Killing Mind – Angela Marsons

I will not feel the fear. I will not feel the fear. I repeat the words to myself over and over in my mind. The fabric that cuts a tight line across my mouth prevents me from saying it out loud. My hands and feet are numb, caused either by the cold or the ties that bind me tightly to the chair, I’m not sure which. The goose bumps on my skin are raised and my breathing is shallow. I know how to control these physical reactions to the fear that is running around my brain. I have been taught. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. The dense silence around me offers no clues. It feels as though time is standing still. Somehow they’ve stopped it. My senses have been muted; there are no smells, sounds, there is nothing I can reach to touch. The blindfold prevents me seeing beyond the blackness of the cloth. There is only one sound and already I welcome and dread it at the same time.

The metallic clunk that echoes around me when they open the door assures me they’ve not left me here to die. Yet. But then I know that it will all begin again: the questions, the accusations, the lies. Their voices will assault me. Their words thrust into my ears like tiny insects. Left there to crawl and burrow into my brain. I was told they would do this. They are trying to reach the very heart of me. I know what they want but I can’t give it to them and therein lies my fear. What will they do when I refuse to say what they want me to say? ONE Kim could feel the tension emanating from her colleague in the driving seat as he negotiated the traffic island at Russells Hall Hospital and headed towards Dudley.

The cause of his mood could not be attributed to their target destination. Keats had told them not to rush. It was an obvious suicide, he’d said, and needed only their confirmation. ‘You doing something nice later?’ she asked. He’d requested the afternoon as annual leave and judging by the hard line of his jaw it wasn’t to do anything fun. ‘No,’ he answered, without looking at her. ‘Jeez, Bryant, turn that frown upside down.’ She waited for his retort at the irony of such a statement coming from her. No response materialised as he turned off the main road and pulled up short behind Keats’s van. She shook her head at his sullenness as she got out of the car.

Groups were congregating at the line of tape stretching between the squad car and the ambulance, their stomachs touching the tape in an ‘I was here first’ kind of way, possessively claiming the space as though at a music concert, terrified of missing out. Kim said nothing as she pushed her way through to the front. Bryant followed in her slipstream and didn’t offer one apology on her behalf. Blimey, he must be pre-occupied, she thought. She’d best not let on to Woody. She was only allowed out of the station because she was accompanied by a responsible adult who was responsible for holding her manners in his mouth. ‘Coming through,’ she called to the last couple who were holding on to their places as though queueing for a Boxing Day sale. She flashed her ID and ducked under the tape. A PC pointed to the stairs that appeared to lead to a first floor flat. Another directed her to the first door on the left.

Keats waited for the usual greeting from Bryant, as they normally spent a minute or two taking the piss out of her right in front of her face. No response came from her colleague as he attempted to look around the pathologist. Keats looked to her. She shrugged, having just as much an idea about his sour mood. Keats stepped aside to reveal a room bathed in red. Her keen sense of smell had already detected the metallic odour of blood. She could feel the sickly aroma wafting around her, sticking to her clothes, attaching itself to her hair. It would stay with her all day. But the smell had not prepared her for the quantity. ‘Oh my…’ Kim muttered, taking a step over the threshold.

Blood had sprayed around the walls, onto the ceiling and onto the window that was closest to the bed, upon which lay a young woman with a three-inch gash across her throat. Her hand lay by the right side of her torso; a knife contained loosely in her grasp. Along with the blood that had sprayed around the room a line led from the wound down onto her breastbone and around into her long blonde hair. Cold, empty blue eyes stared up at the ceiling from a face that, despite its bloodless complexion, was lineless and pretty. ‘The carotid?’ Kim asked, removing her gaze for just a minute. Keats nodded. ‘She clearly knew where it was and meant to end her own life.’ Kim could understand his reasoning. This wasn’t the first suicide they’d attended together but it was the first she’d seen where the person had cut their own throat. More common methods included overdosing, hanging and cutting the wrists.

Some of which were cries for help and others definite attempts to end a life. But she’d never seen one as definite as this. If you knew where the carotid arteries were and you decided to take a knife to one of them, you weren’t expecting anyone to come and save you in the nick of time. ‘How long?’ Kim asked. ‘I’d estimate her time of…’ ‘I meant how long would it have taken her to die?’ Kim asked, walking around the bed. The room was sparsely furnished with only a bedside table and lamp to the left of the double bed, which was decorated with a white cotton quilt bearing daisies beneath the blood. On the window sill was a Jo Malone candle still wrapped with cellophane. ‘A couple of minutes,’ Keats stated. ‘After the initial spurting, it takes a short while for the body to bleed out. She would have lapsed into unconsciousness before her heart eventually stopped.

’ Kim nodded coming back to the foot of the bed. What were you thinking for those few moments? Kim wondered, looking at the peaceful expression on the girl’s unlined face. Were you frightened? Relieved? Content with your decision? Kim knew she’d never get those answers. ‘No sign of forced entry or a struggle,’ Bryant said from behind. She hadn’t been aware he’d left the room to check. ‘Who raised the alarm?’ Kim asked, taking one last look over the body from the bare feet, cotton trousers, tee shirt to the blood spatter on her right hand. ‘Woman downstairs took her dog out into the garden before leaving for work at 8 a.m. Looked up and saw the blood on the glass. Knocked the door and called the police.

Landlord was here by the time the police arrived and let them in,’ Keats answered. ‘Door was locked?’ she confirmed. ‘Landlord said so, and I’d estimate her death somewhere between nine and eleven last night.’ Kim acknowledged the information with a slight nod. ‘You ready to call it suicide, Inspector?’ Keats asked, knowing they had to be in agreement before he recorded it. Keats would still need to perform a full post-mortem back at the lab, as dictated by the coroner for a suicide, but he would not be searching for clues on her behalf. Her involvement with the victim would end here. ‘What’s her name?’ ‘Samantha Brown,’ Bryant answered from the door. ‘Twenty-one years of age.’ Kim formed the mental checklist in her mind.

No sign of a struggle. No forced entry. Locked door. Method obvious to observers and achievable. Well, Samantha, if this is what you really wanted, I hope you’re finally free of your pain and you’ll suffer no more, Kim thought, looking down at the lifeless face. ‘Inspector, are you ready to call it?’ Keats repeated. She took a breath. ‘Yes, Keats, I’m ready to call it. Suicide it is.’ TWO The crowds had thinned by the time Kim stepped out of the building into the warm early September sunshine.

She guessed with only a couple of days until school term started spectators had been called back to their normal daily lives of going to work or buying new school uniform. She groaned as the dispersing masses revealed someone who had no such commitments. ‘Hey, Inspector, you got…’ ‘I saw you, Frost, which is why I was walking the other way.’ As the local reporter for the Dudley Star, Tracy Frost and Kim had had their moments of understanding over the years but, for Kim, the woman would always be one thing, a journalist after a juicy story. ‘So, is it true that…’ ‘Frost,’ Kim said, startling the woman by coming to a standstill. ‘How many times have you harassed me as I’ve left a location?’ ‘A few,’ she admitted. ‘And exactly how many times have I offered you any information that even you could stretch into a news headline?’ ‘None,’ she admitted. ‘But I just…’ ‘And that’s not gonna change today,’ Kim said, resuming her journey. ‘But feel free to ask Bryant,’ she tossed back over her shoulder. ‘Because he is in just the right kind of mood to talk to you.

’ ‘Detective Sergeant Bryant, can you tell me…’ ‘I’m assuming you’re impervious to sarcasm, Frost,’ Bryant said in a low voice, as he reached the driver’s door of the Astra Estate. Tracy Frost tossed her blonde hair before flouncing away on four inch heels. Kim couldn’t help recall the picture of a similar mane of blonde hair she’d just seen, matted with blood. She shook the image away. There was nothing she could do to help Samantha Brown now. Bryant’s phone buzzed as she felt hers vibrate in her pocket. ‘Samantha’s next of kin,’ Bryant observed as Kim scrolled to the message from Stacey. ‘I expect the sarge there will pass it…’ ‘We’ll go,’ Kim said, noting the address of the girl’s parents was less than two miles away. Bryant turned his wrist and checked his watch. It was almost eleven and he was due to finish his half shift at one.

The motion irritated her. ‘Bryant, I know you’re taking some “me” time today, but you’re still at work now and we’ve got a couple of parents whose lives are about to be shattered following the suicide of their twenty-one-year-old daughter. News that I really think we should be delivering but only if you’re sure you can spare the time.’ He didn’t look her way, or apologise for his lack of sensitivity. Instead, he offered her the same tone he’d offered Tracy Frost. ‘Yes, guv, of course I can spare the time.’

.

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