Authors: Lindsay Jayne Ashford
Megan was sitting in her office, pen in hand, staring at the wall in front of her. She had come in early, before the porter and the cleaners, but the profile she was working on had progressed no further than a few scribbled notes.
On a white-board next to the desk were two columns listing everything she knew about Donna and Natalie. Red and green lines criss-crossed the columns, linking similarities, highlighting differences.
She scanned the list of behavioural characteristics gleaned from the murders.
Two different killers
. She had underlined the words. Underneath she had written:
O and AB â but O has sex with AB's victim. How? Why?
She looked at the date Natalie's body had been found. November 29. Not quite four weeks ago. If she was right, if Natalie's killer was the type of man she suspected, he was almost certain to strike again. She bit the end of her pen. How long before Delva was reading out more headlines about murder?
Delva. The identity of her perverted admirer nagged at Megan. Delva hadn't mentioned Neil by name but the seeds of suspicion had taken root in Megan's mind. To the outside world Neil came across as the archetypal New Man, but Megan knew that he picked up the role only when it suited him.
How would Ceri react if she told her Delva Lobelo was getting sexually explicit letters from someone who worked at BTV? Megan tried to convince herself that if Neil was really having an affair he was unlikely to be the author of those letters. But what if it wasn't an affair? What if Ceri had sensed something was wrong but misinterpreted it?
Megan had tried hard over the years to bury the antipathy she felt for Neil. She'd had to, for Ceri's sake. She had never told Ceri how he'd let her down. How he'd defended his friend against Megan's allegations, refusing to believe him capable of something as shocking as rape.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. Patrick walked in with a sheaf of notes in his hand.
âYou did say eleven o'clock, didn't you?'
Megan looked at her watch. âOh, I'm sorry Patrick â I lost all track of the time.'
âDreaming of summer?' Patrick pointed to the blown-up photograph of the sea on the wall in front of her desk. It must have looked as if she was staring intently at it.
âWhere is it?' he asked, âSomewhere you've been on holiday?'
âIt's a place called Borth on the Welsh coast â you've probably never heard of it. It's near Aberystwyth.'
He looked blank. âMy father's family come from round there,' she went on. âWhen my grandmother died she left us her house. You can just about see it in the photo.'
Megan pointed to a small, whitewashed cottage on the seafront. âIt's opposite the baker's â bad news when you've got a weakness for cream cakes!'
âDo you go there in summer?'
âWhen I can. Actually I like it better in winter. No tourists. Sometimes I have the whole beach to myself. And if it rains I just sit by the window watching the sea. It sounds really boring, I know, but I love it.'
âNo â it doesn't sound boring at all.' Patrick smiled, putting his papers on her desk while he pulled up a chair. âPerhaps I can come and visit you there one day. Wales is one of the places I want to explore while I'm over here.'
âEr, yes, of course.' Megan didn't quite know what to make of this. âIt only takes a couple of hours to get there.' She was going to add that he could come for a daytrip if he wanted to, but realised that would sound rude when she could easily offer him the spare room for a weekend. She decided it was better to keep things vague, and changed the subject. âHow's the PhD coming along then? Anything in particular you want me to look at?'
Megan was supervising Patrick's thesis on serial sex offenders. The fact that a detective from Holland had taken a sabbatical to study at Heartland was a tribute to her growing academic reputation.
âI finished compiling the list of behaviour types from the paedophile group this morning and I've just started feeding them into the computer so I can't really say much about those until I get the printout. I've got the list, though, if you want to see it. I took it from these victim statements and crime scene photographs.'
Megan glanced at the file that lay on top of Patrick's bundle of papers. The case notes were in Dutch. The face of a girl of about nine smiled from the page. Her name and date of birth were printed underneath. âYou're not just using Dutch cases, are you?' Megan took the list from Patrick's outstretched hand.
âNo. That one just happened to be on the top. I'm using the cases from the Belgian paedophile ring and the Robert Black murders as well.'
As Megan read through the depressing list of behavioural characteristics of men who had raped, tortured and killed young children, Patrick stared at the photograph of Natalie Bailey lying on the desk.
âCan I be very nosey and ask what you're working on?' he said as she put the paper down.
Megan felt a stab of possessiveness, as if she wanted to protect Natalie from curious onlookers. Then she remembered Patrick was as much an expert as she was. If he was an onlooker, what was she?
âYes, of course,' she said. âAs a matter of fact I'm having a lot of difficulty with this one â you might be able to help.'
âShe looks very young.' It was the head and shoulders photograph from the post-mortem report; the one taken before the bruises came up on the neck.
âI know â she's sixteen. Take a look at this, though.' Megan pulled the second photograph of Natalie from the folder on her desk.
âAh! It's that runaway they found by the motorway a few weeks ago, isn't it?'
âHow did you know she was a runaway?'
âIt was on the news at lunchtime; they said the police had finally identified the body as a kid who'd run away from a children's home here in Birmingham.'
âWas this TV or radio news?'
âWhy do you ask?'
âI was wondering how you recognised her. I mean, even if it had been on the TV news there shouldn't have been any photographs; as far as I know the only photos the police have are the post-mortem ones and they'd never let the press have those. What was it, an artist's impression or something?'
âNo. I mean, I don't know â I heard it on the radio in my office. I don't know whether it's been on TV or not.'
âSo how did you recognise her?'
âI didn't recognise
I recognised the way she was killed. The case reminded me of one of Robert Black's victims. The newspaper report said the police had found the body of a young girl wrapped in black dustbin bags by the side of the M6. It said she'd been strangled and that the police were having difficulty identifying her.'
âOh.' Megan reached into the file again. âYes â Black did dump one of his victims very near there.' Was that significant? She handed him the photograph of Donna Fieldhouse taken at the crime scene in Inkerman Place. While he studied it Megan watched his face as he frowned in concentration. For no reason at all she found herself thinking of Tony; picturing him walking into a hospital ward full of new mothers and Clare, young and radiant, holding out his newborn child.
âShe was pregnant?' Patrick's question crashed in on her thoughts and for a split second she wondered if he had somehow read her mind. Glancing at the desk, she saw that he had taken the notes on Donna Fieldhouse from the folder.
âYes â and I think it could be significant.' Megan began telling him about the forensic evidence linking the murders. Would he come to the same conclusion she had?
âSo both were in care, but at different children's homes?' Patrick rubbed his chin.
âYes. It's a bit confusing because Donna ran away from a home in Wolverhampton, but ended up as a prostitute in Birmingham. Natalie was in a home in Birmingham, but she was only ever seen soliciting in the Wolverhampton area.'
âWhat about the manner of death? This one â Donna â had her throat cut, but the other one was manually strangled.' Patrick retrieved the first photograph of Donna from the desk, studying the gaping wound and lolling head of the body in the dustbin.
âI know. That's one of several things about these murders that doesn't add up. I mean, to me, Donna's murder looks like a straightforward domestic between a prostitute and a pimp â maybe a row over her pregnancy that got out of hand because one or both of them had been taking crack. He dumps her body in the car park of a disused factory where prostitutes take their clients for sex. There's a concealed entrance not many people would know about. If he's a pimp he'll know it's the kind of place he can get rid of the body without being seen.
âBut Natalie's death is totally different. The manual strangulation from behind, the wrists handcuffed or tied with wire, the anal intercourse; to me that's the signature of a woman-hating sex-killer who deliberately lures his victim to her death.' She felt on edge, ready to argue if he told her she must be wrong.
âWhat do the police think?'
âI get the distinct impression that the only reason I've been called in is to help Detective Superintendent Leverton nail a bent officer within his own force.'
She found it hard to conceal her dislike of policemen. Strange that she'd never felt that hostility towards Patrick. Perhaps it was because they'd only ever met in an academic setting.
âHe wants me to come up with a profile for the man responsible for both murders,' she went on. âThe fact that the DNA in the vaginal semen samples is an exact match tells him that the man who had sex with both girls also killed them both. He hasn't really taken the other forensic evidence into account, but the more I look at it, the stronger the indication that these murders were committed by two different men.'
âSo what are you going to do?'
âPlay along with Leverton. I mean, there could well be a corrupt policeman involved.'
Before Patrick could respond, the phone rang.
âHello Eric. Yes, put him through.'
It was a brief conversation; no more than thirty seconds. Megan put the phone down, her face hot, her breath tight. âThat was Martin Leverton. He wants me to meet him at the mortuary in half an hour.'
âNo â not this time.' Megan slid the forensic reports back into the folder. âDid you hear about the siege at that house in Moseley at the weekend? Man and woman, both shot dead â looked like a domestic?'
âWell it wasn't. Apparently she was strangled first by a third party, who also shot the husband and made it look like suicide. There's also evidence of anal intercourse and restraint.'
âSounds like it's a good job you didn't waste too much time on that profile. How come it's taken them two days to work out she was strangled?'
âBruise marks on the neck took a while to come out, although there should have been other signs.' Megan stood up, walking to the door to grab her coat from the hook.
âPerhaps they were so convinced it was a domestic shooting they didn't bother being too thorough.' She paused before opening the door. âI'm sorry to cut things short, Patrickâ¦'
âNo problem. I wish I was coming with you!'
She returned his wide smile with a look of mock horror. âDon't worry,' she said, âI'll fill you in on all the gory details later. Just concentrate on your paedophiles until I get back!'
âHere â catch!' Patrick fished in his pocket and tossed something across the room. âYou might need a few later!'
Megan managed to catch the red missile before it reached the floor. âMaltesers! How did you know?'
Patrick pointed at the telltale wrapper protruding from her wastepaper bin. âWhat are you on now?' He smiled. âPacket a day, is it?'
âHuh! Can't a girl have any secret vices?' She pulled a face at him, grinning to herself as she walked off down the corridor.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
The man went into a room where he knew he would not be disturbed.
Locking the door behind him he slid a photograph from his trouser pocket, placing it carefully on the table. The secrecy of his actions was enough to give him an erection. Unzipping his flies, he leaned forward, moving his hand up and down.
His eyes were fixed on the photograph until the moment he ejaculated. With a gasp his head fell back against the chair.
He sat for a few seconds, panting, before pulling tissues from his pocket to wipe his hands. Then, with a pair of tweezers, he picked up the photograph, sliding it into a pale pink envelope.
Martin Leverton was waiting by the door of the mortuary when Megan arrived.
âMegan â what a wonderful outfit! You look as if you've stepped out of one of those pre-Raphaelite paintings at the art gallery!'
âThanks. I â er â bought it in the States.' Megan felt embarrassed by the compliment. Leverton had never made any sort of comment about her appearance before.
It was the first time she had actually had the nerve to wear the coat. It had looked great when she tried it on in Bloomingdale's, but somehow it had seemed a bit over-the-top for the streets of Birmingham. However, after seeing Clare yesterday at BTV, she'd needed to brighten herself up, grabbing the coat from the wardrobe and putting it on without looking in the mirror.
Now the wind was tugging at the crimson wool, making it billow out like a medieval cloak behind her. As they went inside she pulled back the cowled hood, her long black hair spilling over her shoulders.
âThanks for coming at such short notice, Megan. I wouldn't normally ask you to do this, but it's vital that we establish exactly what's happened to this pair. I didn't want to have to wait for photographs and anyway, I think it's important that we both see these bodies.'