Printed from WriteWords -

The Archaeology of Murder, chapter 6

by  mongoose

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Word Count: 2202
Summary: The police have been to the university and interviewed Professor Decker and learned more about the negative side of the victim. Now they are beginning to question some of the other characters. We see deeper into Carolinne's character

Later that same evening Carolinne and David were in their office at the central police station in Reading. In the last hour uniformed police had been to the cramped terraced house in West Reading that Cassandra and Ruth shared with another girl from the university. The patrol car had promptly collected Jake from a similarly pokey but all-male student house two streets away and all three were now waiting in the brightly lit and slightly intimidating reception area of the station.

David looked at his watch, it was 8.07pm. He looked out of the window on the second floor of the building. The grey clouds that had seemed to hang oppressively over the town all day had finally released their contents and a fine rain was falling against the cold glass of the window. It was nearly dark already. The sound of the vehicles from the ring-road was dying down as the rush hour traffic thinned out. People hurried home to their houses to close down the working day and to wrap themselves in the comforting warmth of domesticity to counteract the chill of the cool and wet night.

Carolinne was sitting at her organised desk sorting through a pile of message slips, each one representing a call she needed to return or a task that she had yet to do. There were 24 un-opened emails marked in bold on her computer screen. She glanced over at David’s back as he looked out of the window, wondered briefly what he is thinking about and then picked up a faxed report from her in-tray and scanned through it. It was the preliminary autopsy report on the prostitute who had died in the past week due to heroin poisoning. Her eyes picked out the details of the findings. ‘Name: Karen Overton; Age: 24; Date of Death: Tuesday 7th September; Cause of death: heroin poisoning.’ She read down the page and noted the stark findings that marked the end of another young life. She saw that this victim was the same age as Peter Sacking.

“Did you get anything from the Intelligence Department about the squat where we found Peter?”

“They had nothing on it Ma’am,” said David as he turned his back on the night outside. “They knew that the wooded area behind the houses was sometimes used for drugs from the usual stuff; used needles and empty cans everywhere but they didn’t know that one of the houses was being used. It must have been a fairly recent break-in.”

“Had they got in via the back?”

“Yes, the lock on the back door had been broken but it was a clean job. You’d have to be right up close to the door to see that the lock was damaged. There’s a wall that separates the gardens of the properties from the wooded area. It’s probably why no one has noticed what has been happening.”

Carolinne thoughtfully tapped the end of a blue biro on her lower lip as she looked back down at the autopsy report on the dead prostitute. Her mind was roaming back and forth between the Sacking case and the drugs- related prostitute deaths.

“What about this contaminated heroin that’s coming in? Do they have anything on that?”

David sat down at his desk and opened up an email on his computer, his eyes scanning the bright screen.

“It’s the second batch in three years that has been contaminated and used in this area. They don’t know how it is imported but they believe that it’s possibly coming in from somewhere like Uzbekistan. They don’t know if it comes in straight to Berkshire or has come down from London or up from Southampton.”

“Do they have any samples of it?”

“Not yet Ma’am. There was nothing at the scenes of deaths of either of the prostitutes.”

He scrolled down further to the bottom of the email and let out a sigh.
“We either need someone to make contact with us from the street with a sample or wait for another death and hope that something is left on the scene. The thing is, if the body is found first by one of the street girls or their cohorts then they take anything valuable before we even get a chance to get there.”

Carolinne wondered again about how people get to the point of only seeing what is valuable to them at a scene of death. Was there never any concern for the victim? Or perhaps there was concern but it was suffocated under the more pressing forces of desperation and greed. She recognised her lapse into reflection for what it was; a sign that it had been a long day and that she was feeling worn down and tired. She stood up, picked up her mobile and the Sacking case file.

“Come on, let’s go and talk to the three amigos downstairs and see if we can make any progress on this case.”

David, slightly taken aback but his Senior’s uncharacteristic slip into humour, smiled and picked up his personal case notes.

Cassandra, Jake and Ruth were sitting in the brightly lit reception area of the police station. The dull coloured painted walls were covered in anti-crime leaflets and posters like an urban patchwork quilt. The students were not talking to each other and were trying to not make eye contact with a drunk man who was sitting in the corner and occasionally voicing his opinions about the local police force.

David opened the door into the reception area and asked the three students to follow him.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.” He held the door to the corridor open for them. “It’s been a busy day. If you could just come this way please and we’ll go to one of the rooms along here.”

His shoes squeaked and sounded unnaturally loud on the waxed plastic floor covering of the corridor. He stopped in front of an open door and ushered the three into the room where Carolinne was already waiting at a central table. She stood up as they entered and saw the three wary pairs of eyes look at her, collectively scan the room and then settle uncertainly again on her face.

“Thank you for coming here so late in the evening. Sit down please.” She indicated three chairs on the other side of the table. David sat down next to his senior officer.

“I expect you are wondering what this is all about.” She smiled comfortingly at them.

“I’m afraid I have some upsetting news for you. A fellow student of yours, Peter Sacking, was found dead earlier today.”

The exclamations of disbelief and shock were all voiced at the same time. Of the three, Cassandra seemed outwardly to be the most composed. Her long ash-blond hair was pulled back from her face and fell in heavy waves down her back. A few of the fine strands of hair in her fringe trembled against the tips of her eyelashes slightly as she blinked rapidly and quietly said,

“Dead? Where? What happened to him?”

Carolinne noted that her face looked drained of blood and had a greenish tinge as if she was coming down with the flu. Ruth had her left hand in her lap and the fingers of her right hand were covering her trembling lips. Jake’s grey eyes were looking from Carolinne to David and then back again.

“I’m sorry, it’s too early to be sure exactly what happened at this stage but we are treating his death as suspicious.”

“Suspicious?” said Ruth through her fingers, “what does that mean?” She was starting to shake. Cassandra put her left hand on Ruth’s right knee.

“I’m afraid it means that his death wasn’t an accident.”

Ruth let out a sound that reminded Carolinne of an injured animal. The student looked down into her lap and began to sob unreservedly. Jake glanced at Ruth and then said,

“What do you need us to do? I mean, what can we do to help? I can’t believe this has happened, we only saw his yesterday. He was supposed to come to the presentation.”

Carolinne was struck again by the way that learning of a sudden death could produce such varied reactions in different people. In Cassandra she saw grief but concern for a friend; in Ruth she saw shock and something like fear and Jake she saw disbelief but an eagerness to know what he had to do.

“We need you all to give us an idea of what you know about Peter and when was the last time you all saw him. At this stage it is important that we get as much information as we can. We need to know what sort of life he led and we know that you were his friends so we hope that you can help us. We’ll need to see you all separately as it will make it easier to write down the important facts that you may be able to tell us. You can all wait for each other and we can drive you back home in a police car if that’s what you would like.”

Jake looked at the girls and said on behalf of the group that they would all travel home together.

**NOTE TO SELF - If you have three witnesses/ people who can give you info but you don’t know if they could or couldn’t be implicated in the murder, would you let them all wait together whilst you were interviewing one or would you put them in separate rooms?**

After the interviews had been completed and David had gone home, Catherine shut down her computer in the office, picked up her bag and coat and made her way to the underground car park. She had passed a couple of colleagues on the stairs and forced herself to smile briefly at them on the way out of the building. She reproached herself for not being more friendly but the day had been long and she was tired.

As the car door shut next to her she put her hands on the cold steering wheel and stared through the windscreen. She was always her own companion in solitude. Going mechanically back through the day in her head, she was questioning herself about all the things she had done. Had she done everything she need to? Had she made sure her colleagues were following up all the necessary leads? Had she set all of the required wheels in motion? She knew that some people had a mental checklist that they went through before sleeping: turning off the gas, unplugging the TV or emptying the kettle. Carolinne could never drive out of the car park without reassuring herself that she had done all of the things that she needed to do and then she allowed herself to go home.

Tonight, however, she sat motionless in the cold car. Something needed to change in her; she felt it. She had begun to feel isolated. No, more than that. She had realised that she had begun to feel lonely. Why did she have to force herself to smile at her colleagues just now? Why hadn’t it come naturally to her? Why did conversations become stilled when she entered a room? For so long she had been proud of her success in the force. Proud of her promotions and case records. But pride didn’t keep you company. It didn’t congratulate you when you did well or put things into perspective when you made a mistake. It didn’t comfort you. She tried to think of the last time that she felt comforted in the presence of another person. Five, six years ago? But with that pleasant memory came a sharp and stinging one. It was like having a double-edged sword; after the comfort came the loss. And out of the loss came isolation and out of the isolation came loneliness.

The memory was painful to her and she roughly turned the key in the ignition and manoeuvred the car out of the dimness of the car park into the orange glow of the street lights. The car glided into the traffic on the ring road and on into the night. Soon the sky ahead began to seem darker as she drove away from the light pollution of the town and on towards the village in which she lived in South Oxfordshire. Parking her car on her drive, she barely noted the sound of her footsteps on the gravel path to her front door. She usually relished the sound of scrunching gravel underfoot. It made her think of country houses and expensive rural properties, the latter of which she herself now owned. But tonight it did not please her and as she stood in the glow of the lamp-light in her own hallway she looked into her own future and saw nothing but a bleak and uninhabited stretch of nothingness. She had no map and didn’t know how to cross it but every journey had to start somewhere. Pulling on that unknown source of strength from within her that she had from childhood, she pushed the front door shut and locked it against the night.