Death Insurance – Morgan Cry & Douglas Skelton (Part 3)

  24 Apr '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn


The line went dead. Rebecca knew Daniella was in trouble and that annoyed her as the woman was a friend. She stopped for a minute and thought about that. A friend. Was she? She had friends, not many certainly, but was Daniella really one of them? An acquaintance. A source. But a friend? No matter, Rebecca felt rage at the tone Daniella’s boss was taking, like a brat with all the Smarties. Definitely a crisis hoarder with a garage full of toilet roll.

But Freddy Barclay. Freddy Barclay. That name rang a bell. Freddy Barclay . . .

She laid her own phone down, still trying to place the name. Something recently. Something here in Inverness. What the hell was it?

She picked up her phone again, found the number she was looking for and punched the green button. She listened to the ringing, wondering why it was taking him so long to answer. It would be just like him to ignore her call. Or have left the house without his mobile. He answered just before she expected to be bumped to voicemail.

‘Aye, what?’ said Bill Sawyer, winner of Inversneckie’s Charm Award three years running.

‘What sort of way is that to answer the phone?’

‘I knew it was you. And I answered accordingly.’

‘You love me really.’

‘Aye.’ He had a way of making an affirmative response sound like ‘hell, no’. ‘What do you want, Becks?’

‘Right down to business, is it? No time for chit-chat?’

‘I’m busy, love. And we don’t chit-chat.’

‘Always a first time.’

She heard him exhale. ‘Becks, you only call me when you want something. Sometimes it pays me, other times it’s a freebie. The question is: which is it this time?’

‘Option number two.’

He grunted but didn’t hang up.

Rebecca took that as a good sign. She pressed on. ‘Does the name Freddy Barclay mean anything to you?’

‘That bampot? Why you asking?’

Good question, she thought. ‘I just heard the name, and it was familiar and I knew my favourite former detective sergeant with Scotland’s finest would remind me who he is.’

‘Favourite? I’m the only former DS you know. Probably the only cop who’ll talk to you.’

Rebecca knew a DCI with the local force but she wasn’t about to pick up the phone to her anytime soon. ‘Okay . . . So, Freddy Barclay. Who is he?’

‘Small-time sticky-finger merchant, moved up here from Glasgow years ago. Will lift anything that isn’t nailed down. No, strike that, he’d take the bloody nails, too.’

That’s why his name was familiar. She had covered some of his court appearances.

Sawyer asked, ‘What’s he done now?’

‘He’s dead, it seems.’

‘Really? Was he crushed by something that fell off the back of a lorry?’

‘I don’t know. All I’ve heard is he’s dead. Did he work alone?’

Sawyer paused to think. ‘He used to neighbour up with Jacko McKay, who did the bogus workman thing – you know, conned his way into old folks’ houses and robbed them blind. Jacko’s an ID thief, too. He’d steal the identity of anyone they robbed and milk it for all it was worth. To call him a scumbag would be a compliment.’

‘Where can I find this Jacko McKay?’

‘It’s nearly lunchtime so he’ll probably be in Barney’s in the Old Town. You know it?’

Rebecca knew it. She had been introduced to its delights a few months before. ‘I need to speak to him. Can you help me?’

‘What’s this about, Becks?’

‘I don’t know, I really don’t. Freddy Barclay’s dead and it may not be natural causes. I’ve got a friend’ – there was that word again – ‘who may be in trouble over whatever happened and I want to help her.’

‘So you’re working a story?’

She thought about this. Was it a story? Of course it was a story. Everything was a story now.

‘It may be, it may not. But if you meet me at Barney’s I’ll fill you in.’

She was banking on his curiosity getting the better of his need to be an awkward bastard. She knew Bill Sawyer well. He was gruff and unpleasant on the outside and that covered an equally gruff and unpleasant interior. But he was a cop, retired or not, and she hoped his copper’s nose was twitching like a hay fever sufferer in a wheat field. A hack’s gut and a copper’s nose. Other body parts are available.

‘Okay,’ he said, a sigh clearly evident in the two syllables. ‘I’ll be there in half an hour.’



Behind the Scenes of Death Insurance … the authors reveal it all in our exclusive interview.

Douglas Skelton was born in Glasgow. He has been a bank clerk, tax officer, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), journalist and investigator. He has written eleven true crime and Scottish criminal history books but now concentrates on fiction. His novel Thunder Bay (2019) was longlisted for the McIlvanney Award. Douglas has investigated real-life crime for Glasgow solicitors and was involved in a long-running campaign to right the famous Ice-Cream Wars miscarriage of justice. The second book in his Rebecca Connolly series, The Blood is Still, is available now!

Here, Gordon Brown is writing as Morgan Cry. Gordon has written six crime thrillers to date, along with a number of short stories. He also helped found Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, is a DJ on local radio ( and runs a strategic planning consultancy. His new thriller, Thirty-One Bones publishes in June 2020 and you can pre-order it here.

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