‘Simon Douglas-Brown’s secretary just faxed through the contract for Andrea’s old phone. The one she lost in June. We’ve put in a request with the network for the records. They should be here first thing tomorrow.’

‘I think that deserves another doughnut,’ said Erika, shaking the bag and offering it round.

‘And that top-up receipt you found in the box under Andrea’s bed? It was from a Costcutter’s supermarket near London Bridge,’ said Crane. ‘There’s a date and time stamp. I’ve just got off the phone with the manager. He’s going to go back through the CCTV. He only keeps it for four months so it could be tight, but fingers crossed.’

‘Fantastic,’ said Erika. Crane grinned and grabbed a doughnut from the bag.

‘Shouldn’t we save one for DCI Sparks?’ asked Moss.

‘I don’t know. I think he’s sweet enough already,’ grinned Erika, which got a big laugh from her colleagues. She felt comfortable now in the incident room – the atmosphere, the camaraderie – but she was conscious that her team had been on the go for a long time, so she told them to call it a day.

‘Night, boss,’ chimed voices as they grabbed coats and bags. The incident room slowly emptied out until Erika was left alone. She picked up the phone on her desk and dialled the number Marsh had given her. A recorded voice told her that the drop-in clinic was now closed and that it would reopen at seven the next morning.

Erika put the phone down and pulled at the grubby bandage on the back of her hand, wincing as the plaster came away from the skin. Underneath, it was healing fast with very little bruising, a curve of pale little scabs marking out the teeth marks where the boy had bitten her.

Erika binned the plaster and went back over to the whiteboards at the back of the incident room. The whoosh of excitement she had felt earlier had drained away. She felt exhausted. A low hum of a headache was forming at the back of her head. She stared at the evidence: maps and pictures; Andrea alive in her driving licence photo; Andrea dead, her eyes wide and hair knotted with leaves against the side of her face. Usually Erika could get a handle on a case early on, but this one seemed to be opening wider and wider, the contradicting facts blooming and multiplying like the cells of a tumour.

She needed sleep, and for that, she realised, she would need to find a bed.

19

Erika had been starving when she left the station, so she stopped off at an Italian restaurant in New Cross and surprised herself by clearing a giant plate of spaghetti carbonara, followed by a large wedge of tiramisu. It was just after nine when she turned into the road where Marsh lived, in a leafy, affluent corner of South London.

Erika parked the car and found Marsh’s front door, number eleven. She was pleased when she saw that the house was in darkness. She’d much rather get a hotel for a few days whilst she looked for a flat than let Marsh take pity on her. The curtains were open in a large bay window on the ground floor, and she could see right through the double-aspect room to Hilly Fields Park and, beyond, the lights of the London skyline.

She was about to turn round and go back to her car when water began to whoosh down an ornate iron drainpipe at the front of the house. A light clicked on in a small upstairs window and Erika found herself squinting as she was bathed in a perfect square of light. Marsh looked down from the window and, noticing her, gave an awkward wave. She returned the wave, and waited by the front door.

When Marsh opened the door he was wearing tartan print pyjama bottoms, a faded Homer Simpson t-shirt, and was drying his hands on a pink Barbie towel.

‘Sorry, sir, I’ve left it a bit late to come over,’ said Erika.

‘No, it’s fine. It’s bath time.’

‘I like your towel,’ said Erika.

‘Not my bath time, it’s . . .’

‘It was a joke, sir.’

‘Ah, right,’ he grinned. On cue there was a scream and two tiny, giggling girls with long dark hair ran into the hallway. One was wearing just a pink jumper, knickers and socks. The other was wearing an identical outfit, but her tiny jeans were bunched around her ankles. She tottered forward, lost her balance and fell, hitting the wooden floor with a thunk. There was a moment where she looked up at Marsh, her big brown eyes trying to work out if she should cry. A dark-haired woman in her mid-thirties came rushing in after them. She was dressed casually in tight powder-blue trousers and a white blouse, which showed off her full breasts and hourglass figure. Where her sleeves were rolled up, bath foam clung to her bare arms. She was beautiful, much like her twin daughters.

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