Authors: Rob Kitchin
‘News is filtering out though, and we’re starting to get asked questions. And the rumour mill’s already at work. One woman had heard that a girl had been killed as part of a satanic ritual; that those staying here had drunk her blood while calling forth the devil. I think we’re gonna need to nip that in the bud, it’s only going to be counter-productive down the line.’
‘Fair comment,’ McEvoy responded, ‘though it’s not far off the mark. A sword through the head and a killer on the loose is hardly going to reassure the public. Anyone got anything else?’ He paused before continuing. ‘Okay, then, now we’re up-to-date, let’s work on what we’ve got.’
He moved to the whiteboard, picked up a marker and turned back to face the small group. ‘First, this was carefully planned. The killer knew what he was doing and he knew his way around. Either he was familiar with the place or he made himself familiar. He turned to the whiteboard and spoke as he wrote, ‘“1. Past guests. Former employees. Strangers.”’ He swung back round again. ‘We need a full list of everyone who stayed or worked here in the last five years and descriptions of any strangers.
‘Second, our killer was accomplished. He had composure. He didn’t lose his temper or panic. He killed Laura in cold blood then arranged her body and cleaned the room. That doesn’t sound like a first-time killer to me.’ He turned back to the board. ‘“2. Convicted or suspected killers. Violent offenders. Sexual assault.” We’re going to need a list of all freed murderers and suspected killers in the last 20 or 30 years. See if any names tally with the guest lists. Given the number of ex-prisoners and paramilitaries that have passed through this place there’s bound to be a few. They all need to be checked out and eliminated.’
‘Jesus,’ Plunkett muttered, acknowledging the size of the task.
‘Third, he had to get to and from here,’ McEvoy continued, ignoring the interruption. ‘The centre’s miles from anywhere so the chances are he didn’t walk. That, or he’s still here, and I doubt that. “3. Vehicle.” We need to identify all vehicles that have been parked near to or in the centre’s car park over the past two weeks.
‘Fourth, we have some obvious pieces of evidence. “4. Material evidence – sword.” That sword had to come from somewhere. It’s either been purchased, stolen or it’s a family heirloom. “– note.” We need to trace the quote. Also, see if he’s copying the rules from some other source. “– business cards.” Did he make them himself, or did he get them printed? If they were printed, then where?
‘Finally, the victim. Why did he choose her? Was it just a random selection or was there more to it than that? Was he after a young woman? Did he know her? We need to piece her life together – who she was, who her friends were, who she knew. “5. Victim.”’
He placed down the marker and took a couple of steps back. ‘Anyone got anything to add to that?’
‘The stuff he cleared out of the room,’
suggested. ‘Her belongings and his clothes, he must have disposed of them somewhere.’
‘“6. Crime scene artefacts.” Good point. Anyone else?’
The group remained silent, staring at the whiteboard, thinking through the work that needed to be done.
Professor Elaine Jones pushed open the door onto the corridor and headed for the victim’s room. Her shoulder-length grey hair was pulled tight into a short ponytail, her eyes framed by crow’s feet, her bright red lips by laughter lines. The bag she carried seemed half her size.
A young, tall, thin, bald-headed man with sunken cheeks pushed open the corridor door and lurched after her.
Hannah Fallon stepped from the room, a grim look on her face.
‘What a day!’ Elaine breezed, starting to pull protective clothing from her bag. ‘First two dead children, now this. They’d been sprayed with lighter fuel before the house was set on fire. Can you believe that?’ She looked up, grimacing. ‘They didn’t stand a chance.’
‘I believe anything at this stage,’ Fallon replied. ‘And this’ll be another one to add to your collection. The poor girl was made to swallow a sword.’
‘What, like down the throat?’
‘No, no, straight out the back of her skull.’ Fallon did a thrusting motion past her head to illustrate. ‘She’s laid out like a sacrifice.’
‘Jesus. Three sacrifices in one day.’ The pathologist shook her head and tugged on a glove. ‘The devil’s been busy.’
‘Well, if the note’s anything to go by, it’s the first in a sequence.’
‘And I was hoping for a holiday,’ Professor Jones said, keeping her voice buoyant and rolling her eyes. She wanted the mood serious but light. Death was a sombre, depressing affair and she found quips and playful teasing the best way to combat the sober funk that could envelop an investigating team. ‘How’re you getting on, Igor?’
Her assistant, Billy Keane, started to pull on his protective suit. ‘Not a bother,’ he replied. ‘I’ll be ready when you are.’
‘How’s the room?’ the pathologist asked Fallon.
‘We’ve cleaned a pathway over to her for you. The killer has washed the room down and bathed the body. Once you’re done and the body’s removed we’ll finish up.’ She looked at her watch. ‘Probably tomorrow at this stage. The local doctor pronounced her dead this morning before we arrived; we have his notes for you.’
‘Thanks. You ready then, Igor?’ Elaine Jones pulled a mask down over her nose and mouth.
Billy hung a camera round his neck. ‘Yes, ma’am.’
‘How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not your mother. Look at the size of you.’ She stood next to him, her five foot one frame dwarfed by his six foot five. ‘You’d have split me in half if I’d tried to give birth to you! If you get the chance, can one of your team get us some coffee,’ she said to Fallon. ‘It’s all that’s keeping us going at this stage.’
‘Bishop!’ the chief superintendent snapped.
‘The rumour mill’s starting to work,’ McEvoy said without introduction. ‘I think we need to release a fuller statement to the media. We need to straighten them out on a few things and fill in a few blanks. We also need to appeal for witnesses who might have seen strangers in and around the area in the last few days. The usual stuff.’
‘I’ve already had someone working on it. You want to check it through before I talk to the media?’
‘You’re talking to the media?’ McEvoy asked, confusion in his voice. ‘I thought it was to be Peter O’Reilly’s five minutes of fame?’
‘There’s been a change of plan,’ Bishop said firmly. ‘This thing’s going to be international news. A young girl made to swallow a sword. The
dailies have already been on, plus a couple of the
stations – Fox, CNN. We’ll be running this out of the national press office.’
And it’ll be your five minutes of fame, McEvoy thought, unsurprised by Bishop’s change of plan.
‘Look, Colm, I know you’re not a great fan of media work, but I’d be grateful if you’d be available tomorrow morning for half an hour. They’ll want to talk to the senior investigating officer.’
‘Would Peter O’Reilly not be better?’ McEvoy hazarded. ‘This is his patch.’
‘No, I want you to do it. It’ll be you they’ll want to talk to, not some local yokel.’
‘Okay,’ McEvoy said reluctantly. Whatever Peter O’Reilly was, he wasn’t a yokel. Anyone who made superintendent had to have some guile and wits.
‘They may be a real pain sometimes,’ Bishop explained, ‘but it’s best to keep them onside. You never know when you might need them, like now.’
‘What time?’ McEvoy conceded.
. And wear your best suit and tie. Not one of your worn-out specials.’
‘I’ll dig them out.’ The last thing he wanted to do was to spend the morning in garda headquarters talking to the press.
‘Aye, do that. And remember to shave. Look, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to see the assistant commissioner. Remember, ten tomorrow.’ Bishop ended the call.
McEvoy stared at the phone for a few seconds, shaking his head. Bishop could be a cold, calculating bastard when he wanted to be – which was just about all the time. He scrolled through his mobile’s phone book again and pressed connect.
Three rings later a woman’s voice answered. ‘Hello?’
‘It’s me,’ McEvoy said matter-of-factly.
‘We heard the news bulletin,’ McEvoy’s sister said. ‘Don’t worry, I can look after her.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Is there anyone else?’
‘I guess not,’ he conceded. Maggie’s family all lived down the country or abroad and her parents weren’t up to it in any case. His two brothers lived in
, one of his sisters in
and the other in
. His parents were holed up in their cottage in Conemara. There was only Caroline in
. Thankfully she was happy to help out. God knows what he would do otherwise.
‘Don’t worry. We’ll get a
if we get bored. You don’t mind if Jimmy comes over?’
‘No. No, that’s fine. Is she there?’
‘I’ll put you on now.’ He could hear her turn away from the phone. ‘Gemma, it’s your dad.’
He heard her reply from upstairs. ‘Okay.’
A few seconds later the extension phone was picked up.
The other handset was switched off.
‘Hiya, pumpkin. You heard the news?’
‘Which one are you investigating,’ she said as if it were routine, ‘the burnt children or the woman in the
‘The woman in the mountains. I’m not going to get back until late tonight.’
‘Well, at least it’s not in
or somewhere. Have you had anything to eat?’ she asked, motherly.
‘I’ll get a Chinese on the way home.’
‘You need a proper meal,’ she warned. ‘We’ll put it in the fridge for you. You’ve got to look after yourself now that Mam’s gone.’
‘I know. I will,’ McEvoy promised, embarrassed that the roles had been reversed. ‘Look, I’ve got to go, the pathologist has arrived. I just wanted to check in. I’ll be back later on, okay? I love you.’
‘I love you too. And remember to drink something. You know how dehydrated you get when you’re working. You forget to drink.’
He could hear Maggie in her voice. It was like she was speaking from beyond the grave.
‘I will, I will,’ he conceded, realising that all he’d had to drink since lunchtime was a cup of coffee.
‘And don’t smoke either,’ she chided him. ‘You’re giving up remember?’
‘All I’ve smoked all day is my plastic substitute.’ His hand curled round the packet of ten Silk Cut in his pocket and then let go. Maggie’s brand. ‘Look, Caroline’s going to stay with you until I get home,’ he said, trying to change the subject. ‘She said she might get a
. Nothing rated more than a 15, okay.’
‘And Jimmy might come over.’
‘She’s already asked.’