Rebus finds himself with a number of problems on his hands. His wayward brother, Michael, has returned to Edinburgh in need of accommodation — with only the box-room in Rebus’s flat available. While out drinking, he meets an old army friend, Deek Torrance, who admits to being involved in shady activities, telling Rebus he can get his hands on ‘anything from a shag to a shooter’. Rebus spends so long out with Deek that he misses dinner with his girlfriend, Doctor Patience Aitken. Furious, she locks him out of her flat, forcing him to sleep in his own flat, on the sofa.