Chapter 15. The pink fleece.
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
The pink fleece was only just visible, Maeve took in the stillness of the body but it was the unnatural twist of the head which convinced her that Anne was dead.
Standing stock still, frozen in shock, she thought, what now? On autopilot Maeve fished her phone out of her pocket and called Steve.
“Stay put, don’t move, and don’t touch anything!” Steve, already on his way out of the station in Canterbury, roared up to the site on his motorbike, and was there in minutes. He had called in the info, and backup was on the way, Maeve had said she didn’t think Anne was alive, he had called the ambulance they would be needed either way, for resuscitation, or to take the body to the morgue.
She hadn’t moved when Steve got there. In that moment he was both a professional police investigator and concerned ‘friend’, without hesitation he gave her a bear hug. The warmth and the energy of the hug, seemed to wake Maeve up. She looked up at Steve, with tears streaming down her face and said, “we only seem to meet in a crisis.” Steve put his arm around her shoulders, “it is getting to be a habit, us meeting in emotional circumstances” and smiled. For a beat they both avoided addressing the situation in front of them. After a pause Maeve added, “poor Anne, she didn’t deserve this.”
Steve had time to scan the scene before the first local officer from the station arrived. There was nothing out of place. No footprints that he could see. The grass grows fast at this time of year so it had probably sprung back into place minutes after the killer had left the scene. The very lushness of the spring this year had hidden the body from any casual passer-by. If they were students or lecturers on their way to class they wouldn’t have noticed a thing.
Once the local team arrived Steve introduced Maeve to Natalie, the police family liaison officer. It seemed like days but it was only a few hours ago that Steve had discussed the ‘missing persons’ case with his Super they had both thought it a good idea to bring Natalie on board, Steve needed someone to make sure everything was run by the book and any personal involvement wasn’t allowed to affect the case. Now it was potentially a murder he was very glad Natalie was there. There would be a media frenzy when this got out. And Ray was going to need the help.
Natalie went with Steve to break the news to Ray. Maeve wasn’t up to the short walk home. When Steve offered her a lift on his bike, Natalie realised that this was Steve’s potential new love interest. This was not the time to say anything.
At the house Maeve left them to it and went home to tell her children. She would go over to support Ray and relieve Ada as soon as the police left.
Once the news was broken to Ray, Steve made his exit to get back to the crime scene. Natalie stayed to go over procedures, explaining what would happen over the next few days.
When Steve got back the local police officers were hard at work, they had a banter that spoke of a camaraderie born of years of working together, used to dealing with the weekend brawls, the road traffic accidents and student trouble, they were a good team of professional officers and the now accepted police volunteers, they had each other’s backs. As Steve arrived they were setting up the tape cordons, and had officers in place to make sure the public didn’t interfere and spoil any evidence. It was a good clean site, no contamination. Steve thought back to his first case, things were different now, more focus on forensics. While the guys were getting on with the work he had a moment to think. Effectively, he had been first on the scene and if Maeve hadn’t been standing there he would have missed the body completely. It wasn’t just that he always thought back to his first case, this time there was a notable similarity. Without getting the official autopsy results, and as he always said assumptions were a bad idea, he was pretty sure that she had died of a broken neck, a quick twist, almost exactly like Susan. What were the odds of that happening twice in Canterbury? Plus the two crime scenes were not far apart, about a 15minutes quick walk, and nine years. Who would want to hurt an older woman out for an evening stroll? This was no Saturday night alcohol fuelled domestic. This was cold. Was it premeditated? Scenario planning is part of the job, but jumping to conclusions isn’t. That’s where good procedures kick in, forcing everyone to follow the right steps and gather information without prejudice, annoyingly it tends to work.
The paramedics were waiting with the ambulance, they had to stay until they were given permission to take the body to the morgue. As it happens it was the Hazard Area Response team that had been sent. Steve could hear one of the paramedics chatting to the officer standing guard. “Canterbury has a surprising number of random deaths, I’ve had heroin overdoses, a drunken student falling down the stairs landing smack on his head, blood everywhere,” he seemed to be enjoying telling his stories, “one old guy we were called to had been dead a while, he must have fallen badly and twisted his neck, a bit grim by the time we got there. And then there are the homeless ones who die of exposure sometimes in the woods and one died right on the High Street, where there must have been people all around him. Not many in or around the university though. And I have never seen a murder before. Of course we normally deal with the living, rescuing people from beaches or cliffs.” Steve was letting it wash over him, at the same time he was going through a similar litany of untimely deaths, which scenario would lead them to the killer? Were any of them linked?
A shout alerted the paramedic to the fact that the body in the crime scene had been recorded and that the body was now ready to be taken away for autopsy and any relevant forensic investigation.
Natalie had talked Ray through the next steps enough times now that she was beginning to wonder if he had early dementia too. Ada picked up on the unintended signs of impatience, “why don’t you leave him now, love. You’ve been great. And we have all the information we need right now. Ray has your number if he thinks of anything useful. We all need the rest so I’m saying we turn in and call it a day. Tomorrow we can deal with the next steps.” Ray was grateful, though he still kept coming back to the questions that were uppermost in his mind. “The funeral, we have to sort that out, there will be an awful lot of people…”, he was having trouble taking it in which was clear when he added “Anne will….”, as if she was going to appear and take over organising her own funeral, then stopping and putting his head in his hands. Ada suggested he take a sleeping tablet which he had already decided on. Maeve arrived and hearing this said, “you’re right Ada, everyone out. I’m staying here to make sure Ray is okay. Thank you officer you have been really helpful”.
Within a few minutes Maeve closed the door on them all, and made herself a cup of tea. She had suggested that Ray get ready for bed and she would check in on him. She had taken a spare duvet and was going to wrap herself up on the sofa. When she looked in on Ray he was already out for the count, the sleeping pill had kicked in. But he was restless tossing from side to side mumbling clearly going over it all in his dreams. She didn’t think he would sleep for long. She settled herself, feet up on the couch balancing the mug of hot tea. Putting it down for a minute she stretched out thinking how surprisingly comfortable she was. The next thing she knew, Ray was beside her washed and dressed holding out a fresh mug of tea, so much for her vigil.