Death Insurance – Morgan Cry & Douglas Skelton (Part 7)

  22 May '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn


‘Sorry,’ Rebecca said to Sawyer beside her, as she hung up on Daniella. ‘Had to speak to my friend.’

Sawyer shrugged, a familiar gesture that could mean okay or piss off and all stops in-between. His focus was on the roadway leading to the supermarket car park. Jacko had parked his battered old Commer van there. It was also only three spaces away from where Sawyer himself had left his car. Now they were sitting in it, waiting for Jacko to return.

‘That was lucky, him parking just there,’ said Rebecca.

‘Closest place to park for Barney’s,’ Sawyer answered.

‘You saw it there when you arrived, didn’t you?’ she said. ‘That’s how you were so confident he was going to turn up in the pub.’

‘I’m a sleuth – it’s what I do,’ he said, a little smile tickling his lips. ‘I arrived at roughly the same time as him and I saw him go into the supermarket first.’

Rebecca tutted. ‘As far as sleuthing goes, it’s hardly Sherlock Holmes, is it?’

‘Hey, much of police work is down to luck. Right place, right time, right instincts. Same as your game.’

It was almost exactly what her father had once told her. He’d been a DCI in Glasgow, and when she’d expressed her desire to enter journalism he had ramped up his pearls of wisdom in the hope that she would become responsible and always do the job properly. That all stopped when he died.

While they waited for Jacko to finish his toastie and make his way back to his van, Sawyer enlightened Rebecca on what his contact had told him. Initial reports had suggested it was Freddy dead in the flat mostly because it was Freddy’s flat. Sawyer now knew there was blunt force trauma to the back of the head, possibly caused when said head hit the corner of a coffee table. The paramedics who arrived obviously didn’t know Freddy Barclay from Freddie Flintoff, while the two uniforms were barely out of nappies and had never had the pleasure of feeling the grease on his collar. How the news had reached Daniella’s boss Kevin Brian – never trust a man with two first names, Rebecca’s dad once said – was anybody’s guess. It wasn’t until a time-served sergeant arrived that the error was uncovered, though, at first, they had no idea who the deceased was because his body had been picked clean.

‘For that alone, my money is now on Freddy as the prime suspect,’ said Sawyer.

A high-end SUV parked in the street outside the flat had been out of place, not the least because it was a left-hand drive with personalised plates . . .

‘Flash bugger,’ said Sawyer.

. . . that proved to belong to none of the nearby residents so the decision was made to force entry. The car belonged to Stephen Crammond and it needed biometric access – namely, fingerprints – to both open the door and to start.

‘Freddy, and I’m assuming this here, had obviously known this and tried to saw off this guy’s finger,’ said Sawyer, ‘but it’s not as easy you might think. Especially when you’re using a tiny wee hacksaw with a rusty blade. He gave in halfway through.’

Rebecca had checked out Stephen Crammond online. She’d found him on LinkedIn and showed Sawyer the image of a man with the self-satisfied smirk of someone who thought his bank balance was the keys to the kingdom.

‘So what do you think happened?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Sawyer, twisting the ignition while squinting through the windscreen. Rebecca followed his gaze and saw Jacko swaggering towards his van. ‘But I can make an educated guess. Freddy and this guy Crammond have a falling out. By the looks of him I think it would be easy. There’s a struggle, Crammond goes down, Freddy robs him blind – maybe to delay identification – then realises Crammond’s motor is parked outside and fancies taking that, too, but his surgical skills are somewhat wanting and he flees the locus like an MP with overdue expense receipts.’

‘Where does Jacko come in then?’

Sawyer slid his car into gear, allowing the van to reverse and turn towards the exit. ‘Buggered if I know.’ He pulled out and nosed after the van. ‘But, got to admit, I’m bloody curious.’

Rebecca was impressed by how skilfully Sawyer kept his distance as he followed Jacko, even in Inverness which was busy but hardly Downtown Manhattan. Judging by the direction, Rebecca surmised the man was heading to Inchferry.

She called Daniella back while Sawyer tailed Jacko and updated her on Sawyer’s theory regarding what happened in the flat and the attempted amputation.

‘So that explains the finger,’ said Daniella, ‘but what connection does Crammond have with this Freddy guy? And who phoned me? Was it Freddy or someone else?’

‘Can you get access to the recording of the call? That might help.’

There was a silence on the line as Daniella considered this. ‘I suppose I can try but I’d lay ten pennies to the pound that Kevin has it locked down somehow by now – and even if he hasn’t, the system logs who accesses it.’

‘Do what you can,’ said Rebecca and ended the conversation as Sawyer pulled up a few cars away from where Jacko had come to a halt.

Jacko climbed out of the van and stood in the street, looking up and down as if checking the coast was clear, before he swung open a wooden gate and stepped up a path to a semi-detached house that had seen better days.

‘This his place?’ Rebecca asked.

‘Nah, our boy Jacko lives up the Crown.’

Rebecca gave Sawyer a surprised glance. The Crown was upmarket and they were sitting in a more down-at-heel end of the town.

‘What?’ he said. ‘Just because he’s a ned, you think he has to live here?’

She felt shame at her stereotyping of an entire neighbourhood.

‘Jacko’s a posh boy gone wrong,’ Sawyer said. ‘Inherited the house from his old mum, God rest her. My opinion? His criminal activities put her in an early grave.’

Jacko was still giving the street close scrutiny, but they were parked far enough away that she was confident he wouldn’t spot them.

‘Right, but only now does he check that no one is watching or following him?’ Rebecca said.

‘Nobody said you had to be the Brain of Britain to be a small-time crook,’ said Sawyer.

‘Yes, but he’s abusing the privilege.’

‘Don’t knock it – makes it easier for us.’

‘So what do we do now?’

Sawyer leaned over and opened the glove compartment. ‘Well, we could sit here and wait and see who goes in or out.’


He straightened again, an extendable baton in his hand. ‘Or we can go play knock-knock, who’s there . . . ?’

Before she could say anything to stop him, Sawyer was out of the car, the baton tucked under the sleeve of his jacket, and striding up the road. She felt she had no option but to follow. He was at the door of the house and rattling the letterbox before she could catch up.

‘You think this is a good idea?’ she said quietly.

He wiggled his eyebrows at her – he was enjoying this, she realised – and then faced the door as they heard a key turning. Jacko’s face appeared in the partially opened door, his eyes widening when he took in who he was now facing.

‘Hello, sir, have you found Jesus yet?’ said Sawyer, throwing his shoulder against the wood, forcing it open.

Jacko protested, ‘Hey, you can’t—’

‘I know, son,’ said Sawyer, pushing him out of the way and stepping over the threshold, ‘but I’m doing it anyway. I’m impulsive like that.’

He moved down the narrow hallway towards a door to the left. Rebecca had been in similar Inchferry homes and knew it led to the living room. She stepped inside the hallway, giving Jacko a smile. ‘I’m with him,’ she said.

‘You can’t do this,’ Jacko said. ‘I’ll call the police.’

Sawyer had stopped in the living-room doorway and was staring at something inside. ‘You do that, son, you just do that. We’ll all be very interested to meet your pal here.’

When he gave Rebecca a quick nod to join him, she saw that he was at once puzzled and surprised. There was a man standing in front of a two-bar electric fire. She did everything she could to stop her jaw from dropping but failed.

‘Stephen Crammond, I presume,’ she said.



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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