Dead Memories – Angela Marsons

Amy Wilde’s eyes closed as the liquid gold entered her vein and travelled around her body. She could visualise the trail of white hot beauty hurtling towards her brain. The effects were almost immediate. The pleasure suffused every inch of her being, almost painful in its intensity. The euphoria transported her to another planet, another world, somewhere undiscovered. Nothing in her life had ever felt so good. Elation pumped through her body. Wave after wave of ecstasy surged through her skin, muscles, tendons – right through to the centre of her bones. She tried to hang on to it as it weakened in strength. Don’t go. I love you. I need you. Don’t go, her mind screamed, pleaded, begged, desperate to hang on to the sensation for as long as she could. As the last tremors of happiness faded away she turned her head to her left to share that secret smile with Mark, her lover, her friend, her soulmate as she always did after a shared hit of heroin. But Mark didn’t look okay, she realised, through the fatigue that was pulling her into the welcoming dark oblivion that always followed the hit.

She knew they were sitting on the floor in an unfamiliar room. She knew the radiator was warming her through the denim jacket. She knew there were handcuffs around her wrist but she didn’t care. Nothing mattered after a hit like that. She tried to say Mark’s name but the word wouldn’t crawl out of her mouth. Something was wrong with Mark. His eyes were not closed, already succumbed to the warm drowsiness. They were wide: staring, unblinking, at a spot on the ceiling. Amy wanted to reach across and touch him, shake him awake. She wanted to share that smile before she gave in to the dark.

But she couldn’t move a muscle. This wasn’t normal. The usual heaviness that soaked into her bones made her feel lethargic and weighted down but she could always muster enough energy to turn and snuggle Mark. The exhaustion was trying to take her, pulling at her eyelids, willing her to sleep, but she had to try and touch Mark. Through the descending fog she tried with all her might to move a single finger, but there was no response. The message was not making it out of her brain. She tried to fight the creeping drowsiness, but it was like a blanket being pulled up over her head. She felt helpless, weak, unable to shoo away the blackness, but she knew that Mark needed her. It was no use. She couldn’t outrun the shadows that chased her.

Her eyes began to droop as she heard the door to the flat slam shut. ONE Kim felt her jaws clench at the incessant tapping sound niggling her left ear. A moth had entered her garage space through the open shutter that was capturing little breeze from the storm-heavy June air. The insect was launching itself repeatedly against the 60 watt bulb. But that wasn’t the tapping that was annoying her. ‘If you’re bored, piss off,’ she said, as a few flecks of rust dislodged from the wheel spokes and landed on her jeans. ‘I’m not bored, I’m thinking,’ Gemma said, tipping her head and looking up at the moth, who was giving himself an aneurism. ‘Convince me,’ Kim said, drily. ‘I’m trying to decide whether to take the flowers with me or arrange them in a vase at home.’ ‘Hmm…’ Kim offered, helpfully, as she continued to scrape.

She knew that Bryant and many other people questioned her relationship with the teenager who had been sent to kill her, manipulated and used by Kim’s nemesis, Doctor Alexandra Thorne. Bryant’s view was that the girl should be locked up at Drake Hall prison, where her mother was currently residing and where the girl had come into contact with the sociopathic psychiatrist who had made it her life’s work to torment Kim at every opportunity since she had put an end to her sick experiments on her vulnerable patients. As far as Bryant was concerned there were no circumstances under which you could befriend a person who had wanted you dead. It was simple. Except it wasn’t. Because Kim understood two things perfectly: how skilled Alexandra Thorne was in manipulating every weakness or vulnerability a person had – the ones they knew about and even the ones they didn’t. And that the girl had suffered a shit childhood through no fault of her own. She wasn’t being facetious in not responding to the girl’s comment. It just wasn’t something she could see happening. Gemma’s mother had been in and out of prison all the kid’s life, palming her child off onto any relative who’d have her, until no one would take the child.

Gemma had resorted to selling her body in order to eat. Yet, for some reason, the kid had maintained regular contact with her mother and visited at every opportunity. The woman was due for release the following week but somehow she always managed to get herself into some further trouble that extended her sentence. Kim had offered Gemma a loose invitation that whenever she was in need of a meal to come round, instead of heading for the streets, and while she couldn’t offer a gourmet meal she could throw in some oven chips or a pizza. And Gemma had taken her up on the offer, even after she’d secured a job a month ago working part-time at Dudley Library. ‘So, how’s work?’ Kim asked, avoiding the subject of her mother completely. Gemma blew a raspberry, and Kim laughed. There were days Gemma was an old eighteen-year-old hardened by choices and what life had thrown at her already and other times she was just eighteen. And Kim hadn’t minded the unexpected company today. Of all days.

‘Look, Gem, it might not be brain—’ ‘Numbing,’ she cut in. ‘It’s brain numbing,’ she said, pulling a face. ‘I check books out; I check books back in. I put ’em back on the shelves. In the evening before we close I get the coveted job of wiping over the keyboards of the communal computers.’ Kim hid her smile. It was much more entertaining hearing Gemma complain about her job than moaning she couldn’t get one. ‘Oh, and yesterday I had this lovely old dear approach me,’ she said, standing. She hunched her back and pretended to walk with a cane across the space. ‘“Excuse me, love, but could you show me how to send these photos to my son in New Zealand?” she asked thrusting her ancient digital camera at me.

I swear…’ ‘Hang on,’ Kim said, as her phone began to ring. ‘Stone,’ she answered, brushing rust off her jeans. ‘Sorry to disturb you, Marm, but something happening over at Hollytree. A bit garbled. Got an address and one word,’ said a voice from dispatch. ‘Give me the address,’ she said, getting to her feet. ‘Chaucer block, flat 4B,’ he said. Her stomach turned. Same block, three floors lower. Today, of all fucking days.

‘Okay, I’m on my way. Get Bryant en route too.’ ‘Will do, Marm.’ ‘And the word?’ she asked. ‘What was it?’ ‘ I t w a s “ d e a d ”, M a r m. T h e w o r d w a s “ d e a d ”.’ TWO Kim negotiated the maze of streets, dead ends and shortcuts with ease on the Ninja, drawing curious glances from the groups of people congregating on the pavements wearing as little clothing as possible in an effort to catch the night-time breeze. The sun had set fifteen minutes earlier leaving a red marble sky and a temperature still in the high teens. It was going to be another long, sticky night. She wound the bike around the bin stores and headed for Chaucer House, the middle block of flats at the bulging belly of the sprawling Hollytree housing estate.

Chaucer was known for being the roughest of the tower blocks, home to the worst that society had to offer. It had also been home for the first six years of her life. Normally, she was able to keep that thought pinned to the noticeboard at the back of her mind. But not today. Right now, it was front and centre. She eased the bike through two police cars, an ambulance and a first responder bike and parked behind Bryant’s Astra Estate. He lived a couple of miles closer and it had taken her a few minutes to shepherd Gemma out of her house. The girl had been wideeyed with curious questions about what she’d been called to. Not that Kim would have told her but she hadn’t known herself. ‘Oi, pig on a bike,’ shouted a voice from the crowd as she removed her helmet.

She ran a hand through her short black hair, freeing it from her scalp, while shaking her head. Yeah, she hadn’t heard that insult for at least, oh, three days or so. The crowd around the voice laughed, which Kim ignored as she headed for the entrance to the tower block. She’d passed an outer cordon, an inner cordon and then met a wall of constables at the lifts and staircase. The lift on the right had dropped below floor level and its doors gaped open, obviously out of order. ‘Evening, Marm,’ said a WPC stepping forward. ‘One working lift,’ she said, pointing to the display which told her it was currently on floor five. ‘We’re clearing the floor above and the floor below, Marm.’ Kim nodded her understanding. The stairs were being kept free for police use, while the lift was being kept as a means of access for the residents.

Evacuating the whole building for an incident on one floor was not an option, so the situation had to be managed. She headed for the stairs and began the ascent to the fourth floor. Thank goodness her left leg was now in a stronger state to deal with it, following the fracture she’d sustained after falling from the roof of a two-storey building in a previous case three months ago. Officers were stationed at each floor to ensure no one tried to get closer to the incident. One of the officers at the fourth floor smiled and held open the door into the lobby. She approached the open doorway. Inspector Plant blocked her way. ‘What the?…’ ‘If you can just hang on?’ he said, looking behind him. She gave him a hard stare. She knew this guy well, had worked with him a few times.

What the hell was he playing at? ‘Plant, if you don’t move yourself from that—’ ‘Your colleague, Bryant,’ he said, uncomfortably. ‘He doesn’t want you in there.’ ‘What the fuck are you on?’ she raged. It was a crime scene, she was the SIO and she wanted access. ‘I don’t give a shit what…’ Her words trailed away as Bryant came into view behind the inspector, who moved out of the way. His face was ashen and drawn, his eyes full of horror. He hadn’t looked as bad as this when he’d been lying on the floor with her hand in his stomach to stop the blood that was oozing out of him on their last major case. If he wasn’t known to the constables as a detective sergeant someone would be wrapping him in a foil blanket. ‘Bryant, what the?…’ ‘Don’t go in there, guv,’ he said, quietly. Kim tried to understand what was going on here.

Together they had witnessed the worst that mankind could do to each other. They’d viewed bodies where the stench of blood clung to the air. They’d seen corpses in the worst state of decay, alive with maggots and flies. Together they had unearthed the bodies of innocent teenage girls. He knew her stomach could handle just about anything, so why was he trying to stand in her way now? He ushered her to the side. ‘Kim, I’m asking as a friend. Don’t go in there.’ Never before had he used her first name on the job. Not once. What the hell had he just seen? She took a deep breath and fixed him with a stare.

‘Bryant, get out of my way. Now.’ THREE Kim weaved her way through the personnel that were providing a guiding tunnel towards the crime scene. No one gave her a second glance. She was expected so what the hell was Bryant’s problem? she wondered, feeling his presence behind. Bloody drama queen. A wall of uniforms parted, and she froze. For just a few seconds every sound around her was muted, every movement not seen, as her eyes registered the scene before her. The saliva dried in her mouth as she wondered if she was going to pass out. She felt Bryant’s hand on her elbow, steadying her.

She turned to look at him. His expression was fearful, concerned. And she got it. She knew why he’d tried to protect her. She swallowed down the nausea and turned back, trying to shake off the slow-motion feel to her actions. An emaciated black-haired male in his late teens sat with his back against the radiator. His dead, glossy eyes stared straight ahead, his head lolled to the left. His bony legs were lost inside the jeans that covered them. Milky white arms, little wider than a snooker cue, hung out of the short-sleeved tee shirt. Undeniably dead, his body began to move, to shudder rhythmically.

Kim followed the line of his right arm, slightly extended from his body, to his wrist and the handcuff that was still attached to the radiator and the wrist of the girl on whom the paramedics were still working, causing the awkward, jerky movements that rippled across. Events around her began to filter back in as though someone was gradually removing headphones from her ears. ‘I think we gotta move her, Geoff,’ said one of the paramedics. ‘We got her back twice, next time…’ His words trailed away, no need for a full explanation. She moved aside as they lifted her effortlessly onto the stretcher. The preservation of life over the preservation of evidence. No one got to investigate anything while paramedics were working. There were no grunts of effort as they lay her down. The girl was even thinner than the dead boy beside her. Her bones appeared to be barely covered by the thin layer of skin that hung loosely in places.

Her young face was gaunt, cheekbones and chin sharp against her skin. Dark rings circled her eyes and sores littered her skin. A low moan sounded from her mouth as they headed towards the door. The second paramedic kicked something as he passed by. It landed at her feet. She heard Bryant’s sharp intake of breath as he looked down at the empty Coca Cola bottle. Kim tried to maintain her composure as she looked around. She expected all eyes to be on her. Waiting for some kind of reaction. A reaction that every cell of her being wanted to scream.

No one was looking her way. Of course, they weren’t. They didn’t know. A boy and a girl chained to a radiator. A Coke bottle. This same flat a few floors up. The sweltering heat outside. The boy dead, the girl alive. They didn’t know this was a recreation of the most traumatic event of her life. Bryant did and yet there was something even he wasn’t aware of.

Today marked the thirty-year anniversary.

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