Jigsaw Man(9)By: Elena Forbes
‘How very ominous. I didn’t know you spoke ancient Italian.’
‘Benefits of a good Catholic education,’ he said, getting to his feet. ‘Did Arabella see this?’
‘No. She was in and out of here like greased lightning. Sounded like she had the flu.’
‘I’ll catch up with her later, then.’ It would have been useful to have Arabella Browne’s initial input right away, but it could wait.
‘Who’s the message for, do you think? It’s pretty ominous.’
He grimaced. His head ached and he had seen enough for now. ‘It’s probably a wind-up. CSI gives them all sorts of creative ideas. Let’s get her out of here ASAP. I need to get back downstairs.’
They rolled the woman onto her back and as Jamieson moved to bag up her feet and hands, Tartaglia glanced automatically towards the woman’s face. His mind was already sorting through a quick priority list of things to be done next, but something caught his attention, some sort of fleeting impression of familiarity that made him pause. He looked at the woman again, hoping that it was a trick of the dim, shadowy light or his own tiredness and state of mind. Her face was bloodied and disfigured on one side by the beating she had received. Death also had a way of robbing a person of their humanity and turning loved ones into strangers. Still unsure, he moved over to the other side of the bed and as he brushed back the remaining hair from her face, the breath caught in his throat. Unable to speak, he blinked, studying every detail and contour, hoping that somehow he was mistaken.
‘What’s up?’ Jamieson asked somewhere in the background.
He inhaled deeply, then exhaled, staring blindly down at the body before him, automatically noting the cuts to her face, the bruising and swelling and obvious signs of strangulation, wishing that she were someone else. But there was no doubt about it and it was pointless wasting any more time. The hideous consequences started to unfurl in his mind. What should be done, how to handle it, who to call first . . .
He pulled off his mask and rubbed his face with his hands. Even though the room was like a fridge, he was sweating. He felt suddenly feverish and claustrophobic.
‘Mark? Are you OK?’
He looked up at Jamieson and shook his head. ‘No. I’m not OK. I know her.’
The car braked, then swerved to the right, rousing Tartaglia out of sleep. Minderedes leaned on the horn and muttered something unintelligible as he overtook a cyclist who had stopped in the middle of the road. Tartaglia stretched his shoulders, yawned and checked his watch. It was just after five in the afternoon but already dark. The day had gone quickly enough and the events of the morning seemed a distant memory. Gazing vaguely at the lit-up shop windows and passers-by as they sped past, he thought again of the woman whose corpse he had helped to zip inside a body bag that morning. Her name was Claire Donovan and her sister, Sam, had once been a detective sergeant on his team. Working closely together for almost two years, he and Sam had become good friends, although she had left the police a few months before to go back to university to study for a post-graduate degree. He hadn’t seen either her or Claire since. He still felt shaken by the discovery of Claire’s body in the hotel room early that morning and had spent the intervening hours trying to block out the memories, forget the Claire he had known, and do his job as best he could. But disturbing images from the darkened room kept crowding into his mind and he worried about his ability to see things objectively. Sam Donovan was also at the front of his thoughts and he wondered how she was coping with the news.
Other than the identification of the victim, little progress had been made with the case so far. The name Robert Herring had turned out to be an alias and the Manchester address entered into the reception log was equally fake. The mobile number ‘Herring’ had given was still switched off and untraceable and the credit card used to secure the booking had been Claire Donovan’s own. He had checked in just after seven o’clock the previous evening and the video footage taken of him at reception showed a youngish man of medium height and build. He was dressed in bulky winter clothing, with a thick scarf wound around his neck and a beanie pulled down low over his brow. The little that was visible of his face was disguised by dark-lensed aviators and a good few days’ worth of beard. He looked like a wannabe in the music or film business, not at all out of place in a hotel like the Dillon. He wore gloves and was carrying a large, black rucksack. CCTV footage showed him taking the back stairs up to the room and later, just before eight-thirty, Claire Donovan entering the building and going up to the second floor. The handbag she’d been carrying was still missing, but her coat and the shoes she was wearing looked to be the same as those left in the hotel room’s cupboard.