She got the thin paper wrapping off the green straw, popped it through the hole in the plastic dome of her cup and took a sip, enjoying the delicious coolness of the iced coffee.

‘Okay, sir, what is this about, the decent coffee? Is this because you’re off on holiday?’

He grinned and sat, indicating she should too. ‘Yes, two weeks in the south of France, and I cannot wait. Right, well, I read your report. Gay bashing last night, nasty stuff.’

‘I don’t know if it was a gay bashing, sir…’

‘It’s got gay bashing written all over it: male victim, gay porn, asphyxiation. He’s a doctor on a good wage. My best guess is that he hired a rent boy. They get kinky. Rent boy does a number on him. Was anything taken?’

‘No. Sir, as I said, I don’t think it was a straightforward gay bashing. I didn’t class it as that in my preliminary report.’ She saw Marsh’s look of confusion. ‘Sir, you have read my report?’

‘Course I’ve read it!’ he snapped.

Erika picked up the report lying on his desk, the ink now blooming out in a wet circle. She saw it was a single sheet. She got up and went to Marsh’s printer, opened the paper drawer, pulled out a block of paper, put it in the printer and closed the drawer.

‘What are you doing?’ he asked. There was a click and a whirr and when the second page of the report came out, she handed it to him and sat back down. He read it and went grey.

‘Sir, there were signs that this was planned in advance. The security alarms were disabled, the phone lines had been cut, and we haven’t found any fingerprints or bodily fluids other than the victim’s.’

‘Bloody hell, this is all we need. I thought it was just a gay bashing.’

‘Just a gay bashing, sir?’

‘You know what I mean. Gay bashings are – well, they’re not so media sensitive.’ Marsh studied the report again. ‘Bloody hell, Gregory Munro was the local GP, a family man. What’s the address again?’

‘Laurel Road. Honor Oak Park.’

‘That’s a good postcode, too. Sorry, Erika. It’s been a long week… You could have numbered your pages.’

‘They are numbered, sir. I’m waiting on the results of the post-mortem and forensics from Isaac Strong. We’ll be looking through the victim’s computer hard drive and phone. I’m off to brief my team now.’

‘Okay, keep me in the loop. Anything new, I want to hear about it. I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Erika. The sooner we catch this bastard, the better.’


The incident room at Lewisham Row was a large, airless communal office. Harsh strip lighting cast the police officers inside in an unflinching glare. Glass partitions on either side faced onto corridors, and running along one side of the glass partition was a bank of printers and photocopiers. Erika stood at one of the printers, feeling a familiar tingling mix of anticipation, horror and excitement as she read the preliminary findings that had been sent through from the post-mortem on Gregory Munro. The pages emerged one by one, the paper warm to the touch.

Her team was already hard at work, many of the officers having come from the crime scene after just a few hours’ sleep. Sergeant Crane – the blond-haired, perpetually active engine of the incident room – moved between the desks, preparing for the briefing with a pile of printouts. Moss was manning the ringing phones with Detective Constable Singh, a small, pretty officer with a sharp mind. A new member of the team, Detective Constable Warren, was pinning up the case evidence gathered so far on the vast whiteboards covering the back wall. He was an enthusiastic, good-looking young lad.

Detective Inspector Peterson entered and regarded the busy incident room. He was a tall, handsome black officer with a crop of short dreadlocks. Along with Moss, he had become one of Erika’s most trusted colleagues. His cool, smart sophistication provided a good balance for Moss’s down-to-earth crudeness.

‘Good holiday, Peterson?’ asked Erika, looking up from the report.

‘Yeah. Barbados. Peace, quiet, sandy beaches… This looks the opposite,’ he replied wistfully, but Erika’s attention was already back in her report. Peterson sat at his desk and looked around at the stark shabbiness of the incident room.

Moss put her hand over the phone. ‘You sure you’ve been away? You don’t look like you’ve caught much of a tan…’

‘Ha, ha. I had a bowl of porridge for breakfast this morning with more colour than you,’ Peterson grinned.

‘It’s good to have you back,’ she winked, before going back to her call.