Strangers | Chapter 7 of 53 - Part: 1 of 4

Author: Paul Finch | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1166 Views | Add a Review

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Prologue

Four years ago …

Michael Haygarth didn’t look much like a man who’d raped and murdered two women, but then Lucy had already learned that there was no set physiology for the deranged. He sat on the bench opposite her in the rear of the unmarked police van. Throughout the journey here he’d remained perfectly still, his head hanging low as though the muscles in his neck and shoulders couldn’t support it.

It was an awkward posture. Haygarth was tall, about six-four, but lanky too, and, folded into this confined space, his sharp-tipped knees came almost to his chest. He was somewhere in his forties, she surmised, though she couldn’t be sure exactly, and balding, what little hair he had left around the back and sides shaved to grey bristles. His skin was brownish, tanned – as if he’d spent time abroad or maybe was of mixed-race, though apparently neither of those applied. With his weak chin, snub nose and buck teeth, he had a rodent-like aspect, and yet there was something oddly innocent about him. From his glazed eyes and vacant expression you’d have wondered if he wasn’t all there. There was certainly no hint of violence in his demeanour. Rather than a murder suspect, he looked the sort of hopeless, unemployed oddball who’d sit on park benches all day.

And yet he’d confessed. Under no duress whatsoever.

With a crunch of brakes, the van ground to a halt, presumably on the unmade track leading into Borsdane Wood, though it was impossible to be sure because the only windows in the rear of the van were small, mesh-filled panels set in its back doors, and only gloom penetrated past these, unaided by their dim, smeary glass. There was muffled movement as the other detectives crammed into the back of the vehicle stirred. Metal bumped and clanked as they sorted through the pile of spades and picks lying along the riveted steel floor.

The van’s back doors were yanked open from the outside. Frigid air flowed in, smoky breath weaving around the tall, lean form of DI Doyle and the shorter, stumpier figure of DS Crellin. They’d already donned their white Tyvek coveralls and disposable gloves, and now stood with torches in hand.

‘Michael, it’s your time,’ Doyle said, flipping open her pocketbook. ‘I’ve got all your instructions written down. But I want to confirm them with you. We’re at the end of this track now, where the bollards are … so we go on foot from here, approximately forty paces north, yes?’

‘Yes, ma’am,’ Haygarth replied in his wavering, flutelike voice, still not looking up.

‘We go that way until we come to an old rotted log lying crosswise on our path, correct?’

‘That’s right, ma’am.’

‘From there, we walk thirty paces west … until the ground slopes upward?’

‘Yes.’

‘We don’t ascend the slope, but navigate along the base of it for another fifty paces … until we come to a clump of silver birch.’

‘They’re not all silver birch, ma’am.’ He still didn’t look up, but his words were slow, thoughtful. ‘But there’s a few silver birch in there. You won’t be able to miss it.’

‘Let’s hope not, Michael … for all our sakes. There’s a clearing in the middle of this clump, somewhat unnatural because you cleared it out yourself some time ago. And that’s where the two graves are?’

‘Correct, ma’am.’

‘How deep did you say you buried them again?’

‘A foot or so. You’ll find both bodies in a few minutes.’

The officers pondered this in silence. Haygarth was in custody for the rape and attempted murder of the seventy-five year old woman who lived next door to him. The admission that he’d raped and strangled two prostitutes three years earlier and had buried their bodies out in Borsdane Wood was unlooked for and had come completely out of the blue during the course of his very first interview. At the time, no one had known what to make of it, but a rapid-fire check on the system had revealed that in roughly the same time-zone two Crowley-based sex workers, a Gillian Allen and Donna King, had been listed as missing persons. No trace of them had been found since.

‘One final thought on this, Michael,’ Doyle said, voice clipped and stern. ‘If we get lost, we’ll come back for you so you can show us the location in person. But I warn you now … I won’t be impressed if that’s the case. These directions had better be good.’

‘They’re right, ma’am. You’ll find it.’

Doyle backed away, Crellin alongside her as the rest of the team lumbered to the doors. Lucy, who was handcuffed to the prisoner, had to change position first, switching across the interior to sit next to him. One by one, the rest of the team, now armed with shovels and spades, jumped down outside, where Crellin handed them each a set of overalls.

‘No shoe covers till we get to the actual scene,’ Doyle said. ‘We’ll be tramping through God knows what kind of crap before we reach it.’

In the milky twilight of this dull February evening, the wood was a leafless tangle, the unmade road snaking back away from them beneath a roof of wet, black branches. Lucy glanced at her watch. Just before five. Another forty minutes and it would be pitch-dark. Unless they’d already uncovered physical evidence by then – in which case the entire arc-lit circus would be summoned – there’d be nothing else they could do until morning, which perhaps explained why everyone was in a hurry, Crellin’s voice issuing gruff instructions as the sound of their boot-falls receded.

Only Lucy and DI Mandy Doyle now remained.

She was an odd-looking woman, Doyle: tall, lean of build, pinched of face and often dressed messily in skirts, blouses and jackets that never seemed to match. She walked with a slight stoop and had longish, straggly brown hair streaked with grey, all of which combined to make her look older than she probably was, which couldn’t have been much more than thirty-five. In particular, Lucy found her attitude puzzling. A woman who’d fought her way up through the ranks, one might have thought she’d welcome the arrival of a young female officer on her first CID attachment, but from the outset Doyle had seemed to find Lucy’s presence frustrating.

‘She just wants to get ahead,’ Crellin had confided in Lucy earlier that week. ‘She doesn’t feel she’s got the time to break in trainees.’

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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