The image span away as the camera moved across the room, past a sad and creepy group of men hovering around a saggy buffet table covered in plastic bowls of crisps, and a small round iced cake studded with smarties. One short round little man wore a party hat, the elastic dug into his three chins and his long grey hair flowed from underneath.
‘Jesus, all these bloody nonces were living just up the road from the Collins’s,’ said John as they watched.
Back on screen the fat little man in the party hat was looking into the lens,
‘Can I have a go?’ he asked, reaching up, smiling, showing he had only two teeth.
‘No…’ said Trevor, his hand appearing in shot and tartly slapping the fat man’s hand as it grabbed for the camcorder.
‘Go, on I’ve never seen one before…’
‘Get you fucking hands off!’ whined Trevor. His hand swooped round and clouted the small man hard around the head. He went down on the floor, the elastic snapping on his party hat. He got up and charged at the camera. There was a jerky tussle and then the image went black.
‘Bloody hell, we’re going to have to watch the whole party aren’t we?’ said John. Erika nodded grimly. The screen then burst back to life, the party again, but a little later on. Music was playing and some of the men were dancing awkwardly. The camera swung back over to Gary, still sat in the corner picking his nose. He pulled out his finger and put it in his mouth.
‘That’s disgusting,’ said John turning away from the screen and making a face.
‘It’s alright, he’s gone,’ said Erika.
The camera swung round to show the small fat man, wearing a new party hat, and sat in a corner by an old upright piano. He was stuffing his face from a plate piled high with food, another plate waiting on the lid of the piano beside him.
‘What’s up with him?’ asked a voice out of shot.
‘He’s being a dick, wanted to use my camera,’ said Trevor’s voice as he cruelly zoomed in close on the fat man’s feasting little mouth. ‘He’s got two fucking thumbs. I don’t let anyone touch this camera,’ The image blurred in and out as he stuffed a fork full of quiche in his mouth, crumbs catching in his beard. ‘Fat fuck,’ said Trevor.
There was a high pitched girlish laugh and the camera panned round to a close up of tall bald red-faced man with crooked rabbit teeth.
‘You’ll let me have a go, won’t you?’ he asked.
There seemed to be another tussle and the image flicked forward to later in the afternoon. It was now growing dark in the television room, and the only light in the room was the candles on the cake, which was being carried across the room by a tall man. Trevor followed behind him as they took the cake to Gary, who was still sitting in the armchair.
‘Go on, give it a blow!’ cried a voice. Gary protested and them blew out the candles. ‘What did you wish for?’ shouted another voice.
‘To fucking die,’ said Gary sitting back and folding his arms. The man holding the cake turned to the camera for a moment, and then walked out of shot.
‘Shit!’ said Erika, ‘hang on, run it back.’
‘I can’t, I’m doing the digital transfer,’ said John. Trevor followed behind the man, over to the long table.
‘I know that man,’ said Erika. ‘He was at Trevor Marksman’s the other day. Pause it, now!’
* * *
Erika dashed out of the viewing suite and up the stairs to the incident room. Peterson was just coming off the phone when she grabbed him and told him to come downstairs. When they got back to the viewing suite. He watched with them. On the screen, Trevor now focused on Joel who was talking to the camera, joking as if this party was a red carpet event.
‘That’s him isn’t it? Joel. He’s got hair in the video, but he’s got the South African accent,’ said Erika.
‘He’s got the same strange milky blue eyes,’ added Peterson. ‘Yep, and that scar, running down from his temple to behind his ear.’
‘He said his name was Joel, but didn’t give a surname. I want a list of everyone who was in that half way house during 1990,’ said Erika.
They looked back at the screen where one of the other men in the halfway house had taken the camera, and Trevor and Joel were dancing together, as music boomed from a crackling sound system.
Erika and John watched two more of the video tapes in the afternoon, they were shorter, recorded using standard play. They consisted of several spring days spent in the park local to Avondale Road. Trevor Marksman filmed lots of local children, often encouraging the parents to smile and wave at the camera as they pushed their children on the swings, and caught them at the bottom of slides.
Jessica Collins made her first appearance in one of the videos in a clip which was dated 11.06.1990, playing at the park on a see-saw with another dark haired girl. They laughed and bounced up and down, and in the background a younger version of both Marianne and Laura sat on a bench in the shade of a large oak tree. Laura was smoking, and barely listening as Marianne leaned in to talk to her.
The camera watched Jessica play for several minutes, zooming in from the other side of the park. Erika was struck how beautiful and carefree she was, dancing with her friend, swinging from the climbing frame… Erika’s feelings turned to revulsion when she realised that she was watching all of this through Trevor Marksman’s eyes.
For several minutes the image had remained still and silent, just the gentle sounds of birds singing and children playing. Then there was a curse as the low battery sign began to flash in the corner of the screen. The image wobbled, and retreated from the park, still watching the girls on the climbing frame. The camera then reached a small gate at the edge of the park, and just before the battery died, and the picture went black, there was a brief flash of a familiar face as a hand took the camera.
‘Hang on, who was that?’ asked Erika as they both stared at the blank screen.
‘That was the end of the tape,’ said John.
‘The camera turned round, just as the tape ended… Can we run it back?’
John took out the tape, and pulled the laptop towards him on the desk. They now had a digital recording. He found the last few minutes of the tape and ran it forward. It took a few attempts, as the face was only on screen for a fraction of a second, but when they had the image it was undoubtedly Trevor Marksman.