‘If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.’
‘The Simple Art of Murder’, Raymond Chandler,
The Atlantic Monthly, December 1944
There’s no good time to die. There’s no good place. Not even in a lover’s arms at the peak of passion. It’s still the end. Your story goes no further. But if I had the choice it wouldn’t be in a snowdrift, in a public park, ten minutes from my own warm fireside, with a two-foot icicle rammed in my ear. This man wasn’t given the option. His body lay splayed in cold crucifixion on Glasgow Green, his eyes gazing blindly into the face of his jealous god.
I looked around me at the bare trees made skeletal with whitened limbs. High above, the black lid of the sky had been lifted off, and all the warmth in the world was escaping. In this bleak new year, Glasgow had been gathered up, spirited aloft, and dropped back down in Siberia. So cold. So cold.
I tugged my scarf tight round my throat to block the bitter wind from knifing my chest and stopping my heart. I looked down on his body, and saw in the terrorised face my great failure. The snow was trampled round about him, as though his killers had done a war dance afterwards. Around his head a dark stain seeped into the pristine white.
A man stood a few feet away, clasping a shivering woman to his thick coat. Under his hat-brim his eyes held mine in a mix of horror and accusation. I needed no prompting. Not for this man’s death. I was being paid to stop this happening. I hadn’t. This was the fifth murder since I took on the job four months ago. But in fairness, back then, back in November, I was only hired to catch a thief . . .