Copyright © 2013 Wolf Black
For Opa, Ernst Bach.
Wolf Black is a pseudonym.
To learn about the person behind Wolf Black please log on to the website https://www.rosemarybachholzer.co.uk
Monday, 29 October 2012
The woman’s head didn’t move.
‘I said.’ He spoke quietly. ‘Look up or the child won’t need a blindfold I’ll simply remove his eyes.’
That did the trick.
He stared at the woman’s face, full of fear and anguish. Her red hair stuck to her forehead in a tangle of sweat and blood. She began to whimper like a cornered animal.
‘Smile,’ he said, and the whimpering ceased.
* * *
‘Yeah, what is it?’ the man growled.
He’d had no coffee, his television was on the blink, his dog had been sick and he’d stepped in it. He wasn’t in the mood for niceties.
‘Love, it’s me, there’s been another one.’
He stopped dead in his tracks. ‘Any witnesses?’ he said quietly.
A woman with a pushchair careered straight into him. She gave him a dirty look before retracing her steps to manoeuvre around his bulk.
‘So far, not one.’
‘There never is when we want one. Plenty around when there’s a nut of a streaker on the loose but when it comes to homicide,’ he growled again.
So what if he sounded like a cop from New York. That’s exactly who he was. Five years or fifty years of living in England wouldn’t erase fifteen years of working with some of America’s finest. Thugs, hoodlums, drug rings and the lowest scum you could imagine and that was just the police force, at least, the less than exemplary side of it.
A tough New York cop, through and through, and he’d seen it all.
At least, he thought he had.
‘I’ll be there in fifteen,’ he said, snapping his mobile shut.
When the boy had fully regained consciousness he’d slithered on the floor like a large trussed up slug until he came upon the body of his mother. His screams could be heard fifty feet away over building works and speeding trains at the back of the property.
‘Tracked down the father?’ Love asked as his hand strayed to his inside pocket for a cigarette then remembered where he was and instead pulled out a manky-looking tube of mints. He’d gone straight to the scene of the crime and from there on to the hospital where they’d taken the boy. The boy. At least he hadn’t been witness to his mother’s torment. There was that one small salvation, he told himself as he crunched down hard on his mints. Everything about Detective Dick Love was aggressive.
‘Haven’t traced him yet.’
His partner flicked open a page on his black leather notepad and shook his head. ‘No, there was someone in the picture but they never married according to our data but it’s still downloading.’
‘Even our prima technology can have its hiccups,’ Love said.
Stuart read on. ‘According to this he walked out on her when the boy was two months old.’ He looked up. ‘Nice bloke.’
‘Let’s hope so, for the boy’s sake,’ Love said, and stepped forward to peer through the glass to take a closer look at the young boy. He heard footsteps approach and half turned his large blond head.
‘One,’ replied the figure in the white coat.
Love nodded, pushed open the door and walked inside. ‘Hi, Timmy. My name is Detective Love,’ he paused as Timmy continued to lie there and stare at something Love couldn’t see. ‘Can I ask you a couple of questions, son.’
‘My mummy’s dead, isn’t she? They won’t tell me, but she is, isn’t she?’
He hadn’t expected that. ‘Timmy, I need to ask you something...’
‘You can tell me the truth, I’m ten years old,’ he whispered, and looked at Love for the first time.
‘Yes, Tim. I’m sorry and that’s why I need your help to catch the person who did this to you and your mother.’
‘I don’t remember.’
‘Anything at all, Timmy, no matter how small.’
‘I can’t remember.’ His voice began to whine. ‘I told the nurse my name and mummy’s name and there was a man and that’s all I can tell you.’
‘I couldn’t see or hear. He put something gooey in my ears.’
‘Yes, son, I know. It was putty,’ Love said.
The assailant had lifted it from the building works on-site. Very clever. Leaving no clues. It was the same story with the pieces of nylon rope that had been lying in the dirt for months. All the materials had been removed from the premises and placed in the room ahead of time. Swift and methodical. Love thought of the child’s blindfold fashioned from his mother’s T-shirt. Same deal. Leaving nothing to lead them back to the assailant.
‘I tried to shake it out of my head when I thought he wasn’t looking. I did... a tiny little bit... and then I heard,’ he faltered as he relived the image only he could see. ‘I heard... there was something...’
‘A noise, a word, Timmy?’
‘I can’t remember. I... I don’t know... I want my mummy!’
Love stared at the boy as sobs shook his whole body. He felt sick. He needed a drink. A good stiff drink and the company of a good woman but most of all he needed to see the bastard responsible for this secured on a spit and roasted over an open fire. None of that was going to happen. He’d been clean now for eight years and would sooner have a strong, sweet cup of tea than a shot. Goddamn English and their tea, cursed it at first, dishwater he’d called it, and now he’d grown to like the stuff. Hardly ever touched coffee these days except for his first cup in the morning and the odd one during the day. Some habits were too hard to break.
A woman? No chance of that, and as for the assailant? He wouldn’t end up on a spit but he’d get what was coming to him.
Love would make sure of that.
He heard a scuffle of feet behind him and stepped back to allow the doctor inside. She murmured a few soothing words, nonsense words as Love thought of them, but they did the trick. She signalled to the hovering nurse to administer a mild tranquilliser and then motioned for Love to step outside.
‘Policemen like you make my life very difficult, Detective Love,’ she said as she thrust her hands into the pockets of her white lab coat.
‘That’s not our intention, believe me, Doctor Cooper.’
‘That boy has been through goodness knows what, he has temporary selective amnesia and I don’t need you to come crashing in here and upsetting him like this.’
‘Look lady, I’m well aware of what this boy’s been through and that’s why I’m making it my priority to catch the low life who’s responsible for this so we don’t have this conversation again.’ He stared into her eyes breathing hard. ‘Understand?’ he added.
‘I understand,’ she replied, staring right back at him. ‘And I also understand you are an uncouth oaf, Detective Love, and I’d like you to leave my hospital now.’
‘Lady, I’ve been called worse things that,’ he said, and grinned. ‘From you, it’s almost a compliment.’
‘What have we got?’ Love asked his partner as he inhaled deeply on his cigarette.
The visit to the hospital had rattled him along with the kid, the crime scene, and the doctor.
Where the hell did it leave him?
Stuart switched on his computer and punched in his password. Why he bothered, Love had no idea. He was a good detective but lousy at hiding his personal feelings. The mouse clicked into action and Stuart lea
‘So far,’ he replied, ‘we’re still trying to track down family. Parents, siblings, aunties.’ He looked across the fine-grained veneer of his desk. ‘The usual.’
‘Any luck with the kid’s father?’
He glanced back at the screen and manoeuvred his mouse. ‘Nothing.’
‘Stuart, what I can’t figure out is how he got them into the room in the first place.’
‘Held a gun on them? He drugged both of them?’
‘I thought of that, but not two individuals, not at the same time.’
‘He has a partner?’
‘It’s possible or else somehow he managed to grab the kid.’
‘To use as a lure or as a bargaining tool?’
‘Yeah.’ He nodded.
‘In the middle of north London.’
‘In the middle of north London and during morning rush hour,’ he said as he rubbed his chin. His hand scraped over a fine layer of bristle. ‘We need to know where the kid was before he was abducted.’
‘Don’t expect too much from the child,’ Stuart said, and got up to plug in the kettle. Equipment at Detective Special Branch Division (DSBD) located in a corner of the MI6 building in Lambeth, was second to none but when it came to domestic arrangements things took on a nostalgic air. ‘Tea?’ he asked holding up a mug.
‘Yeah, thanks,’ Love growled. He was thinking. Something had occurred to him and he needed to follow it up. It was just a hunch. But sometimes, hunches led to leads and leads led to arrests. He pulled out a bulging file from his drawer flung it down on his desk, opened it, and skimmed through the various contents until he found what he was looking for.
Love had access to a computer. It was a few years old but still intimidating as far as Love was concerned. It only got switched on when he was checking database or updating facts. He preferred to do things his way, the old-fashioned way. He preferred to hold something in his hand. He liked to feel it, to read it, and not stare at some damn computer screen with a cursor blinking at him on one side and a damned cat blinking at him from the other and although it was an improvement on that stupid paper clip they could have at least made it a dog.
Three and a half weeks ago the newspapers had been full of it.
Young mother tortured and shot! Police have no leads. The dead woman, a Mrs Carol Butterfield, leaves behind a husband and two children... and so it went on giving personal details about her life and how much she’d be missed in the community.
Love grimaced. To read the report written by the eager young reporter, what was his name? Scott Enfield. You’d think the dead woman was a paragon of virtue. Sensationalism he could do without. He’d had enough of that in America. Stick to the facts. That’s all he was interested in, but maybe, just maybe.
He grabbed the telephone on his desk and punched in an extension. ‘It’s Love, are you ready for us?’ The answer satisfied him and he replaced the receiver with a firm movement. ‘Stuart, forget the tea.’
Stuart looked over with a tea bag hanging from a spoon and a question in his eyes.
‘Fitch has finished his preliminary examination on Monica Dixon.’
‘Really? Well, what are we waiting for?’ he said, and dropped the teabag. It hit the base of the bin with a thud.
Three minutes later, Stuart and Love were standing in the sterile rooms of the forensic pathologist encased in one of the lower floors of DSBD. All around them was glass, white and steel. Cold. Efficient. No hint of colour except in two corners of the room where fish gurgled together in a large turquoise sea of paradise. Animated. Screen savers.
‘Case number M345. Monica Dixon. Female. Caucasian. Forty years old at time of death.’
‘Which was how and when?’ asked Stuart. Not an obvious question. She could have already been dead when shot.
‘Death by one shot to the head between 08:15 and 08:50 hours this morning.’ John Fitch. Ruggedly handsome. Fifty-one years old and dedicated to his profession. ‘It was instant,’ he added.
‘Was she drugged?’ asked Love.
‘No.’ He shook his head. ‘No drugs, she was tortured however.’
‘How exactly?’ Stuart asked. ‘The same as Carol Butterfield?’
‘On preliminary examination I would say yes, although...’
‘I don’t know, Love. Something I can’t put my finger on.’
‘What can you tell us?’
‘Judging by the way these impressions have been made the assailant appears to be left-handed.’
Love and Stuart glanced at each other. ‘Interesting,’ murmured Love.
John continued, ‘Incisions were made on her stomach with a sharp instrument, pre-death, and her head wound,’ he gestured to the top of the body where there was some visible swelling and bruising, ‘was probably executed by the butt of the gun. I’ll be able to confirm that given time.’
‘So her DNA would be all over the gun,’ Stuart said.
‘Can I see the bullet?’
John nodded and handed Love a glass container inside of which was a spent bullet. It had been cleaned. Not all pathologists were as thoughtful. ‘It’s a 9mm and old… very old,’ John said.
Love peered closely. ‘What are these tiny scratch marks on the side?’
‘I believe we might be looking at history,’ John said. In all his years as a pathologist and working in crime forensics he’d only ever seen such a bullet once before. ‘It’s possible this bullet was fired from a German-made 9mm Albretta Walter DBG used by the Luftwaffe in World War II.’
Love looked over at John. ‘From the same gun that killed Carol Butterfield?’
‘So, it’s highly possible we’re looking at one assailant,’ Stuart said as he glanced at the bullet and then at John. ‘Or at least one murder weapon.’
John shrugged. ‘It’s possible, Stuart, but that’s for you to find out.’
‘And the scratches?’
‘Chance in a million. The bullet almost misfired leaving these marks behind,’ he said. ‘And I’ll tell you something else. On discharge the force of the bullet would have been strong enough to knock an elephant off its feet.’
‘Really?’ Love said. That would explain why they found Monica tied to the chair and flat on her back.
‘Almost,’ said John.
Stuart held out his hand and Love passed him the bullet. ‘Not easy to trace or confirm your theory, John.’
‘We’ll get it through the forensics services team, usual channels, and see what they come up with.’
Love turned his attention away from the bullet and back to John. ‘What sort of sharp instrument?’
The older man looked thoughtful as he stroked his monochrome beard. ‘Hard one to answer I’m afraid although I can tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t a pair of scissors. See these marks here.’ He broke off and pulled the sheet back to reveal a fine set of cuts on her stomach. ‘The instrument responsible for this has a fine blade and is incredibly sharp.’
‘Like a tool? Like the one used on Carol Butterfield?’
‘I can’t answer that, not yet, but yes, possibly a professional’s tool.’
‘What sort of profession?’ Love asked quietly. ‘Jeweller? Electrician? Surgeon?’
‘I’m not certain but yes, it could be the work of a scalpel,’ he said, and stared at Love. ‘You know,’ he paused, ‘corpses can talk to you.’
‘I know,’ replied Love. ‘I’ve had many a conversation with a corpse, a one-way conversation. They talk and I listen. I only wish I’d been called in from the beginning with Carol Butterfield instead of now. I’d liked to have talked to her,’ he added.
Stuart turned his gaze from the body of Monica to speak to John. ‘Taken the stomach contents?’
The pathologist nodded as he placed his clipboard to one side. He took a few steps over to a bench where he picked up a glass container. ‘Traces of a light brea
Love lifted his eyebrow in acknowledgement. ‘Such as?’
‘Coffee with milk, possibly rice or soya milk I’ll be able to confirm that later,’ he said, gazing at the contents. ‘And a slice of toast and marmalade.’
‘Off the top of my head I would say that’s rice milk not soya milk,’ Stuart remarked.
‘How would you know?’ said John.
‘Soya milk is great on its own or when used in cereals and stuff but it doesn’t taste so good in coffee or tea,’ he explained. ‘Quite disgusting in fact, personally I use rice milk.’
John gazed at Stuart. Stuart shrugged his shoulders. ‘As a family we mostly avoid sugar, dairy and meat, but if I do drink cow’s milk I ensure it’s organic and lactose-free.’
‘Well, good for you,’ John said.
‘But rice milk curdles in tea. It tastes all right but looks disgusting. If you can get past the shallowness of how it appears then you’re fine.’
‘Thank you, Stuart, I’ll remember that,’ John said. ‘Especially as I’m trying to cut down on the cow juice myself.’ He peeled off his gloves and walked over to a small sink in the corner where he began to wash his hands. ‘I’ll mention it to the wife.’
‘And thank you, Julia Child.’ Love looked from one man to the other before resting his gaze on Stuart. ‘I need to check her clothes. I need you to do your thing, mate.’
Stuart nodded and grinned. ‘Sure.’
John gestured with his head. ‘Help yourself, Love, they’re just behind you.’
‘Thanks.’ Love nodded, turned round and strode over to a large chrome shelving unit. He reached into a drawer, pulled out a pair of surgical gloves, slipped them on, grabbed the two plastic boxes sitting on top and placed them on a stainless steel bench next to it, flipped open the lid on one and pulled out a plastic evidence bag. He opened the zip. It was the only sound to be heard. He reached inside and extracted the garment.
‘FST find anything on these?’
‘Forensics services team? On preliminary examination, no, not a thing but they will be coming back shortly to inspect the items in more detail.’ John flipped open the lid on the steel pedal bin and tossed a paper towel inside before strolling back over to where Monica was laid out. ‘But something tells me they won’t find anything.’
‘What about the kid’s clothing the FST took away with them?’
‘The blood on it is slightly contaminated but we’re working together on that.’
Stuart walked over to stand next to Love. He pulled on a pair of surgical gloves. ‘Is this everything that was on her?’
‘Yes,’ John said. ‘It’s all there.’
‘Nice quality,’ Stuart said, as he pulled out a pair of black slim full-length leggings. ‘Proskins anti-cellulite sportswear.’ He glanced at the label. ‘You can pick up a pair from Tesco or Next where they retail for about £50.00.’ He folded the leggings placing them to one side.
‘And this?’ Love said, as he watched Stuart pull out another bag.
‘This looks like a retro from the 1990s.’ He held it up in front of him. It was torn where the assailant had cut off a piece to use as a blindfold for Timmy. ‘A slim, long-line bright pink Minnie Mouse T-shirt, round neck with a cartoon print both front and back of Minnie Mouse.’ He placed it on top of the leggings. ‘Give or take a quid I’d say around £25.00. Cute.’
‘Sweet look,’ Love said. ‘Real sweet.’
‘Sweet?’ Stuart looked up at Love. ‘Sweet as in “cute” or sweet as in have you been watching Psych again?’
‘Both actually,’ Love said, and smiled. ‘And purely for Cybill Shepherd although there was one episode in series two that had me laughing out loud.’ Love watched as Stuart gently retrieved a black poncho from its evidence bag. ‘The humour had a distinct British feel to it.’
‘And you could see the difference? Excellent,’ he murmured. ‘We’ll turn you into a home-grown Brit yet, partner.’
‘Really.’ Stuart laid out the garment in front of him. ‘This is nice. It’s cashmere with a V-shape front and back and side splits.’ He checked the label. ‘The White Company and I believe they retail round the £140.00 mark.’ He folded it carefully before replacing it in its bag. He reached into the box again.
‘These are quality,’ he said as he extracted an ankle boot. He peered carefully at it, turning it over, studying the label inside. ‘Okay, what we have here is a pair of tan Eska suede ankle boots from the Sessùn range purchased from Liberty.’ He placed it down on the bench in front of him. ‘Low crepe heel, curved tops which can be turned over to reveal a soft lambskin lining, adjustable strap across the front with buckle fastening at the side.’ He looked at Love.
Stuart thought for a moment. ‘If memory serves they sell for £255.00.’
‘Nice-looking outfit,’ Love said.
Stuart pulled out the final bags. Underwear by Marks and Spencer. Black. Plain. Comfortable. Not part of a matching set. One pair of white ballet tights, a black leotard and a Scrunchie. He lifted out the final evidence bag inside of which was a Hessian shopping bag. The contents included a pair of pink ballet pumps size six.
‘Yeah, nice stuff,’ Stuart murmured. ‘Quietly sexy, quality, flattering, well put together.’
‘And unless she throws us a curve ball I would say fitting for the owner,’ Love said, and half turned to address John. ‘No jewellery or cell phone, I mean, a mobile?’
John pointed to the bag Stuart was holding. ‘The remains of her mobile, and it’s incomplete by the way, are in the bag in what appears to be half a dozen tiny pieces and as for her jewellery, no rings, necklaces - nothing.’
Stuart reached for the leotard. He held it in his hands fingering it. Love watched as his partner brought the garment up to his face. He inhaled deeply.
‘And?’ Love said.
‘Clean. No traces of sweat.’ He turned to look at John. ‘What was she wearing when she came in?’
John picked up his clipboard and studied it. ‘Everything you see before you except for the ballet shoes.’
‘Which all indicates she was abducted and killed before her dance class,’ Love said.
‘How are we doing on that?’ Stuart asked.
‘Until we discover which academy Monica attended…’
‘The constables will begin investigating all dance studios within a five-mile radius of her home. They’ll increase it to ten should they find nothing and go from there.’
Stuart glanced at the clipboard in John’s hand. ‘What happened to the iPad?’
‘Put it down for a moment looked away and my assistant accidentally split some bowel contents over it.’ He shrugged. ‘And that was the end of detailing my findings on electronic gadgets.’
‘I’m with you there,’ Love murmured. He strolled back over to where Monica Dixon was laid out. He stared down at her face.
‘Sticking to pen, paper and my PC from now on - spill what you want on this,’ John said as he held out his clipboard, ‘and all information won’t be lost.’
Stuart walked over to join the two men. He stared down at the body of Monica.
‘Anything else you’d like to know?’ John directed his question at both Love and Stuart.
Love said nothing. He was staring at the face of Monica Dixon. Almost willing her to open her eyes and say ‘gotcha’ like it had all been one big joke. He wasn’t laughing. He was thinking of Timmy lying in hospital. Sometimes he hated his job. He shook his head and left the room.
Stuart gazed down at the white sheeted body in front of him thanked Fitch and sprinted after Love. They were on their way back upstairs before Stuart spoke.
‘What do you think?’
‘I think,’ said Love, as he ran his hand through his thick, layered, dark blond, or dirty blond as it is also known by casting no aspersions as to the cleanliness of Love’s hair which was always fres
‘Too convenient to pin it on a doctor or surgeon.’
‘Yeah, it’s much too convenient. It’s like he’s taunting us. Catch me if you can. And we will,’ he added under his breath.
‘Don’t have much to go on. At least, not yet.’
‘Maybe. Maybe not.’
The two men strolled through the corridors until they came to their own office. It was a corner office, contemporary and airy due to windows running the length of two walls giving spectacular views over the river, Vauxhall Bridge, and Albert Embankment beyond.
Love spent a lot of time staring out of the window. Seeing but not observing. Thinking. Chewing over leads or hunches. He was methodical and tenacious in his approach. Irritatingly so, some thought, and he wasn’t always popular because of it, but he got results.
It got him to where he was today. One of the elite.
‘I promise you, Love, he’s made a mistake somewhere and we’ll find it. Sooner or later.’
Love said nothing as he raised his hand to the door. He punched in a series of numbers on a keypad. The glass-fronted door buzzed and clicked and he pushed it open. ‘Count on it.’
The file on Carol Butterfield was still open on his desk exactly where he’d left it. He pulled out the plastic folder containing the photographs. He sifted through the black and white sheets taken at the scene of the crime and a dozen of her post-tidy taken by John Fitch. It showed a young, slim woman. Her blonde hair was scraped back from her face to reveal bruises and a broken cheekbone. At first glance, the cuts on her stomach looked random but as Love studied them he noticed they had a systematic approach to them.
They were precise. They were, he realised to himself with a sick feeling, personal.
He pulled out a wedding photograph taken sixteen years earlier. It showed a young couple smiling and happy.
But isn’t that how most marriages start out?
Love hadn’t liked her husband but he had nothing to pin on him. He had an alibi at the time of her death. Simply because you didn’t like someone, it didn’t make them a suspect. Personal feelings could help in a job like his but they could also be a hindrance. He had to tread carefully. He couldn’t afford to mess up.
Love glanced once more at her photograph reached into his jacket and flipped open his notepad. What was it about these two women? Why these particular two? What invisible cord bound them together?
The telephone was answered on the second ring.
Enigma by Wolf Black / Mystery & Detective have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on15 votes