Authors: Rob Kitchin
‘Keep driving,’ McEvoy ordered. They were like a pack of vultures feeding on other people’s misery, he reflected. They’d pick apart Laura more thoroughly than the pathologist.
The car sped up slightly, rising up the driveway past the small church, and swung right onto the narrow road that wound its way down the valley to Enniskerry. Fifty yards later it stopped at an entranceway.
McEvoy exited the car, followed by Hannah Fallon and Barney Plunkett. He showed his card to the local guard. ‘Nobody’s to follow us in, okay.’
‘Sir.’ The man nodded in affirmation.
He pushed open a small gate and hurried up the path. ‘You know anything about this place?’ he asked.
‘Came here when I was a kid,’ Hannah replied. ‘It’s where German servicemen who died in Irish territory during the first and second world wars are buried.’
The path led into an old quarry. The floor had been flattened and laid out across its surface were three beds of heather – small plaques laid flat on the soil indicated who was buried beneath. Six sets of low, double stone crosses were scattered across the beds. To one side there was a small grotto where four guards stood chatting.
‘Detective Superintendent McEvoy,’ McEvoy announced. ‘Where am I meant to be looking?’
One of the guards stepped forward. ‘They’re over there, Sir,’ he said, pointing to the nearest set of double crosses.
Stuck on the top of the left-hand cross was a business card. McEvoy scanned the other sets. One cross of each of the six pairs sported a card.
Plunkett leant forwards, careful not to step out onto the heather. ‘
The Rule Book
,’ he read out. ‘A self-help guide for would-be serial killers. In all good book shops soon. There’s a picture of a bird as well. Looks like a crow or a raven at a guess.’
‘The bastard’s trying to taunt us,’ McEvoy stated flatly. ‘We have chapter one. You think there are six more to follow?’ he speculated, pointing at the crosses.
‘Possibly’ Hannah replied, shrugging. ‘Are they all the same?’
Plunkett edged his way along the path, leaning out to each set of crosses. ‘Yeah.’
‘Jesus,’ McEvoy muttered. ‘You’d better get a team up here, Hannah, see if they can find anything useful.’
The man held the filthy blouse aloft then buried his face in its thin cotton, drawing in Laura’s pungent, musky body odour and the debris of
’s city streets. Killing her had been mechanical; clinical. She had put up no resistance – no fight, no screams, no drama. She had simply followed his instructions, undressing passively and lying on the bed.
He removed the blouse from his face and threw it onto the open fire recalling her final moments. She had held her arms tight to her side and opened her mouth wide, staring through him rather than at him. She had been his mirror, displaying as much emotion as he himself had felt. It was as if she had already departed to another world and he was acting outside of himself, his anger centred and benign; both of them in a different space and time.
The sword had been slightly too wide and its weight difficult to balance above her. He’d nodded at her once, she’d blinked – the first sign that she’d noticed him and what was happening – and he’d thrust the sword down, pulling hard on the hilt, ramming it through her neck, the mattress, and into the floorboard below. Her spine had severed easily, the sword widening her grimace, her eyes bulging with reflexive shock, her limbs involuntarily jerking.
He was surprised at how little blood there had been. Except for the soaking of the sheets and the pools snaking across the floorboards, there had been very little; just the occasional spray across her face and upper torso, a little onto the walls. He had cleaned up carefully after himself, gently wiping down and cleansing her body, taking his time, doing a thorough job. There had been no elation or euphoria, no sorrow or regrets; no anything.
He pulled her dirty white bra from a plastic bag and held it aloft, gazing at the worn and frayed lace frill, recalling her slight breasts and rosebud nipples. He drew the bra to his face and savoured the smell of fear and self-loathing. He smiled to himself and lowered it slowly onto the open fire, watching raptly as the lace twisted and shrank to black wisps as it encountered the flames.
The dining hall had been re-organised into an incident room. On one side of the room three computers had been set up along a wall, each staffed by a guard. Above them, tacked to the wall were two patchwork quilts, each small panel stating a message of peace and hope. On the opposite wall was a row of old, wooden tables, file boxes stacked on top. On the table nearest the door were two flasks, a stack of polystyrene cups, and a basket of biscuits.
A scattering of orange plastic chairs occupied the middle of the hall. Hannah Fallon and Fay Butler, the DS in charge of the room, were sitting together chatting quietly; John Joyce, Peter O’Reilly and Kenny Johns were standing nearby, lost in their own thoughts, swirling the coffee in their cups.
At the far end of the room a map of the area had been taped to the wall, a whiteboard standing nearby. McEvoy was standing in front of the map, mentally tracing the different ways the killer could have got to and from the centre.
Barney Plunkett entered the room and headed for the refreshments table. He pressed the top of a flask, squirting hot coffee into his cup and grabbed a couple of biscuits.
Sensing that the team was now complete, McEvoy turned to face the others. ‘Right okay, let’s make a start,’ he announced more harshly than he intended.
The assembled team finished off their sentences, the four men pulling up chairs and sitting down.
‘We need to review where we’re at,’ he instructed, ‘swap notes and make a plan of action. I want to catch this bastard, hopefully before he can kill again. That poor girl was sacrificed. I …’ McEvoy hesitated, ‘well, words can’t describe … let’s just say that I haven’t seen anything like it in 20 years and I never want to see it again. So what have people got? Hannah, how about we start with you?’
Hannah brushed her auburn hair off her face and glanced round at the others. ‘We’re still processing the scene. I won’t have anything concrete until we’ve run the tests in the lab. We’re still waiting for Elaine Jones to arrive, so nothing on the body I’m afraid. It looks like he was very careful. Probably wore gloves, hairnet, whatever. There are no footprints, despite the amount of blood, just smears. It’s as if he was wearing socks over his shoes, though that’s just a guess. We’re also going to get a lot of noise from previous occupants; God knows how many people have slept in the room in the past couple of years. We’ve only just started work on the cemetery.’
McEvoy looked up from scribbling a note on a pad. ‘Any questions?’
‘Was he suited up before or after the killing?’ Fay Butler asked. In her mid-forties, with dyed blonde hair cut in a bob, she was wearing a well-cut, dark blue trouser suit. A large, plain silver cross hung round her neck, resting on top of a round-necked, cream top. ‘If it was before, he would’ve probably had to have made his way to the room already suited up – difficult to change while he’s assaulting her. That or he’d have had to restrain her, then change; but then he’d have risked leaving traces in any struggle before she was subdued.’
‘It doesn’t look like she was physically restrained,’ Hannah replied. ‘We’ll have to wait for Elaine Jones for confirmation, but that’s my assessment. It might be that he broke in first; then got changed while he waited for her to return,’ she speculated.
‘In which case,’ McEvoy said, ‘that would mean the murder was probably committed some time shortly after Laura returned from the drinking session. What time did people go down to the den? We need to know if anyone was spotted entering the building around that time.’
‘I don’t think anyone was mentioned in the interviews,’ Kenny Johns replied. ‘I’ll re-check the statements.’
‘How about the room?’ McEvoy asked. ‘Any sign that it had been broken into?’
‘No,’ Hannah replied, ‘but by the look of the door and the lock it wouldn’t have been difficult to get in undetected – hardly
‘Right, okay,’ McEvoy said slowly, ‘any more questions for Hannah?’
The room stayed silent.
‘Kenny, how about the interviews?’
Johns adjusted his tie and tugged a shirt sleeve, his hand staying in place to play with his cufflink as he started to speak. ‘We have preliminary statements from all of the centre’s staff and the homeless group. We’re still working on cross-checking their stories and eliminating people, but just about everyone seems to have an alibi – mainly that they were sharing rooms. I have a couple of the team checking on previous convictions, but my guess is that it’s all going to be stuff like burglary or drugs, maybe drunk and disorderly, not violent crimes. There’s a few shifty characters okay, and we need to re-check a few things, but I get the sense our man isn’t amongst them.’
‘How about the missing five?’ Plunkett asked.
‘We’re still waiting for them to be tracked down,’ Johns replied. ‘Once they are, they’re top of our priority list.’
‘Anyone obviously hiding anything?’ John Joyce asked.
‘Just about all the homeless group – dealing with the guards is well down their things-to-do list. Let’s just say they kept things to a minimum.’
‘Did any of them claim to be friends with the victim?’ McEvoy asked.
‘Not that I’m aware,’ Johns said. ‘I’ll ask round the team but anyone I spoke to said she was a loner. She kept herself to herself; hardly said a word to anyone. I got the impression they didn’t really know how to react. They were sorry that she was dead, but they’re not really in a position to grieve; they didn’t really know her. Plus they have their own problems and demons to worry about.’
‘If she hadn’t been killed here,’ Joyce stated, ‘no one would have known she was dead.’
‘And we don’t know who she is yet either,’
added. ‘All we have is the body and a first name. Laura.’
‘We know a young life was taken too early and that’s enough,’ McEvoy said firmly. ‘Did no one hear anything? The sound of a struggle? The thud of the sword hitting the floor? Jesus, that must have made one hell of a noise.’
‘Nothing other than a few of the lads having a drunken party in one of the rooms,’ Johns replied. ‘If your man was waiting for her to return then, as you say, there was probably no one around to hear the killing.’
‘We can’t take it that he broke in first for granted,’ McEvoy responded. ‘But if no one heard the sword then it’s more probable that she was killed after she left the den but before the others did.’
‘Unless they mistook it for a slamming door,’ Plunkett offered.
‘Which is another possibility,’ McEvoy conceded. ‘We need to try and get an approximate time of death from the body. Anything else from the interviews?’
‘I don’t think so,’ Kenny replied.
‘Okay, tell the centre staff and
they’re free to go, but to leave contact details. Explain to the
that we’re releasing the homeless kids into their care. Ask them to try and set up hostel accommodation or something. We don’t want them scattering to the four winds. Peter, John, how are the questionnaires coming on?’
‘I’ve got 40 officers out,’ Peter O’Reilly responded. ‘Thirty doing the door-to-door, ten scouting round the site looking for anything he might have dumped – a couple of them picked up the business cards. I’m looking after the door-to-door, Detective Sergeant Joyce the search work. We’re surveying every property within a five-mile radius. We’ve not got too much so far. Sightings of strangers, but then the place is full of strangers given the number of tourists and people coming into the mountains to walk.