Author’s Note: Hello all and welcome to the first Chapter of A Game of Life and Death. This hasn’t been professionally editing and I welcome all comments that aren’t trolling. Love to you all hope you guys enjoy.
My promise to you all is 1 chapter per week.
The Bodies in the Bog
The lonely figure at the window was sure that the universe as conspiring against him. He took the moment of serenity to study the reflection staring back at him.
William Novel’s head was still currently covered with an impressive mop of black hair. However, the slight lines that ran across his face betrayed the paths he had taken.
There was not that much that he could look forward to in the upcoming weeks. In a few days his Deputy, Cassie, was swanning off to a family wedding in Turkey. He was sure that his department would descend into chaos while she was gone. If Cassie called to extend her stay…. The team were useless without her. Two days was quite long enough for her to be gone.
It was if the raindrops on the window fore-told the horrors ahead. The clock’s gentle tick… tock…. tick… tock… seemed to be the only noise in the room.
Assistant Chief Constable Novel moved away from the window of his office. It was usually so easy not to care However, in this case, he knew that he could not do this on his own. This case was fuelling his dependence on the woman.
The town below him stretched out for as far as the eye could see. All the streets below were a hive of activity with streams of people like ants on the ground. He could not remember the last time a case had affected him so much. Novel had been in the force two decades – usually it was possible to maintain the required emotional distance.
The call had come that morning. He had only been in the office an hour and his normal cup of coffee – black – had once again gone cold.
His desk phone rang, the piercing sound breaking the customary still silence of the morning. He calmly reached out to receive the call. It was probably his mother.
It was a female voice, but definitely not his mother.
“Chief, we got another one.”
Novel did not immediately reply, “Sorry, what”
“I’m Sarah Lucas, from the basement – seriously Sir, you need another coffee. They found another poor sod. The Sergeant recon’s same MO as the one last week.”
“Where did they find this one?”
“Peat bog. The one behind the shopping mall. It’s about an hour from here. Pathology recon she’s been in there since spring.”
“Many thanks. Someone from my team will call you if I need anything else.”
Last week they had found a body in a bog on the local heathland. A local peat cutter had called the station in a blind panic.
The body of a young woman, still unidentified, was lying in cold storage in the station’s morgue. There were no records marching her prints or DNA on the database. She had been naked, there were signs of strangulation by a rope – although that was long gone – and both her eyes and her nose had been removed. Even for an officer with as much experience as Novel, it was difficult to stomach.
Looking around the office, he spotted Cassie at her desk staring intently at the screen. She had obviously been here a while and was probably the source of his coffee.
“Cassie, you should have been more organised and booked your extra baggage allowance already. I need you for a few hours.”
She look up in surprise at the interruption, but nodded in reply.
“Another body in the peat bog. Did you fancy coming with me to take a look? I was hoping a look around the area might give us a better insight and make some individuals be a bit more ‘on the ball’. It does not feel like the investigation is moving as quickly as I would like.”
She flashed him a quick grin before grabbing her cot, “I could do with a field trip! It feels like I never get out of the office these days.”
They were met at the entrance to the outer cordon by a young officer. The rookie took their names for his notebook and bravely reminded them that they were not authorised to enter the internal cordon. Novel narrowed his eyes and was quickly placated with the information that he would have a pretty good view of the scene. The pair were also notified that the photographer was still around if they wanted to look at the crime scene images.
“PC Matthews is it?”
A quick nod and a hurried “Yes Sir” followed.
“Do me a favour and radio the Crime Scene Manager. I want a briefing on what has been happening here.”
The order was hurriedly carried out and a red faced female crime scene investigator appeared from a white tent. Novel and Cassie moved to meet her at the cordon tape.
“Afternoon Sir,” she greeted, fishing her notebook from her pocket, “PC Matthews informed me you would like a briefing?”
Novel nodded, “Have you gathered anything yet that would be useful to our investigation?”
“Not much yet I’m afraid,” she replied, sounding apologetic, “she was found by a dog walker this morning. However, the bogs are so acidic they tend to destroy evidence that would have been there. The photographer has been down here for the last few hours. Got some good in-situ images of the body. We’re just waiting on the private ambulance to move her and then it will be up to the pathology lot. I will send a few of my guys with the body to keep the chain of evidence. To be honest, I think there is only the slightest of chances that there will be DNA. Your best bet will be investigative leads.”
Novel briskly thanked the woman. He then called over one of the junior PC’s that was still hanging around to guard the scene. Opening his wallet, he gave the PC a crisp £20 note and told him to go and get everyone a coffee. He was sure the team could do with some defrosting.
“What’s the plan?” Cassie asked, rifling through her pockets to find a previously abandoned hair-band. Smiling with success, she proceeded to secure her long mousy brown hair behind her head.
“A door-to-door of the local area. I want anyone who even smells suspicious down at the station by the end of the day. We need a solid lead. I don’t want any more bodies.”
“Shall I get someone to re-interview the dog walker?”
Novel nodded, there was certainly no harm in it. The person may have seen something.
His thoughts were interrupted by a young woman with a camera – she looked fresh out of college.
“Sir, I was told that you wanted a preview?”
He responded with a brief nod and was handed a brightly lit LCD screen. The first image he came to as a wide angle image of the peat bog – a context shot. After locating a right arrow button he started flicking though the images.
After a few clicks through he paused again at another image. Whoever had done this to this woman had stripped her of her humanity.
He tilted the camera so Cassie could get a better look. Her face grimaced and turned a slight tint of green.
Even after additional attempts to persuade the CSI’s to let his into the crime-scene, Novel was still denied access.
Damn the chain of evidence and contamination prevention to hell and back again. It was no use unless they could get a strong case together and get it to court.
Having finally done all he could before the forensics came back, it was time to head home.
The sun was beginning to set on the front lawn as he shut the door behind him.
“William, darling, hang your coat up! I don’t want you getting it dirty if you are wearing it tomorrow!”
Novel felt the shiver run down his spine. That name was a curse that had haunted him from childhood. His mother was the only one who was still allowed to use it.
“You’re home late.”
“Mother, my job is not exactly 9-5!” he shouted back, was taking off his shoes and neatly leaving them on the show rack by the door.
When he had started out on the force he had not foreseen that he would still be living with his mother at 45. Novel was single, although he had no desire to be in a relationship with anybody. Other people were just too complicated. His dad had left them in his teens and so leaving her alone had never been an option.
Over dinner that evening it was suggested, again, that he should take time off work. However, Novel was convinced that leaving the department would just leave behind a trail of chaos and destruction. He would never be able to find any paperwork – it would all be moved in absence.
He was once again one of the first into the office.
The first few stages of an investigation always seemed to be a waiting game. He needed the information the labs would hopefully provide and still could not understand how they took so long.
Later on that afternoon, thanks to a budget allowance for a new DNA comparison unit, he was able actually get some useful information.
“So what can you tell me?” he could only presume it was Sarah at the other end of the internal phone line. For some reason she had obviously been assigned to his department.
“The preliminary run was provided some useful results. Flagged a Jane Doe profile that we picked up on a drugs raid. It’s been sat on the system for a couple of years. It was stored on the national database.”
“Cheers Sarah. Can you tell them to go ahead with another couple of runs? I want to ensure an eager defence lawyer can’t tear us apart if this goes to court.”
“Sure thing. Bye Sir.” The phone line cur and the call ended.
Figuring that this might be a good time to input these results into the internal system, he logged himself in and typed in the update.
Phone call from Sarah Lucas. Reported that the DNA collected from Jane Doe matched an unknown sample collected from another scene. The scene was a raid on a drug den – case number = B23067
One his update had asses itself into the internal system, it brought him back to the main dialogue page. This allowed him to see a general time-line of the events in order of input.
Case numbers = G56096
Operation name = Butterfly
Lead Officer = DCI Peters
Member of the public (Mr Samuel Whithall) called to report that he had discovered a body while walking his dog in the local heathland.
PC Matthews and PC Rogers arrive on scene and set up inner and outer cordons. The CSI team also arrive on scene.
The CSI team report that little physical evidence was found on the body. Waiting for pathology report.
DNA evidence has been submitted to the lab with high priority status. Thy will contact ASAP upon completion.
Phone call from Sarah Lucas. Reported tha the DNA collected from Jane Doe matched an unknown sample collected from another scene. The scene was a raid on the drug den – case number B23067
Requested that members arrested as part of the investigation into the raid come in on a voluntary basis. Mark Stranton has agreed to visit the station tomorrow morning.
Novel was lost for words. The sudden dust cloud in his head, caused partially by shock, took a couple of seconds to clear.
At some point his tea had developed the ability to function independently.
He would have to continue to keep a careful eye on them – it might be a fluke.
Pulling out the android powered phone he kept in his back, pocket, he let himself wonder at the marvels of modern technology. These new phones allowed him to be so time efficient.
Pressing the record button – a smile diagram of a microphone – he recorded his text message to Cassie.
“Who’s interviewing Mr Stranton?” he then checked the screen to make sure that the text appeared correctly on the screen. It had. He pressed the send button.
Within a few minutes the phone vibrated in his hand.
I’m in the viewing room. Interested?
No. Busy. Keep me updated though.
Novel found the file on the raid and set his computer the task of printing it. After a few minutes of shouting at the printer – it was a wireless printed and highly unpredictable – the blasted machine began to slowly ‘warm up’ before sheets of paper appeared in the ‘out try’. He imagined it mean he had some decent bedtime reading tonight.
A few hours later he was sat at home in the lounge. His mother was watching a game show on the television. The large LCD screen helped him to see the faces of the washed up celebrities in clear precision. After being handed a hot chocolate, he dug the printing out from his bag and began to read through it.
Witness statement of PC Davids
The team and I were deleted from entering due to dangerous electrical wiring. We have entered the property using a key provided by the owner. I was entered the property from the front entrance.
Upon entering, I was not aware that the occupier is present. However, I was aware of an overpowering smell of what I presumed to be cannabis. I was instructed by the leading officer to go with my partner into the kitchen. It did not appear that the kitchen had been cleaned and the remains of a number of microwave meals covered the kitchen surfaces.
Novel chuckled to himself and decided that he was probably wasting his time. It still amazed him how many landlords did not flag up the low electricity bills on their properties. Drug gangs had a horrible habit of circumventing the mains electrical box to compensate for the amount of energy required to propagate drug plants. However, this did come with a huge risk of self-electrocution.
He took another sip of his now lukewarm hot chocolate and carried on reading until the early hours of the morning.
Around 11 the following morning, Cassie wondered into the office with two steaming mugs of coffee. She placed one mug of coffee on Novel’s desk and made herself comfy with the other on the sofa.
“How did the interview go?” Novel asked, taking a swig of his coffee.
“Stranton spoke a lot of hot air. Tried to make himself seem more significant. There were a couple of names that could lead somewhere. DCI Peters seems to be on top of things.”
“Good. It’s his first big case. Did you notice the significance of the name of the dog walker yesterday?”
“Samuel Whithall?” Novel nodded to confirm she was correct, “He owns a couple of rental properties – but is on a suspended sentence as a a few of them were being used as drugs dens. I wonder why he wasn’t just locked up?”
The flare of intelligence from the team that had occurred earlier in the week had apparently finished. This was a fine example of why taking time off was a bad idea.
“Have you read the internal system notes?” There was a nod, “Did you look up the case file I reference?” A negative, “If you had, you would have known that our Jane Doe wondered into one of those drug dens during her existence.”
Novel could only admit that he was disappointed that Cassie had not made the time to read the document. Her mind was obviously distracted by this wedding fiasco. Not great timing for an off day.
Cassie stared at him. He watched as the light switched on behind her eyes. Novel grinned – at least someone else in his team was awake.
“I’ll call him in for questioning again – tell him we just want to run over his statement…” Cassie quickly made the call to the front desk to set it all in motion.
Within an hour the man was in an interview room and the pair was quizzing him. The usually gave this task to a DC or DCI. However, Novel figured that Cassie could do with the practice.
“Chief Inspector Novel does not believe in coincidences, do you?”
The man before them paled significantly.
When he had previously visited, the ‘dog walker’ had performed the role of distressed witness remarkably well. However, today that masked appeared to have been effectively removed.
“So Mr Whithall, I don’t buy that you couldn’t have any idea about what was going on,” Novel noted the beads of sweats dripping down the guys forehead, “we are therefore of the belief that you were the cause of these girls having such an untimely demise. After which, we believe, you helped orchestrate the cleanup. Although, we still don’t get why you then reported finding one.”
There was a long pause.
“I didn’t kill nobody! Stranton had me van for a bit! Our lot had taken his during the raid… I was just helping him get back on his feet…”
“Have you got any evidence? I’ve got both witness statements linking your van to both scenes.”
“Stranton got a speeding ticket while I was in the US, I have the paperwork that proves I was out of the country. I lent him the van because I didn’t need it you see…”
“Who were the girls Whithall?” Novel pressed again. The man opposite him was currently fiddling with the sleeves of his jacket, “one of the girls we’ve found can be places alive in your property around the time of the raid.”
“Have you spoken to the guys? I mean, she might be a girlfriend…”
Mr Whithall had finally cracked.
Within a few hours a solicitor had arrived. The now rather nervous looking man had realised that he was moving into hot water.
After a long discussion, his solicitor agreed that a detailed and helpful confession would probably be his best option.
The two girls had been homeless strays that the gang had picked up off the steets. They had paid for their keep and would never have been reported missing When the place was raided, they had to hide with other members until everything died down. It turned out that Stranton had done a ‘clear-up’ job as he found them.
Even though the team suspected that the unfortunate young woman had been sexually assaulted – there was no evidence to prove it.
Whithall called that he had not become aware of the horrific final ending of the girls until he enquired about them a few weeks after the raid. The second body had only been reported because Stranton had not paid Whithall for his silence on the matter.
Novel was once again convinced by the stupidity of the human race as a whole. That would be one arrested for murder and one for trying to prevent to course of justice. They never learn.
“Case closed?” asked Cassie, tidying the last of her papers into the filing cabinet.
“There is always the chance of another poor soul…” Novel replied. He had already set some of the new recruits on the task of locating the girl’s families.
“I could do with a drink. Will be on fruit juice and water for the next few days. Care to join me?” she questioned while pulling on her coats, “I don’t know how I’m going to cope with the marriage questions every 5 minutes sober…”
“Of course. I wouldn’t want you mistaken as an alcoholic.”
He did not make a habit of going out for drinks with his staff. Cassie was the only exception to the rule. They had been working in partnership since she had joined the force 15 years ago. He had mentored her throughout her career – just to ensure there was at least one competent member on his team. She had followed in his tailwind and had quickly risen through the ranks by filling in the position that he left vacant.
The local pub (the “Magic Dragon”) was only a few streets away from the station. It was a dark old pub with fading leather seats. They proceeded to make themselves comfortable with a whisky in the farthest corner from the door.
Cassie began to fidget, “that guy by the door is watching us…”
Novel flicked his eyes in the indicated direction, “I arrested him nearly 2 decades ago. He’s not been out long, apparently he picked up glaring as a new hobby.”
“Remind me again why we drink here?”
“The drinks are cheap. So who’s the wedding for?”
“My cousin. She’s marrying a friend of her father or something. It has all been arranged, but she’s still excited.”
“So how’s the boyfriends? Mike…. Mark…. Matthew… What’s his face….”
“John. We spilt up 4 months ago.”
“So I’ll avoid any drunken declarations of how much you adore him? Good. Staying single now then?”
“For as long as possible. As soon as I get a partner my mother will want to know when the wedding is. The cat and I are perfectly happy together. Are you still alright to feed her while I’m away?”
He had forgotten about that demon cat. Why he had ever agreed to be within 10 meters of that thing he had no idea. His mother probably liked cates… she could do it. Cassie only lived a few streets from him.
She slowly rose and dropped a set of keys next to his now empty glass.
“Fresh food twice a day…. Change litter if it smells…. I’ll see you in the office on Wednesday. Wish me luck!”
He nodded as a way of formal goodbye before she turned the left the establishment. After a few minutes, he too rose and exited. The patrons all glared at his retreating back with a sense of hostility.
It was only the barman who seemed to truly wonder why this man continued to enter his pub when he was so clearly unwanted by the other patrons. There had only been one face that he had seen in the crowd that seemed to contain anything similar to a smile – that gentleman had left the pub earlier in the evening.
Upon arriving home he informed his mother that she had a cat to feed. Her response was in the negative. Novel signed in resignation and warmed up his dinner in the microwave. He would have to feed that blasted cat on his Saturday evening.
Edits made: 1/8/2017: Feedback: there are two written mistakes. ( he was
sat at home on the lounhe), I think it should be written ( he was sitting at home on the lounge) and ( I was entered the roperty) which should be written (I was entering the property). Also after the full stop there should be 2 spaces. I hope that helped.
Thanks Christina 🙂