Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Publishers! Pay Attention! (And a warning to cat owners)

Well, still no news. I suppose no news is good news. It's not another rejection letter afterall.

Anyway, while we wait, and because Caroline Smailes' blog performed magic for her (although hers is much more loved and, to be fair, much more regularly written upon. Upon? In? To? No, 'to' would be like a diary wouldn't it? Nevermind) I thought I'd try posting a little bit of novel two.

I'm not expecting much. It's for my own amusement really.

Besides, it's got one of my favourite characters in from the book:

‘You really don’t have to be here for this DS Andrews.’ The pathologist was pulling off rubber gloves stained pink. They dropped into a bin with a wet slap. The pathologist wiped his hands on black corduroy trousers and adjusted his glasses. He stretched out a hand to Delphin. ‘Inspector Delphin, it’s been a while. I’d heard you were back in the area.’ Delphin could feel the clammy sweat on the pathologists hand, could see the dried blood on his sleeve.

‘Detective Sergeant Delphin and I are here to examine our body.’ Andrews stepped through the handshake and leant against a sink on the opposite side of the room. He spat out his gum, leaving it mangled in the sink, spinning slowly in a thin film of yellowed slime in the bottom. Andrews frowned then looked up at the pathologist. He pushed out his hand. ‘So can we see her or not, Dr…?’

‘Miller. Dr Steven Miller.’ Miller’s hands stayed by his sides and Andrews was left, gloved fingers outstretched waiting for a handshake that did not come. Andrews ran his tongue across his teeth. He adjusted his gloves.

‘Can we see our body, Dr Miller?’

‘No, it really isn’t necessary DS Andrews’ Miller glanced at Delphin. ‘Usually I simply email you my report. There really was no need for you to come all the way down here.’ Miller strode past Andrews, turned on the tap, rinsing away the thick slime and the twisted ball of gum which circled the drain slowly, trapped by sticky yellow tongues. Miller shrugged off his white jacket and noticed the blood on his sleeve. He sniffed at it and scowled. ‘It’s actually very rare that I see any of your lot down here.’

‘Well, perhaps they are not as thorough as I am?’ Andrews threw another piece of gum into his mouth and pulled his gloves up. He stood, leaping up from the sink. ‘So let’s see her, Miller.’

‘Dr Miller, thank you.’ Miller spoke slowly. His wide eyes were on Andrews, watching him chew his gum, watching tiny splashes of spit spray from between his lips. ‘Have you ever seen an autopsied body, DS Andrews?’

‘Of course.’

‘Really? Because Conston hasn’t seen a murder in a good few years now.’ Miller smiled, tugged at his shirt cuffs, examined his cufflinks. ‘How long have you been on the force DS Andrews, if you don’t mind me asking?’

Andrews stopped chewing, Delphin watched the muscles around his jaw tense, saw the blood creep into his cheeks.

‘We don’t have time for this.’ Andrews stepped forward ‘The body, Miller. Now.’ He strode through a set of double doors following a sign reading: Morgue.


Delphin breathed deep, smelled bleach and sweat. He rolled his shoulders and felt his shoulder blades crack. He closed his eyes as the refrigerated door was swung open. He listened to the squeaking rollers, heard Andrews breathing speed up.

She was blue. A light frost lay over her skin. A jagged crevasse curled outward, a splintered ‘y’ from shoulder to shoulder, an arrow leading down into soft, cold pubic hair. Small breasts rested against split skin, a small mouth, turned down at the corners, had turned purple, dusted with frost. A thick purple line was torn across her throat.

Delphin moved around the body. Red, grazed knees. One scuffed elbow, the skin thread bare across the bone. Swollen, bruised face. A red smear from nostril to split, purple lip. Her neck pale blue with the scar of the colour of wine. Deep folds in the flesh. Delphin picked up her hand, the rigor mortis had begun to disappear but the muscles were still stiff. Were cold. He examined her fingernails, harsh scratches underneath showed where Miller had beaten him to it.

‘Nothing there I’m afraid Detective Sergeant. Dirt mostly, some of her own skin where she’s had an itch. That’s about it. Same with the clothes. Dirt. Sweat – hers I’m afraid. Hair, again just her own although some cat fur too. Short haired, black.’ Miller came to stand by Delphin’s side and rubbed his finger along the scar running down her stomach. ‘Not much in there, quite malnourished.’ He smiled at Delphin.

Delphin rolled her arm over. He connected the dots on the inside of her arm with his finger tip, tracking the passage of the vein. Miller nodded ‘Yes, looks that way, the blood works will confirm it I’m sure, although none seem too fresh, certainly not in the last few days.’

From the corner, his face burning white under the fluorescent glow of the strip lights DS Andrews stepped forward hesitantly. He adjusted his gloves and took out the packet of gum. He swallowed and glanced at it before changing his mind.

‘Cause of death?’ his voice was only vaguely there, more a suggestion by the air conditioning. Miller grinned at him and strode across the room, his eyes sparkling.

‘But of course Andrews, step this way and I shall show you.’ Miller grasped Andrews by the arm and pulled him across the room. Delphin looked up from the girl. This close Andrews’ skin was see through, no blood was left in his face. He wrung his hands, the leather squeaking in the otherwise silent morgue. Miller placed his hand on the girls head, curled his fingers in her hair. Andrews swallowed, his Adam’s apple shuddering beneath white skin. Miller continued.

‘As I’m sure you guessed from the crime scene the girl was felled by a heavy blow to the back of her head. The injuries to her face, elbow and knee all suggest she fell forward, and was unconscious as she did so and so unable to react, as we would, by extending our arms to cushion the fall.’ With his fingers still wrapped around her hair he poked a gloved finger at a shaved section of skull, a crater digging deep through skin and scalp. Andrews nodded carefully. Miller held up the gloved finger. ‘But that isn’t what killed her. It would have, if you look here.’ He pulled his hand up to the light, the hand wrapped in hair. There was a slight slurp, a sucking like a bathplug and her scalp swung free in front of Andrews.

‘Could you hold this?’ Miller thrust it at Andrews whose eyes were wide. Andrews swallowed and reached out a shaking hand to hold the hair between finger and thumb. ‘Thank you. Now, as you can see the force of the blow caused an subdural hematoma. See the bleeding outside the brain tissue? Now look,’ Miller shoved a gloved finger into an incision already made in the grey tissue beneath her scalp. ‘Can you see where it has bled inside the tissue too?’ Andrews nodded. He handed back the scalp.

His voice floated through the stink of bleach and sweat. ‘So the cause of death?’

‘Strangulation.’ Miller smiled at him and drew his gloved fingers in a line along the velvet purple stripe around her neck. Andrews nodded. Wrung his leather clad fingers. ‘The cord was tied with a hangman’s knot. It’s been sent away for the forensic boys to have a look at.’ Miller glanced enquiringly at Andrews, ‘Will you be bothering them too, DS Andrews?’

‘Well, thank you Dr Miller. Good work. Delphin?’ He glanced to Delphin who was still holding the girl’s arm, counting the puncture wounds and mouthing out the numbers. ‘Let’s go.’

Andrews strode from the theatre. Delphin nodded at Miller and shuffled out. Down the empty corridor echoed: ‘Shall I email you the blood and toxicology reports? Or do you want to come back and get them yourself?’ Andrews turned to see Miller grinning and waved his hand, a gore splattered glove slopping between his fingers.

Oh yes, and the cat owner warning. This morning I woke up with the cat next to me on the pillow. I don't know how she got there as all the doors were closed. But she's sneaky. Anyway, the warning: Cat's Drool. The Drool is sticky. The Drool stinks.

Consider yourselves warned.

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