The tea grew cold as Eric recounted his story to Rob and Fiona. His old friend could barely contain his shock at learning of Andrew’s death. With each word the weight on Eric’s shoulders seemed to shift – it was a relief to get everything off his chest, but he was already tying Rob, and Fiona, to something that could potentially get them killed.
“So, the people behind Andrew’s murder think you’re dead?” Rob asked as Eric reached the end of his tale. Eric nodded. “Well, at least they won’t be lookin’ for ya eh?”
“That’s about the only good thing to come out of all this. I can’t go home to Mary, I don’t know how paranoid these people are. I am truly sorry mate, for getting you involved…” Eric was stopped by Rob’s raised hand.
“Don’t apologise mate. Some serious shit has happened and one of the best blokes I’ve ever known has been gunned down in his own home. I know where some of the rest of our squad live, I’ll rope them in, and we’ll find a way to stop these bastards.”
Eric smiled weakly. Even now, in his (suspected) sixties, Rob would be a force to be reckoned with. The mad fool had overcome so much in his life, from racist idiots (even some in the Army), to being tortured, and being shot, and even now he would do it all over again to help Eric and avenge Andrew. “I don’t know what to say. I owe you, big time.”
Rob put a hand on Eric’s knee. “Mate, you’re the one who got me out of that Colombian camp. I owe you, and I’ll repay my debt. My car is out front. Fiona babe…” He looked up at his wife, who was looking back at him with a mix of pride and worry in her brown eyes. “Can you check in on Mary for us? Make sure she’s alright yeah?”
“Not a problem.” Replied Fiona. She had accepted her husband’s choices a long time ago.
Eric felt tears sting his eyes. “Thank you, both of you.”
“Don’t get all mushy on me. Come on, let’s round up the old gang.”
Stephen’s phone on the desk went off with an annoying jangle that he’d never been able to change. He grabbed the handset and nearly dropped it – the caffeine had kicked in, but not nearly enough.
“Hi… yeah, yeah…. ok, we’ll be there soon.” He looked over at Adjoa, who was scribbling notes on a piece of paper. “Coroner’s office. They’ve finished their preliminary look, we can go down there if we want.”
Adjoa was already standing and grabbing her coat. “Well then, what are we waiting for?”
The Coroner’s Court was in Walthamstow, a short drive away. A tired-looking security guard waved them into the car park as they arrived, and another guard escorted them to the mortuary. The thick metal door swung open and the pair stepped into a bright room with a couple of examination tables and a work top of gleaming steel with several cupboards above it and under it. Medical instruments of various kinds were in containers on the bench, and a few more were soaking in sterilising alcohol in beakers. There was a strange odour, one of cleaning fluids, that made both of them scrunch up their noses. The body of the deceased lay upon one of the tables, cut open in several places where the doctor had performed the autopsy.
“Hi, welcome.” An older man, with thinning and greying hair, had opened the door. His face was somewhat thin and his surgical gown was spattered with blood. Narrow blue eyes gave both Stephen and Adjoa searching looks. Then the man smiled. “Apologies for the state of me, but it’s hard to not get messy doing this sort of work. I’m Doctor Lewinson, and you are…?”
“Detective Inspector Idowu and Detective Inspector Barrett.” Replied Adjoa. “What do you have for us Doctor?”
“Well…” The doctor gestured at the body. “This man is, judging from what I can gather, no older than forty, and was in generally good health. No signs of any abnormalities. The only issues of note are a few injuries sustained around the time of death, possibly before. Both ankles are badly bruised, as though kicked or stamped on. The left knee is fractured. There’s bruising on the ribcage. This man was assaulted before he was killed. There’s more…” Doctor Lewinson walked to the body. “I can’t be certain, but most of the bullet wounds appear to be post-mortem.”
“The plot thickens…” Muttered Adjoa to herself. “Have you been able to ID him?”
Doctor Lewinson gave a sympathetic smile. “I’m afraid not. I’ve sent off blood samples and taken finger prints, they might turn up something if he’s in the database. The placement of the shots from the killer were very good, designed to make it nearly impossible to ID, at least not quickly. One thing of interest did come up when examining his hands…” Lewinson peered at them. “There are fibres from two different articles of clothing. He didn’t die in what he was wearing when you found him.”
Adjoa and Stephen exchanged a glance.
“I’m not a detective, but your killer knew how to cover himself. However, I’ve got possible skin samples that would have carried over from his clothes to the victim. They’re also off for analysis.”
“How long will that take?” Asked Stephen.
“Oh, several hours yet. I’m due to clock out soon, but one of my colleagues will let you know when they’re ready.”
“Thank you Doctor.” Said Adjoa. You’ve given us a lot to go on already.”
“Thank you for your help.” Replied Adjoa with a tight smile.
“If there’s anything else you need, don’t hesitate to ask.”
The police officers bade the doctor goodbye, and headed back into the night.
“So now what?” Enquired Stephen as they climbed into the car. “This case is getting weirder and weirder.”
“Yeah. I don’t think that body is our mystery man. He’s still out there. We need to find out what links him to Andrew Harper.”
“Harper was ex-Army, maybe they served together?”
“You know, that’s a good call. I’d put money on it. So, shall we get a few hours sleep? I can drop you home.”
Stephen smiled. “Adjoa, you are a star.”