For the second time that night somebody asked Ruari if he was going to puke. He shook his head even as it pounded in protest and put on his best ‘I’m not concussed’ face. The freckled paramedic, young with fair spiky hair who looked disconcertingly as though he should be sent to bed with no dessert, shone a light in his eyes.
‘I didn’t faint,’ Ruari insisted for the sixtieth time. ‘I just tripped on the stairs.’ The paramedic nodded and told him to squeeze his hand.
Ruari pressed the ice pack into his throbbing jaw and felt a trickle of blood run from somewhere on his temple along his hairline and behind his ear.
DCI Boyle stood a little way away as he perched on the back step of the ambulance trying in vain to stop his head spinning. She was with one of her DIs, a woman Ruari vaguely recalled challenging him to a shots competition at the Christmas party a couple of months ago. He’d been about to leave, but the woman was so gorgeous he was taken aback at her singling him out and heard himself agreeing. He managed one more round of something noxious and blue, then walked into a wall.
Samira, he thought her name was.
Samira and her boss were waiting for the paramedics to clear him before they came over to talk. None of this is happening, he thought furiously.
His now don’t laugh but… speech was still rattling around his head.
Any minute now Lorna would come barreling up, laugh her head off and call him a fanny for sitting there with an ice pack on his head and blood dripping over his face. Everything would start to make sense again.
A torrent of pins and needles roared through him and for a horrible moment he thought he would make a liar of himself and puke after all. At least that wee old lady was far away on the bus by now. The paramedic rubbed his back and Kevin pressed a paper cup of strong tea into his hands.
‘Has she been formally identified?’ Ruari croaked, the delusional note of hope sounding pathetic in his own ears. ‘Lorna.’
He had to keep saying her name. If he kept saying her name, then she wasn’t gone.
Kevin nodded, catching Boyle’s eye with a brief nod Ruari only just caught out of the corner of his eye. He was on the other side of it now. How to Treat Recently Bereaved Witnesses. He was struck by the absurd notion that if he hadn’t been sacked then somehow he would be standing where Kevin was now, and it would be somebody else’s best friend’s flat being ransacked for evidence. He shuddered, an abyss of horror lapping at his toes.
‘Her parents are there now. Sister’s on her way up fae London.’
‘Greer,’ muttered Ruari pointlessly.
‘When was the last time you saw Lorna, Ruari?’ asked Cara gently and Ruari blinked at her. He hadn’t noticed her approaching.
‘Monday,’ he said, his voice sounding thin and faraway in his own ears. ‘Our Crossfit —’
That wasn’t the last time he saw her.
The memory struck him like kick in the ribs and he folded over, gasping for breath as though he’d been physically winded.
She’d come in to the restaurant where he worked in Finnieston, all cosy with some slimy chancer. Ruari had been seething. He snapped that he was busy when she came up to the bar to talk to him, cutting off any potential requests to evaluate the new man. He’d wondered what she was playing at, flaunting it in front of him like that. At his work, for goodness sake, where she knew fine he couldn’t escape.
Then on the way home he remembered that she wasn’t flaunting it. She had no idea how he felt about her. Because he’d never told her.
‘Can you remember anything about the man she was with?’ Cara asked, and Ruari shook his head. He was some slick bastard, that’s all he knew. He hadn’t been looking at the guy, after all. He’d just been staring at Lorna. Feeling like hell because she looked happy.
That was when he burst into tears.