This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 1015 words.
When Sandy didn’t turn up for work the next day either, Andreas rang the police. They said they would take a report, and post her as a missing person. He tried insisting that they investigate it more seriously, but the young woman at the other end of the phone rattled off a lot of statistics about how many people go missing every year, and suggested that Sandy had likely gone off with a boyfriend. He could see he was getting nowhere, so he answered all her questions, and gave his contact details. Even though the shop was as busy as ever, he left a flustered Valerie in charge, and drove to Sandy’s flat.
The letterbox was right at the bottom of the door. Must be unpopular with the postman, Andreas thought. He had to lie down on the ground to lift it up and look through it. But there was another flap at the back, and some of those brush-like draught excluders also obscuring any view. As he pushed down on his hands to stand up, He noticed a bag under the hedge to his left. One of the bags they used in his shop. He picked it up, and could see that it contained pasties and sausage rolls, dried out and stale. Something wasn’t right. Sandy would never just throw her dinner away like that.
He dropped the bag, and turned back to the door. The simple Yale Lock gave way easily, with one determined push from his shoulder. Inside, he could see Sandy, lying naked on the stairs, her clothes thrown around, and something wrapped around her neck. Her skin was mottled, looking as if it was bruised, and an unpleasant smell pervaded the tight space. Instinctively, he pulled the door almost closed, then scrambled in his pocket for the mobile phone. When they answered his 999 call, he yelled “POLICE!”. Once transferred, he spoke quietly. “Hello. I want to report a murder”.
Eighty-eight miles away, the body of Emma Shaw lay undisturbed, and unnoticed by anyone. Over twenty years in that retirement bungalow, and she had no friends, and little contact with her neighbours. Not a naturally gregarious person, Emma rarely sought company, unless it was forced upon her. She was happy with her books, and her memories. There was rarely any post, save for bills and circulars, and the few people she had kept in touch with were all long dead. There was not a person in the world who had any reason to call round, or to notice her absence from the town.
Jack Porter put down the maps he was studying, and turned on the TV news channel. As expected, there were no reports of any of those murders. It was too soon. The waitress might be later today, perhaps tomorrow. As for the old lady, it could be a long time, maybe a year. It was possible that she might never be found until any unpaid bills forced someone to go to her door. After ticking quite a few things off pages one and two of his lists, he did two hundred press ups. Then he turned off the TV, and went to have a shower.
Three police cars turned up. Two had uniformed officers in them, the other contained three plain clothes detectives. There hadn’t been a murder in that town for over three years, and that had been a domestic, when a drunken holidaymaker killed his wife after an argument. Very soon, the whole area was taped off, and Andreas had been whisked away to the police station, where he had to take off all his clothes, and change into a scratchy paper suit. His fingerprints were taken too, and he agreed to a DNA swab. He thought he was helping, and had no idea that he had just become the prime suspect in Sandy’s murder.
Inspector Duncan McCall was appointed to be the officer in charge of the case for now. He was an experienced man, known for being methodical, and not prone to excitement. He waited until the photographs had been taken, and the small flat searched thoroughly, before turning to Diana James, his sergeant. “Di, get this poor woman covered up, and taken off to the mortuary. Ring the coroner and ask for a PM on the hurry-up. Get her phone and laptop checked for contacts and photos, see if she put anything up on social media recently. Oh, and send young Michael to the baker’s. I want statements from everyone she worked with. See what they can tell us about boyfriends, next-of-kin, the usual stuff”.
The short-haired woman pushed her glasses up on her nose. “What about her boss, the Greek bloke?” McCall shook his head. “We will keep him for now, but I don’t fancy him for this. He raised the alarm, and made a call earlier to report her missing”. She shrugged. “Could be a cover, boss. What about the sex offenders on the register? Shall we start to pull them in?” He nodded. “Usual routine, for now. See you back at the office”.
There were no delays, and the train left on time. Jack chose his seat carefully, so as not to be sitting opposite anyone for the short journey. The commuter suburb was only twenty minutes away, and at this time of day there were not many other passengers. Through the window, he could chart the increasing affluence, the further he got away from the centre. Terraced houses soon gave way to rows of pleasant semi-detached ones, and by the time he was approaching his destination, larger houses were all that were visible, some with swimming pools. He would easily be there before the trains of the evening rush started to return the affluent businessmen and executives from their jobs in the city. He leaned against the large briefcase, careful not to crumple his expensive suit. To go unnoticed in this district, it was best to be smartly dressed. And a rucksack just wouldn’t do. Oh no.