Jim Brooke walked along the canal tow path pulling his coat tight as the wind whistled around him. It was what his mother had called a lazy wind. 'It goes through you rather than taking the long way round.' He smiled as he thought about her chuckling at her own joke.
It was the first time he'd returned in twenty years. The canal seemed cleaner than when he had played along it but it felt darker almost foreboding.
A young policeman stood at the far end of the tunnel and as Jim entered he had to stop himself calling 'Echo, echo, echo.' but was still smiling as he got to the young constable.
'Where is it constable?' Jim flashed his ID card.
'Down there sir.' he pointed towards a smaller tunnel that led off into the brickwork. Jim couldn't believe how well hidden it was, just like before.
'They think it's been dug recently sir.'
'That you Jim?' a voice called from inside.
'Barry?' Jim called back realising his old friend Barry Roman was already down the tunnel.
'I've nearly finished. Come down and watch your step, it's slippery down here.'
He lowered his head and started down the secondary tunnel. He blinked to adjust his eyes to the brightness of the artificial light that the medical examiner had set up in order to view the scene. It was twilight but this tunnel and the large space at the end was never going to see any natural light.
'Hi there Jim. I heard you were back. Enjoying it?' Barry was signing a form, as a body bag was being carefully wheeled out to the waiting van.
'A murder on my first day back wasn't exactly what I was hoping for,' Jim smiled. He had known Barry since school but they hadn't seen each other since Jim had moved away to Manchester with the job and Barry had stayed in Nottingham to study medicine.
'Where you staying?'
'Mum's place. I never sold it after she died. Never had the heart I guess. Come in handy now though.'
'Spose you want the details then.'
'Well as far as I can tell she was between twenty and thirty years old and judging by her clothes she was a walker. I'll know more once I get her back to base but I would say looking at her clothes it's unlikely that she's been sexually assaulted.'
'Thanks Barry. How soon for the rest?' Jim asked.
'You'll be the first to know, but there's a back up after that crash on the M1 yesterday.'
'Com' on Baz. You know this is more important. This could be him.'
'After all these years?'
'A walker, a canal tunnel and the day we find her is twenty years to the day since we found Janet Briggs. I don't like coincidences.'
'Alright, she'll be top of my list but I can say the same for the rest of the boys.'
'Anything you can do.'
As Barry walked away Jim stared around the man made cave. He was back twenty years and just a naive PC. The call had come in saying the body of a young girl had been dumped under the canal. He was sent out to have a look. The call had been too vague and the caller sounded too childlike for it to be taken seriously.
When he got there it had been getting dark and there was nothing to see except a pile of old newspapers. The radio wouldn't work in the tunnel so he walked back out into the open. The wind started to build up and a small eddy of newspapers blustered around the tunnel entrance. Something glinted. He walked back to the tunnel and could see the opening that the newspapers had previously covered. It was only about two feet high and there were some steps down which meant a grown man could fit through. There had been a light flickering in the smaller tunnel and he had entered assuming it was just some kids messing around. The body had been laid out in the middle of the man made cave. She was fully dressed in a bright pink Berghaus jacket, black walking trousers and a woolly Scandinavian hat with little plaits over each ear. She had a strange smile on her face and had it not been for the bluish tinge of her lips he would have sworn she was just sleeping. It had taken them over an hour to send someone to find out what had happened to him and he had been still sitting there, holding her, in the dark.
Now twenty years later it had happened again. Why so long? And why on Jim's first day back?
The murderer slowly unfolded his handkerchief. Carefully, like opening a delicate piece of tissue paper wrapped around a beautiful treasure. Nestled softly in the centre was a silver necklace with a tiny diamond droplet on it. His held it up and it danced in the light from his laptop. The rest of the room was dark and his door was locked tight against the rest of the house. He slowly placed it down on the table and opened the top draw of his desk. Inside was an old battered red cash box. Lifting the box onto his desk he switched on the angle-poise lamp to see all his treasures. He took the small key from inside the little pocket in his wallet and carefully unlocked the box. Inside the box had six separate compartments and each one had a small piece of paper which you could right something on. It was supposed to be a way of putting money away and usually said things like, gas, electric, ‘phone next to each compartment. This box didn't. The labels read Janet, Mum and the other four were still blank. He lowered the necklace onto a piece of cotton wool and closed the box. The papers would tell him her name soon enough and then he could fill in his latest label.
The next morning Jim briefed the rest of his team. He sent a couple of PC's down to the canal towpath to look for witnesses. The rest of the team were working on missing persons files. Until the autopsy was completed there weren't too many other leads to follow up.
Once Jim had allocated all the tasks he headed down to the morgue.
'Morning Barry, how goes it?'
'Ah Jim, thought I'd see you bright and early.'
'Just needed to get the team sorted first.'
'Well, I've already sent off the ten card to see if she's in the system. Not much chance of finger prints but you never know.'
'All sent off and one thing you won't have expected.'
Jim walked over to one of the side benches and Barry showed him a Petri dish with a large ball of mush inside it.
'What is it?' Jim asked
'Well apart from the murder weapon I think it's a ball of newspaper?'
'The murder weapon?'
'Yes. She was suffocated and I think this may have been the cause. I am sending it off to the lab. They might be able to get something out of it that will give us some clues.'
'Well done Baz. Let's hope the lab can be as quick getting back to us.'
Jim headed back to his desk to discover a note from the two lads he sent out to try and get eye witness statements. One of the kids though his mate might have seen something so they were off to interview him. Jim smiled to himself. Those TV programmes always said that the first forty-eight hours were the most crucial. It looked like he'd have this solved before then.
He picked up his 'phone and dialled the lab.
'Sarah. That you?'
'Ah Jim Brooke I heard you were back in town.'
'Back on the job this morning, but I went down to look at the body when they found it last night.'
'Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end. Have you got anything for me?'
'Come on Jim you know we don't work that quickly.'
'And I know you've got something even if you haven't got everything.'
'I can see Manchester hasn't made you any less demanding,' she chuckled. 'We know she's not in the system, finger prints and DNA have come back blank. She wasn't drunk but there was something in her system. I am running some tests now but my guess is chloroform or rohypnol. The newspaper is going to take a little longer but as soon as we have anything I'll let you know.'
'Thanks Sarah.' Jim paused just before he put the 'phone down. 'Fancy a drink sometime?'
'Umm, yeh why not?'
Tracey Giles was the name he wrote on the tin. It had taken them nearly a week before the papers had released her name. Surely it couldn't have taken the coppers that long to find out who she was. They only found her because the campsite she had been staying at wanted paying and she had left all her camping gear there. They had 'phoned her home, where she had lived with her parents and her parents had contacted the police.
No mention of the necklace or the newspaper yet. The longer it took the more clues they gave to the press. Getting the public to do their job for them again.
The following morning the doors to the lift were just closing as Barry stuck his hand in the way. They re-opened and he dived in to find Sarah Sinden standing there.
'Chasing after me again hey Barry,' Sarah said.
'I err, I err didn't realise you were in here.'
'It's alright Barry I was just joking,' Sarah had known Barry had a thing for her but he was always too shy to say anything. He wasn't her type but her type was definitely getting thin on the ground, if Jim hadn't come back she would have asked Barry out herself.
'Just on my way to the briefing room. It looks like Tracey Giles was killed in the same way as Janet Briggs. Chloroform in her system.' he said.
'I know what you mean. I have looked over the Janet Briggs case and there are a lot of similarities. Jim's DNA was all over Janet but that was hardly surprising the way they were found.'
'Yeh.Took him a long time to get over it. That's why they send him to Manchester.'
'Well it didn’t do him any harm did it? Comes back as a Detective Inspector running a murder enquiry. Anyway the weird thing is there was some of Jim's DNA on Tracey,' she said.
'That is weird. The body had been moved before he turned up. Let's see what the rest of the briefing tells us.'
They entered the briefing room. It was already full. Jim was standing at the front finishing off the details of everything they knew about the girl and her friends, ex boyfriends and other contacts that would need interviewing by the assembled police officers.
'Ah Sarah, just in time. Can we have you report please?' Jim stepped away from the lectern.
'Well the major finding I have this morning,' Sarah started, not known for her use of pleasantries, 'is we've managed to get something from the ball of paper found in her throat. It was the front page of a newspaper from 1993.'
'What was the main story?' came a call from the back.
'It wasn't that easy but we've gone back to The Nottingham Evening Post for a back issue. It was the issue from when Jim was transferred to Manchester.'
The room went silent.
'Well I think that just confirms that there is a link between the two cases,' Jim said. 'Now you all have your assignments let’s get on with it.'
The room quickly emptied and just Jim and Sarah were left.
'Not going as well as I'd have hoped,' Jim said.
'Don't worry we'll work it out.'
'We never solved Janet's murder.'
'This is different. DNA has moved on.'
'I just feel like a failure. This is my first case back. I don't suppose you fancy that drink tonight?'
'Why not? Where?'
'Pop round and I'll cook.'
Sarah headed off back towards the lift and her lab to find Barry standing there holding the lift door.
'Didn't take him long,' he said. The rest of the lift journey continued in silence.
That evening Sarah arrived at Jim's dressed in her smartest outfit and carrying a bottle of wine. Jim opened the door wearing what must have been his mum's old apron. Sarah couldn't help giggling. He scowled and led her into the dining room. Leaving her there he went to check on something and came back a little while later minus his apron and carrying two glasses of wine.
'So why come back?' Sarah got straight to the point.
'The job mainly. It was here or wait for the next Detective Inspector's role somewhere else. It could have been years and it could have been somewhere worse.'
'Doesn't it feel weird?'
'Not really. You're here and Barry. It's almost like I never went away. The worst thing is Mum not being here.'
'She died not long after you went away didn't she.'
'Yes, I was so ill I didn't even come back for the funeral. She took an overdose. Barry organised the funeral. He always said she was like a mum to him. He lived in a foster home round the corner.'
'I never knew that. He always talks about his mum. He must've meant your mum.'
'I guess so. Excuse me I just need to check on the diner.'
Jim appeared at the dining room door carry the first course. There followed a meal that Sarah had only experienced in restaurants before.
Afterwards they settled down on the sofa with a glass of brandy. Just then the door bell rang.
'Who can that be?' Jim got up and closed the door behind him.
Seconds later the door swung open and a very drunk Barry Roman piled into the lounge.
'Don't worry Sarah I'm here,' Barry slurred as he staggered across the room.
Sarah tried to get up but found she couldn't. Her eyes were so heavy it was an effort to even half open them. She looked over at Jim but he was ignoring her, far more concerned with Barry.
'I can't let you do it again Jim,' Barry final stopped tottering around the room and pointed at Jim. 'Janet was my girl, why did you do it?'
'She wasn't your girl idiot. She was mine.'
Sarah slow inched her hand down to the pocket of her trousers where her mobile phone was.
'You knew I liked her but you had to prove you could have her. Didn't you?'
'Come on Barry you know she didn't want you. Just like Sarah here.' Jim nodded towards Sarah, paralysed on the sofa. 'She was only thinking of asking you out because there was no one better, then I came along. You're a joke.'
Sarah couldn't reach the phone, if only she’d taken more care. The DNA had told her all along but she hadn't wanted to believe it.
'I even covered up when you killed mum. I know she was dead the day before you left. It took them so long to find her it was easy to assume she died a few days later.' Barry said
'Don't call her Mum. She was my Mum not yours.' Jim raised his hand and slapped Barry hard across the face. He stumbled and bumped into Sarah. Jim grabbed Barry and lifted him to his feet dumping him in the arm chair opposite Sarah. The movement had been just enough for Sarah's phone to be knocked into her hand. She pressed the speed dial key linked to the 'officer in distress code'.
'What had Tracey done to you?' Barry said barely able to stand.
'I know she was here visiting you. I know everything you do.' Jim smiled. 'Eventually we will find the link and all these cases will be traced back to you. I even left DNA on her body so they I can prove you planted it there to try point the finger at me. I had hoped not to have to do this so soon but it looks like you'll be taking and overdose this evening.'
Jim grabbed the brandy bottle and started forcing it down Barry's throat.
The door burst open and five burley officers piled into the lounge filing most of the available space.
'Out the way,' in walked the Chief inspector quickly followed by a team of paramedics.
It took two days before Barry could have any visitors and his first one was Sarah. She told him all about the worries she'd had about the DNA and how she'd decide to do a little investigating on her own. When she had dialled for help the operator could hear everything that was happening in the room. Barry couldn't believe how stupid he had been but he always thought it had been a coincidence until Tracey had died. He had followed Sarah to Jim's to make sure she was okay. He had needed a little Dutch courage in the pub across the road before he had been able to pluck up the nerve to face Jim.
As visiting time came to an end a very serious looking nurse insisted Sarah left.
'I'll see you tomorrow Barry,' Sarah said as she was being pushed out the door. 'Maybe we can talk about where you want to take me on our first date.'
As the nurse came to settle Barry down she could believe how big the grin on his face was.