Skinner's Ordeal

Skinner's Ordeal by Quintin Jardine

Book: Skinner's Ordeal by Quintin Jardine Read Free Book Online
Authors: Quintin Jardine
beckoned Arrow. 'Look, Adam. D'you see what's embossed in the surface?'
    The little man squatted down beside him, bending to follow his friend's pointing finger.
    He too felt the surface.
    Ìt's a crest, isn't it?'
    `That's right. The Scottish Office crest, to be exact. That means that this was Roland McGrath's Red Box. With luck Davey's should be around here too.'
    Àye,' said Arrow, 'and it looks as if t' buggers are bombproof at that.'
    `Too bad their owners weren't. Come on, let's join in the search.'
    They made their way back up the hillside, where Legge and the Sergeant who had found the box continued to pore through the flotsam of the disaster. The second NCO was at work on the other slope. Arrow broke off to the left, to widen the area of the search, while Skinner headed right. As he passed the Major, he called to him. 'Bob, here a second, please.'
    The slope was at its steepest and Skinner had to dig his heels in to make progress upwards.
    When he reached Legge, he found him standing upright and grim-faced. On the ground, at his feet, the top part of a human body, with the head in right profile, was embedded in the bank of the gully, just as the Red Box had been. The policeman's stomach heaved, and he was glad that he had not eaten since breakfast. Even at that, for a few uncertain moments his record of never having thrown up at the crime scene hung by a thread.
    He took a deep breath and gathered up his self-control once more.
    `Look at it. If you can . . .' said the Major. Skinner nodded and crouched beside the thing.
    The arm was twisted and shrivelled, without a hand, and seemed to point up at them. The face was burned black, but the features were still obviously human, apart from the ear, which resembled nothing more than a piece of charcoal. The hair, rising from a high forehead, and the beard and moustache were frizzled and melted.
    Àahh!' he hissed. 'It's like some sort of demented sculpture, but still it's recognisable.'
    `You know him?' said the Irishman, surprise in his voice.
    `Yes. This was Roland McGrath, the Scottish Office Minister.'
    `Well, if it's any consolation, the fellow never knew what hit him. The blast must have taken him out in an instant.' He dropped on both knees beside the head. 'Sorry, Bob, but this has to be done.' Carefully, he dug his fingers into the mud beneath the remains and turned them over, freeing them from the ground. Skinner took a step sideways and watched. The left arm was gone, at the shoulder, and the torso ended just below that point in a tangle of bone and muddy organs. The policeman drew a quick breath and concentrated his gaze on the face. The left side looked more human, with unscorched flesh tones showing through the dirt. The left ear, although filled with mud and grass, was still there and reddish hair still clung to temple and jawline.
    `Where was this fellow sitting?' Legge asked.
    Row 1 seat B.'

    Tells us something then. D'you know who was in seat C?'
    À bodyguard. I think that's him down there in the burn, minus his top half.'
    `Munn. And the politicians were across the aisle?'
    `Yes.'
    Ìn that case, from the way the blast seems to have radiated, I'd say the bomb went off more or less in the lap of our late; Secretary of State!' He lifted up the remains of McGrath, then placed them gently back on the ground. 'I doubt if we'll find even this much of him, or the souls on either side of him.'
    He stood up. 'So how did the bloody thing get there? Interesting question, isn't it? How did the Secretary of State for Defence come to be sitting right on top of an explosive device powerful enough to tear an aircraft apart?'
    Skinner looked at him, almost stunned by the idea. 'Any answers?'
    Legge smiled, wickedly. 'Right at this moment, the only thing I can suggest is that you find out where he dined last night . . . and never ever eat their curry!'
    The policeman winced. 'Bloody hell. Is that how you Bomb Squad guys manage to stay sane?'
    Àbsolutely,' said Legge. He

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