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Автор Стюарт Макбрайд

Stuart MacBride

All That’s Dead

For Grendel (again)

Without Whom

As always I’ve received a lot of help from a lot of people while I was writing this book, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank: Sergeant Bruce Crawford, star of Skye and screen, who answers far more daft questions than anyone should ever have to, as do Professor Dave Barclay and Professor James Grieve; Sarah Hodgson, Jane Johnson, Julia Wisdom, Jaime Frost (who enables my sushi addiction), Anna Derkacz, Isabel Coburn, Alice Gomer, Charlie Redmayne, Roger Cazalet, Kate Elton, Hannah O’Brien, Sarah Shea, Abbie Salter, Damon Greeney, Finn Cotton, Anne O’Brien, Marie Goldie, the DC Bishopbriggs Naughty Monkey Patrol, and everyone at HarperCollins, for all things publishy; Phil Patterson and the team at Marjacq Scripts, for keeping my numerous cats in cat food; and Allan Guthrie for being an excellent pre-reader.

Like all writers I also owe a huge debt of thanks to all the librarians and booksellers out there who put books in people’s hands and enthuse at them till they go away and read them. Then there’s you, the person reading this book! In a world that seems hell-bent on dumbing down, you’re a magnificent sexy beast of a thing and none of us would be here without you.

I’ve saved the best for last — as always — Fiona and Grendel (with honourable mentions to Onion and Beetroot who didn’t really help, but haven’t interfered too much).

— I want you to pretend —

that nothing bad is going to happen to you...

1

The study cupped itself around him like a hand around a match, guarding the flame until it can ignite the fuse. A dark room, filled with the sounds of Led Zeppelin, lit by a single Anglepoise lamp and the three huge monitors that hung above his ancient wooden desk. Awaiting his next words. Hungry.

Nicholas reached out with two liver-spotted forefingers and fed them: ‘this is what any sensible person can easily diagnose as “Referendum Dementia”. ’ He sat back and smiled through the fug of cigarette smoke. Referendum Dementia. Yes, he could work with that. Expand the metaphor to something a bit more—

A curl of ash tumbled down the front of his old Rolling Stones T-shirt and blood-red hoodie.

‘God damn it... ’ Brushing at it just smeared the powdery grey deeper into the fabric.

Abigail really wouldn’t approve of that. Bad enough going around dressed like a stroppy teenager, never mind a tramp.

An electronic ding broke through ‘Communication Breakdown’ as a new tweet appeared on the right-hand screen.

Nicholas adjusted his glasses and peered at it. Cleared his throat and read it out loud. ‘“Shut your mouth you upper-class English tit. ” Three Exclamation marks. “You can spout your plumby voiced treason all you like, but you know bugger all about it.

. Sod off and die. ” Hashtag, “IndeRef F. T. W. ”’

How lovely.

A smile pulled at his cheeks as his two fingers rattled across the keyboard.

Well, it was important to enjoy the little pleasures life presented from time to time.

Now then, where were we? Ah yes: Referendum Dementia.

His fingers hovered over the keyboard.

Now, what we need, is something—

A small bark crackled out in the hallway, and Stalin hobbled through the study door. Wheezing and whining. Fading brown spots. Legs stiff with arthritis. A clockwork Jack Russell that was slowly winding down.

‘I know, I know. Just let me finish this bit, Stalin. ’

Stalin hobbled closer and scratched a paw at Nicholas’s leg, staring up at him with those rheumy eyes. Manipulative little sod that he was.

‘All right, all right. ’ Nicholas levered himself out of his chair, stuck one hand in the small of his back as his spine straightened — vertebrae making sounds like crunching gravel. ‘Urgh. ...