Cooper Kloot cleaned the iron bar, ensuring that all blood stains were removed. Satisfied that all evidence was gone, he replaced the object back into the boot of his car, covering it first with a cloth. Feeling in his pocket for his keys, he locked the car boot then went to his front door, checking that it too was secure. He looked at his wrist watch that gave the time as eight fifteen. It had been a busy night and he felt weary but first, he needed to get some food, some breakfast. He knew a café that was just down the road. He began walking. Winchester roads at this time of day were just getting busy. He looked to left then right then strode across the road, ignoring the zebra crossing on his left. Traffic noise was a low rumble. An airship floated by above him. On the belly of the airship and advert was promoting the Winchester Post.
He went into a newsagent where he bought a packet of Woodbines, a box of Bryant and May matches and a copy of the Morning Chronicle. Outside the shop he lit the cigarette, taking down a deep lungful of smoke. He observed as he smoked the people who were going about their everyday business: an elderly man, whiskered and badly dressed in a dirty corduroy jacket, pale trousers and a pair of heavy duty military boots. The old man coughed as he walked, a chesty bark that sounded like creeping death. A young woman who passed appeared to bounce as she moved. Her hair bobbed up and down, kinetic energy sparking invisibly from her frame: a newspaper girl whizzed by on her bike, her legs spinning the pedals, her bag casually hung over her shoulder.
Kloot stamped the cigarette out with the toe of his shoe, thrust the newspaper under his arm and then walked on toward the café. As he opened the door a blonde-haired woman pushed by him casually dressed in leather jacket and jeans. She seemed upset but he couldn’t tell why. In one corner of the oblong room sat a couple obviously enjoying each others company. Kloot could tell that the man was a copper by the way he moved. He didn’t mind the Old Bill even if they proved a definite obstacle in his profession. There was only one other table that had people sitting at it: four young workmen, all dressed in their fluorescent jackets conversed loudly as they drank their tea and ate their full English.
Kloot sat down at a table between the workmen and the couple. A fat Greek man waddled out, wiping his hands on his apron. He stood over Kloot, smiling but not speaking as if telepathy were the way to order food. Kloot ordered the same full English as the labourers. When it arrived he tucked in with zest.
He ate his food quickly before pushing the emptied plate to one side where he sat back and patted his stomach, smiling.
“Lovely,” he said to the silent Greek before ordering another cup of tea. He watched as the labourers got up and left, scraping their chair legs across the tiled floor. They called out a farewell to the Greek whose name appeared to be Apostolos. Then the policeman and his companion also got up and left, paying the bill to Apostolos who smiled then nodded graciously. Kloot laid out the newspaper beside him on the table then read from the back page as he drank his tea. The football results displeased him; his beloved Arsenal had lost one nil to Wolverhampton Wanderers. He tut-tutted loudly then picked up the paper, turning it over enabling him to read the day’s headlines: China had walked out on a peace initiative; Russia had called for Federal Europe to cut off diplomatic links to the Chinese Empire. The United States called for calm but refused to commit to the Commonwealth’s plea for a unified stance against China. The world seemed to be on the verge of a Second Great War.
Kloot sniffed. The thought of war had a range of positives and negatives for him. He couldn’t see how life for him would pan out; all he knew was that for now, he needed to collect payment for a job well done. Getting up from the table, he shoved a hand into his trouser pocket, pulling from it a wad of notes. He peeled away a single note then presented it to Apostolos who smiled benignly, nodding like a Greek philosopher. Kloot thanked him, then left the shop.
The wind was still blowing. He had no coat, being dressed in a blue suit. He thought briefly about catching a cab then decided against it. He walked off down the pavement intending to go back to the house he had rented and from it telephone his contact to arrange a meeting so that they could conclude their transaction. He stepped from the kerbside and as he did a car revved its engine then drove at him. He half-turned to see the car as it struck. An unfamiliar face looked out of the windscreen. His body crunched against the car’s bonnet then rolled over the roof, crashing onto the boot before limply tumbling to the uncaring tarmac. Kloot’s vacant eyes stared unseeing toward the sky above him. A thin trickle of blood ran from his mouth
Hilary had returned home after a brisk walk. She had added some distance by going via a longer, more circuitous route. The walk normally took an hour but this time, with the additional length it took one and a half hours. Her thoughts were filled with images of Adam Lazarus sitting with the female police detective. She knew she was being foolish as she had no reason to feel jealous but, sadly, she did.
She threw her jacket onto the kitchen work surface then put some coffee on the stove to heat. She then thought about the coffee, thought about how tired she was, how she had spent the previous day and night working then she turned the stove off.
Standing in the kitchen she pulled the blinds to shut out both light and the chance of neighbours peering in, then she started to undress. Pulling her roll neck top off, she then slipped out of her trainers then her jeans. Standing in nothing other than her bra and underpants, she scooped up the clothing from the floor, folding the jeans in half, then placing the jumper on top with the shoes in the same hand. In her bedroom, she put the clothing into a deep laundry basket then undid her bra before tugging her knickers around her ankles and stepping out of them. Again she picked the worn clothing up which she again dumped into the laundry basket. Looking at the clock it read twelve fifteen. She slid into bed naked, then curled up in a ball.
Sleep came but briefly and even then fitfully. She tossed and turned but the thoughts racing through her mind kept dragging her back. After four hours she got up feeling as tired as when she had gone to bed. It was eleven. Dragging on her dressing gown she padded out to the kitchen where she flicked the gas of the oven on. As she waited for the coffee to brew she went to her bathroom, turned on the taps in the shower, then climbed in the cubicle. The water sprayed across her face and down her breasts. She lathered soap across her belly then rubbed the suds over her chest, arms, armpits, and neck. A froth of white collected at her feet. The thought of Adam Lazarus would not be washed away as her fingers strayed down to her triangle of dark hair. She felt the tension leave her as her pleasure grew. She washed again then climbed out wrapping a large bath blanket around her. Tiptoeing on wet feet, she dripped her way to the kitchen where she poured herself a mug of coffee then she settled down with her feet curled beneath her on the sofa. The coffee tasted bitter but good, she sipped at it slowly enjoying its flavour. The phone rang, interrupting her reverie.
“WPC Millicent Peashod, Winchester police. We’ve had a hit-and-run. The man is dead, and we were wondering if you could check the corpse for us?”
“Have it sent over to my lab. I have some other things to do but I’ll look at it later today. What time is it now?”
"Okay, thanks. I’ll be at the lab in half an hour.”
She then poured another mug of coffee which she took with her to the bedroom where she dressed: white blouse with large blue spots, her customary jeans and a pair of brown brogues. She drank the rest of her drink then cleaned her teeth before spraying perfume on her wrists. She arrived at her laboratory at five thirteen. Parking the car she walked to the door, deactivating the alarm.
Donning a white surgical coat and a pair of pale blue latex gloves, she pulled the suicide cadaver from storage. She examined the body again looking for any tale-tell signs she had missed the previous day. Under the left arm, close to the armpit, she saw a tattoo that had escaped her attention. It was an odd image that featured a bowler-hatted bulldog standing proudly in front of the flag of St. George. She didn’t recognise the image. Taking her Zenith E camera down from the shelf where she kept it, she took a couple of snaps, focusing on the tattoo. A key turning in the lock made her look up.
“It’s open,” she called, thinking the funeral directors had arrived early with the hit-and-run victim.
“Morning Doctor,” rumbled the deeply accented voice of Mrs. MacCrumpet, Hilary’s housekeeper.
“Mrs. MacCrumpet, I wasn’t expecting you today.”
“Aye, mebbe not but I’m here as like as not.” The woman’s deep voice growled with Glaswegian gruffness.
“Fine, but would you mind not coming in here, I am conducting an autopsy.”
“I thought ye sliced that bugger open yesterday?”
“I did but I need to re- examine.”
The Scottish cleaner stomped away muttering to herself. Hilary thought she heard her mumbling something about, “Wouldn’t need to if ye did it right first time.” Hilary chose to ignore the comment. She knew the woman all too well and accepted the way Mrs. MacCrumpet adopted the stereotypical Scots dourness. She was, in fact, a lovely lady if and when she let her guard down.
There were no distinguishing marks other than the tattoo so Hilary wheeled the corpse back into cold storage. Then the funeral director, George Koffen, arrived. He was a ruddy-faced man with sandy, thinning hair and a whimsical disposition. Hilary couldn’t think of a less likely funeral director for Mister Koffen seemed perpetually happy.
“Morning Doctor. I hope you don’t mind me saying so but you look tired; you have bags under the eyes which don’t look good on you if you don’t mind me saying.
“Thanks,” said Hilary, glaring daggers at the man. “Push the corpse over here will you?”
“Who's going t’help me unload then? He’s a big fellow you know, heavy with it. I can’t do it on me own as I might put me back out again.”
Hilary sighed. She didn’t have any staff, apart from Mrs. MacCrumpet so if the man needed help then she was the only person who could. She pulled her latex gloves from her hands.
“Come on then,” she cried out, “let’s get the victim onto the mortuary table.”
“I don’t want t’stay and watch,” said Mister Koffen.
They strolled back to the parked hearse that had brought the body in.
“You won’t have to. Grab hold of this leg and pull. Go steady. Not too fast, we don’t want the poor dead soul banging his head now do we?”
Together they lifted the corpse of Cooper Kloot onto the steel trolley. Hilary wheeled him along the short tiled corridor then into her plastic-curtained laboratory where she placed him next to her surgical table.
“I’ll be off then,” cried out Mister Koffen,” until the next time.”
Hilary didn’t bother answering the man. Cheerful he may be but also bone idle. She really should hire an assistant as lifting dead people could be hard work, especially if, like this cadaver, they weighed fourteen stone. A routine check of the man gave no contra-indication of anything other than death by motor accident. Then, almost as an afterthought, she lifted the man’s left arm. Under it was a tattoo exactly the same as the one she had found on the Wessex Tower suicide.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.