Detective Inspector Frank Miller looked at the knife in the assailant’s hand and thought his whole day was fucked.
‘Put the knife away, Darren.’ Miller kept his eyes on the man, seeing the still form of the cashier lying in the corner. She hadn’t moved since he came in, and Miller hoped she was just unconscious.
‘Shut the fuck up, Miller!’ Darren shouted, lifting the blade. ‘I only allowed you in here because I was getting fucking bored. And because that bitch won’t get up. So don’t push me.’
Miller wished he’d put his name down for the Lothian and Borders Police negotiators course at Tulliallan, their training school.
‘Take it easy, Darren. I’m only here to talk to you, see if we can get this resolved peacefully. There’s no pressure here.’
‘Sure, sure, it’s all fucking talk. Of course there’s pressure here.’
Miller looked around the stock-room, at the cases of booze all stacked up. Cartons of cigarettes had been knocked over in the struggle, presumably when the cashier had fought with Darren.
Her name was Suzanne and she was 23 years old. Not a match for Darren – if that was his real name – who looked to be in his early forties. He was in need of a shave and a haircut.
Miller was standing in his shirtsleeves, rolled up, showing Darren that he wasn’t armed.
‘Do you need anything, Darren? A drink? A smoke, perhaps?’ Christ, Miller felt like a prick when the words came out.
Offer them something to make them comfortable,
the negotiator outside had told him. Let him think you’re his friend. Gain his confidence, but don’t make him think you’re going to try and get the better of him. We have armed response teams for that. ‘Are you trying to be fucking funny, Miller?’ Darren screamed.
Miller wished he smoked, but he didn’t and couldn’t fake it. He was sweating like a bastard now. He kept his hands in view and reached over to a box of Carlsberg Special. He popped the tab and took a swallow. Fucking hell. He passed it over to Darren.
The air was hot in here. There were no windows. There had been years ago, but they’d been boarded up after one too many break-ins. Now there was only a fire door.
Darren threw the can down and the brown liquid rushed out at Miller’s shoes. ‘You think you can make me let her go by giving me a can of Carly Spesh?’
Then Darren did something that took Miller completely by surprise: he laughed. ‘You don’t remember me, do you, Miller?’
Miller edged slightly sideways, trying to get between the girl and Darren. Just like he’d been taught. Darren moved too. Move and counter-move.
‘No, Darren, I don’t remember you. Should I?’
He smiled at Miller. ‘Darren Holmes. 1993. Hibs versus Hearts. I was a casual back then. Loved the fucking fighting, I did. Then some old bastard copper got me round the back of Rose Street Lane, and kicked the shit out of me. A young copper stood and watched. Now it’s payback. It’s why I’m here, why I asked for you.’
Miller remembered now. That’s why they were here; the back of this stock-room opened up into that same lane.
He remembered the old school copper; Bobby something, long-retired, maybe dead now. Bobby had given a man a hiding after he’d caught him. Miller had stood and looked at him, not believing what he was seeing. After watching for a few moments, he ran up to stop it, but the man was unconscious.
‘He fucking fell, okay?’ the old copper said, staring hard at Miller.
Miller had nodded. And now it was back to haunt him.
He looked at the girl. Saw the blood now. No sign of life.
He moved with the stealth of a street fighter, better than Darren ever was. He grabbed the hand holding the knife and head-butted him.
Darren went down hard, his nose broken. He lay unconscious in a heap, and Miller thought he knew how old Bobby felt all those years ago.
Sometimes the old school ways were better after all.