Out of Control - Chapter 2 - Part 3/3
Over by the body again, this time standing to protect his knees, Jones took out his own notebook and began his well-practiced initial investigation. He had his own routine.
First: look around the body, study the immediate area.
There was a little blood below around what was left of the head, just some dark stains on the floorboards, bits of broken skull and brain matter too. Other bodily fluids had oozed out of cuts and orifices which added to the overall stench. There was not enough blood though; clear evidence that the man had been killed elsewhere.
Second: study the clothing.
The body, lying where it had been dumped, was devoid of clothing. No clothing in the room either, nothing for Jones to go on.
Third: The body.
No obvious identifying features. No tattoos, at least on the front. No-one had moved the body; a job for the morticians who had yet to arrive.
The skin and what remained of the hair was clean, apart from the obvious damage; someone, probably the murderer, had cleaned the body carefully. He hadn’t noticed it before, the smell of decay had masked another odour but now, leaning close to the body, Jones caught the faint smell of bleach. --Bloody, hell. Too many CSI programmes on the TV. Even the thickest criminals have some idea about forensics, DNA evidence, and cleaning up after themselves. This’ll be a tough one!
Third: the immediate surroundings.
There was nothing obvious here. The room offered up no real clues over and above the evidence already gathered by the SOCOs. He turned again to the woman in the paper suit. She now carried a large metal case. The name Dr. R Spence, PhD, was etched into its front. Her name? He wondered what the ‘R’ stood for.
“Is that where they gained access to the house?” He pointed to where one of the other SOCOs was working outside the broken window.
“Probably,” she nodded, “it looks recent enough. Trouble is, the garden’s so overgrown I doubt we’ll be able to raise any useful footprints. There are some marks by the windowsill, and a few smudges on the window frame but I doubt they’ll be of much use.”
It was the most Jones had ever heard her say at one go --- she must be warming to me, he thought more in hope than expectation.
“Any fingerprints in the room?” asked Jones hopefully.
“Loads. Most of them are quite old. You did notice his hands though, didn’t you?” she looked towards the corpse.
Jones nodded and without looking at corpse he answered, “The right hand is clenched in a fist. The other is open. Why?”
For the first time, the woman smiled. It changed her face completely, and reached to her pale green eyes. “They said you don’t miss much. Come and take a closer look.” Jones followed her and crouched next to the body again, risking the complaints his knees would make later. Dr. Spence lifted the open left hand and turned it palm up.
“They were both balled into fists up when I arrived. I opened this one to take the fingerprints and look,” she pointed to the fingertips and Jones took a closer look.
“Bloody hell!” Spence’s neat eyebrows lifted in surprise, nobody had ever heard Jones curse before, not on while on duty at any rate. She warmed to him a little more, he was human after all.
“The skin of each fingertip has been removed.” She paused for a second before adding, “I’d hazard a guess that it was done after death.”
Jones nodded in agreement, “Can’t see any restraint marks on his wrists or arms, and nobody could sit still for that torture if they were conscious. The PM will probably be able to confirm whether it was done anti- or post-mortem though I would have thought.”
“Damn,” Jones swore under his breath, “I was hoping we’d be able to get a quick identification. It always helps when you know who the victim is.”
The woman looked up at Jones who was close enough to smell her perfume; although he couldn’t put a name to the subtle fragrance. They had been concentrating so much on the victim’s fingers, leaning in close to get a better look he hadn’t realised how close to each other they had become. Uncomfortably close, they were now invading each other’s personal space. Jones leaned away quickly, but she stayed put; the slightest of smiles playing on her lips and her eyes. ----What does that smile mean? But there’s a time and place for everything. Maybe later.
He stood up sharply. Thankfully his knees remained silent this time, saving him some embarrassment; but they still ached just the same.
Professional again, the woman rose smoothly and stood a respectable distance from Jones. “There is still some trace evidence under his nails which might be of use, despite the bleach.” The woman broke off and shrugged her slight shoulders, “Not much here to work with though, sorry.”
“Thanks Dr. Spence,” and then he carefully move over to the broken window. “Anything at all of any use here?” asked Jones, through the broken glass.
The other SOCO looked up from behind his safety glasses and glanced at his supervisor inside the room. She nodded that it was alright to confide in the policeman. “There might be something here,” he said quietly. He held up a pair of steel tweezers which gripped a small shard of glass. A dark stain could clearly be seen on a pointed edge. “This might be blood, but I’m not sure. There’s not enough of it to test here but I’ll bag it up and examine it in the morning. If it is blood, there might be enough for DNA analysis, but it’ll take a couple of weeks to get the test results.” With that, he dropped the shard into a clear plastic vial, screwed its top shut, and then placed it into an evidence bag.
“A couple of weeks! Cutbacks I suppose! Well spotted though,” he added. After all, it wasn’t the SOCO’s fault, he didn’t allocate police funding. “Please do what you can. Anything else?”
“’Fraid not. There is evidence of footprints and a partial palm print here, but like the boss said, they are all smudged and probably useless.” Jones nodded his thanks and moved on to his next step.
He turned back the room to find the he was now alone. Dr Spence had left without saying a word. ---Pity, I was just about to ask what the ‘R’ in her name stood for. Never mind, I’ll catch her up to her again another time.
Fourth: the surrounding area.
The kitchen was empty of all but the basics. A stainless steel sink and drainer with cheap melamine cabinet beneath was below a net-curtained window that overlooked the overgrown back garden. Two small cabinets hung on the wall either side of the window. It looked like the room hadn’t been disturbed for many months. There was dust and unbroken cobwebs shrouded the room. The same was true of small dining room that was accessed through the third hallway door.
A cursory inspection of the first floor, reached via the uncarpeted wooden staircase oat the rear of the hallway, added nothing of interest. The SOCO team had yet to inspect the upper floor and would do so diligently, but Jones knew nothing useful would be found in the remainder of the house.
In his view, whoever had dumped the body had broken in through the lounge window. From there he or she had opened the front door, shown by the disturbed junk mail, and had carried or dragged the body through the hallway and into the lounge. They then simply dumped the body unceremoniously on the floor and left without entering any other room in the house. ---Damnti, never catch a break.
Fifth: and finally, the outside.
Jones exited through the front door and immediately was dazzled by the multiple bright flashes as the paparazzi caught sight of him again. Shouted questions rained down on him from the journalists. Two uniformed officers stood between them and the dilapidated fence, gently restraining the eager pressmen when they overstepped their boundary. Jones ignored their baying calls and surveyed the general area in the increasing murkiness of the onrushing dusk.
A couple of men wearing dark blue coveralls stood in the garden close to the gate, smoking cigarettes. Their free hands were cupped below the glowing cigarette tips to catch any fallen ash to avoid contaminating the area at their feet. The coroner’s logo on each chest showed their origin and purpose. Jones nodded to them, “The body’s ready to be moved now. Be careful with it,” he added needlessly. He recognised the two from other cases and knew them to be as efficient at their jobs as everyone else at the scene.
One of the men gathered up a collapsible stretcher, the other a folded black plastic body-bag. Then they both moved off to begin their grisly work.
The house stood in a row of other, similar houses. Opposite stood another row, identical in architecture, differing only in the colour of the front doors and the structure of fence or wall that protected the front garden.
The tower blocks stood menacingly over the houses below, crowding in on all sides. They varied in height, five to fifteen stories tall. He could almost feel the eyes watching him from behind the closed window panes. Any one of them could be the killer checking on his progress. He shuddered and monitored the progress of the half dozen uniformed officers as they went from door-to-door questioning the immediate neighbours for a few moments. The tower blocks would have to wait until tomorrow.
Then a call from inside the house sent his heart-rate soaring. Dr Spence called to him from the front door. He hustled over to her. Her eyes shone with excitement and his heart-rate quickened again. As he drew near she whispered excitedly, “We’ve found something underneath the body!”