The Winter of Death – Part 10

 
13th December – Mid Morning. St Margaret’s Church, Rainham .
 
 
All but for the gentle hum of passing traffic, the churchyard was quiet. The early morning winter sun had begun to peek its way over the treetops, casting its rays over the battered and worn headstones, long shadows stretching out like fingers. Underfoot, the grass was wet from an overnight frost, and from above, the sweet chirpings of a blackbird emanated from the bent and twisted branches of the bare Yew tree that overhung the old dry stone wall. The scene, at first glance, was one of peace, one of picture postcard beauty. That was until you looked closer. Reverend Harry Flynn had been at St Margaret’s for almost three years. His broad smile and warm demeanor, coupled with his seemingly boundless levels of energy and enthusiasm, had helped, in that short space of time, to turn around the fortunes of the small local parish, with countless fundraising and charity events, and helping to see the church on its way to being rescued from almost ruin to being on the verge of being restored to its past glories. His day usually started at just before seven am, the early morning papers with breakfast, then dropping his children at the child care centre before returning to open up the church for the day’s events. This morning, though, was a little different and he’d allowed himself an extra hour or so in bed. When he rose, however, he would soon find that this day would be a day that which would leave a scar on the very fabric of his being, and leave him questioning the very God that he prayed too.
Climbing from his car he strolled down the narrow path from the parking area, to his annoyance, overgrown on both sides with tatty grass and weeds, a tedious pop song on repeat in his mind, something about a poker face, and headed for the gate and into the church yard itself.
Once inside the grounds he admired, as he did every morning, the restored splendor of the church, rising high into the morning sky, with its repaired stained glass windows, twinkling as they caught the sunlight, their colour and majesty re-invigorated from the dull, washed out sheen, that had built up over the years of neglect, everything that had been falling apart and cracked on the day that he took residence, almost back to its prime state.
It was as he approached the entrance that he noticed something was out of place. It didn’t occur to him straight off, but moving closer he saw it. The large wooden door, usually locked tight on his departure, was now open, not much, just a crack, but open nonetheless. Slowing his pace he frowned, pondering if he had, as he could have sworn he did, locked it up the night previous. He knew he had, he knew that he never forgot, never dared too. It wouldn’t be worth the wrath of his superiors if he did, knowing that any damage caused after the redevelopment and the mountain of funds spent on it, would be the end of his tenure there, or anywhere for that matter.
Stepping closer he felt a shiver ripple down his spine, the morning air, already laced with a chill, feeling as though it had dropped several more degrees. Reaching the door he took a deep breath, before gently pushing it open. The scene that confronted him sank him to his knees.
From his position there was no telling the gender of the person that was sat on the stone cold floor propped up against the altar at the far end of the church, legs splayed straight out in front in a V shape. Not for failing eyesight or for the need of a pair of spectacles, but simply because their wasn’t much left, through the blood and horrific mutilation, to determine one way or the other.
 
 
13th December – Rochester. Mid morning.
 
 
The dilapidated town house remained exacly as it had been since the last time they had paid a visit to Harold Bart, and McCann wasnt under any illusion that the man’s attitude would be any different either.
Along the weed-strewn path, they reached the front door, upon which McCann hammered twice, hard.
A few moments and a faint voice could be heard from the within asking them to wait. A few moments more and the door opened a crack to reveal the ever descheveled face of Harold Bart.
Looking between them, a frown appeared. ‘I thought I’d seen the last of you two.’
McCann stepped forward. ‘We’d just like a few more moments of your time, if that’s ok of course.’
Bart ran a hand down his face and regarded them again. ‘Actually, no it’s not, I was just about to -‘
It was enough for McCann to lose his cool. Climbing the last step he pushed open open the door, knocking Bart to one side.
‘It wasnt a question Mr Bart, now, if we can get on with this, please.’
Down the narrow coridoor, pursued by the protesting Bart, McCann entered the living area and dropped himself down into the chair in the centre of the room.
‘What in the hell do you think you are doing?’ Yelled Bart, now stood, looking down at McCann. ‘You can’t just barge in here without permission, I’ll make you -‘
Quick as a flash, McCann was up from the seat and nose to nose with Bart. His voice level with calm.
‘You’ll make me what? Huh?’
Stepping back, Bart’s eyes twitched. He looked towards DC Conrad.
‘Are you going to just stand there and let this, this, animal, behave this way?’
With a shrug, Conrad averted his gaze and cast his eyes over the, seemingly, endless stream of books that lined the room.
McCann continued. ‘Now, if we can all just calm down, then we can be out of your way sooner rather than later, ok?’
Bart glared at him, not a sound passing his lips.
‘I said, ok?’
With a reluctant nod of his head Bart agreed. ‘Well, I’m all ears.’
Walking over to the window, grime covered and with a small crack running down half its length, McCann looked out on an overgrown garden, a small shed at its foot. Turning back to face the room.
‘Medusa coins. Ring any bells?’
Bart shrugged. ‘Maybe, why?’
‘Yes or no?’
‘Yes.’
‘Good. Now, did you or did you not, this past week, receive a package that contained these very coins?’
Nodding, Bart placed his hands into his trouser pockets. ‘I did, yes. I fail to see what this has to do with anything, though. I’ve been collecting coins since I was a boy.’
Stepping away from the window, McCann moved closer to Bart, a whaft of cigarette smoke invading his nostrills.
‘Ill tell you what it has to do with it, shall I. Five days ago the body of a young girl, whom you knew, whom you were landlord too, was found just a few miles from here. Then, yesterday, as you are probably aware, we had a second body dumped on us. Now,’ raising a finger up in front of him, ‘Both of these victims, apart from the obvious, had one, small, thing in common. They both had a little something left about their person. Two silver coins. Medusa coins, to be exact.’
Bart shrugged. ‘I still fail to see what this has to do with me.’
Smiling, McCann stepped closer still. ‘Really? You dont think that its at all, I dont know, suspicious, maybe, that in the very same week that you order a set of coins from a private dealer in Camden, that coins of that very same model should turn up on the bodies of two young girls?’
‘I can see how that can be looked upon as being suspicious, yes. But, I can guarantee you that those coins you speak of certainly didnt come from my collection.’
‘Well, how about you prove that?’ said McCann, an eyebrow raised.
After a long inhale of breath, Bart turned away and shuffled to a large, six foot, cabinet that sat against the far wall. With a key pulled from the pocket of his cardigan he unlocked a compartment at the top right hand corner and pulled out a smart looking, blue, velvet box. Turning back, and joined by both McCann and Conrad, Bart placed the box down onto the table next to the chair and unlocked it.
‘I think that you will both find that my collection is -‘
What happend next couldnt have been expected, especially by Bart, judging by the look on his face. The box was organised into layers. Six wooden compartments housing coins, in circular cavities, from an array of times and civilisations. The second layer from the top was where the recently bought coins had been placed. Only, there was an issue. And that issue was simple, It centred around the eight empty cavities, once filled, but now void of their coins.
Barts face dropped, his gaze focused on the tray. ‘I, I dont understand.’
‘When was the last time that you checked on this box?’ Conrad asked.
There was a moments pause. ‘A few days, I cant recall. No more. But I know for sure that they were in here,’ he gestured at the box.
McCann drew in a breath. He gaze drifting between the box and Harold Bart.
‘Mr Bart, I need to ask you simple question, and I need you to consider your answer very carefully. Is there anything, and I mean, anything, that you wish to tell us. And, be warned, that I can make this very difficult for you.’
It was then that Harold Bart collapsed.
Taking a step towards the prostrate figure, Conrad felt an arm across his chest.
‘Wait.’ McCann said.
‘What? He might be serious, sir.’
McCann quickly glanced around the room, knowing that what he was about to ask was nothing short of reprehensible.
Leaning down he placed two fingers againt Harold Bart’s neck. Locating a strong pulse, he then turned to Conrad.
‘Search the place.’
Conrad frowned. ‘But, sir, dont we need-‘
‘James, just do it, ill put in a call to the emergency services in a minute. He’s not waking up for a while and we need something. I refuse to admit that those missing coins are just a coincidence, ok? So, go grab some gloves from the car and get searching.’
Conrad knew that pleading ignorance, should this little charade ever be discovered, would, possibly, lessen any punishment that may come his way. Besides, what with McCann’s popularity with the authorities waning all the time, he was sure that pleading force to an act that contrevened every rule in the handbook would be a safe get out clause.
With gloves on, and one eye on Bart, the pair went about the business, as thoroughly as possible in the time constraint that binded them, of searching the pig sty that Harold Bart called home.
McCann wasnt all to sure as to whether they would find anything of any use, but, he wasnt going to waste the opportunity that they had been presented with.
It was tough to determine what exactly they should be looking for, and more importantly, where it would be kept. A drawer. A cupboard. Inside an old shoe, maybe. The house was in such a ramshackle state that it could take weeks to find something that you were actually looking for, so shooting in the dark and without a clue would prove anything but easy. Something which Conrad happily pointed out.
‘Sir, this is ridiculous. This place is a shit hole.’
McCann, his hands rummaging through a large chest of drawers on the far side of the room. ‘Just keep looking James, another few minutes.’
With a brief shake of his head, Conrad followed the order. Walking over to one of the larger bookcases he stood and gazed up at its dizzy height. At first he didnt think anything of it, poking out between the end two books on the top most shelf. Focusing properly, though, onto tip toes to get a better look, he reached up and slid it out of its nestling place. It took a moment or two to settle his beating heart.
‘Sir,’ he said, turning, his gaze still fixed on what he held in his hands. ‘You may want to take a look at this.’
With a frown creasing his forehead, McCann made his way across to where Conrad stood, seemingly, in some kind of a daze.
‘What?’
Handing it over. ‘I think this may be something of interest.’
Conrad was right. It was something of interest. Something that caused McCann’s heart to race. He looked back across the room at the still figure of Harold Bart.
‘Got ya.’
 
September 4th – 1990
 
The three days previous had been spent creeping evermore into Keith Mason’s life, and keeping one eye on the every news broadcast and daily newspaper that were, seemingly, taking great pleasure in the unfolding events. He had taken time, in the quiet hours when he was alone in the hospital, when the only sounds that echoed through the corridors were the buzzing of strip lights and the occasional shrill cry of a patient, to fully read up on the notes in his file.

It was fascinating reading. Sitting in the little back office under the dim light of the table top lamp, a mug of Bovril and some bread next to him, knowing that he wouldn’t be disturbed. The extent of what Mason was suffering making his very soul tingle with delight as he thumbed through the pages.
 
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
 
Patient – Keith Mason, 34.
Dr Hildaire
 
Patient suffered the loss of mother, father and younger sister in RTA on 21/04/1990. Due to event has developed severe symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Previous experience of anxiety and depression as a teenager.
Chronic physical signs of hyperarousal.
Issues with concentration.
Increased signs of anger/ irritability.
Sleep issues and trouble concentrating for any period of time.
Patient has recurring experience of night in question, including flashbacks, nightmares about the trauma and/or dissociative reliving of the trauma.
Emotional numbing is present, lack of interest in activities (anhedonia) wife, Maria, has sought further help of family counseling and conflict resolution education as patients symptoms of anger have become higher than first thought.
Treatment using medication of Sertraline and Clonidine. So far progress is slow.
 
The notes continued for some five or six pages but from just the first he garnered all the information that he needed to know, every word like a little drop of honey onto warm toast, soaking through into his every fibre and sinew and making him warm inside.
Leaving the room he made sure everything was as it had been on his entry and closed the door behind him. His mind ran away with him as he made his way along the dimly lit corridor, the familiar smell of disinfectant filing his nostrils. He thought of the days to come and everything that it would bring. Of pulling apart the Mason family forever and walking off into the sunset.
His date of the previous evening then popped into his mind, the leggy blond with scarlet lips and good-sized breasts. Starting of with their meeting at a remote pub for some food and a few drinks, the afternoon passing in a haze of chat and flirtation. And ending with her writhing on the floor of his basement, wide eyed and clutching at the deep gash in her throat. Sitting and watching her desperate pleas for help he couldn’t help but laugh, the blood running through her fingers, her legs kicking at thin air, the life slowly draining away like water through a sieve.
After a few more moments the kicking stopped and the figure became lifeless, her glazed eyes staring towards the ceiling, a large pool of blood circling beneath her. A smile played across his lips as he tossed and turned in his mind what to do next. The possibilities were numerous and he had considered every one of them in detail. After a few moments, he reached for the hacksaw.
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