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Friday, November 1, 2013

Excerpt from The Murder Wall



Excerpt 1 - context: Kate Daniels and Hank Gormley arrive at a new crime scene on 5th November . . .
The foyer of Court Mews was a little pretentious for Daniels’ liking. She took a cursory look around, finding nothing out of the ordinary. As the lift doors slid open, she moved forward with Gormley hot on her heels. She turned, lifted her hand to his chest and pointed to the stairwell door. He headed off . . .
Moments later, Daniels left the lift on the fourth floor. A female officer standing guard outside number 24 greeted her. The scene was secured with thick tape: Police Crime Scene Do Not Enter. Before Daniels had a chance to introduce herself, Gormley arrived through a set of double doors. He bent double with his hands on his knees, taking a moment to get his breath back.
‘I’ve got to get back in the gym,’ he said.
Daniels smiled at the policewoman. ‘He’s being ironic. It makes our grim task a bit more bearable. He hasn’t seen the inside of a gymnasium since leaving junior school.’ Then, to Gormley: ‘Find anything?’
‘Negative … but it was different, I’ll give you that.’
‘In what way?’
‘No hypodermics, no used condoms … no stink of piss. Hardly our usual murder scene, is it?’ He looked at his watch and then at the WPC. ‘Time our visit please. This is DCI Daniels and I’m DS Gormley. Where’s the body?’
‘Second door on the right as you go in, Sarge.’
‘Who found him?’ Daniels asked.
‘His wife, Monica Stephens.’
‘Where is she now?’
‘Hospital, ma’am.’
Daniels thanked her and led Gormley by the arm into the apartment, checking the door frame for signs of a forced entry. It was clean. They walked on along a wide hallway, peering into the rooms on either side. Each one appeared to be immaculate; a place for everything and everything in its place, as far as they could tell – until they reached the lounge.
The room was cold and uninviting. Daniels didn’t care much for the decor: barring the blood on the walls, everything in the room was white. Surreal was the word that sprang to mind. It was more like a chilling art exhibit than someone’s private living space. As if an artist had deliberately splashed red paint across a white canvas for others to appreciate, placing the corpse of a white male carefully at its centre for effect.
In a London gallery it would probably win a prize.
‘I think we can safely assume he’s dead,’ Daniels said. ‘Call out the troops and contact Area Command. Tell them to start the house-to-house immediately. I want a mobile incident caravan too. The whole nine yards, if you can get it.’
Gormley made the call, then crouched down beside the body to get a closer look. The dead man was dressed in a dinner suit; his clothing intact, apart from a missing bow tie. A bullet wound had caused enormous trauma to one side of his skull.
‘Bet that smarted a bit …’ he said. ‘He must really have upset someone, given that it’s not a robbery.’
‘What makes you say that?’
Gormley looked up. ‘His wallet’s on the table by the door.’
Daniels knelt down beside him. But she didn’t stay there long. Although she’d seen death in all its grisly forms, for the second time in under a year she suddenly recoiled from a body. It was like this with Sarah Short and now – almost twelve months later – it was happening all over again.
Her actions telegraphed alarm to Gormley. He couldn’t fathom what he’d missed. His eyes shifted to a photograph she was staring at. He gave her a moment to compose herself, curiosity getting the better of him.
With her DS breathing down her neck, Daniels moved to the table near the door. She took out a pen and used it to open up the wallet. Inside was a driver’s licence and money – lots of it.
Gormley read over her shoulder. ‘Alan James Stephens. D’you know him?’
‘Trick of the light.’ She held up her glasses. ‘If I wore these more often, maybe I’d see a whole lot better.’
Gormley eyed her warily and chose to leave it alone.

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