The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel Book 1)
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‘We don’t believe Andrea was sexually assaulted, but this was a sustained and brutal attack,’ said Erika, softly.

‘Oh, my God,’ Giles said, taking a deep breath and scrubbing again at his eyes. ‘I just can’t think – I can’t imagine what she went through.’

Erika gave him a moment before she continued. ‘Could you tell me, Giles, did Andrea have more than one phone?’

Giles looked up, confused. ‘No. No, she had a Swarovski iPhone. Sir Simon’s secretary sorts out the bill. The same with Linda and David.’

Erika looked at Moss and Peterson, and they got up.

‘I think we’ll end it there, Mr Osborne, thank you. I’m sorry about the line of questioning, but your answers to these difficult questions will really help our investigation.’ Erika touched his sleeve. ‘We’ll see ourselves out,’ she added.

They passed Michelle coming into the glass conference room, carrying a large handful of tissues. She gave them a disapproving look.


W
hat do you think
?’ asked Erika, when they emerged out onto the street.

‘I’m gonna say it. Cos I know we were all thinking it. What the hell was she doing with him? Talk about out of his league!’ said Peterson.

‘And I don’t think he knew her at all,’ said Moss.

‘Or, she only let him know what she wanted him to know,’ added Peterson.

16

B
y lunchtime
, the official news of Andrea’s death was playing across the media. As Erika, Moss and Peterson approached the Douglas-Brown residence, the bank of photographers had grown on the green outside, churning up the melting snow. This time they didn’t have to wait on the doorstep and were shown straight through to a large drawing room with a double-aspect view of the tree out front and a large garden behind. Two large pale sofas and several armchairs surrounded a long, low coffee table. An open fireplace was decorated in white marble, and in the corner sat a baby grand piano covered in an assortment of framed photographs.

‘Hello, officers,’ said Simon Douglas-Brown, rising from one of the sofas to shake their hands. Diana Douglas-Brown was sitting beside him, and didn’t get up. Her eyes were red and swollen, and her face bare of make-up. David and Linda sat at opposite sides of their parents. Simon, Diana and David were still dressed in black, but Linda had changed into a tartan skirt and a baggy white woollen jumper, on the front of which embroidered kittens chased balls of wool. Erika recognised the jumper from the picture on Facebook. Andrea had worn it with Barbora.

‘Thank you for seeing us,’ said Erika. ‘Before we begin, I would just like to apologise to you if my manner yesterday was rude. It wasn’t intentional, and I apologise unreservedly if I caused you any offence.’

Simon looked surprised. ‘Yes, of course, it’s forgotten. And thank you.’

‘Yes, thank you,’ echoed Diana, croakily.

‘We’d just like to find out a little more about Andrea’s life,’ said Erika, taking a seat on the sofa opposite the family. Peterson and Moss sat either side of her. ‘May we ask you a few questions?’

The family nodded.

Erika looked at David and Linda. ‘I understand Andrea was supposed to meet you on the night she disappeared?’

‘Yes, we were due to meet at The Odeon in Hammersmith, to watch a film,’ said Linda.

‘Which film?’

David shrugged and looked to Linda.

‘Gravity
,’ Linda said. ‘Andrea kept saying how much she wanted to see it.’

‘Did she say why she cancelled?’

‘She didn’t cancel; she just didn’t turn up,’ said Linda.

‘Okay. We have a witness who saw Andrea in a pub in South London, The Glue Pot. Does that mean anything?’

The family all shook their heads.

‘That doesn’t sound like somewhere Andrea would go,’ said Diana. She sounded a little woozy and vacant.

‘Could she have been meeting someone? Did Andrea have any friends around there?’

‘Goodness, no,’ said Diana.

‘Andrea did get through a lot of friends,’ said Linda, flicking her short fringe out of her eyes with a twitch of her head.

‘Linda, that’s not fair,’ said her mother, weakly.

‘But she did. There was always someone new she’d met in a bar or a club – she had so many memberships. She’d be crazy about them one minute, and the next they’d be cut off. Excommunicated for some minor misdemeanor.’

‘Like what?’ asked Erika.

‘Like, looking nicer than she did, or talking to the guy she wanted to talk to. Or talking about themselves too much . . .’

‘Linda,’ said her father, warningly.

‘I’m telling them the truth!’

‘No, you are slating your sister, who is dead. She isn’t here to fight with you, anymore . . .’ Simon tailed off.

‘Did you go out with Andrea to bars and clubs?’ asked Moss.

‘No,’ said Linda, pointedly.

‘When you say “memberships”, what do you mean?’

‘Memberships to clubs. I’m not sure they’d be the kind of clubs
you’d
go to,’ added Linda, looking Moss up and down.


Linda
,’ said Simon.

Linda shifted uncomfortably on the sofa, her broad backside spilling over the edge. ‘I’m sorry, that was rude,’ she said, flicking her fringe again. Erika wondered if it was a nervous tic.

‘No probs,’ said Moss, amiably. ‘This isn’t a formal interview; we merely want information to help catch Andrea’s killer.’

‘I can give you the list of clubs where Andrea had memberships. I’ll talk to my secretary, get her to email them over,’ said Simon.

‘Linda, you work at a florists, yes?’ asked Peterson.

Linda looked him up and down approvingly, as if noticing him for the first time. ‘Yes. It’s my mother’s business. I’m assistant manager. Have you got a girlfriend?’

‘Um, no,’ said Peterson.

‘Pity,’ said Linda, unconvincingly. ‘We’ve got some lovely stuff coming in for Valentine’s Day.’

‘What about you, David?’ asked Peterson.

David had sunk down into the sofa, and he stared ahead vacantly with the neck of his jumper pulled up over his bottom lip. ‘I’m doing my MA,’ he said.

‘Where?’

‘Here in London, at UCL,’

‘And what are you studying?’

‘Architectural History.’

‘He’s always wanted to be an architect,’ said his mother proudly, putting her hand on his arm. He pulled it out from under her touch. For a moment, Diana looked like she might break down again.

‘When did you last see Andrea?’ asked Erika.

‘The afternoon before we were due to go out,’ said David.

‘Did you go out with Andrea much in London?’

‘No. She was more Kardashian bling. I’m more into Shoreditch, y’know?’

‘You mean the bars and clubs in Shoreditch?’ asked Peterson. David nodded. Peterson added, ‘I live in Shoreditch. I got a mortgage just before the property prices went mad.’

Linda regarded Peterson, as if he were a cream cake waiting to be devoured.

David went on, ‘Yeah. When I finally get access to my trust fund, I’m buying my own place in Shoreditch.’

‘David,’ warned his father.

‘Well, I am. He asked me a question and I answered.’

There was an almost imperceptible shift in the room. A look passed between Simon and Diana, and then there was silence.

‘So, Linda, you are a florist, and David is studying. What did Andrea do?’ asked Moss.

‘Andrea was engaged to be married,’ said Linda, her voice heavy with irony.

‘Enough!’ roared Simon. ‘I will not have you two talking like this, filling the room with this horrible atmosphere. Andrea is dead. Brutally murdered! And here you are taking pot shots at her!’

‘It wasn’t me, it was Linda,’ said David.

‘Oh yes, it’s always me. Always Linda . . .’

Their father ignored them. ‘Andrea was a beautiful girl. But not only that, she lit up a room when she walked in. She was beautiful, and vulnerable and . . . and . . . a light has gone out in our lives.’

The atmosphere in the room changed. The family seemed to shift on their chairs to move into each other and become a unit.

‘What can you tell us about Andrea’s friend, Barbora Kardosova?’ asked Erika.

‘I think she was the closest Andrea ever had to a best friend,’ said Diana. ‘She even came on holiday with us. They were so close for a time, and then she just vanished. Andrea said Barbora just moved away.’

‘Do you know where she went?’

‘No. She didn’t leave a forwarding address; didn’t answer any of Andrea’s emails,’ said Diana.

‘Do you think that’s odd?’

‘Of course it was odd. I think she came from a broken home, though. Her mother was unwell. Then of course, people inevitably have a habit of letting you down . . .’

‘Did they have a falling out?’

‘It’s possible, but Andrea was – well, she wouldn’t lie about things like that. She’d have told us. Andrea thinks – thought – that Barbora had become jealous of her.’

‘Andrea’s phone records only go back to June 2014,’ said Erika.

‘Yes, she lost her other phone. She’d had it since she was thirteen or fourteen,’ said Simon.

‘And you replaced it for her?’

‘Yes.’

‘Have you got the number for the old phone?’

‘Why would you need that?’

‘It’s just routine.’

‘Is it? I would have thought having eight months of phone records would suffice . . .’ They could see that Simon was starting to grow uncomfortable.

‘Did Andrea have a second phone?’

‘No.’

‘Could she have had a second phone and you were unaware?’

‘Well, no. The family manages her trust fund. She mainly used credit cards. We would have known if she’d bought a phone, but why would she?’

‘It would be very helpful if we could have her old phone number.’

Simon looked at Erika. ‘Yes, okay, I’ll speak to my secretary. She can pull the details.’

Erika went to ask another question, but Diana began to speak.

‘I don’t know why Andrea would go all the way over across the river! And then she’s taken by someone and killed. My baby
. . .
My baby
. She’s
dead
!’ Diana became hysterical, gulping and retching. Simon and David began to comfort her, but Linda did another nervous flick of her fringe and picked at a piece of lint on her cat jumper.

‘Officers, please, that’s enough questions,’ said Simon.

Erika found it hard to hide her exasperation. ‘Would it be possible to look at Andrea’s bedroom?’

‘What? Now? Your people have already been and had a look.’

‘Please. It would help us,’ said Erika.

‘I can take them, Daddy,’ said Linda. ‘Come with me, officers.’

They followed Linda out, past Diana, who was still hysterical. David gave Linda a nod and a weak smile and then turned back to comfort his mother. On the way out of the door, they passed the piano littered with family photographs of the Douglas-Browns and their three children – all smiling, all happy.

17

A
ndrea’s bedroom
was large and, like the rest of the house, beautifully furnished. Three sash windows along one wall looked out over the green where the press were milling about. Linda marched in ahead of them and moved close to the blinds. The photographers below leapt into action, clicking away. Linda yanked the blinds down with a clatter.

‘Those beasts. We can’t do anything. We’re trapped in here. David’s been moaning that he can’t even have a cigarette on the terrace. Daddy says it would look bad.’

The blinds were thick and cast the bedroom in gloom. Linda flicked on the light. The middle window was the largest. Underneath, there was a huge desk of polished wood. The desk was neatly organised with an astonishing amount of make-up: a big pot of brushes and eyeliner, nail polish lined up in many colours, powder compacts stacked, boxes of lipstick standing to attention in rows. Over the corner of the mirror hung scores of lanyards and tickets from concerts: Madonna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Robbie Williams.

A wardrobe lined the length of the wall on the right. Erika slid the mirrored door across, and the scent of Chanel Chance perfume floated out. Inside was an expensive wardrobe of designer clothes, mostly short skirts and dresses. The bottom was covered in shoeboxes.

‘So Andrea got an allowance?’ asked Erika, thumbing her way through the clothes.

‘When she turned twenty-one she gained access to her trust fund, like I did. Although David still has to wait, which has caused . . . issues,’ said Linda.

‘What do you mean, issues?’

‘Males born into the family have to wait until their twenty-fifth birthday.’

‘Why is that?’

‘David is like any twenty-one year old boy. He wants to spend his money on girls and cars and booze. Although, he’s much more considerate than Andrea, even though he has less money. He still gets me nicer birthday presents.’ Linda flicked her fringe again, crossing her arms over her large be-kittened bosom.

‘What do you spend your money on?’ asked Moss.

‘That is a rude question that I don’t have to answer,’ said Linda, tartly.

To one side of the wardrobe was a neatly made four-poster bed with a blue and white blanket, and some soft toys lined up on the pillow. Above the bed was a poster of One Direction.

‘She didn’t really like them anymore,’ said Linda, following their gaze. ‘She said they were just boys and she liked men.’

‘She was engaged, though?’ prompted Erika. Linda gave a bitter laugh. ‘What’s so funny, Linda?’

‘Have you seen Giles? When they feed up the ducks for foie gras, he’s always at the front of the queue…’

‘Why do you think Andrea was with Giles?’

‘Come on officers, isn’t it obvious? Money. He’s due to inherit a fabulous estate in Wiltshire and a house in Barbados. His parents are worth squillions, and they’re on their last legs. They had him very late. His mother thought he was the menopause.’

‘Was Andrea unfaithful to Giles?’ asked Moss.

‘Boys were always drawn to Andrea. They turned into drooling, pitiful creatures in her presence. She got a kick out of the attention.’

‘But was Andrea having an affair?’ pressed Moss.

‘I don’t know what she did half the time. We weren’t close. But I loved her, and I’m devastated that she’s dead . . .’ For the first time, Linda looked as if she might cry.

‘What about you, Linda?’ asked Moss.

‘What about me? Are you asking if I make the boys drool? What do you think?’ snapped Linda, cutting her off.

‘I wanted to ask if you have a boyfriend,’ explained Moss.

‘That’s none of your business. Have
you
got a boyfriend?’

‘No. I’m married,’ said Moss.

‘What does he do?’ asked Linda.

‘She. She’s a teacher,’ said Moss, breezily. Erika tried not to look surprised.

‘No, I haven’t got a boyfriend,’ said Linda.

‘Can these windows be opened fully?’ asked Peterson, moving to the middle sash window, bending over to peer around the closed blinds. ‘Have they got suicide locks?’

‘No, they open all the way,’ said Linda, admiring Peterson’s backside as he bent over. Erika joined him at the window and saw that there was a fire escape leading down to ground level.

‘Did Andrea ever climb out of her window to meet friends, if she was grounded?’ asked Erika.

‘My mother and father never had the time or inclination to ground us. We use the front door if we want to go out,’ said Linda.

‘And you can come and go as you please?’

‘Of course.’

Erika kneeled down and looked under the bed. There were wispy clumps of dust on the polished wood floor, but one area stood out as a little cleaner than the others. She moved her attention to the chest of drawers and went to open the top one, pausing with her hand on the handle. ‘Would you mind just waiting outside, please Linda?’ she asked.

‘Why? I thought you were here just to chat?’

‘Linda, have you got any photos of Andrea you can show me? It could help us,’ said Peterson. He came over and touched Linda lightly on the arm. Her round white face blushed scarlet.

‘Um, yes, I think I have some,’ she said, staring up at Peterson with a smile. They left, and Erika closed the door.

‘Good old Peterson, taking one for the team,’ joked Moss, adding, ‘What is it?’

Erika crossed back to the bed. ‘Did forensics come in when it was a missing persons?’

‘No, Sparks came and had a poke round. I think Simon or Diana was with him though, so it wasn’t thorough.’

‘There’s something underneath the bed that looks fishy,’ said Erika.

They knelt down, pulling latex gloves out of their coats and slipping them on. Erika got down on her front and slid under the bed. Moss flicked on a torch and shone it under the bed as Erika examined a floorboard which was cleaner than the rest, tracing its seams. Erika pulled out her car keys, fitting a key between the floorboards, and levered it up. However, the board was long and the bed was low, so it wouldn’t properly lift out. Erika replaced the board and shuffled back out. They took an end of the bed each and pulled it out a few feet with great difficulty.

‘Jesus, that’s no IKEA shit,’ grimaced Moss. Erika moved round and got the floorboard up.

Inside a cavity underneath was a mobile phone box. Erika gently lifted it out, and opened the lid. The moulded cardboard housing was still inside, but there was no phone. There was, however, a bag of small white pills, a small dark block of what looked like cannabis resin wrapped in cling film, a pack of large Rizlas and a box of Swan Vestas filters. There was also a small instruction booklet for an iPhone 5S, and a hands-free kit that was still in its little plastic bag. Erika lifted out the moulded cardboard. A small white receipt was nestled in the bottom. It was printed on thin shiny paper, and along one edge was a sticky yellow substance that had blurred the ink. On the reverse it was blank, apart from the words “
your my baby x”
written in blue ink, in a childish hand.

‘It’s a mobile phone top-up voucher,’ said Erika, turning it back over.

‘But there’s only half a transaction number,’ said Moss. ‘What is that gunk?’

Erika put it to her nose. ‘Dried egg yolk.’

‘What about the stash?’ asked Moss, looking back in the mobile phone box.

‘I don’t know. Sadly, it’s fairly run-of-the-mill. Six tablets could be ecstasy. An ounce or two of cannabis resin? That’s personal use,’ said Erika. ‘Let’s bag this up and call in a CSI to check out the rest of her bedroom.’

W
hen they came back downstairs
, Simon and David were showing a doctor to the front door.

‘Is everything okay?’ asked Erika. Simon thanked the doctor and opened the door. The doctor hurried down the path through the rain of camera flashes, clutching at his leather bag, eager to get out of the firing line. Peterson and Linda joined them as Simon closed the front door.

‘No, everything is not
okay
. My wife is suffering severe trauma. I think I’d like to ask you to leave, please.’

‘We found this under Andrea’s bed,’ said Erika, holding up a plastic evidence bag with the mobile phone box, and the drugs.

‘What? No, no, no, no, no,’ he snapped. ‘My children do not do drugs! How do I know you didn’t plant this?’

‘Sir, we’re not interested in the drugs. What we are interested in is the fact we think Andrea had a second phone. In this box was a mobile phone top-up voucher dated four months previously. Were you aware of its existence?’

‘No. Let me see that . . .’ Sir Simon took the thin plastic bag housing the receipt, and studied it. David and Linda watched with curiosity.

‘Whose writing is this?’

‘We don’t know. Could Giles have written it?’

‘He went to Gordonstoun. He’d know the different between “your” and “you’re”. How do you know this is even hers? It could be an old box.’

‘Could your secretary have organised a second phone for Andrea?’

‘No! Not without telling me about it,’ said Simon. ‘What do you two know about this? Was Andrea taking drugs?’ he added, turning on David and Linda.

‘We don’t know anything, Daddy,’ said Linda, flicking her hair. David shook his head along with her.

‘Okay, thank you, sir. Please let us know if you find out anything more. In the meantime, I’ve asked a forensics team to take a look at Andrea’s bedroom.’

‘What? You’re asking my permission?’

‘I’m informing you that in the interest of furthering this investigation and finding who killed Andrea, I need a team of forensic officers to look at Andrea’s bedroom, sir,’ said Erika.

‘You people do what you want, don’t you?’ snapped Simon. He walked off to his study and slammed the door.

W
hen they reached
Erika’s car on Chiswick High Road, her phone rang.

‘It’s DCI Sparks. I’m at The Glue Pot. It’s about the e-fit you tried to arrange with that witness, Kristina.’

‘Yes? Did you find her?’ asked Erika, hope rising in her chest.

‘No, and according to the landlord, there’s no one called Kristina who works here.’

‘Where did you find the landlord?’

‘He lives in a flat two doors down.’

‘Then who was the girl I talked to?’

‘I asked the bar staff. A girl matching her description, called Kristina, works casually, cash-in-hand, covering when the other bar staff need nights off. One of them had an address for her, so we checked it out. It’s a bedsit near the train station, but it’s empty.’

‘Who owns the bedsit?’ asked Erika.

‘Landlord lives in Spain, and as far as he and the letting agent were aware it’s been unoccupied for three months. So this Kristina was either squatting, or gave it as a fake address.’

‘Shit. Get forensics into that bedsit, dust for prints. So far she’s the only one who saw Andrea with this mystery man and woman.’

BOOK: The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster crime thriller novel Book 1)
5.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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