Vera sighed as she looked at the great old manse looming in the distance. She’d never been in the place, but knew that the people living here had bought it only ten years before and done some renovations on it.
Something had seemed suspicious about the place when she’d driven by earlier and she hadn’t been able to make herself ignore the niggling feeling that she needed to go back. So, here she was, parking the Land Rover outside the place and taking a deep breath before heading to the front door to knock.
Only…the front door was standing wide open, a trail of blood leading her through the foyer, up the stairs, and straight into the master bedroom.
“Oh bloody hell,” she breathed as she stopped and stared at the gruesome sight on the bed. The wall and ceiling were covered in blood, the bed a pool of it. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the covers to slip on her shoes so she could move closer to the scene.
Standing at the side of the bed, Vera stared down on the couple who had been murdered in the throws of their love making. She’d seen all sorts in this line of work, but she’d never had a scene where the couple were still intimately joined. The woman’s back had the word, MINE, carved into it, the man’s legs slashed from thigh to ankle.
Standing and staring in shock at the woman’s face, the perfect skin unmarred by cuts, bruises, or blood, was marred by the utter pain and horror on the unmoving face. Vera couldn’t seem to breathe. The unseeing eyes staring back at her, the nose, the lips…all of it was hers. Her face, her eyes, her mouth.
Finally catching her breath, Vera felt her stomach roiling and knew she was going to retch if she didn’t do something to take her mind off what she’d just discovered. Closing her eyes, she reached into her pocket and pulled out her mobile.
Only one person could handle this job. She couldn’t let anyone else see this face, this body. “Billy,” she whispered when she heard the familiar voice on the phone. “Marcus is on holiday. I need you.” She listened to her friend assure her he’d come and ask her for the address. Giving him what he needed, she couldn’t stop the near strangled, “Please hurry,” that left her lips before ending the call.
She knew that she needed to call the rest of her team and forensics, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so. How was she going to deal with this case? This woman was exactly like her. True, her body was thinner and her hair dark with blonde highlights, but those were the only differences as far as Vera could see. It was as if she was staring at a blurred mirror image of herself. Damned if it didn’t feel like she’d stepped through the bloody looking glass.
Tearing her eyes away, she looked at the night table and found a photo of the couple smiling happily at one another in a picture that looked to have been taken just recently. The look on the man’s face as he stared into his wife’s eyes told Vera that he had been deeply in love with the woman in his arms.
Hearing a noise downstairs, she walked from the room and stared down the landing, trembling when she saw Billy making his way toward her. “It’s bad, Billy,” she whispered. “I’m sorry to drag you back into this but…”
“What has you so spooked, Vera? I’ve never seen you this way on a case before.”
Pointing into the room, Vera closed her eyes. “See for yourself.”
Billy gave her a searching look then made his way to the bed, his keen eyes taking in the details even as they moved to the face. A gasp slipped out before he could stop it and he looked up to see Vera staring at him from across the room. “My god. It’s like,” he shook his head. “No wonder you wanted me. I’ll do my best, Vera, but my assistants will have to see.”
She nodded. “I just don’t want Kenny and the rest seeing her. I know she’s not me, but…”
“But she’s enough like you that you’re afraid they’ll have images in their heads that you’d rather they didn’t. I know.” Billy smiled kindly at her, understanding her in a way that no one else did.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I need to call Forensics and Aiden.”
“Go on then. Send my assistant up.”
Vera nodded then hurried out of the room and down the stairs. “Go on up,” she told the young woman, thankful the assistant on call today had been a woman not a man.
She couldn’t seem to get her mind on anything else, and when she closed her eyes all she saw was her own eyes staring unseeing back at her. Making her way outside, she pulled her mobile back out of her pocket and dialed Aiden’s number, rolling her eyes when it went straight to voicemail. Ending the call without leaving a message, she dialed Shep, thankful the woman was always easy to reach. Telling her the address to come to, Vera ended the call and leaned against the Land Rover.
She didn’t know what was going on, but she couldn’t process the sight of the victims and move on to processing the rest of the scene as she always did when she went to a murder scene. True, she’d never come upon a scene where the victim, or one of the victims as the case may be, had her face, but that still shouldn’t be a problem. Vera had trained with the best of them. She’d always had a mind that could compartmentalize things into a proper order of relevance, even back to her days as a child in school. Compartmentalizing had always been her way of coping with things, making it possible for her to catch details at a scene that others might possibly have missed.
But not this time.
This time all she could see, think about, process, was the mutilated body upstairs with her face. She found herself wondering if the woman sounded like her. Did she walk the same? That had Vera rolling her eyes and shaking her head. Of course the woman didn’t walk the same. The woman was a lady from the look of her in the picture and a lady didn’t walk like Vera knew she herself walked.
She really needed a name. Taking a deep breath, she headed back toward the door, pausing when she saw Shep pull in only moments before the Forensics team. Seeing the team made her realize she’d forgotten to call them. She shrugged, Billy must have called, knowing how rattled she was. She was very grateful he’d not questioned her asking him to step in for Marcus. Being one of the bosses meant Billy never went out on cases anymore, but it also meant that he could if he chose to. In this case, he’d chosen to do as a friend asked mainly because the friend was Vera, and she knew it. If anyone else had asked him to step in for one of his team that was out on holiday, she knew he would have simply sent one of the others out instead.
Billy hadn’t even questioned why she was asking, he’d simply asked for directions to where she was. He’d known from the tone of her voice that something was wrong. He was the only one that knew her well enough to know things without her saying. She shrugged. Joe had been fairly decent at that, but he was gone and all she was left with that had any years with her was Kenny.
“Shep,” she greeted when the younger woman came up to her. “I need you to promise something before you go in.”
Shep studied her boss, something seemed off. “What is it?”
“Keep what you see under your hat as far as the woman goes, eh?” Vera could see the woman was confused and held up her hand to stem any questions. “You’ll understand when you see.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Shep agreed then made her way inside, her mind swirling with all sorts of questions.
Following behind, Vera stopped inside the home and looked around. She saw pictures on the fireplace mantel and moved to them, seeing faces she assumed were the couple’s children. Pulling gloves on, she lifted one of the pictures and stared down at it. A wedding photo of a younger version of the couple upstairs. She could see how in love they were, the same love she’d seen in the photo by the bed. Putting the frame back in its place, she moved around the room, coming to a door that led to an office. On the desk she finally found something that had names.
Martin and Hellen Kingsley.
Searching some more, she found tickets to Bali, a box that when opened revealed a stunning ring that must have cost the husband a hefty sum, and a note that revealed more about the couple.
My darling, I know I’ve hurt you in the past, but I hope that this trip and this ring will show you that I love you – always have done. The kids are all married now, it’s just us again, and I want us to enjoy our lives together. Please, will you accept my apology and go away with me? It’s a month with nothing to do but spend our days together, learning all over again what made us fall in love with each other in the first place. Martin
Vera laid the note down then rummaged through the rest of the papers to see if there was anything that might give her a clue as to what happened. There were dates circled on the calendar but no explanation as to why they were circled, just different color ink on certain ones, but that only told her that there was a difference in the appointment or occasion on those particular days.
Closing her eyes against the headache that was starting, she saw Hellen’s face staring back at her again. Opening her eyes and shaking her head, she left the room to make her way back up the stairs. She’d have to see the bodies once again to talk to Billy and learn what he’d discovered in his inspection of the scene, but it couldn’t be helped. She had questions and she needed answers.