Powderfinger by Keller Yeats

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Chapter 12

The alarm clock continued it’s insistent annoying “beep,beep”, lying on the floor, by the bedside table. How it got there was anybody’s guess. Alex scrabbled around until he silenced the beast. He was having difficulty sleeping. The act of getting to sleep was hard enough, but the nightmares invading his mind, when he did manage it, were both weird and terrifying. They all seemed to take place in day-glow colours and he would wake with such a start covered in sweat. If it continued much longer, he resolved to make an appointment with old Dr. Owen, to see if there was anything in his lexicon, to alleviate his present difficulty? However, this option could not be pursued right now, as the surgery was closed on a Saturday, and there were more pressing matters to attend to. He had to find the time today, to make a return trip to The Morgue, to see Jinx for the results of the second autopsy. Then go upstairs to the forensic labs, to see what the boffin crew had recovered from Eleanor Ross’s camera.

“Busy day,” he said to the reflection in the hall mirror, as he opened the front door and made his way to his car.

“Morning,” called a voice, that made him jump, as it came out of the blue. Alex looked up, and there, hanging over the fence, was his neighbour, Adele Hough. She was divorced and had the house as part of the settlement. She had also got custody of Adelaide, the precocious issue of the pairing. The husband in this sordid tale of infidelity, was Sebastian Trenchard-Jones, who simply found it impossible to “keep it in his pants.” This gross inability to keep his hands and other parts of his anatomy to himself, had resulted in the inevitable break up of the relationship and Adele, had come out of it almost immediately dropped the Trenchard-Jones moniker and reverted to her maiden name of Hough.

“Jesus Della, you nearly scared the whatnots out of me there,” he said to her, as he retrieved his fallen notes from the driveway gravel.

“It’s my pleasure,” she instantly replied and dropped out of sight again.

He liked Adele and enjoyed her occasional company, for short periods, but how much liberated exuberance could a man tolerate, before he went mad in a haze of glitter and disco balls? The sound of young Adelaide, somewhere in the garden, stirred Alex into action and he wasted no more time in getting into his car and pulling away from the purgatory, that went by the name of Adelaide Hough Trenchard-Jones.

He had escaped and now his next priority was to contact Arch and Jinx. He drove a mere five hundred yards up the road, before he pulled over to the kerb, reached for his mobile and started dialling.

“Arch, get yourself down to the Morgue, we’ll check if anything came out of the camera and I need to see Jinx, about the second autopsy.”

Deacon, was running a touch late and actually took the call as he was stuffing a final buttered Crumpet into his mouth. He grunted his acquiescence and Alex hung up. 'Thank god, I didn’t have to speak' he thought to himself. 'That, would have given the game away.' DCI Findlay did not approve of tardiness. He finished his Crumpet as he rushed through the door, gained access to his 'wheels' with one simple, expedient movement of his thumb and set off. It was quite a way to the Morgue, so Arch decided that he would naughtily use the flashing lights and the siren, this morning. Alex Findlay, in the meantime, was trying to elicit a response from the answering service on Jinx’s phone.

“You have reached the phone of Dr. Jacqueline Pinnock, I’m not presently available. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you.” Findlay, had heard this patter many times over the years. “Oh, come on Jinx, pick up,” he said. When she failed to respond to his pleading, he grumpily informed her machine that he and Deacon were on their way. He thrust his phone back in his breast pocket, eased his dark blue Audi away from the kerb, clicked Classic F.M. on the radio and drove towards the Morgue.

Jinx, didn’t answer the phone because she was trying to answer a question that had arisen late last night when she was closing up after another long, hard day on the farm. She was wondering if what she thought she had seen last night was simply the ravings of an exhausted mind, was an hallucination, or was she ‘losing her marbles’, as her mum would have said. To answer that question, she had come in early and was now viewing the recordings taken by the lab cameras last night. She was looking at the time read out on the screen, attempting to put herself back into the picture. She visually retraced her steps, the usual tidying up of the implements, the securing of the equipment, the fridging of the body of Eleanor Ross. It was safe for her to leave for the night. Next, came some 'saucy' coverage of her changing clothes. She admonished herself, 'I really should have been a little more aware of that camera,' she thought and felt herself blush a touch, internally.

She stared at the time readout on the screen, it had been 12.23am, when she had got into the car and the monitor was reading 12.09am. She quickly pressed a button on the control panel and normal playback speed resumed. She watched, as she removed all of her surgical gear and slipped on her 'civvies,' then made her way to the door and, upon opening it, flicked off the lights and then she left the room. In that instant, as the door closed, she glanced back into the room and thought she saw a faint glow emanating from the slab. It was all here on tape, including the incandescent glow which had lasted only for a few seconds and then had faded away, into nothing. So it did exist, she wasn’t going mad.

Last night she had dismissed the phenomenon, considering it was better to explore it further, after a good nights sleep. However, when she was curled up in bed trying to sleep, the vision of the slab glowing in the murky darkness, had haunted her thoughts. 'Was it real? Was she imagining it? What could it be? What could cause it?' Then she started answering herself, “Perhaps, it’s some kind of phosphorescent algae, or something like that.” Her mind had raced, 'The area around Canals are notoriously used for dumping unwanted rubbish and the faint glow in the dark effect, may be nothing more than a pollution issue.' She had relaxed a little at that thought and then shot bolt upright,

“Or maybe it’s radioactivity.” Her mind was turning over furiously, “I should have checked the table and the body. Fucking hell Jinx, too sloppy girl. You’re getting far too complacent and damned lazy” she admonished herself. She had resolved to get some sleep and then, get in early and check it all out.

She had dozed fitfully for the remainder of the night and now, she was sitting in the security office, almost nodding off, while peering at some speeded up Lab camera footage of last nights events on the monitor. Memories of the Autopsy, were still fresh in her mind’s eye and viewing this recording of yesterday’s events, reminded her of the action replays of a sports match. It was fascinating to watch ones self on the screen and she wondered if others who viewed this footage in the future, could possibly see the things, that she was seeing right now. Her impression of yesterdays events, were coloured by her emotions, the smells, the sheer fact that the victim had died in a state of abject terror. The circumstances of that death, penetrated The Morgue, whenever a murder victim was on the slab. All deaths carried a sadness but if the body, was that of a road traffic victim, then there was a certain 'participant effect' involved in the end result, suicides also had a similar feeling about them. A death, that carried a certain, knowing, or personal awareness quality, was different to one, where the victim was surprised or brutalised. The victims of The Yorkshire Ripper and others of his ilk, were taken completely by surprise and were terrified at the moment of their death, this seemed to resonate clearly when one had such a victim in the morgue.

Jinx rewound the tape again and as she stared at the image provided by Camera Two, she confirmed the faint luminescence emanating from the slab where Eleanor Ross had lain. “What is that,” she mouthed silently, as before her eyes, the incandescence seemed to rise from where the corpse had lain, like a gaseous entity and then dissipate in the air. Jinx, rewound the film again, hit the image +, then watched a close up of the inexplicable images again and then, again. How on earth, was she going to try to explain these events to...........well, anybody?

“We’re through the Looking Glass here people,” she could hear herself saying. The words emerged, like some average actor, in a terrible movie, but that was hardly a reasonable explanation of what she had just seen. “Maybe it’s a trick of the light,” she said, attempting to comfort herself, “I’ll go and check that right now.”

Just as she was leaving the desk, Colin Jeavons, came striding through the door. “Good morning Miss, you’re here bright and early this morning. Is there something on, that I don’t know about?” Jinx, still a touch perturbed by the events that had unfolded on the screen, jumped a little when he had suddenly appeared and spoke to her. “You O.K. miss, you look like you’ve just seen a ghost” and reaching into his holdall, pulled out a large thermos flask, loosening the top he said, “My wife makes this for me before every shift. It’s just about the best cuppa in the world. Here, let me pour you a slug. This’ll put hairs on your chest.” It would do no harm to humour him, Colin, was nice enough chap and she didn’t want to hurt his feelings with a rejection of his kind offer.

“Alright, just a small one, I think that I could use something about now,” she said quietly. Jinx, watched intently as Colin poured her a cap full of his wife’s elixir and placed it in front of her, on the desk. “Thanks Col, give Mrs. J. my regards would you,” she said, as she sipped her tea.“ Then, almost casually, she added, “You watch a lot of CCTV footage, how would you like to give me your professional opinion on this?” Jinx, then wound the tape back once more and set it off again, for his benefit.

He felt really proud, whenever Doctor P. occasionally asked him to do something that may prove to be important in an ongoing case. His ego bolstered, he stepped over to the screen and bent down to get the best possible view of the evidence, took his hat off and began “umming” and “arring” to himself, as he concentrated.

While Colin, watched the five, or so minutes of Security footage that was playing out before him, Jinx, drank some more of Mrs. Jeavon’s 'elixir of life,' and complementarily uttered “This tea of your wife’s, has a remarkable flavour, it has a sort of exotic, rich sweetness to it. Very invigorating. What’s it called, I think that I may get some of this stuff?”

Colin, for his part, just carried on studying the monitor and almost indifferently replied, “Don’t know Miss, tea, is something the wife’s into. Not really my department. I’ll ask her when I get home, if you like” and he just continued looking at the screen intently, occasionally brushing imaginary flecks of some invisible contaminant off it. “Tell you what’ if she’s baking any of her cookies this week, I’ll bring a couple in for you. How’s that sound?”

Jinx, had already deduced, that the exotic taste of the tea, was not so much exotic, as alcoholic, Brandy she suspected, so she was not going to risk being caught in possession of Mrs Jeavons 'cookies.' She didn’t want to hurt Colin’s feelings, or get him into trouble with the powers that be, so she simply declined his potentially dubious offer.

Seeing as how workaday boring his job at The Morgue was, she wasn’t going to mention, the wee tot of Brandy, that she had detected in the contents of his Thermos flask. It was obviously such a small amount, that it was hardly detectable in the cup, that he had so willingly offered her. It was by far, the best option to choose to turn a blind eye. He simply beamed at her, when she said, “Thanks Colin but we middle aged ladies, do have to be careful with our waists.”

He smiled and quickly returned to the monitor. “Perhaps, it’s something like condensation on the camera lens, that only became apparent, when you turned the florescent lights out. Or, maybe is it some chemical, that you laboratory folks use, when you’re doing something with the bodies. I don’t know Miss, it’s not really my field, perhaps the camera boffins upstairs can help.” Colin, then excused himself with “I’d better get on with my day” and after picking up his Thermos flask, made his way into the gents toilet and the door closed behind him. In his own way, Colin, was sometimes very useful in matters like this, especially when the obvious answer was required.

“Condensation and chemicals. Now why didn’t I think of that?” She berated herself, for being so intense and always overcomplicating the issue. She chastised herself once more, for being too tired to approach a problem logically. 'I really must try and get more sleep,' she mused, as she made her way to the Path Lab to fetch a Geiger Counter. “Radioactivity, for god’s sake ! Get a grip, Jinx,” she exclaimed and with added emphasis, she continued, “get a fucking grip, won’t you?” Then, reverting back, to her mothers naturally cautious demeanor, she added “Best to be safe than sorry.”

Recently, these lapses into flustered panic, were happening more frequently, than she would have liked. Lately, The Lab, had been somewhat run off their feet and she’d put in a request for additional and replacement Pathology assistants but nothing had accrued from that exercise in futility. So, it had once again, fallen to her tiny team, to make the most of a bad job. “Christ, we’re, two members of staff down and Sykes gets a new Jag, something’s not quite right there.” Then, feeling that her admonishment, was insufficient, she cursed him again, under her breath. “Something’s not right at all.”

Jinx, then took a sharp left turn and entered the Examination Room, reached up and turned the lights on, waited ten seconds and then, turned them off again. There was nothing to be seen on, or around either of the tables. She then pulled both of the canal bank bodies from the fridges and slid them onto the tables and repeated the light experiment again, still there was nothing to be observed. She then, found a piece of Lens Tissue and wiped the lenses of both of the camera’s, starting with the one that was pointing at the door and moving on, to the one focused directly at the Examination Table. It was best to eliminate both of Colin’s theories first and then move onto other possibilities.

She turned out the lights again and observing nothing then walked into the office to check the camera views, nothing. Jinx picked up the Geiger counter and headed back into the examination room, “Just in case...,” she cautioned and then, promptly stopped dead in her tracks, having suddenly realised, the origin of the words, that she had just muttered.

“God,love us,” she cursed. Once again, she had been absentmindedly hijacked, by family lore. It wasn’t, that somebody may have overheard her private musings, no, it was entirely to do with what she had said and the manner, of that saying. 'Get thee behind me, mother,' Jinx internally demanded and then, her attention was impolitely broken by the arrival of her trusty second, Mason Entwhistle who couldn’t help but notice Jinx, resplendent with the Geiger Counter moving across the room, traversing the space between the two bodies.

“Houston, we have a problem,” he said in his very best Ham American, as he just stood transfixed by the door. “What’yer doing, Mam?” he continued in the same vein.

“Oh piss off Mace, I’m just playing it safe, that’s all. You can never be too sure, with these things.” The Geiger, hadn’t even clicked once, so she switched it off placing it back in it’s case. “I’m not going mad, but I thought I saw these slabs giving off a gentle glow, last night when I was locking up and I reckoned........Oh, I don’t know what I reckoned but there is something strange going on here and I got a little paranoid. That’s all.”

Mason, didn’t seem particularly perturbed by her news and simply continued getting ready for another day. “I noticed that phenomena last Sunday, with the first victim, when I pulled that late one.”

She turned, “What? Why didn’t you say something?” Mason, just looked at her, as if he had been stabbed though the heart.

“You told me to just get on with stuff and if anything came to light, to tell you. So, that’s what I did. I took some samples and packed them off to Central.”

Now it was Jinx, who looked chagrined. “Yes, you’re right,” she apologised, then excitedly she chirped, “Have we got anything back yet?” Mace, feeling vindicated informed her, that the results should be in any time soon, as he had called in a favour and 'Person X,' was rushing them through.

Although, it was an old cliche, both he and barer of the acronym, were more than happy with the anonymity it had provided for them in many an enquiry. Jinx smiled at his initiative and congratulated herself, for her consummate man management skills. 'Person X, was in fact, Julie Messer, who was an old college friend of Mason. When they discovered they were both technically working in the same field, they had come to a very beneficial, 'Mutual back scratching arrangement.' Jinx thought this valuable friendship could be how Mace, had so many telling insights, when it came to the bodies.

The sound of the post arriving, via Colin marching triumphantly into the Lab with it, made them both jump. “Bloody hell, Colin. We’re going to have to get a bell for you,” she said and they burst into laughter. Having recovered her composure sufficiently, Jinx made her way over to the mail sack and tipped the contents onto her desk. Mason, looked at all the packages for a moment and then went straight to one that had a red asterisk in the top left hand corner.

He picked it up with a victorious, “da, dah” and looked for some recognition from his boss.

“Go on then, open it.” Jinx encouraged. He quickly but carefully opened it and asked,

“This is going to tell us, exactly what?” Unfolding the report, he read the information inside and waving the piece of paper in front of him, proudly announced,

“What’s causing the bodies to glow?” Jinx was becoming impatient to know, “Come on then, let us all know” she implored him and she clapped her hands together excitedly.

“Both samples contain, a mixture of Phosphorous and Marsh Gas combined in the.”.......... What he read next, caused him to involuntarily pause in his reading of the findings, ......... “powdered bone dust.” He said slowly and then carried on, silently reading the results and after a pause to accommodate these new facts, added, “It seems, that the heat of the Lab lights react with the compounds and they start to heat up and dimly glow.”

Jinx, looked at him somewhat relieved and slightly bemused, “So what are we dealing with here?”

Mace was as confused as she was, he reread the report, stroking his beard. “That’s all they say,” he concluded, then handing her the report, added, "Your guess is as good as mine."

Jinx, just glanced at the report and putting it to one side asked “Did Melissa come down and take that new cast yesterday?” Jinx had organised this, as the cast she had previously taken, had proven very odd and her casting material proved brittle and flakey.

Mason, had called the labs about this problem and Melissa Gilbert had agreed to come down and take another impression, with a new plasticising material she hoped would overcome the problems. “Yes,” replied Mace,” it has had to cold set in the fridge overnight. I’m expecting her back shortly to extract it for inspection.”

Jinx, continued “OK, good. Let me know when she arrives, I really want to see this.” With that Jinx headed into her office to prepare the paperwork for the DCI and the Coroner.

Mason assisted Melissa as she carefully eased the cast out of Debra Foxx’s cold body. Jinx watched, the anticipation was almost palpable. "What the hell, is that," cried Jinx?

“Don’t know,” said Mason.

“Curious” chimed Melissa, then continued, “Your guess is as good as mine.” They were all staring at a cast of something gently curved that was nearly two feet in length and pointed.

“Your guess is as good as mine, what the fuck does that mean?” interjected Jinx, questioningly. Melissa, who generally preferred to think things over carefully before she spoke, looked at Jinx and simply shrugged her shoulders.

“I don’t know, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever come across anything like this before.” Then, seeing the look on Jinx’s face offered, “O.K, then, I’ll try running it through the data base and run a micro examination of it’s surface structure. That’ll have to wait, until Monday though.” Mason, looked over at her, expecting some expression of impatience.

“Fine” replied Jinx, “We’ll keep it until then, I want to look at it some more myself.”

Jinx and Mason, just stood looking at the cast, trying to imagine what on earth, it could possibly be, when Mace had an insight. “Did you ever look at clouds in the sky and think, that they appeared to be something other, than just random blob of water vapour drifting by?” Jinx nodded. He took a deep breath and then continued, “What if we reverse the process and say, what does it look like, not what is it, then see where that takes us?”

Jinx, was impressed. “O.K. I’ll go with that, just what is it that you’re seeing. It just looks like something out of a bad “B” movie to me?” Mason, was thinking along similar lines but he thought that he could see something else.

“Don’t hold me to this but” and he hesitated, almost as if he were trying to somehow, censor his own thoughts, “but it bares an uncanny resemblance to......” he paused again before finishing his statement, “a giant human finger.” Jinx looked at him askew. “Well, it does” he protested “and I’ll bet that the other wounds could be accounted for, if we reconstructed a complete hand.” He then stabbed the air with his fingers outstretched and mimicked cutting his throat, with his forefinger.

Jinx was intrigued, she could understand his logic, but there was one giant flaw, in his deductions. Nobody, had fingers that long and bones were not known to cauterise flesh. However, once Mason had set this train of thought in motion, fingers and colossal hands were all that she could envisage. “I’ll leave you to your musings, Mace but I’ve got to get some real work done and DCI Findlay, is expecting a prelim autopsy report on the second body, so, if you don’t mind, I’ll leave you to it?”

Returning to her office, she flopped down and tried to gather her thoughts and findings before Alex Findlay and his DS arrived. It appeared to be the same killer in both cases using the same weapon. She would show them the cast and let Mason expound on his theories, off the record. This case, was getting stranger by the day and Jinx, was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the findings. They just didn’t make sense.

Things, weren’t making much sense to Kaylie Western either. DS Deacon, had sent her to organise the follow up interviews with the friends and associates of the victims, in the hope that being questioned by a female, would put them more at their ease and something may shake loose. The lack of motives were seriously hindering the investigation of the case. Usually, she had at least some small successes when doing the face to face stuff, but this was proving to be fruitless. Debra Foxx’s friends, confirmed what they had told The Police earlier and Eleanor Ross’s sister had confirmed, that they were supposed to be meeting for lunch round at her place, on the afternoon of her death but Eleanor, had failed to turn up for their appointment. Due to this apparent snub, she had called her two, or three times but only reached her answer service and finally, had left her sister a message, full of expletives. Frustratingly, there seemed to be absolutely no connection between the victims, excepting the fact that they were both discovered, dead, close by each other on the canal, killed in similar circumstances and they were both female.

“What was all that crap about marsh gas glow and giant fingers?” said Arch, as he and Alex Findlay made their way up to the first floor, hoping that Ralph Jones, the Audio Visual Technician, was going to show them something, he had discovered on one of Eleanor Ross’s photographs, that would give them a start on solving this case.

Upon reaching the last step, DCI Findlay halted and asked, “Did you understand any of it, or do you reckon Mason, was just pulling our plonkers in there?”

Arch, on hearing his seniors question, also stopped, a half pace in front of him and turning he glibly answered, “Mason’s got a fucking strange sense of humor, as you know Sir, so I don’t think that we should take his Sci-speak babble, too seriously. We’d do just as well enquiring, as to, what is he on?” They both could see the ridiculousness of their position and mutually chuckled as they opened the door and entered the A.V. Lab.

Ralph was messing with an image he had on the big screen, above his desk. “Good day gentlemen, I believe that you want to see the pictures that came off the dead woman’s camera. If you’ll just step over here, I’ll see what I can do for you.” Findlay and Deacon, did as he wished and followed Ralph, over to the desk. “This wasn’t an easy one, most of the images are of nothing other than the canal, some greenhouses and the towpath. “I’ll tell you what gentlemen, I don’t actually know, who Eleanor Ross was and I don’t recall anything more, than a couple of book jackets but our Ex - Ms Ross, was actually, one hell of a photographer. Take away the flaws in the exposure levels, or whatever it is in the later shots, and what you see are some brilliantly composed photographs.”

Ralph, having moved to his desk, picked up a few of the prints off the surface and passed them to Alex. “As you can see, there are no suspicious individuals, or anything like that. However, one or two of them, hint at something else, something......” His words, tailed off, as he searched for the correct phrase, that would best explain, what he was trying to describe. “See here,” he said pointing to a dark smudge on the photograph. “At first glance, it just seems to be an obstruction, perhaps a piece of the photographers clothing, a finger in the wrong place, or just a bird flying past but..........” He centered the image and continued, “I’ve tried running the enhancement programme but without much success. This is the best I can do.......” He broke off for a second, as he carefully zoomed in on the centre of the darkness and enlarged the image, until it distorted. “If you look beyond the surface of the image, you will perhaps see something darker, just out of reach...”

Deacon and Findlay peered into the shadow, trying to pretend that they knew what Ralph was talking about. Arch saw nothing other than a smudge on the image, but Alex Findlay was seeing what he thought, was another shade of night, captured in the photograph.

“Is that it?” said Arch impatiently, “I missed half of my breakfast, for that. There’s bugger all there,” he snorted. Alex Findlay, was more considered,

“Thanks Ralph, that’s given me something to think about. If anything else pops up, give me a call.”

They then departed The Lab and made their way towards the stairs. “What a fucking waste of time, that was. Big fingers from Mason and some crap about a fucked up photograph from Ralph Jones.” Arch, was not in a good mood right now. “Fuck, fuckety, fuck, fuck,” he grunted, as he stormed out of The Morgue.

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