Monday 14 – Tuesday 15 May 2012
‘David Harris, this is our coroner, Rebecca James.’
‘And before you ask, DC Harris, yes, your DCI is my big brother,’ Rebecca offered Harris her hand. They shook, awkwardly, Harris aware that his DCI was watching every move.
‘Right,’ Rebecca said, ‘let’s have a look at that.’ She pointed in the direction of the still-smouldering barn.
‘Sounds like a plan to me, oh esteemed coroner,’ DCI James smiled smugly at his sister, motioning for her to lead the way to the barn. James and Harris followed at a respectable distance. James knew how his sister liked space when she made her initial observations. That need for space didn’t follow through to her autopsy room, however, where she enjoyed tormenting the officers sent in to retrieve her results.
James and Harris stood at what the DCI deemed to be a safe distance from his sister as she began to examine the charred remains.
‘Bec, where on the scale do you put it?’ James called out. She looked towards him, and then back at the corpse, giving it a tentative poke.
‘I’d categorise it at the far end of the scale, Simon,’ she called back.
‘Ah, a crispy critter then,’ James said loudly enough for Rebecca to hear. She nodded in response. Harris looked bewildered at the DCI. James caught the expression.
‘We have our own shorthand for a lot of things . . . it’s a brother-sister thing,’ the senior officer explained.
‘Sure. Okay,’ Harris, slightly nauseated by the crispy critter term, shook his head in an attempt to remove the image from his mind.
They stood in silence as the coroner examined the body in situ, and then moved out into the immediate vicinity of the corpse. She collected anything that looked biological, bagged, and tagged it. Harris was impressed by her speed and diligence.
‘Si?’ Rebecca called without looking up from the corpse. ‘It wasn’t an accident. I’ve got indications here of a sharp force trauma to the back of the head.’
The DCI nodded as if he knew that she would suggest murder.
‘Can’t tell you yet if he was dead before the fire. You’ll have to wait for the autopsy results on that.’
‘You read my mind, sister dear,’ James replied, then turned on his heels and walked back to his car. Harris quickly followed.
‘Your sister, sir,’ Harris started.
‘Don’t even think about it, Harris. You go near her in that kind of way, and I’ll plant my foot where the sun doesn’t shine.’
‘Yes, sir,’ Harris replied meekly. James smiled to himself. He rather enjoyed playing the role of the overprotective big brother, especially when he got to put junior officers in their place.
‘So, who do you think the body is, sir?’ Harris changed the subject as deftly as he could. James considered the question carefully.
‘Not sure, Harris. Logic says it’s John Mitchell’s farm, he wasn’t around while we where there, so it’s got to be him. But these days, who can say? Could be a vagrant who was passing by, could be someone else from the village. If I were a betting man, I’d feel pretty safe putting my money on it being John Mitchell. And if it’s him, I know exactly who to place at the top of my list of suspects.’
Before Harris could ask anything else, James got into the car and started the engine. As seemed the theme of the day for him, Harris followed quickly, buckling his seat belt as James sped down the lane back towards Foster’s Road.
‘Nothing ever happens here, Harris, but it would appear that today, murder has paid a visit to Blackfriar’s Dell.’
From a hide in Parson’s Wood, someone who knew the truth of the day’s events was watching the scene at Westwind Farm unfold.
. . . To be continued . . .