice to junior officers. How to involve them, how to motivate them, how to relate to them. Rebus had returned to his station and tried it for one day, a day of involving, motivating and relating. At the end of the day, a DC had slapped his hand onto Rebus's back, smiling.
'Bloody hard work today, John. But I've enjoyed it.'
'Take your hand off my fucking back,' Rebus had snarled. 'And don't call me John.'
The DC's mouth fell open. 'But you said…' he began, but didn't bother finishing. The brief holiday was over. Rebus had tried being a manager. Tried it and loathed it.
He was halfway down the steps to the Underground when he stopped, put down his suitcase and briefcase, pulled open the zip on his sports bad and found the transistor radio. Switching it on, he held it to his ear with one hand while the other turned the tuning dial. Eventually, he found a news bulletin, listening as the other travellers passed him, a few of them staring, but mostly ignoring him. At last he heard what he had been waiting for, then switched off the radio and threw it back into the sports bag. Now, he released the two catches on his briefcase and brought out the A-Z. Flipping through the pages of street names at the back, he remembered just how large London really was. Large and populous. Something like ten million, was it? Wasn't that twice the population of Scotland? It didn't bear thinking about. Ten million souls.
'Ten million and one,' Rebus whispered to himself, finding the name he had been looking for.
Tooth & Nail is available now in paperback priced £5.99
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