Children had been born and raised in the house in Lauriston Gardens. They had known both love and hate. Brides had adorned themselves there. People had made love under that roof. Wept there. Died there.
That was all over with. Now, nothing ever wandered through those decaying, empty rooms except the wind, and the occasional band of neighbourhood children seeking a place to play out of the cold of a January evening.
The day had been one of late frost and nipping little breezes; it was dying quickly amid the smell of woodfires burning and the sound of children being called in to supper. Things were drab in a Brixton January. Everything was the grey of brooding winter skies and twilight smoke.
The woman that Amber Stricker, Kyle Suter and the three Worsley children found lying face-down in the upper bedroom of number fourteen was neither drab nor grey. She was splendid and pink, like a sunrise. Like a love-heart. Like a wrapped sweet. Like a lipsticked kiss.
At five minutes to six in the evening, Amber Stricker, aged twelve, called 999 and told the operator that the "pink woman" smelled like vomit and wouldn't open her eyes.