A Song for the Dark Times
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2020 by John Rebus Ltd.
Cover design by Lucy Kim
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In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.
We love making damaged people our playthings.
Siobhan Clarke walked through the emptied flat. Not that it was empty; rather the life had been sucked from it. Packing crates sat the length of the hallway. The kitchen cupboards gaped, as did the door to the tenement stairwell. The window in the main bedroom had been opened to air the place. It looked bigger, of course, without the furniture and the restless figure of John Rebus himself. Bare light bulbs dangled from each ceiling. Some curtains had been left, as had most of the carpeting. (She’d run a vacuum cleaner over all the bedrooms the previous day.) In the hall, she studied the boxes. She knew what they held, each one written on in her own hand. Books; music; personal papers; case notes.
Case notes: one bedroom had been filled with them–investigations John Rebus had worked on, solved and unsolved, plus other cases that had held an interest for him, helping keep him busy in his retirement. She heard footsteps on the stairs. One of the movers gave a nod and a smile as he hefted a crate, turning to go. She followed him, squeezing past his colleague.
‘Nearly there,’ the second man said, puffing out his cheeks. He was perspiring and she hoped he was all right. Probably in his mid fifties and carrying too much weight around his middle. Edinburgh tenements could be murder. She herself wouldn’t be sorry not to have to climb the two storeys again after today.
The main door to the tenement had been wedged open with a folded triangle of thick cardboard–the corner of a packing case, she guessed. The first mover, tattooed arms bared, had reached the pavement and was making a sharp turn, left and left again, passing through a gateway. Beyond the small paved area–probably a neat garden in the distant past–stood another open door, this one leading to the ground-floor flat.
‘Living room?’ he asked.
‘Living room,’ Siobhan Clarke confirmed.
John Rebus had his back to them as they entered. He was standing in front of a row of brand-new bookcases, bought at IKEA the previous weekend. That trip–and the clash of wills during the shelves’ assembly–had put more strain on the friendship between Rebus and Clarke than any operation they’d worked on during their joint time in CID. Now he turned and frowned at the
‘Where the hell do they keep coming from? Didn’t we make a dozen trips to the charity shop?’
‘I’m not sure you factored in how much smaller this flat is than your old one.’ Clarke had crouched to give some attention to Rebus’s dog Brillo.
‘They’ll have to go in the spare room,’ Rebus muttered.
‘I told you to ditch those old case notes.’
‘They’re sensitive documents, Siobhan.’
‘Some are so old they’re written on vellum.’ The mover had made his exit. Clarke tapped one of the books Rebus had shelved. ‘Didn’t take you for a Reacher fan.’
‘I sometimes need a break from all the philosophy and ancient languages.’
Clarke studied the shelves. ‘Not going to alphabetise them?’
‘Life’s too short.’
‘What about your music?’
‘So how will you find anything?’
‘I just will.’
She took a couple of steps back and spun around. ‘I like it,’ she said. Wallpaper had been removed, the walls and ceiling freshly painted, though Rebus had drawn the line at the skirting boards and window frames. The heavy drapes from his old living room’s bay window fitted the near-identical window here. His chair, sofa and hi-fi had been placed as he wanted them. The dining table had had to go–too large for the remaining space. In its place stood a modern drop-leaf, courtesy of IKEA again. The kitchen was a narrow galley-style affair. The bathroom, too, was long and narrow but perfectly adequate. Rebus had baulked at the idea of a refit: ‘maybe later’. Clarke had grown used to that refrain these past few weeks. She’d had to bully him into decluttering. Thinning out the books and music had taken the best part of a fortnight, and even then she would sometimes catch him lifting an item from one of the boxes or bags destined for the charity shop. It struck