Dark water a gripping se.., p.1
A gripping serial killer thriller
(DCI Erika Foster Book 3)
* * *
JULY 2016 DRAFT
It was a cold night in late autumn when they dumped the body in the disused quarry. They knew that it was an isolated spot, and that the water was very deep.
What they didn’t know is that they were being watched.
The two of them arrived under darkness, just after three o’clock in the morning. They drove from the houses at the edge of the village, over the empty patch of gravel where the walkers parked their cars, and onto the vast common. They kept the headlights off, and bumped and lurched across the rough ground, joining a footpath, which was soon shrouded on either side by banks of trees. The darkness was thick and clammy, and the only light came over the tops of the trees.
However, nothing about the journey felt stealthy. The car engine seemed to roar out, the suspension groaned as it lurched from side to side. They slowed to a stop as the trees parted, and the water filled quarry came into sight.
What they didn’t know was that a man lived by the quarry. He squatted in an old abandoned cottage, which had almost been reclaimed by the undergrowth. He wanted nothing more than to live a peaceful life. He was outside staring up at the sky and marvelling at its beauty when the car appeared over the ridge and came to a halt. He moved behind a bank of undergrowth and watched, warily. Several times he had chased away local kids, and junkies too.
The moon briefly broke through the clouds as two figures emerged from the car. They took something large from the back, and carried it towards the rowing boat by the water. The first climbed in, and as the second passed the long package into the boat, there was something about the way it bent and flopped that made him realise with horror that it was a body.
The soft splashes of the oars carried across the water. He put a hand to his mouth. He knew he should turn away, but he couldn’t. The splashing oars ceased when the boat reached the middle. A sliver of moon appeared again through a gap in the clouds, illuminating the ripples spreading out from the boat.
He held his breath, as he heard a low rhythmic murmur come from the two figures, almost like a prayer being recited. The boat lurched as they stood, one of them nearly went over the edge. When they were steady, they lifted the package and with a splash and a rattle of chains they tipped it over the edge. The moon sailed out from behind its cloud, shining a bright light on the boat, and the spot where the package had been dumped, the ripples spreading violently outwards.
He also saw the two people in the boat, and saw their faces, recognised who they were.
The man exhaled. He’d been holding his breath. His hands shook. He didn’t want trouble, spent his whole life trying to avoid trouble. A chill breeze stirred up some dry leaves at his feet and he felt a sharp itching in his nose. Before he could do anything he sneezed loudly, it echoed across the water. In the boat their heads snapped up, and began to twist and search the banks. He turned to run, tripped on the root of a tree and fell to the ground knocking the wind out of his chest.
* * *
Beneath the water in the disused quarry it was still, cold, and very dark. The body sank rapidly, pulled by the weights, down, down, down, finally coming to rest with a nudge in the soft freezing mud.
She would lie still and undisturbed for many years, almost at peace. But above her, on dry land, the nightmare was only just beginning.
FRIDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2016
* * *
Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster crossed her arms over the bulky life jacket against the icy wind, wishing she’d worn a thicker coat. The small inflatable MET Police Marine Recovery boat churned across the water of the large quarry, dragging behind it a small transponder, scanning the bed deep below.
‘Water depth is twenty-three point seven meters,’ said Sergeant Lorna Crozier, the Dive Supervisor. She was hunched over a small screen at the front of the boat, where the results of the sonar were beamed back and displayed in inky purple shades, blooming across the screen like a bruise.
‘So, it’s going to be tough to salvage what we’re looking for?’ asked Erika, noting her tone.
Lorna nodded. ‘Anything beyond thirty metres is a tough. My divers can only stay down for short periods. The average pond or canal is a couple of meters deep. Even at high tide the Thames at its deepest is ten to twelve meters.’
‘There could be anything down there,’ said Detective Sergeant John McGorry, who was squashed in the small plastic seat beside Erika.
‘Are you trying to sit on my lap?’ she snapped as he leaned across her to peer over the edge.
‘Sorry, Boss,’ he grinned shifting across the seat. ‘I saw this show on the Discovery Channel. Only 5% of the ocean floor is mapped. The ocean occupies 70% of the Earth's surface, that leaves 65% of the Earth, excluding dry land, unexplored…’
Erika followed his youthful gaze across the rippling surface of the water. The visibility can’t have been more than a couple of feet before it became a swirl of dark shadows.
The disused quarry sat at the northern tip of Hayes common, on the outskirts of South London. At the waters edge twenty meters away, clumps of dead reeds swayed in the wind. A large support lorry was parked on the grassy bank, and beside it the small support team were preparing the diving gear. Their orange lifejackets were the only dots of colour on the dingy autumn afternoon. Behind them, gorse and heather stretched away with a mix of greys and browns, and a clump of trees in the far distance were bare. A li
The boat reached the end of the quarry and slowed.
‘Turning about,’ said PC Barker a young male officer sat at the rudder of the outboard motor. He performed a sharp turn so they could double back and cross the length of the water for the sixth time.
‘Do you think, some fish or eel down deep could have grown to like super proportions?’ asked John, turning to Lorna, his eyes still shining with enthusiasm.
‘I’ve seen some pretty big fresh water Crayfish when I’ve been diving. Although this quarry isn’t a tributary, so whatever is down there would have to have been introduced,’ replied Lorna, one eye on the screen.
‘I grew up in St Mary Cray, and there was a pet shop near us that, apparently, sold baby crocodiles…’ John’s voice tailed off and he looked back at them raising an eyebrow. He was always upbeat and chatty, which Erika could just about cope with. Although, she dreaded working the early shift with him.
‘We’re not looking for a crocodile. We’re looking for ten kilos of heroin, packed into a waterproof container,’ snapped Erika. John looked back at her and nodded.
She checked her watch. It was coming up to three thirty.
‘What’s that worth on the street, ten kilos?’ asked PC Barker, from his spot by the rudder.
‘Four million pounds.’
He whistled, ‘I take it, the container was dropped in deliberately?’
Erika nodded. ‘The guy we’ve got in custody was waiting for things to quieten down, before he came back for it…’
She didn’t add that they could only hold him in custody for another eight hours.
‘Did he really think he’d get it back? We’re an experienced dive team, and we’re going to find this a tough one to salvage,’ said Lorna.
‘With four million on the line, yes, I think he was going to come back for it,’ replied Erika. ‘We’re hoping to lift his prints off the plastic layers inside.’
‘Hang on. This could be something, kill the motor,’ said Lorna leaning closer into the tiny screen where a small shape glowed black amongst a swirl of purple hues. PC Barker switched off the outboard motor and the silence rang out, replaced by a swish of water as the boat slowed. He got up and joined her at the screen.
‘We’re scanning an area of four meters each side of the boat,’ said Lorna her small hand moving over a blob on the screen.
‘So the scale is correct,’ agreed Barker.
‘You think that’s it?’ asked Erika. Hope rising in her chest.
‘Could be,’ said Lorna. ‘Could be an old fridge. We won’t know for sure till we’re down there.’
‘Do you dive too?’ Erika asked her, trying to stay positive.
‘Yeah. We take it in turns. I was on a dive yesterday, and we have to have rest periods.’
‘Where were you yesterday?’ asked John.
‘Rotherhithe. We had to recover a body from the lake at the nature reserve. Suicide.’
‘Whoa. It must add a whole new level of freakiness, finding a body deep underwater?’
Lorna nodded, ‘I found him, stood up on the bottom. Ten feet down. I was searching in zero visibility and suddenly my hands close around a pair of ankles, and I feel up, and there’s the legs.’
‘Jeepers. Stood up, underwater?’ Said John.
‘It does happen, something to do with the composition of the gas in the body and the progress of decay.’
‘It must be fascinating. I’ve only been in the force for a couple of years, this is my first time with a dive team,’ said John.
‘We find tons of weird shit. The worst is when you find a bag of puppies,’ said PC Barker.
‘Bastards. I’ve been a copper for twenty-five years, and I still learn something new everyday about how sick people can be,’ said Erika
They turned to her for a moment, mentally working out how old she was.
‘So, what about this anomaly? How quick can you get down there and bring it up?’ asked Erika indicating the screen.
‘I think we’ll mark it up with a buoy, and take another pass on it,’ replied Lorna, moving to the side of the boat and preparing a small orange marker buoy with a weighted line. She dropped the weight over the edge, and it quickly vanished into the deep, dark water, the line following, rapidly spooling over the edge. They left the marker floating as PC Barker fired up the outboard motor, and they moved off across the water.
* * *
An hour later they had covered the surface of the quarry, and identified three possible anomalies. Erika and John had come ashore to warm up. The late October day was now fading fast as they huddled outside the dive lorry with Styrofoam cups of tea. On the bank, Lorna held one end of a weighted down rope, leading along the bed of the quarry toward the first marker buoy where an officer sat in the boat, holding the other end. Two divers were down on the bottom, searching along the line toward each other. Erika could hear the tinny sound of their voices as they communicated through the radios in their diving masks with the comms team by the shore.
Erika took a deep inhale on her e-cigarette, the LED light at the end glowing red, she exhaled a puff of white vapour.
It was three months since she’d been transferred to Bromley South Station, and she was still trying to find her place and fit in with her new team. It was only a few miles from her old borough of Lewisham in South London, but she was becoming used to the vast difference a few miles can make between the outskirts of London and the edge of the county of Kent. She looked over at McGorry who was twenty yards away, talking on his phone. It looked like a personal call, he was grinning as he chatted. He looked over and she looked away. A moment later he finished the call, and came over.
‘You think they’re going to find it?’
‘God I hope so. The thought of having to release that little bastard.’
The little bastard in question was Jason Tyler, who had risen rapidly to control a drug dealing network in South London and the Kent borders.
‘That was my girlfriend, Monica on the phone. She, we wanted me to invite you over for dinner.’
Erika turned to him, surprised.
’What?’ she said, a little too sharply.
‘You’re my new boss and I’ve told her lots about you… She’d love to make you her lasagna. It’s really good. And I’m not just saying that cos she’s my girlfriend. It really is…’ his voice tailed off as he looked eagerly up at Erika.
‘John, we’re right in the middle of a big case…’
‘I didn’t mean tonight. Some other day.’
‘You don’t have to do that, John.’
‘I’d like to. And if there were anyone else you’d like to invite, that’s cool. Is there a Mr Foster?’
Erika had spent the last couple of years hearing herself gossiped about in the force, so she was surprised that John didn’t know.
‘There’s no Mr Foster. There was, but he, my husband’s dead.’
John’s look of surprise was cut off by a shout that went up from the support team at the water’s edge. They hurried over to where Lorna was crouched down at the small comms unit, speaking to one of the divers on the bottom. The tinny voice cut through the cold air.
‘… It’s a hard plastic shell casing, around four feet square… It’s packed in under the mud… ’ There was interference, which Erika realised were bubbles from the divers’ respirator. ‘I’ll need help if we’re going to pull it out…’
She pressed her radio, ‘Okay, I’m sending Paul and Clive in with the winch, over… This could be it, ‘ she added looking up at Erika.
* * *
The temperature plummeted by the water as darkness fell. Erika and John paced up and down within the arc of light spilling out of the support vehicles. The trees behind them had vanished in the darkness that
One of the divers, slick in his dry suits finally emerged up the steep banks of the quarry carrying what looked like a large moulded plastic suitcase streaked in mud. Erika moved over to join the group helping him up and onto dry land, the box was placed on the ground, a torch was trained on it. There were two padlocked latches either side of the carry handle.
‘There’s a pressure equalisation valve on the case,’ said Erika indicating a mud - covered button underneath the handle. John took a pair of long handled metal cutters from one of the dive team, and deftly clipped both locks. He stood back.
‘Do you want to do the honours, Boss?’ he asked.
‘Yes, I do,’ said Erika pulling on a pair of latex gloves. She crouched down in front of the plastic case and gently turned the pressure valve, which was followed by a hissing noise. She then unclipped both latches and pulled up the lid. Inside, packed neatly in long rows, were bags each filled with the rose-grey coloured powder.
‘Got you,’ said Erika. She stood up and John raised his hand. Despite herself she high-fived him. ‘We’ve got him!’
‘Jeez, Boss, now I know what four million pounds looks like… It’s horrific, but I can’t stop looking,’ said John turning back at the contents of the case.
‘Thank you, all of you,’ said Erika, turning to the silent faces that stood around in a small semi circle, staring in at the case full of drugs. John was right; it was both captivating and horrific to see that much in one place. It had an almost dangerous power to it. A crash of interference came through the comms unit from one of the divers still working out by the support boat, Lorna she went over and started talking to the diver over the radio.
‘Okay, John, put in a call to control. We need this moved securely to the nick, make sure the fingerprint team are ready to pull this apart the moment we get back. We’re not taking our eyes off it until it’s safely locked up, you understand?’