After racing through the morning traffic to the mortuary, Geoff Lintott was inpatient for the post-mortem to begin. He’d left the squad room in a state of near chaos. All the paraphernalia from the temporary incident suite had just been dumped on the nearest desks and he was anxious that it should be properly co-ordinated and filed before he called this afternoon’s team briefing. It was vital at this stage that nothing should be overlooked; every report from the SOCO and the Pathologist, every witness statement and observation would need to be recorded and logged. Setting up a major incident room took time and experience but he was confident that DS Phil Tanner would be on top of things, at least until he was back with the preliminary report from the autopsy.
Looking around the room he nodded a greeting to the two SOCO officers who had been on the scene last night and who he knew hadn’t managed to get home yet. They looked as tired as he felt. It had been a long night for everyone and even the large espresso he had managed to drink on the way over from his office hadn’t given him the boost he was hoping for. All he hoped for now was that the adrenalin would kick in as soon as the pathologist started the autopsy. He was always grateful for the fact that even early in his career he had been able to detach himself from the body on the table and accept that this whole process should be treated as one piece in the investigative jigsaw. After all, when a person dies all that’s left of them is just a body. The thing that made a body more than the sum of the limbs went when death snatched it away.
But he’d lost count over the years of the number of young PCs fresh out of training college, uniform still crisp and new, boots polished to a mirror-like shine, who’d swaggered into the mortuary with a look of amused insolence, only to end up fainting like the primmest of Victorian ladies. Strange how it was often the beefiest looking macho kid who ended up flat on his back on the green tiled floor. Young woman seemed to be made of sterner stuff, maybe it was a constant diet of CSI DVDs that had enured them against the horrors waiting hidden under the white sheet. He smiled to himself when he remembered the exception that broke the rule. It was still a source of much amusement to the station that the first time their battle hardened Desk Sergeant had attended her first autopsy, she had vomited with such force that she only narrowly missed showering the corpse with the remains of her full English.
The room went quiet as Dr Fran Canning approached the table and signalled to the technician to remove the sheet that had been covering the corpse. Nodding a greeting to Lintott she pulled the overhead microphone across and started her initial examination.
‘White IC1 female, approximately 170cm tall, weighing 60 kilos’
As the pathologist methodically recorded every bruise and cut on Sandra’s lifeless body, Lintott was, as always, impressed by his friend’s aura of quiet confidence while she was working. The policeman and the pathologist had known each other for more years than either of them cared to admit. They had both been fresh out of college and in their first ‘proper’ jobs when, along with their mutual friends, they had enjoyed many a night at one of the local hostelries where Fran had downed enough whisky chasers to prove that junior doctors’ livers were in far greater peril than half their patients.
At one time Lintott had toyed with the idea of taking their relationship further. After all she was gorgeous, with those beautiful almond shaped eyes and silky coal black hair, but in the sober cold light of day he knew that it would be far more sensible to keep their friendship as platonic, rather than risk not being able to perform when he thought where her hands might have been only hours before. Such a strange job for a woman he thought, as he watched her complete the Y shaped incision cutting open the body to reveal the internal organs. It takes all sorts, he thought to himself.
Lintott watched in fascination as Dr Canning lifted out the stomach and placed it into the waiting metal dish.
‘It looks like someone had a good supper’ she announced as she carefully sliced open the waiting organ ‘these look like oysters if I’m not very much mistaken.’
‘Can you tell when she would have eaten them?’ asked Lintott moving closer to the table.
‘Not too long before she was killed. Two hours maximum I would say.’
Dr Canning continued to carefully pass the internal organs over to her assistant, who methodically weighed and inspected them before lining them up for her to check later. Moving to the top of the steel table she once again retrieved her scalpel to make the first incision across the scalp. Even the most hardened officers flinched at the sight of the scalp being pulled down across the face and the sound of the drill cutting through the skull. Gently lifting the head from its resting place she examined the back of the skull.
‘Geoff I think that you should look at this’
Peeling the flesh away from the skull had revealed what had lain hidden under Sandra’s thick red hair. Her skull had been cracked with such a force that it had splintered and ruptured her brain.
‘Any idea what could have done this?’ he asked
‘Looking at the shape of the wound I would think that it could be hammer but I’ll have to do more tests before I can say for sure.’
‘Can you give me a time of death yet?’
‘From the ambient temperature readings I took at the scene and that fact that it was a cold night, I’d estimate sometime between nine and ten o’clock.’
‘Is there no way you can narrow that down at all?’
‘There may be one way.’ she said moving across to a table at the end of the room where her technician had placed the clear plastic evidence bags that she had brought back from the scene. ‘This is the watch she was wearing when she was found. From the defensive wounds on her hands and arms it looks like she put her hands in front her face like this’ The pathologist crossed her arms in front of her face and bent her head downwards. ‘The watch looks like it was smashed in the attack. If you look carefully you can see that the glass face is broken and what might be even more interesting to you is that the blow stopped the watch at nine twenty.’
‘So if we can presume that she died at nine twenty are we safe in assuming that she ate those oysters at about seven o’clock?’
‘Yes but I’ll be able to give you a more accurate time when I’ve got the results of tests on the stomach contents back from the lab.’
‘There’s another thing that you should know Geoff before you get my report. I’ve had the results back from a swab I took at the scene. It looks like our Mrs Cousin had unprotected sex a few hours before she was killed.’
‘Could it have been rape?’
‘There’s no bruising around the vagina or anus that would indicate rape.’
‘Will you be able to get the DNA from the semen sample?’
‘Hopefully’ she answered ‘providing of course he is a secretor’
‘Well let’s hope that he is’ sighed Lintott as he wondered if today could possibly get any worse.