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There was a knock on the glass and Peterson opened the door. He held a cardboard tray with two coffees from the Starbucks at the top of the high street. He moved to her desk and placed one in front of her.

‘What’s this?’ she asked.

‘I got you a coffee.’

‘I didn’t ask for one.’

‘You looked like you could do with one…’

Erika pushed it across the desk towards him. ’Peterson, what are you doing?’

‘Can’t I get you a coffee?’

‘Are you getting me a coffee as your Boss or as your, I don’t know, one night stand?’

‘That’s not fair. I’m just getting you a coffee, read into it what you will. And last night was special…’

‘We are not talking about last night here in the bloody incident room!’

Just then Moss appeared at the door.

‘I was just going to run across the road for coffee, do you guys…’ he voice tailed off. ‘Oh. Did I miss the coffee run?’

‘I’ve just been,’ said Peterson.

‘You went all the way up to Starbucks?’ She asked, seeing the cups. She then looked between Erika and Peterson and grinned, ‘Oh… I see, he’s a keeper.’

‘Moss can you come in here and close the door behind you,’ said Erika. She waited until the door was shut. ‘Look. This is not a dating game, I don’t want to hear my or Peterson’s private life discussed here. There’s no office romance to follow or be a part of…’

Moss nodded, ‘Yes boss… but look he got you brown and white sugar, a napkin; he’s even balanced one of those little tea stirrer sticks on the top. That’s sweet.’

‘Piss off, Moss,’ said Peterson.

‘Just get back to work, both of you,’ said Erika. When they’d gone she stared at the coffee for a moment and then relented and took a sip. She picked up the phone and called Isaac Strong. He was at work and answered after a couple of rings,

‘What do you know about a drug called Halcion?’ she asked.

‘The generic name is Triazolam; Halcion is the original brand name. It’s a central nervous system depressant in the benzodiazepine class. It’s similar in composition to other benzodiazepines, but it’s generally only used as a sedative to treat severe insomnia. Why, have you seized some?’

‘No. I saw it was prescribed to Marianne Collins. I wanted to know what it was.’

‘Prescribed?’

‘Yes, Laura said that their GP had been to see Marianne after the incident outside the station, and prescribed it for her to calm her down and help her sleep.’

‘Are you sure it was Halcion?’

‘I saw the box in their kitchen bin. I wrote it down when I got back to the car with my notes.’

‘Erika, Halcion has been illegal in the UK since the early nineties. No GP would risk giving their patient a banned drug…’

There was a knock at Erika’s door, it was Peterson,

‘What it is? I’m on the phone…’

‘Boss, there’s been an emergency call-out to Amanda Baker’s house. The postman went to do his delivery this afternoon at her front room window but she wasn’t there. He thinks he can see something through her window…’

‘What?’

‘He thinks he can see her feet suspended above the floor in the hallway.’

 

 

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Erika drove fast with the blue lights and sirens blaring, ducking and weaving through the traffic in Catford, and shooting over three sets of red lights. Rain spotted the front windscreen, and Peterson expertly braced his arms against the inner door and seat.

‘Are we cool?’ he said as they flew across a busy crossroads, water spraying up either side of the car.

‘Yes, we’re cool,’ she grinned, not taking her eyes off the road.

 

* * *

 

A police car was waiting outside Amanda Baker’s house. One of the officers was talking to the Postman, a middle-aged man who stood resting his bag on the gatepost, looking shaken. A couple of neighbours were watching from their front doors, as another officer was peering through the grimy glass of the front door.

‘I tried to force it, the lock looks crap but it won’t budge,’ she said to Erika and Peterson as they came down the front path flashing their ID’s.

‘There’s newspapers stacked up against it on the other side. Erika leaned over and peered at the frosted glass, but couldn’t make out anything. They came to the front and Peterson looked at the window.

‘The lock’s been fixed,’ he said peering through, ‘and I can see a pair of feet, just through the doorway from the hall.

‘Okay, let’s try the back,’ said Erika.

They made their way round and through the fence, down the side passage and into the back garden. The back door stood open.

‘Can you call for backup,’ said Erika quietly. The officer nodded and reached for his radio. As he put in the call, Erika and Peterson went into the kitchen. It was a worse mess than their last visit, and despite the cold weather, several flies hovered over a mound of dirty dishes. A tap dripped into one of the dirty saucepans, but apart from this the house was silent.

He kitchen door was closed and they made their way toward it, slowly. The uniform officer caught up with them and slipped the baton from the back of his belt. He moved to go first and open the door.

There was a strange creaking sound that made them stop.

‘This is the police, come out with your hands raised,’ said the officer gripping the baton. There was silence for a moment, and then the creaking came again louder, it rose and then there was a ripping sound a snap and an almighty thud shook the floorboards. It was followed by the sounds of debris crashing down the stairs.

They stood for a moment longer as the silence rang out. The officer looked back and Erika gave him a nod. He opened the door swiftly, and they saw Amanda Baker’s body lying at a gruesome angle on the hall carpet. She wore just a white patterned nightgown with blue socks. Her left arm and shoulder were trapped under her back and her right leg was dislocated at the knee. She was covered in dust and chunks of plaster, and a square of thin wood lay nearby. It was the loft hatch.

‘It broke away from the ceiling,’ said Peterson pointing up to a gaping hole in the ceiling at the top of the stairs. A fine rain of plaster dust rained down.

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