‘How the hell has Trevor Marksman ended up living here?’ asked Erika peering through to see a glimpse of a cobbled courtyard. Peterson found his flat number and pressed call.
‘He won two hundred K in the civil suit against the MET. Invested it in property, and by the look of it, just before the housing boom,’ said Peterson. There was a crackle and a voice asked them to hold up their ID to the camera. After a moment the huge gates soundlessly swung inwards.
They walked into a large courtyard surrounded by a small landscaped garden. The gates slid closed, and at once they were transported away from the noise of the busy high street.
‘Is he waiting for us?’ asked Erika as they approached a tall red brick tower with a large glass entrance. A tall balding man in a smart suit waited, and was looking at them in anticipation.
‘He has an assistant,’ said Peterson.
When they came level the man nodded curtly. He had pale skin, and a bald shiny head. A pink scar wove its way across his forehead and vanished behind his left ear.
‘Good afternoon officers, may I see your ID’s again,’ he said. He had a clipped South African accent and Erika could see that underneath his suit he carried considerable bulk. They handed over their ID’s and he looked at them carefully, glancing up between them. Satisfied he handed them back,
‘Please come in.’
They came out of a lift onto the top floor. A large black laquered table sat between two doors, and on it was a beautiful white vase with a delicate pattern of roses. Erika thought of the entrance to her own flat, a tiny table covered in copies of the local free newspaper and take away leaflets.
‘What’s your name?’ asked Erika.
‘I’m Joel,’ said the man. His eyes were grey and distant. ’Please remove your shoes,’ he added as he opened the door. The apartment consisted of a large open-plan area with a beautiful pale blue carpet edged in cream and white roses. He stood over them as they removed their shoes, and Erika noticed how uncomfortable Peterson was.
‘Please come through,’ he said. They moved through the living area which was dotted with pale sofas around a large low coffee table. It was covered in glossy photo books featuring images of young children, one in particular was of a young girl looking up at the camera, and wearing a red swimming costume, she was making a sandcastle on the beach. She had large pale blue eyes and a serious pout. There was nothing illegal about the picture, but it fit into the jigsaw of Trevor Marksman’s life, which painted a more disturbing picture.
The room curved to the left and they came to a man sitting in an armchair by a large picture window. The view was of the Thames, the sky low and grey. A small tug boat was the only traffic on the choppy water, pulling a long flat barge.
‘Trevor Marksman?’ asked Peterson. The man turned and for a moment Erika couldn’t speak. His head was covered in skin, but it didn’t look like it had always belonged to him. It looked as if a large flat piece had been rolled out, and then carelessly placed over his head. The skin was painfully tight around his eyes, barely affording him eyelids, his lips were non existent.
‘Please sit,’ he said. He found it difficult to make the plosive ‘p’ sound. He wore loose fitting trousers and a shirt which was open at the neck, where his burns continued. His hands were red raw and claw like and there were only the remnants of fingernails on his left thumb and right index finger.
‘Thank you for speaking to us,’ said Erika. She looked across at Peterson who was staring down at Marksman with real rage. She too felt revulsion, but shot him a look to keep a lid on it and focus.
‘Would you like some tea or coffee?’ he asked. His eyes were cold and very blue, and Erika remembered them from the first mug shot photo taken of Marksman. It was like he was staring out from behind a Halloween mask.
‘Joel, would you pull up a couple of chairs for our guests,’ said Marksman. His voice had a pained hoarse sound. Joel brought two folding chairs, and they sat close together in front of Marksman’s armchair.
‘He was working for the NHS, used to come in every day to help me. I have heart problems, I can barely take two steps these days without having to sit. I poached him, he’s very good. Lives in.’
‘So no more prowling kids playgrounds for you, or does he do that for you?’ said Peterson.
‘We’re aware of your history, but we’re not here to talk about that,’ said Erika giving.
‘I have only ever been accused of one crime…’
’Abducting and sexually assaulting a young girl, the police broke into your flat as you were about to penetrate her.’
‘I served five years for that and not a day does by when I don’t regret it,’ he replied hoarsely. He started to cough and brought one of the raw claw hands up to his lipless mouth. He motioned for a beaker on a table just out of reach by the window. Erika rose and picked it up, placing the plastic straw in his mouth. The sound of him sucking down on the straw filled the room, until there was a gurgle as he emptied the glass.
‘Thank you,’ he said sitting back. ‘My voice and throat seem never to have recovered from the smoke damage. The doctor said it was like I’d inhaled on ten thousand cigarettes at once.’
He pulled out a tissue nestled in the side of the armchair and wiped at his face. He saw Peterson glaring at him. He put the tissue down and brought his hands to his chest and slowly painfully used his claws to undo three of his shirt buttons, he splayed the shirt open where a beautiful silver crucifix lay against his burnt chest. Erika noticed he didn’t have any nipples.
‘I’ve found Jesus Christ. I have asked him and he has forgiven me. Do you believe in forgiveness, DI Peterson?’
‘I believe in it, but I think there are some things which shouldn’t be forgiven… My sister was raped by our local priest when she was six. He threatened to kill her if she said anything.’
‘The priesthood attracts the best and the worst. Did he repent?’
‘He died on his own terms, natural causes. My sister killed herself.’
Erika realised that Peterson coming was a bad idea. She hadn’t put two and two together and she was cursing her stupidity.
‘Peterson. We’re not here to talk about…’
‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ said Marksman his cold blue eyes staring out from underneath his mask of skin grafts. Peterson stood, his chair tipped back with a crash, and he had Marksman by the shirt collar before Erika could react. Marksman was lifted out of his chair, but he betrayed no fear and hung loosely in Peterson’s grip, ’What was her name?’ asked Marksman softly.