Authors: Danielle Ramsay
Brady looked for any evidence that showed the victim had fought his assailant. That he had been overpowered and subsequently tied up. It would have taken a lot to overpower him. But Brady could see nothing that told him that he had been tied up against his will.
Had he willingly allowed himself to be restrained?
Brady put the thought to the back of his mind. It didn’t make any sense at this point.
He noted the ligature damage around the victim’s severely mottled and swollen throat. It looked to him as if the marks were consistent with rope burns. He wasn’t sure. But he had been asphyxiated. Brady would have to wait for the autopsy report to know whether that was the cause of death. He already knew from the other injury that the assailant had wanted him to suffer. Had wanted him to understand exactly what was happening to him. Had wanted to torture him. Both physically and psychologically.
Just like the others . . .
No. He wouldn’t entertain it.
Brady could see that strangling the victim to death wouldn’t have been enough. It hadn’t been the end goal. It wasn’t what this murder was about.
He let his eyes move up from the bloated, bruised throat to the head – black, faceless. Duct tape had been wound around the head. This was how he had died. Smothered to death.
Don’t jump to conclusions.
As if on cue, Ainsworth spoke. ‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’
Brady nodded. He couldn’t stop himself. It was the first thing he’d thought when he saw the victim.
His eyes drifted down to the carnage on the victim’s body. The carnage below the midriff. To the mutilated groin. Blood covered the mattress. The carpet. The body. Even the wall behind.
Brady assumed that the victim’s penis had been fully erect when it had been cut off. The blood loss accounted for that. Erect, it guaranteed blood flow. Even after the engorged member had been hacked off. However, there was no ‘projected blood’ as Ainsworth would call it, here: the result of an artery being cut and the heart continuing to pump roughly eight litres a minute. An adult had between four to five litres of blood. The maths was simple; you bled out in less than forty seconds. This wasn’t the case here. The blood supplied to the groin came from small arteries that fed down from the abdomen. Consequently the blood loss was significant but he could have survived the mutilation. Others had.
Looking at the exposed tissue and flesh where the penis should have been made Brady’s stomach contract. His testicles shrivelled up even more – if that were possible – at the gruesome unnaturalness of it. The retching sensation was threatening to return. He understood that this was what had driven Conrad from the crime scene to bury his head in a toilet bowl.
Was it a bloke thing? He didn’t know. But he was certain that every man in the room felt the same abject horror. His attention returned to the black shape that was the head. ‘Has the pathologist been?’
‘An hour back. Called out of a meeting for this,’ Ainsworth answered. ‘Wasn’t best pleased.’
Brady knew exactly who Ainsworth was talking about – Wolfe. And the meeting would have been his lunchtime pint, or two, followed by a whisky chaser in the Stuffed Dog.
‘And you’ve got all the photographs of the body in situ?’
‘Wolfe got a good look at him?’
‘I gather so,’ Ainsworth answered.
Ainsworth’s eyes were sharp as an eagle’s. He knew where Brady was going with his questions.
‘Can you help me turn him over?’
‘You really think—’
Brady cut him off. ‘I don’t know.’
If this really is him . . . Then . . .
Brady couldn’t think straight. First, he had to check the body – the hands.
Together, they rolled the heavy, stiff body over. Brady looked at the hands tied behind his back. He could see that the victim had struggled. Had tried to undo the knots. His wrists were bruised and the flesh had been cut open from rope burns.
No surprise. The panic, let alone pain . . . Brady stopped himself.
He tried to block out thoughts of his own pain. His panic when he had been tied to a chair and tortured. His rage when they had thrown her at his feet. Dragged and kicked like a dog. Beaten, and so terribly damaged. He didn’t recognise her. Not at first. Not his Claudia. And he knew that they were going to kill her. Then they would kill him.
‘Is it there?’ Ainsworth asked, his rough voice sounding excited.
Brady nodded. He could feel the sweat building up on his forehead.
He could see it – just. Pressed between the victim’s palms. Hands trembling, Brady somehow managed to extricate it from the victim’s grasp.
Suddenly everything in the room faded. Brady couldn’t hear Ainsworth repeating the same question. Or the comments from the SOCOs, curious about what they were looking for – and why.
It felt as if his heart had stopped. But the rapid pounding in his ears told him it had gone into overdrive. Adrenalised by shock.
Fucking shit . . . shit . . .
Brady stared at it. It was a playing card. But it was no ordinary card. It was from a Waddington’s deck of cards. Vintage – 1960s. The Joker card.
This was HIS signature. His trademark. His personal touch.
Then there was the torture he carried out on his victims. It had never deviated from one victim to another. Always the same.
The Modus Operandi – the methodology of the crime – was different. But the signature was the same. The Joker card. The disfigurement – details too gruesome to have ever been released to the press. No one knew. No one – apart from the police and the killer.
‘Bloody hell, Jack! I . . . I kept thinking it. But . . . I mean, how? How could it be possible?’
Brady didn’t comment. He didn’t know how. It just was.
Brady nodded. He tried to swallow, but failed. His mouth was too dry.
He’d read up about this case. Seven victims in a matter of months. The killing frenzy had taken place during one of the hottest summers ever recorded. The victims – all male – had been mutilated and then left to bloat in the suffocating heat. The crime scene photographs had nearly made him sick.
The tabloids had called the killer
. That was the only detail about the case that had ever been released to the public. The genital mutilation – never. Too horrifying for the public. It had been the 1970s after all. The appetite for visceral details had not existed. Unlike now.
Brady looked at Ainsworth. He had no choice.
‘We need to remove the tape.’
Ainsworth’s eyes darted to the body.
Brady could see that Ainsworth was equally familiar with the Seventies murders. He, like Brady, knew the reason the killer had bound the victim’s head in this manner. The final trademark of the Seventies killer – if it was him – would be under the duct tape.
Brady watched as Ainsworth cut through the thick black tape. As did the four forensic officers, fascinated by the proceedings. One, already ahead of the game, was photographing each step. Another, filming.
‘You sure?’ Ainsworth asked, before he pulled the tape back.
‘Yes,’ Brady answered, despite himself. He didn’t want to look, but knew he had to. He had to see whether this was the same killer. He’d figure out
it was possible
Paralysed, he watched as Ainsworth ripped off the layer of black shiny tape, exposing the victim’s swollen, bloated face.
‘Fuck! What’s that in his mouth?’ asked one of the SOCOs.
Brady didn’t answer. Neither did Ainsworth.
‘Oh, Christ! Tell me he didn’t choke to death on his own . . .’ The last word was left unsaid. The reality too sickening.
Brady’s stomach felt as if it had hit the ground.
How? How, after thirty-seven years?
Sunday: 3:13 p.m.
‘Sir . . .’ Brady began. He still wasn’t quite sure what he was going to tell his boss. He didn’t want to get this one wrong. Not on his first day back. Five months was a long time to be away. A lot of things could happen in that time. Brady was aware that he was not irreplaceable. His sick leave stint had shown him as much. The job had continued –
. DI Adamson had stepped in and seen to that. He had proven to Gates and the team –
– that he could do his own job as well as bearing the brunt of Brady’s. Brady wasn’t sure where exactly that left him.
‘What’s so important that it can’t wait until I get back on Friday?’ Gates snapped.
Brady found himself momentarily lost for words. If he had been expecting his boss to ask how his first day back at work was going after being nearly killed five months ago, he would have been bitterly disappointed. But Brady knew Gates well. Well enough to not expect his boss to give two fucks about his physical or mental state. He was back at work. That was enough. If he couldn’t cope, then he shouldn’t have turned up. Gates wasn’t known for niceties where Brady was concerned.
‘Well . . .’ Brady began, unsure of how to begin.
‘For Christ’s sake, Jack. Spit it out! I’ve been dragged out of a seminar for this call, so it better be important.’
Brady knew he had no choice. He just had to say it. ‘Sir, a young white male was found murdered in the Royal Hotel early this afternoon,’ he began.
‘And?’ Gates asked. ‘Tell me that’s not the reason you’ve rung me?’
This was familiar territory for Brady. Gates had never hidden the fact that he didn’t like him. Brady’s method of policing, of allowing his gut feeling to override protocol and yet somehow being proven right, often met with Gates’ disapproval. However, Brady always managed to hit those much-needed targets and that was what counted.
‘No, sir, but . . .’ Brady hesitated.
He could hear Gates sighing on the other end of the phone. He then heard him muttering to someone. The irritation in his tone was evident. Brady assumed it was DI Adamson standing with him.
Fuck it! What did he have to lose? His role as DI was already in question. DI Adamson had seen to that.
‘Do you remember the Joker killings in the Seventies?’
He suddenly had Gates’ attention. ‘What?’
‘The Joker killings. Seven young men, all murdered within a period of two months during the summer of 1977?’
‘I’m acutely aware of the case, Jack.’
Brady knew that he would have been. After all, Gates had just entered the force at the time. But it was clear from Gates’ voice that he was not impressed with Brady bringing up the past. It was evident that he was uncomfortable with even the mention of The Joker. The killer had never been apprehended. In fact, the police hadn’t even come close to catching him. They had suspects, of course, but none of them were remotely credible. Most of them had been dragged in for questioning to make it look as if the police had a handle on the situation – which they hadn’t.
For some inexplicable reason, The Joker had stopped killing after his seventh victim; much to the relief of the police and the public. Or at least, he had stopped murdering in the same manner. Brady was certain that someone with an appetite for sadism and murder like The Joker didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that they had had enough. The drive to kill would have become overwhelming. The question that had been troubling Brady was why he had stopped.
He steeled himself. ‘This murder is identical to the other seven from 1977.’
Gates didn’t say anything. But his silence said enough. Brady kept quiet.
‘You’re certain?’ Gates finally asked.
Brady could hear the scepticism in his voice. Not that he could blame him. Even he was struggling to accept it – and he had seen it with his own eyes. ‘Yes, sir. Hands and feet were bound with rope.’
‘With his own penis,’ Brady replied.
Gates did not reply. Brady did not need to see his face to know that it would be hard and inscrutable as he weighed up the magnitude of what he was being told. No one, aside from the investigating team and the police pathologist, knew the details of the case. The mutilation was deemed too awful to be released to the public. Not even the victims’ families were aware of the precise nature of their loved ones’ death. They had been fed as little information as possible to avoid the details being leaked to the press. And yet here they were, thirty-seven years later, with a victim murdered in exactly the same manner.
And that was what was troubling Brady. He couldn’t get his head around the improbability of The Joker suddenly returning. Or of it being a copycat killing.
He sighed heavily before continuing. ‘His severed penis had been stuffed into his mouth and his head had been bound with black duct tape. Identical to the Seventies victims.’
‘What about—’ Gates began.
Brady beat him to it. He knew exactly what he was going to ask. The exact same question had plagued him when he first saw the victim.
‘Joker card pressed between the victim’s palms. The card is from a 1960s Waddington deck, sir.’
‘The same as before?’
Brady could hear Gates breathing out at the enormity of the situation as he weighed up what to do.
‘What’s your feeling on this? Copycat? Or . . .’ Gates left the question unfinished. Like Brady, unable to accept the prospect that the serial killer had resurfaced after all this time.
‘I don’t know,’ Brady answered honestly. ‘If it is The Joker, then the question is why now, after all this time? And if it isn’t, then how would someone have found out the details of the original case?’
Brady had wondered if it could be someone within the police. He had to; it was a possibility. He knew that right now his boss would be plagued with the same thoughts.
‘I assume that you’re already collating information on the original suspects?’
‘Yes, sir. The team’s busy tracking them down.’
‘Good,’ Gates answered. ‘Who found the victim?’