My car is the one thing I really have going for me and given that it’s a five year old Corsa, filled with the slowly composting remains of paperwork, Burger King detritus and Starbucks’ cups that should give you some sense of where I’m at in my life. She runs though and she’s bought and paid for, so that’ll do for me. I don’t ask for much.
The city never really sleeps. There’s always something going on at any hour you care to mention but between three and five in the morning is about as dead as it ever gets. What would have been a three or four cigarette trip across town was only one. That gave me a bit of time to think, wake up and clear my head.
Why did they bring me back in? My arrest record was pretty good, that was something I supposed. Nobody wanted to work with me though, so why bring me in? Too much workload? That could have been it. Budget cuts meant there wasn’t a lot of spare room in the system when things got hectic. Sure, they say it’s not front line staff that gets cut, but that’s being a little ‘economical with the actualite’ as the French might say, if I could speak the lingo.
My brain didn’t have anything about the case to work on. The address wasn’t residential, but that was all I knew about it really. No wonder I was preoccupied on trying to figure out ‘why me?’ I’m no one for religion but ‘because god is a bastard’ is always a tempting reason to fall back on.
I was so wrapped in my thoughts I almost didn’t see the black and white tom cat bounding across the road. I had to slam the anchors on so hard all the sludge in the bottom of the card shifted forward, like a wave. I wasn’t used to this shit. You never normally get much above twenty in the city and having to suddenly stop has all the heart-stopping novelty of being kidnapped by aliens.
Fuck it, it wasn’t that far from here. I parked the car at the side of the road with flagrant disregard of the yellow lines – one of the few perks of the job – and stopped to give the unperturbed cat a scratch behind the ears. He had a collar, no stray this one, just a shame people still think you should put the cat out at night. A singular purr and a flash of its arse an it was away into the street. I envied him more than a little.
If you’re not first on the scene the lights, hubbub or onlookers make it pretty easy to find the site of the crime and that was the case this time. No crowds, thankfully, just the flashing lights and vans of the support team. It actually felt good to be back on the case. At least until I flashed my warrant to the constable and rounded the corner into the alley.
Kids watch these procedural cop shows and grow up wanting to work in forensics. What that means is you end up with whole units crammed full of fresh graduates who don’t know their arse from their elbow but still feel that they’re the most important person on the case. It’s the job of cynical old bastards like me to disabuse them of their delusions but it’s hard fucking work and not something you want to be dealing with on top of a murder investigation.
Looking over the crew that was backing me up, not a one of them seemed to be over half my age and they all had that, deadly-serious, CSI look about them. CSI Aberystwyth maybe.
I slapped my hand to my forehead, “A shower of useless cunts,” I muttered to myself and my shoulders slumped. This was going to be shit.
“Aye mate, that they are.”
Thank fuck for that, one competent face at least. Sergeant Jones. I sort of knew him. Drinks after work a couple of times. He wasn’t part of my unit but he’d been around for a while at least. Knew what was what. If nothing else he was someone I could commiserate with over a pint about the self-important crime scene nerds.
“Alright Jones? Didn’t know you were working murders these days,” I offered him a cigarette but he shook his head.
“Giving up. I’m not on murders officially, but staff shortages, what can you do? Baker didn’t want you working this alone and I caught the short straw,” he laughed an tossed some of that horrible nicotine gum into his mouth.
“Hope you’re wearing your knife vest then,” I grizzled, gallows humour, especially since Brightman had been stabbed and was the whole bloody reason I was on leave in the first place. I left Jones trying to find a witness and girded my loins for dealing with the fucking hipster graduates working over the scene like it was the Kennedy assassination.
“You, specky, what’ve we got here then?” Another cigarette to fortify my against the spiel I just knew was coming.
“Specky? It’s Philip sir. Philip Henry.”
“Don’t give a shit. Give me the Cliff notes.”
“One victim, multiple assailants. Looks like he was stamped to death. It’s going to be hard to get an ID due to extensive cranial trauma and the assailants seem to have singled out his genitals for a lot of their attention. We’re sweeping the scene but since it’s a public place with a lot of foot traffic in the day it’s going to be hard to identify what samples relate to the assailants,” he rattled it all off, the smug prick and then smiled at me, like a dog hoping for a biscuit.
“Specs, if it doesn’t fit on a single post-it note, I don’t need to hear it. He was curb-stomped so hard his skull caved in and they kicked the shit out of his balls. That about cover it?” I puffed smoke in the jumped up little nerd’s face.
“Yes, sir,” he coughed. “You shouldn’t really smoke on scene sir.”
“Oh fuck off. Show me the fucking corpse.” He was right about the smoking, little shit, so I flicked it away into the main road after one more long drag, wishing for a Marlboro and followed him to the tarp.
I could see I was a mess before he even lifted the damn thing. Blood was run down he gutter, thickened and black around the cigarette butts, dropped receipts and bottle tops that littered it. I would be surprised if there was any blood left in the poor dead fuck. Four-eyes lifted the tarp for me, he retched, obviously a fucking noob.
Yeah, this cunt was dead alright. His head had been stamped into the kerb stone so hard it had taken on the shape of a peanut shell. Unrecognisable, teeth protruding from the pulpy mess at odd angles. Glasses smashed so deep into the flesh of his face it looked like a half-hearted attempt at making a Play-Doh stegosaurus. As to the mess between his legs, the stamping had reduced his meat-and-two-veg to something the consistency of the inside of a Melton Mowbray pie.
I crouched down for a closer look, against my better judgement, not that I really needed to. Just doesn’t hurt to show the crime scene nerds you’ve been around the block and can look at a corpse without having a Technicolour yawn.
“Right, four-eyes, make a note and then take it over to the sergeant. We can lift fingerprints, his hands are intact… though bound in a strip-binder. Cross check against people arrested for rape and other sex crimes in the last six months. That should narrow our field a little. Someone went to town on his todger and I’d lay good odds that’s why.”
Christ I wanted a cigarette. Right or wrong this jumped up university tit had made me waste one, half smoked. Time to rub his nose in it a little. Experience was always going to trump paper.
“He’s tied. That’s fucking conspicuous unless you’ve been out for a night at the Torture Garden and Mr Peanut here isn’t wearing latex, so I doubt that very much. Looks like he was stomped from all around but the blood splatters are only a hundred and eighty degrees, not three-sixty, plus there’s no blood trails. Whoever stamped the shit out of this guy would need hosing off to get rid of the blood, brains and bits of bollock. They must have drove down here, kicked the shit out of him and then drove off again. Tell the sergeant to get the CCTV footage from the lights and the shops both sides of the road from this turning. We might get lucky.”
“Sir,” specs was affronted, not impressed. Mission accomplished. Putting his back up would get some callouses on the snotty git’s emotions.
“I’ll leave you to it then, I’ve got all I need.” I paced back away from the scene, heading back to my car. I passed by Jones taking a statement from some impenetrably Jamaican street sweeper. “All yours for now Jones. I’ll meet you tomorrow at the station and we can compare notes and go over footage.”
“Not sticking around Stane?” He held up a hand to the sweeper and… smiled. That seemed odd.
“Don’t want to get you stabbed Jones. Plus I need my beauty sleep,” I didn’t wait for an answer. I just waved him off and found my car, clambered in and headed home. No point fretting, nothing more we could do without more information.
Just another dead guy.