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Illegal Entry: Chapter 9

Miss Charity Middleton, a Home Office Pathologist, arrives to view the body of the young woman – and closely questions DI McGann of the British Transport Police.

To read earlier chapters of Steph Spiers’ gritty crime novel please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illegal_entry/

Sunday Morning

The Home Office Pathologist on call for the second city that Sunday, the 14th of January, was Miss Charity Middleton. A woman old before her time and as entrenched in detachment as a nun in an orphanage.

‘Here, you there pass me that paper from my bag,’ the woman snapped out at Conroy. Conroy jumped to do her bidding. Middleton reached out a hand to take the newspaper which she folded and shuffled under both boney knees to protect them from sharp impressions from the hardcore of the track. ‘That’s better,’ she said with a wink at Conroy. Knees comfortable, Middleton began minutely examining the girl’s upper torso. From his vantage point squinting through the gap in the wheels McGann could only glimpse the lower part of legs still on the track way under the vehicle. Although from where he was standing they seemed at a skewed angle from where they ought to be.

‘Here,’ said the grey haired woman addressing the photographer, ‘make sure you get pictures of the wrists and ankles. When we can see the ankles. I don’t want tits and arse for the album. It’s the wrists and elbow joints I think will hold the key.’ Unsteadily, Middleton rose to her sensibly shod feet as she first noticed McGann.

‘Do I know you?’ she asked, gruffly addressing the DI. She peeled off a pair of latex gloves and threw them into a plastic bag. Conroy had made a strategic withdrawal and was hiding from the pathologist’s piercing gaze from behind McGann’s back.

‘No Ma’am. DI McGann, British Transport Police. I identified the girl.’

‘You knew her?’ she asked, surprise in her voice. The woman peered at him closely over the top of a pair of unremarkable gold-rimmed spectacles, her deep blue eyes intent on missing nothing in his expression.

‘Not really Ma’am. I met her the once that’s all.’

‘Well, who is she? What did she do?’

‘It’ll be in my report.’ McGann was irritated by the cross-examination. He didn’t want to be discussing what he saw as a private matter so openly amongst strangers; didn’t she understand that was why he’d sent for Colin? Conroy flinched under the strain; he could see the pressure building in the DI. The veins in the side of his neck and temple were throbbing and jaw set firm. Still the woman continued staring waiting for the reply to her initial question. She wasn’t backing off.

McGann acquiesced, ‘I don’t know her real name. But, she called herself Joy. She’s . . . she was a dancer at the Palm Trees Club,’ McGann said very quietly for only her to hear.

In contrast Middleton boomed out a response, ‘That explains how fit she was. Tremendous muscle tone. That’s all I need for now, you can have the train moved and send the body over to the morgue. I’ll do the autopsy this afternoon. Let’s say three o’clock.’

‘Time of death, Ma’am. Anything roughly?’ he needed to know. Colin would need to know if he was going to help.

The middle aged woman looked into the face of the DI with no pity in her eyes and then back at the body of the girl at her feet. There had been more than this DI was admitting going on between him and the dead girl that was blatantly obvious. Intrigued, she relented to the plea and replied less frostily than previously. No doubt it would all come out in the wash.

‘During last night. See there, rigor not beginning to be wearing off: around midnight possibly. Cold you see, and as you know, that will affect rigor. I can’t be too certain just yet. You know that.’

‘Had she been raped?’

‘Oh hard to say, difficult to tell the difference between rape and consented intercourse and if she was a sex-worker, ‘exotic dancer’, or whatever she called herself who knows? But, I expect so, that’s probably why all this palaver, to attempt destroy DNA evidence. I’ll say more about that in the report. Once I know for certain.’

McGann’s body swayed against the engine, but he didn’t reply as the woman gathered up her baggage and made to leave. He’d had the same thoughts as the pathologist, but hearing it put into words still caused his knees to sag. Masking McGann’s distress Conroy bounced after the pathologist eager to relay the information to a DS from Region Special Ops Unit, who was talking on a mobile at the top end of the footpath leading to the goods yard’s vehicle parking area. Conroy wasn’t going anywhere near Sampson-Berne in person, their DS could pass on the good news.

‘Bill, over here mate.’

A friendly voice at last, Conroy inwardly rejoiced to see DS Alan Miller striding up the incline. Miller’s long shanks made short work of the rough vegetation wetly draping the cutting’s banks which in some places obscured the trodden pathway.

‘Thank God, you’ve come,’ said Conroy his podgy cheeks grinning like a hamster. ‘Is DI Coppnull here?’

‘Yeah, he’s just talking to that Super over there by the fire engine.’ Miller stretched out an arm. ‘Got him? Over there. Clearing our being here to take a shufti. It ain’t our patch let alone our primacy.’

Conroy caught sight of the distinctive bulk of DI Coppenhall kowtowing to the broad shoulders of Larry Sampson-Berne; he let out a sigh of relief.

‘Christ Bill, this is ‘busy’ isn’t it? There’s everybody here but pavement Gestapo and the dog van,’ said Miller, who was knocking the heavy dew off his strides where it was already soaking through. ‘If I’d known it was going to be as wet I’d have brought some wellies.’

‘Hello! Here we go again,’ answered Conroy.

Both men sighed as the familiar mushroom topped TV news van could be seen trying to reverse on to the taped off car park, much to the annoyance of Alec Yarrow whose arm waving was being completely ignored by the van driver.

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