‘The time you phoned him, did you try a bribe?’
‘Didn’t think it would work. I mean, he’d have taken the cash but then come back for more.’
‘In other words, you’d never have been free of him?’
‘An admission that doesn’t really help your case.’ Rebus paused. ‘What is it he had, Stefan? What could he tell Macari and her team? I’ve been through the custody ledger and there’s half a page missing from the week before Saunders killed Merchant. It got me thinking – could there be something Saunders knew? He comes to you, tells you he’ll do a deal – forget all about it if you get him off next time he’s arrested. You couldn’t know he was going to bludgeon some poor sod to death, so you shook hands on it.’
‘The hearse is arriving,’ Gilmour said, nodding in the direction of the gates. A slow-moving procession of vehicles, the engines almost silent. Wreaths shrouding the coffin, allowing only glimpses of gleaming brass handles, varnished pale wood. In the car behind, the Justice Minister’s widow and son. The First Minister and his deputy had re-emerged from the chapel and were flanking the door, hands clasped as if in prayer, heads bowed.
‘Nothing to say, Stefan?’ Rebus whispered into his neighbour’s ear. Gilmour’s jaw was jutting as he watched the vehicles pull to a halt. The First Minister offered his condolences to the widow, along with a peck on the cheek. She was dressed in black, and wore sunglasses which obscured half her face.
‘Only that you’re making a mistake, John. Sounds very much as if you’ve decided you’re not part of the Saints any more.’
‘Let me tell you something, Stefan. I spoke to Porkbelly and he was all for letting Frazer take the rap for that gun, same as you just did. Seems to me you’ll shit on anyone to save your own necks.’
‘Maybe you think you’re clean, but you’re not,’ Gilmour retorted. ‘You knew we hung on to that gun – why didn’t you take it to the bosses at the time? Remember Interview Room B, that time I walked in and you had your hands around a suspect’s throat? I forget the name now, but it’ll come back to me if necessary. The drugs we planted on that barman we didn’t like? The prossies we let off after an hour in the holding cell, once they’d slipped us a few quid or a promise? The restaurant tabs that never arrived at the end of a meal? Two hundred cigarettes here, a case of malt there . . . The stories we could tell, eh?’
Gilmour’s eyes were boring into Rebus’s.
‘I took the fall, John,’ he went on. ‘And I did it for all of us. Remember that, when you’ve got the tin-opener poised above the can marked “worms”.’