You can find the previous chapters of Shallow Waters Here.
Someone had made an attempt to conceal the girl. Her arms were down by her sides and her knees bent up to her chest, jammed between the bricks of the external wall of the restaurant and the huge frigid metal containers. The bin was at an angle to the wall. She was petite and looked to be between fourteen and sixteen years of age. The area was swamped by the light of the erected crime scene lamps and I could see her skin was pale and bruised.
I held myself still, trying to stop the constrictions that pushed at my insides. A bitter taste hit the back of my throat and I swallowed against it. The alley was an occasional home to local vagrants and a piss stop for drunks. The sight of the child, along with the overwhelming stench of urine and refuse, was overpowering.
“Not pretty,” said Aaron.
“No,” I replied.
Doug Howell, one of the crime scene techs, gave a quick nod of acknowledgement in our direction, his face intense as he photographed the tiny framed girl, the scene around him fractured by the camera flash as he worked.
A car door slammed at the end of the alley, an exchange of voices and then Jack Kidner, the Home Office registered forensic pathologist rounded the corner into sight.
“Couldn’t you get me up any earlier, young Hannah?” he shouted as he walked towards me.
“Sorry, Jack, you know how this city is. Runs by its own rules, spits out whatever it chooses, whenever it chooses, regardless of our plans for sleep.”
“By Jove, you did get out the wrong side of bed this morning didn’t you?” The crinkling of laughter lines around his eyes revealed a smile was hidden behind his protective mask.
“Thanks for coming, I appreciate it.” I sidestepped, allowing him to see the child discarded with the rubbish.
“God help us,” he muttered, crouching beside her. A medical bag that looked like it had seen better days dropped to the ground. “Doug, old chap, do stop flashing those blessed lights. I’m going to have an epileptic fit at this rate. Move the lamps in a little so I can see better, then you can flash away again before I move in closer.”
Doug, whose mass of grey hair had given rise to Jack’s descriptive “old chap” phrase, stopped. “It’s fine, I have what I need for starters, she’s all yours. I’ll photograph as you work.”
Jack stooped down and began his examination. He would take samples, test for any signs of sexual assault, do body taping and take a temperature for time of death. I gave him space and walked the alleyway with Aaron.
“You could get a vehicle down here with ease, even with the bins down the sides,” I thought aloud. “The darkness would offer cover.” The occasional lamp fitted above some of the buildings’ rear doors gave little in the way of light. Years of grime obscured their faint yellow glow; instead they cast shadows and created darker corners. There were no CCTV cameras down here either, just discarded boxes and crates, smashed up bottles and glasses, and tired, defaced business signs, neglected and forgotten. Aaron looked at me.
“It’s a shit hole,” he said.
“I know, it’s going to be a nightmare of a scene to process.” Everyone was going to work for their money over the next few days. I stopped and rubbed the outer edges of my arms, an attempt to stave off the chills that invaded me, the papery white suit sliding over my jacket. I looked back down the alley. Jack unfurled himself from his crouched position and waved us over.
“What have we got?” I asked as he signed the labels on the swab casings.
“If you look at our girl you can see some lividity. It’s not very pronounced, but I can say she’s been dead longer than thirty minutes. It started on her back, but this isn’t consistent with how she’s laid now, so she was moved after death.” He pushed the signed and sealed swabs into his bag.“Body dump,” said Aaron.
“Body dump,” said Aaron.
“That would be my thought. I can’t see that this would be our initial crime scene and, looking at the markings on her, I’d say death did not come quickly.”
“So, time of death?” I asked.“Oh yes, as I was saying, she isn’t really starting with
“Oh yes, as I was saying, she isn’t really starting with rigor either. Putting together the facts: it’s four degrees out here, she weighs approximately seventy pounds, is stripped of her clothes, and her core temperature is 34.4 degrees, I would put time of death between two and four and a half hours ago.”
“That would make it between ten p.m. last night and half past midnight today,” I figured. “What time do you want us for the PM?”
“Oh, I don’t know, eleven a.m.? It also gives us time to process her within the scene before removal. Then I can make some sweet caramel coffee to warm back up and get organised. Sound agreeable?”
“Sounds good. I’ll see you then. Thanks, Jack”
Walking out of the alley we left a large team of CSIs preparing to do a fingertip search of the area. Without knowing what is and isn’t relevant, all items would be examined, photographed in situ, logged and seized, including the contents of the rather large industrial waste bins. It would be a long night with several long days ahead for them. Jack stayed with them as the correct removal of the girl from the scene was discussed and organised. I was shattered. Much as I loved my job, I hated nights like these. Nights where I’m dragged from my bed at three a.m. and sent into dark, dirty alleyways. Nights where I had to start a murder investigation of the worst kind: that of a child. From now on, I wouldn’t sleep much. My head would be filled with images, of these things. Sights, sounds and smells together. I’m not just my job. I’m human and this job was a nasty one; it would take some getting through.