The Last Girl (Maeve Kerrigan Series #3)

The Last Girl (Maeve Kerrigan Series #3)

by Jane Casey


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"Maeve Kerrigan [is] a fascinating and plausible character…What she has is persistence, integrity and emotional intelligence, and a very deft way of insinuating herself into a reader's affections."—The Irish Independent (UK)

Vast wealth offers London defense attorney Philip Kennford a lot of things: a gorgeous house with a pool in the backyard, connections in the top echelons of society, a wardrobe worthy of Milan runways. But his money doesn't provide a happy marriage, or good relationships with his twin daughters…and it does nothing to protect his family when someone brutally murders his wife and daughter in their own home.

When Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan arrives at the scene, the two survivors—Philip and his second favorite daughter, Lydia—both claim to have seen nothing, but it's clear right away that this is an unhappy family accustomed to keeping secrets. Maeve soon finds herself entangled in a case with a thousand leads that all seem to point nowhere, and it doesn't help that her boss, whom she trusts more than almost anyone, is starting to make decisions that Maeve finds questionable at best.

In The Last Girl, Jane Casey once again demonstrates her ability to write vivid, three-dimensional characters and spin a gripping, unpredictable mystery.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250048950
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 04/29/2014
Series: Maeve Kerrigan Series , #3
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 385,472
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

JANE CASEY was born and raised in Dublin. A graduate of Oxford with a master's of philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin, she lives in London, where she works as an editor. The Last Girl is her fourth novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

“The only thing I know about Wimbledon is the tennis.” Derwent drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.

I stared at the map. “What do you need to know? It’s an expensive place to live. Smart. Out of your price range. Not the sort of place we usually fetch up. Still two miles away at a rough estimate, and God knows how long that’s going to take.”

“Lights are changing, Kerrigan. I’m going to go on straight.”

“No, don’t do that.” Straight ahead of us was a queue of cars that stretched to infinity, or at least the A3. I turned the map around, desperately searching for the right road. “Left. Turn left.”

“I’m in the wrong lane.” The car surged forward, going straight into the one-way system from hell.

“Should have decided sooner.”

“I don’t know why you sound so smug. We’re both going to be stuck in the same traffic.”

“Yeah, but it’s your fault. So I can enjoy myself by blaming you.”

“It’s not my fault that you broke your satnav.” The ice in my voice did nothing to cool the temperature in the car; I could feel sweat trickling down my back and shifted in my seat. The windows were down but the air was stagnant, hot even though the sun had set hours earlier. August in London, and the weather was at its worst. “Since we’re stationary, do you mind putting the air conditioning on?”

“Waste of petrol. Someone’s got to think of the environment.” He stuck his head out of his window and sniffed enthusiastically. “Fresh air is better for you.”

A hundred exhausts belched fumes in front of us. “This air is not fresh.”

“Nor are my socks,” Derwent admitted, sticking a finger down the side of his shoe and proving his point with a waft of sweaty-foot smell. My nose wrinkled and I turned my face away, not caring that he found it funny.

“Why is there so much traffic at this time of night anyway?”

“Need you ask? Roadworks. It goes down to one lane from three. We should never have come this way.” Derwent inched forward although the car in front hadn’t moved. “Almost midnight. What were you planning to do this evening?”

I had hoped for an early night, but I knew better than to say anything that hinted at bed. The DI was as quick to go after innuendo as a terrier barreling down a rat hole. “Nothing much. You?”

“Nothing you want to hear about, I imagine.” A sidelong glance. “Your loss.”

“I doubt that.” I knew very little of his private life, but that was precisely as much as I wanted to know about it. I just wished he felt the same way about me.

“What about your boyfriend?”

“What about him?”

“Is he at home?”

“He’s working.” And that’s all I’m saying, so move on.

“You’re probably pleased to have something to do. Gets you out of the house, doesn’t it?”

Thank God. Work talk. “It sounds like an interesting case.”

“It sounds like a domestic.” Derwent rubbed a hand over the back of his neck and looked at it, then wiped it down his trouser leg. “I’m sweating like a pedo in a playground.”

He was reliably, casually offensive, but every now and then he still managed to shock me. I had decided that he was an acquired taste, and that I could get to like him some day. Today was not that day.

“Look, if you don’t take the next left we’re going to be here until midnight.”

“It’s one-way.” He was leaning forward to see, hugging the steering wheel. I peered in the same direction, seeing the no-entry signs.

“Oh, bollocks.”

“I could blue light it.”

“Not a good idea,” I said automatically. There were strict rules governing when we could travel on blues and twos. Getting to work was not an emergency.

Derwent looked at me sideways. His hair was ruffled and he’d caught the sun across the bridge of his nose. He looked all of eight years old. “Please?”

“Why are you asking me? You’re the senior officer.”

“That’s right. I am.” He sounded pleased at the reminder. “Well, off we go. Hit it, Kerrigan.”

The siren hadn’t finished its first whoop before Derwent had pulled out of our line of traffic, making for our illegal turn. We had two wheels on the pavement most of the way. I closed my eyes and muttered, more or less involuntarily, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”

“Talk holy to me, Kerrigan. You know I love it when you pray.”

“Just concentrate on what you’re doing, okay?” The streets weren’t empty enough for rally driving. Because of the weather, people were still out walking their dogs or jogging, in spite of how late it was. They really weren’t expecting to be confronted with an unmarked car bearing down on them from the wrong direction, even if we did have our blue lights flashing.

We were, however, making progress, and as Derwent pulled out onto the main road—causing a bus to slam on its brakes—he gave me a wide grin. “That’s better, isn’t it?”

“Better than sitting in a traffic jam,” I allowed.

He shook his head. “You just can’t say it, can you? ‘I was wrong. You were right, Josh. I should always listen to you.’”

“You’re right. I can’t say that. Turn right after these traffic lights.”

“Up the hill,” Derwent checked.

“That’s where we’re going.”

Up the hill. Up into the rarefied air of Wimbledon Village, the pretty, exclusive little enclave where expensive boutiques, delis, galleries and cafés catered to the tastes of the locals and their apparent desire to spend my annual salary on fripperies and cappuccinos. Up to where the houses were detached, set back from the road, and priced in multiple millions. It was leafy and lavish and a different world from where I lived, even though that was only a few miles away as the crow flew.

Derwent was paying scant attention to the road, leaning into my personal space. He whistled. “Look at that one.”

“The house?” It was a white-painted mansion with yew lollipops on either side of the front door.

“The Aston Martin, Kerrigan. I couldn’t give a fuck about the house.”

“Think that’s a footballer’s gaff?”

“Could be. Someone with a few hundred grand to spend on one of their cars. I saw it on Top Gear. Beautiful, isn’t it?” He had slowed to a crawl and was creeping along, hugging the curb as he stared at the car. A BMW overtook us with a blast from its horn and Derwent raised a hand to acknowledge it, hopelessly distracted.

“They’ll call the police if you’re not careful. Stop drooling.”

“That car or a night with Angelina Jolie. I’m not even joking, I wouldn’t stop to think about it.”

“I wouldn’t worry. You’re not likely to have to choose any time soon.”

“Angelina would understand,” he said with conviction. “She’d appreciate it. She’d feel the same way.” He flicked a look at me. “You don’t get it, do you? It’s just a car to you.”

“It’s a means of getting from A to B. It may not be quite as beautiful, but so is the one that we’re sitting in currently. And I would like to get to B before the SOCOs and the boss have packed up and headed home.”

“Ooh, the boss. Why didn’t you say? We’d better hurry.” Derwent took off with a wheel spin that left six feet of rubber on the road.

I ignored the sarcasm and the stunt driving and said nothing else except to direct him through the narrow tree-lined roads until we reached the white wooden barrier that cut off Endsleigh Drive from its neighbors.

“Cul-de-sac with no vehicular access except for residents. So whoever did it had to walk there.”

“Unless it was one of the residents.”

Derwent frowned. “Bit extreme for a neighborly dispute.” He held his ID out of the window so the policeman guarding the barrier could see who we were.

“Six houses, all with gates. High hedges.” I could only see the roofs of most of the houses. “No one will have seen anything. But they might have heard something. This place must be quiet usually.”

“Not now.”

“Nope.” We drove through the barrier, past the group of spectators hanging around in shorts and T-shirts with the familiar mixture of shock and excitement on their faces. They stared into the car curiously and I stared back, making eye contact with a middle-aged man wearing an expensive watch and a dingy polo shirt, and a younger one whose face was half-hidden by a baseball cap. A couple of seconds and we had gone past them, and the patrol cars with their lights whirling, and the vans for the SOCOs’ equipment, and the first outriders of the media pack. I’d have been shocked if they hadn’t been there—they made it to most crime scenes long before I did, no matter how quickly I responded, and this was the sort of case that would appeal to them. The very minor thrill of appearing on the television news had long since worn off for me, although it was the one thing that consoled my mother about my career choice. I ran a hand through my hair, despising myself for preening but aware that the heat and humidity had made the usual bad situation worse. I could just hear the message Mum would leave. Did you ever think of brushing your hair before you left the house, Maeve? Surely you’d have had time to run a comb through it …

Both sides of the road were fully parked up but Derwent refused to drive out again.

“It’s not far. And you run marathons, so you can’t be that lazy.”

“I don’t mind the walk. I mind people not knowing I’m a big-shot police inspector.” He settled for blocking in a car that I recognized as belonging to the pathologist, Dr. Hanshaw.

“Glen’s not going to be pleased.”

“Glen is going to be here for a while. And I’m not exactly scared of him anyway.” Derwent got out and stretched, revealing a damp patch that took up most of the back of his shirt so the material clung to his really quite impressive muscles. I plucked my top away from my skin, knowing that it would be translucent where it had been pressed against me. The heat was like a coat wrapped around me. I pulled a face, then bent down to look for the water bottle I’d stashed at my feet. It was too light when I picked it up. Empty, but for a few drops at the bottom.

I was still looking at it when Derwent leaned down. “Are you getting out or what?”

“Did you drink my water?”


“I had half a bottle of water here. Did you drink it?”

“You must be hallucinating, Kerrigan. You finished it yourself.”


“Really. I watched you.”

I knew he was lying but I still hesitated, doubting my memory for a moment. He sounded so sure of himself—which was usually a dead giveaway that he wasn’t telling the truth. As if to confirm it, his face twisted into a grin, at my expense.

“Come on. Time to go.”

There had been a time when I was scared of Derwent, and I still wouldn’t argue with him, but not because he intimidated me. He was a senior officer and I would never win. Plus, he liked it too much. I threw the bottle into the back of the car with extreme bad temper and slammed the car door as hard as I could. Derwent led the way up the path, past two PCs who were suffering in their body armor. The stab vests were miserably uncomfortable in the heat, I recalled with sympathy, glad that I only had an equipment belt, and that was slung over my shoulder. It was one of the perks of being in CID. The fact that I didn’t usually go out on arrest raids or anything that was expected to be violent meant that I hadn’t had to wear body armor for a very long time. It was especially hard on the uniforms when there was almost no chance they would need the vests. Whatever violence had been done at number 4 Endsleigh Drive, the danger had been over for hours.

We stopped inside the canvas screens in front of the front door, shedding shoes and pulling on paper suits to avoid contaminating the crime scene. An extra layer was exactly what I didn’t need and I wriggled crossly, already stifling.

“What do we know about the victims?”

“Mother and daughter. Vita and Laura Kennford. Mum’s forty-nine, Laura’s fifteen.” Derwent recited the details from memory, without hesitation. He was a far better police officer than casual acquaintance with him might have suggested. The bluff misogyny was a large and unfortunate part of his personality, but he was also razor sharp and totally dedicated to his job.

“And they were stabbed?”

“You know as much as I do about that.” He looked at me shrewdly. “You’re not trying to spin this out, are you? Trying to find a reason to stay out here until the bodies are gone and the place has been tidied up?”

“Of course not. Why would I do that?”

“Because you don’t trust yourself.”

He wasn’t completely wrong, which made it all the more annoying that he’d spotted what I was doing. I was getting used to dead bodies—I had seen enough of them since I’d started working on Godley’s team—but I still couldn’t quite take them in my stride. It wasn’t the blood or the spilling intestines, the splattered brain matter or the smell of decay, though all of those things had the potential to turn more experienced officers than me pea-green. It was the violence that made me stop in my tracks. The desire to destroy another human being, the will to carry it through, the ruthlessness or thoughtlessness we encountered every day. The waste. And all we could do was sling the killers in prison, if we caught them. I’d never been a fan of the death penalty, but murdered children made me think depriving someone of their liberty was a pretty pathetic punishment.

Meanwhile, Derwent was waiting for an answer. I squared my shoulders. “I know you like to think of me as a shrinking violet, boss, but I’m just not.”

“You’re hard as nails, Kerrigan. We know that.” He took my arm and steered me out of the tent and up to the front door. “Come on. Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Inside the house, I looked past the usual organized chaos of crime-scene technicians and police officers coming and going, searching for signs of what had taken place there. The hall was huge, double-height, with a very modern chandelier suspended in the middle—lozenges of textured glass stuck together at haphazard angles. Wide stairs swept up to an open gallery with rooms leading off it, but all the doors were closed. Bedrooms, I presumed, and bathrooms. Nothing to see from where I stood, anyway. There was no furniture in the hall at all, just a set of double doors on either side and a glass door at the back. The only color came from a tapestry that hung on the wall by the stairs, six feet by ten at a guess, and fiercely abstract in tones of gray and orange.

It was the only color, that is, apart from the red tracks that marked the cream carpet. Blood, still harshly bright in the glare from the chandelier, not yet darkened to brown. Fresh. There was a story there, a narrative that some specialist would unravel, but I couldn’t help trying to fathom it. Footsteps coming from the right-hand side of the hall, fading as they got closer to the door at the back, spreading and blurring where water had mingled with blood. Coming back toward the front door, much fainter now. And then a set of smudges on the stairs, where someone or some people had run up two or three at a time, moving fast. A forensics officer was crouching five steps from the top, minutely examining something and then sealing it in a paper envelope. Her concentration was total as she peeled a sheet of sticky film off the carpet. Trace evidence. There’d be a lot of it.

Through the doors on the right I could hear the murmur of conversation and the crack of camera flashes. Derwent made a move toward them but stopped dead when someone said his name. We both turned to see Superintendent Godley coming through the doors on the other side of the hall, looking grim. He had had his silver hair cut since the last time I’d seen him, and a thin line of paler skin traced his hairline. He had just been on holidays, sailing in Croatia, and his tan made his teeth very white and his eyes extra blue. At that moment he was very far from smiling and his eyes were narrow with disapproval.

“You took your time.”

“The traffic was terrible. We got here as soon as we could,” I explained, cringing a little in spite of myself.

Derwent shrugged. “We’re here now. What’s going on?”

“Have you ever come across Philip Kennford?” Godley was speaking in a low voice.

“As in the barrister? The QC? That Kennford?”

“Got it in one.”

Derwent whistled. “This is his house? Fuck me, there’s money in getting criminals off the hook, isn’t there?”

“Who is he?”

The inspector turned to look at me, unimpressed. “Don’t tell me you’ve never come up against him, Kerrigan.”

“I haven’t been doing this for very long,” I reminded him. “Only a few of my murders have gone to trial yet.”

“But you must have heard of him.”

“Vaguely,” I said.

“Do you ‘vaguely’ recall the Catford strangler? That freak who was raping and murdering women in their own homes? He did for eight of them before he got arrested.”

I ignored the fact that Derwent had dialed the sarcasm up to eleven. This one I did actually know.

“Because his son got done for aggravated assault and the DNA showed he was related to the killer.”

“Yeah, they’d got DNA from inside one of the victims and it was a near match to the son—close relation—so it was only a matter of going through the family and finding the guilty party. They only got DNA off one body, and only a trace of it at that because he used condoms most of the time—just couldn’t resist dipping into the last one he killed bareback, or he decided it was worth the risk. Maybe he thought he was in the clear because no one had ever come knocking on his door. Peter Harbold his name was, an accountant by profession, a pillar of the community—no one you’d ever have suspected. Twisted bastard, as we found out.”

“Keep your voice down,” Godley warned, glancing behind him. “Kennford’s in there.”

“I don’t care if he hears what I think of his client,” Derwent snapped. “I don’t care if he hears what I think of the defense that got him off.”

“He got off?” I hadn’t remembered that.

“He did indeed. The DNA sample wasn’t collected properly, according to Kennford. He found an expert to say it could have deteriorated before it was analyzed so it couldn’t be relied upon. And Harbold had been very careful about covering his tracks so everything else was circumstantial. No confession, no difficulty in handling cross-examination, no criminal record. The jury wouldn’t convict, even after a majority direction. Split down the middle. Cretins on one side, decent people on the other. The prosecution wanted a retrial but the judge said no go. No chance of winning unless there was new evidence, and there wasn’t.”

“Are you that sure they were wrong?” I asked, genuinely curious. I knew that Derwent didn’t have a lot of time for the jury system but he sounded particularly vehement.

“I knew the officer in the case. Mate of mine. He wasn’t in any doubt about it. Couldn’t shake Harbold in interview. The guy had an answer for everything. He was prepared, my mate said. Just too smooth to be right.”

I nodded. I had done interviews like that too. Innocent people got flustered. They tended to ramble, to answer at great length, trying to be as helpful as they could. Innocent people were nervous, generally. It was the guilty ones who took it in their stride.

“You can’t blame Kennford for doing his job,” Godley said. “And in this case, he’s a victim.”

“Or a suspect.”

“If you like, Josh. But you should probably speak to him before you make up your mind about that.”

“Fair enough. Let’s have a crack at him.”

“Crime scenes first.” Godley led us across the hall. “I want you to get a look at them so you know what to ask.”

“Scenes? So they weren’t killed in the same place?” I asked.

“No, Vita and Laura died in here.” Godley pushed open the door. “But they weren’t the only ones who were attacked.”

I wasn’t really paying attention to the superintendent anymore. I was fully occupied by scanning the room, seeing the before and after, order and disorder, life and death. The pristine chill that I’d noticed in the hall was here again, the pale colors and lack of ornament, except for the art on the walls. It was a large room and minimally furnished—a couple of designer chairs that looked more like sculpture than seats, black lacquered tables on either side of the fireplace, chrome and glass lamps. Modern, expensive, to my eye overdesigned—and now disturbed. Two huge rectangular sofas faced one another at right angles to the fireplace, but one of them was pushed out of alignment and its cushions were scattered over the floor. A body lay in front of it, on carpet that was saturated with blood. She was on her back, her head tilted to stare blindly at the fireplace, which was itself painted with arterial spray. One leg was thrown negligently onto the sofa so her legs were splayed, but her clothes didn’t look as if they had been disturbed. She was lying as she had fallen, as if maybe she had been curled up on the sofa and had toppled off during the attack. The angle of her head was so extreme that I couldn’t see her face, but from the skinny jeans and camisole top, I thought it was the younger victim. Laura. Laura, who had evidently had her throat cut, right down to the bone. Laura, whose killer had only just stopped short of decapitating her. Laura, whose hair was matted with blood, whose clothes were soaked, who had died horribly. Laura, who had been fifteen. I swallowed and looked away, searching for the other victim.

She was at the other end of the room, at the center of chaos. Vita had made it further than her daughter, probably trying to escape through the French windows that led to the garden. The curtain pole had come down on one side, the heavy silk material pooling under the body. I walked toward her, leaning to see. I had only spotted one injury on Laura’s body but Vita’s was a different story: multiple slashes and stab wounds that Dr. Hanshaw was busy annotating. As far as I could judge, Vita had been slim with bobbed fair hair. Her trousers and top had once been pure white, linen and silk respectively. One of her shoes lay on its side by my feet and I bent over to look at it. A caramel-colored suede loafer with a gold snaffle. Somehow I wasn’t surprised to see it was made by Gucci.

“Blood.” Derwent’s nose was wrinkled. “Like a butcher’s shop.”

I had been trying to ignore the smell, breathing shallowly through my mouth. It was exceptionally strong, and somehow worse for being fresh. The room was saturated. There was a trail leading from Laura’s body to where Vita lay, in scattered droplets and in small pools. A table lay on its side, the lamp that had been on it shining an oval at the opposite wall where a constellation of blood spatter gleamed. The base of the lamp had broken and porcelain shards littered the floor. Vita had fought hard for her life, and lost.

Derwent had wandered off and was now prowling around the room, whistling tunelessly and inspecting the fittings, generally acting as if he was there to look at the house with a view to buying it. Godley beckoned to Hanshaw and Kev Cox, one of our regular crime scene managers. “Talk us through what happened. Josh, come here. I want you to listen to this too.”

I had to hide a smile at Derwent being called to heel like a badly behaved dog. I didn’t hide it quickly enough.

“Why don’t you ask Kerrigan what she thinks?” There was a glint in Derwent’s eye as he strolled back toward us. “See what she makes of it.”

“I’m not sure that’s fair.” Godley’s voice was mild.

“What do they call it—a teachable moment? This is a chance to show Kerrigan what she doesn’t know, isn’t it? And Kev and Glen here can show her how important it is that she listens to them rather than jumping to her own conclusions.”

“I may not be very experienced, but I know better than to ignore expert opinion.” I turned to Godley. “Look, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time—”

“I don’t mind.” Kev was one of the sweetest people I’d ever met. Of course he didn’t mind. Hanshaw, on the other hand …

“If you want to test your DC’s analytical skills, feel free.” The pathologist folded his arms. “This should be good.”

And suddenly, they were all looking at me. I swallowed, fighting panic. I was still dry-mouthed from dehydration and my head throbbed, a tension headache that was only getting worse. I made myself concentrate. Show no fear. “Okay. I should point out I’ve only just come in, and I haven’t looked at the bodies closely.”

“Understood.” Godley had an encouraging expression on his face. I didn’t dare look at Derwent.

“Well, what happened in here was quick. Neither of the victims had time to leave the room, and there are two exits so they had their choice of escape routes. That could mean there were two killers, but I’m not sure it’s beyond one person to have done this.”

“Who was first?” Godley asked.

“Laura. She didn’t have time to get up off the sofa before she was attacked. I think the killer stood behind her to cut her throat.” I looked over at the sofa, thinking. “Vita was standing up behind the other sofa when Laura was attacked.”

"How do you work that out?” Derwent’s tone was seriously skeptical.

“She ran toward her daughter. That chair is knocked forward—it would have been in her way. If it had been the killer who knocked it over when he was going to attack Vita, it would have been lying on its back.” I walked forward to stand at Laura’s feet. “Vita stood here and fought with the killer. She must have been aware that Laura was beyond help once she got close enough to see the damage that had been done to her. She would have known her life was in danger too. There’s blood here that’s cast off from the knife. That suggests multiple movements with a bloody blade, but it looks to me as if Laura was dealt with in a single cut. And whatever he used, it must have been very sharp.”

“Two slashes, in fact,” Hanshaw said. “But you’re right, the cutting edge was extremely sharp, and both strokes were decisive.”

“Vita ran when she could get away from the killer. She lost one shoe here, the other over by the window. She must have been quite badly injured at this point because she was losing a lot of blood and I’m guessing she held on to the curtains for support.” I considered it again. “Or maybe she was trying to hold them in front of her to block the blade.”

“There are slashes in the material.” Kev was nodding happily.

“Those doors must be locked or she’d have got through them. I bet Philip Kennford is obsessive about home security—he knows too much about criminals not to be. There’s a keypad for an alarm system in the hall by the door, and the gate at the bottom of the drive is an electric one with an intercom. I’d say the key for those doors is kept somewhere inaccessible, and they’re never left unlocked.” I turned to Kev. “Was there any damage to the front door? Or any other windows or doors?”

“No signs of a break-in. The back door into the kitchen was open, but the other daughter was out in the garden, swimming. She’d have seen anyone who used that door.”

“The other daughter?” Derwent asked.

“Laura’s twin,” Godley explained. “Her name’s Lydia.”

“What was she doing swimming in the middle of the night?”

“You can ask her.” Godley changed his mind as he said it. “Actually, no, you can’t. She’s in no state to be confronted by someone like you.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Derwent was grinning. He positively reveled in his reputation. He’d certainly earned it.

“Well, if there wasn’t a break-in that just leaves two possibilities, doesn’t it?” I said. “Either the killer was let into the house—”

“Or he was here already,” Derwent finished for me.

“That’s all I’ve got.” I looked at Godley. “What did I miss?”

“What happened before the killer attacked them. And what happened afterward.”

“I haven’t been around the rest of the house yet.”

“I know. I’m not asking you to guess.” He raised his eyebrows at the others. “How did she do?”

“Very well. For a police officer.” Hanshaw was always more vinegar than honey. Kev was nodding too, though, and Godley smiled at me. I felt a warm glow that had nothing to do with the weather. At least I did until I caught Derwent’s eye and was reminded that the inspector didn’t like junior officers to be too clever. I quelled my instinct to look modest and gave him the same look back, my best attempt at cold steel. So you thought you’d found a way to embarrass me, did you? Too bad I’m sharper than you thought I was. Next time, try harder. Or better yet, don’t try at all.

Godley got back to business. “Right. Give us the details, Glen. What did the killer use?”

“The blade was large. Something like a machete or a professional kitchen knife. Not serrated. All Vita’s injuries are consistent with cutting, so the killer didn’t get too close to her and I don’t have much hope for DNA traces under her nails. She has defense wounds to both hands and wrists—severed tendons in a couple of places. Three or four of her injuries would have been enough to do for her and I don’t yet know which was the decisive one. She bled out into her chest cavity, which is why she had time to fight before she died.”

“Who are we looking for?”

“The killer wasn’t playing about. You’re looking for someone strong and probably tall. Right-handed. Violent, as you might have noticed yourselves. The first victim’s throat is cut to the spine. I don’t see that very often. But there’s no sexual component, unless you think the killer has a thing for cutting. He or she treated both of them differently, which may be significant, but then again it may not. Victim one was despatched efficiently and quickly. Victim two fought, which may account for her more numerous injuries.”

“Or the killer might have wanted to take his time with Vita. Anything else?”

“Not until after the PMs. I’ll do them tomorrow morning, first thing.”

“I’ll be there.” Godley always tried to attend the postmortems. I preferred to read the reports afterward. It was much less distracting to read the cold, clinical description of what had happened to the victims than to see their internal organs in full, lurid detail.

“I’m happy for the bodies to be moved now.” Hanshaw was already gathering his belongings.

“The lads have finished in here until the bodies come out. Then I’ll send them in again, make sure we haven’t missed anything underneath either of these poor ladies.”

I hadn’t realized until Kev said it that the SOCOs had finished up while we’d been talking, slipping out of the room like paper-clad ghosts. He edged toward the door himself.

“If we’re done here, I’m just going to check how they’re getting on upstairs.”

“Good stuff, Kev. Let us know when you’re finished.” Godley waited until they had left the room and we were alone with the bodies. “So?”

“Laura didn’t stand up,” I said quietly. “She didn’t even know she was in danger. She knew her killer or she wasn’t scared.”

“You know him,” Derwent threw at Godley. “What do you think of Philip Kennford?”

“I think he would make a good suspect. If he didn’t have an alibi.”

“Which is?”

“The first officers who responded found him lying unconscious in his bedroom—he was out cold. He’s the other person who was attacked. If you can work out how he beat himself up, you can put him at the top of the list of suspects.” Godley shrugged. “Until then, he’s in the clear.”

Derwent frowned, thinking. He opened his mouth but whatever he was going to say was destined to remain unsaid, because out in the hall Glen Hanshaw was throwing an epic tantrum.

“Some bastard’s blocked me in. Would the person driving the blue Honda please move their fucking car? I’m warning you, you’ve got five seconds before I ram it out of my way.”

“Whoops.” The expression on Derwent’s face could only have been described as naughty.

Godley raised his eyebrows. “Was that you?”

“There was nowhere else.” He sauntered toward the door, pulling his keys out of his pocket. “Better face the music, I suppose. How long have I got left?”

“You’re into extra time. I’d hurry if I were you. Glen knows a hundred ways to kill a man without leaving a mark.”

“Do I look worried?” Derwent let the door swing closed behind him, but not before I heard him say in an ultra-innocent voice, “Sorry, is there some sort of problem?”

“I’ve never heard Glen sound like that before.” Godley sounded amused.

“I’ve never even heard him swear.”

“Josh does have a talent for bringing out the profane in people.”

“That’s an understatement.”

Godley looked at me quickly. “You don’t mind him, do you?”

“I’m used to him. I sort of don’t want to be there when he meets Philip Kennford, though. I don’t think he’s going to be terribly sympathetic.”

“That’s why I keep him around. I’m hoping he can shake Kennford into telling me the truth. I have a feeling I’m being spun a line and I can’t think why.” Godley shook his head. “Something about this just doesn’t seem right to me.”

I looked past him at the teenage girl’s body stiffening into its awkward pose. I didn’t say it, but it seemed to me patently obvious that there was nothing right about that at all.

Copyright © 2012 by Jane Casey

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