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Since infancy, Michael McLaren has been the target of his paternal grandfather’s anger. So when the patriarch sends an invitation to heal the rift, McLaren travels to Scotland, eager to meet and finally end the feud. But the welcome never happens. If Grandfather hadn’t invited him, who had? And why?
In Edinburgh, a man standing beside McLaren in a bus queue is killed in a hit-and-run accident. After an attack leaves McLaren for dead on a wintry moor, he’s convinced someone from his past is trying to murder him. As McLaren trails the hit-and-run driver from the medieval ‘underground city’ of Edinburgh to the Boar’s Rock, the MacLaren Clan’s ancestral meeting place, the assaults intensify, and he’s plunged into a very personal hunt for a World War II treasure. The puzzle is fascinating; he just has to stay alive to solve it.
“Personal, was it? You angry that he’d nearly killed you in Edinburgh?”
“Not particularly. I didn’t want Miss Skene to endure his company any longer than necessary. She was near the emotional breaking point, if I judged her correctly. She’d been through a hell of an ordeal, and I didn’t see any benefit to prolonging her association with her kidnapper by taking him with us. I left him tied up, assuming he’d be safe for an hour or so until the police arrived. I escorted Miss Skene to Balquhidder, treated her to lunch, and saw her safely onto a bus to Edinburgh. That’s it. Plain and simple.”
“When did you discover Lanny with Miss Skene?”
“I don’t know the time. I didn’t think I’d need to confirm it later. But I phoned the constabulary as soon as we got to Balquhidder.”
“When was that?”
McLaren exhaled heavily. Hadn’t the man seen the report? Surely the time was noted on it. “An hour or so after we left the shieling.”
“You just said you didn’t know the time.”
“It takes about an hour to climb to the shieling. I’ve asked in the village and that’s the universal answer. We may have made it down more quickly, but with Miss Skene’s physical condition, it probably took about an hour.”
“What was wrong with her condition? She suffer from hypertension or have any injuries?”
“I just stated,” McLaren said, his voice rising in his anger and frustration, “that she’d obviously endured this captivity. She’d been physically assaulted and then tied up, for days. She’d been in this roofless hut, again possibly shortly after her kidnapping, and she sat on cold ground in bloody hell freezing temperatures and in snow. Of course she wasn’t in the best shape to run a damned marathon or jog down the damned hill.” He broke off, aware he was too angry for his own good.
“You know Lanny Clack was wanted for murder.” Ross’ tone assumed an edge to match McLaren’s.
McLaren blinked. Why the detailed questioning? “Well, I saw a television newscast giving his description after the hit-and-run. Since the CCTV tape shows it’s clearly him driving the vehicle that killed Hurd Dowell, I figured you wanted him for murder. If not that, then some other offense, such as culpable homicide.” He hoped he had mentally translated the English ‘manslaughter’ into the correct Scottish equivalent.
Ross leaned forward, closing the distance between them. “You’re sure you didn’t get angry when you found him this afternoon?”
“Of course I got angry! Who the hell wouldn’t? The bloody git killed a man, frightened a dozen others who were there, kidnapped Miss Skene, held her hostage—” He stopped before saying Lanny had knocked him on the head and left him for dead in the marshland along the loch, or that he was a threat to Neill McLaren. He took a deep breath. “But I didn’t kill him. I tied him up so he wouldn’t escape, then phoned you when I could.”
“An hour later.” The voice was flat, unimpressed.
“Yes. An hour later. Maybe ninety minutes. I didn’t write down the bloody time, but I phoned here, in the village.”
“Why wait so long to ring us?”
“Pardon?” The suspicion that things were turning horribly wrong whispered to McLaren.
“Why didn’t you phone right then? Did you want to put some space between you and the killing so you could establish an alibi?”
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