Last breath, p.1
Last Breath, p.1Robert Bryndza
A Gripping Serial Killer Thriller that will have you Hooked
A Note From Rob
The Girl in the Ice
The Night Stalker
Also by Robert Bryndza
For Veronika, Filip and Evie
‘The scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our souls…’
* * *
Edgar Allan Poe
It was three o’clock in the morning, and the stench of the dead body filled the car. The heat had remained unbroken for days. He drove with the air conditioning on full, but the smell of her still permeated from the boot of the car. She was decaying fast.
It had been two hours since he laid her there. The flies had been seeking her out, and in the darkness he’d had to wave his arms around to keep them off. He’d found it funny how he flapped and flailed. If she’d still been alive, she might have laughed too.
Despite the risk, he enjoyed these night-time excursions, driving along the deserted motorway, and into London through the suburbs. Two roads back, he’d shut off the car headlights, and as he turned into a run-down residential street, he cut the engine. The car freewheeled in silence, past houses, their windows dark, to the bottom of the hill where a small deserted print-works came into view. It was set back from the road with a car park. Tall trees lined the pavement, casting it in shadows, while the light pollution from the city threw a muddy orange glow over the surroundings. He turned into the car park, bumping and lurching over tree roots pushing up under the tarmac.
He drew up at a line of dumpsters next to the entrance of the print-works and turned the car sharp to the left, coming to a stop with less than a foot between the car boot and the last dumpster.
He sat in silence for a moment. The houses opposite were masked by the trees, and where the row of terraced houses met the car park it was just a brick wall. He leaned over to the glove compartment and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. He stepped out of the car, and the heat swelled up at him from the cracked tarmac. The gloves were wet inside within seconds. When he opened the car boot, a bluebottle buzzed out and found his face. He waved his arms, and spat it away.
He pushed back the lid of the dumpster; the smell hit him, and more bloody flies that had been laying their eggs amongst the warm festering rubbish flew out at him. He batted them away with a yelp and more spitting, and then moved to the back of the car.
She’d been so beautiful, even up until the end, just a few hours ago, when she’d cried and pleaded, her hair greasy, her clothes soiled. Now she was a limp thing. Her body was no longer needed, by her or him.
In one fluid movement, he hoisted her up and out of the boot and laid her lengthways on the black sacks, then slid the lid of the dumpster closed. He looked around; he was alone, more so now she was gone. He got back in the car and started the long drive home.
* * *
Early next morning, the neighbour opposite walked over to the print-works with a bulging black sack. There were no rubbish collections on the bank holiday, and her in-laws had been staying with their new baby. She slid back the lid of the first dumpster to drop it in, and a mass of flies seemed to explode out at her. She backed off, batting them away. And then she saw, lying on top of the black bags, the body of a young girl. She’d been savagely beaten: one of her eyes was swollen shut, there were gashes on her head, and her body was crawling with flies in the early morning heat.
Then the smell hit her. She dropped the black sack, and threw up over the hot tarmac.
Monday, 9 January 2017
Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster watched Detective James Peterson as he towelled flakes of melting snow from his short dreadlocks. He was tall and lean, with just the right mix of arrogance and charm. The curtains were drawn tight against the whirling snow, the television murmured comfortably in the background, and the small kitchen-cum-living room was bathed in the soft warm glow of two new lamps. After a long day at work, Erika had been resigned to a hot bath and an early night, but then Peterson had called from the fish and chip shop around the corner, asking if she was hungry. Before she could think up an excuse, she’d said yes. They had worked together previously on several successful murder investigations, when Erika had been Peterson’s senior officer, but now they were in different units: Peterson was a member of the Murder Investigation Team, while Erika worked with the Projects Team – it was a role she had rapidly grown to hate.
Peterson went over to the radiator and draped the towel neatly, then turned to her with a grin.
‘It’s a blizzard out there,’ he said, cupping his hands and blowing into them.
‘Did you have a good Christmas?’ she asked.
‘It was alright, just my mum and dad. My cousin got engaged,’ he said, taking off his leather jacket.
‘Congratulations…’ She couldn’t remember if she’d heard about a cousin.
‘How about you? You were in Slovakia?’
‘Yeah, with my sister and her family. I shared a single bunk bed with my niece… You fancy a beer?’
‘I’d love one,’ he said.
He draped his jacket across the back of the sofa an
A couple of months earlier, after drinks in the pub with colleagues, Erika and Peterson had ended up in bed together. Whilst neither of them had felt it was just a one-night stand, they had since kept things professional. They’d spent a couple more nights together before Christmas, and both times she had left his flat before breakfast. But now he was in her flat, they were sober, and the gilt-framed picture of her late husband, Mark, was on the bookshelf by the window.
She tried to push the anxiety and guilt from her mind, retrieved two beers and closed the fridge door. The red-and-white striped plastic bag containing the fish and chips sat on the countertop, and the smell was making her mouth water.
‘Do you like yours in the paper?’ she asked, popping the lids off the beers.
‘It’s the only way to have them,’ said Peterson. He had one arm slung over the back of the sofa, and sat resting an ankle over the opposite knee. He looked confident and comfortable.
She knew it would kill the mood but they needed to have a talk; she needed to set some boundaries. She pulled out two plates and took them over with the bag and the beers, setting them down on the coffee table. They unwrapped their chip paper in silence, steam rising from the fish in crisp batter and the chips, squishy and golden. They ate for a moment.
‘Look, Peterson, James…’ Erika started.
Then his phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket.
‘Sorry, I should take this.’
Erika nodded and gestured for him to carry on.
He answered his phone and listened with his brow furrowed. ‘Really? Okay, no probs, what’s the address?’ He grabbed a pen from the table, and started to scribble on the corner of his chip paper. ‘I’m close by. I can leave now and hold the fort until you can get there… Just go slow in this weather.’ He finished the call, crammed in a mouthful of chips and stood up.
‘What is it?’ asked Erika.
‘Couple of students have found the mutilated body of a young girl in a rubbish bin.’
‘Tattersall Road, near New Cross… Damn those chips are good,’ he said stuffing more into his mouth. He picked up his leather jacket from its spot on the back of the sofa and checked he had his warrant card, wallet and car keys.
Erika felt another pang of regret that she was no longer on the Murder Investigation Team.
‘Sorry, Erika. We’ll have to do this another time. I was meant to have the evening free. What were you going to say earlier?’
‘Fine. It was nothing. Who just called you?’
‘DCI Hudson. She’s stuck in the snow. Not stuck, but she’s coming out from Central London and the roads are bad.’
‘New Cross is close, I’ll come with you,’ she said, putting her plate down and grabbing her wallet and warrant card from the kitchen counter.
He followed her into the hall, pulling on his jacket. She checked her reflection in the tiny hall mirror, wiping chip grease from the corner of her mouth and running her hands through her short blonde hair. Her face was free of make-up, and despite her high cheekbones she noted it looked fuller after a week of Christmas food. Their eyes met in the mirror, and she saw his face had clouded over.
‘Is that a problem?’
‘No. We’ll go in my car, though,’ he said.
‘No. I’ll take my car.’
‘Are you going to pull rank on me here?’
‘What are you talking about? You take your own car, I’ll take mine. We’ll drive in convoy.’
‘Erika. I came here for fish and chips…’
‘Just fish and chips?’ she asked.
‘What does that mean?’
‘Nothing. You got the call, which is work, and it’s perfectly reasonable for me, as your senior officer, to attend the scene. More so if DCI Hudson is delayed…’ Her voice tailed off; she knew she was pushing it.
‘Your “senior officer”. You won’t let me forget that, will you?’
‘I hope you don’t forget that,’ she snapped, pulling on her coat. She switched off the lights and they left the flat in an uncomfortable silence.
Snow fell heavily, catching in the headlights of Erika’s car as she left the line of traffic moving past New Cross train station and turned into Tattersall Road. A moment later, Peterson pulled in behind her. On the corner where the two roads met was a kitchen showroom set back with a large car park out front. The pavement was a churn of white, which reflected the flashing blue lights of three squad cars stationed out front. An unbroken line of terraced houses stretched away up a hill, and Erika could make out a few of the neighbours huddled in their glowing doorways, watching as police tape was unwound, cordoning off the car park of the kitchen showroom, which backed onto the first house in the terrace. Erika was pleased to see Detective Inspector Moss standing on the pavement in front of the police cordon, and talking to a uniformed police officer. She was a trusted colleague, and along with Peterson they had worked together on several murder investigations. Erika and Peterson found parking spots on the opposite side of the road, and then crossed over.
‘Good to see you, boss,’ said Moss, holding up the lapels of her coat against the whirling snow. She was a small solidly built woman with short red hair and a mass of freckles covering her face. ‘Are you here in an official capacity?’
Erika replied, ‘Yes’ just as Peterson said ‘No’.
‘Can you give us a moment,’ said Moss, addressing the uniformed officer.
He nodded and moved off towards one of the squad cars.
‘I was with Peterson when he got the call,’ explained Erika.
‘Always great to have you here, boss,’ said Moss. ‘I just assumed that DCI Hudson would be running this.’
‘I’m here until she arrives,’ said Erika, blinking against the onslaught of snow. Moss looked between them, and there was an awkward pause.
‘So, can I see what we’re dealing with?’ asked Erika.
‘Body of a young woman, badly beaten,’ said Moss. ‘The bad weather is also slowing down the CSIs and forensics. Uniform responded to the call; one of the students who lives in the end terrace over there went to the rubbish bins and found the body.’
‘Do we have crime scene overalls available?’ asked Erika.
Moss nodded. They moved to the police tape strung across the gate to the car park, and there was an awkward moment as Erika waited for Peterson to lift it for her. She shot him a look, he lifted it, and she moved past him and into the car park.
‘Oh bloody hell, are they a couple now?’ muttered Moss to herself. ‘They say never work with children or animals, they never mention couples.’
She followed, and joined Erika and Peterson pulling on crime scene overalls. They then ducked under the police tape and went over to a large industrial rubbish bin chained to the brick wall of the kitchen showroom. The curved lid was tipped back. Moss directed the powerful beam of a torch inside.
‘My God,’ said Peterson, stepping back and putting a hand to his mouth.
Erika didn’t flinch, but just stared.
Lying on her right side, on a pile of neatly stacked, broken-down cardboard boxes, was the body of a young woman. She had been badly beaten; her eyes were swollen shut and her long brown hair was matted with congealed blood. She was naked from the waist down, and her legs were criss-crossed with cuts and gashes. She wore a small T-shirt, but it was impossible to tell what colour it had once been, as it too was saturated with blood.
‘And look,’ said Moss softly. She directed the torch onto the top of the girl’s head, where the skull had caved in.
‘They were waiting outside when uniform arrived,’ said Moss. ‘You can see their front door opens out into the car park, so we couldn’t let them back in when we taped off the crime scene.’
‘Where are they?’
‘Uniform put them in a car up the road.’
‘Let’s close things up until forensics get here,’ said Erika, noting the snow which was forming a thin layer over the body and surrounding cardboard boxes.
Peterson placed his gloved hands on the dumpster, and slowly pulled the curved lid back, closing the body off from the elements.
They heard voices by the police cordon and the beep of a radio. They moved over to where DCI Hudson, a small woman with a bob of fine blonde hair, was standing with Superintendent Sparks, a tall thin man with a long, pale face pockmarked with acne scars. His greasy black hair was swept back off his forehead, and his suit was grubby.
‘Erika. What are you doing here? The last I heard you were in a galaxy far far away,’ he said.
‘I’m in Bromley,’ replied Erika.
DCI Hudson stifled a grin.
‘Yes. All very funny,’ said Erika. ‘Just like the dead girl who’s been beaten to death and left in the dumpster over there…’
Hudson and Sparks stopped smirking.
‘Erika was just helping us out. The weather was holding things up, and she lives locally,’ explained Moss.
‘She was with me when I got the call. I also live locally,’ started Peterson, but Erika shot him a look.
‘I see,’ said Sparks, noticing the look. He paused, as if he was filing it away in his mind for later use against her, then moved to the police tape, lifting it with a black gloved hand.
‘Make sure you hand in your crime scene overalls, Erika. Then wait for me outside. We need to have a little chat.’
Moss and Peterson went to say more, but Erika gave them a small shake of her head and moved off towards the police cordon.
Last Breath by Robert Bryndza / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes