Eventually the rain slowed, and storm began to move on. She was trying to find a signal on her phone when she heard the sound of a police siren. A squad car appeared far up the track and slowly made its way towards her, its wheels churning up the waterlogged mud. Two young male officers got out, and Erika walked to meet them, holding up her ID. They looked up at Barbora’s body.
‘You haven’t touched anything? We need to secure the area,’ one of them said.
‘It was suicide,’ said Erika. ‘She was with us before she did it.’
It was several hours before Erika, Moss, and Peterson were cleared to leave the scene. The fact that Barbora had been in witness protection had hampered efforts to discover who she was. It was getting dark as they drove back towards London. Erika and Moss filled Peterson in on the details.
‘So, this Igor Kucerov is responsible for the deaths of Andrea, the three Eastern European girls, and Ivy?’ asked Peterson.
‘And the girl he killed at Barbora’s house. The one he stashed in the sports bag.’
‘He was arrested for this and went to trial, and he’s not in any system or database?’
‘He’s not in any system as George Mitchell,’ said Erika. On cue, there was a hiss and a beep as Crane came over the radio.
‘Boss, we found an address for Igor Kucerov from the council tax records. He lives in Kilburn; he’s thirty-seven, of Romanian-Russian descent. He’s married, too. House is in the wife’s name, a Rebecca Kucerov. They’ve got a five-year-old son.’
‘Jesus,’ said Moss.
‘How long has he been married?’ asked Erika.
‘Ten years,’ said Crane.
‘Any employment history?’
‘He runs a landscape garden maintenance business. He’s down as director, but the company is in his wife’s name. We’re just running our computers to find out if he had any contracts in the locations where the dead girls were found.’
There was a pause.
‘Do you want us to bring him in?’ asked Crane. Erika looked at the clock glowing on the dashboard. It was past five pm.
‘We should be back in London in about two hours,’ said Peterson, reading her mind.
‘No. Hold off bringing him in. I want to be ready for him. Put a surveillance team outside his house. Don’t let him know you’re there. And keep him in sight.’
‘We’ll be back at Lewisham Row in a couple of hours. In the meantime I want everything you can find on him: bank statements, emails, companies he owns, any bankruptcy. Also, check out the wife – full profile. I bet anything else he’s hiding stuff in her name too. And try to unlock the new identity they gave Barbora Kardosova. Now she’s dead it should be easier.’
‘We’re already working on it,’ said Crane. He added, ‘Are you all okay? We heard she topped herself right in front of you.’
‘We’re fine,’ said Erika. ‘Now get off this radio and concentrate on Igor Kucerov.’
Outside the car it was pitch black. The fields and fens around them were invisible. There were no moon or stars, and barely any light pollution; just the road in front, illuminated by the arc of the headlights. Erika longed to get far away from the bleakness of the fens, from where Barbora’s body had swung creaking from the tree. She needed to be back in the city, where buildings crowded around her; where there was noise, and time didn’t stand still.
She pulled down the mirror above the passenger seat and its light flicked on. She saw she had mud on her face. Peterson’s reflection stared back from behind, bathed in the light.
‘It doesn’t get any easier, does it, boss? Seeing a dead body,’ he said.
‘No, it doesn’t,’ said Erika. She wiped at the mud with a tissue, and then snapped the mirror shut, plunging the interior of the car back into darkness.
They rode the rest of the way back in silence, conserving their energy for the night ahead.
Erika, Moss, and Peterson arrived back at Lewisham Row Station just after seven pm. The torrential rain had moved with them during the journey back from Norfolk, and was pelting the car park as they dashed into the reception area. They were met by Crane, who buzzed them through from reception. Erika was impressed to see that the full team had stayed, and the incident room buzzed with activity.
‘Good evening, everyone. I take it that Crane has briefed you on what happened?’ said Erika. There was a murmured nodding. ‘Good. Now, what can you give me?’
One of the officers had brought up some towels from the police gym in the basement and threw one each to Moss, Peterson and Erika. They took them gratefully.
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