Mother's Day (Part 1)

This is the first draft of the first 2000 words of "Mother's Day".

Detective Inspector Brandt had a very piercing snore. Guttural and nasal, you didn't just hear it - you felt like it was burrowing into your head. His colleagues compared it to a pneumatic drill, a dalek with asthma, or a dozen other things. They had plenty of opportunity to find metaphors for it because they heard it so often - though somehow never when his superiors were nearby.

Currently it was ten in the morning and Brandt was snoring in the passenger seat of his car. His new Sergeant was driving and wondering what he'd let himself in for. It was Sergeant Harris' first murder - first suspicious death, he corrected himself - and they'd put him under a man who dressed like a mad tramp, kept a horrible car that belonged in a scrapyard...and slept all the time. Loudly.

41B Newman Street, said Harris to himself, glancing at the local streetmap. A row of new redbrick houses, in one of the posher parts of town. Just ten minutes walk from the two just-opened swanky restaurants, the renovated cinema, the wooded area, and the shopping centre that was still being built. And that road with the small church where all the prostitutes still hung out.

Brandt gave a grunt as they ran over a pothole, turning left into Newman Street. Harris carefully parked the car opposite the fluttering yellow "Crime Scene" banners. The two uniformed officers standing guard outside didn't move.

"Sir, we're here", said Harris, gingerly nudging his superior officer.

"Good!" declared Brandt, his eyes flying open as though he hasn't really been asleep at all. "Now remind me why we're here."

Oh god, thought Harris. "Teenage girl found bludgeoned last night by her mother, sir.", he said, summarising their earlier briefing. "Emily Rush, 19..."

"Oh yes. You thought I'd forgotten, hadn't you?"

Brandt heaved himself out of the car. He was a large man, 6 foot 2, heavy boned and almost obese. Somewhere in indeterminate middle age, he cultivated a permanent three-day black stubble and unkempt short hair. He wore a dark green moth-eaten coat over his barely-regulation tatty grey trousers and off-white shirt.

He flashed his pass at the two uniformed constables - who, presumably recognising him, didn't even bother to look - before ducking under the yellow tape barriers and making for the open front door. He was met there by a man in an inspector's uniform.

"Hi Bob", said Brandt tiredly, "Where's the people?"

"The daughter's upstairs with doctor Molyneux", replied Bob. "The mother's in the kitchen. Name's Irene. This way."

Inspector Bob Rawlin was a grey haired lifelong uniform copper whose only remaining ambition was to reach retirement without formal reprimand or a knife wound - though he wondered how the force would cope without his experience and calming presence.

He led Brandt and Harris through a bare and neat sitting room, into a modern, well scrubbed kitchen. There was a handsome woman in early forties sitting on a high stool, clutching a mug of tea, staring into the middle distance. She wore a sombre brown trouser suit with stripes, and sensible walking shoes. Her honey coloured hair was tied back, and her only item of jewelry was a fake emerald brooch. Her face showed she'd been crying, but now she was just withdrawn, ignoring the WPC at her side and the men in her home.

"Mrs Rush", said Brandt. "My name's Detective Inspector Brandt. I'm sorry to have to do this, and I'm sure you just want to be left alone, but we've got to ask you some questions, so we can begin to find out who did this to your daughter."

For a long moment she seemed not to have heard him. Then her eyes focused and she turned them on the crumpled man in her kitchen.

"It's Miss", she said in a level, controlled voice, "and I understand. What do you need to know?"

"First of all, we need to know what you were doing last night."

"Working. I got home at...about midnight. Maybe quarter past. I didn't hear anything so I thought Emily might be asleep. I watched a bit of TV, made myself some coffee. Then at...twelve thirty, twelve forty five, I don't know...went upstairs to bed, and checked in her bedroom. She wasn't there so I thought she must be doing her meditation in the spare room and she wouldn't want to be disturbed so I didn't look in on her and...

The stream of words stopped and for several seconds she fought to hold back tears. With a determined expression, she regained control.

"I went to bed. Woke up at nine. I called her but she didn't answer, so I looked in her bedroom and the spare bedroom and...

"She was lying on the floor, with blood on her head. I...I ran over to her and...her eyes were open. I mean, they were fixed open. I don't remember what I did next...probably just stood and stared. But I called the police...and an ambulance. It took them forever to arrive. I couldn't do anything. Just wait."

Irene seemed about to say something else, but her gaze just melted back into the middle distance.

"Miss Rush", said Brandt after a few seconds, "Can you tell us about your work?"

Her eyes continued to stare off to one side, and she spoke as though on automatic pilot.

"I work five till eleven for the Bugle. The local newspaper. Not the night shift. They call it the twilight shift. I'm in the accounting section. I walk from there. Takes me about an hour."

"And you work there five days a week?"

"Four. Alternating."

"I see. And was your daughter usually home when you got back?"

"Most days. Sometimes she was out with that boyfriend of hers. Alvin, his name is. Alvin Lucas."

"Does he ever visit her here?"

"No, not anymore. We did it once or twice but, he and I...."

"I see. We'll need to talk to him. Do you know his address or phone number?"

"No. But it'll be in Emily's diary. It's upstairs with..."

Spasmodically she closed her eyes and struggled against tears again. She didn't open them until she was once again fully composed.

"We'll get it." said Brandt as though there had been no interruption. "Now, was there anyone else who sometimes came to see your daughter? A friend, someone who'd come and collect her to go somewhere...?"

"No I don't think so. But anyone could have got in the back way. I was always telling her to lock the back door but she never did. Silly girl, wait! Of course there were people! Her karate friends!"

"She studied karate?"

"Yes! At the community centre. Some of her friends from there sometimes came round to practice moves and do their meditation in the spare bedroom. We set it up specially for her."

"Right, could you..."

"One friend in particular.", She was quite animated now. "Um...Leon! That was his name. Young fellow. Seventeen. Chinese. He came round quite often. Once a week, maybe a little less."

"Okay. So when was the last time he was here?"

"Oh...not for two weeks. That I know of. But he often came round when I wasn't here. Early evening. I think know, I think he liked her. Quite a lot actually."

"Okay, we'll check out the karate club at the community centre..."

"And Leon."

"And Leon. But I also need to know where your daughter went, what other people she might have known. What did she do days and nights? Did she have a job? College?"

"Um. No. She dropped out of university six months ago. She was looking for a job. Well, I say looking..."

"I know what you mean. What about nightclubs, music venues, pubs. Did she go out much evenings or nights?"

"No, not really. Well, not that I knew about anyway. She never told me."

"So she stayed in this house most of the daytime and nighttime, except when she went to the karate club or to see her boyfriend. Sometimes she had visitors and they'd practice karate upstairs. Did she know people on the internet? Chatrooms, online games, that sort of thing?"

" Infrequently. I think she kept in touch with a few people by email, but it wasn't a big thing for her. My god. Do you think she met some pervert on the internet?"

"I don't know, but it's something we'll have to look into. We're going to have to take your daughter's computer for a few days I'm afraid, to look for anything like that."

Irene shrugged, suddenly uninterested.

"Okay", said Brandt. "I'm going to follow all this up, and I might have some more questions for you later. Before that, I'm going to have to have a look at your daughter."

The mother didn't respond, but she took a sip of her tea.

In the hallway outside, Harris lent over and spoke quietly the Brandt.

"What do you make of that, sir?"

Brandt looked at him, puzzled. "What am I supposed to make of it, Harris?"

"Well sir, do you believe her?"

"I don't know yet. I've only just met her and haven't checked anything she said yet. But it's obvious who she thinks killed her daughter."

Before Harris could say anything else, Brandt bounded heavily up the stairs.

There were four rooms upstairs - one was obviously a small bathroom, one a tidy bedroom, one a rather untidy bedroom, and the other...

...contained Doctor Christopher Molyneux and his assistant, dressed in white coveralls, photographing a dead girl on the floor.

The doctor looked up, smiled in that eye-crinkling, nose-scrunching way he had, and carefully walked over to Brandt. Doctor Molyneux was taller than Brandt, older, fatter, hairier, and happier.

"Morning", he said amiably. "Single blow to the back of the head with a blunt instrument - most likely that blood covered metal statue that's next to her, though I'm prepared to be proven wrong on that point. Assailant probably right handed, didn't need much strength, could have been a woman or a teenager. Death would have been instantaneous or near as dammit. No fingerprints or fibres so far."

"And a good morning to you, Doctor", returned Brandt. "Can I take a closer look?"

"If you're careful and don't leave any fingerprints or drop any litter.", said the doctor, producing a boiled sweet from nowhere and popping it into his mouth. He must have given up smoking again.

Brandt cautiously stepped into the room, leaving Harris outside looking squeamish with the good Doctor for company. The assistant had started photographing the shelves.

The room was spacious with no carpet or furniture except a wicker chair in one corner. There were shelves containing piles of CDs, books on martial arts and pop music, and a dozen kitch knick-knacks representing the mysterious east. One of them was lying on the floor - a dark brass figurine of a dragon curled up as though asleep. There was hair and blood on its back.

Unable to put it off any longer, Brandt lent over the body of the girl. She was lying chest down, face right, arms and legs splayed and bent, as though she'd tripped and fallen. She was wearing baggy jeans and a figure-hugging white t-shirt, shoes with raised heels and no socks, all splattered with patches of mud and dirt. The jeans dipped at the back to reveal a bright purple thong. There was a dry dead leaf stuck to the back of her t-shirt.

She was in her late teens, looking healthy and well scrubbed with well kept long straight blond hair - except for the mess of congealed blood behind her crown, and a bruise above the left temple. Her eyes were open and staring blankly, her nose was small and upturned, and her mouth was slightly open in what looked like the first moment forming an expression of surprise.

Brandt straightened up and turned to the doctor. "It looks like she walked through the woods last night."

"Yes", said Doctor Molyneux, sucking on his sweet. "In fact, I'd say she rolled around in it. There's quite a lot of bruises too. Some are weeks old - I'd say five or six - and they look pretty consistent with martial arts. But some are just a few hours old, and they look...

He tailed off. Brandt raised his eyebrows.

"This is strictly off the record, Brandt. I could be wrong and the post mortem will show for certain, but...the newer bruises are consistent with being attacked and held down from behind, not playfighting from the front. It looks like she was violently assaulted in the woods. I think...she might have been raped."

Brandt was silent for seconds. "You're saying..."

"Officially I'm not saying anything."

"But off the record, she might have been raped in the woods last night...and then killed back here?"

"That's what it looks like."

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