The High Road, Excerpt Two: St Monans
It turned out that St Monans was the next village along the coast from Elie. If it hadn't been for the car's GPS, he'd have missed the turning off the main road into the village. What Callum found was a gloriously attractive harbourside area with loads of character and charm. It was unlike anything he'd expected to find in Scotland. He reversed into a vacant space at the head of a harbour divided by a long central pier. The harbour's outer limit was defined by a breakwater that extended south and then paralleled the shore to provide protection from the Firth of Forth.
Callum knew the address of the house he was looking for and thought he could see it ahead of him, on the far side of what a street sign confirmed was Virgin Square. Before approaching it, he decided to get a sense of the layout of the village, just as he would if he were playing this for real.
Before leaving the car, he donned the cheap hiking jacket he'd purchased in Livingston. There was no question of the weather changing for the worse, but the internal chest pocket was ideal for the Glock pistol. He then walked around the harbour to its far side, where there was a broad concrete slipway. A walk out past the brick harbourmaster's office onto the central pier gave another perspective on the village and also gave glimpses of an attractive church on the shore to the west of St Monans. Back at the eastern end of the harbour, he rounded the free-standing two-storey house that formed the west side of Virgin Square, and, without being too obvious about it, sized up the unusual pink-coloured stone house on the square's far side. It was unusual because access seemed to be via a set of external steps that led to a main door on the upper floor.
Callum stayed on the opposite side of the street from the house he was interested in, following the road around to the right. A short distance beyond the turn, a narrow alley, made even narrower by a line of blue wheelie bins, seemed to give access to the rear of the house he was interested in. Or an exit from it, of course, and one that would be completely out of sight of anyone watching the front of the house.
He reversed course, watching for anyone who might be following him. If anyone was, they were as invisible here as they had been in Portpatrick. Callum could feel the same prickling in the back of his neck but reminded himself that this could have been set off by the police who he knew were watching the house and, presumably, him. On a Monday morning in June, the place was hardly busy and Callum was surprised not to be able to identify anyone who didn't seem to belong, police or otherwise.
Still playing it for real, Callum returned to the hire car and sat in it for a while, building the pretence he was watching the house but, in reality, playing a game of 'spot the copper'. He thought that a beaten-up old dark blue Transit van a little along from him, at the start of the road running east alongside the shore, was a likely base for at least a couple of watchers, but again he reflected on how well everyone seemed to be doing at keeping out of sight.
Deciding there was no point delaying things any further, Callum got out of the car and crossed the quiet square in front of the house. On reaching it, Callum confirmed his impression that, although there was a wooden door at ground level, set into the side of the base of the external staircase, the main entrance was indeed at the top of the steps. He climbed them and knocked on the white door facing him, using the door knocker provided for the purpose. He heard movement inside the house, and the door was pulled open by DI Brown, standing back from the doorway so he wasn't readily visible from the street.
'Fancy meeting you here,' said Callum. 'I think we're wasting our time, don't you?'
'Sadly, you are probably right, Callum. You might as well come in while we unpick things.' Adrian turned to his left in the hallway, to lead Callum into the house itself.
The main room was immediately beyond the hallway. On another occasion, Callum would have paused to admire furniture that was exactly in keeping with the character of the house but, instead, his attention was caught by a gasp from DS Buchanan, who was sitting on a kitchen chair immediately behind the large front window, looking out through a gap in the net curtains with a pair of binoculars.
'Guys, I think I've got something. Do you see that blue building over at the end of the east pier? There are boats parked on the slipway on this side of it and three large communal bins beside the road at the top of the slipway. I just saw someone standing in the shadow between the orange one and the blue one. They were looking in this direction.'
'Can I see?'
'Here you go.' Suzi handed Callum the binoculars.
He could see the area Suzi had described, but there was no sign of anyone there. Then he caught a slight movement and realised that what he'd taken for part of the shadow of the blue bin was a figure wearing a wide-brimmed hat looking back towards him with his own binoculars. 'That looks like our man. Tell your team to close in.'
'I'm afraid we are the team,' said DI Brown.
'You've got to be kidding me!' said Callum.
'We did have the support of a detective sergeant and a detective constable based in St Andrews. But they helped us arrest Marks' two men earlier this morning and then took them to Livingston. It's still three against one, though.'
'We can debate this later,' said Callum. 'Suzi, can you keep watch on him and call for support? Adrian, I saw what I think was a back way out via an alley. If we go that way, we should be able to get most of the distance to the harbour without being seen.'
'Yes, the back yard is accessed from the alley, ' said DI Brown. 'That sounds like a plan.'
Callum realised that the back door of the house must be reached through the lower level kitchen and having wasted a little time unbolting the component parts of a stable-type door, he emerged into a small rear yard. A gate in a tall wooden fence looked like it would give access to the alley he'd seen earlier. This was padlocked and he used a bin to climb over it, dropping on the other side into the alley.
There was a thud and a groan as DI Brown landed awkwardly. 'My ankle! You go on, Callum.'
Callum sprinted out of the alley and then crossed the road. He cut through another alley, this time one he'd not noticed earlier, which ran beside the detached white house on the west side of Virgin Square before opening out onto the road around the harbour.
Callum pulled back and released the slide on the Glock, then put his head down and ran for the cover of a boat on a trailer close to where he'd parked. This ought to allow him a good view of Ski Mask Man's hiding place. It did, but there was no one there. A movement on the road to the east caught his eye. A red car was being reversed slowly towards him. Callum ran over, realising too late that the sight of his pistol had terrified the elderly woman driver, who stopped the car and then stalled her engine as he drew level with her open window.
'I'm with Police Scotland,' he said. 'Have you seen a man passing this way?'
The woman nodded, pointing ahead of her, to the east. He heard the sound of running feet coming from the other direction and wheeled around to see Suzi, pistol in hand and wearing a bullet-proof vest and police cap, coming to join him. Callum turned back and ran along the road, to find that it simply came to an end at two large detached houses. Though the road stopped, it was possible to continue east along a concrete strip that followed the upper part of the stony beach. This curved around the sea wall protecting the further of the two houses. What lay immediately beyond was concealed by the curve of the wall, but Callum was struck by what appeared to be a windmill, above the shore a little further to the east, beyond the village.
By now Suzi had caught up with him. 'I didn't see him leave, but he could have kept out of sight of the house. We've got backup on the way but they might be a few minutes yet.'
'I'm worried that we'll be sitting ducks as we go around the sea wall there,' said Callum. 'Nothing for it, though.' He moved as quickly as possible along the base of the sea wall at the top of the beach. At its far end, he leaned cautiously out, to gain a better view of what lay ahead. He could see no trace of Ski Mask Man and pressed on to the end of the wall, whose line was continued by a barrier made of two layers of metal mesh gabions filled with large stones, apparently to protect a car park from the sea. Callum cautiously tried to see over the upper layer of gabions but then quickly ducked back down as a silenced shot hit the wall just to the left of his head, showering him in small pieces of splintered stone.
'That was close!'
'Are you all right?' asked Suzi.
'I am, but he doesn't want to be followed. Can you get hold of the cavalry and ask them to focus on this end of the village when they arrive? I'll go further round and see if I can get off the beach without making a target of myself.'
Immediately beyond the end of the gabion wall, Callum found a stony track apparently used to access the beach from the car park. He cautiously scrambled up it, to find no sign of Ski Mask Man at the top. He then climbed over a low wire fence, feeling very exposed and vulnerable as he did so.
Ahead of him, on the far side of the road leading into the car park, an overgrown set of steps climbed diagonally upwards and to the left. On instinct, he followed them to where they emerged into an open area that seemed to serve as a car park for residents of the surrounding houses. One car, a silver Renault, had been there so long the surrounding vegetation had reached its bumper and part of the way up its doors.
Then a police car, blue lights flashing, emerged at speed from a road opposite, Callum put his pistol out of sight in his pocket and waited for what passed for the cavalry to drive over to him.