Authors: Helena Anderson
Tuesday June 4th
In the simple police station in Coral Bay, the 56-year-old police chief Carlos García Rodríguez was sitting at his brother’s chipped desk, sweating in front of the piles of papers. Carlos was standing in for his brother who was on a long sick-leave, but in actual fact was living in Spain. The brothers were Spanish Cypriots and were born and raised on the island. After the police academy Carlos had chosen to move to his grandfather’s village in Spain where he really loved living. A few months’ back he had been asked though if he could work in Cyprus for a year since his brother was seriously ill. Of course Carlos had accepted this. Carlos García Rodríguez was short and one metre sixty centimetres and had quite a bulging stomach. His face was red with heat and he had dark age-spots on his high forehead. Apart from the fact that the nasal hair was protruding like a broom and almost became one with his bushy moustache, it was still the enormous nose you noticed first.
For the fourth time in three hours the power had failed. Outside the temperature had risen to 42 degrees in the shade and it was unusually hot for the beginning of June. Carlos García Rodríguez dried his sweaty forehead with his old mother’s embroidered handkerchief and sighed loudly. He hated the heat. He slowly got up and shuffled to the little kitchenette for a cup of coffee, at once realizing there was no power. ”Damn it” he spat like an angry cat, and annoyed continued to the jail to check on the young man they had just brought in. The prison bars’ blue colour was especially ugly but it was also the only thing lightening up the old station. The linoleum floor covering was dark grey and full of ingrained dirt. The pattern had been worn down by all the passing through the years but you could imagine what it had been like it if you bent down and looked very closely. The station was small and divided into three offices, a reception, a conference room, an interview room, a kitchen and a small jail just big enough for two. The windows were small too, and high up, covered by steel bars the same ugly blue colour as the jail. The only thing cheering the place up was a cat that had been found abandoned on the field behind the parking lot two years ago. The little creature had soon become a favourite with them all. Carlos brother had named him The Panther since he was pitch black with bright yellow eyes. The cat longingly padded along behind Carlos and as usual jumped up on the office chair, stroked his head on the armrest and meowed.
”Well, well, I think I still have a few treats in the drawer.” The chief went to the book shelf, poured some dry feed in a bowl and put it down on the floor. The Panther immediately jumped down, rubbing himself against his ankles before sitting down to eat. Carlos stroked the cat behind his ears, pulled out the last drawer and picked up a hidden chocolate croissant. As if it was a ritual he opened the wrapping, drew in the aroma with his big nose and took a large bite. Chocolate croissants were the chief’s biggest weakness. He ate far too many every day, in secret of course. He would never admit that he easily could gobble down four or five of them before lunch. When he had just gathered up the crumbs with his rough hand the telephone rang and he jumped from the shrill sound.
”Coral Bay police station”, he answered with an effort while a drop of sweat dripped down his chin, smudging the ink on the police report. He silently cursed while listening to the calm voice from the alarm central. A gentle smile soon came over Carlos’ face when he realized that something big had happened. ”Finally”, he said out loud and clutched at his service weapon. Two minutes later the Chief of Police and Daphne were in the police car with sirens blaring and lights flashing, on their way to the nature reserve of Akamas .
”Fingers crossed that it’s a murder we’ve got and not a boring fatality.” Carlos smiled with his whole face and put the air-conditioning on high.
”Mm.” Daphne was looking out the window and not paying too much attention to what her chief was saying. She had learned that it was better being short and to the point in her answers. In the long run Daphne actually thought she was being unfair to Carlos , but since her boss wasn’t willing to discuss the issues she chose the easy way, treating him as if he was not there.
Police commander Daphne Fernàndez Rossi was 34 years old and had just come back into service after five months’ maternity leave. Even though she recently had given birth she was slim and slender thanks to inherited genes. You could see, though, in her amber eyes made up with eye-liner that her nights were busy, but she seldom complained.
The rented cars with the red number plates had taken over the roads in Cyprus now during the peak season. Carlos loathed them since they didn’t know where the accelerator was situated. The chief honked, overtook a few and shook his head at the slow tourists.
”What is there to see on this island but drought and more drought?” He snorted angrily and had a quick look at the petrol gauge. ”Damn it!” Cursing he slammed his hairy fist on the dash board, turned into the nearest petrol station and vehemently rolled down the window.
”Full tank and be quick about it.” The irritation was gnawing at him inside and Carlos knew that it was his own fault. He was the one responsible for the car not being filled up. Last night he had driven using the reserve tank and he had been too tired to fill up before going home.
After St. George they turned right at the crossing and continued passed the banana plantation until they came to a sharp curve. A herd of goats stopped their progress and Carlos once again angrily lowered the window.
”Damn it, can’t you see we’re involved in an emergency?”
The shepherd tiredly looked at him, bumped his stick on the road and patiently waited for his goats to pass. Carlos felt far from calm. He heatedly drummed his index finger and middle finger noisily on the wheel while muttering unmentionable swearwords. Not to have to listen to her boss’ muttering Daphne put on the radio where they were playing ”My Number One” with Elena Paraizou, but instead he started singing along with the refrain, completely out of tune. She smiled, looked at Carlos and saw that he had put adhesive tape on his ancient sunglasses. She couldn’t understand why he insisted on using his old grandfather’s broken glasses. After driving for 15 minutes through the arid natural reserve they saw an excited man who stood waving his arms widely. The dust was swirling from the brownish red ground as they closed the car behind them and the sun’s heat immediately felt unbearable.
”Police commander Daphne Fernàndez Rossi.” With an intensive gaze she studied the military clad man and felt sorry for him. His morning had not started too well. ”Can you tell us what you’ve found?”
The witness who had been biting his thumb nail until it started bleeding, briefly nodded. Purposefully the hunter hurried up the lime rock to show where the corpse was lying although he just wanted to get out of there. The stench hit him just as hard this time even though he was covering up his nose, breathing through his mouth.
”There”, he pointed.” ”Look down the crevice.” The witness wiped the sweat from his face and took a deep breath while turning away.
A disfigured face was sticking out of the black, torn bin liner, the rest of the body was more or less covered. Thousands of flies were buzzing around forming a black blanket over the head and Daphne saw how they crawled in through the torn holes in the sack. The sound was really unpleasant. Daphne felt like crawling out of her skin, shuddered and turned away. With a sickening feeling she looked at the surroundings for a while before she turned to the witness who looked pale, almost green under his tanned face.
”I just need a few statements from you, if we go back and sit in the car for a while you can go home after that.” Her voice was soft in an effort to calm and comfort him.
The man nodded gratefully. He whisked away a bunch of flies that stubbornly buzzed in his face and started walking towards the police car.
Carlos as usual was busy with his own thoughts and didn’t notice Daphne at all. By chance she saw him jumping down into the crevice.
”What are you doing? Maria will be crazy if you touch anything. Seal off the area and call the Technical department instead. In the meantime I’ll go down and question the witness”.
Carlos snorted and turned a deaf ear to her. Instead he started tearing at the bags until the rest of the body was visible. A bloody slip of a girl shouldn’t decide what he could or could not do. He quickly went through the victim’s clothes, found a brown wallet and without hesitating put it in his pocket. Daphne didn’t know what to do. To see her boss contaminating a crime scene made her furious, but what could she do? Carlos refused to listen. She angrily took out her mobile, dialled the number to her cousin Maria and informed her what had happened. Maria was in charge of the Technical Department in Cyprus and had the same feelings as Daphne with regard to Carlos. After the call Daphne continued down to the police car and questioned the witness. Twenty minutes later the hunter finally could go home.
The forensics team, Maria and Stavros arrived with the car full of technical equipment. Maria was a little over 40 years old, her auburn hair reached down to her waist but she usually kept it tied up in a big plait. Her body was slender but strong and her cute looks could fool some people to think she was weak but that was not the case.
”So, what do we have here?” Maria fixed her brown falcon eyes on Carlo’s sweaty face and folded her arms over her chest.
”Murder.” Carlos wiped some stubborn drops of sweat away from his fore-head and didn’t bother to look at Maria. Instead he inhaled deeply from his glowing cigarette and blew out the smoke through his big nostrils.
”Of course, I take it for granted that none of you have contaminated the location.” Maria had a look at the surroundings while putting on the blue coverall.
Carlos didn’t answer. He had a last puff, put out the cigarette with his shoe and let the butt stay on the ground. Without any qualm Maria gave him one of Forensics’ plastic bags.
”Pick up the cigarette and I don’t want to see any more butts from you. Understood? You if anyone should know that you are destroying it for us.” Maria spat out the last sentence. ”You didn’t touch the body this time, did you?” She put on the mask and pulled the rustling hood over her head. Although Maria already knew the answer she wanted Carlos to admit what he had done.
”Do you think I’m an idiot, or what?” Carlos’ face was deep red and he crossed his fingers that Daphne would keep quiet.
The air was vibrating with tension. Maria and Carlos stared at each other for a long time like two gangsters having a show-down. Finally the chief gave in and turned his back to light yet another cigarette.
”Do you never learn from your mistakes, Carlos? Last time we worked together you hindered our crime scene investigation because you were so bloody curious, and then you do the same thing again. Are you mad?”
Carlos filled his lungs with air and started yelling and screaming even though he knew he was in the wrong.
”Don’t you come here you bloody bitch telling me what to do. Have this crime scene checked out instead so the rest of us don’t have to hang around here waiting.”
Stavros standing in the shade had finished changing. He had thick, black hair and a big beard. All of him seemed big and his hands were enormous. He looked as tough he could easily be able to crush a head with them. The camera was hanging around his broad bull neck and he had crime tech’s examination bags in both hands. Maria and Carlos fighting was normal for everyone involved and Stavros couldn’t be bothered to interfere anymore. Anyway, he knew that Maria was strong enough to handle the somewhat odd Chief of Police.
Daphne was already by the corpse while Stavros helped Maria get over the final rock. None of the crime scene investigators were affected by the vile odour while Daphne thought the stench in combination with the hot sun was almost unbearable. Instinctively she turned her head away and screwed up her nose as the smell wafted across her.
Before touching anything at all Stavros took pictures of the crime scene. Then Maria looked for fingerprints before taking away the plastic from the dead body. Thousands of flies were flying everywhere as the CSI exposed the dead body. An icy shiver went through Daphne’s body when she heard the flies buzzing and she waved some away with her arms.
”What do you think, how long has he been dead?”
Maria bent over the corpse making a quick evaluation. ”It’s hard to say because of the current extreme heat, but I would say around five days. Not more.”
”Is there anything else you can tell us before we go?”
”No, you can see his condition yourself. I’ll wait until we’ve finished here before making a statement.” Maria turned, used her hand as a shade for the sun and looked up at Daphne.
”OK, I’ll take a few more pictures and then we’ll leave. You know where we are if you find anything important.” Daphne raised the camera and zoomed in on the dead man’s face. His mouth was wide open and full of solidified concrete which also had been smeared out over his neck and chest. She noticed that the dead person was between one metre eighty or ninety. She tried to walk around the body to see how it looked from the side, but the black plastic was blocking her way. Generally speaking it was hard to say anything about the look of the man. Some wisps of grey hair were stuck on the skull and the face was completely swollen. When Daphne saw the empty eyeballs with maggots crawling out she closed her eyes and felt the bile rising in her throat and was violently sick.
The victim had a pair of simple Bermuda shorts on, an open, short-sleeved shirt and was barefoot. There were no shoes close-by. On the other hand all ten toe nails were missing and Daphne shuddered again when she imagined the scenario where they had been removed. She shook her head uneasily and wondered what this man had actually been through. She continued surveying the corpse and found that something wasn’t quite right with one of his hands. The little finger was missing on his right hand and the rest of the fingers were pointing in strange directions. On the left hand Daphne noticed a wedding band, she hoped the ring’s inscription would help them a little in finding out the victim’s identity.