The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel Book 1)
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18

T
hey arrived back
at Lewisham Row Station just after five. The team in the incident room looked to be flagging when they returned, but heads rose expectantly from their desks when they caught the smell of coffee.

‘Grab a cup, and there’s doughnuts,’ said Erika. They had stopped at Starbucks on their way back to the station. People stretched and pushed themselves away from their desks. Crane came over from where he’d been reviewing the CCTV images.

‘You’re a star, boss. Decent coffee!’ he said, rubbing his eyes.

‘I’m hoping you’ve got some good news about the CCTV coverage of London Road?’ asked Erika hopefully, offering him the bag of doughnuts.

‘We’ve been cross-checking bus timetables and routes, and we’ve requested CCTV from TFL for all the buses that travelled along London Road, past the museum and train station, on the night Andrea went missing. Also, loads of black cabs now have CCTV, so we’re working on tracking those down – but we won’t get the bus CCTV until tomorrow at the earliest.’ Crane’s hand hesitated above the bag of doughnuts.

‘Go on,’ said Erika, and he plunged his hand in. ‘Put pressure on them, time is ticking. I take it you’ve heard about the vanishing barmaid, Kristina?’

The team nodded, chewing on their doughnuts and sipping coffee.

‘What about Andrea’s phone and laptop? Did you pull off anything interesting?’ asked Erika.

‘No. Well, we found most of the photos we’ve already seen on her old Facebook profile, and there are endless games of Candy Crush Saga. She seemed to be obsessed with that game. She appeared to just use her laptop for games and the usual iTunes. The iPhone recovered from the crime scene is virtually empty. No photos or video, and barely any texts.’

Chief Superintendent Marsh poked his head around the door to the incident room. ‘DCI Foster, can I have a word please?’

‘Yes, sir. Moss, Peterson – can you brief everyone on what we found under Andrea’s bed?’ asked Erika. She put the last of her doughnut in her mouth and left the incident room, following Marsh to his office, where she brought him up to speed about the mobile phone box under the bed with the receipt, and the vanishing barmaid from The Glue Pot.

When she had finished, Marsh looked outside the window into the dark night. ‘Just don’t burn your team out. Okay, Foster?’

Marsh seemed a little more relaxed. Erika wondered if it was the newspaper headlines, which had moved focus from the progress the police were making to the tragedy of Andrea’s death. For today, at least, the focus was on a beautiful young girl who had had her life snatched away from her.

‘The press office has done a great job of shaping the news cycle,’ said Marsh, as if following Erika’s thoughts.

‘Is that what you call it these days?
Shaping the news cycle
?’ asked Erika with a wry grin.

‘Look, there’s even a bit about you,’ he said, reading: ‘“
The case is being led by DCI Erika Foster, an experienced officer who successfully brought multiple-murderer Barry Paton to justice. She was also commended for her success in conviction rates for honour killings within Manchester’s Muslim community . . .
” And they’ve used a good photo; the one of us at Paton’s trial.’

‘Why didn’t you go the whole hog and give them my address, too?’ snapped Erika. ‘I haven’t had a letter from Barry Paton for a few months. He did send me a letter to congratulate me on having my own husband killed, though.’

There was a silence.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Marsh. ‘I thought you’d be pleased, but I didn’t think. I’m sorry, Erika.’

‘It’s okay, sir. It’s been a long day.’

‘I’ve had HR on to me. They say you still haven’t provided them with an address,’ said Marsh, changing the subject.

‘So you’re now running errands for Human Resources?’

‘You are also required to see a doctor; you had exposure to body fluids last night,’ added Marsh, indicating the now grubby bandage on the back of Erika’s hand. For the first time, she thought back to what Ivy had said, about the little boy being HIV positive. She was shocked by how little she cared.

‘I haven’t had time, sir,’

‘To what? Go to a doctor? Or find a place to live?’

‘I will see a doctor,’ said Erika.

‘So where are you staying?’ asked Marsh. ‘We need to know where to contact you.’

‘You’ve got my mobile . . .’

‘Erika. Where are you staying?’

There was an awkward pause.

‘I’m not staying anywhere, yet.’

‘So what did you do last night?’

‘I worked through.’

‘You are leading a major murder investigation. Pace yourself. This is day two. If you carry on like this, what are you going to be like on day seven?’

‘There won’t be a day seven, not if I have anything to do with it,’ said Erika, defiantly.

Marsh handed her a card. ‘It’s for a drop-in clinic. Also, we’ve got the flat Marcie inherited from her parents. The tenants have just left. It’s close to the station and it would save you going through all the bureaucracy of renting. Come by my house later, if you’re interested. You can get the keys.’

‘Okay, thank you, sir. I’ve got some more work to do here first.’

‘Before nine, if possible. I try to get an early night during the week.’

W
hen Erika came back
into the incident room, she was met by PC Singh, who was triumphantly holding a piece of paper.

‘Simon Douglas-Brown’s secretary just faxed through the contract for Andrea’s old phone. The one she lost in June. We’ve put in a request with the network for the records. They should be here first thing tomorrow.’

‘I think that deserves another doughnut,’ said Erika, shaking the bag and offering it round.

‘And that top-up receipt you found in the box under Andrea’s bed? It was from a Costcutter’s supermarket near London Bridge,’ said Crane. ‘There’s a date and time stamp. I’ve just got off the phone with the manager. He’s going to go back through the CCTV. He only keeps it for four months so it could be tight, but fingers crossed.’

‘Fantastic,’ said Erika. Crane grinned and grabbed a doughnut from the bag.

‘Shouldn’t we save one for DCI Sparks?’ asked Moss.

‘I don’t know. I think he’s sweet enough already,’ grinned Erika, which got a big laugh from her colleagues. She felt comfortable now in the incident room – the atmosphere, the camaraderie – but she was conscious that her team had been on the go for a long time, so she told them to call it a day.

‘Night, boss,’ chimed voices as they grabbed coats and bags. The incident room slowly emptied out until Erika was left alone. She picked up the phone on her desk and dialled the number Marsh had given her. A recorded voice told her that the drop-in clinic was now closed and that it would reopen at seven the next morning.

Erika put the phone down and pulled at the grubby bandage on the back of her hand, wincing as the plaster came away from the skin. Underneath, it was healing fast with very little bruising, a curve of pale little scabs marking out the teeth marks where the boy had bitten her.

Erika binned the plaster and went back over to the whiteboards at the back of the incident room. The whoosh of excitement she had felt earlier had drained away. She felt exhausted. A low hum of a headache was forming at the back of her head. She stared at the evidence: maps and pictures; Andrea alive in her driving licence photo; Andrea dead, her eyes wide and hair knotted with leaves against the side of her face. Usually Erika could get a handle on a case early on, but this one seemed to be opening wider and wider, the contradicting facts blooming and multiplying like the cells of a tumour.

She needed sleep, and for that, she realised, she would need to find a bed.

19

E
rika had been starving
when she left the station, so she stopped off at an Italian restaurant in New Cross and surprised herself by clearing a giant plate of spaghetti carbonara, followed by a large wedge of tiramisu. It was just after nine when she turned into the road where Marsh lived, in a leafy, affluent corner of South London.

Erika parked the car and found Marsh’s front door, number eleven. She was pleased when she saw that the house was in darkness. She’d much rather get a hotel for a few days whilst she looked for a flat than let Marsh take pity on her. The curtains were open in a large bay window on the ground floor, and she could see right through the double-aspect room to Hilly Fields Park and, beyond, the lights of the London skyline.

She was about to turn round and go back to her car when water began to whoosh down an ornate iron drainpipe at the front of the house. A light clicked on in a small upstairs window and Erika found herself squinting as she was bathed in a perfect square of light. Marsh looked down from the window and, noticing her, gave an awkward wave. She returned the wave, and waited by the front door.

When Marsh opened the door he was wearing tartan print pyjama bottoms, a faded Homer Simpson t-shirt, and was drying his hands on a pink Barbie towel.

‘Sorry, sir, I’ve left it a bit late to come over,’ said Erika.

‘No, it’s fine. It’s bath time.’

‘I like your towel,’ said Erika.

‘Not
my
bath time, it’s . . .’

‘It was a joke, sir.’

‘Ah, right,’ he grinned. On cue there was a scream and two tiny, giggling girls with long dark hair ran into the hallway. One was wearing just a pink jumper, knickers and socks. The other was wearing an identical outfit, but her tiny jeans were bunched around her ankles. She tottered forward, lost her balance and fell, hitting the wooden floor with a thunk. There was a moment where she looked up at Marsh, her big brown eyes trying to work out if she should cry. A dark-haired woman in her mid-thirties came rushing in after them. She was dressed casually in tight powder-blue trousers and a white blouse, which showed off her full breasts and hourglass figure. Where her sleeves were rolled up, bath foam clung to her bare arms. She was beautiful, much like her twin daughters.

‘Oh dear,’ she said, matter-of-factly putting her hands on her narrow waist. ‘Did you go bump?’

The little girl decided it was far more serious than it was, screwed up her face and began to wail.

‘Hello, Erika. Welcome to the mad house,’ said the woman.

‘Hi, Marcie . . . You look wonderful,’ said Erika.

Marsh scooped up the crying girl in his arms and kissed her face, which was now puce and shiny with tears. Marcie picked up the other little girl, who was staring at Erika, and parked her on a curvy hip.

‘Really? You’re too kind. My only beauty regime is running after the twins.’ Marcie blew a wisp of hair away from her flawless creamy skin. ‘If you’re staying, could we close the door? All the heat is rushing out.’

‘Sorry. Yes,’ said Erika, coming into the hall and closing the door behind her.

‘This is Sophie,’ said Marsh, cradling the crying girl.

‘And this is Mia,’ said Marcie.

‘Hello,’ said Erika. Both little girls stared. ‘Gosh, how pretty you both are.’

Erika had never quite mastered how to talk to children. Rapists and murderers she could deal with, but children she found a little intimidating.

Sophie stopped crying and joined Mia in staring at Erika.

‘Sorry, this is obviously a bad time,’ said Erika.

‘No, it’s fine,’ said Marsh.

Marcie took Sophie and balanced her on her other hip. ‘Right, say night-night to Erika, girls.’

‘Night, night,’ they both squeaked.

‘Night!’ said Erika.

‘It was nice to see you, Erika,’ added Marcie and sashayed off. Erika and Marsh both regarded her pert behind for a moment.

‘Can I get you a glass of wine?’ he asked, turning back.

‘No. I’ve just come to take you up on your offer, the flat . . .’

‘Yes, come through. But shoes off.’

Marsh moved to a door at the end of the hall as Erika fumbled with her bootlaces. She then followed. The wooden floor was cold and she felt strangely vulnerable in just socks. Through the door at the end was a country-style kitchen with a long wooden table and chairs. In the corner, a red Aga pumped out heat. A large fridge next to the door was covered in splodgy paintings with splashes of random colour, all fastened with magnets. An equally splodgy painting dominated the wall above a wooden dresser.

‘It’s one of Marcie’s,’ said Marsh, following Erika’s gaze. ‘She’s very talented; just doesn’t get the time anymore.’

‘Did she do the ones on the fridge, too?’ asked Erika, and regretted it the moment it came out of her mouth.

‘No. The twins did those,’ Marsh said.

There was an awkward silence.

‘Well, here’s all the stuff,’ Marsh said, handing her a large envelope from the kitchen counter. ‘The flat isn’t too far – Foxberry Road in Brockley, close to the train station. There’s a contract, drawn up on a rolling monthly basis, so we can decide how long we want this to last. Just give me a cheque in the next few days.’

Erika opened the envelope and pulled out a bunch of keys, pleased that this wasn’t a favour on Marsh’s part.

‘Thank you, sir.’

‘It’s getting late,’ said Marsh.

‘Of course. I should be off, and get settled in,’ said Erika.

‘Oh, one more thing. Sir Simon got in contact with Colleen, our police media liaison. He wants to make a press appeal, whilst the images of Andrea on the front pages are fresh in people’s minds.’

‘Of course, it’s a good idea.’

‘Yes. We’re going to put something together for tomorrow afternoon, so we can hit the evening news and the papers.’

‘Very good, sir. I’m hoping to have more information tomorrow that we can put to use.’

W
hen the front
door was closed behind her, Erika walked back to her car, away from the homely warmth of Marsh’s life. She bent her head and bit her lip, determined not to cry. That life, with the cosy husband and kids, had been within her grasp. She’d even delayed it a few times, much to Mark’s distress.

Now it was gone forever.

BOOK: The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel Book 1)
13.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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