Miss Kerry-Anne Smith smiled quietly to herself as she hopped cheerfully onto the midday bus into town. Despite the cool October morning, she wore a pretty floral patterned dress which she had shortened herself to an almost-but-not-quite indecent mini-skirt. Her long blonde hair hung to just below her shoulders; not in a fashionable cut, as she did not have the money to pay for expensive hairdressing, but it was clean and shone in the noon-day sun. She dropped pennies into the driver's coin tray and took a ticket, before seating herself midway down the bus. She peered out of the window, and smiled again, looking not at the busy pedestrians out on the street, but at her own faint reflection in the glass. Her make-up, at least, was perfect. She was nearly 18 years old, and was on her way to meet Mike Reed for their third official date. Mike was going to buy her lunch, take her to the cinema, and then they would go out to a disco. Lost in a fantasy world as to whether or not she should allow him to kiss her after he had walked her home, she did not notice as a man stepped onto the bus and slowly approached.
"Is this seat taken?"
Startled, Kerry-Anne glanced up quickly. A man stood there, smiling slightly. She appraised him quickly. He spoke with the faintest trace of an accent, one she could not place. He wore plain denim jeans, white trainers, a white tee-shirt and a faded black leather jacket. His face was narrow, but handsome; well tanned, with dark brown eyes. He smiled again at her scrutiny, and she felt herself blush slightly.
"No, of course," she stuttered, quickly.
She made a show of moving her long, stocking-clad legs to give him more room. The hemline of her skirt moved up a bit and she made no move to re-adjust it. Okay, so at the third date she and Mike were getting close, but still, she knew Mike through her job at the library and a bit of flirting practice never hurt anyone. She saw the man sweep an appreciative glance and she almost giggled, but quashed the girlish impulse quickly. At nearly 18, she considered herself too mature for such things.
"Thanks," the man said, taking the seat.
He swung a back-pack from his shoulder, and dropped into the seat. Kerry-Anne caught the faintest smell of leather from his jacket, and this time could not stifle a smile and the quickest of glances from the corner of her eye.
"Are you going far?" she asked, politely, glancing up at him with a slight smile.
"Not really," he smiled back, "only a couple of stops. Where are you headed?"
"Oh… just into town," she replied, breezily, "I'm meeting – a friend."
"Your boyfriend?" the man asked.
"Just a guy I know from work," she replied, dismissively, flicking her hair over her shoulder in what she hoped looked like an unconscious gesture, "my name's Kerry-Anne. My friends call me Kay."
"I'm Jack," the man responded, flashing that fantastic smile again, and reaching into his pocket, "It's nice to meet you, Kay. Would you like a chocolate? It's Belgian. Expensive."
"Oh, thank you," Kerry-Anne reached for one of the treats, and popped it into her mouth, her pretty lips biting down appreciatively as she closed her eyes to savour the taste.
In doing so, Kerry-Anne did not notice that the man quietly folded the paper bag closed again and drop it into his pocket, choosing not to sample one of the chocolates himself.
"Mm," Kerry-Anne murmured, appreciatively, "that was delicious, thank you."
She opened her eyes and favoured 'Jack' with a dazzling smile, only slightly marred by the trace of chocolate on her lip. He smiled back, and Kerry-Anne was so flattered by the attention that she did not even notice the slight hint of a predatory movement in the way he turned to look at her. She felt her heart rate speed up and wondered if this was what lust was. Mike had never brought her chocolates… well, not yet, anyway. She hadn't had much of a chance to tell him which ones she liked.
"Where do you get such nice chocolates?" she enquired, cocking her head to one side, privately wondering if Mike, as a full-time librarian, could afford to buy such luxuries where she could not on a part-time clerk's wages.
"I import them," Jack replied, enigmatically, "I plan to set up shop here in London."
"It was a delightful chocolate," Kerry-Anne purred, wondering if he would deign to offer another, "If I give you my telephone number, will you tell me when you open your shop? I would like to sample…more."
She raised her eyes to meet his dark gaze suggestively. He smiled again, and patted her hand.
"Of course," he replied, simply.
"It's a private number," she said, lowering her voice conspiratorially, "listen carefully…"
Playing along, Jack leaned in closer, and allowed her to whisper the telephone number into his ear. Her breath was warm on his cheek and he smiled to himself, as she turned away.
"Did you get that?" she smiled, glancing at him sideways in a way that she probably thought of as being coquettish, if she even understood the word.
He smiled back, repeated the number to her in a whisper. Kerry-Anne turned towards the window, and pouted suddenly. Her stop was rapidly approaching, and she had just begun to really enjoy herself.
Any minute now, she thought to herself, he'll offer me another chocolate.
However, she was disappointed, as she reached up to press the bell and the bus slowly came to a halt.
"My stop," she said, somewhat unnecessarily, "Call me…?"
Jack simply smiled in reply.
Kerry-Anne stepped off the bus, feeling a flush working its way up her cheeks. She wondered if she should have cut the neckline of her dress a little lower… watching as the bus pulled away, she thought she saw Jack raise his hand in a wave to her. She waved back, a little hesitantly. She did not notice the man leaning against the lamppost behind her raise his hand slightly, acknowledging the gesture. He rolled up his newspaper and dropped it into the nearest bin.
Kerry-Anne glanced around herself, feeling a little flustered, before she set off on a steady walk to her rendezvous with Mike. Somehow, she was a little less enamoured about the whole meeting. She certainly had no regard for the small, pale man who wove his way through the crows, following a discreet distance behind her. Tottering slightly in the high heels she was not used to wearing, Kerry-Anne walked on regardless.
It was just starting to get dark outside. The sun set slowly, sinking lazily behind the large warehouses clustered along the banks of the river Thames. Golden strobes of light reflected from broken windows and the choppy surface of the water, stirred up by a brisk evening breeze that heralded the decline of summer into autumn. It was late September, and the chill in the air made George Cowley's gammy leg ache slightly. The river had gone from a murky green to gold and blood-red in the dying light, and Cowley stood there, allowing the breeze to ruffle his hair. Anyone observing may have been forgiven for thinking that Cowley was miles away, lost in a world of his own thoughts. Those who knew the chief of CI5 knew better; every sense was alert and the hand that gripped the railing before him did so with a strength and surety of a man secure in his own position of responsibility. He did not need to turn at the screech of tyres behind him, which announced the arrival of a certain Ford Capri. The doors opened and then slammed shut again, before two sets of footsteps approached him slowly and stood at a respectful distance behind him.
"What took you so long?" he said, gruffly.
"Well, there was this bird, see…"
"Save it, Bodie," Cowley snapped back, turning to face the two.
He saw what he expected to. Bodie, the ex-soldier, stood with a slight grin on his handsome features that so many girls found so irresistible. He wore black suit trousers, dinner jacket, shirt and tie with incongruous black trainers. His blue eyes sparkled dangerously in the fading light, able to hint at mirth and malice at almost the same time. Doyle, the other half of the terrible two, stood slightly behind his partner. His unruly hair was a plaything of the breeze but his green-eyed gaze was deadly serious. His boyish good looks brought him as much luck with the ladies as Bodie's dark charms. He was wearing faded jeans, while trainers, and a white tee-shirt beneath his unbuttoned chequered shirt, over which was a denim jacket. Cowley's gaze flicked between the two for barely a millisecond before he spoke.
"We've got another one," he said, somewhat unnecessarily, "You'll need these."
He handed his two top agents a surgical face mask each and a pair of latex gloves. Both of the agents knew what to expect, as they put on the odd apparel without question. Cowley stepped towards them, and the two stepped neatly to either side to allow him to pass by, before falling into grim step behind their boss, as he lead the way into the derelict warehouse.
Bodie and Doyle were trained to notice everything. Still, the scene took some taking in. The warehouse was old, probably scheduled for demolition, and half-way to collapse from the looks of it. The three CI5 men strode past the 'Danger – Keep Out' signs without as much as an acknowledging glance.
Inside, the warehouse was dark and dank. The floor was thick with sludge that would probably have been dust if the roof had not leaked so badly. The place probably got saturated every time it rained, but with nowhere for the water to drain away it merely congealed with the dirt on the floor. The three men walked on regardless, their footsteps squelching slightly. Only Bodie, in his immaculate suit, creased the slightest of frowns at the thought of yet another trip to the dry-cleaners. Somewhere in the darkness, the dripping of water could be heard. The floor was too wet and slimy to retain any decent footprints. Towards the back of the warehouse, two large, white screens fenced off one corner. Cowley led the way as he stepped around the screens and stopped to survey the scene within.
A white-suited forensic examiner glanced up, his overalls stained grey from the mud. He registered their presence with barely a nod, before he turned back to his work. Intrigued, both Bodie and Doyle leaned in for a closer look. The medical examiner frowned behind his white mask and gestured for them to keep their distance. He was steadfastly ignored.
"Is this the same as the others?" Bodie asked, glancing back at Cowley, then at the medical examiner.
Around them, uniformed cops stood as far back as they could, looking oddly faceless in the surgical masks they all wore. On the floor, the body of a young girl was twisted into a grotesque parody of a centre-page model in a girly magazine. Her hands and legs were tied down with thick, frayed rope to old iron loops in the floor, which had obviously been there for as long as the warehouse. Bodie's eyes flicked around quickly, and spotted a rotting coil of rope nearby. A tool of convenience – whoever had tied the girl up had used materials to hand. They had probably scouted the area out for use before… before what? He turned back to the scene before him. Next to the girl was a young, dark-haired man, similarly tied, his face a frozen mask of death-agony.
"She's pretty," Bodie commented.
"Pretty young," Doyle remarked in response.
The girl was indeed young. Her eyes, once blue, had clouded over white in death, and stared fixedly, half lidded, at nothing. Her delicate lips wore the faintest traces of red lipstick, slightly garish, and a stark contrast to the blue tinge of her skin. Hair, once golden, was grey and slick with the dirt of the warehouse floor. Her dress was so coated in the rank muck it was hard to determine what colour the dress had originally been when it and its wearer had no doubt turned a few heads when walking down the high street. The examiner's gloved fingers touched her pale flesh, which had a waxy sheen in the harsh light of the spotlights set up to light the darkening interior of the warehouse. The white screens served the dual purpose of reflecting the light and shielding the body from any passing, prying eyes – however unlikely that was, given the massive police presence converged on the dockside.
"Well?" Cowley demanded, at last, his voice slightly muffled by the mask he wore, "Is it the same as the others?"
"Hard to tell," The doctor replied, "I'll need to conduct a post-mortem on both of them."
He turned, almost casually, to the young man. He wore tan trousers and once-polished black shoes, all heavily mud-stained. His blue shirt was open to the sternum, and the dark hairs on his chest stood out against the mottled blue and white skin. There was a gold chain around his neck, and his mouth was half-open in a silent cry. His hands, as were the girl's, were covered with tiny, blister-like lesions.
"Come on, doctor," Cowley pressed him, the northern burr in his voice deepening as his patience thinned, "out with it. Is it the same as the others?"
The doctor sighed, and stood up slowly. He glanced at each of the three agents, meeting hard stares in return. They were tough men, and the doctor crumbled quickly under the scrutiny.
"It looks that way," he admitted, "they died of an unknown poison, characterised by the tiny lesions on the backs of the hands. They were restrained, deliberately poisoned, and left to die, probably for quite some time – possibly over two or three days."
Doyle took a step forward, peering at the two tragic young figures before them. The girl could not be more than 19 years old. The man was somewhat older; mid-twenties, perhaps. Both of their features were so obscured by mud it was hard to make them out clearly. Doyle frowned, and moved in closer.
"These two make the fifth and sixth victims in as many weeks," Bodie growled, "and we still don't know anything about why they were killed."
Bodie flicked his brooding gaze from the two corpses to his partner. Doyle's face was set in a slight frown of concentration, and Bodie knew instinctively that his partner was onto something. He waited for a beat or two, and then shifted slightly.
The tousle-headed agent did not look up, and instead moved in closer, despite the doctor's mumble of incoherent protest, quickly silenced by a glower from the commanding figure of Cowley.
"I know him," Doyle stated, at length, "Yeah… his name's Reed. Mike Reed. He works at a library in the suburbs."
"I could have told you that," the doctor snapped, irritably, "we found his wallet. The girl's name is Kerry-Anne Smith. She's 17, he's 21."
"He was a nice guy," Doyle said, vaguely, as if he had not heard the doctor speak, "did loads of research for me on a case about the illegal import of exotic pets when I was with the Met. He helped us track down where the smugglers were bringing in all these bizarre lizards and parrots."
"Could this be relevant to the case?" Bodie asked, slightly confused as to what a lizard could have to do with murder.
"I doubt it," Cowley replied, "none of the other victims had a link to the force in any way – as far as we know. It could be a lead, though – go through the background checks again and see if any of the other victims acted as advisors or informers on police cases. Doctor, I want a full medical report on my desk by morning."
"But it's nearly the end of my shift…"
"By morning, doctor," Cowley's tone brooked no argument.
Unseen, high above the CI5 agents, a young man lay stretched out on the roof of an old factory, watching the scene below through the long lens of a powerful camera. He wore plain denim jeans and a black leather jacket over a plain white tee-shirt. Dark haired and muscular, 'Jack' had been a good name for him, although his friends knew him better as Karl. He quickly snapped photographs of the scene below him, paying particular attention to the three men grouped around a silvery-grey Ford Capri. Karl knew these men were not regular police, but he would need to get in touch with some of his contacts before he could fully identify them to his employers. Finishing off the film with a few more photographs for good measure, he placed the camera carefully into his rucksack. Turning away from the ledge of the roof and concealed by the encroaching night, he strode confidently away from the roof. His employers would be most pleased with the results of their latest experiments…