They sat in silence as rain hammered against the windows. Erika paced up and down in front of one where she had a view of the high street. Rainwater was cascading down the hill like a river, as people darted in groups across from one pub to the other. A car alarm was blaring halfway up the hill, parked outside the Boots on the corner by the traffic crossing. Just as the noise ceased, a young lad broke away from a group walking past, leapt onto the bonnet and stood arms outstretched and jumped up and down. The car alarm started up again as he and his mates whooped and laughed, then ran for it.
Her phone rang and she moved quickly to her desk snatched it up. All eyes were on her as she listened, she replaced the receiver.
‘They’ve lifted a print off one of the baggies, it’s just being scanned into the database.’
The faces of her team lit up.
‘How long will it take?’ asked John.
‘They’re running it through the database with the print we took from Jason Tyler. If it’s a match, we’ll know within the next few minutes.’
The cells of Bromley South Police station were housed in the basement. A thick steel door separated it from the offices and interview suites. Jason Tyler’s face dropped when he emerged in handcuffs, escorted by two uniformed officers through the steel doors, to see his Solicitor, Superintendent Yale, DCI Foster, several uniform officers and the rest of her CID team standing by the main desk.
Erika clasped a clipboard with the full list of charges. Jason Tyler wore expensive trainers, blue tracksuit bottoms, a white sleeveless t-shirt and a zip up sports top. Police had arrested him in the early hours of Wednesday morning by police at a gym in Bromley. He stood at just less than five feet, but was powerfully muscled. His dark hair was cropped with a thin Mohawk. His brown eyes were large, but set close together.
‘What is this shit?’ he started to shout. ‘You gotta be fucking kidding me? You’ve got fuck-all. Giles? GILES?’ his Solicitor gave a frustrated shake of his head.
Jason was brought to stand by the duty sergeants’ desk. Erika was very tall, standing at just over six foot. Within a professional or personal situation she would often put a little space between herself and a man who was shorter, but she realised what a kick she got from standing in front of him, towering over the little shit. He glanced up at her then looked away.
‘Jason Paul Tyler. I’m Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster and I’m here to inform you that this afternoon we recovered a case containing four kilos of heroin with an estimated street value of four million pounds from the bed of the Hayes Quarry. We have positively identified a print of a left index finger from one of the bags inside and have successfully matched this to the print of your left index finger taken when you were arrested. Therefore you are formally charged with intent to supply a controlled illegal substance.’
He didn’t say anything, his small brown eyes bored into hers. Erika read out the rest of the charges, and informed him he would have a bail hearing on Monday morning, where the CPS would press for him to be denied bail.
When he was led back to the cells, they came back up to the offices on the top floor. Only then did they break into whoops of delight. They had come close to having to release Tyler.
‘Okay everyone, that was close to the wire, bloody good work. Now we can link him to the drugs, we need to start thinking about sweetening the deal for Tyler. Maybe he can offer up some names in the hope of a reduced sentence,’ said Superintendent Yale. ‘Trust a bloody drug dealer to put the spanner in the works for any celebration drinks. I wouldn’t advise hitting the pubs now for last orders, unless you want to be roped in by uniform division to help with the chaos.’
Erika was pleased that they were well on the way to nailing Jason Tyler, but she knew that with a plea bargain, and an expensive legal team, he would probably only lose a few years of his life.
‘Congratulations,’ said Yale coming over to her. ‘And I thought I was solving a staffing problem letting you join my team. Seems I’ve inherited a real asset.’
‘Thank you, Sir, I think,’ said Erika. He looked at her curiously.
‘I thought you’d be a bit more stoked about this. We’ve been after Jason Tyler for three years, and you sew it all up in a couple of months.’
‘Sir, it’s far from being sewn up. I know how these things work. Drug dealers have deep pockets, and deep pockets attract the best legal teams…’
He put his finger to his lips. ‘Let’s just stay in the moment.’ He clapped his hands, and put himself back in the middle of the celebrations, announcing, ‘I can’t give you any alcohol, but I’ve got a case off brand cola left over from one of our open days, and I’ve got a spare key for the vending machine!’
Erika looked at the room full of officers celebrating, she sat down on the edge of a desk and for a moment felt exhaustion overwhelm her. She closed her eyes and the image of the tiny skeleton laid out on the banks of the quarry came rushing up to her. She opened her eyes, and her heart was racing. She didn’t feel like celebrating. She picked up her coat, and slipped out of the office.
After the adrenalin rush of the Friday night, Saturday and most of Sunday were equally busy for Erika and the team. Jason Tyler’s girlfriend, Theresa and her two children were moved to a safe location, and reports had to be prepared for Monday morning when Jason Tyler would be appearing in court. On Saturday morning a statement was put out to the press detailing the arrest and charging of Jason Tyler, but omitting the discovery of the skeletal remains.
‘It will cloud the case, and we need to learn the identity of whoever it is. And if we need to even pursue it,’ Superintendent Yale had said. He had sounded hopeful that they were historical remains. Erika wasn’t hopeful, but she would at least be able to sleep at night. The skeleton had haunted her dreams. If they were historical remains, it wouldn’t make the situation any better, but the killer would most probably be dead too.
On Sunday afternoon she returned to her flat in Forest Hill for a shower, and to rest up before the week ahead. She emerged from the bathroom wrapped in a towel, and was sitting on the sofa watching a film when the phone rang.
‘Erika, hi. It’s Isaac,’ said a smooth male voice. Since she’d moved to London two and half years ago Forensic Pathologist Isaac Strong had become a friend in addition to a trusted colleague. ‘Are you busy?’ he added.
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