The Drowning Plains
Written for the Discovered on All Hallows Eve challenge on the discoveredinalj Livejournal community. Meant to be read in conjunction with my vid, The Drowning Plains.
The sequel to this story is Interesting as Fireworks.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
- Edmund Burke
you come, a brave ghost, to fix
in my mind without praise
to make me your inheritor.
- Anne Sexton
Sunset approached as Bodie pulled into the car park and stopped the silver Capri as close to the information kiosk as he could. Nearby, there was a lone panda car. Motorists streamed out of the exits behind them as they stared through the metal railing toward the muddy path that disappeared as it wound its way down to the river Dee. Wordlessly, Doyle and Bodie turned up their collars and braved the cold wind to exit their motor and entered through the open door of the small building.
"Inspector Keane?" Doyle inquired, and a tall man in beige Burberry looked up from where he was consulting with an older man in tweeds.
"Aye, that would be me," Keane affirmed looking over them and not making much of the CI-5 men, who were dressed in Town style leather jackets and trainers not fit for the Scottish autumn.
"Doyle and Bodie, CI-5," Doyle motioned to his partner. "We're here to take over the investigation."
"So Superintendent Hardgrave has informed me," Keane replied wryly. "PC Brent has been securing the scene until your arrival. Mr. McAllister here will take you to the ferry. You'll have to walk, no motors," he pointedly looked at the agents' feet.
"Best get started -- coming on dark," McAllister noted as he pulled on a cloth cap. Bodie made a go-ahead gesture to McAllister to precede them out the door. The Scot sniffed and moved past Inspector Keane, who was shaking his head slightly. Doyle exchanged a silent look with Bodie, and the pair followed their guide out the door, the grudging cooperation of the locals never seemed to change.
At the edge of the car park, there was a small sign designating the path to the Castle Threave ferry. McAllister opened the gate and motioned the partners through, shutting it behind, and they started down the farm path.
A particularly cutting wind prompted Bodie to ask, "How far to this ferry?"
"Half a mile," said McAllister.
"I understand you found the body?" said Doyle.
"Aye," replied McAllister, forging ahead.
Doyle looked back to give Bodie as shared look of exasperation at the lack of forthcoming information. Shivering in the wind, Doyle dropped back to walk side by side with Bodie, using the taller man as a shield. Bodie raised his eyebrow at Doyle, and Doyle just grinned at him. "Cheeky sod," muttered Bodie, but moved closer as he ducked down into his wool sweater.
They continued on in silence, and presently came round a bend to a somewhat dilapidated wooden dock. A small open boat with room for about six persons was tied up to a weathered post.
McAllister waited for the partners to get in the craft, then untied the painter and rowed the boat toward the dock that could be seen on the other side of the river. Looking up, the tower of the ruined castle stood sentry.
McAllister led them on a path through the ruins down to the water's edge. PC Brent was outlined in the dimming light as he pulled back the blanket that had been placed over the body.
"What time did you find her?" Bodie inquired, stooping to look.
"'T'was about two o'clock or thereabouts. I'd just brought a load of visitors over and they were looking about the grounds," McAllister replied.
"Is the body in the exact place you found it?" asked Doyle, examining the gravel bank.
"No, I had to pull her out and check on her, didn't I?" McAllister replied testily. "She was half in the water. When I pulled her up and checked, she was dead."
"How did you determine her identity?" Bodie spoke to PC Brent.
"I found some women's clothing and a purse further up the bank by the castle walls," Brent replied, blushing slightly.
"What time did you ferry her across, Mr. McAllister?" Doyle turned to the guide.
"It was the one o'clock run," McAllister replied. "When it got to be close to two o'clock and she didn't show up, I went looking for her, and found her. Had the take the rest of the visitors back over and call for the police."
"The rest of the visitors are having their statements taken at the station," PC Brent added.
"Yes, we've just come from there," Doyle smiled at the earnest young constable. "A family from Germany, just got to Scotland yesterday. Today was their first tour -- not much of a welcome."
"Did you know Dr. Kaverov?" Bodie asked McAllister.
"Do I look like I know any bloody Russians?" the Scot snapped. "Never saw her before today. She didn't open her mouth, didn't keep with the group and went into the castle ruins by herself."
"And you were with the group the whole time?" Doyle prompted.
"What I'm paid for isn't it?" McAllister replied testily. "Had trouble with those Germans understanding me. Barely spoke English they did. Spent all my time answering questions and repeating meself."
"And, there's no other way on or off the island expect by ferry?" Bodie questioned.
"Aye, there's only the one ferry running this late in the season. Was supposed to be a half day today, and the one o'clock run the last of the day," McAllister added.
"When you got back to the dock and went to call the police, was there anyone else there?" Doyle asked.
"Just the groups visiting Castle Douglas, and they were all at that end of the car park," MacAllister said. "Best to head back and get the lads to take away the body," he added and turned to leave.
"Shall you be needing me any longer, sir?" Brent asked.
"Nah, go on," Doyle motioned for the constable to join the guide. "Oi, tell Inspector Keane to give the Crown a call and have them hold our room for us."
"Yes, sir," PC Brent waved as he jogged out of sight though the ruins.
"Bit of an odd place for a Cambridge Visiting Fellow," Bodie observed as the two men walked along the gravel bank.
"'Specially a dead one," agreed Doyle.
"Some nasty bruising around her throat," Bodie noted. "Took a while for her to die."
"And nobody noticed anything," Doyle sighed.
"I suppose that one of the Germans could be an agent," Bodie began.
"Oh, yeah, sure. Spies always take their families on assassinations," Doyle scoffed. "And, did you get a look at the old man? Walks with a cane." He shook his head, "None of that group could have done anything anyway -- MacAllister says they all stayed with him"
"Remains to be seen what one Dr. Rodina Kaverov was doing on the grounds of a ruined Scottish castle a fair bit from Cambridge University," Bodie noted. "Imagine that the Soviet Embassy's up in arms about the loss of their visiting scholar," he went on.
"Probably shouting from the rooftops about it," Doyle replied sourly.
"I still don't see how the Cow knew to send us out to the wilds of Scotland," Doyle continued, shaking his head. "On the strength of some busted drug deals at historic sites no less. S'local matter I'm sure, well, now it's ours 'cause of the death of Dear Rodina," he groused.
"He said he had a feeling something was up about here. Bit of the second sight I shouldn't wonder," offered Bodie as they walked up to the ruins of the castle.
"Oh, sure," nodded Doyle. "You who don't profess to believe in anything but yourself are willing to grant George Cowley the gift of second sight."
"S'Bonfire night tomorrow, Doyle," Bodie grinned. "The time when the veil between the worlds is thin..."
"Yeah, yeah, and the ghosties and the ghoulies are gonna come and get us in our beds lest we light a turnip lantern or some such rubbish," Doyle interrupted acerbically.
"Ruin a good haunting you would," Bodie sniffed, then sideways through his impossibly long eyelashes at Doyle.
Glancing over at his partner, Doyle took in the pout, rolled his eyes, then pushed against the other man's shoulder. Naturally, Bodie pushed back and a bit of a scuffle took place, ending up with Doyle pinning Bodie to one rugged wall. The two looked at each other in the gloom, all merriment gone in an instant. A moment, then two, riding the edge of the tension between them.
Doyle's hands slid down Bodie's sides and pushed in behind him, tugging him even closer, and Bodie's arms came to rest on Doyle's shoulders for a moment. Neither could see well, and inside the castle's ruined walls the wind was strangely quiet. They could hear each other breathing. Then, Bodie moved one hand behind Doyle's head and the other cupped his cheek, a thumb gently stroking his lips in a silent rhythm.
"Ray," Bodie intoned softly, seeming almost puzzled his need.
"Yeah, Sunshine," Doyle replied back gently, "I know." He turned his face into Bodie's hand.
"You do pick your moments," said Bodie ruefully.
"Think this one sort of picked us," Doyle half-smiled as he rested his head on Bodie's chest.
"Isn't the place I'd like it to be," Bodie said presently, rubbing his face lightly over curly hair.
"I know, not nearly warm enough," shivered Doyle, cuddling closer with a shiver.
"S'gone a lot colder just now," Bodie said with a shiver of his own.
"Just how long's this MacAllister fella gonna take?" wondered Doyle as the two men reluctantly pulled apart.
Suddenly, Bodie drew his weapon, and motioned to fan out and search. Carefully, they each accessed an opening in the wall to the outside of the ruin, then going to the end of the building, watching and listening closely.
"What was it?" Doyle asked quietly as he holstered his weapon.
"Don't know, but I swore I heard someone moving around," Bodie said as he put away his gun. The two walked down toward the waterline. Scudding clouds blown by a brisk wind alternately hid and revealed a very full moon. "Must have been the wind," he added with a look of distaste for his edginess. Doyle shrugged, knowing it was better safe than sorry that kept you alive.
Voices coming up from the water's edge heralded the arrival of the removal crew, and the body was loaded on a sling and carried to the ferry. Bodie and Doyle were glad to see that there were two ferries and they got into the second one.
As they were pulling away from the dock, Bodie looked up, and in moment of clear moonlight, he thought he saw someone standing on the castle's roof. A cloud was blown across the moon and the light was lost for a moment. When the cloud cleared, there was nothing except the stone walled ruins. He looked at Doyle. "Did you see that?" he murmured. "Yeah," replied Doyle, "but just what the hell was it?"
The two held their silence until they reached the car park and drove off to their hotel, where they were given what probably used to be the maid's room in the old country house turned hotel.
Laying on twin beds they had moved together, Bodie remarked, "The Cow's hand on the budget is ever firm."
"We're probably supposed to consider ourselves lucky we've got a roof over our heads," Doyle added acerbically.
"Only reason we're not staked out in our motor is 'cause the bloody crime scenes on an island in the middle of a river," Bodie scoffed. "Thus, our glorious accommodations."
""Bout time to give our George a call then, yeah?" Doyle was methodically checking his weapon.
"Uh-huh. Call box, then?"
"Best do. Never can tell."
"Do give a sweep whilst I'm gone. Could be a bit dusty in here," Bodie smiled and waved as he went out the door to find a callbox.
Doyle sighed and put away his weapon and pulled out their sweeper from his suitcase and began methodically checking their room for bugs.
"Yes, sir, I believe the coroner will confirm homicide," Bodie said into the receiver. "Multiple handprints on her neck. Probably struggled a bit before she died."
"And nothing to indicate why she was at Castle Threave in the first place?" Cowley inquired.
"Nothing on her but a purse with the usual items and £17 in her wallet," Bodie replied.
"I've attempted to contact her colleagues at Selwyn College," Cowley said dourly. "However, no one will be in until tomorrow. I've expressed my desire for a rapid response when the Dean returns."
"I'll call in tomorrow then, sir?"
"Aye," Cowley replied. "And see if you and Doyle can't take care of this matter before you get snowed in."
"Yes, sir," Bodie said to a dead line, shaking his head.
The morning brought the desire to burrow under the covers and forget all about bodies fished from the frigid river water, not to mention strange apparitions on walls of castle ruins. Duty reared its ugly head and they were on their way downstairs to catch a bit of breakfast before heading over to chivvy the locals into making a cause of death determination and poke about Dr. Kaverov's business in the Kirkcudbright area.
Bodie busied himself at the side table, pouring two cups of tea and snagging some toast, while Doyle had been cornered by their host, Mrs. Collier, who seemed determined to chat him up and get all the details of his life in one setting.
"Lord love us, you were out at Castle Threave yesterday," the voluble woman exclaimed with relish.
"Just on a bit of a tour," Doyle attempted to edge away.
"Can't be doing business all day long -- there's a limited market for tropical fish in your smaller towns," Bodie came up behind Doyle, put one arm on his shoulder and handed him his tea.
"Ah, I see," Mrs. Collier clearly didn't, but wasn't going to let that stop her. "You know, you're lucky you weren't out on that island today -- it's a bad business that is."
"Really," Bodie inquired with such friendly interest that Doyle winced, but Mrs. Collier soldiered on.
"Oh, a very bad business," she shook her head with relish. "'Tis the ghost of young Robbie Douglas. He always appears the week of bonfire night. He was murdered by an agent of King James in the conflict with his father, the Earl of Douglas." Mrs. Collier leaned in as if imparting a state secret, "It's said he walks the walls of the castle, looking agents of the King to drown to take his revenge on for his and his father's death." Mrs. Collier shivered theatrically and nodded with satisfaction. "Would you care for more tea, Mr. Doyle?"
"Ah, no thank you, Mrs. Collier. We must be off just now," Doyle smiled wanly and parked his tea on a handy end table.
"Lovely breakfast," Bodie called as Doyle steered him out of the room, down the hall, and out the front door, still holding the last bit of his toast.
On the way to the station, Doyle put a hand to his chin and his brow wrinkled with thought. "Reckon young Robbie's who we saw last night?" he finally said as they pulled up to the station.
"Could be," Bodie replied seriously. "Know we saw someone, and everyone was accounted for that came over on the boats."
"Think he'd come after us?" Doyle asked. "We are, technically, agents of the Crown."
"Nah, not us," Bodie answered as they made they way into the station. "Work for the George Cowley we do, and he thinks he's God, not the King," he added chuckling as he opened the door and motioned Doyle in.
"Point," Doyle grinned briefly, then sobered as they began the business of unraveling the mystery of the dead woman.
A few hours later, the coroner's verdict was in -- death by drowning. A walk about Castle Douglas' surrounding area, including a stop at the hotel where Dr. Kaverov was staying elicited no more information than she was a decent tipper (the waiter at the hotel restaurant), liked chocolate truffles (the clerk at Caster's Candy Shoppe), and stayed with the group (the tour guide for The Real Scotland Tours).
"No one's willing to say one bad thing about our Soviet Citizen," Doyle's mouth turned down with a slight twist as they sat in a small caff off High Street.
"A veritable angel she was," Bodie agreed ruefully, sipping his tea, then taking a great bite of sponge cake.
"'Cept somebody's killed her," Doyle added, "and that indicates something she did bothered someone."
"Or something she saw," Bodie hazarded thoughtfully. "Look, she was some History professor, right?"
"Yeah, visiting Fellow in Russian history," Doyle replied, consulting the file on the table in front of them.
"So, what's she doing poking about a mouldy old Scottish castle?" Bodie asked.
"Busman's holiday?" Doyle guessed, taking a cake before his partner snaffled the lot.
"In November?" Bodie's voice raised in disbelief. "In Scotland no less. Can think of a few places a warmer to take a vacation in. Besides," he continued, "it's the middle of term. Wouldn't she have a class to teach or something?"
"Perhaps it's vac time," Doyle speculated. "A long weekend or some such," he consulted the file again. "She's just been down since Wednesday, and today's Friday."
"S'possible," acknowledged Bodie. He consulted his Superman watch and said, "Time for me to check in with Cowley. Maybe he has something more for us to go on."
"Couldn't be less than we have now," Doyle replied bitterly, realizing as the other agent went out the door to find a call box that Bodie had stuck him with the bill -- again.
Bodie was in a callbox on the other side of the street, and Doyle began to walk over to him, glancing at the passing traffic as he waited to cross. A couple of smaller motors, then a large black car passed, and his eyes followed it as something teased his brain.
Just as Bodie finished up and opened the door of the callbox, Doyle came up to him, a puzzled look on his face.
Bodie knew that look, "What've you got?"
"Do you remember what MacAllister said about there being no one near the Castle Threave end of the car park when they came back to notify the police about the body?"
"Everyone was over by the tour busses and Castle Douglas," Bodie nodded.
"I've just been reading the statements from the German tourists. They say there wasn't anyone about, but that there was a large black very old Mercedes parked next to the gate with no one in it," Doyle told him.
"That's inconsistent with MacAllister's statement," Bodie agreed. "Why don't we ask him about it?"
"What'd the Cow have to say," asked Doyle as they got into the Capri.
"S'funny that. Turns out Dr. Kaverov was on vacation after all," Bodie laughed colorlessly. "Took a few days off to visit Scottish castles and great houses." He paused to unlock the door for Doyle, "Cowley talked to a colleague of hers. Seems she couldn't get enough of it with her job, was always going out on the weekend visiting historical sites. Took this long weekend as a chance to get out of Cambridge and explore."
"So, the Cow was wrong about the espionage angle," Doyle shook his head.
"Probably," Bodie agreed. "But, he still stressed the need to clear up what he called 'an unfortunate incident' involving a Soviet Citizen who is a guest in our country."
"In other words, it's still our mess to clean up," Doyle sighed. Bodie tilted his head in agreement and made a face at the whole idea.
Liam MacAllister was not at his place of residence nor the offices of Historic Scotland who employed him. He had not, in fact, been seen all day.
"Getting on to opening time," Bodie mused. "Could try his local."
Doyle shrugged and they headed toward the Bell, which was the closest pub to MacAllister's residence.
"Aye, I know him," replied the barmaid helpfully, as she pulled a half-pint for each of the partners. "Comes in of an evening every night. One pint of bitter, makes it last, then leaves. Never says much except to the real old timers," she smiled at Bodie.
"Know what kind of motor he drives, love?" encouraged Bodie, and pulled out the funds to pay as it was his round.
"Oh, he's got a old beast of a black car, just enormous," she made a moue of distaste. "Always going on about it, how he got it from his Dad who drove it for the old Earl."
"His family used to be in service to the Douglas'?" Doyle asked.
"Aye, I think so," she replied shrugging. "I just know that he's not. Some bit of bother with the family, long before I was born."
"He seem bitter about that?" Bodie questioned.
"Aye," the barmaid nodded. "When he does talk, he's usually bad-mouthing the family, which is rather bad of him, seeing's how they got him that job as a guide."
"Do the guides just work one castle or all of them in the area?" asked Doyle.
"All of them," she replied. "My ex-boyfriend worked last summer, and he had to know all the local historical attractions that Historic Scotland administers, even though there's not much money in it," the emphasis on the ex part of the boyfriend phrase was evident.
"Thanks," Bodie said quickly retreating down the bar, and Doyle nodded to the woman, silently laughing at Bodie's ever-present predicament of ladies making themselves available to him whilst he was not.
"Somehow, I get the feeling that our drugs case and our murder case are mixed up," Doyle mused.
"Bit of the Second Sight?" Bodie smirked as he drank from his glass, well aware that he was caught and Doyle held the leash -- it had taken long enough and he was well satisfied with things as they were.
"Process of elimination," Doyle replied promptly. "One, we have an incredible influx of heroin in southwestern Scotland, which, prior to this, has not been a known distribution area. Two, we have a dead Soviet tourist at one of said sites. Three, our Mr. MacAllister has access to all the sites where the busts were made."
"Good enough to put out a request for MacAllister to be picked up for questioning," Bodie agreed, draining his glass. "Let's head back down to the locals and put it out on the wire."
The two left the pub and were walking to their car, noticing that it was getting late. Cold wind was blowing leaves that danced in swirls on the street, and the air seemed full of suppressed energy, as if waiting for something to happen. As they were turning the corner to where their motor was parked, a large black car crossed in front of them heading out of town.
"That's got to be him," called out Doyle as they tore for the car, Bodie leaping over the hood to get to his door.
"Something's spooked him," Bodie said grimly as he accelerated the Capri into a tight U-turn and set off in pursuit.
"He wasn't even looking at us," Doyle shook his head.
"When we catch up to him, we can ask him," Bodie smiled nastily. "Ever so nicely." Doyle grinned in response. It was not a nice smile.
It took a bit to catch up with MacAllister, as he seemed to be driving with no regards to speed laws, but they finally did as he pulled into the car park for Castle Douglas near the gate to the pathway to Castle Threave.
"He's headed back to the river," Bodie noted as they pulled up and got out hurriedly.
"Seems like it all centers around there," Doyle had to raise his voice as the wind began to freshen, gusting heavily and very cold. Clouds scudded across the sky as the last of the light fell and they ran pell-mell down the path to the river.
There was no ferryboat, but an older craft was tied to the dock, and the partners jumped in and Bodie began to row across the water. Waves slapped against the bow of the small craft as the storm intensified.
Reaching the dock, they secured the boat next to the ferry MacAllister took, and began running after the Scot who was making his way through the ruins. The partners gave chase, and Bodie shouted something to Doyle, but he couldn't hear him over the sounds of the gale. Finally, Bodie grabbed Doyle by the arm and pointed to the top of the tower, where a figure of what only could be an ancient Scottish warrior stood where he'd been the night before.
"Robbie Douglas?" shouted Doyle in Bodie's ear.
"Would have to be," Bodie yelled back, shaking his head, and they turned to follow MacAllister again.
He was headed down to the castle's harbour, and the two men slowed down a little and drew their weapons. MacAllister climbed down out of sight near the waterline, and the wind caused waves splashed on the rocks. The smell of wet mud and river battled with the ion-charged storm in the air.
Ducking slightly down and using a crumbling wall for cover, Doyle called out, "You're finished MacAllister...Come out now!" Bodie was circling round a to a small peninsula that curved behind MacAllister's current position.
The wind picked up even higher and lighting struck so close as to make both men fall flat on the ground to avoid being struck. When Bodie looked up from his cover position, the warrior was back and standing above the harbour on the ruined wall. He looked over to where he could just make out Doyle, and saw that Ray was watching with amazement also.
"Liam MacAllister, come out!" yelled Bodie. "We've got you covered -- surrender!"
The storm crashed down around them, and the warrior didn't move, just continued to look down to where MacAllister had gone. Bodie and Doyle both moved together, keeping watch on the apparition.
"What now?" Doyle cupped a hand around Bodie's ear as he yelled over the storm.
"Go after him," Bodie answered. "Could be doing anything, destroying evidence maybe," he continued.
"And our ghostly friend?" Doyle shook his head at the surreal ness of it all.
"Don't appear to be interested in us," Bodie offered. "Let's just get on with it. Storms scare me," he added, grinning in his most manic way. Doyle just shook his head and they moved to climb down the wall of the harbour.
The warrior watched them as they found a small path cut in the rock wall and came to a stone dock. Bodie produced a small torch from his inner pocket and shined it round while Doyle kept him covered. There were rusted rings for tying up craft hundreds of years gone by, and a deep hole cut into the rock wall. There was no sign of MacAllister.
It was eerily quieter down where they were, as if the storm was further away. Bodie shined the torch into the hole and found a half dozen small plastic-wrapped packets, heavily taped. "Hello, what's this then?" he tugged one out of the hole.
"Should imagine that's our heroin," Doyle called back over his shoulder as he peered out into the choppy water. It was too dark to see anything. "You reckon he fell into the water?"
"We would have seen him," Bodie asserted. "Here, help me with this lot."
"Do you suppose that Dr. Kaverov found MacAllister's stash, and he killed her for it?" Doyle put a few packets into his pockets.
"Probably," Bodie replied as they made there way back out to the open portion of the dock. "I don't see Robbie killing her -- not part of his brief, is it?"
Doyle laughed as they made their way up the path cut into the stone wall. As they climbed, the intensity of the storm rose, and all at once the howling of the storm peaked with strong, buffeting winds and driving rain. Another lighting strike, this one as close as before drove Bodie and Doyle to the lee of the castle tower.
"Look," cried Doyle, pointing down to the edge of the water where they'd found Rodina Kaverov the day before. Multiple and rapid lighting strikes showed the unclad body of an older man, laid out face down and unmoving.
The partners carefully made their way down to the shore, and Bodie felt for a pulse. "He's dead," he yelled, shaking his head. "Let's get out of here. They can come for him in the morning after the storm. It's too dangerous to be out here."
As if punctuating Bodie's statement, the lighting and thunder intensified again and the two men ran for the dock. The ferry that MacAllister had taken was tied up, but there was no sign of the boat that the partners had taken over. They looked at each other, shook their heads, then climbed into the ferry. Bodie began rowing them back over to the mainland.
Doyle looked back at the castle then tapped Bodie's shoulder and pointed back to the ruin. There in the swirling rain and howling wind, lit periodically by lighting strikes, the warrior stood on the top of the castle tower, watching them leave.
-- THE END --