Jigsaw Man(8)

By: Elena Forbes



‘Was this how you found her?’ he asked a little abruptly, trying to recover himself.

‘More or less. Arabella didn’t need to shift her much to get what she wanted.’

He looked again at the scene in front of him, the chaos of the bed, the blood, the body lying untidily in the midst as though it had been violently discarded. He would study the photographs and video that had been taken but it looked as though there had been quite a struggle. Frenzy was the word that came to mind.

‘Were there any defence wounds?’

‘Doesn’t look like it.’

‘What about restraint marks?’

‘Again, nothing Arabella commented on.’

He frowned, surprised. He would call Arabella Browne later for more of an insight. Also, if the victim was drunk or had been drugged, it would show up on the toxicology report. Hopefully, the post mortem and forensic analysis would reveal more clues. He gazed around the room again. Apart from the area immediately around the bed, he was struck by how tidy it all was, nothing out of place. The air conditioning was making a racket above him and he suddenly felt very cold. He checked the thermostat on the wall. It was on the ‘Low’ setting, reading sixteen degrees, with the fan turned up to the maximum.

‘Did anybody change the thermostat?’

‘No. It’s been like this since I got here. Wish I’d put on my thermals.’

He frowned again, wondering why somebody might have deliberately turned down the thermostat when it was only a few degrees above zero outside. It was hardly conducive to a romantic atmosphere.

‘You say her clothes are gone. Did you find anything belonging to the man who booked the room?’

‘No.’

He made a mental note to ask if Herring had checked in with luggage and if anybody had taken it up to the room. Unless the victim had left her things in another room in the hotel, Herring would have needed something to carry them in, something that wouldn’t draw attention to him when he left the hotel in the early hours of the morning.

Jamieson unfolded the plastic sheeting and spread it out on the bed beside the body.

‘Can you give me a hand?’

Together they rolled the woman over onto her face and Jamieson started to untangle the bed sheet from the body’s legs. ‘Hang on. Take a look at this,’ she said, indicating the back of the woman’s thighs.

He peered over her shoulder. Faint, uneven red lines crisscrossed the woman’s skin in places.

‘We need some light,’ Jamieson said, unzipping the front of her suit. She pulled out a small torch, which was hanging on a cord around her neck, and shone it on the woman’s legs. The white beam illuminated what looked like a series of crudely formed capital letters. At first Tartaglia thought they had been tattooed on the victim’s skin, but looking closer he realised that they had been scored by something sharp, deep into her flesh. There was no bleeding, so the cuts had been made postmortem.

‘Did you find a knife or anything with a blade?’ he asked.

She shook her head, peering at the marks. ‘Whatever it is, the blade’s really fine and sharp. Like a Stanley knife.’

‘He may have taken it with him, but we should be looking at corridors, bins, stairwells, drains, anywhere close where he might have ditched it. I’ll get a search team onto it right away. Can you read what it says?’

‘ “E” something, then “O” something, then “S” something. The last bit looks like “Som”. She crouched down until her eyes were almost level with the top of the woman’s legs. ‘That’s better. I can read it now. “ERIS QUOD SUM.”’

He squinted, but still couldn’t see clearly. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes. I’m pretty sure.’

She passed him the torch and he crouched down beside her, angling the beam until he could make out the letters clearly. Eris Quod Sum. She was right. It was part of a familiar quote, although he couldn’t remember what it was from. Eram quod es. Eris quod sum. He looked up and met her gaze. ‘It’s Latin,’ he said. ‘You find it on gravestones. It’s the dead speaking to the living. “I once was what you are now. What I am, you will be.” Basically, we’re all going to die.’

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