Authors: Rob Kitchin
Monday, April 14
His eyes fixed on the sword and started to travel its length, down from the black handle, over the plain hilt and along the two-inch wide shaft to where it penetrated the young woman’s mouth. Beneath her head the pillow and sheet were stained a mix of red and black.
Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy hitched up his creased trousers and eased his six foot three frame down onto his haunches. He tipped his upper torso sideways, careful not to place his hands on the floor, and looked under the bed. The sword had exited the mattress and the bed’s thin base and was embedded in a floorboard. A crown of splinters had erupted around the tip and a dark puddle snaked across the boards.
He levered himself back upright and took another look at her naked body. Her smoky blue eyes were open in a glazed stare. The sword was aligned to the shape of her mouth, the blade biting a centimetre or so into the cheek on either side, widening her grimace. Some of her brown hair had escaped from a ponytail, curling over her forehead, down past her ears and onto her neck.
Her thin arms were placed by her side, hands clenched tight; her skinny legs closed. Her pale, almost translucent, skin was pulled tight over her ribs, her breasts slight. She looked as if she had been starving herself.
There were no signs that she had worn make-up and her fingernails were short and clean of nail polish. Whatever blood had been on her face and body looked to have been wiped away carefully. There were no tie marks on her limbs, no evidence of bruising, or that she had struggled.
It was almost as if she had welcomed the killing – made her peace and simply swallowed the sword.
He forced himself to look away and examined the room, his gaze tracing over every surface. Except for a small, brown shoulder bag that lay on the only chair the space seemed empty. No clothes, no shoes, or any other visible possessions.
He stared back across the room at the young woman’s face. She looked no more than 18 years old. He massaged his temples and sighed. He wanted to wrap her up and take her away, to protect her from what was about to unfold; give her some measure of dignity in death. Instead he took a plastic cigarette from a box, placed it between his lips, and stepped out into the corridor.
Detective Inspector Barney Plunkett shuffled listlessly from one foot to another, impatient to start the investigation. Occasionally he shared a quizzical look with Detective Sergeant Kenny Johns, a fellow member of the
– the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation – the branch of the gardai that investigated
’s most serious crimes including murder and organised crime.
Mostly Johns picked at imaginary lint on an immaculate, well-tailored, dark blue suit, and tried to catch his own reflection in the fire glass in the door at the end of the corridor. His hair was slicked back with gel and his aftershave filled the enclosed space.
Plunkett gnawed on his fingernails, brushed back his sandy hair, and stared out of the window at the melee of guards, staff and guests congregated on and around the grassed courtyard of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation and beyond that down the Glencree valley, its green fields and conifer forests framed by the yellowy-brown of the Wicklow Mountains. The sky was shades of grey, rain threatening to fall at any minute. He wasn’t looking forward to viewing the murder scene. Blades usually left a bloodbath and carnage that he found hard to forget.
The emergency call had been received at just gone
that morning reporting that a young woman had been stabbed to death sometime during the night. The local superintendent had called in the
shortly after arriving and inspecting the scene – this kind of murder was their territory, not his. He’d followed procedure and had summoned a local doctor to pronounce death and take initial room and body temperatures, then left the scene alone.
Plunkett swung round at the sound of the door creaking open. With tired eyes McEvoy gazed out at his two colleagues, his mouth an angry line punctuated by the cigarette. He plucked the plastic stick from his lips and held it cupped in his right hand as if sheltering the tip from a wind. With his left hand he rubbed his short and thinning hair. Bought before he’d recently lost two stone in weight, his dark grey suit hung off his shoulders over a crumpled, light blue shirt and loosely knotted tie.
‘Jesus,’ McEvoy muttered to himself. ‘It looks like the poor girl’s been sacrificed. Some sick bastard placed a sword in her mouth and then rammed it through the back of her head. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s … It’s …’ he struggled to find the right word. He shook his head in disgust and stared out of the window, pausing before continuing. ‘She was just a child; a teenager.’
He took a couple of steps away from the door, his voice taking a softer lilt. ‘Here, you’d better take a look, see what kind of monster we’re dealing with. You know the score – keep to the entrance and don’t touch anything – we don’t want to mess things up for the crime scene people. Have they arrived yet?’
‘I saw them pull up in the yard a couple of minutes ago,’ Plunkett replied, stepping forward to peer through the bedroom door. ‘They should be up shortly.’
Hannah Fallon could hear Colm McEvoy listing instructions as he descended the flight of stairs above her. They turned the corner.
‘Ah, Hannah.’ McEvoy nodded a greeting, drawing to a halt, waiting for her to join them on the landing.
‘Colm. Barney.’ In her late thirties and neither thin nor fat, she was wearing black trousers and shoes, a chocolate brown, long-sleeved top, and no jewellery or make-up. Long, curly, auburn hair covered her shoulders. She was carrying a broad, brown leather case and a pair of stepping plates. ‘How’s it going so far?’ she asked.
‘Badly,’ McEvoy stated flatly. ‘She’s on the next floor up, through the corridor on the left.’
Hannah nodded, climbing the rest of the steps in silence. ‘How’s Gemma?’ she asked as she reached them.
‘She’s okay,’ McEvoy replied, the edge leaving his voice. ‘Well, as okay as she could be, I guess. She’s 12 this week. I’ve no idea what you get a 12-year-old. Maggie always looked after that kind of thing, y’know. I’ll find something.’
‘I’ve been better,’ McEvoy conceded. Everything was better when Maggie was alive, he thought, before the cancer ate her from the inside out and slowly drained her of life, stealing her away from him and his daughter. ‘I don’t imagine this case is going to help much.’ His voice changed timbre, shifting back to business. ‘It’s not good up there, Hannah. The sick bastard pushed a sword through her head.’
‘It’s never good.’ Her face creased with concern. ‘You haven’t contaminated the crime scene, have you?’
‘We just stood in the doorway,’ McEvoy tried to reassure. ‘It’d already been disturbed by the person who found the body, the first guard to arrive, the local doctor, and God knows who else. This is the main stairwell. Several people have used it already today going to and from bedrooms.’
‘Right, okay, well this will be the route of access to the crime scene,’ Hannah said, her voice betraying her annoyance. ‘I’ll need the other doors sealed off. We’re going to need to set up at least three cordons – an inner one sealing the room, a middle one sealing the building, and an outer one sealing the whole site. Can you organise the outer one if I do the inner two?’
‘No problem. I’ll get someone on it right away.’
‘And do you know if the building’s empty?’
‘I’m not sure. As far as I know. We’ll check it out.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll get Chloe to do it,’ Hannah said referring to one of her assistants. ‘She’ll know what to look for. I don’t want some idiot messing up potential evidence. Not that I’m calling you …’ she trailed off. ‘You know what I mean.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ McEvoy said, aware that he shouldn’t have entered the bedroom.
‘While I’m thinking about it,’ Hannah continued, ‘if there’re bedrooms in the other buildings they’re also going to need sealing off. If the killer was staying here he’ll have taken evidence with him – blood, hairs, whatever. I’m also going to need fingerprint and
samples from everyone staying and working here last night.’
‘Consider it done,’ McEvoy promised. ‘We’re trying to round everybody up and we should start interviewing them shortly. I’d better get down there. Give me a call if you find anything significant, okay?’
‘You’ll be the first to know.’ Hannah slipped past them and started to climb the next flight listening to them descend, McEvoy continuing to give Plunkett instructions.
McEvoy shook hands with Superintendent Peter O’Reilly, whose ruddy and poorly shaved face and ruffled, grey hair, marked him out as a man who enjoyed a drink or two. He was wearing a well-worn uniform that had last seen an iron the day it was tailored.
‘Peter,’ McEvoy stated, stepping back slightly to make space for a round-faced man in his late twenties, his hair shaved close to his head. ‘You keeping well?’
‘As well as can be expected,’ O’Reilly replied with a
‘This is Detective Sergeant John Joyce. John, Superintendent Peter O’Reilly.’
The two men shook hands.
‘Myself and Peter go way back,’ McEvoy explained. ‘John’s our bright young thing. Has a doctorate from Trinity in sociology, which sharpened the mind but didn’t exactly provide a career path, if you know what I mean.’ He wasn’t really convinced that Joyce had entered the gardai for the right reasons, but there was no denying he was good at the job. ‘I want you to work together on the questionnaires. We need blanket coverage for at least a couple of miles, maybe further given how isolated this place is. We’ll also need any CCTV footage for last night reviewed.’
‘You think it was a local?’ O’Reilly asked, doubt in his voice.
‘I was going to ask you the same question. You know of any likely candidates?’
‘Only murder we’ve had recently was a domestic in Enniskerry. Banker killed his wife for having an affair with his brother. We have the usual cranks and petty criminals, but nobody fits the profile for this.’
‘That figures. Well, whoever did this had to get in and out, and someone must have seen him. We need to know if anyone saw any strangers or anybody acting suspiciously.’
‘The road out the back goes up onto the top of the mountains and then drops down into
,’ O’Reilly explained. ‘There’s not a house on it for miles. He could have easily gone that way in the dead of night and not have been noticed.’
‘He had to park up somewhere though,’ McEvoy countered. ‘Someone driving around might have seen something. Just do the best you can. If you get no joy through the questionnaires organise a search of the moorland, see if we can find any of her personal effects. The killer stripped the room clean; he must have dumped them somewhere.’
McEvoy sat across the desk from Janine Smyth, the centre’s director. She was a small, wiry woman with a pinched face that was painted with too much make-up – pale foundation, rouge blusher, thick black mascara, pale green eye shadow, painted eyebrows, and dark red lipstick. Her hair was cropped short and highlighted blond. She wore a dark green trouser suit over a white blouse. An enormous silver brooch, in an abstract design and studded with painted stones was pinned above her left breast. She kept glancing out the window up at the imposing barracks that formed the west side of the centre’s quad, clearly unhappy that the space had been invaded by the police.
McEvoy followed her gaze. The barracks were three storeys high and 60 metres long. At either end stood a four-storey tower, slightly wider than the main frontage, so that building would look like a giant letter I if seen from above. Behind the building was the derelict wall of a similar building and a row of trees screening the bog and gorse beyond.