Authors: Casey Hill
CSI Reilly Steel # 5
Casey Hill 2014
The right of Casey Hill to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 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 without the prior written permission of the author. You must not circulate this book in any format.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
Also by Casey Hill
CSI Reilly Steel Series
What I do is not easy. I hear my acts condemned as sickness, cowardice, but what they really require is the kind of precision, the kind of planning that is simply not possessed by the general population.
I am not a mere cook. I do not throw things together haphazardly, believing that “close-enough” will do fine. No - I am a chef. A good chef will tell you about the moments of spontaneity that go into creating a truly magnificent creation. He will tell you that you need a steady hand. You need to be able to slow the world down when everything around you is in chaos. You need to be able to exist in this world, excel in it, and you need to be able to control it.
This is what I do.
If I told you that I seek out those who have everything so that I may take it from them, you may accuse me of cruelty. But I give them a moment of pure luxury, pure indulgence, before I take what I want.
Everything in life is checks and balances. The scale must be even, in the end.
Most people would say that scent comes to them as a kind of wafting.
An invisible breeze that seeks them out, worms into their nostrils, covers their clothes, cobwebs in their hair. Reilly Steel will tell you differently.
Smell comes like pieces of a puzzle, she will tell you, if you know how to break it down. Take something simple, like a cake rising in the oven. Your mind will simply tell you: “cake”, but someone with a skilled nose will notice cinnamon and nutmeg float in the air, and that the cake is moistened with buttermilk. For Reilly, it is no use simply being able to smell something. She needs to know what goes into the scent, the story behind it almost.
Right now, she can smell the sharp woody scent of Detective Chris Delaney’s aftershave. She knows it’s not an off the shelf high street brand, but something more expensive and luxurious. There are none of the harsh tones of alcohol that come with cheap aftershave, which she usually finds unpleasant. As she meticulously dusts for fingerprints, she watches as her colleague surveys the room with his typically serious expression. Reilly knows that beneath the calm of his exterior, his mind is going over everything at the crime scene, looking for the thing that is sticking out, the thing that may give the investigative team that essential head start.
Her olfactory senses also pick up stale coffee, emanating from the plastic takeaway cup being held by Pete Kennedy. Kennedy and Chris are partners, two of Dublin’s finest homicide detectives. And as different as chalk and cheese.
‘You’re messing with my receptors, Kennedy,’ she calls across the room and he holds up his hands in mock surrender.
‘Gee, we sure did miss you when you were in the US of A,’ he says, affecting a (woeful) American accent, ‘but I’ve gotta tell you, things were nicely relaxed around here while you are gone. I guess now you’re going to work me to the bone, until I’m a skinny ‘oul fella.’
Reilly smiles. Not much chance of that. Pete Kennedy was your typical doughnut cop - overweight, and liked to tease Reilly about her own slim physique while he eats fat-laden lunches. He could usually get a smile from her where everyone else hits a wall. For all his bluster, she knew he was a great detective and always thought of him like one of those stingrays that lie dormant on the ocean floor, disguised as a rock, and then “bam” strike exactly when the time is right.
What else is she picking up at this crime scene? The meal on the table. Set for two, both plates barely touched. This is where the investigation is centred right now, after this morning’s incident.
Reilly sighed, unable to believe that this has happened again. Only six weeks before, after always telling her staff not to get sloppy, to always take the necessary precautions, she forgot to take her own advice. That day, while at a crime scene uncomfortably similar to this one, Reilly had failed to wear a face mask while taking samples and collapsed on the job, having inhaled something she shouldn’t have.
Early indications were that she would be fine, but it took her off the job just when all hands were needed on deck. Budget cuts wouldn’t allow for the GFU to get someone else in, her boss had made that clear. ‘Mend and make do,’ Inspector O’Brien had told the forensic department, irritatingly Irish.
So Reilly had suffered an enforced period of leave that she wouldn’t exactly describe as restful, some of which she’d spent in Florida. Now, while she wasn't going to jump to conclusions until they got it back in the lab, it seemed the substance that had caused her recent absence had materialized again.
To be sure, the white powder looked innocuous enough. It was sprinkled liberally on a plate, presumably meant to be dusted over a dessert. Reilly could see where someone had dragged their finger through it. She could picture it in her head, the woman bringing her finger to her mouth, perhaps in an attempt to be provocative or coy. It made Reilly wince, to think of the harmlessness of that action and its devastating consequences. It always got to her, how innocent people were of the things that would eventually kill them.
She stood in the center of the room and let everything soak in. All here would be meticulously recreated back in the lab, so they could go over it again and again, but there was nothing like being at the crime scene itself. Reilly believed that sometimes you could feel the vibrations of the things that happened in the room; that clues that might otherwise be missed were often ripe for the picking in the first few hours of an investigation. It was as though the victims themselves were urging them to see something. A fancy that Pete Kennedy might scorn at, but at this point Reilly had too impressive a track record to laugh too hard.
There was a knife on the counter, lying at a threatening looking angle, but that was not what had killed the victim. There was no visible blood anywhere, though her team would go over the place with luminol later. Reilly had a feeling they wouldn’t find anything. This crime scene didn’t smell like a vicious death. There had been no struggle here. The girl looked like she had fallen into a sweet sleep, as if waiting for a lover to come and wake her with a kiss.
Last of all, she looked at the victim. She always saved this for last. To look too soon might sway her emotionally as she surveyed the rest of the scene.
The woman was about Reilly’s age. They already had a tentative ID: Jennifer Armstrong. According to the business cards in her purse, she worked in PR and Communications. The contents of her flat pointed to her having a busy life. Her fridge was stocked with single serve, low-fat meals, and there was a desk set up in the living room where she obviously worked a lot from home.
Her nails had already been scraped for residue, her hands plastic bagged. She appeared to be healthy, her muscles long and sculpted. She was wearing a low cut black dress and a pair of heels dangled from her flaccid feet. She had been dressed for romance. Reilly sighed. How neat it was, a death like this. Barely three hours after she had been discovered, and her team were already taken the necessary photos and samples.
Soon they would find out if the body itself held any secrets.
Gary and Lucy, the younger members of the GFU team, were slowly examining every aspect of Jennifer Armstrong’s house.
No one told you when you started working in forensics that you would spend hours bent over the cheap fibers of someone else’s carpet, shining a light on their bed sheets to reveal their most intimate secrets or running cotton buds over their kitchen surfaces. A lot of the time you couldn’t believe that anything so mundane could yield the information you wanted, but people left evidence of themselves everywhere, especially when they weren’t aware of it.
‘Good to have the boss back isn’t it?’ Gary commented idly.
Lucy nodded, her head completely encased in the white hood attached to their protective suits. Gary could only see the pale skin around her goggles. They were taking huge precautions after what happened to Reilly last month.
‘I’m relieved to be honest. Now at least we might have some chance with Grace’s case. I still don’t have any faith in that new task force. It’s already been a couple of months and still nothing.’
Not long before Reilly’s accident had forced her off the job, the GFU team had found a necklace in a house in Whitestown, a poorer part of the city, that had belonged to Lucy’s sister, who’d gone missing seventeen years previous. Just remembering the creepy house where they had found the necklace made Gary shiver. A real freak show: mannequins and wigs everywhere. Against the odds, he wanted it to be a coincidence. He didn’t even want to imagine how it felt to know that your sister might have ended up in a place like that.
The missing person case had been reopened, but everyone knew it was a tentative open. Resources were tight and even there weren’t many to spare, even for a case involving the daughter of a prominent member of the Irish police force.
Mostly he and Lucy had avoided the subject of the house and the mannequins and stacks of wigs found there. Gary felt as though it could only upset her. He knew she was strong, but this was her sister they were talking about. He didn’t think he could be near an investigation that had anything to do with his own family. But now that Reilly was back, he guessed that it would once again be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
He and Lucy worked in silence for a while, concentrating on tweezing hairs from the carpet. They even bagged the ones that were long and dark and obviously belonged to the victim. Everything was a process of elimination. Under the microscope, you could sometimes see flakes of skin or a silvery half-moon of nail. It was amazing, he thought, how people were constantly shedding, leaving themselves everywhere. Humans were constantly regenerating. It was a process that had entranced him when she first began his studies. We could make astounding repairs upon ourselves. The body always had an imperative to heal itself. But yet, it was so fragile. Bend it the wrong way, apply too much pressure, too much heat or cold, pierce its outer sacking, and you no longer had a person. Just something that resembled a person in the way that a slaughtered animal resembles a cow.
Lucy Gorman had seen bodies rendered lifeless on the examination table of Dr Thompson. She too, knew how final death looked, how it played no tricks and lent no illusions.
It was hard for her to imagine that her sister had ended up like this woman. Grace had been undeniably alive the last time she saw her. Her vivid, perpetually annoyed big sister. Lucy thought hard. When was the last time she had actually seen Grace? Shouldn’t that be something that she had remembered again and again over the years? Gone over and polished to high shine like a treasure? How could something like that have been forgotten?
She knew her mother remembered clearly watching Grace trudge down the road from the kitchen window, thinking that she would be back after school, after she had finished seeing her friends. Lucy could only remember some hard words, the slamming of a door. She pushed it out of her mind. She didn’t want to remember her sister like that. They had been close, up until Grace was 13 or so. It was normal, for an older sister to need space from the younger she knew, but they had never been allowed to get over it, to meet on level ground when they were both older because Grace had gone missing barely a year later.
‘Luce?’ Gary’s call broke her reverie. Her mind shouldn’t be wandering, anyway. She knew she was only thinking about this because Reilly was back. When the necklace was found and the case reopened her boss had promised Lucy she would do everything she could to help out with the new task force. But that was before she’d been poisoned on the job and placed on enforced leave.
While she was away nothing had happened. But now that Reilly was back Lucy was hopeful that things might finally progress. Her boss had promised to help and in truth Reilly was the only one Lucy trusted on this, and her last hope of finding some kind of closure with Grace’s situation.
‘Lucy? Come here, I want to show you something.’ She followed Gary’s voice into the bedroom. ‘Look,’ he said, indicating the bed, ‘What do you see here?’
‘I do believe it’s a bed, Gary,’
‘Enough with the sarcasm. Look at it. Someone’s had a lie down.’
‘So what? That’s what beds are for.’
‘Yeah, but I don’t think it was the victim. The pattern of disruption goes from the pillows right to the end of the bed, as though whoever it was is a tall person. And heavier. The indentation in the bedspread is deeper that you would expect for someone of 60-something kgs.’
Lucy looked again. He was right. It seemed like whoever had lain there hadn’t just stayed still, as though resting, but had rolled around a little in the bed. One of the pillows was crumpled as though it had been held, or crushed.
‘I’m going to go over it,’ said Gary.
‘I’ll help you’. She enjoyed working with him, even if his approach was a little full-on sometimes. He had been doing this longer than she had and she could certainly learn a thing or two from how observant he was. It was hard to fight the impulse to pull the bedcovers straight and plump the pillows. The victim had obviously liked things to be kept neat and tidy.
‘Do you think it’s possible that maybe they lay here together?’ she asked.
‘Maybe. But there was no sexual activity, although that doesn’t rule out other stuff. But I have a feeling the guy came in here for personal reasons, or maybe to wait for her to die. It’s hard to say.’
They took photos of the bedspread, zooming in on any ridges made by the movement of the body. It wouldn’t give them much hard evidence, but it was interesting. It would be combed for trace, of course, which could be more useful.
After taking the shots, they started to examine the bedcovers and sheets. Lucy drew the curtains and Gary set up the lights. The bed glowed purple. There were no stains from semen or blood, but there were some spots of a heavier substance.
‘What’s that?’ he asked.
Lucy got closer and looked at the marks under a magnifier. ‘Something heavy,’ she said. ‘Viscous. Maybe massage oil?’
They clipped the samples and bagged them. They would test them back at the lab. There seemed to be a reasonable amount.
‘At least we don’t have to go back to Reilly completely empty handed,’ said Gary. ‘She seems a little on edge since she got back.’
‘I think she’s got a lot on her mind. Lots to catch up on, I’d imagine.’
‘Do you think her and Delaney will ever…you know?’
Lucy shot him a stern look. ‘If Reilly even suspected you were speculating about that she would tear you apart.’
‘With one look, I know. But half the force have got a pool going. Two beautiful people like that, married to their jobs...it seems like a no brainer. They both carry this weird air of tragedy around with them.’
‘Well, we know why that is in Reilly’s case. But Delaney? I think he’s just serious.’
‘No, I heard someone talking about it. Bad romance or something. Plus the guys got that fifty yard stare. I mean, you can imagine being terrified if he was cuffing you. Plus he never goes out with the rest of us.’