Sarah McKenzie stared at him as he stood over the table, reciting the traditional address for this point in the meal. She glanced over at her husband, wondering what he was planning to do about the situation, but he was sat stock still, staring as well.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
The table was laid, the food sat unattended, as he raised a ceremonial dagger over the pale coloured skin.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Sarah screamed as he plunged the dagger down into the skin, releasing a cloud of aromatic steam as the inside of the haggis spilled over the cuts. The scream was muffled by the cloth stuffed into her mouth, and the ace bandage that was wrapped over it, but the beads of sweat and the wild look in her eyes was genuine enough to her husband.
“Now, Mr McKenzie”, the man said as he wiped the knife on a napkin, “If you don’t want your wife to be the next person I make that address to, you will tell me the combination to your safe. All right?”
DCI Calder walked into the room and looked over at his assistant. “Did you read the statement?”
“Aye, I did – two men, dressed in Black Watch formal dress with eye masks, broke into the McKenzie house, tied the wife to a chair and gagged her, then forced the husband to open the safe and took the contents, leaving him trussed up in the office. Lot of money taken, but it’s not the worst case we’ve ever seen.”
“No – but did you read the events at the dinner table?”
“So he knows the right thing to say at the time – it was the 25th after all.”
Calder shook his head. “Son, get down to the archives and ask the man there for the Burns case files. Read them, and then get back up here.”
Two hours passed before the young man came back in, shaking his head. He looked up at Calder and said “You have got to be kidding me.”
“Nope – we call him Robber Burns. Only strikes every few years, and only on Burns Night. I was a young copper when he first appeared…”
Rosemary Jackson had had an – interesting evening. Whoever had asked her to be a hostess at the Burns Supper that night had neglected to mention the dress code for the girls – completely inappropriate for a cold January night.
As she closed the door to her flat behind her and took off her long coat, she caught a glimpse of herself in her “Fran and Anna” outfit. A tight white jersey, tartan mini-skirt with a tartan sash over one shoulder, and black lace-up leather boots. A small tartan bonnet was perched on her side on her long red hair.
“Fine for a summer night, but tonight?” she muttered as she went to take the hat off. As she did so, however, she heard a voice speaking behind her.
O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
“Hello,” Rosemary called out, “Is anyone there?” The answer she got was a gloved hand that was clamped over her mouth, and the voice whispering in her ear.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.
“Oh no, oh no,” she thought as she was dragged backwards into the darkened main room of her flat, her heels striking on the wooden floor as the intruder pushed her down onto the couch. She could dimly see him in front of her, motioning to his mouth with his finger as he continued.
“What do you want,” Rosemary whispered as he forced her to stand up again, turned her round and pulled her arms behind her back. She looked over her shoulder to see him place her forearms in the palm of his hand and start to wrap a roll of dark tape around them to hold them together against her back. This was then reinforced by more tape around her arms and shoulders.
“Please, don’t do this, don’t” she started to scream as he pushed her onto the floor, but the man merely placed his hand back over her mouth and continued.
And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!
“I’m not going to rape you,” he said, “I just want your money and jewellery. Now shut up and stop struggling.”
Rosemary nodded as he took the roll of tape and started to wind it round her mouth, silencing her before he reached down and taped her legs together at her ankles and knees. She could feel the tape pulling at her bare skin as he pressed it over her thighs, before rolling her over and leaving her on the floor. She managed to wriggle herself into a sitting position and watch him search the flat, before he came back and moved her hair out of her frightened eyes.
He was about six foot tall, and dressed in a military outfit, save for the black mask over his eyes. He smiled at her as he checked the tape, and that started to recite again.
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
Who shall say that Fortune grieves him,
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerful twinkle lights me;
Dark despair around benights me.
I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
Naething could resist my Nancy:
But to see her was to love her;
Love but her, and love for ever.
Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met-or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.
Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!
Ae fareweeli alas, for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
“That,” Calder said as the young man looked up, “was the first time we heard of this particular individual. At the time, we thought it was a one off, some drunken soldier trying his luck, but we never could find any evidence to pin him down to a person.”
“Why did you think he was a soldier?”
“The outfit – when Miss Jackson described the outfit, we realised it was Formal Mess dress for a regiment. Also, there was the small matter of the time between that and the next case.”
As they drove up the pebble driveway to the sandstone house, David Harkness turned to his wife in the passenger seat.
“I know these events bore the life out of you, but thanks for coming.”
“It’s all right, darling,” Leslie said as she turned and looked at him, “I know you have to go, and so do I.” The couple were in their late fifties, and had attended a formal dinner for David’s employers. As the car came to a halt, he stepped out and adjusted his dinner jacket, before coming round and opening the passenger door to help his wife out. She adjusted her mink coat as they walked up to the house, the swish of her floor length tartan skirt audible in the still night air.
As he opened the door, David barely had time to get in before he was dragged inside, hearing the scream of his wife as she was pushed in after him. He felt the cold metal of a gun barrel pressed against his head, and a voice saying “Don’t scream or make any sudden moves – you don’t want to wake the children, now do you?”
“Oh god, please leave them alone,” Leslie said in a faint voice as the couple were pushed into the large front room.
“They’re fine – still sleeping, and they’ll stay that way f you do as you’re told. Take your coat off.”
Leslie unbuttoned her coat, letting it fall to the floor as she stood there in her tartan skirt and long sleeved lace front blouse. She cloud see two men with her and David, both masked and armed, but rather incongruously both dressed in military uniform.
The one who was standing n=behind Leslie took hold of her arms and pulled them behind their back. She stood still as he lashed her wrist together with rope, passing the ends around her waist and securing them to the small of her back.
“I’m taking you for a little drive,” the other man said to David as he stood there in his dinner jacket, the bow tie still tied around his neck. “My friend here is going to keep your wife company, and if he hears from me that you’ve done something stupid…”
“Please,” he gasped as he watched Leslie’s arms been lashed to her side, the rope going around her breasts and under her shoulders, forcing her breasts to become visible through the white material, “I’ll do whatever you want, just don’t hurt her or my children.”
“Please don’t hurt me,” Leslie said with a sob as she was helped to lie down on a velvet couch, before the intruder folded the hem of her skirt back and started to lash her ankles and feet together over her ballet slippers. Folding the hem back, he wrapped more rope around the tartan three times, constricting her legs together so that it looked as if she was a tartan mermaid.
“Shut her up and wait for my call,” the first man said as he dragged David out of the house. The second intruder took a scarf from his packet, rolled it into a band and tied a knot in the middle, before pushing the knot between Leslie’s lips and tying the ends tightly together at the base of her neck. As he turned the lights off, he started to recite a poem while Leslie tried to get as comfortable as she could.
The deil's awa, the deil's awa,
The deil's awa wi' the Exciseman,
He's danc'd awa, he's danc'd awa,
He's danc'd awa wi' the Exciseman.
We'll mak our maut, and we'll brew our drink,
We'll laugh, sing, and rejoice, man,
And mony braw thanks to the meikle black deil,
That danc'd awa wi' th' Exciseman.
“Who was David Harkness?”
“The manager of the bonded warehouse near South Queensferry – they made off with a lorry load of whisky that simply disappeared into the night.”
The young man started to laugh, but checked himself when he saw his superior’s face. “I’m sorry, boss,” he said with a splutter, “but it is kind of funny when you think about it. So does he work alone or with an accomplice?”
“Usually alone – that seems to have been a one off. Every few years, he strikes again, tonight at the home of this bank manager, and the only thing that is consistent is the time, the dress and the quote.”
“Always the 25th of January?”
“Always. Did you read of the last woman he robbed – the actress?”
“Aaaand – that’s a wrap!”
Flora shook her blonde hair as she stood up from the dinner table and made her way off the set. “Highland Way” was the most popular soap on Scottish Television, and young Flora Hamilton one of the main stars, playing the daughter of the gillie. As she headed for the dressing room, she exchanged some pleasantries with the other cats and crew, but didn’t stop for long – she had a tradition to maintain for Burn’s Night dinner.
It was barely half an hour before she was heading for her car, having changed into a black silk blouse and tartan trousers, the legs tucked into patent leather boots, and a tartan waistcoat over her upper body. She climbed into the sports car and sped off for her home on the outskirts of Glasgow, looking forward to the evening with her beloved.
As she walked into the flat, however, she heard not the voice of her partner, but another far deeper voice speaking.
Fair the face of orient day,
Fair the tints of op'ning rose;
But fairer still my Delia dawns,
More lovely far her beauty shows.
Sweet the lark's wild warbled lay,
Sweet the tinkling rill to hear;
But, Delia, more delightful still,
Steal thine accents on mine ear.
The flower-enamour'd busy bee
The rosy banquet loves to sip;
Sweet the streamlet's limpid lapse
To the sun-brown'd Arab's lip.
But, Delia, on thy balmy lips
Let me, no vagrant insect, rove;
O let me steal one liquid kiss,
For Oh! my soul is parch'd with love.
“Delia?” she called out as she walked down the corridor, “Do you have someone else here?” As she opened the door to the dining room, however, she was greeted by the sight of her partner sat on a dining chair, and a masked man in military dress standing over her with a knife against her throat.
“Please, join us,” the masked man said as he pressed the flat of the blade against Delia’s throat. She was a small, dark haired woman, and was efficiently and comprehensively lashed to the chair she was sat on with rough hemp rope. A napkin had been tied into her mouth, stifling her screams, while the mascara was running down her cheeks from her eyes as the tears flowed.
“Who the hell are you?” Flora said as she stared at the masked man.
“Me - consider me your night’s entertainment. Now, I won’t ask twice – sit down or you … friend here suffers.”
“All right, just don’t hurt her,” Flora said as she sat down and looked at Delia. She was wearing a long white dress, with a tartan shawl tied over her shoulders, but for now was stuck in her chair, her ankles tied together and pulled back under the seat. The man came round, picking up a second coil of rope as he did so, and started to tie Flora’s wrists together behind the chair back. She winced as the rough hemp pressed against her skin through her clothing, but what was upsetting her more was the song he was quietly singing as he wrapped more and more rope around her upper body.
O lovely Polly Stewart,
O charming Polly Stewart,
There's ne'er a flower that blooms in May,
That's half so fair as thou art!
The flower it blaws, it fades, it fa's,
And art can ne'er renew it;
But worth and truth, eternal youth
Will gie to Polly Stewart,
O lovely Polly Stewart,
May he whase arms shall fauld thy charms
Possess a leal and true heart!
To him be given to ken the heaven
He grasps in Polly Stewart!
O lovely Polly Stewart,
“How the hell,” she said as he knelt in front of her and pulled her booted ankle against a chair leg, “do you know my name?”
He just smiled as he lashed first one, then the other ankle to a leg, before passing more rope around her lap and the chair seat. Flora looked up at Delia, who shook her head to indicate she had not told him. As he stood up and picked up another thick napkin from the table, he smiled and said “My secret” before gagging her and leaving the two women to try and free themselves.
“Yeah – I remember that one. She tried to keep her private life private – but after that…”
Calder smiled. “So, every so often this guy strikes. One day we’ll get him, but he’s clever, I’ll grant him that.”
The two men continued working, wondering what sort of strange new twist the next day or crime might bring.