The Reckoning

Free The Reckoning by Rennie Airth

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Authors: Rennie Airth
need he felt to resolve the question – if for no other reason than his own peace of mind – would not allow him to sit idle, and as soon as he returned home from the farm that afternoon he placed another call to Aberdeen.
    â€˜Two murders – both apparent executions: that presupposes the same killer in each case. But what’s still not clear is whether the victims were chosen.’
    It was Sinclair himself who had answered the phone, with the welcome news that his sister had gone out to play bridge and consequently their conversation would be undisturbed.
    â€˜That’s the question, Angus. Were they deliberately targeted?’
    â€˜Because of who they were, you mean? But isn’t it possible they might also have been handy victims? This man Gibson went fishing regularly, you say, which suggests that he was out in the fields on his own for long spells. What we don’t know is whether the doctor was also an easy mark.’
    One of the fruits of their long friendship – and of the investigations they had worked on together – was the appreciation each had gained of the other’s qualities. Once his fears had been settled on the score of his former colleague’s reaction, Madden had known that Sinclair’s sharp, retentive mind would be turned like a searchlight on the puzzle presented to him.
    â€˜So you think he might be deranged? He’s not particular who he kills?’
    â€˜It’s a bizarre idea, I grant you, but the lack of any connectionbetween the two victims and the geographic distance between the crimes rather points to a man travelling about the realm with murder on his mind.’ The chief inspector paused. ‘Unless there is a connection, of course.’
    â€˜That’s what bothers me.’ Madden fell silent himself. Through the open window of the study he saw Hamish gallop heavily across the lawn in pursuit of a crow that had alighted on the grass a moment before, and which now rose with a bad-tempered caw, easily evading the dog’s ponderous challenge. ‘That and the possibility that somehow I’m mixed up in this.’
    â€˜You’re thinking of that visitor Gibson had?’
    â€˜And the letter he started writing with my name in it. They could be connected.’
    â€˜So if that visitor was the same man who killed Gibson later, you’ve reason to be concerned. I quite understand.’
    Listening to his old chief, Madden smiled. He had yet to explain his idea, but the chief inspector seemed to have grasped it already.
    â€˜What you need to know is whether the doctor up here received a similar visitation. Did he have an unpleasant encounter with a stranger? Was the tenor of his life upset in any way?’
    â€˜Yes, it’s possible he had some sort of warning of what was about to happen, even if he didn’t recognize it as such.’
    Madden paused.
    â€˜Now I’m sure the Scottish police will get on to that aspect of the investigation. But they’ll have to coordinate with the authorities here and it may take a while. I don’t want to wait that long. I’d like to know the answer as soon as possible. Are you acquainted with the police up there?’
    Sinclair’s response was a dry chuckle, which reached him clearly over the line.
    â€˜Now I see what you’re up to. Well, you’ll be pleased to hear I’ve made a habit of looking in on the Aberdeen constabulary. The current head of the CID is a man called Murray, a superintendent.We’re on good terms. He’ll certainly be familiar with the Drummond investigation; he may even have been involved in it to some degree. I’ll ask. I might even slip over to Ballater, if I get the chance.’
    â€˜I don’t want you to put yourself out, Angus,’ Madden began, but was cut short by a fresh cackle.
    â€˜Set your mind at rest. There’s no question of that. As a matter of fact, you’ll be doing me a favour. I

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