Read Post Mortem Online

Authors: Kate London

Post Mortem

Kate London graduated from Cambridge University and trained in theatre in Paris. She acted, wrote and directed before co-founding the internationally touring Tottering Bipeds Theatre Company.

In 2006 Kate joined the Metropolitan Police Service, first working in uniformed response and then moving to the CID. She qualified as a detective constable and went on attachment with the police nationale in France. Kate finished her career working as part of a Major Investigation Team on SC&01 – the Metropolitan Services' Homicide Command. She resigned in August 2014 to write full time.
Post Mortem
is her first novel.

Published in trade paperback in Great Britain in 2015 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.

Copyright © Kate London, 2015

The moral right of Kate London to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities, is entirely coincidental.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Trade paperback ISBN: 978 1 78239 613 0
E-book ISBN: 978 1 78239 614 7

Printed in Great Britain.

Corvus
An imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd
Ormond House
26–27 Boswell Street
London
WC1N 3JZ

www.corvus-books.co.uk

For Uri

Contents

17 April

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

18 April

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

19 April

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

20 April

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

21 April

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

30 April

50

51

Acknowledgements

17 APRIL

1

D
etective Sergeant Sarah Collins and Detective Constable Steve Bradshaw had been close by when the call came out. It had taken them only a matter of minutes to get to the scene, but emergency vehicles already blocked the approach to the service road that led to Portland Tower. Collins stopped the car in the middle of the road, leaving its lights flashing.

‘You control the scene,' she said. ‘I'll go to the roof.'

Collins ran ahead. Bradshaw moved more slowly, walking round to the boot of the car to collect his grab bag. Collins, pulling her warrant card out of her jacket pocket, pushed her way through the group of onlookers who were crowding forward, struggling to snatch a glimpse. She pressed through them – the smell of their sweat, their sharp elbows, their panting curiosity.

‘Police. Out of my way.'

As she reached the front, she was hit by the sudden revelation of the bodies, spread on the tarmac of the square in plain view.

Face down was a white uniformed male. Overweight. Late forties, early fifties. One arm was crushed beneath his chest. The other, flung out wide, was clearly fractured. Blood had burst out of the dead man's stomach and splattered across the ground.

The teenage girl lay face up, head back, arms spread, mouth open, like a pale doll thrown pitilessly on to the concrete. A few feet away from her, incongruous against the paving slabs, was a pink polka-dot backpack. The girl's face was dark-skinned
– North African, Collins thought. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt with a cat printed on the front. The cat's head was disproportionately large for its body, with even bigger eyes. It had an arching tail that snaked over the girl's shoulder. The dead man's blood had splashed across the T-shirt and the girl's face. There was something about the blood that was uncanny, the fact that it lay undisturbed, uncleaned.

Collins tried to dismiss the anguish that swept suddenly through her. Briefly it incapacitated her and she stood rooted to the spot. The paramedics were clearing up their equipment. It was only protocol that they had been called: someone had to pronounce life extinct. She looked upwards into the brightness of the cold blue sky. Even imagining the unstoppable fall gave her vertigo. The high-rise loomed above, casting her into shadow. These lives were beyond help, she told herself. She had a job to do; she would concentrate on that. Steve would secure the scene.

A uniformed sergeant was mustering shocked officers to push people back. He had blue plastic gloves on and a roll of blue and white tape in his hand. Directly in front of her was a young Asian officer. He looked drawn and pale. Collins showed him her warrant card and spoke quietly, as if confiding a secret.

‘Detective Sergeant Collins, Directorate of Special Investigations. My colleague Detective Constable Steve Bradshaw will be here in a moment. He's going to help you establish the scene.'

The officer waved her through and she set off quickly across the open concourse, around the building towards the entrance. In spite of herself her heart was pounding. She repeated her investigator's mantra.
One thing at a time. One decision at a time
. Every detail could be significant and every decision she made might prove much later, in a cold and unforgiving court, to have unimagined consequences. The universe was turning and she wanted to slow it down and hold on to every particle, to have time to examine it,
to revolve it slowly in the light. Every human action contaminated. Still, she would go to the roof. To hesitate might mean she would lose other evidence. Like who was there right now.

The door to the stairs was propped open. She paused and considered the Coke can that someone had slid between the door and its frame. She called Steve on her mobile.

‘Get someone on the door, quick. Nothing moves. No one goes up or down. There's a Coke can here needs seizing.'

She felt in her trouser pocket and took out a pair of blue plastic gloves, identical to those the uniformed sergeant had been wearing. As she put them on, she scanned the length of the building, taking in the CCTV camera that was pointing towards the door. She stepped into the lobby. It was dimly lit by the pallid light seeping through the glass bricks that formed part of the exterior wall. On the right was an abandoned caretaker's office, in front of her two dark lift doors and to the left, the door to the fire stairwell. She paused to consider which route they had taken to the roof. Had it been the lift or the stairs? She would order a search team to do a fingertip examination of the whole area, but in the meantime she'd risk the contamination and take the stinking lift. She pulled a pen from her pocket and used it to press the request button.

The lift walls were dappled stained metal. There was burnt aluminium foil on the floor. She prayed the lift wouldn't break down. It creaked steadily upwards, sending vibrations echoing along the shaft. The doors opened on to the final landing. Above her the service stairs climbed into darkness, broken by a square of light that was the opening on to the roof.

As she climbed, she heard distant low voices. Stepping out from the sheltered stairway, she was blasted by the wind. The sheer height made her want to retreat. Clouds were whipping across the blue sky. From where she stood, there was no view of the ground, just the white concrete platform of the roof, and the spinning sky.

A foot away from the edge, a male inspector in uniform faced a female uniformed police constable. The female was young, about twenty-two. Slim, athletic build. She didn't have a hat on, and Collins could see blonde hair pulled back into a plait. She was sitting down; on her lap, with his arm round her neck, was a small boy in a bear suit.

Collins held out her warrant card. ‘Detective Sergeant Sarah Collins.'

The inspector stepped towards her. He was tall, a streak of grey in his hair. ‘What are you doing up here? This is a crime scene.'

‘I could ask the same of you, sir.'

Something like anger flushed briefly through his face.

‘Kieran Shaw, I'm the duty inspector. It's clear enough what
I'm
doing here. One of my officers is dead. Another is up here on her own with a missing child. I'm here to make sure no one else falls off this fucking roof.' He turned away and spoke into his radio. ‘Control receiving Inspector Shaw. An officer to close off the stairs with tape immediately. And any other entrances to the building to be closed off. No one else to go up or down. This is a critical incident.' He turned back to the female officer and the boy in the bear suit. ‘We'll get you both down.'

Collins considered the female PC. She wanted to speak to her then and there. To spirit her away from this duty inspector and find out what had happened before anyone else could brief her. But the PC was ashen and her lips were blue. She was beginning to shake as though she had been immersed in very cold water for far too long. Collins spoke into her own radio. ‘Control receiving DS Collins, DSI. I'm going to be running this from now on. DC Steve Bradshaw is supervising the establishment of a crime scene. We need medical assistance for an adult female believed going into shock. Breathing and conscious. I'll meet London Ambulance at the bottom of the stairs.'

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