Written by Sarah Flint
My thanks to publisher Aria for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour
A baby lies abandoned amongst the rubbish; her tiny face as white as alabaster, her body as stiff as a miniature doll.
A young prostitute lies beaten, her figure lying like a mannequin on the frozen concrete, her blood spilt, her life ebbing away.
As DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford and her boss DI Hunter struggle to identify the victim from the violator their hunt brings them to the crack houses of Lambeth, littered with damaged people, their lives scarred by tragedy and violence, most broken beyond repair.
As further lives hang in the balance Charlie must enpower the weak to speak out against those who seek to cause harm.
But can a broken doll ever truly be mended; or will the wounds of the past, fashion the events of the future?
Perfect for the fans of Angela Marsons, Patricia Gibney and Cara Hunter.
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2zdhnbI
The bin storeroom lay open. Eight large grey wheelie bins stood within: filled with black rubbish sacks, white bin liners and numerous carrier bags, some tied at the top, many split down the sides, household waste and discarded rubbish spewing out across the concrete floor.
DC Charlie Stafford and her boss, DI Geoffrey Hunter, gazed at the door to the storeroom, the stench of the area filling their nostrils. All around them, the estate wore a cloak of darkness, the longest night being just a few days away. Colourful fairy lights blinked from windows, plastic wreaths hung from doors and a multitude of decorations bore the message of goodwill to all. Charlie’s breath spread out in front of her, the arc lights at the crime scene making the cloud of moisture appear brilliant white, almost ethereal, but what she was about to see was as far removed from the spiritual story of Christmas as was possible. Charlie was aware of what had been found, but she didn’t want to see it. How could you ever be prepared for a sight like this?
The cordon tape hung still. Charlie nodded towards the uniformed policeman standing guard, who scribbled down their details. He knew them. They all knew Hunter and Charlie at Lambeth HQ.
‘How was the body found?’ She tried to put the moment off.
‘The owner of a dog called it in. The dog was paying too much attention to the rubbish. Its owner saw the little arm and called an ambulance. We were notified at the same time.’
She jotted down what he’d said, then stepped across the tape into the crime scene. To the side of the bins lay a bright orange carrier bag, split along the whole of one side. The glare of the arc lights made the brightness of the bag look obscene against what it contained. A pink towel spread out from the hole, unravelled on the floor and the body of the tiny baby lay partially exposed, each feature perfectly formed. One arm was outstretched, its minute fingers curled loosely into a perfect fist. A fine layer of blonde hair, almost invisible to the naked eye, covered its head, with traces of blood from the womb dried across its skull.
‘Oh my God,’ Charlie couldn’t help herself. ‘How can someone just throw their baby out with the rubbish?’
Hunter remained still, silently taking in the sight, before sighing loudly. ‘No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.’ He bent down and concentrated on the baby, clearly trying to control his emotion and remain pragmatic. ‘Looks like it’s premature. It’s too small to be full term, but we’ll have to establish just how premature it is.’ He glanced up towards where Charlie stood. ‘If it’s over twenty-four weeks it would be considered legally viable and we might be looking at a case of child destruction, but if it’s under that, then the offence would be procuring an abortion. Or, of course, it might just be the result of a miscarriage. Whatever the case though, the mother will almost certainly require medical help.’
Charlie squatted to join him, looking around at the surrounding area. Everywhere was squalor and decay.
‘What a place to end up, whatever the reason… and before life has even begun.’ She peered at the miniature face, its eyes closed as if in sleep. ‘Do we know yet what sex it is?’ Suddenly it was important she knew the answer; whether the life discarded in front of her was a boy or a girl. It seemed wrong not to call it by its gender.
‘I can tell you in a minute, that is, if it’s clear to do a preliminary examination of the body.’
Dr Rob Finch strode towards them. He was the police doctor who attended crime scenes most frequently. His job was to ‘pronounce life extinct’. It was a peculiar phrase that always vaguely struck Charlie as being outdated and impersonal, especially if used to the relative of a recently dead loved one. Tonight though, it appeared that life might never have legally existed.
The doctor held out his hand and Hunter shook it firmly. He was similar to Hunter in nature; straight to the point and with no frills, but he was the exact opposite physically; tall, lean, fit and with a thick head of hair. Charlie had crossed paths with him both professionally and off-duty, whilst running, most recently in her first triathlon. She stood to one side, not quite sure whether to offer her hand but deciding in the end not to. They knew each other well enough to dispense with formalities.
‘Hi, Dr Finch,’ she said instead. ‘It would be good to know if it was a boy or girl.’
Hunter nodded. ‘We need life pronounced formally, but try not to move the body any more than is necessary. Photos have been taken, but the forensics team are yet to start. I’ll arrange for the coroner’s officer to sort out the removal once everything is concluded.’
Dr Finch dipped his head and pulled on his gloves. Carefully he peeled the towel back, completely exposing the tiny shape. It was a baby girl, clearly dead for some time; her body, just over twelve inches in length, silent and still like a fragile white doll. Gently he placed a stethoscope on her chest, the pad of the scope covering far too much of her little frame than seemed right. Charlie watched as the doctor completed his checks with a tenderness that moved her almost to tears. He needed to do the tests before formally pronouncing life extinct, but it was clear the job was difficult.
Meet the Author
With a Metropolitan Police career spanning 35 years Sarah has spent her adulthood surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. She continues to work and lives in London with her partner and has three older daughters.