Read Shallow Waters Online

Authors: Rebecca Bradley

Shallow Waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shallow Waters

By

Rebecca Bradley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

text copyright © 2014 Rebecca Bradley

All Rights Reserved

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

Cover art by paperandsage.com

 

     
 
1

 

The
noise unnerved her as she tried to shift her body in an attempt to ease
the pain. Instead, the slight movement caused every bone and fibre of
her body to howl out in objection. She could no longer tell where the
pain was coming from, but the receptors in her brain kept up their
constant transmissions. The shrieking of her nerve endings blended into
one mindless assault on her senses. The stench of her own urine was
sharp in her nose as it burnt her bruised and bleeding body.

As
she shifted, it creaked and rattled again. She froze, the sound
reawakening her terror, returning her to the reality of her
surroundings. Her eyelids felt heavy and hot, drawn down and
protective, but she forced them open. Just to check.

Her
body throbbed. Blood crusting on dry and broken skin added to the acrid
smell assaulting her nostrils. It tasted bitter and vile in her mouth.
The room was unlit, a faint light sneaking under the door at the far
side of the room casting shadows, playing with her mind. She could make
out shapes in the gloom, furniture she knew was there in the daylight,
shape shifting in the dark. It was quiet. She strained for any sounds
of someone else in there with her.

She
tried to turn her head to check he wasn't there, watching from the
corner. Pain seared through her skull like hot metal rods. She was
alone. Slowly, she lowered it back down onto the damp, sticky plastic
base and let her eyelids close. The dog cage surrounding her was left
behind for the blackness that now enveloped her. 

 

 

2

 

Blue
and red lights sliced through the night as I approached, the rotations
casting eerie signals of death around Nottingham's city community. I
parked in front of a beautiful three storey terraced town house which
had probably been renovated down into several flats by now, the insides
a distant remnant of its former glory. This was a contradictory street:
old stone buildings on one side, shops and restaurants with run down
flats above them on the other. It was as close as I could get. The
perimeter cordon and the parked liveried vehicles of the first
responders made it difficult to park adjacent to the alley I needed to
be in. I climbed out of my Peugeot 308 and locked it. Pocketing the
keys, I approached on foot, digging my hands into my coat pockets,
shoulders hunched up to my ears in an attempt to keep warm. The end of
October brought a definite drop in temperature and I hated the cold. It
was bloody freezing here and the wind bit at my face, snapping and
sucking the living warmth out of me.  As I walked towards the
scene I could see the uniformed officers on point duty, preventing the
ghoulish section of humanity from entering the area. It disgusted me,
the horrors people wanted to see. Looking up above the shops and
restaurants in front of me, my breath made a smoky pathway through the
dark. Dirty grey nets and floral curtains twitched. Pasty faces of
woken residents peered out at the disruption below.

My
DS, Aaron Stone, strode over, pulling his blue face mask down so it
hung around his neck like a second chin. We walked to the Crime Scene
van parked next to a flapping blue and white taped police cordon as
Aaron talked.

“The
body's behind the restaurant where the industrial bins are. Girl's been
dumped behind them. Naked. She's pretty bashed up. One of the workers
was taking the rubbish out at the end of his shift. Poor bloke got
sucker punched big time when he saw her on the ground. He's a bit of a
mess. Uniform are with him at the ambulance, trying to get some
details. Jack's on his way and Doug's already here with the other
SOCOs.” Though the new phrase for the forensic officers attending the
crime scene had been Americanised to CSIs, there were some that still
hung on to old traditions and called them SOCOs.  Aaron was
particularly bad at change.

“Thanks
Aaron.” I collected a sterile packaged forensic suit from the back of
the van and started to pull it on wishing I'd worn something warmer. I
felt tenser by the minute. The chill in the air was biting at my
fingers mercilessly. “Do we have an ETA for Jack?”

“He
shouldn't be far behind you. I know he lives further out, but he drives
like a newly qualified teenager with a heavy right foot.” White
booties, hooded suit, gloves and mask in place, we headed into the
alleyway.

 

 

3

 

Someone
had made an attempt to conceal the girl. Her arms were down by her
sides and her knees bent up to her chest, jammed between the bricks of
the external wall of the restaurant and the huge frigid metal
containers. The bin was at an angle to the wall. She was petite and
looked to be between fourteen and sixteen years of age. The area was
swamped by the light of the erected crime scene lamps and I could see
her skin was pale and bruised.

I
held myself still, trying to stop the constrictions that pushed at my
insides. A bitter taste hit the back of my throat and I swallowed
against it. The alley was an occasional home to local vagrants and a
piss stop for drunks. The sight of the child, along with the
overwhelming stench of urine and refuse were overpowering.

“Not pretty,” said Aaron.

“No,” I replied.

Doug
Howell, one of the crime scene techs, gave a quick nod of
acknowledgement in our direction, his face intense as he photographed
the tiny framed girl, the scene around him fractured by the camera
flash as he worked. 

A
car door slammed at the end of the alley, an exchange of voices and
then Jack Kidner, the Home Office registered forensic Pathologist
rounded the corner into sight.

“Couldn't you get me up any earlier young Hannah?” he shouted as he walked towards me.

“Sorry,
Jack, you know how this city is. Runs by its own rules, spits out
whatever it chooses, whenever it chooses, regardless of our plans for
sleep.”

“By
Jove, you did get out the wrong side of bed this morning didn't you?”
He smiled, the only indication of this the crinkling of laughter lines
around his eyes behind his protective mask.

“Thanks for coming, I appreciate it.” I sidestepped, allowing him to see the child discarded with the rubbish.

“God
help us.” he muttered as he crouched beside her, a medical bag that
looked like it had seen better days allowed to drop to the ground.
“Doug, old chap, do stop flashing those blessed lights. I'm going to
have an epileptic fit at this rate. Move the lamps in a little so I can
see better, then you can flash away again before I move in closer.”

Doug,
whose mass of grey hair had given rise to Jack's descriptive “old chap”
phrase, stopped. “It's fine, I have what I need for starters, she's all
yours. I'll photograph as you work.”

“Good man.”

Jack
stooped down and began his examination. He would take samples, test for
any signs of sexual assault, do body taping and take a temperature for
time of death. I gave him space and walked the alleyway with Aaron.

“You
could get a vehicle down here with ease, even with the bins down the
sides,” I thought aloud. “The darkness would offer cover.” The
occasional lamp fitted above some of the buildings’ rear doors gave
little in the way of light. Years of grime obscured their faint yellow
glow; instead they cast shadows and created darker corners. There were
no CCTV cameras down here either, just discarded boxes and crates,
smashed up bottles and glasses and tired, defaced business signs,
neglected and forgotten. Aaron looked at me.

“It's a shit hole,” he said.

“I
know, it's going to be a nightmare of a scene to process.” Everyone was
going to work for their money over the next few days. I stopped and
rubbed the outer edges of my arms, an attempt to stave off the chills
that invaded me, the papery white suit sliding over my jacket. I looked
back down the alley. Jack unfurled himself from his crouched position
and waved us over.

“What have we got?” I asked as he signed the labels on the swab casings.

“If
you look at our girl you can see some lividity. It's not very
pronounced but I can say she's been dead longer than thirty minutes. It
started on her back, but this isn't consistent with how she's laid now,
so she was moved after death.” He pushed the signed and sealed swabs
into his bag.

“Body dump,” said Aaron.

“That
would be my thought. I can't see that this would be our initial crime
scene and, looking at the markings on her, I'd say death did not come
quickly.”

“So, time of death?” I asked.

“Oh
yes, as I was saying, she isn't really starting with rigor either.
Putting together the facts: that it's four degrees out here, she weighs
approximately seventy pounds, is stripped of her clothes and her core
temperature is 34.4 degrees, I would put time of death between two and
four and a half hours ago.”

“That
would make it between ten p.m. last night and half past midnight
today,” I figured. “What time do you want us for the PM?”

“Oh,
I don't know, eleven a.m.? It also gives us time to process her within
the scene before removal. Then I can make some sweet caramel coffee to
warm back up and prep for you. Sound agreeable?”

“Sounds good. I'll see you then. Thanks Jack”

Walking
out of the alley we left a large team of CSIs preparing to do a
fingertip search of the area. Without knowing what is and isn't
relevant, all items would be examined, photographed in situ, logged and
seized, including the contents of the rather large industrial waste
bins. It would be a long night and several days ahead for them. Jack
stayed with them as correct removal of the girl from the scene was
discussed and organised. I was shattered. Much as I loved my job, I
hated nights like these. Nights where I'm dragged from my bed at three
a.m. and sent into dark, dirty alleyways. Nights where I had to start a
murder investigation of the worst kind: that of a child. From now on, I
wouldn't sleep much. My head would be filled with images, of these
things. Sights, sounds and smells together. I'm not just my job. I'm
human and this job was a nasty one; it would take some getting through.

 

 

4

 

Phones
were ringing off the hook and talk of a sandwich collection was an
almost raucous volume. My defrosting brain cells struggled to break
through the noise.

The
incident room was busy and space was tight. Coats were thrown over the
backs of chairs. As well as the assigned investigating detectives, some
uniformed officers had been drafted in to help with the immediate
workload that faced us. I clung to the steaming mug of green tea in my
hands trying to warm my fingers.

Along
with my team, the investigation had the attention of the top brass.
Detective Superintendent Catherine Walker, head of the Nottingham City
division Major Crimes Unit, had been raised from her bed. She wore her
hair in a sleek dark bob, immaculate, no matter what time of day it
was.  She stood tall and assured and she commanded respect. Next
to Walker was my Chief Inspector Anthony Grey. He was a weasley looking
man with a narrow face, balding head and a tall frame. He was so slim
any girl would be envious. As far as supervisors go he was amenable and
he didn't interfere with investigations. Grey was more of a paper
shuffler. 

A
media strategy was required so Claire Betts from the press office was
also here. I liked Claire; she was a straight talker and great at
getting what she needed from the media without selling her soul. Her
talkative and amiable manner hid a shrewd brain that often ran rings
around the press who took her at face value. She looked up from the
paperwork she was reading and caught my eye. She gave an easy smile. I
pushed the corners of my mouth up in response, envious of her energy
and enthusiasm.

I
felt cramped and rubbed my temples with one hand whilst inhaling the
rising tea vapours in an attempt to ease the tension rampaging through
my head and neck.

Grey
moved to the front of the room and stood quietly. His silence demanded
attention. He was about to give his pep talk. Make a show of support
for the officers who would work this with little to no sleep for the
first few days when evidence grabbing was at its most viable.  He
would say the usual comments about working hard, having the support of
the command team and the jolly “get on with it troops!” pat on the
back.

My phone vibrated in my jeans pocket, I pulled it up enough to see the screen.
Dad
.
Conversations with him often went in the same familiar circles and
those circles were often about my sister Zoe. Now wasn't the time for
this. I rejected the call and pushed the phone back down.

When
the sandwich rumblings died down Grey spoke. “We have a dead child. We
need to identify her and return her to her parents. Press attention
will be high because of her age. They will be harsh and they will be
critical. Keep yourselves sharp.”

No one moved.

“I've
spoken with Jack Kidner who will hopefully conduct the post-mortem at
eleven a.m. this morning. I believe Hannah is to attend that with
Sally?” He looked at me. I nodded. Sally, one of the brightest and most
dependable detectives on my team, blanched. Difficult to spot with her
fair complexion, but I saw it. It was unusual. “Forensics still have
the scene and will be there, I imagine, for some time. What do you have
Hannah?”

I put my cup on the desk. I was up.

“We
have a lot to do. We need to check our missing persons database and
liaise with the National Missing Persons Bureau in case this child is
from another county. I want a team to canvas the area for CCTV in local
establishments. Take it wide. Detailed house to house enquires are
needed. If people aren't in when you knock, go back. I saw a lot of
people peeping out of windows last night, so it's possible someone
could have seen her being dumped. I want a tip line set up and for
Claire to prepare press releases to include the number. Someone knows
who this girl is and someone holds information that relates to her
death.” I had all ears.

“We
need to check what time the restaurant closed and identify and locate
all customers who ate there in the run up to closing. Most people pay
by card in some way, shape or form nowadays, it's rare anyone pays with
cash, so that should make it an easier task. Someone may have seen
something but not realised its importance.” My head throbbed. “The PM
this morning will give us more and could help identify her. CSIs will
hopefully give us something we can work with.” I looked at my team,
Aaron and Sally along with Martin and Ross. It was grim. It always is
with a child, but I knew them and they would work their arses off.
“Make sure you get some food and hot drinks down you.”

The throbbing from my head hit my stomach with a nauseating roar. My next stop would be the mortuary.

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