Sacrifice of an Angel
Haward Mystery No. 1
By Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan
Haward Mystery Number 1
This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organisations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
Copyright © 2011 by Natasha Duncan-Drake and Sophie Duncan
Cover art by Natasha Duncan-Drake
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Thank you to our family for their help and support. Also thank you to everyone who helped by reading this for us and giving constructive criticism to improve the end product, especially Matti, Rob and Penny.
Sacrifice of An Angel
The Diablo Ouija
Stockings - Two Christmas Short Stories
Link to series webpage:
Theo wanted to sleep. He was relaxed and content, but the attack viciously interrupted his post-coital doze. Sleep could not protect him from the chill darkness that descended on him like a frozen cloak, wrapping him in an icy prison. He gasped, his lungs shuddering with the effort it took to draw in a breath and his eyelids were so heavy they would not open. There was magic all around him, a great weight which dug into every fibre of his body. It forced his muscles to water and its descent was so rapid that he didn't even have time to form a thought in defence. Theo's awareness prickled as his world closed down, but his instincts were too late to stop the attack.
Theo could not move, could not think. Neither could he cast magic and the helplessness was terrible, but what cut Theo right to the core was the sense of total isolation that came with the assault. Theo had never been alone in his life, always Remy had been there. Remy, his twin and other half, body and mind, part of him, but this horror achieved what nothing had done before. The loneliness was soul-destroying.
Theo wanted to scream, but his throat would not work. Scared and completely alone, he scoured his empty world for anything to bring back reality. That help came in the form of a small, faraway sound, a bell that echoed in the distance, but Theo heard it and all his hope focused on it. He searched out the solitary sound as it died away. He strained for the ghost of the chime and was therefore startled when it sounded out loud again. It was a break in the dead cold and Theo clung to it like a lifeline, using the sharp tone to draw himself back towards the outside world. It was a struggle to make his mind work. He choked on his own breath as he forced his lungs to function for him and the bell grew louder, egging him on.
The sound of his own ragged gasping finally joined the insistent ringing in his ears and Theo opened his eyes. His mind was foggy, but he pushed himself off the pillow, coughing and pulling in a lungful of air. The shock brought him back to reality. Shuddering, he pushed away the remnants of the awful isolation and the ringing began to make more sense. It took another couple of high-pitched notes for Theo to recognise it was the telephone next to his bed and then his thoughts caught up and he realised he had been dreaming, again.
It was hard to leave the familiarly stifling memories, but the heaviness and aching of his limbs told Theo he had not been asleep for long. A phone call in the middle of the night would not be a social one, so he forced away the left over fear that always made him queasy and reached for the phone on his bedside table.
"Haward," he answered formally, if somewhat fuzzily.
"Theo?" Sato, his Detective Superintendent checked.
"Yes, Ma'am," he replied, glancing at the clock to get his bearings: it read just after 1am and he rubbed his face, trying to clear some of the weariness of less than two hours sleep.
"I need you and Remy to take the lead on a new case, death of a teenager, most likely murder from initial reports. It's right on your doorstep: Trowton."
Theo swung his legs over the edge of the bed as he recognised the name of the small market town which was less than twenty miles away. Nothing ever happened in sleepy Trowton. In a job that took him all over the country investigating the worst of sorcerous crime, Theo had not expected to ever have a case in Trowton.
"It's violent and the girl was found by a member of the public. Debbie is already on site handling the local unit, she'll brief you on the details, and the M-Techs are on their way, but I need you there ASAP. There's a photo for Fading waiting for you on your mobile."
"We'll be there in ten," Theo promised.
Sato being as efficient as ever, the phone just went dead. Putting the handset back on its cradle, Theo leant towards the bedside lamp. When the switch clicked on before his fingers touched it, making an unhealthy fizzling sound, Theo immediately drew back: he was projecting left over instincts from the dream. Liz would kill him if he blew another bulb. Thankfully, as soon as he pulled away, the lamp light settled and his bedroom remained illuminated, so he pushed the duvet fully off his body and stood up.
A murder on their quiet doorstep was not a nice thought, and a young person being involved was even more of a concern. Those two factors alone meant this one was going to be messy. Although Debbie Hunter was on scene, probably doing her usual efficient job of diverting the press, Theo was not looking forward to this case. Coupled with the shadows left my his nightmare, he was therefore not in the brightest of moods as he quickly stripped off his t-shirt and boxers, pulled on fresh underwear and then grabbed the chinos and shirt he had thrown on the chair only a few hours earlier.
Clothes on, he sorted his hair with his comb as he headed out of his room towards his brother's. Remy should have heard the phone, so Theo was a little peeved that he wasn't met in the corridor. It did get wearing sometimes having to do all the rounding up, so he stalked, rather than walked down the dark hallway. Heading to the other side of the first floor, he planned to be very ungracious about waking his little brother.
On his way, Theo passed by the bottom of the stairs to Liz's studio and through the pool of bluish light that her artist's lamps made in the corridor. He wasn't really making all that much noise, but, as he crossed the patch of brightness, a shadow blocked out ninety percent of it. Theo didn't have time for passing the time of night with his friend and housekeeper, however, so he kept moving, hearing her trotting down the stairs anyway.
"Theo, was that the phone I heard?" Liz called after him, sounding unusually concerned: she didn't normally involve herself in their out of hours exits.
"We have a call out," Theo replied, glancing over his shoulder to see Liz heading rapidly after him, wiping her hands on her overalls as she went.
He didn't wait and turned down the passage that led to the front of the house and Remy's room.
"Er, Theo," Liz started, but Theo already had his hand on the door handle of Remy's room and he pushed it open.
The room was dark, but the full May moonlight was streaming through the window and it lit up Remy's neatly made, very empty bed.
"Bollocks!" Theo let his opinion be known as he realised Remy was not in the house.
He flicked on the light and turned to Liz as she trotted up behind him, looking sheepish.
"You know where the reprobate is?"
He already knew the answer without asking, but Theo felt like sharing his disdain for Remy's AWOL behaviour. Liz stuck her hands in her back pockets, shrugged her shoulders up to her ears apologetically and defended herself, "He made me promise I wouldn't tell you he'd gone out, but he wanted to kick back after the court case today."
"And?" Theo pressed testily: it wasn't really fair to get pissy with Liz, but in the small hours of the morning, he wasn't feeling very fair.
"He was going to a club, that's all he said." Liz frowned at him.
Theo turned away as he huffed and headed back towards the nearest bathroom rather than into Remy's room.
"It's not fair of him to leave you as the messenger." He decided to direct his frustration at his absent brother rather than Liz, he didn't like upsetting Liz.
"I don't mind," Liz sounded placated.
She just looked resigned, standing in the doorway of the bathroom watching as he grabbed some items from the cabinet over the sink.
Stuffing his quarry into the pockets of his sports jacket, Theo quickly turned on his heel again and managed a smile for his long-suffering friend as she stepped out of his way. Liz followed as he headed back the way they had come towards the main stairs and so he felt the need to continue the conversation: "You weren't waiting up for him, were you?"
"I'm soft on you two, not stupid," Liz quipped back, waiting up for Remy when he went out on the town was a futile gesture, even though Theo had done it more than once. "The muses hit yesterday."
That explained why there had been no loo roll in the downstairs' toilet that morning: Liz was a slave to her muses and everything else tended to fall by the wayside when they demanded her attention. Theo had been far too preoccupied with testifying on the Drummond case that day to have noticed that Liz had been missing at breakfast. As hindsight connected with his conscience, he promised, "I'll come see whatever it is you're working on tomorrow."
"No hurry," Liz replied, but he heard rather than saw the artist's smile as he left her at the top of the stairs. "Take care."
Mind back on his assurance to his DSi that he'd be at the crime scene in ten minutes, Theo jogged down the stairs. He flicked on the switch at the bottom and then headed straight for the hallway table. Grabbing his mobile from the wooden top and his keys from the bowl, he ended up with a mass of car and door keys. The small pyramid keychain Auntie Daisy had given him had connected with its pair on Remy's keyring and the magnetism between them brought Remy's keys with it as well. Being able to Fade meant that neither of them really needed keys for their own home, but there were appearances to be maintained and Theo racked up another point about which to chastise his brother.
Putting the whole mass into his pocket and holding down the on-switch for his mobile, Theo focused more clearly on Remy. Standing next to him or a hundred miles away, Remy was never really disconnected from him and the chills from his nightmare eased almost completely as Theo sought out the sense of his twin. That feeling was as effective for Fading as any image and Theo centred his talents on it. The familiar rippling of power under his skin responded to his will like the flex of a muscle and, as he felt the weightless rush of the Fade beginning, Theo muttered to himself, "Little Bro, I hope you're not getting laid."
After the quiet of the big old manor house, Theo was not prepared for the assault on his eardrums that hit him as he came out of the Fade. He staggered sideways as his senses caught up with him. No-one knew how it worked, but as with most Fades, his instincts had brought him into as discrete a location as possible. In this case a dark corner of a club, and Theo reached out to the wall to steady himself as he recovered his equilibrium. Flashing lights and heavy base was not the best environment in which to settle, but he forced himself to focus and scanned his immediate vicinity for Remy.
The Fade never brought him in very far away from his twin and, as the bodies on the dance floor parted for a moment, Theo recognised Remy's tall, lean silhouette against the bar. His twin was not alone. Remy was leaning intimately close to and chatting with a young couple who had both taken androgyny to a point where, in the moving light, Theo couldn't tell what sex either of them was. Grimacing at the prospect of having to interrupt, Theo pushed into the crowd between him and Remy.
Theo wasn't a prude, he'd been clubbing plenty of times, but at twenty six and being a Detective Inspector, he had left his student days well behind. Remy had never considered growing up as a realistic lifestyle choice, or at least that was what Theo thought half the time. As he fought his way through the sweaty, mostly drunk bodies, he became absolutely positive about that fact and resolved, not for the first time, to have a chat with his brother about appropriate behaviour for a Detective Sergeant. However, with the minutes ticking away on his promise to DSi Sato, his priority was extracting Remy and so he laid a satisfactorily heavy hand on his twin's shoulder.
Remy jumped and turned, half a tipsy smile on his glistening lips, Kohl-lined eyes not all that focused and palms raised in a ready sign of truce.
"Woah," Remy began before focusing on Theo and then the smile became a dissatisfied curl of recognition.
Theo saw his twin relax, placing one elbow on the bar.
"It's a school night," Theo launched his admonishment as soon as he was acknowledged.
He was careful to hide the fact that he was glad to be the object of that acknowledgement however irked he was at Remy's disappearance while they were on call.
Before he could continue with the reason for his presence, Remy's companions caught up with a fact the twins lived with every day as one announced, "Bloody hell, you're identical!"
"Except you need a style transplant," his or her partner joined in, pointing at Theo.
"You didn't say there were two of you," he or she kept going anyway, winking at Remy and then looking Theo up and down in a way that suggested he or she did not care about style.
Remy laughed at the intimation, wrapping an arm round Theo as he did so and hauling him close. Theo sighed patiently, loud enough for Remy to hear, and rolled his eyes, but did not try to pull away as Remy told his companions, "I do try and influence my big brother, but he can be such a prude."
"Only because you don't have the sense you were born with," Theo quipped back, which amused the androgynous pair.
However, Theo didn't have time for games, so he reached into his trouser pocket, pulled out his wallet and flashed his warrant card at the couple.
"Sorry, Sir, Miss," he informed them, not looking in any particular direction as he addressed them both, "police business."
Remy snorted as Theo slipped out of the hold, caught him under the arm and pulled him back the way he had come, but did not resist as they headed back to the dark corner.
"I'm going to have to start calling you 'cock-blocker'," Remy complained, practically yelling in his ear and plastering himself up close to Theo as they forced their way through the oblivious crowd.
Theo liked to think of himself as a calm individual, but he was in no mood to put up with his brother's digs.
He came to a halt, turned, glared at Remy and yelled right back into his twin's face, "We have a case."
The grin dropped off Remy's face immediately and Theo knew his nerves were showing more than they should have. He wanted to confess everything then, nightmare and all, but there was no time. The snarl did grab the attention of some in their immediate vicinity though, so, his point made, Theo turned and kept on moving, this time trusting that Remy would follow. Remy stuck just as close as if Theo had been dragging him still and Theo's fit of pique dissipated as quickly as it had started.
As they moved, Theo put his wallet away and took out his mobile, which, now with signal, was blinking the new message from the office at him. A couple of swipes on the touch-screen and it was full of a dimly lit picture of trees and a sign saying, 'Trowton Children's Play Area'. Theo's mood descended even lower.
As they reached the dark corner, Theo held up the phone to Remy, who fixed on it for a second and then nodded at him. A second later, he flexed his magical muscles again and he watched Remy's evaporating form against the background of the club as his own body grew lighter.
Remy came out the other side of the Fade feeling sober; he had been more interested in dancing and letting off a little steam than alcohol. Being in court all day waiting to testify on a gangland drive-by, magic style, had got to him and he had needed to let out some of his pent up energy. Testifying was definitely a downside of being a police officer. However, the fact they had a case was better for getting over the day than anything he had been up to at the club.
They arrived in a quiet spot under some trees a good two hundred yards away from the crime scene. Looking around, Remy could see the children's play area where everyone was gathered, lights and screens already up to shut it off from the public. Even at such an ungodly hour there were press on the scene. It definitely had to be a nasty one to drag that many people out of bed.
"Shall we?" he asked, slipping into investigative mode without really thinking about it.
Theo just nodded and they began to walk, but as they went, his brother handed him a fistful of things.
"Hair, eyeliner, alcohol," was all Theo said and Remy looked at the objects he had been given.
The first was a comb, the second a makeup wipe and the third a small packet of breath mints.
"We need to look like professionals."
It was something Theo often felt the need to tell him and Remy usually agreed, but this time he really wasn't taking any notice of what his twin was saying. It was more the way Theo was saying it that was important. Theo always looked out for him and thought of everything when it came to making sure he didn't make a right prat of himself, but something was off.
He used the wipe first, giving it a little magical boost to make sure he didn't end up with smudged eyeliner instead of 'gone' eyeliner, but he barely took his eyes off Theo. Theo was his big brother by all of thirteen minutes, but it still defined them and Theo took looking after him very seriously. However, it wasn't one sided and Remy always kept an eye on Theo as well, he just had to be more circumspect about it. At that moment, Remy's instincts were telling him all was not right with Theo, his twin wasn't usually this uptight even when the case was going to be a nasty one. Although Theo took life in general more seriously than he did, mostly his twin was relaxed and cheerful, or at least relaxed and efficient. From that observation, it didn't take him long to come to a conclusion.
"You had 'The Dream' again," he said quietly.
"No time now," was the resolute reply and Remy just inclined his head slightly.
'The Dream', which had long since received capital letters in Remy's head, always rattled Theo and sooner or later his twin would want to talk about it. Until then Remy knew to just keep his eyes on his brother and wait. Dragging the comb through his hair so that it wasn't quite as wild as he liked it when clubbing, he asked, "What do we know about the case?"
"The victim is a teenage girl and, given where she was dumped, it's going to be a circus, that's all I have," Theo replied as they began to walk again. "Debbie is already on scene and will brief us."
Remy nodded and popped a breath mint into his mouth before passing the little tin back to Theo.
"Thanks," he said just as they reached the police line.
"DI and DS Haward, Serious Crimes Taskforce," Theo said as they both flashed their warrant cards at the constable who was holding the sightseers back.
Remy let his twin deal with the local constable. He'd only ever slipped up once in his career, referring to the squad by its real 'sorcerous' name in front of one of the regulars, and had had to come up with some excuse about late night reading. These days he left it to Theo.
"The rest of your team's over there, Sir," the young man replied and indicated to the right, lifting the police tape so they could duck under it.
"Thank you," Remy said as they slipped past.
The other officer was giving them rather a strange look, but then that was nothing unusual. Very few people who didn't know them well could get used to the fact that there were two people walking around who were virtually identical; most of the time it caused Remy no end of glee.
Remy followed Theo towards the very familiar figure of Debbie Hunter, officially Press Liaison for the SeCT Murder Squad, but also known as 'The Fixer' by those in the know. She could make the general public believe there was no such thing as magic even if someone was levitating just behind her. This time, there was also someone Remy didn't recognise with her.
The stranger looked to be just over twelve years old, at least Remy thought that had been the last age he'd appeared that fresh faced. There was a definite keen look in the young man's eyes as well. Remy dimly remembered there having been a memo earlier in the week about a new DC entering the ranks after DC "Luckless" Luckles' promotion to DS. Luckless was so named because of his continual ability to put his foot right in it and Remy guessed the stranger might be Luckless' replacement at the bottom of the pile.
In Remy's opinion their current assignment was not a good case for a rookie to break his teeth on, especially since the newbie seemed to be without the dependable Cap. DI 'Cap' Richards always took on the new DC's.
"Hi, Debbie," Theo greeted as they walked up.
"Hey, guys," Debbie replied with a weary smile, "glad you're here; I've had a hell of a time keeping the local force from poking their noses in and dealing with the press as well. When I find out who leaked this so quickly I will be frying their arse."
"Will you be selling tickets?" Remy asked with a grin; it was always fun to watch Debbie chewing someone out for bad behaviour.
She'd tried it on him a few times, but he had taken to awarding her points for technique, so she had all but given up.
"Would you please explain to your brother that I am not here for his personal entertainment?" Debbie rolled her eyes and spoke to Theo rather than him, which made him smile even more; he had that effect on a lot of people.
"Guys, this is DC Fuller," Debbie introduced them to her companion, "and he's far too keen; heard about this while still in the office and decided to pop over."
That explained why the rookie was alone and keen was putting it mildly if he'd been in the office after midnight. Remy gave the kid points for enthusiasm.
"Chris," Debbie turned to Fuller, "these are ..."
"Romulus and Remus Haward," Fuller said in a somewhat awestruck voice.
Remy laughed as he saw Theo tense.
"Chris," he said with a shake of his head, "if you want to stay on the good side of my dear twin, never, ever call him that again."
"Theo," Theo said shortly.
"Our mother was in a cruel and unusual mood when she named us," Remy explained as Fuller looked like he might bolt; "the downside of having a classical scholar as a parent. I'm Remy, he's Theo, or if he's looking grumpy, then call him Sir."
Fuller's expression was going back to awe.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Fuller said, holding out his hand; "I've heard a lot about you. One of my lecturers used to talk about you all the time: the Naturals who became police officers rather than M-Techs."
Remy just smiled and shook Fuller's hand, deciding that he was going to have to break Fuller out of the awestruck phase as soon as possible. That whole last bit had sounded like a neon sign blinking above their heads.
It wasn't like it was the first time they had come across someone who knew all about them in the force. They were somewhat unusual. Not only were they twins, but Naturals just didn't do the footwork on the beat. Remy had enjoyed the scandal it had caused, still did, but people making an issue of it tended to get Theo's back up. In Remy's opinion, the last thing Theo needed was someone bringing up the past, especially after having had 'The Dream' again. 'The Dream' was part of why they had switched from training as Magical Technicians after university to straight police work.
"So, what have we got?" he asked, deciding to head off any possible awkwardness before it could begin.
"The victim is a girl," Debbie went into professional mode, "no more than seventeen or eighteen. She's on the roundabout and you'll see why we were called in as soon as you look at her. The M-Techs only arrived a little while ago, so we don't have much more yet."
Then she handed them some forensic booties. It seemed the crime scene was a see-it-to-believe-it one, which meant it was probably worse than he was imagining.
"Let's go," Theo decided and Remy nodded.
Hopping and using each other for balance, it didn't take them long to get the booties over their own shoes and then they were ready to move closer. This being a suspected magical case, the screens around the scene weren't quite ordinary; if anyone managed to peer around them, they would glimpse a normal crime scene no matter what the M-Techs or investigating officers needed to do inside. That, however, made it a little hard to figure out what was going on inside from a distance, even if you were magical.
As they set off, Remy was very glad to see Debbie hold back Fuller. Now was not the time to have a newbie trailing them.
The first thing that Remy noticed was the heavy atmosphere as soon as they came close to the roundabout. It hit him even before he could see anything properly. There wasn't anything specific, but the air was filled with something that screamed 'bad'.
"That's unpleasant," he commented quietly.
"Definitely magical," Theo agreed as they moved closer.
Sometimes crime scenes were staged to look like something magically sinister, when in fact they were simple murder, but this one was already giving away its true origins. You couldn't fake an aura of darkness like the one Remy was feeling.
There was also a regular, very cutting, squeaking permeating the whole area. As they finally had a clear view of the crime scene, Remy realised that it was being caused by the roundabout turning at a slow, constant speed. It looked like it was wired up to a motor, but, as Remy narrowed his eyes and pushed just a little at his awareness, he could see a faint glowing outline.
"Residual magic," he said at exactly the same time Theo did; clearly they had been doing the same thing.
Apart from the fact that it was moving, the roundabout appeared mostly normal, the only other unusual thing about it being the fact that there was a body on it. At a base level Remy wanted to react to it, but he kept his feelings at a distance; he needed to analyse the situation rather than react to it. It was not easy, especially given the victim. The girl really did look young and her long brown hair was splayed over the roundabout around her head. What caught Remy's attention was that, even though her expression was peaceful, her throat was completely missing. All that was left was a bloody mess and her head was lying at a very strange angle.
"Nasty," he commented to himself.
The girl was dressed in a robe that was off-white and Remy's eyes were dragged to the design around the hem and sleeves of the garment. It was difficult to see at first, because of the movement, but after following it with his eyes for a few seconds he could make out some form of writing.
"That's not just decoration on the robe," he said, voicing the instinct that welled up inside of him.
He couldn't say what he was actually looking at; it didn't look like a regular Scriptural Expression, but it was definitely magical. Theo hummed in agreement. Given that he had been trained as an M-Tech, what Remy really wanted to do was cast a Reveal and find out as much as he could, but that would only get him into trouble. Until the real M-Techs were finished they wouldn't want anyone else contaminating their crime scene. They'd be able to remove his magical signature okay, but it would take them longer and it was never a good idea to get on the bad side of M-Techs. They would make him fill out paper work by the bucket load. He hated paperwork.
"Not a lot of blood given the wound," Theo brought up the next point and Remy had to agree.
There was a considerable amount of blood on the robe and a little on the roundabout, but not enough for it to be all of it.
"Secondary crime scene," they agreed together.
"You know, sometimes I wonder why we bother," said a familiar voice and Remy turned to see a friendly face.
Dr Jonathan Clark was one of SeCT's pathologists and they had worked many cases together.
"Would you care to take a guess at cause of death as well?" the doctor asked as he walked past in his lovely white jump suit.
"We'll leave that to the experts," Remy replied and inclined his head in deferential banter.
"If one of you would be so kind as to stop the roundabout," Jon said in the somewhat grumpy fashion he had when having been called out in the middle of the night, "the preliminary scene has already been recorded and I would like to get a look at the body."
Remy held out his hand and focused his will in a manner that should have drained the magical residue into the surrounding area in a slow and methodical way, unfortunately, Theo did exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. The roundabout screamed just a little and stopped dead. Luckily it had only been moving slowly, so the body did not fall off or anything equally as problematic. Jon looked at them both and raised an eyebrow.
"We'll go and interview the witnesses," Theo said as if that was exactly what they had meant to do.
Remy agreed, it was a good idea to get out of Dodge before someone tried to shoot them. M-Techs could be touchy and pathologists could be even touchier at that time in the morning.
Dumping his booties in the waiting bin, Theo paused and took a deep breath. Whether it was the residual magic in the area getting to him or just his own revulsion, he didn't know, but it was the second time that night that he was left feeling queasy.
"You too?" Remy checked, coming up beside him and pulling a face that spoke for them both.
"That was..." Theo trailed off, unable to express exactly what he was feeling.
"I know," his twin agreed quickly without any need for him to find the words, "and in Trowton of all places."
Remy's understanding was enough to kick Theo back into professional mode and, mentally shaking himself, he looked over to where a local police officer was standing with their two witnesses.
"Come on," he nodded towards the next step in the investigation. "Let's talk to the poor sods who found her."
He straightened his shoulders and put his own reaction to the back of his mind. It was twenty or so yards to where the couple who had discovered the body had been stowed and he and Remy crossed the distance quickly. The faces of the pair were wide-eyed and pale, and young, nearly as young as the dead girl as far as Theo could tell. The copper who was with them was looking almost as ghostly. All three were staring at the white screens hiding what they'd clearly already seen. They seemed mesmerised and only looked away as Theo and Remy approached them. The PC was first, trying to look official and failing as his eyes remained haunted.
The constable greeted them with a double take and then, "Sirs, this is Kylie Smith and Peter Williams. They found the girl..." his voice cracked, "...at..." and he began shuffling with his notebook.
"Thank you, Constable," Theo stopped the charade when he saw the man's eyes glisten in the floodlighting. "Could you go and see if you can rustle up some tea, please?"
He was blinked at for such a suggestion at nearly two in the morning, but Theo had scanned the area on his arrival. He pointed back the way they had all come and prompted, "The people at the houses opposite the park are up and some of them have their doors open, I'm sure they won't mind."
The PC looked over Theo's shoulder and then nodded, equilibrium returning to his face.
"Yes, Sir," the man acknowledged and then strode purposefully off on the errand.
Theo and Remy were left with their witnesses, who were huddled together like it was mid-winter, not May.
"Hello, Ms Smith, Mr Williams," Theo began again, holding out his hand first to the young man, "I am Detective Inspector Haward and this is my partner Detective Sergeant Haward."
"Are you brothers?" Williams latched onto the obvious and shook the offered limb.
Theo was more than happy to start on a lighter note and nodded as Remy replied for them, "Yes, twins."
"Is that allowed?" Kylie piped up, sounding uncertain.
"We work for The Serious Crimes Taskforce," Theo replied, shaking her hand firmly as well and avoiding answering.
The reply seemed to satisfy Kylie, who went back to clinging to her boyfriend and looking worried. Williams wrapped an arm around the young woman and glared at Theo protectively.
"Would you mind answering some questions?" Theo continued, knowing that he wasn't going to be refused.
"You gonna take our statements, then?" Williams noted Remy taking out his stylus and mini tablet.
"Just some informal questions for tonight," Theo reassured, "we'll arrange for you to come to Trowton Station to make formal statements later."
Kylie seemed relieved at that, although Williams looked more aware that the subject of the questions was not going to change, formal or informal. Theo smiled supportively and suggested, "Look, there is a bench over there, shall we go and sit down?"
Working as a pair, the twins went one either side of the nervous couple, guiding them over to the benches. On better days, mothers would have watched their children playing from the seats, but it definitely wasn't a better day. Remy sat down with the couple as Theo remained standing between the pair and the crime scene.
"Could you take us through how you found the young woman?" he began, relying on Remy to make notes.
The couple glanced at each other, hands clasping together tightly and the strain in Peter Williams was obvious as he took on the responsibility of answering for them both. The man was grey as he began, "We came down over the slope," he nodded out into the dark of the rest of the park, "and Kylie wanted me to push her on the swings."
The man sounded absurdly guilty about the innocent idea.
"It's bright tonight, but a cloud had come over and we didn't see her at first, we just heard squeaking and I thought it was the wind or something. Then the moon came out and, and..." Peter cracked then and a stifled sob replaced whatever he had been about to say.
Theo reached quickly into his pocket for the pack of tissues he kept there for these kinds of occasions and passed them to the struggling man. That seemed to be enough permission for Peter to let go and Kylie wrapped her boyfriend close to her chest as he shuddered with near silent crying.
Rocking Peter, her chin on his crown, she looked up at Theo, eyes wide, and told him, "She was lying there, right across the roundabout covered in blood and going round and round. She didn't stop the whole time we waited for the police We could hear that thing whining like someone just kept on pushing it. It was horrible."
"You saw no-one else?" Theo moved swiftly on, unwilling to try and explain the perpetual motion until Debbie briefed them on the cover story.
Kylie shook her head.
Theo paused before he asked his next question: it would be difficult.
"Did you recognise the young woman?"
Peter gasped in a breath at that. "All I saw was the blood."
Kylie, however, fixed Theo with a hard, angry stare as he took her back to a memory she didn't want. He accepted the woman's accusation passively, it wasn't the first time a witness had let out frustration on him. Eventually his patience was rewarded by another quick shake of the head. The strain in the young couple made Theo decide he had enough for now and, glancing at Remy, he brought the interview to an end.
"Thank you for your help, Mr Williams, Ms Smith, we'll arrange for someone to take you home now."
Remy, on cue, handed out a couple of their business cards, one to each witness.
"The number on the front of this card will reach us day or night if you remember anything more you want to tell us," Theo continued; "don't hesitate to call, nothing is too insignificant. The number on the back is for SeCT Victim and Witness Support Services and they can arrange for you to see a counsellor if you want to talk this through with someone."
It was about the only comfort he could offer.
"Just catch the bastard who did this," Peter finally looked up and pleaded quietly.
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About Wittegen Press:
Wittegen Press is a small independent publisher of eBooks based in the UK. We publish on many eBook sites. To see our whole catalogue please visit our website.
Tasha was born and raised in rural Kent, England where she still lives with her husband Rob, just down the road from her twin sister and sometimes writing partner Sophie. Tasha has been writing since she was a pre-teen and chose to take it up as a full time career when her company downsized and made the whole software engineering department redundant. After setting up Wittegen Press with her sister as a brand for their books she has not looked back, publishing novels, novellas and short stories in a wide range of genres.
Before taking up writing professionally she was very active in the world of fanfiction and still believes it is a wonderful creative outlet, even though she doesn't have very much time to play anymore. She likes to maintain a lively presence online and welcomes new friends, readers and writers alike.
For more information about Tasha's books and where to find her at places like Twitter, please check out her profile at Wittegen Press, linked below.
Sophie was born with the writing bug in her blood, boring her primary school teachers with pages of creative writing and killing her first typewriter from over use when she was thirteen. She began publishing her work on line while at university where she discovered the internet and fanfiction. It took another decade for Sophie to realise her long-time dream of releasing her own original fiction.