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Authors: Celina Grace

Tags: #Police Procedurals, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspence, #Women Sleuths

Imago

BOOK: Imago
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IMAGO

(A KATE REDMAN MYSTERY: BOOK 3)

 

CELINA GRACE
 

 

© Celina Grace 2013

Bought by Maraya21
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J’s Diary

 

The first girl’s death was an accident.

 

I lifted my pen off of the paper and thought for a bit. My pen was poised to cross it out – the impulse trembled up my arm – but in the end, I left the sentence as it was.

 

I don’t really know why I started writing this diary, account, whatever you’d call it. I suppose I wanted a record of what’s happened in my life since the first one. Ever since I realised what I had to do to become complete – to unfold into a whole person rather than inhabit the empty shell of one – there’s been another urge, almost as strong: the need to write down 
why
 I do the things I do. I’m not trying to justify anything to anyone, in the unlikely event that someone reads these diaries. The key thing, I suppose, is to be true to myself, to be truthful when I’m talking to myself as I am here, setting down these words. That’s the only meaningful thing to do. If I’d only been true to myself from an early age, none of the bad things would have happened. Or maybe they would. Who knows?

 

So, in the interest of truth, the first death wasn’t really an 
accident
. I’ve just checked my dictionary and the definition of “accident” is something like 
an unfortunate event that happens unintentionally
. Her death was certainly unfortunate – for her – and it was, at the time, unintentional. I didn’t plan it; I didn’t spends hours and days fantasising about bringing it about as I have done with the other ones. So you could say it was accidental, I suppose, although I’d have a hard time convincing a jury.

 

It won’t come to that, though. Now I’m getting good at this. It’s a new skill, as well as a calling, and I’ve always been a fast learner. It makes me shiver in anticipation when I think that I could go on like this, year after year, getting better each time. Each time more perfect and more fulfilling than the last one. All those girls out there, for me. None of them have any idea that I am watching and waiting, waiting for the next time…the next death. None of them have any idea because I am in disguise. They don’t fear me. Quite the opposite. It makes it twice as fun. Fun. That’s certainly a surprising choice of words, especially for me, but that’s what it is. It 
is
 fun – as well as the greatest pleasure I’ve ever known. Why don’t they tell you this? Why do they lie? I feel like I’m the keeper of a secret only a few have discovered.

 

I know the next time will be soon; I’ve learnt to recognise the signs. I think I even know who it will be. She’s oblivious, of course, just as she should be. All the time, I watch and wait, and she has no idea, none at all. And why would she? I’m disguised as myself, the very best disguise there is.

 

Chapter One

 

Kate ran.

Her breath rasped in and out of her lungs; her leg muscles burned. A drop of sweat rolled into the corner of her dry mouth. It felt as if she’d been running forever, weaving among the people on the pavements, the shock of her feet hitting the concrete reverberating through her muscles. Every fibre of her being cried out for her to stop, but she couldn’t – she was afraid. The man was a sadist, a brutal sadist. She struggled on up a slight incline, her face burning, her lungs crying out for air. At the top of the hill, she had to stop, bent double, gasping for breath. The man following her at an effortless, loping run drew up alongside her.

“Come on, Kate. We’ve still got two miles to go.”

“I can’t,” gasped Kate, when she had enough oxygen in her lungs to speak. “I’ll be sick.”

“You won’t.”

“Will.”

The man appeared to relent. “All right. Take a two-minute breather.”

Kate staggered over to a convenient bench and fell onto it. She put her roasting face down between her knees.

“Can’t – do – this,” she said, between gasps.

Detective Sergeant Mark Olbeck sat down beside her and stretched his legs out in front of him.

“It’s only a bloody half marathon, for God’s sake,” he said. “Thirteen miles. It’s nothing.”

Kate sat back up again, marginally more comfortable, although still breathing hard.

“I’m too – unfit. Someone else will have to – do it.”

“You’ll 
get
 fit. That’s the whole point of us going out running. Come on, you said you’d do it. It’s for charity, remember.”

“I can’t get fit enough in three weeks.”

“Well that’s all the time you’ve got. You’ve got to be part of the team. If you pull out now, we won’t have enough people.”

Kate knew this was right. The Abbeyford Charity Half Marathon team from the police station had consisted of Olbeck, Detective Constable Theo Marsh and Detective Constable Ravinder Cheetam until Theo had broken his ankle playing football and had to drop out.

“There’s Jerry. And Jane.”

“You know as well as I do that Jane’s got two small children and no partner. She can’t go out in the evenings at the drop of a hat. And Jerry would probably have a coronary or something if we made him run, the poor old bugger.”

Kate leant back against the back of the bench and closed her eyes. She knew all this already, which made her feel even worse about her lack of enthusiasm.

“Don’t get comfortable,” warned Olbeck. “Come on. On we go.”

Kate heaved the deepest sigh her abused lungs could muster. Then she lurched to her feet, and they jogged on through the streets of Abbeyford.

 

They stopped at the bridge that spanned the river Avon, leaning against the stone parapet and watching the glittering waters slide beneath them. It was a beautiful summer’s day, the sky blue but wisped with a filmy curtain of white cloud, the sun gaining in strength by the hour.

“You know, Mark, I’m really not sure I can do this,” puffed Kate. She leant her head on her folded arms for a moment and then raised it, looking out at the sparkling water.

“You’ll be fine,” said Olbeck. “And you’ll feel very proud of yourself when you finish.”

“I’ve done plenty of things I’m already proud of,” said Kate. “I don’t feel that putting one foot in front of the other very quickly qualifies as any kind of great achievement.”

Mark grinned. “God, you’re narky today.”

“It’s the unaccustomed blood rushing to my head.”

There was a muffled buzzing from Mark’s back pocket. He fished his phone out, frowned and answered the call.

“Hello sir. No, we’re not doing anything.”

Kate waited, knowing it was something serious. She had that familiar feeling she got every time a new case began: tension, anxiety and yes, shamefully, a little bit of excitement, which was tempered with relief – at least she wouldn’t have to do any more running that day.

Olbeck said goodbye and put the phone back in his pocket. His partner raised her eyebrows.

“That was Anderton.”

“So I gathered. What is it?”

“Dead woman, down by the canal. We’ve been called in.”

“Let’s go, then.”

 

Abbeyford was a large market town in the southwest of England. In addition to the river Avon, one of several so named in the country, the town also had a canal running through it. In earlier times, goods had been brought to the town from neighbouring cities, and canal boats pulled by horses moved slowly along the paths by the water to be unloaded at the tiny docks. The canal freight trade had long since gone, and the canal docks in Abbeyford had gradually fallen into disrepair and, eventually, disrepute. The warehouse windows were all broken, the glass in the few remaining panes dulled with dirt and moss. A long-ago fire had gutted one of the buildings, leaving its blackened girders exposed like the charred bones of an animal. Rubbish, dead leaves and dirt were heaped in every corner.

Kate had never been to the area before; she was barely aware of its existence. Perhaps the other Abbeyford residents had a similar knowledge of this part of town, and this was why the killer had chosen to dump the body here. Or had killer and victim met here?

As it turned out, Kate wasn’t off the jogging hook after all. She and Olbeck were close enough to the site to make their way there on foot, and Olbeck had insisted that they run, “to get in some more training.” Kate arrived at the scene knowing that her face was tomato-red and that her tracksuit was stained with patches of sweat, but after one look at the huddled body of the woman on the ground, these minor concerns faded away.

Scene of Crime officers had already erected the tent that hid the body from prying eyes. Kate and Olbeck ducked under the flap that covered the entrance. The victim was a small, thin woman, with long, dark hair tied tightly back in a high ponytail. She lay on her side, curled in a foetal position, her back to the detectives. One dirty-soled foot was bare; the scuffed silver ballet pump that had fallen from it rested a few inches away. Kate couldn’t see any obvious wounds, although the mottled, bare legs were spattered with small amounts of blood.

She studied the scene as intently as she could in the short time that she had, taking in everything that she could see. 
Get a feel for the scene
, Anderton was always telling them. 
It’s amazing what you can pick up without even realising. It can come in very handy as the case progresses.
 Kate knew she would never again have this first impression, so she observed with laser-intensity focus, trying to burn the image onto her retinas and into her mind.

 Detective Chief Inspector Anderton was there along with Detective Constables Jerry Hindley and Ravinder Cheetam – Rav to his friends and colleagues. The three of them were in a huddle, talking quietly, whilst behind them, the scene was being preserved, photographed and otherwise documented by the Scene of Crime officers. Anderton looked up as Kate and Olbeck approached.

“You got here commendably quickly,” was his opening remark. “Glad to see all this running’s starting to pay off.”

Olbeck gave Kate a ‘you 
see
?’ look but said nothing. He nodded at Jerry and Rav.

“Let’s go outside,” said Anderton. “Too many people in here.”

Outside, the air felt fresh and the sunlight was warm and welcoming on Kate’s upturned face.

“What’s been happening?” she asked.

“The body was discovered this morning,” said Anderton. “A couple of hours ago, so that makes it, what – twelve thirty or so?”

“Who found it?” asked Kate.

“Two young lads. They were a bit reticent about why they were down here in the first place. Probably here to do some tagging or something. They’re back at the station at the moment, giving their statements.”

“Cause of death?” asked Olbeck.

“We don’t yet know. Stanton should be able to tell us more when he’s finished – talk of the devil—” Anderton looked up as the white-clad figure of the pathologist emerged from the tent. “Stanton. Stanton!” he called. “What’s the quick and dirty?”

Doctor Andrew Stanton joined the group, brightening a little as he realised Kate was amongst them. He had an undisguised admiration for her, which always led to a day’s worth of teasing from Olbeck after the three of them met.

“Hi guys. Hi Kate,” he added, with special, caressing attention. The other men grinned, and Kate managed to grit her teeth and smile politely at the same time.

“What have we got?” asked Anderton.

Stanton immediately became professional.

“Stab wounds, several of them, mostly through the lower thoracic region. Stomach and lower chest.”

Anderton shook his head.

“Definitely one for us, then. Oh well. Any sign of sexual assault?”

“Difficult to tell. I’ll be able to give you a better answer once we’ve done the PM.”

“Right,” said Anderton. “Stab wounds. That puts another possible spin on things.” He didn’t elaborate on what this spin could be. “Any chance of fixing the time of death?”

Stanton shrugged.

“Probably sometime early in the morning, very early. Two or three o’clock. You know I can’t be accurate at this stage. You’ll have to wait for the PM.”

“It gives us a starting point,” said Anderton, briefly. “Okay, thanks, Andrew. We’ll speak later.”

 

Once Doctor Stanton had left, Anderton ducked into the tent, quickly followed by Rav and Olbeck. Kate found herself standing alone with Jerry Hindley, and her heart sank a little. Jerry was the colleague she knew and liked the least. From the very start of her career at Abbeyford, he’d made it plain that he didn’t like her. She’d asked Olbeck and Theo why this might be, and they’d explained that it was probably jealously. “You got the promotion he’d been angling for, Kate,” Olbeck had said, and although this sounded plausible, it seemed strange that he’d still be acting hurt and resentful two years later. Again she reminded herself that she didn’t care about the opinion of someone so petty and sexist. Occasionally she’d attempt to be friendly, wondering whether he’d ever respond in the same way. She tried again now.

BOOK: Imago
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