Watching as the semi conscious figure of Harold Bart was loaded into the back of the ambulance, a small throng of passers-by ogling from the opposite side of the road, McCann stepped to one side and pulled his mobile from his inside jacket pocket, to be greeted with five missed calls and a voice message. Entering the menu he connected to his voice mail, at once feeling the callers fury as it blazed along the line. A short moment was all it took for the message to be conveyed. Slowly lowering the phone from his ear he was, then, aware of a presence behind him.
Turning, he looked into the face of DC Conrad. ‘Guess what?’
Conrad narrowed his eyes. ‘You’re shitting me?’
The concise shake of McCann’s head told everything that needed to be said.
‘Listen, go with Bart to the hospital, make it clear that he is not to be released, ok’
Conrad turned to depart. ‘Oh, and James,’ stopping he half turned, ‘Keep what happened in their to yourself.’
Reaching his car he climbed into the driver’s seat in started the engine, the warm air from the heaters a welcome relief from the biting cold. It was then that his phone rang. He considered ignoring it, but on the umpteenth ring, he picked up. He was glad that he did.
There was a pause, a crackle on the line. McCann held his breath, the killer again, surely not.
‘Hello, is that Detective McCann?‘ his mind calmed, the voice soft, that of a female.
‘It is yes, can I help?’
‘I’m not sure. I’ve just returned from holiday and I have a message from you on my answering machine to call you.’
It then clicked. ‘Miss Montgomery, yes, thank you for getting back to me. I trust that you had a nice holiday?’
‘Yes, thank you. I hope that nothing is wrong. I was a little confused with the message.‘
‘No, not at all, it was actually some information that I was after.’
A pause. ‘Information?’
‘You want to talk about Keith, don’t you?’
McCann took note of the punch in her voice.
‘Please let me explain first. I don’t want to dig up the past, I just want to ask a couple of questions, no more.’
He waited, patiently, for what seemed like an age for a reply. Waited for the line to click.
‘Ok, but this is the only time we speak Detective. After this, no more questions. Is that understood? The past is exactly that, and I don’t intend to drag it up.”
McCann nodded along with voicing his agreement.
‘Ok then, detective, you have two minutes.’
McCann proceeded. ‘Did Keith have any friends that you know of, I mean, anyone that he was close to, say, in the final year or so?’
A long deep breath. ‘Friends? Well, no, not really. He wasnt much for making friends, even when he was a child. Maria and Simon were all he had after, well, you know. Hang on, though.’ she paused. ‘There was someone, actually. Someone he spoke about, only once or twice, someone he met at the hospital.’
‘Would you happen to know this persons name?’
‘Yes, Edgar, I think. Or was it? No, Edward, that’s it, yes. Edward Lincoln.’
‘And did you ever see him, this Edward Lincoln?’
‘No, never in person, only in a photograph.’
McCann felt a skip of anticipation. ‘I don’t suppose there is any chance that you would know where this photograph was, would you?’
‘As it happens, yes. It’s in my loft. There are a few as far as I recall.’
‘Is there a chance that you would be able to send me copies of those photo’s? I’ll happily pay any costs you should incur.’
‘Well, yes, but can I ask of what relevance this is? It’s all a little odd.’
McCann went on to concoct that it was part of an ongoing case, a missing persons case. That Keith Masons name had, by chance, come up and as the person involved was a worker at the same hospital and at around the same time that he was a patient, they were contacting anyone linked to him. He had no idea as to whether she would buy it, fortunately she did, and with a smile on his face he gave her the address to which to send them.
Bound to an old, high-backed, wooden chair. Thick, coarse, rope cutting into her ankles and wrists, small cuts smarting on her arms and legs. The girl, slowly, awakened.
With a sensation as though floating underwater, her heart beating like a drum in her chest, and trying, desperately, to compose herself, to regulate her breathing, she cast her gaze, through half-opened eyes, over her surroundings.
She was in a small, dark, bare bricked, room. The floor underneath her ragged and uneven. In front of her, a large wooden door with a small, what appeared to be, viewing section three-quarters of the way up. Casting her mind back over the previous few hours of her life she tried to recall the events that led to her being in that place. She knew that she should remember, knew that it shouldn’t be this hard. Her woozy mind, however, had different ideas. A few snippets were there. She recalled the smell of perfume, of slipping on her best jeans. A Taxi ride. A glass of wine. Closing her eyes she tried, in vain, to bring it back, to will it to the front of her mind, to spark it to life, but it just wasnt coming. It was as though her memory had been partially erased. It was then that the panic started.
Crying out, and struggling against the ties that bound her, her arms and legs like jelly, she soon realised that there was no escape. It wasn’t too long, however, before she understood everything.
‘No one can hear you.’ Turning her head from left to right, eyes wide; she sought the source of the voice. It came again.
‘Did you hear me?’
Trying to twist in the chair to get a better look of the room. ‘I can’t see you, where are you?’
There was a pause, a sob. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Can you see me?’
‘No, I cant. I heard them bring you in last night, though.’
She tried to think straight. ‘Do you know what this place is?’
‘No, I think that its divided up into different rooms, like a, a prison of some sort.’
A prison. That made her shudder, but she tried to stay as calm as possible.
‘Do you know if there is anyone else here with us?’
This time there was a crack, a break in the tone. ‘I don’t know. People have been arriving since I came.’ She paused, a low moan, another sob. ‘I’ve heard screaming, oh fuck, the screaming, pain. I don’t know what happens, but-‘
She cut off, full on sobbing, no more words possible.
‘Its ok, stay calm, please. Try and stay calm.’
A moment passed, the sobbing subsiding. A whisper. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘You’ve no need. Now, tell me what you know, tell me how you got here.’
‘I met someone, a date. I don’t know how I got here, its, its hazy. I don’t know what they want.’
‘Yes, there’s two of them, the other one is older, he keeps calling me, ‘the one.’ He just, just stands and stares at me through the grille in the door.’
‘And the other one?’
‘He’s the one I met through the website, I’m guessing that he brought me here.’
It then came back, like a flood. The date, the small pub. The man called Martin who she met on the dating website. Walking out into the dark car park, the arm around her throat. The pin prick sensation in her neck. She fought back the terror that was rising all the time in the pit of her stomach.
Her body tensed. ‘Is your name Gemma?’
There was a gasp. ‘Yes, yes, its Gemma. Gemma Dawson. How did you know that?’
She swallowed, her throat dry. ‘My name is Abbey, I’m a police officer.’
13th December – St Margaret’s Church. Rainham. Early Afternoon.
Standing under the glow of the winter sun, the trickle of an icy breeze creeping through the air, McCann looked upon the churchyard with the feeling of dread firmly fixed in his stomach.
“You ok sir?” said DC Rhodes, coming up on his right flank.
Without removing his gaze from the dominant structure of the church towering up into the morning sky. “There’s something about churches, don’t you think?” now turning his head to face his colleague. “I mean, they’ve got a strange aura about them, you know, in equal parts calming and sinister.”
With eyebrows raised and a slight nod of his head, Rhodes acknowledged McCann’s thought. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying calming, considering what’s on the other side of that wall.
McCann agreed with a brief nod of his head. ‘Anyway, where’s the DCI?”
With a point of his finger, DC Rhodes indicated over a low wall and off to his right. ‘Through there. He’s not a happy bunny, though.’
Moving off with a shrug of his shoulders, McCann neared the perimeter tape. The grounds were alive with flashing lights and the hustle and bustle that usually occupies a fresh crime scene. Pacing down the path, towards where the majority of the activity was concentrated, an ashen-faced figure, dressed head to foot in black, and stood to the right of the open church doors, became apparent. Approaching, DCI Stone turned to greet him, his face a blank canvas. Peeling off to the side he gestured for Stone to follow. Out of ear shot, and before the DCI had a chance to get the first word in, he pulled from his pocket the small evidence bag containing the item been found at Harold Bart’s residence, and handed it over.
The look on Stone’s face spoke a thousand words. ‘Where the fuck did you get this?’
‘We located the origin of the coins. They were bought from a small antique dealer in Camden by a Mr Harold Bart.’
Stone frowned. ‘The landlord of the first lass?’
‘The very same. ‘That’s where DC Conrad and I were earlier.’
‘And that’s where this came from?’ said Stone, holding up the item.
McCann ran his tongue around his top teeth, a flicker of hesitation. ‘Yes.’
Stone’s blank look and fixed stare said an explanation needed to be quick in coming.
‘Ok, look, we may not have gained this by, shall we say, legal means. But, sir, we are fucked, you know that as well as I, and -‘
‘What exactly are you saying, McCann?’
‘It came to light that his collection was short of a few of the very coins that have been found at the previous crime scenes. He maintained that he had no idea as to how they came to be missing, and he then, well, he passed out.’
‘And you thought that you’d take advantage of the situation?’
‘Without a warrant?’
A raise of an eyebrow told Stone all he needed to know.
‘And you do know that this is useless without following procedure?’
McCann stayed silent. Looking to the sky and then running a hand through his hair.
‘I told you yesterday not to cause me anymore grief, did I not? Didnt I warn you?’ Shaking his head he took a step closer, his eyes narrowing. Looking, once more, at the item at the item he held in his hand, Stone pushed it into McCann’s chest. ‘I didnt hear what you just told me, ok. If this helps nail this bastard, then, well, we’ll say no more. Just keep that safe for now, and I’ll sort it.’
No more than a smile passed between the two as McCann slipped the bag back into his pocket. ‘How are things looking here?’
Stone cast a quick glance at the church behind him. ‘You know whats in there McCann. Its fucking carnage. Poor lass has been ripped open like a bag of sweets. There is one difference, though. No photo this time.’
McCann raised an eyebrow. ‘How about a code?’
‘Oh, yes, we’ve got another one of those. Already off being looked at.’ He took a deep breath. ‘You think this Harold Bart is our guy?’
McCann offered a shrug of his shoulders. ‘I dont know, sir, but, with what we’ve found today, we could just have hit the jackpot.’
Stone nodded. ‘First things first, then. We’ll have his place turned over and see what that brings up. I’m guessing that DC Conrad is at the hospital with him?’ ‘Yes, I’ve told him not to let Bart out of his sight until advised otherwise.’
Stone nodded. ‘Good, good. Right, Ive a few things I need to get sorted, I trust you’ll be ok here.’
‘Yes, fine.’ Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of the figure he had seen moments previous.
“I’m guessing by the look on the Rev’s face that he discovered the body?”
Glancing over at the pale face of Reverend Flynn and then back to McCann. “Yep. Arrived first thing to open up, found the door open and, well, you can guess the rest.”
A deep breath, the cold filling his lungs. “Better go speak to him then, hadn’t I.”
A brief nod of thanks, he ran his tongue around his top teeth and passed Stone for the Reverend. Reaching him it quickly became evident at just how shook up he was.
His wide eyes darted to the sound of McCann’s voice, dragging him from his thoughts. “Y-Yes.”
Holding up his badge. “Hi, my name is DI McCann. I just need to ask you a few questions, if that’s ok?”
A frown formed on his forehead. “Questions? I-I’ve already told as much as I know to that officer over there.” He said, pointing a shaky hand in the direction of DS Rhodes.
“I do appreciate that, but I just need to go over a few details with you again, it wont take too long.”
Silence hung between them for a brief moment, Flynn’s eyes, once again, darting in their sockets. It was never easy, questioning those who had been witness to savage crime. To the sheer brutality that human beings could inflict on one another.
“O-Ok. I do have some things I need to attend to, but I’m sure that they can wait.”
Stepping aside to a quieter area of the scene, McCann began with his questions. Not wanting to press too much or shake him any further than he had already been.
Apart from detailing, for the umpteenth time, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, what he had been witness too, Flynn also spoke of the love of his church. Of the newly restored building that gilded him with pride. Of the parish that he was setting about restoring and how this tragedy will do nothing but set back the good work that had taken place over the past year. McCann understood and felt a pang of sympathy. Living in the area most of his life he had been privy to the demise of St Margaret’s and the often tried and often failed attempts at its restoration. Harry Flynn had come to be hailed as something of a local saint in his relatively short time for his work, and this situation would have come as the greatest of shocks.
Thanking him for his time, McCann shook hands and advised Flynn that there may be some further questions, but as for now he was free to go.
Breaking off from Reverend Flynn, McCann’s attention was grabbed by a commotion coming from within the church. Walking across he was joined by DCI Stone and met by a white suited, male, official exiting through the large wooden door, a small plastic bag held in his hand, a look of concern on his face. ‘Everything ok?’ McCann asked.
Approaching and holding out the plastic bag, his voice laced with a hint of uncertainty. ‘You may want to see this.’
With a frown creasing his forehead, McCann took the bag. It took a long moment for its contents to fully sink in. The shock fizzing through his body when as it finally did. The face of Abby Fletcher to register in his mind.
Stone, a brief moment to compose himself. ‘Where the fuck did you find this? I was advised it was only a code with this one?’
‘On first look it was, sir -‘
‘On first look?’
‘Yes, sir. This wasnt found on the body, like the code was. This was found inside.’ he paused. ‘In her vagina, to be precise.’