A Stab in the Dark

A detective. A forensic scientist. A journalist.
Three lives drawn together by a murder.
When evidence lies and the case evolves, who can you trust in a city full of lies?
---- Updated every Wednesday ----

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2. No Shit, Sherlock

​Max

When I got the call about the murder on Hawkestone Avenue, I wasn’t excited at all.

Firstly, I live in London, and there’s a fatal incident nearly every damn day. Since I’ve been a journalist for six years, I see death all the time and to be honest, it’s completely lost its appeal. Your average murder’s a bit boring for me anyway; there are far more interesting ways a person can die than getting stabbed. Last Wednesday, I was called out to write a report at a farm where a man was crushed to death by a falling lawnmower.

Secondly, it was six in the flipping morning, and I was bloody tired. This was mostly due to the fact that I got less than half an hour of sleep last night. I’d love to say I was working, but I actually locked myself out of the house and had to sit on the front lawn until four-thirty, waiting for my roommate to come back and let me in. Sometimes, I wish I lived alone, but then I remember that I don’t know how to look after myself. I’ve been eating cereal for dinner for a week.

And thirdly, because when I turn up at the scene, I never get to actually DO anything. The police in this city treat the media like rats, and whenever we go out to a job there’s always someone ready with the rat poison. I’ve got a major problem with one police officer in particular; for the last year, I’ve been held back from crime scenes by this bitch of a policewoman called Martha Kane.

Then, of course, I was informed that Martha Kane, that bitch of a policewoman, WAS the crime scene. It was difficult to hold back what might have been a smug smile, but I did my best. After all, the girl HAD been stabbed in the back. Literally.

I managed to get to the scene earlier than I normally would have; I’m not ashamed in the slightest to admit that I may have run a few red lights on the way there. If you ask me, speed is one of many advantages to having a motorbike instead of a car. When I finally managed to negotiate that bloody maze of a housing estate to reach Hawkestone Avenue, the only other people there were two police officers, a slightly creepy-looking guy with a briefcase that I’m assuming was doing forensics, and a detective. And Martha, of course, but she wasn’t contributing much to the conversation.

Martha was lying face-down on the ground with her legs drawn up under her stomach; it looked like she must have fallen onto her knees before smacking her head down on the pavement. I was used to seeing her with her hair in a tight bun which reminded me of my English teacher from high school, but now it was sprawled around her head in an unruly puddle that hid her face completely. The blood surrounding the body was so diluted by the pools of rainwater in the road that it was pale pink, and trails of it striped the gutter down into the drain. Her end had been less than elegant, to say the least. I’m not trying to trivialise murder, but I’d just like to point out that if I’M ever stabbed, I’ll make sure to fall onto my back.

As quietly as I could, I reached into the pocket of my trousers and slid out my phone, which was already set to the camera app. If you ask me, only really bad reporters carry big bulky cameras around with them. Pretending to text and coughing to mask the sound of the shutter, I took three photographs of the view without anyone noticing me. I can be stealthier than a ninja when I want to be.

I was trying to crane my head round the two policemen as they set up a marquee in front of the body, but eventually I gave up and shoved my phone back into my pocket. Now, the only person who was still visible to me was the detective. He was wearing a long, black trench-coat and a Sherlock-Holmes-style hat, and was hurriedly scribbling in an absolutely tiny notebook with an equally tiny pen. He stopped writing, turned round and took off his hat to reveal long, curly red hair and it’s then that I realised that he was actually a she. The detective was a woman, and for some reason, I was surprised.

‘Now I’m a misogynist as well as an idiot. Awesome.’

I was beginning to wonder whether I might be able to ask her for the details of the murder, but then she looked up and began to walk towards me as if she had a sixth sense for detecting unwanted visitors. She had the kind of face that made me unsure whether she was about to shake my hand or snap my neck, and the whole Private-Eye vibe her outfit was giving off made me wonder whether she was about to pull a gun from her pocket. Or possibly a samurai sword.

 “Who are you?” she asked with an accent that was thickly American, fumbling in her jacket for something.

‘Oh, shit. She’s going to shoot me.’

“M-Max Castello. I’m a journalist for the London Chronicle.”

‘Please don’t shoot me.’

“The Chronicle, huh?” She looked me up and down with her hand still in her jacket. “Well, that explains the motorcycle and the superhero tie.”

I tried to muster a withering look, but the detective was like a stone pillar: cold and stoic and unmovable. I was also painfully aware that she was at least three inches taller than me, but I wasn’t about to back down. Not from a woman. Especially not from an American woman. The only thing that made her better than me was which side of the yellow police tape she was on.

“D’you think you could tell me what, um...  what happened here?”

She sighed and produced her badge from her pocket.

‘At least it’s not a gun.’

 “DI Jackie Truman. I’m a detective for the police. There’s been a murder.”

“Yeah, no shit, Sherlock,” I said as cuttingly as I could manage, looking pointedly at the marquee, from which the forensics guy had just emerged. Underneath his plastic overalls, he was wearing a dark formal suit, a shirt and a tie. His blue gloves were faintly stained with red, and the lower halves of his legs were filthy from kneeling in the puddles that were already washing away remnants of blood. Whoever had stabbed Martha had probably picked their night carefully.

“If I were you,” I added, averting my gaze, “I’d check out that forensics bloke. Who the hell wears a suit to a murder scene?”

Jackie had folded her badge and put it back in her coat pocket, but she was still glaring at me with her icy blue eyes. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. Probably even deader than the woman inside the tent. And Martha was very dead.

“Martha Kane,” the detective said. “Forty-two years old, no friends, barely any family. Stabbed once in the back. No murder weapon found, no witnesses, and no trace evidence of any kind found by forensics. The—“

“The murder must have been planned.” I added. “The blood’s all been washed away as well. She—“

Jackie frowned before cutting me off. “She’s wearing black, and black doesn’t show blood, which is why the couple who found her at 4am didn’t know she was dead until they looked really, really closely.” She glanced briefly over her shoulder. “That enough detail for you?”

“Yeah. I mean, yeah, but, um... are you supposed to be telling me all this?” I couldn’t help but look away again; Jackie’s eyes were boring into me like a pair of power drills.

“If it gets rid of you, then yes. First obstacle at a crime scene: get rid of the press. Now go and write your dumbass Chronicle article somewhere else, Mr Castello. We need to find out who put a knife in that woman’s back before they put a knife in someone else’s.”

“I’m not just a writer.”

“What?”

“I’m an investigative journalist.”

Jackie sighed with annoyance. “I don’t care. Just stop annoying me.”

“Keeping back the press used to be Martha’s job, y’know,” I called after her as she turned to leave. “You’re lowering yourself.”

That was a big mistake.

Jackie stopped in her tracks and turned back to me. Her eyes had narrowed into the most intense squint I’d ever seen; she’d given herself the look of someone who needed new glasses, but for once, I kept my mouth shut. Then it hit me.

‘Oh, shit. Oh no.’

‘I just incriminated myself, didn’t I?’

The detective put her hat back on, pulling the brim down ever so slightly so that it shaded the upper half of her face. She made another note in her notebook before opening her mouth, and I began to wonder whether I’d be sleeping in handcuffs tonight, but then she said “Get lost, Chronicle.”

I got lost. No, seriously. I didn’t find my way back home until ten o’clock.

And I’d forgotten my keys again.

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