Sunday, 13 January 2013

SILHOUETTES - Seventeenth instalment

SILHOUETTES - Seventeenth instalment - Chapter thirty-three. For more information on this novel, click Here.


DS Hartless had been unceremoniously kicked awake by his angry wife at three a.m. that morning. His phone ringing and she wanted it silent, and if it took a few bruised ribs on her spouse to get the damn thing quiet, then so be it.

He had been dreaming about being in a foursome with Lady Gaga and her two sisters, but the digs he felt weren't the rough tumble of three girl, four in a bed, foreplay, but the angry kicks of Martha. No skimpy studded leather underwear and 36 double-D's leaning over him brandishing handcuffs then, but a rudely awakened woman in ankle to neck Paisley pattern bed coat and plastic rollers in her hair, and spittle spraying from her mouth as she howled at him to answer the damn phone.

Thirty minutes later he was at the scene of the crime that had got him out of bed at three in the morning. He had gotten a full three hours of sleep. Berated by his wife, and then scowled at by DI Oswalk, for not having a spare set of sterile scene of crime overalls in his car, though neither did she or she wouldn't have asked him, so she should be giving herself a kick up the arse.

Govanhill was a dump, and Pricey Street was a typical example of deprivation and social breakdown. Half oxymoron, half slum, a proportion of the houses had boarded up windows, these overrun by squatters and junkies and prostitutes, the rest, full of the forgotten underclass that civilised society would rather not have to deal with, at least not in an open or inclusive manner, when clean hands may have to be shaken with the needy and diseased clammy palms of the proles.

Oswalk managed to pinch a pair of white overalls from someone and they entered the house. They could see the body in the hall from the doorway, the blood splatter on the walls, a pathetic look of shocked surprise on the grey face of the victim. The pathologist pulled the head of the corpse forward and pointed at a mess of blood and brain and bone.

'Blunt force trauma, bludgeoned to death,' he said. 'Body's still warm, I'd say little more than an hour ago.'

'You can take notes,' Oswalk turned to Hartless. 'So, what?' she asked the pathologist, 'iron bar, bat, heavy object, what?'

'Hard to say, nothing around the victim, will know more...'

'Yeah, when you get back to the morgue.'

Stepping over the corpse, they checked out the living room first, untidy, some drink tumblers on a table, Hartless bagged them for prints.

He noticed a photograph on the wall next to the window, something about it clawed at his mind.

'Sick fucker,' called Oswalk, 'kiddie porn.'

She was holding up a brown envelope and a collection of photographs of children she had extracted from a hole in the floor. She bagged them and switched on a laptop on a corner computer desk. When it booted and asked for a password, she turned it off again, hacking wasn't her strong point.

'Make sure this is bagged and checked out as a priority,' she said.

Which meant, thought Hartless, he would have to bag and tag it and lug it back to the station.

In the bedroom they saw where the restraints had been tied at each corner of the bed, some badly built wooden flat pack affair from Ikea, thought Hartless, some steel D-rings had been screwed into each pine leg to secure the bindings.

'What about the child?' asked Oswalk. She picked up a small green anorak lying in the corner. It covered a pair of a children's sandals.

'Hospital says leg broke in two places, suffering shock, and was in a great deal of pain, but they've sedated her, we won't get near her till tomorrow, and we don't even have a name yet.'

'No sexual assault?' said Oswalk.

'She was lucky,' said Hartless, 'that was the obvious intention. Some Guardian Angel interrupted the bastard just in time, and smote the bastard down, with some heavy blunt object, as yet unfound.'

He discovered a small backpack kicked under a chest of drawers and pulled it free. He unzipped the bag with a gloved hand and tipped the contents out on the top of the chest. A few school jotters, a pencil case, a couple of pens, a bar of chocolate, and a small cuddly teddy-bear. Her name was written badly in block capitals on the front of each jotter. Her name was Samantha McQueen. Age 10 was scrawled under her name, and under that was written St. Mathew's Primary School, Govanhill.

Oswalk was immediately on the phone, got an out of hours number for the school, then called for an address, was told by the Head Teacher, who was at home, tired, and had no access there, that they wouldn't give that information out over the phone anyway, it needed a form signed. Oswalk was fuming. She ordered the Head Teacher to immediately get round to the school or be arrested for perverting the course of justice. She didn't know if this was a possibility, but it usually scared the plethora of jobsworths she routinely encountered into complying.

'Get your arse round there,' she ordered Hartless. 'Some parent's wondering where the fuck her daughter is and this bastard's quoting the Data Protection Act. Get the address, then get on to social services, see if they've heard of her. Then get back here, we'll go see the parents together.'

Hartless began peeling off his gloves.

'Oh, and then get on to the Local Education Authority, I don't care what time it is, and tell them how uncooperative their St Mathew's School Head Teacher is.'

It was now just four in the morning, it was still pitch dark, half the street lights were out, a spittle of rain hit him, he would not get home to his bed again. He was stuck now and would probably be on duty till late this afternoon.

As he got into his car he noticed that even though it was the middle of the night, and now was pissing down, people still had got dressed and come out in the streets to gawp at the proceedings. Murders in this area were a common occurrence, he thought, they can't be out for that, they must have heard about the kid.

The city was beginning to have the mark of the apocalypse on it. The disappearance of a young female student, probably buried in a shallow grave by now, the abduction of a child, and the murder of the paedophile abductor.

At the school, he met the Head Teacher unlocking the gate to the car park. She glared at him.

'Mary Hark,' she said, 'head teacher. Are you the police?'

'Sorry for the inconvenience,' he said, 'yes, DS Hartless.'

'Is she dead?' she asked.

The schooling Hartless had been given at primary wasn't great, but the teachers were ok. This women looked as if she'd be happier if she was in charge of a lunatic asylum rather than be humbled here the head of a mere local school.

'No,' he replied, 'in hospital though.'

'Not dead?'

Hartless nearly apologised to her for the fact that the child that had brought her to the school at this hour of morning was in fact still alive.

'She's in a bad way,' he stated. 'I can't really say more than that, enquiries continuing and all that...'

Five minutes later he was back in the car and on the phone. A couple of clicks on the school computer had revealed a home address, two streets away from the scene of crime, the fact she was from a single parent family, mother's name, Julie McQueen, 26 years old, a string of previous convictions for shop-lifting, aggravated assault, possession of drugs, and prostitution. He relayed the information to Oswalk and arranged to meet her outside the Ash Street address of Julie McQueen. He didn't bother to phone the Local Education Authority and report the Head Teacher for being uncooperative.

Oswalk's car was already on the street as he approached the house, he parked behind her, the abundance of parking space just reinforced the poverty of the area. She got out the car and came to his, pointed to a house across the road, a three storey tenement, and going by the numbers, Julie McQueen should be in the middle right. A light was on in the front facing room, someone was at home.

'Remember, she's the parent of a child victim,' he cautioned Oswalk.

'Fuck,' she cried, 'what do you think I'm going to do, rake the ashtray for spliff ends and do her for possession?'

Hartless tapped the door quietly. No answer.

'Give it a fucking thump,' she ordered.

He gave it a good impatient police at the door battering. Opened the letter box flap and peered through. No sound or sign of movement from within, though he could see the door to the front room ajar and the light from within slightly illuminated the hall. The floor was covered in linoleum, a child's bicycle was propped against the wall, and there was a coat rack with several different coloured coats and jackets hanging from it. No sign of life.

'What do you think?' he asked Oswalk.

'Kick it in,' she said, and got on the radio to inform base of their intent.

There was no need to kick it in, Hartless tried the handle and the door was unlocked. Which was just as well, he thought when he closed it behind them both. Two Yales, a deadlock, and sliding bolts at the top middle and bottom of the door would've made it impossible to kick in.

'Hello. Police!' he called when they entered. No answer.

They approached the lighted room ominously, something was wrong in this house.

The mother lay on the couch, staring at the ceiling in death. Vomit trailed from her mouth and down the front of her clothing. A syringe and a cornucopia of other assorted drug paraphernalia were parked neatly in a shoebox on top of a coffee table. The TV was on but the volume was muted. David Attenborough was silently narrating the mating habits of the penguins of the Antarctic. Shivers of cold ran down the spine of Hartless, not from the chilly picture of the snow covered continent displayed on the screen, but from the deathly pale corpse, the second in as many hours, and the fact a ten year old child was now motherless.

Oswalk was already on the radio organising a doctor, a scene of crime unit, and for the pathologist to get his arse in gear from Pricey Street and get round here ASAP.

He felt for a pulse on the neck as a matter of formality, she had been dead for hours; the coldness of the body strayed up his arm and chilled his heart. It looked more like an accidental overdose rather than a suicide, but he looked about for a note.

'Well?' asked Oswalk.

'Looks like an OD, but with the child in the equation?'

'Perhaps set up to look like suicide to aid the abduction of the kid.'

'Or maybe the kid knew the paedo, an uncle, or client she trusted, and went round there to inform of her mother's condition?'

Next instalment coming soon...
To read this novel from the start go here.

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2013 All rights reserved

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