Out of Control - Chapter 2 - Part 1/3
The house stood in the middle of a long terrace, one of the few remaining terraces in the town. Most of the others had made way for the towering tenement buildings and high rise apartment blocks that looked down on them now. Forgotten by the planners, these streets had remained untouched by the bulldozer and wrecking ball.
The wooden front gate, rotten with age and lack of care, lay askew, its top hinge broken. The larch-lap fence, also broken and rotted, was collapsing under its own weight, in places only held up by tangled weeds and brambles. The rest of the fence had given up the fight and lay broken, the gaps like missing teeth in the mouth of a vagrant.
Couch-grass, daisies, dandelions and tall grass gone to seed, were agitated by a light breeze. A single honey-bee hustled drunkenly between the flowers and weeds, occasionally stopping to increase its load. A Copper Beech tree, under-leaves dripping with sticky greenfly cast-off concealed a large portion of the front of the house. Its leaves rustled in the breeze and drooped over the small, dark garden. Overgrown conifer bushes hid much of the rest. Little direct sunlight reached the poorly maintained brickwork. Nature unchecked, allowed only the strongest rays of light to penetrate. Despite the warmth of the day, a damp musty smell hung in the air.
A barely discernible concrete pathway, overgrown and carpeted with dark green moss, led in an arrow straight line from the gate to the part-glazed front door. Blue gloss paint, faded now and peeling, showed that this had once been a beloved and well-tended home. The upper floor boasted three metal framed windows. The two large windows with miraculously unbroken glass and tattered net curtains were separated by a smaller one which lay directly above the front door. This one held frosted glass panes suggesting a bathroom or toilet behind.
On the ground floor, either side of the front door, were two large bay windows, metal and pitted, like their counterparts upstairs. All of the glass in all of the windows had been obscured in the distant past with whitewash, most of which had decayed over time and no longer did its job.
That the windows still had most of their glass intact stood as testament to a low-crime area. However, one of the panes in the lower casement of the right-hand bay window had been broken recently. Small shards of glass lay on the sill both inside and outside; wind and rain had yet to dislodge them. This had been the way in. Scuff marks where muddy footwear had dislodged peeling paint were evident on the windowsill; broken and twisted plant life below the sill added further proof.
Bare boards, dust and dirt marred the entrance hall. Scuffled foot-marks showed that the dust had been disturbed recently. An arc of litter-free floor-boards confirmed that the door had been opened recently; no new deliveries had been added since the break-in. The junk mail, pushed to one side as the door had been opened, was piled behind the door, mounding up against the wall. Flies buzzed somewhere. Dead flies dry, black and wrinkled like raisins, littered the boards, ready to be crunched underfoot.
The hallway was narrow, straight, dirty and dark. Three wood-panelled doors and a stairwell broke into its smooth lines. The buzzing of the flies sounded louder behind the first door on the right. A smell emanated from behind it; sweet-rot and decay, nauseating. This door opened into what was once a lounge. The painted dirty windows allowed little light to penetrate the interior; the broken glass allowed more. The threadbare and holed net curtains stirred as the breeze rose again and found its way through the gap in the glass.
The floor, bare boards again, but with a lighter outline where a carpet once been. A black-polished boarder about a foot wide ran around the walls; the long-departed carpet had not been fitted, in the old style. A cracked tiled fireplace centred on the wall opposite. Black soot had fallen from the chimney over time and lay piled in the hearth. A crust of charcoal-black bread, dropped down the chimney by an clumsy bird lay in the grate; a dead fly lay atop the crust, partially camouflaged by the soot.
Most of the living flies swarmed in the corner furthest away from the shattered glass; congregating around something large on the floor.
Something scuttled past, a rat. It scattered fly-corpses aside as it scurried closer to the feast. A second rat followed its mate to the banquet, taste-buds stimulated by the enticing smell of rotten meat. The first rat began to eat, gnawing and tearing at exposed, grey flesh, its eyes constantly scanning for intruders. It nuzzled aside a piece of crumpled paper and tore into the exposed flesh of the dead man’s wrist, the meat soft and rotted, sweet to the taste. The second rat followed suit.
Sirens, noises off, footfalls on the concrete path outside, voices raised and then the front door opened loudly. The rats scampered away home in a flash, safe; ready to feast another day.
Three Scene of Crime Officers, clothed head-to-toe in disposable white paper coveralls, elasticised hood exposing only bespectacled faces, moved closer to the body. The smallest of them took a moment to look down at the corpse. She sighed and shook her head sadly, then continued her pre-designated, painstaking task. Fingerprint dust, brush and tape-measure, magnifying glass the tools of her trade. Another SOCO was armed with an expensive-looking digital camera; the third operated a high-definition video camera, complete with its own light source. They recorded everything, measured everything; nothing was missed.
Battery powered high-intensity halogen lamps stood on tripod stands in each corner the room. They illuminated it brightly but still failed to lift the gloom.
The SOCOs followed their routine procedures with well-practised ease. Barely speaking, each knowing their own tasks, they covered the room inch by measured inch. Digital photographs were taken; more brilliant white flashes. Yellow numbered tags complete with indexed measures to scale the photographs for future reference littered the floor. Fibre samples were sealed into transparent plastic evidence bags, and whole areas were covered with fingerprint dust; especially around the broken window and the door handle.
In a hundred similarly different places, they had been there before, done it before, collected and analysed the T-shirt.......