DI Joe Chandler was almost half way home when his phone rang. Groaning, he quickly glanced down and saw the station's number flash across the small screen.
"DI Chandler." he said as he pulled his car off onto the shoulder of the road, answering the call as he did so.
He jotted down the address the duty officer gave him and glanced at his watch before turning around and heading off to yet another crime scene. Usually he was excited when he got one these calls. He greatly enjoyed being a police officer and felt he made a difference in the lives of people in Whitechapel. Yet, tonight, he was tired, felt the early warning signs of a hellish headache, and was anxious to get home and crawl into bed. No such luck. Not tonight, at least. Of course, in his line of work, it was rare that he got an early night, or a full night's sleep. It was something you learned to deal with and his body adjusted accordingly.
"There are times I think of just switching my mobile off." Miles said as he watched the younger officer step out of his car, smoothing his expensive suit.
"You can't do that." Chandler replied, showing his warrant card to the constable guarding the scene from the growing crowd of onlookers. "It's part of being a policeman.."
"I know, I know." Miles said, hoping to stop the lecture he was certain was coming. "I said I think of it, not that I'd actually do it." he assured him.
"Good." Chandler rubbed his temples, his headache becoming worse. "What have you learned so far?" he asked as they headed up a steep, dimly lit set of stairs.
"Dead man." the DS yawned. "I got that from the duty officer, I've been waiting on you before heading up."
A constable, standing near the entrance holding some gas masks, stopped the two men before they could enter. "You'll each have to wear one of these." he said, holding a mask out to each man.
"Why?" Chandler asked as he took the mask and looked it over.
"The smell." the constable answered. "Dr. Llewellyn's orders."
"This doesn't bode well." Miles said as he slipped the mask on before climbing the stairs.
Chandler looked around as they headed up to the fourth floor of the old, vacant building. Plaster was peeling off the walls revealing the brittle looking lath beneath and covering everything in a fine white dust. The floor was covered in a moth-eaten and faded carpet, old rough floorboards peeking through in a few places. It was a very drab, depressing place to be. He felt dirty and uncomfortable just walking up the stairs. He knew that he would have to take a shower when he finally returned home, an even longer, more thorough one if this crime scene was as gruesome as some of them were.
"Good evening." Caroline Llewellyn said, her voice a bit muffled as she spoke through her own mask, moving around a bathtub where the body of a man who was contorted in an effort to make him cuts covered him head to toe.. "I think he had a tough time of it." she added, nodding towards the man.
"I'd say so." Miles agreed. "He's dead after all. And reeking of...piss?"
"I'm not sure if it's urine at the moment." she answered. "I'll know more when I get him back and look him over properly."
"What are these tiny cuts?" Chandler asked as he slowly knelt next to the body. "They look like paper cuts."
"That's exactly what I was thinking." Caroline sighed as she, too, knelt down. "It looks like they were then doused in that liquid."
"The piss?" Miles asked, his nose wrinkling against the strong smell.
"What ever it is." she nodded. "It could be common household ammonia."
"Covered in very small cuts, and then something dumped all over him..." Chandler began, standing upright again.
"Probably to make the cuts burn more, at the very least." Caroline nodded again.
"Cause of death?" Chandler asked, taking his handkerchief from his pocket and putting it over his mouth and nose, trying to block the smell of ammonia.
"I can't see anything that might have killed him." the doctor answered. "These tiny cuts wouldn't have done so, I'm certain of that."
"If it's ammonia that was poured over him, could that have killed him?" Miles asked, his eyes watering.
"Yes." Caroline motioned to two men standing near the door and asked them to place the man in a body bag and have him sent to her office. "Ammonia can be lethal if inhaled over a long period. It can be quite corrosive."
"Which is why we're having to wear these ridiculous masks." Miles said, resisting the urge to remove his own.
"The ridiculous mask is better than the alternative." Caroline pointed out.
"The room looks remarkably clean." Chandler said as he began to move around. "No dust, no dirt."
"Even the loose plaster's been cleared out." Miles added. "Wanted a tidy place to kill him?" he asked. "Sick bastard."
"I won't have any more information for you until sometime tomorrow morning." Caroline said, moving towards the door.
"Did SOCO find anything?" Chandler asked as he looked around once more before following Miles and Dr. Llewellyn back down the stairs.
"Nothing on the body." Miles said, taking a deep breath of fresh air once they made their way outside. "And nothing in the room." he continued, looking down at a small notebook.
"I guess there's nothing else to be done until the morning then." Chandler sighed, his head beginning to throb.
"I'll let you know when I've finished my examination." Llewellyn said as she fished her car keys out of her pocket and headed for her car.
"I'm going home and crawling into my nice warm bed." Miles said as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Julie's starting to forget what I look like."
"Good night." Chandler replied, heading for his own car, eager to be back at his own flat and in his own bed.
Chandler lay sprawled in his bed, comfortable and just about to doze off after getting home and completing his nightly routine before sliding between the crisp sheets. With one last glance at his bedside clock which read 2:15 am and knowing he would have to be up at about 7:00, he let out a long sigh and prepared to sleep. That was the plan and it was just about to happen when suddenly there was a noise in the hall outside his flat.
Sitting up, Chandler quickly flung his legs over the side of the bed and thrust his feet into his slippers and grabbing his robe from the end of the bed and headed for the door. He moved slowly and quietly, listening as he heard keys in the lock and the doorknob rattling a few times. He was just about to look through the peephole when suddenly there was a loud bang, the door shaking a bit and then silence.
Opening his door slowly, he looked out and saw no one. Baffled, Chandler opened the door more and looked down the hall, first left and then to the right where he saw a woman weighed down with luggage fumbling with another door.
"Were you just at my door?" he asked as he watched her toss down a bag that was hanging from her shoulder.
The woman jumped at the sound of his voice and then, recovering quickly from the surprise, made her way down the hall. "I'm so sorry." she whispered. "I had the wrong door." she explained. "I just flew in from Seattle and my brain is scrambled." she explained. "I'm so, so sorry for waking you up."
"It's fine." Chandler shook his head, eager to get back to his bed.
"I'll be as quiet as possible." the haggard looking woman assured him. "I promise."
"Thank you." he gave an exhausted smile. "You do have the correct flat this time, yes?"
"Yes, this time I do." she laughed weakly. "Again, sorry." she said as she gave a little wave and headed back to the door. One more time and the door unlocked and she waved once more to Chandler before vanishing into the flat down the hall.