By Stephen Thom
The moon was a smoggy disc sheared from black fabric. Davey Turnbull walked down Rankeillor Street. Sim trailed after him, his boots scuffing the pavement. It was after midnight. Further behind them on Nicolson Street, the pubs and takeaways were busy, but as they crossed over the road to St Leonard's Street everything was quiet. A single drunk staggered on a weaving path down towards the Pleasance, his arms rigid, frame veering forward, head dipping dangerously towards the ground.
They cut diagonally across to the station. A yellow bike was chained to a tree outside the sandstone brick building. Blue-framed glass panels surrounded the revolving-door entrance. A silver plaque displayed a badge - the thistle and crown combo - and the words 'Police Scotland' in faded blue lettering. Victorian lampposts dotted down the street spilt puddles of light and within one of these frosted spheres DC Lyle stood smoking.
Turnbull approached and Lyle blew tendrils of smoke in his face. Sim loitered near the chained bike. Turnbull slid a fat envelope from inside his jacket and passed it to Lyle. Wind blew a solitary crisp packet down the pavement and Lyle tore the envelope opened and leafed through the stacked notes inside. He sniffed, swallowed phlegm, and cocked his head.
Sim and Turnbull followed him down St Leonard's Lane and round to the rear of the building. The car park was near-empty, a few white Rovers with red and blue striping occupying spots. Another uniformed man was smoking in the shadows outside a black door.
They joined him. Lyle flicked his fag butt away and tapped the envelope wedged under his right arm. He turned to Turnbull.
'Custody officer,' he said. His voice was a low growl. 'Night shift.'
His eyes lingered on Sim. They narrowed and he lit another fag. The custody officer rummaged in his pocket and produced a large sets of keys.
'Which one?' Lyle said.
'Detention cell three,' the custody officer muttered. Lyle stared at the man and nodded towards Turnbull. The custody officer fanned the keys out and pointed along a selection.
'Entrance. Office. Circulation corridor. Gates.'
He tapped a key with a green plastic tag.
Turnbull looked round at Sim.
Lyle's eyebrows raised.
'This wee fud?'
'Aye. I've enough on me. Starts to weigh you down.'
'Bit fucking late in the day to be developing a conscience, is it not?'
Sim stalked forward and snatched the keys from the custody officer. He jammed a long rusty key into the entrance door, and the three men around him turned and walked out of the car park. Sim watched them depart, their shadows bound into a single shapeless entity, and shoved the heavy door open.
Darkness. A musty smell. A small concrete room with wooden benches along the walls preceded a short corridor. His footsteps echoed. He unlocked another door and he was in the custody office.
His breath was loud in his ears. He fumbled along the wall and hit the light switch. Square fluorescent lights flickered and buzzed in the ceiling. He glanced about. A glass screen covered with a steel-barred grille lined one side of the room. Beyond it was a desk, swivel chairs, a phone, empty mugs and filing cabinets. There was another wooden bench at the base of the wall opposite.
Sim clipped through the office and unlocked a two-inch thick grey steel door at the far end. He moved through a dark passage and opened the grille gates preceding the circulation corridor.
The thin corridor was dark and cold. Pipes gurgled. His boots clumped. Steels blue doors were set into the walls. He walked down to door number three. The keys jangled in his palm. He faced the door, released the bottom latch on the viewing hatch, and slid the cover across the steel backplate.
Leung was curled up on a thin blue polyester mattress atop a bench. He was asleep. Sim squinted. Japanese. This was the one. He flexed his left hand and looked down at his knuckles. The two scratchy circles tattooed beneath his middle and ring fingers. Two more tiny circles within them. A jagged Z-shape traced across the black spheres.
His head felt hot and saliva pooled in his mouth. He rifled through the bunch of keys and jammed one into the slam lock. Leung stirred on his mattress.
Lyle shivered and drank from a small metal flask. The night air was crisp and cold. They stood at the far end of the car park. He checked his watch. Nearly three am. Turnbull rubbed his eyes and the custody officer stamped his feet.
The black door swung open. Sim eased out. Fucking awkward looking fellow, Lyle thought. Weirdly tall. All skin and bones. A strange, child-like face. Moon eyes. He looked like a Victorian puppet, tripping across the car park.
Sim stopped in front of him and handed the keys back. He was breathing heavily. His jacket was buttoned up to his neck. Lyle's lip curled. He looked down. There was a small wet stain on the groin area of Sim's trousers. Lyle's fingers wrapped around the keys.
'Fuck out of here,' he growled.
Turnbull lurched forward and placed an arm around Sim's shoulder, guiding him away. Lyle caught the lad's eyes. They were moist and vacant. Turnbull looked back and nodded.
'I don't want to see that wee fuck again,' Lyle said.
He watched them depart, moving beneath lamppost spotlights, crossing St Leonard's street and disappearing. He drank from the flask again. He felt peaky, ill-at-ease. The custody officer lit up. Lyle watched the smouldering orange pin-prick.
'Fucking rammy the night,' the custody officer said, exhaling.
Lyle set out across the car park, towards the door. He looked back.
The custody officer fell into step alongside him.
'Easter Road. Nine bookings. Levein winner. Craig fucking Levein, big streak of piss that he is.'
Lyle spat and tugged the door open.
'Shower of arseholes,' he said. He wasn't sure what he was talking about. He was thinking of the stain on the lad's trousers.
They walked through the silent corridor to the office. Lyle opened the office area door and paced behind the glass screen, flicking the kettle on.
'Liverpool are sniffing about him,' the custody officer chimed.
Lyle's head pounded. He tipped generous shots from the flask into two mugs.
'Who?' He said.
'Levein. Liverpool are sniffing about.'
Lyle bit his lip. He turned and raised the flask.
'Check the cell. I'll fix us some Irish coffees.'
The custody officer's eyes lit up and he padded off through the grey steel door. Lyle downed the whisky straight from the mug. He leaned over the desk and gripped its edge. Closed his eyes. Waited.
The custody officer's voice drifted up the corridors.
'Fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck.'
Lyle slammed his fist off the desk. He tugged the office door open and ran down to the cells. He could hear movement behind the doors. Clunks. Shouts. Banging. He hit cell three. The custody officer was standing in the doorway, his mouth open.
Lyle swerved in. The grubby white walls were plastered with red spray. Leung was on the floor. His throat was cut to the bone. Chibs protruded from both his eyes. His bowels were strewn across the concrete floor, coils of soaking red tubing.