‘Boys were always drawn to Andrea. They turned into drooling, pitiful creatures in her presence. She got a kick out of the attention.’

‘But was Andrea having an affair?’ pressed Moss.

‘I don’t know what she did half the time. We weren’t close. But I loved her, and I’m devastated that she’s dead . . .’ For the first time, Linda looked as if she might cry.

‘What about you, Linda?’ asked Moss.

‘What about me? Are you asking if I make the boys drool? What do you think?’ snapped Linda, cutting her off.

‘I wanted to ask if you have a boyfriend,’ explained Moss.

‘That’s none of your business. Have you got a boyfriend?’

‘No. I’m married,’ said Moss.

‘What does he do?’ asked Linda.

‘She. She’s a teacher,’ said Moss, breezily. Erika tried not to look surprised.

‘No, I haven’t got a boyfriend,’ said Linda.

‘Can these windows be opened fully?’ asked Peterson, moving to the middle sash window, bending over to peer around the closed blinds. ‘Have they got suicide locks?’

‘No, they open all the way,’ said Linda, admiring Peterson’s backside as he bent over. Erika joined him at the window and saw that there was a fire escape leading down to ground level.

‘Did Andrea ever climb out of her window to meet friends, if she was grounded?’ asked Erika.

‘My mother and father never had the time or inclination to ground us. We use the front door if we want to go out,’ said Linda.

‘And you can come and go as you please?’

‘Of course.’

Erika kneeled down and looked under the bed. There were wispy clumps of dust on the polished wood floor, but one area stood out as a little cleaner than the others. She moved her attention to the chest of drawers and went to open the top one, pausing with her hand on the handle. ‘Would you mind just waiting outside, please Linda?’ she asked.

‘Why? I thought you were here just to chat?’

‘Linda, have you got any photos of Andrea you can show me? It could help us,’ said Peterson. He came over and touched Linda lightly on the arm. Her round white face blushed scarlet.

‘Um, yes, I think I have some,’ she said, staring up at Peterson with a smile. They left, and Erika closed the door.

‘Good old Peterson, taking one for the team,’ joked Moss, adding, ‘What is it?’

Erika crossed back to the bed. ‘Did forensics come in when it was a missing persons?’

‘No, Sparks came and had a poke round. I think Simon or Diana was with him though, so it wasn’t thorough.’

‘There’s something underneath the bed that looks fishy,’ said Erika.

They knelt down, pulling latex gloves out of their coats and slipping them on. Erika got down on her front and slid under the bed. Moss flicked on a torch and shone it under the bed as Erika examined a floorboard which was cleaner than the rest, tracing its seams. Erika pulled out her car keys, fitting a key between the floorboards, and levered it up. However, the board was long and the bed was low, so it wouldn’t properly lift out. Erika replaced the board and shuffled back out. They took an end of the bed each and pulled it out a few feet with great difficulty.

‘Jesus, that’s no IKEA shit,’ grimaced Moss. Erika moved round and got the floorboard up.

Inside a cavity underneath was a mobile phone box. Erika gently lifted it out, and opened the lid. The moulded cardboard housing was still inside, but there was no phone. There was, however, a bag of small white pills, a small dark block of what looked like cannabis resin wrapped in cling film, a pack of large Rizlas and a box of Swan Vestas filters. There was also a small instruction booklet for an iPhone 5S, and a hands-free kit that was still in its little plastic bag. Erika lifted out the moulded cardboard. A small white receipt was nestled in the bottom. It was printed on thin shiny paper, and along one edge was a sticky yellow substance that had blurred the ink. On the reverse it was blank, apart from the words “your my baby x” written in blue ink, in a childish hand.

‘It’s a mobile phone top-up voucher,’ said Erika, turning it back over.

‘But there’s only half a transaction number,’ said Moss. ‘What is that gunk?’

Erika put it to her nose. ‘Dried egg yolk.’

‘What about the stash?’ asked Moss, looking back in the mobile phone box.

‘I don’t know. Sadly, it’s fairly run-of-the-mill. Six tablets could be ecstasy. An ounce or two of cannabis resin? That’s personal use,’ said Erika. ‘Let’s bag this up and call in a CSI to check out the rest of her bedroom.’


***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com