Sample text for Savage night / Allan Guthrie.

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savage night,

10:30 p.m.,


WHEN HE OPENED his sitting-room door, the last thing Fraser Savage expected to see was a corpse. Stuffed inside a stainless-steel bathtub on a plastic sheet in the middle of the floor, the body was naked and clearly male, even though it was facedown.

"Who the fuck is that?" Effie said.

Fraser shook his head slowly. The corpse had pale skin. Hairy buttocks. It was plump around the middle.

Holy fucking Christ, it couldn’t be . . .

Fraser’s toes and fingers started to prickle and his stomach cramped. The two pints he’d had earlier in the evening suddenly seemed like a lot more. And those three—or was it four?—lines of coke hadn’t helped. Sweat rolled down his back. His nose was running, too. He dabbed at his nostrils with the back of his hand.

"I think it might be Uncle Phil," he said.

"Does he have any identifying features?" Effie asked. "Tattoos? Scars?"

"I don’t think so."

He shivered. Not that he was cold. Felt like he’d puked his guts out and there was nothing left. Another shiver rippled through him.

Was it his uncle? Same waxy pale skin that ginger people have, same overall body shape.

But he’d never seen Uncle Phil naked. He might have identified him by his hair, that permanent ginger bed-head, but that wasn’t an option. Maybe the corpse had ginger pubes. Although even that didn’t mean it was Uncle Phil. There were plenty of other poor bastards with ginger pubes. Maybe the skin was excessively pale because of the blood loss and he wasn’t ginger at all.

Fraser could turn him over, find out.

Yeah, right. He wasn’t wrestling with that.

There was a good reason for the tub. There was a good reason Fraser felt sick. There was a good reason Fraser didn’t want to turn him over.

Somebody had cut the poor bastard’s head off.

And it was nowhere to be seen.


He took the glass of vodka from Effie, the liquid sloshing around as his hand shook. Steadied it with his other hand and knocked it back. It burned his throat nicely. He gave her back the glass and she poured him another. He took it, drank it. Felt warmer now, less shivery, hands not so shaky.

Effie didn’t appear fazed by the situation at all. Almost as if she were used to stumbling over corpses in her boyfriends’ homes.

Not that he was her boyfriend, exactly. But they’d been getting along well and maybe something would have happened tonight. It certainly wouldn’t now. A headless corpse was a major turnoff.

Jesus, he had to grow up.

Maturity, that’s what it was. Fraser was twenty-five. Effie’d have to be around the thirty mark. He hadn’t asked her, didn’t want to risk screwing things up. Anyway, she’d had more experience than him, which is why she was so much more composed.

Although it was unlikely, however old she was, that she’d seen a naked, headless corpse before.

And yet, Fraser couldn’t help but think of the way Effie had introduced herself when they first met. Wearing a two-tone orange blouse, open at the back, checked headscarf, sandals, almost a hippie thing going on. Said the cold didn’t bother her, although her nipples suggested otherwise.

That was less than a week ago.

"Effie," Fraser had said, shaking her hand, feeling her cool palm in his. "Nice name. And what do you do?"

Her grin brought out tiny wrinkles around her eyes. "I kill people," she’d said.

Fraser grabbed her hand tighter, laughing. Played along with her. "Like a mercenary or something?"

Effie squeezed his fingers hard, then slid hers out of his grip.

You just had to take one look at her to know she didn’t have what it took to be a paid killer. She was no more than an inch over five foot.

But, Fraser wondered now, staring at the tub in his sitting room, what if it was true?

Shock. Had to be. Starting to suspect Effie was plain fucking crazy. She’d been at the pub with Fraser, so she couldn’t have done it. Even if she was some kind of psycho killer. What the hell was he thinking? He should concentrate on more important questions.

Like, where the fuck was the head? And why would anybody want to run away with it? Jesus, maybe it was lying around somewhere. Under one of the chairs, or beneath a cushion or behind the curtain. Christ’s sake.

Fraser didn’t feel too good.

He was glad Simone wasn’t here. She’d probably order him to get down on his hands and knees and start hunting for it.

"Want to take a closer look?" Effie said.

She was as bad as Simone.

Fraser found himself stepping toward the tub. Swaying as he walked, as if he were drunk. Hadn’t had much, though. Just those pints and the neat vodkas Effie’d given him.

The plastic sheet scraped underfoot. He bent over the body, peered down at the neck. Ragged skin and gristle. He looked away. Straight at the inch or so of dark liquid clotting in the bottom of the tub.

And the smell: sharp and raw.

His stomach muscles tightened, cheeks puffed, but somehow he held his dinner down. Amazing he could smell anything, the way his nose was streaming. He wiped it with the back of his hand, beyond caring what Effie would think.

He stepped back from the tub, shaky, a bit fuzzy-headed, but okay. Shit, yeah.

The corpse’s legs were bent at the knee, flopped sideways. Fraser couldn’t remember seeing the soles of Uncle Phil’s feet before. They were white and tender-looking. It felt wrong that they were exposed like this. He shouldn’t be staring at them.

Effie said, "Recognize that?"

Fraser followed her gaze toward the corpse’s hand, twisted behind his back. He wasn’t sure what she meant.

"The ring," she said.

Of course. If Fraser got a close-up of that ugly monstrosity, he could be sure, right enough. But he couldn’t tell with the hand lying palm-up like that.

"Go on," Effie said. "Take a good look."

Fraser didn’t move.

Effie strode over to the tub, grabbed the hand, turned it over, held it out. She bent the ring finger toward Fraser.

No doubt about it. Uncle Phil’s silver Viking longboat ring.

Effie raised her eyebrows.

Fraser tried to speak. Nodded instead.

Effie dropped Uncle Phil’s hand and said, "I’ll call the police."

FRASER WATCHED HER step over to the table, pick up the phone, dial. Calm in a crisis. Every bit as capable as Simone.

Fraser didn’t feel calm or capable.

If he’d been alone, he’d be shouting fit to rip the lining from his throat by now. If he could summon up the energy. That’s what he wanted to do. Open his mouth and yell and yell and yell. And throw up and throw up and throw up. Then probably yell some more, throw up some more. Or just fall asleep.

Anything, as long as this would all go away.

Another line of coke might do the trick.

He stuck his hand in his pocket, but took it out again when Effie said, "Police."

He thought she was warning him, but she was speaking into the phone. Made him think, though. Probably not the best time for him to indulge in any dodgy habits. He listened as she explained what had happened. Gave the cops the address.

Impressive. Memory like a bank vault.

She’d only been here once before. All over him when they’d arrived—clinging to him as he punched in the alarm code—but she’d grown more distant as the night went on. Not that it went on that long. Called herself a taxi after a couple of drinks. Fraser was probably coming on too strong.

But she wouldn’t be here now if there wasn’t some hope. Thing was, he fancied the pants off her, but he liked her a lot, too. Anyway, he suspected he was creating a bad impression right now, one that wasn’t hugely attractive, forgetting Uncle Phil for a minute. Right now, he’d settle for not throwing up or pissing himself.

He wiped his nose again, breathed deeply through his mouth, and immediately wished he hadn’t. He wasn’t ready for the taste that clung to his tongue, his lips, his teeth. He glanced over at Effie, who shrugged, spoke into the phone again.

Fraser felt like crying. Not that he felt sad, exactly. Come to think of it, he could just as easily break into a fit of giggles. Really fucking odd. Like he’d taken a fistful of pills and was buzzing and sloppy drunk at the same time. Could be the coke, but it was a feeling he didn’t recognize.

He was glowing under his skin.

What he really wanted was for Effie to hold him, stroke his hair while he fell asleep. That’d be nice.

Copyright © Allan Guthrie, 2008

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Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Ex-convicts -- Fiction.
Extortion -- Fiction.
Revenge -- Fiction.
Edinburgh (Scotland) -- Fiction.