Erika took a deep breath and opened the door to the incident room. DCI Sparks stood talking at the front by the white boards, which were stripped bare. The rest of the team sat around the room despondently.
Sparks looked angry and haggard, his long dark hair pulled back from his face and spots of grease blooming where his hair touched his collar. ‘I’ll be talking to you one by one, and I’ll be asking tough questions. We’re going to go back to the beginning and root out exactly who failed to check the basic fucking timeline of Marco Frost’s journey from boarding the train at London Bridge to . . .’
Sparks’s voice tailed off as he saw Erika enter with Moss.
‘You here to pick up your P45, Foster?’ he sneered. The rest of the officers remained stony-faced.
‘No, my badge, actually,’ said Erika, flashing it to Sparks. He looked confused. ‘Do you take the title SIO seriously, DCI Sparks?’
‘Well, seeing as only one of us has it, yes,’ he said. ‘Can I help you? I’m in the middle of a briefing here.’
‘SIO means Senior Investigating Officer. The “senior” part doesn’t mean you’re older then everyone and entitled to bully them when the shit hits the fan. It means you take responsibility for your fuck-ups.’
‘I don’t understand,’ said Sparks, losing a little of his resolve.
‘That’s been the problem. I’ve been reinstated as SIO. And my first order is that you need to piss off to Marsh’s office.’
DCI Sparks froze.
‘Now, DCI Sparks.’
He stared at Erika, along with the rest of the incident room, and then he went slowly to his desk, picked up his coat and walked out. Before he was out of the door, Crane started to applaud. Other officers joined in, and Peterson put his fingers to his lips and whistled. Erika was touched, and looked down as she blushed.
‘All right you lot,’ she said. ‘It’s much appreciated, but there’s still a murderer out there.’ The applause died down. Erika went to the whiteboard at the front. She pinned up the picture of Andrea and George Mitchell.
‘This is our prime suspect, George Mitchell. Andrea Douglas-Brown’s lover, and ultimately, her killer. Also suspected in the rape and murder of Tatiana Ivanova, Mirka Bratova, Karolina Todorova and Ivy Norris.’
The room was silent.
‘Until today, the focus has been on the murder of Andrea Douglas-Brown. Her face has been on the front of every newspaper, Internet browser and television screen, and has worked its way into the national conscience. Yes, she was rich and privileged. But she experienced a terrible death: alone, scared and helpless. Tatiana Ivanova, Mirka Bratova, Karolina Todorova and Ivy Norris may have been prostitutes, but I can guarantee this was not a world they entered into willingly. Given different circumstances, they could have been as lucky as Andrea in life. They, too, had a harrowing demise. I say all this because I want you to forget where these women stood in society. Don’t do what we do in this country, day in, day out, and divide them into their social classes. They are all equals, all victims, and they deserve our equal attention.’
Erika paused. Crane had started to pin up photos of the victims.
‘So, this is our person of extreme interest and our main focus,’ said Erika, pointing to the photo of George Mitchell. ‘He was in a sexual relationship with Andrea, and they were photographed together four days before Andrea went missing. I also believe she met him and an unidentified blonde woman on the night she was taken. I want you all to review the full contents of Andrea Douglas-Brown’s second phone on the intranet. Please look at them with fresh eyes. There are no stupid questions. We find this man, and I believe we unlock this case.’
The officers nodded in unison.
Erika went on, ‘This afternoon we’re going to make a fresh public appeal for information. We’re going out with full guns, naming George Mitchell as a suspect. Hopefully it will lead to new information, or flush him out from wherever he is hiding.’
Erika paused, checking that she had their full attention. She continued. ‘Please also focus on our other victims. The murders of Tatiana Ivanova, Mirka Bratova, and Karolina Todorova are unsolved cases which have never been linked before. I want the evidence pulled on all three murders and revisited. Look for links, any similarities; did the victims know each other? If so, how and why?’
There was a knock at the door of the incident room, and Colleen, the police press officer, entered.
‘Sorry to interrupt, DCI Foster; I’m expecting a conference call from Reuters at any moment. I thought you’d want to sit in on it,’ she said.
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