‘Take it easy, Foster. Don’t go in guns blazing, assuming that Andrea was meeting up for some sordid shag.’
‘I never said she was meeting for a sordid . . .’
‘Remember this is a well-respected family who . . .’
‘I have done this before, sir.’
‘Yes. But realise who you’re dealing with.’
‘Yes. A grieving family. And I have to ask them the usual questions, sir.’
‘Yes, but this is an order. Go easy.’
When Erika came off the phone she was prickling at Marsh’s attitude. The one thing she despised about Britain was its class system. Even in a murder investigation, it seemed that Marsh wanted the family to have some kind of VIP treatment.
Moss and Peterson emerged from the tent with a uniformed police officer, and they made their way past the lake and through the sunken garden. Erika wondered if the blank-eyed statues had watched as Andrea was dragged past, screaming for her life.
A radio on the accompanying officer’s lapel hissed static. ‘We’ve just recovered a small pink handbag from a hedge on London Road,’ said a tinny voice.
‘Which direction is London Road?’ asked Erika.
‘The high street,’ said the officer, pointing past a row of trees.
After months of inactivity, Erika was struggling to get her brain back into gear. Every time she closed her eyes she saw Andrea’s body, skin torn and bruised, blank eyes wide open. There were so many variables to a murder investigation. The average-sized house could keep a forensics team busy for days, but this was a crime scene potentially stretching across seventeen acres, with evidence strewn across public areas, trapped under a thick layer of snow.
‘Bring it to the Visitors’ Centre, by the ambulance,’ said Erika to the officer, who hurried off. Moments later she, Moss and Peterson emerged from the hedgerows. At the bottom of a gentle snow-covered slope was the futuristic glass box of the Visitors’ Centre. A courtyard out front had been churned up by an ambulance, which was parked with its back doors open. A young man in his early twenties sat in the back under a pile of blankets. He was grey-faced and shaking. A small woman stood by the ambulance doors, watching over a member of the crime scene unit who was carefully processing the boy’s clothes, his gloved hand labelling the soiled tracksuit, jumper and trainers in their clear evidence bags. The woman had the same bushy eyebrows as the boy, but with a sharp little face.
‘I want a receipt,’ she was saying, ‘and I want it in writing what’s being taken away. Lee only got those tracksuit bottoms in November, and those trainers are new too – there’s still thirteen weeks of catalogue payments to be made on them. How long are you gonna have them for?’
‘These are all now evidence in a murder investigation,’ said Erika, as they reached the ambulance. ‘I’m DCI Foster, this is Detective Moss and Detective Peterson.’ They held out their ID and the woman peered beadily at their photos.
‘What’s your name?’ prompted Erika.
‘Grace Kinney, and my Lee’s done nothing more than turn up for work. And because he’s been forced to wait in the cold, he’ll be on the sick and they’ll stop his money!’
‘Lee, can you tell us exactly what happened?’
Lee nodded, his face pale and haunted. He told them how he’d arrived for work, then followed the sound of the phone ringing, which had led to the discovery of Andrea’s body under the ice. An officer interrupted him, appearing at the ambulance doors holding a small pink clutch bag in a clear plastic bag. Another plastic bag contained its contents: six fifty-pound notes, two compact tampons, a mascara, a lipstick and a perfume atomizer.
‘Did that belong to the dead girl?’ said Grace, peering over. The officer quickly placed it behind his back.
‘She’s seen it now,’ Erika snapped at the officer. She went on, ‘Ms Kinney. You have to understand that this is evidence in a sensitive investigation and . . .’
‘I’ll keep my mouth shut, don’t you worry,’ Grace said. ‘Although what a young girl with a designer bag and a wad of fifties was doing round here, God only knows.’
‘What do you think she was doing?’ asked Erika.
‘I’m not doing your job for you. But it don’t take Sherlock Holmes to realise she was on the game. She probably brought a punter up here and it all went wrong,’ said Grace.
‘Lee, did you recognise the dead girl?’
‘Why would my Lee recognise a prostitute?’
‘We don’t . . . we don’t think she was a prostitute.’
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