top of page

I'm on a Roll! – another short story

Updated: Jan 17




I recently took up a challenge. The rules were set by the Scottish Chapter of the Crime Writers' Association.



The prompt:

"A yellow car is found abandoned on a narrow road north of Perth. It belongs to the daughter of an Ayrshire farmer. The farmer was found hanging in his barn earlier in the day."




My resulting crime story, The Cassillis Killings, is reproduced below. I'm proud to say it has also been published in iScot Magazine, Issue 90.






THE CASSILLIS KILLINGS


PC Chris Kyle tried to shake the image from his mind. Peter Mackie had looped the rope over a rafter, then jumped from the mezzanine floor of a barn, straw bales behind him and his boots just inches from dirty concrete. If the rope had been a foot longer he’d have been able to change his mind.

A neighbour had made the call, and Chris and his buddy Hitesh were sent to the sandstone farmhouse near Maybole. The neighbour, Mrs Gill, showed them Mackie’s note and led them to the back door. Across a muddy yard was the entrance to a high shed. A barking collie strained on its chain, breath white against the dim interior of the barn.

“I think he’s in there.” The shaking woman’s first words.

Chris looked at Hitesh. “Stay with her,” he said, pulling his torch from its pouch.

He’d seen the boots first. Mud and straw. Long legs, a pot belly, a black tongue. Swaying in the draught.

By the time Chris returned to the farm kitchen, Hitesh had calmed Mrs Gill.

“When John died he took it even worse than after Mrs Mackie,” she was saying. “Not looking after himself, if you know what I mean. And Kath was always a worry.” She wiped her eyes.

Hitesh glanced at Chris. “Is Kath his daughter, Mrs Gill? Could we contact his family?”

She reached into a battered bureau and drew out an address book. Hitesh leafed through and handed the book to Chris to let him note down Kathleen Mackie’s number. There were also listings for Mackie’s bank, lawyer and accountant, and on the inside cover were the words ‘NEXT OF KIN’ in bold ink. Below, ‘John Mackie’ was scored out, and replaced with ‘Fraser Mackie’. There was a phone number for each and an address for Fraser.

“The two sons?” Chris asked Mrs Gill.

“Well, one now.” Her voice was cracking.

After a pause, Hitesh asked gently, “So Fraser, the surviving son, is he involved in the farm, Mrs Gill?”

“No. Moved to Australia years ago.” She started sobbing. “John was always going to take on the farm.”

Hitesh put his hand on her arm.

Chris cleared his throat. “The note says, ‘what you said today’. Who d’you think Peter meant?”

“That’ll have been Kath,” she said, sniffing. “Her car was here today, before I went to the Co-op for Peter’s messages. I hadn’t seen her for days before that.”

“And Kath worried Peter? Was she in trouble?”

“She aye was. Men. Credit cards. Always ‘borrowing’ from Peter.” She rolled her eyes, tutting.

##

Sergeant Burnett looked disinterested. “Read me the note again.”

PC Kyle unfolded the scrap of lined paper. “‘even after what you said today I’m not selling. YOU GET IT THIS WAY’

“Pretty clear-cut. Suicide.” Burnett stood up, picking up his cigarettes. “This neighbour, Mrs Gill, seems to know all about the family, right?”

“She does, Sarge, said she’d been cleaning for them since before Peter Mackie’s wife died.”

“Would she identify him?”

Chris shook his head. “No chance. Wouldn’t even go in the shed.”

Burnett flicked his Bic lighter. “You got a statement from her, though?”

“Aye. She found the note, and when she couldn’t find Mr Mackie in the house she went out the back and saw the dog. Guessed what had happened and went to make the call.”

“And you’ve tried to get hold of the daughter?” said Burnett.

“A few times, Sarge,” said Chris. “Not answering. Will I try Fraser Mackie, the son? He lives in Adelaide.”

  “Where’s that? England?”

“Australia.”

“Fuck,” said Burnett, stubbing out his cigarette. “Try the daughter again first.”

The sergeant left, and Chris sat for a moment before pressing redial. Hitesh had gone to fill up the car.

“Shit. No answer again,” he said to the empty room, before keying in the Adelaide number. He waited, staring at the mud and straw on his shoes and listening to the strange dial tone.

“Hello?” A woman. Her accent made it sound like hillaow.

“Is Mr Fraser Mackie there, please? It’s PC Kyle from Ayr Police.” He wondered if the woman on the other side of the world knew where Ayr was. “Erm – in Scotland.”

“Nao, sorry mate, Fraser’s away. Business. Melbourne, I think.”

“Erm, is that Mrs Mackie?” Chris asked.

A cackle. “Yeah, mate, for what it’s worth. Janine. What’s it about? If it’s important I’ve got his mobile number.”

Fraser Mackie’s number rang out when Chris dialled. He hung up as Sgt Burnett returned.

“You get someone for that ID yet? I’ve reported it to the Fiscal, but it would be good to get it off the books.”

“No, Sarge. I tried Australia ‘cos the daughter’s still not answering. Will I go and chap her door?”

“Yeah.” Burnett paused. “But try her number once more first.”

No answer again. Chris was reaching for his Hi-Vis jacket when the office door flew open, almost knocking him over. The desk sergeant’s ruddy face appeared.

“Someone been phoning a Kathleen Mackie?”

“Yeah. Why?” said Chris, stepping back.

“She’s dead.”

##

Tayside police had found a body that morning in the boot of a car. A yellow Nissan Juke had been abandoned just outside the village of Stanley, and a local on her way to Perth had almost collided with it when she rounded a bend. Perth Police sent a patrol car and the officers had found the dead female wrapped in a coat. Cold and stiff.

The PCs heard buzzing from an iWatch on the dead woman’s wrist. It wasn’t locked, and they discovered ‘Kath Mackie’ was the Apple ID. There were five missed calls from the same number, and while they waited for CID to take over, one of the cops called it.

##

Chris Kyle was lucky to be still involved. There’d been a tussle between Tayside and Ayrshire, both CID teams claiming the Kath Mackie case. Peter Mackie’s apparent suicide on the same day his daughter’s body was found was significant, but Tayside had a crime scene and body.

Chris was told to accompany a Detective Sergeant back to the farm, while Detective Inspector Traynor and a Detective Constable searched Kath Mackie’s house in Ayr.

DS Nikki Brogan had been in Ayr for a few months but until now Chris had only ever seen her across the canteen. Now, after driving just a few miles with her, he knew Nikki lived with her sister in Irvine, had split from her boyfriend last year, and liked the Arctic Monkeys. It was different from working with a male.

As they approached the farm Chris waved to the driver of a black van. “Undertaker,” he said, as he parked and drew Mrs Gill’s key from his pocket.

“Where’s Peter Mackie’s address book?” DS Brogan asked as they entered.

Chris walked to the bureau. “The neighbour took it from this drawer, Ma’am.”

As he handed her the address book, the DS said, “Nikki’s fine when we’re out of the office.” She looked past him and pointed at the drawer. “What’s all that underneath it?”

Chris found a pile of papers; letters and files, bills and old greeting cards. He held them up for her to see.

“Let’s take all that back to the office where there’s some heating. This place is bloody freezing.”

“It’s just old papers and stuff. Are we allowed to take it away?”

Nikki Brogan’s sarcastic response was softened by a roll of her blue eyes and a wide smile. “I don’t know. Let me think. We are in the middle of a murder investigation. Hmm…” She pressed a playful index finger to the point of her chin.

Chris felt his cheeks heat up but smiled as he emptied the drawer into a carrier bag.

Back at the station, they spread the pile of papers out on a desk.

“We’ll need coffee,” said Nikki. Chris took the cue. While the kettle was boiling he went to the toilet. He found himself checking his hair in the mirror.

“You any good with numbers? Accounts, I mean.” The DS had grouped several bound files into a pile and was pointing at them. “I’m useless at that sort of thing.”

Chris put a coffee down on each desk. “Erm, not bad, Ma’am, I did some at school. What are they?”

“Yearly annual accounts for Nether Cassillis Farm. From 2014/15 to 2020/21.”

Chris wondered if he was being kept busy while the detective could do something more worthwhile. She was reading letters and bills and making notes on an A4 pad. He sat down and spread the files out. Five were plain, white and stapled. Canning & McTaggart, Chartered Accountants, Market St, Ayr. Neat, no dog ears, and probably unopened. The other two stood out. Bound in silver-grey card with bold, blue lettering. ValuGas International Financial Services, Dubai. Dubai?

“Strange,” Nikki said. “From the note Peter Mackie wrote I thought the daughter wanted him to sell up.” She was shaking her head, brow furrowed. “Old letters here – Kath Mackie pleading with her father not to sell the farm. ‘Don’t listen to Fraser, Dad, please. The offer came out of the blue.’” Nikki picked out another letter. “And here, ‘he’s changed everything, Dad.’”

“Fraser changed everything? The other son? But he’s in Australia.”

“I wonder what she meant. ‘Changed everything,'” said Nikki, leafing through the papers in front of her. “A new solicitor seems to have got involved a couple of years back. What else changed?”

“There’s a new accountant as well.” Chris was glad to offer something.

“Mrs Gill said Kath Mackie kept pestering Peter for money. You’d think she’d want him to sell, wouldn’t you?” Chris was glad Nikki was asking his opinion. She went on, frowning as if thinking aloud. “And the note suggests she did.”

Holding up two folders, Chris said, “The farm was making profits until 2019, but the next accounts show a big loss.”

Nikki sat back in her chair, her hands behind her head. “What went wrong? It can’t have been all Covid. I mean, did farms suffer that much?”

Chris put his coffee mug down. “Hang on, when did the solicitor change?” he asked.

“April 2018. Why?” Nikki looked at him, eyebrows raised.

“That’s about when the accountant changed, too.”

Nikki shrugged. “Maybe Peter Mackie was just trying to shake things up? If his farm was failing…”

“But he was making money then,” Chris said. “And Kathleen said Fraser made the changes.”

Nikki Brogan was involving him, Chris thought. They were working together. “What did she mean about an offer?” he asked.

Nikki leant across the desk to reach some of the letters she had organised. Chris saw her blouse ride up, and looked away.

“Here. A letter from Emirates Agri International. Legal stuff, numbers, goes on about a recent valuation.”

“Emirates? That’s Dubai, isn’t it?”

“Yes, why?”

“The new accountants are based in Dubai.”

Nikki looked at her watch. “Shit!” She stood quickly, reaching for her phone. “I’ve got to join a conference call at 11. CID in Tayside. You see what else you can find. I’d better run.”

When she’d left, Chris reached for the letters and notes on the desk. The next twenty minutes passed in a blur of Google searches, glossy websites, and myriad links to countries far and wide. He was trying to find a connection between businesses in Dubai and a family farm in Ayrshire, but found himself winging between Singapore, Brasilia and Houston. Then a name caught his attention.

The office door behind him slammed open and Nikki Brogan rushed back in, her voice commanding him.

“Get your things. We’re going to Perthshire. Now.”

She had gone before Chris could tell her what he’d discovered.

##

Forty minutes later Chris was driving on the M80, as fast as he dared on the gritted road. In Kath Mackie’s home DI Traynor had found evidence suggesting someone had been tied to a chair. Cut bindings were still looped around the chair’s legs, and a pool of urine had dried on the kitchen tiles. It was definitely Ayrshire’s case now.

Nikki told him a neighbour had seen the yellow Juke leaving Kath Mackie’s integral garage that morning. Mrs Gill had seen it not long after.

“Kath Mackie was cold and stiff when her body was found, less than two hours later,” said Nikki.

Chris realised what she was saying. “Whoever tied up and killed Kath Mackie gave her dad the bad news,” he said.

“Drove him to suicide,” Nikki said.

The traffic slowed, and several drivers switched on their hazard lights. Up ahead was a crash involving a van and two cars.

“Should we stop?” Chris said.

“It looks worse than it is,” Nikki said. “All the drivers have got out. I’ll call it in but keep going or we’ll never get to Perthshire.”

They squeezed past on the hard shoulder while Nikki checked that local traffic cops were coming. Chris’s pulse was racing at the anticipation of being involved in a murder investigation. He had been itching to tell Nikki what he found online, but now it didn’t matter. Fraser Mackie was on the other side of the world.

Nikki Brogan was busy on the phone. Chris heard her speak to CID in Perth.

“The same woman who reported the abandoned car?” In the corner of his eye, Chris saw her nodding. “Tall man, long brown coat –walking towards Stanley – yes, I’ve got that. What about forensics on the car?” Another pause. Nikki glanced back and forth at Chris, nodding. “OK. Two sets of prints. DNA results awaited. And the car was out of fuel?”

When she ended that call, Nikki explained to Chris. “It sounds like the killer ran out of fuel and left the car with the body in it. Panicked, I guess. Uniforms are going house-to-house in Stanley right now.”

She pressed a speed-dial. “Hi, Boss. How long until you reach Stanley?” Chris saw her frown. “Shit!” Rolled eyes, head shaking. “Right, Boss. I’ll press on.”

DI Traynor’s car was caught up in the traffic queue at the M80 smash. Nikki and Chris were going to have to take the lead.

Reaching Stanley, they saw a collection of police cars parked in The Square. A shivering PC directed them to a detective sergeant. He’d been told to report to the senior Ayrshire officer, but gave Nikki his update when she explained about DI Traynor. The manager of the Spar shop had known immediately who the man in the long coat was. Frank Martin, who’d rented a large house down Linn Road, near the River Tay. Usually bought the Financial Times but hadn’t been in for a few days.

“Shouldn’t we wait for DI Traynor?” Chris asked when they were back in the car, turning into Linn Road. He glanced at Nikki who stared straight ahead. Her jaw stayed clenched as she answered him.

“Frank Martin’s the killer. Probably got another car. He’ll get away. Drive.”

Chris sped along the narrow lane between brown beech hedges. A flash of reflected sunlight told him they were near the Tay. They were looking out for a passing place just short of the house, and now he pulled into it.

“Nothing else for it,” said Nikki, opening the car door.

The house was imposing, shaded by a dense wall of conifers. A wooden boat sat in the driveway on its trailer. They climbed icy steps up to the front door and Nikki reached to ring the bell. Through a glazed panel Chris saw a brown overcoat hanging in the vestibule. ‘Drizabone’, he read on its lapel. His uncle from Brisbane had worn one just like it when he visited Scotland.

“Christ! Frank Martin must be Fraser Mackie. An Australian coat, and businesses in Dubai.”

Chris saw Nikki’s eyes flicker, like she was thinking fast. “Open up. Police,” she shouted, trying the handle.

The door swung inward, and she stepped into a carpeted vestibule. Waders and a tackle bag hung on coat-hooks, and the damp air smelled fishy.

Beyond Nikki, Chris saw a shape approaching behind a frosted inner door. An ear-splitting bang shocked him.

The next few seconds were a silent slide show: a flash; broken glass; blood; Nikki falling; a shotgun swinging round towards him; his legs propelling him forward; falling on top of the shooter; his hands on the hot gun barrel; pressing the gun down on a throat.

When backup arrived Chris was still lying on the shooter’s limp body. He didn’t care if it was dead.

##

THE HERALD

14th November 2023

‘IT WAS ACCIDENTAL’ CLAIMS MAN ACCUSED OF KILLING HIS SISTER

Plot to buy farm for mineral deposits drove father to hang himself

Fraser Mackie, 47, is accused of the murder of his sister Kathleen, attempted murder of DS Nikki Brogan, and encouraging suicide. A string of international financial crimes is also under investigation.

Yesterday the High Court heard that Mackie kept his sister tied to a chair for 3 days without food or water. Mackie claims he panicked when he returned from a business trip and found her dead.

DC Chris Kyle stated Kathleen’s body was found in the boot of her own car on the day her father killed himself.

Mackie is a director of ValuGas International Financial Services and Emirates Agri International (EAI). Both businesses are involved in fracking operations at multiple sites worldwide.

The prosecution alleges that EAI wished to buy Nether Cassillis Farm from Mackie’s father, Peter.

Mackie is said to have tried to force his sister to persuade their father to sell the farm. When she refused, he kidnapped her in her own home, while he falsified the farm accounts to show serious losses.

Peter Mackie, already depressed after the deaths of his wife and elder son, hanged himself, believing bankruptcy was inevitable.

It is thought Mackie expected a change of government and that fracking operations would soon be permitted in Scotland. The trial continues.


Copyright N J Edmunds

November 2023

2987 words





15 views0 comments
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
bottom of page