By Stephen Thom
Craven glanced at Mina.
'Laidlaw had a database of private keys on his laptop. We have the database. There's one address that appears particularly minted; he'd been predominantly siphoning bitcoins from this account.'
'And what - you can trace this account?'
Craven nudged his glasses up his nose.
'We don't need to. We have the database. The account's linked to a website. It's listed under the website name on the database.'
He leaned forward.
'It's a site on the dark web. A site that sells drugs.'
Gillis blinked. He caught flashes of the stash at Blair Anderson's house; the shed, the parcels of white powder stuffed into the waste bag inside an old vacuum cleaner. The rolls of notes inside used paint tins. His skin tingled. 1988. Ragged, warped memories, uncoiling through the mists of time.
'A site on the... ' he breathed. Gathered himself. 'A drugs site. And the address, this bitcoin thing - it's just linked to the site? Thought you said this stuff was public? Seems a bit fucking unsafe, doesn't it? How does it? - '
'Aye,' Craven nodded. 'But this site's on the dark web. You need a certain type of browser to access it. It's shrouded in anonymity. It's the database, man - we'd be goosed if we didn't have that. We were lucky buggers the laptop was still turned on, logged in. He'd have had everything buried under passwords, encryption.'
Mina rolled her chair back from the desk and stood.
'Over here,' she gestured.
They followed her over to one of the groups sat around a laptop. Gillis's head stung as he walked.
'We've drafted in several cyber-crime specialists from units in Glasgow and Dundee,' Mina said. 'This is James Aitken, David Gough.'
The men looked round and nodded briefly. Mina leaned down and Aitken pulled up a website on the screen. Craven was pacing and wringing his hands.
'It's called 'Chthonic Market'. Simple design, simply layout. Buy what you need.'
He paused. Mina rubbed her earlobe. Gillis shuffled and fingered the fag packet in his pocket.
'Look at the bloody logo,' Craven said.
Gillis stooped down, resting his hands on the back of Gough's chair. He squinted at the screen between the two men's heads.
Black design. An array of listings running down the page.
A logo on the top left of the screen: a circle within a circle. A sharp 'Z'-shape running through the spheres.
Gillis pressed his tongue against the back of his teeth.
'You've got to be fucking - '
'Laidlaw was a frequent visitor to the site,' Craven interrupted. 'It's right through his history. He's researched it. Targeted it. There's separate files on the bitcoin account linked to this site. He's tracked their transactions, monitored them, planned - '
'The website server's somewhere in Edinburgh,' Mina said.
The group fell silent. They were all watching Gillis digest the news, but he was still staring at the logo on the screen. The logo he'd seen in bloody, carved lines on Blair Anderson's forehead. His palms were greasy against the swivel chair. The CID suite was too bright, too crowded. It had all seemed a leap, an abstract hunch. Even the presence of the mask. Reaching back through time and threshing disparate lifetimes together. Nothing in the past seemed real, it was all waves of feeling and grotesque, flickering images, and now - staring at the little icon in the corner of a black screen - nothing in the present did either.
His back clicked as he stood up and he grimaced. He looked at Mina and she saw the weight and the emptiness in his eyes. She saw the enormity of it all hitting him.
'They're here,' he said, quietly.
Aitken swivelled his chair round. His tie was loose and there were sweat patches under the armpits of his shirt.
'Locating a website server isn't that tricky,' he said. 'But it's a dark web site, so we thought we'd have a bit of a muddle discovering the IP address. It actually wasn't that much of a ball-ache. Tor browsers, the dark web, they'll help hide the location of the servers, but it's not a magic fix by any stretch of the imagination. Most of these hidden sites... and they are often illegal services,' he said, nodding at the screen, 'they've not taken the measures to defend their systems. The people behind them usually aren't serious techies. You can protect a system from wee hackers, maybe, but cyber crime unit specialists, you know... '
He aimed a thumb at his chest. Mina smiled.
' ... all we really had to do was try and make the site fetch materials stored on our own servers, then check whether a non-Tor IP was used, I mean - '
Gillis clucked and waved his hand over his head.
'Aye, so it wasn't all that tricky,' Aitken grinned.
'And I had to get the Megabus from Dundee and all,' Gough said.
'Aye ye did,' Aitken said, tugging open a packet of crisps. 'So finding the server's fine after that. You don't need any special software.'
He munched, closed the black website, and pulled up a fresh screen. The cursor moved across it.
'Plenty of options. IP location finder - Geolocation.'
Gillis made to stoop down again, but Mina stepped forward and handed him a print-out. He moved his forefinger down the headings.
'Pentland Hills,' Mina said. 'South-west. A forty-five minute drive away.'
Gillis looked back down at the sheet.
'We should - '
'There's teams scouring the area as we speak. We can head out and join them soon. We needed to get you briefed.'
Gillis handed the sheet back to her. He turned to the small group around the laptop.
'Good work, lads,' he said.
'Is it true you saw the bodies in '88?' Aitken said. 'You were in that tunnel and everything?'
Gillis placed a fag behind his ear.
'Bursting for a smoke, boys,' he said. 'Not that I haven't found all this spraff about bitcoins and IP addresses tremendously stimulating, but... '
Aitken smiled and turned back to the screen as Gillis lurched out of the suite.
Mina found him by the bins in the car park. He'd loosened his tie and was slumped against the station wall. The sun had retreated behind a bank of clouds and a light drizzle feathered over the trams and buses moving down Leith Walk. Mina huddled under a concrete overhang alongside him.
'None of us were expecting these results from the laptop analysis,' she said.
'Aye,' Gillis replied, breathing scarves of smoke amongst the rain. 'It's a fair bit to absorb.'
They stood in silence. The rain grew heavier.
'I was wondering how much of this was a warning,' Mina said. She pulled the collar of her jacket close. 'Drugs. Money. You said before... people coming out of the water. And now this. It's another level of fear. Horror. Like they're markers, warnings. I - '
'Everything feels circular,' Gillis breathed. 'Everything you do. You end up back in the same awful place.'
He crushed out his cigarette and lit another one. His hands were shaking. Mina lowered her eyes and stepped to the side.
'Look, DI Gillis, I know there's a lot of history here, and I - '
Gillis frowned and waved his hand, but Mina's phone was ringing. She stepped out from under the overhang and into the rain.
Gillis balled his fists and dragged himself up. He breathed; tried to feel his breath, tried to be present. Pedestrians beneath umbrellas scuttled down the sidewalks like a single shelled bug, a massed organism. Buses crashed through puddles in the growing downpour. He started. Mina was beside him again.
'The search team,' she said, holding her phone up, 'they believe they've found the server site.'
Gillis wiped a sheen of rainwater from his scalp. A word was lodged in his head.