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The early morning sun was rising above the Port of Leith, Edinburgh. Its rays were casting shadows far and wide. Next to the Water o’ Leith a solitary figure lay on the cobbled path, bloodied, beaten and stabbed. His face smashed to a pulp. Johnny Hanlon was unrecognisable. He lay there with his eyes closed and concentrated hard on listening for sounds around him, movement, voices, anything. A high pitched squeal above caught his attention and he heard squawking from seagulls searching for food.
He groaned and struggled hard to listen for other sounds, but the only noises to be heard were the hungry scavengers high above him. Hanlon coughed and the seagulls departed. Hanlon tried to make out sounds but now it was quiet, too quiet.
Only an hour earlier all hell had broken loose and he’d been left fighting for his life. Now, he lay there wishing he were dead. Hanlon tried hard to think why he had been so brutally attacked, especially since he knew the assailant. It was his life-long friend, Danny Maguire.
He gingerly lifted his head to look around. Blood, from a wound trickled down into his eyes, almost blinding him. He rubbed a sleeve across his eyes to clear his vision. Straining to see, Hanlon caught sight of a body floating in the water. The beaten man groaned aloud, instinctively he knew it was Danny Maguire.
A rustling sound to his right caught his attention. Hanlon turned his head towards the noise. He tried to focus his eyes and once his vision became clearer he saw rats scurrying at the water’s edge, foraging for their daily food. Hanlon winced in pain as he put his head back down. The cobbles were saturated and stained with blood oozing from the wounds.
Hanlon opened his mouth and shouted, the sound he was nothing but a whisper. He didn’t have the strength. As he lay there the blood was slowly draining from his body he waited for the darkness to shroud him. Johnny Hanlon waited for death.
He didn’t need to call for help. Unknown to him a woman was busy cleaning her employer’s office when a movement drew her eyes towards the window. Checking her watch she noticed it was ten past six. There was never usually a living soul out and about at that time in the morning. Drinkers, drug addicts and prostitutes who worked the area had left hours ago.
“Och,” she muttered. “Maybe it’s just a trick o’ the light.”
She put her duster in her apron pocket, cupping a hand over her eyes to hide the glare of the rising sun she looked again. The elderly cleaner saw the man struggle in a vain attempt to sit up and she followed his gaze to the body floating in the water. She hurried to the far end of the room and lifted the telephone from its cradle. Her old spindly fingers shook as she dialled 999. Confused and flustered she stuttered into the receiver, the operator eventually made sense of the information.
“It’ll be okay, dear.” The operator scribbled notes as she tried to reassure the caller. “Help is on its way. Just stay there, someone will be with you as soon as possible.” Even before the operator put the telephone down, a call was going out to all patrol cars in the vicinity of Leith’s dock area.
Police Sergeant Boyd and Police Constable Kane from Gayfield Square Police Station were driving down Leith Walk when the call came in.
“That’s all we bloody need,” Boyd grumbled. “Bloody typical that is, right at the end of our shift.” He sucked in his breath and let it out slowly. Boyd shook his head at PC Kane. He regretted volunteering to show his new recruit the ropes, if he had been on his own he would have ignored the shout.
“It may just be a drunk left over from last night, Sir. If so, we just pick him up and move him on,” P.C Kane upped a gear, as he accelerated and headed for The Shore.
“Down at the Water o’ Leith?” Boyd chuckled. “Maybe in your neck of the woods, Moray you live isn’t it?” Kane nodded, “Well not here! No such luck on it just being a drunk! It’ll either be a beaten up prozzie or some junky with a needle hanging out his arm. I’ve been in this game far too long laddie. Wait until you’ve got at least ten years under your belt.”
“I was just looking on the bright side.” Kane gave his boss a sideways glance and shrugged his shoulders.
“Look! Over there.” Boyd cried out.
Kane’s eyes followed Boyd’s crooked finger as he pointed towards a youth zig-zagging across the road.
“There, the young lad in front of us. He’s probably out of his skull on heroin. He doesn’t even know what day of the week it is. Dawn comes up and they all head for home or their cardboard boxes just like vampires. Scum of the earth, the lot of them. I tell you in my day I …”
Kane stopped listening and concentrated on his driving. He was glad it was nearly the end of their shift because he was tired of listening to his Sergeant. His boss had talked for most of the night, reminiscing about his years in the force and his impending retirement. Even on their way to a call, Boyd couldn’t help himself. Kane was grateful that his sergeant had taken him under his wing, educating him about the area and the job but he hadn’t realised that Boyd was such an old grouch.
The Shore, although devoid of people, parked cars were aplenty. The young PC looked around for a place to park. Boyd observed the area as he unbuckled his seat belt.
“Come on then, looks like you’re right.” Boyd nodded towards a figure lying on the cobbles. “He looks as drunk as a skunk!” The sergeant was first out of the patrol car, followed closely by Kane. As they neared the man an ambulance was approaching.
“At least help is on the way Sir,” Kane said as he pointed to the advancing ambulance.
“It’s a bloody waste of time and tax payer’s money. An ambulance, called out for a drunk? What next I ask you?” Boyd spluttered, his face was turning red in anger.
They were about eight feet away when the Sergeant noticed a dark patch on the cobbles. “And he’s pissed himself,” Boyd exclaimed.
When they were a foot away Kane turned to his boss. “Boss,” he blurted, “that‘s not urine it’s blood and a lot of it!”
They hurried over to the man and stood over him.
“Oh my God you’re right.” Boyd said. “Better not touch him, leave it to the paramedics.”
As the ambulance arrived Boyd waved it over. Kane moved away, he felt sick at the sight of the blood. Without saying a word he walked away and moved over to the water’s edge, trying to pull himself together. As he stood there, breathing deeply, his eyes were drawn to the floating body. Kane opened his mouth to call out to his boss but he felt his stomach begin to heave. Vomit flew from him, splattering loudly onto the stone cobbles. Boyd turned around at the sound and saw the contents of Kane’s stomach on the walkway.
“You young ones just can’t handle the sight of blood! Now, in my day,” Boyd said, but stopped talking when he saw the body bobbing up and down in the water.
“He looks dead,” Kane stuttered.
“Shit!” Boyd exclaimed. He moved over and stood at the edge, peering over at the lifeless form. He cast a sideways glance at Kane. “Are you alright son?”
He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his jacket. “Sorry sir,” he mumbled. “I couldn’t help being sick, it came from nowhere.”