Even the sins of the past can’t lay buried forever…
Detective Ruth Carter finds herself slap bang in the middle of a murder investigation regarding several murders in the local community. It soon becomes clear there’s a link which draws Ruth’s past and present together. Ruth’s childhood friend Jenny was murdered thirty years ago, ripping her life to shreds and is one of the reasons she became a detective. Now it appears the same killer, who calls himself ‘Prince Charming’, is on the rampage once again. Ruth and her partner, Vince Conway have until midnight to catch the serial killer before the clock strikes twelve…
Fans of Peter Robinson and Mark Billingham will be gripped by this exceptional new voice in Welsh crime fiction.
Ruth Carter was in a bad mood as she scrubbed away at the breakfast dishes with a small brush. Pete had not come home with a Chinese meal for them last night; in fact, he had not come home at all. She slammed the breakfast dishes onto the draining board and in so doing chipped her favourite mug. “Damn him!” This couldn’t go on for much longer. It was getting to be that she didn’t trust him anymore. She had so wanted to speak to him last night about Jennifer. If anyone would have understood, it would have been him. He was part of the small gang they both went around with in school and he even admitted to once fancying Jen, one night last year, when they’d both had too much to drink. Ruth had felt a little hurt when he’d said that at the time but she’d had to admit, it was no surprise.
All the boys liked Jen. She was clever, funny and most of all, very pretty. If she was being honest, although Jen was her best friend whom she admired, she was also a little envious of the girl. Throughout all these years the phrase that most ran though her mind when she thought of her was, “It could have been me.” And it could have too. What if it had been her who had stormed off that night and gone in search of a taxi? She had more than a little guilt attached to the entire scenario. Maybe it’s what led her into the police force in the first place, a way to assuage her guilt. A way to put the world to rights, by putting away the baddies out there.
She was just about to make herself another cup of tea, it was her day off and she fancied a bit of retail therapy. Pete had left his debit card behind and she’d toyed with idea of getting a wad of cash out of the cash point as a way of punishing him. She knew his pin number, it would be a doddle. She heard the sound of a vehicle outside. Oh, no, it wasn’t that bloody big white van being parked outside blocking her in again, was it? She walked over to the large window and gazed down at the car park below. It was a police van parking up. What the hell did they want on her day off? Didn’t she do enough for them already? She watched as her colleague D.C. Vince Conway alighted and jogged over to the main door. She heard a buzz and his voice came over the intercom. “Ruth are you there? I’ve been ringing you. You’re needed. Something major is kicking off.”
“Vince. I’m here. I’ll be right with you.”
What the hell was going on? It had to be something huge for them to send for her on her day off. She put on her jacket, picked up her bag and ran down the stairs, then hopped into the awaiting vehicle.
“What the hell is going on, Vince?” she asked as he started up the van, sirens blaring and speeding off before she had chance to buckle herself in.
“A body of a young girl has been found…” he glanced across at her in the passenger seat, as if gauging her reaction.
No, this couldn’t be true. “Do you mean it doesn’t look like an illness or accident?” “Nope. She was found by a pair of refuse collectors this morning, in a skip at the back of Iceland.”
“Do we have any idea who she is?”
He shrugged. “No, not yet. No one has been reported missing. The Crime Scene
Investigators are on the way and the coroner has been called for. Uniform are guarding the scene, until we get there.”
Ruth felt her heart beating hard beneath her jumper, asking herself the question: What if the note Mr Johnson received really was from ‘Prince Charming’?
Vince glanced over briefly from the steering wheel. “Come on, Ruth, I know you. Something’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing. Really I…” Somehow the words were hard to find.
“Well if it’s nothing why’s your face looking pale?”
There was no kidding a kidder. Vince knew her better than anyone, better than Pete, maybe. “It’s just that man who called into the station yesterday, remember me telling you?”
“Yes. I should have taken that note more seriously. What if this is the same bloke. It might have been preventable.”
“Don’t fool yourself, Ruth. You’ve been carrying around a heavy package called ‘guilt’ for the past thirty odd years. You can’t possibly blame yourself for this one. In any case, how could any of us have protected this girl? We’d have needed to tell the female population to stay bolted in doors on a Friday night and even then, who’s to say the girl wouldn’t have been murdered in her own home anyhow? Look, you showed me that note, so I would be equally responsible, if that makes you feel any better. ‘Prince Charming’, if that’s who it was, left no clues as to who he would murder. We’ll know more after the autopsy. At this point it looks like murder, but who’s to say; maybe it’s not, just a quirk of fate, a coincidence.
Some coincidence though.
They drove through Victoria Street and were met by a uniformed police officer, who allowed them through the barrier, until they got to the back of Iceland. The police were in the process of erecting a white tent. Two scene of crime officers were taking photographs. Ruth’s eyes travelled to the half naked body of a young woman lying on the ground. Her skin was tinged blue, her eyes starring almost mockingly at her. For a fleeting second, she saw Jen’s face looking at her, seeing into her very soul.
You couldn’t help me then, you can’t help me now.
“Ruth,” Vince nudged her. “This is the pathologist, Doctor Seymour Blake. Ruth jerked back to reality. “Oh, hello Doctor. Haven’t we met some place before?”
She gazed intently into his green eyes. He was a distinguished looking man: late fifties maybe, grey hair. He smiled at her, the wrinkles around his eyes creased. “You know I do believe we have. Please refresh me?”
“You gave a talk at Police HQ several years back. I found it really interesting.”
His silver eyebrows knitted together as he thought. “Oh yes, I remember now, I’ve taken a look here, a preliminary as it were, I think this young lady has been dead for about 72 hours. We’re lucky in a way that the weather has been so cold, that metal bin has acted like a refrigerator, so the decomp is minor. We’re fortunate in that respect.”
‘Fortunate’ seemed a bad choice of wording to Ruth. “Any idea what she died of?”
Blake exhaled as the cold air collided with his warm breath. “Not at this stage. The only thing I can tell you is that there appears to be no puncture wound, so a stabbing or a gunshot is out. There’s possible asphyxiation. I noticed some petechial spots on her face – you know tiny red spots concurrent with cutting off the oxygen supply.”
Ruth pulled a pen out of her bag and recorded it in her note book. “Any distinguishing features?”
Blake shook his head. “No visible scars, but there is a tattoo of some sort on her thigh.
Would you care to take a look? The boys have photographed it closely and will blow it up.”
Ruth shuddered. The thought of drawing up close to the corpse spooked her out. It wasn’t that she hadn’t seen a dead body before, she’d seen plenty, it was just the resemblance to Jen. Although she had to admit this girl looked a few years older. She took a deep breath and kneeled down to get a better view. “No, I don’t understand what that motto or whatever it is says. It looks like some kind of foreign language to me.”
“Yes, I did think at first it might be Latin, but this young lady doesn’t look the intellectual type to me.” Ruth had to admit that she didn’t think so either. “Oh, there’s one other thing. The shoes…there’s one missing…”
Ruth looked down and saw that the girl was wearing one red stiletto. She brought her hands to her mouth in horror and turning said, “Vince, it has to be him…”
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