Authors: Rob Kitchin
‘Right, well okay. Be good.’
‘As if I wouldn’t be.’ She ended the call.
McEvoy stared down at his phone and then out the window. The sky was starting to darken. It was frightening how fast she’d grown up since Maggie’s death. Sometimes it was like she had become the ghost of her mother.
He placed the plastic cigarette between his lips and sucked down a lungful of fresh air. He tried not to think about how much he wanted to open the packet nestled in his jacket pocket.
Barney Plunkett looked up from the desk he was leaning over and ran a hand through his sandy hair as McEvoy approached. He scooped up the sheets on the table and held them out towards him. ‘Laura Schmidt, aged 19. Lived in Meols on the Wirral.’
McEvoy took the sheets and looked down at the photo. The girl in the picture was wearing jeans and a pale pink blouse, pulling an ironic smile, pretending to be happy. Her face in general looked like Laura’s, though it was fuller, less hollowed out.
‘That’s the peninsula that sticks out between the
,’ Plunkett continued. ‘Meols is on the
side, not the
side. Apparently, it’s quite a well-off place. She ran away from home 20 months ago. Her parents thought she might have headed to
. She’d run away a couple of times previously and on both occasions she went there. I’ve spoken to a local officer familiar with her file and he told me that the family had been investigated by Social Services. It seems that the father might have been abusing her. She’d confided in a friend, who’d gone to a teacher, who’d gone to the authorities.’
‘She escapes the abuse to be killed here.’ McEvoy shook his head at the injustice. ‘What a world.’
‘Nothing was proven, apparently,’ Plunkett said, obviously not believing the father’s innocence. ‘Though it seems her personality changed quite a bit when she was about 13. She became quieter, more withdrawn, stopped hanging around with her friends, and her grades started to drop. Before that she was a straight A student. She went to the local grammar school and was planning to go to university to study engineering. I’d say it was odds on he was sexually abusing her.’
‘And it’s definitely her?’ McEvoy asked.
‘She has matching birthmarks on the back of her left leg. One is halfway down her thigh, the other half way down the calf. I spoke to Hannah while you were on your way down here. Professor Jones has checked it out and she has the marks.’
‘Right, okay.’ McEvoy placed the papers back down on the table. ‘We need to arrange for someone to go over and talk with the family, act as liaison and to find out if there was any reason why she might have been killed.’ He glanced down at the photo again. ‘Her name is Schmidt,’ he stated. His faced creased in thought. ‘I thought you said Smith. That German, you think?’
‘I guess so,’ Plunkett shrugged.
‘And the business cards were left in the German cemetery. A coincidence?’ He shrugged.
‘You mean she might not have been a random victim?’
‘It has to be a possibility,’ McEvoy conceded. ‘Maybe he’s trying to play games with us?’
‘You want me to go back up to that graveyard and see if there are any Schmidts buried there?’ Plunkett offered.
‘I guess we’d better at least check it out.’
Elaine Jones was standing with Colm McEvoy and Hannah Fallon outside Laura’s room giving them her assessment before she headed off to
to conduct the autopsy.
‘All I can go on here is the lividity, the stage of rigor mortis, and the body temperature readings taken by the local doctor this morning and myself this afternoon. On that evidence I’d say she was killed somewhere between ten and one last night.’
‘Nearer to ten than one?’ McEvoy asked.
‘I can’t really say. Probably before
is as far as I want to go right now.’
‘What about the killing? I assume she was killed by the sword?’
‘There’s nothing to indicate otherwise, unless she was drugged in some way. We’d need to do some tests to rule that out. I’d say though, if she was drugged, the sword followed quickly – her blood pumped over the sheet and body. Once we get to the hospital I’ll do a full autopsy. There doesn’t appear to be any other signs of physical attack. And it doesn’t look as if she fought back either. We’ll do the usual checks under the fingernails, just in case.’
‘She just swallowed the sword,’ Hannah said.
‘It looks that way,’ Professor Jones agreed. ‘Dead in an instant.’
‘How about sexual assault?’ McEvoy asked.
‘I don’t think so.’ The pathologist shook her head. ‘It’s difficult to say ahead of the autopsy or moving the body, although she was almost certainly naked when she was killed; the killer wasn’t as thorough a cleaner as he thought. Beyond that you’ll just have to wait.’
The man smiled to himself, turned the news off, and tightened the grey scarf around his neck. Laura’s death was headline news, the reporter breathlessly relaying the gory details of how she had been found and warning the public to be vigilant against a dangerous killer on the loose. They could be as vigilant as they wanted, he thought, it would make little difference; everything was already scripted.
He tugged on a dark blue waterproof coat and headed for the door. He felt oddly calm; his emotions still contained; his perspective detached. He knew what he was about to do and how he was going to do it. He had no doubts. Taking the next life was simply a task to be completed, a means to an end. It was nothing personal, nothing to get worked up about. As far as he was concerned, killing a person was different to killing an insect in only one respect – nobody cared enough about the insect to try and take away the killer’s freedom for doing it.
That was the challenge – to kill without being caught; to outwit all the forces and resources that would be thrown at the case. And that was the thrill as well; the fuel that fed the adrenaline high; that made him feel alive.
He was confident he could meet the challenge, even if he wasn’t following all of his own rules. After all, he had written the book. He closed the front door and set off at a brisk pace.
McEvoy leant against the cool bricks of the barracks and sipped piping hot coffee from a polystyrene cup. His mobile rang and he snatched it from his jacket pocket. ‘Barney?’
‘There’s a Schmidt in the graveyard,’ Plunkett said hurriedly. ‘Walter Schmidt. Died in 1941.’
‘And Fay Butler has confirmed that her father is German; the mother is from Mayo. They’re on their way over to identify the body, the poor bastards.’
‘If he hadn’t been abusing her in the first place, she probably wouldn’t be dead,’ Plunkett said bitterly.
‘True,’ McEvoy conceded, ‘but I bet her death’s still torn him apart,’ he said, imagining what it would be like to be told his daughter had prematurely joined his wife.
‘My heart bleeds for him,’ Plunkett muttered without sympathy. ‘I just hope he doesn’t take it out on the mother. If he was abusing his daughter, there’s a good chance the wife has experienced the same treatment.’
‘I’ll talk to Family Liaison,’ McEvoy offered, knowing that Plunkett was probably right. ‘If he so much as lifts a finger against her we’ll bring him in. About the cemetery, do you still think it’s a coincidence?’ he asked, changing the subject.
‘If it is, it’s a pretty big one. He kills a girl called Laura Schmidt and then leaves his calling cards where one is buried. Chances of that must be pretty small; miniscule even.’
‘Well, if it’s not a coincidence, then whoever killed her must have known her in advance and also known that she was coming out here,’ McEvoy reasoned, letting a thought unfold, ‘where there just happens to be a German cemetery with her namesake buried in it. Unless you organised the trip, the chances of Laura being anywhere near that cemetery are practically zero. Especially when this was the first time she’d been on anything like this.’
‘You think the killer might be one of the
organisers?’ Plunkett asked. ‘You said one of them did time.’
‘Yeah, Dermot Brady. Hit and run. Killed a mother and her young son. Now claims to be whiter than white.’
‘Well, he helped organise the trip. Maybe he talked her into coming?’ Plunkett hypothesised.
‘Possibly,’ McEvoy said cautiously, mentally starting to unpick his own speculation. ‘Finding a person with the same name as someone in the cemetery and getting them to come on an annual trip is a difficult ask though.’
‘What do you want me to do?’
‘Just note down Schmidt’s details and then head home. Tomorrow’s going to be another long day. We’ll need to run a check on your man in any case and see what comes up. We’re gonna need to review all the
staff first thing. If there is a connection, then our killer is either so clever he thinks he can outwit us or pretty stupid.’
‘You don’t think it was Brady?’ Plunkett sounded disappointed.
‘If it was then he’s not giving himself much chance of writing the other six chapters,’ McEvoy stated flatly. ‘What do you think?’
‘I think I’m going to head back to the incident room to pull up what I can about him.’
‘If that’s what you want. I’ll talk to you later, okay.’ McEvoy disconnected the call. He took another sip of coffee and instinctively placed his plastic cigarette between his lips and inhaled deeply. He snatched it away and looked at it in disgust, before slotting it back. He needed to get rid of the pack in his pocket; they weren’t going to stay un-opened much longer. And he needed a drink; a proper drink. Something to deaden his thoughts; let him sleep the night through without thinking about Maggie or Laura Schmidt, the cold sword sticking up out of her mouth. The door a few feet away opened and Billy Keane’s back emerged, his arms holding up the front of a trolley laden with a body bag.
Barney Plunkett and Fay Butler looked up as McEvoy entered the room, looking tired and dishevelled. Somehow his body seemed to have gotten smaller inside his suit, his skin paler and tighter to his bones.
‘I was just going to come and find you,’ Plunkett said as a greeting. ‘We’ve being going through Dermot Brady’s file. Except for the hit and run and his time in Mountjoy his record is clean. In fact he’s helped us out a few times with incidents involving homeless folk. Seems like he’s turned a new leaf. There’s one interesting thing though.’
‘There always is,’ McEvoy muttered.
‘He worked in
for a year and a half in his early twenties. Did casual labour on the building sites in and around
. He’d only been back in
for four months when he killed the mother and son.’
‘Another coincidence, you think?’
‘The manual says that multiple coincidences equal a probable link. I think he’s worth a closer look.’
‘Okay, then,’ McEvoy nodded.
‘You don’t think so?’ Plunkett asked, sensing McEvoy’s doubt.
‘No, no, absolutely, find out everything you can about him. It’s … it’s just it doesn’t seem to fit.’ McEvoy scratched at his cheek absently. ‘If you wanted to write a whole book, why give away so many clues in the first chapter?’