Jigsaw Man(7)

By: Elena Forbes



‘No reason. I tried calling you but some funny bloke answered your phone.’ Tall and athletic, she was fully suited and masked, but he could tell from her brown eyes that she was smiling.

‘I left it in a taxi last night.’

‘Ah . . . These things happen. I’m afraid I had to make a start without you.’

‘So where are we?’ he asked, grateful that she wasn’t going to make a song and dance about it.

‘As you can see, we’ve cleared a path so you can go into the room. It looked sexual, so I asked for a pathologist.’

‘Who’s on call?’

‘Arabella. She’s already been and gone. She’s pretty certain, from a quick visual, that cause of death is manual strangulation. There’s clear bruising to the neck and very obvious petechial haemorrhaging. She took some intimate swabs so we don’t lose anything, but said the rest could wait until later.’

‘Was the woman killed in the room?’

‘We think so. On the bed. Someone’s pummelled the right side of her face. She was still alive, judging by the swelling and bruising and the amount of blood on the sheets. I’ve examined the areas of exposed skin and she’s now ready to go. I want to get her out of here before the world wakes up, so they’ll be bringing a stretcher up any minute now.’

‘Do we have an ID?’

Jamieson shook her head. ‘She’s in her underwear but her clothes and personal things are gone, apart from an overcoat and a pair of heels in the cupboard.’

He wasn’t thinking clearly, but the most obvious solution was that the killer had taken her clothes and personal things for some reason. Why he had left the shoes and coat behind was another matter.

‘How far have you got with the room?’ he asked.

‘Nothing interesting so far. The photos and video are done. I can walk you through it all later, if you want. We’ll do light-sourcing and fingerprints but, given it’s a hotel, how far do you want to take it?’

‘That’s fine for now. I’ll just take a quick look at the room, then I’ll get back downstairs.’

Jamieson led the way to the door and clicked it open with a passkey, saying, ‘I’ll be back in a minute.’

Inside, a room-service trolley was parked up against a wall of the small internal lobby. An unopened bottle of champagne stood in a watery ice bucket beside two unused flutes. He pulled it out and looked at the label. Krug. No ordinary champagne, he noted, wondering how much a bottle would set you back in such a place. He lifted the metal covers off two plates. Half a dozen oysters beneath one; some sort of white fish under the other, with a gravy boat of what looked like congealed Hollandaise under a napkin on the side. So, the killer rings down to room service and orders food. Things must have been going well up to that point. Then something goes wrong and half an hour later, the woman’s dead. Was that what had happened? It didn’t quite stack up.

There was a small marble-clad bathroom to one side. The lights were on and he gave it a cursory look before pushing open the bedroom door. As he went in, he was hit by a blast of chill air. Someone had been sick on the floor just inside the room. The waiter, he assumed, or someone else from the hotel. The room was spacious and almost identical to Jannicke’s, with a modern black four-poster bed pushed up against one wall, a desk in one corner and a couple of armchairs grouped around a coffee table. The heavy red-striped curtains were still drawn, as they had been the previous night, and the lighting was very dim. Even so, he could see that the bed looked as though it had been hit by a typhoon, sheets and duvet half on the floor, pillows and cushions scattered around. The victim lay across the bed on her side, dark hair covering her face, her body partially hidden under a tangle of blood-stained sheets. He had never had a problem being alone with a body before, but he found it all suddenly oppressive and, in the shadowy light, felt strangely disorientated, almost intoxicated again. His vision blurred and for a moment he saw another woman lying before him, looking up at him, mouth slightly open, as if about to say something. It was as though no time had passed, he was in a room on the opposite side of the courtyard, it was still night outside, and he had never left the hotel. He blinked and shook his head. Maybe he was still drunk. He would get some strong black coffee as soon as he was done. He heard a noise and turned to find Jamieson in the doorway, holding a large, folded plastic sheet.

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