Part Two - 26 Mudders Lane
Outside number 26 Joe Welsh parked his grey BMW then turned to speak to his two back-seat passengers.
‘This is the place gentlemen, if you would like to follow me’ Joe unclasped his seatbelt, reached for a brown document wallet from the front passenger seat and vacated the vehicle; he was quickly followed by Hector Saint-Sanson and Dan Taylor. The trio walked up to the two police constables who stood outside the property that was bound with blue and white police incidence tape, Joe gave a cursory nod at the policemen who sidestepped to allow all three visitors access to the house.
Hector stopped briefly to examine the broken front door before joining Dan and Joe in the hallway. The floor was filthy due to the number of dirty boots that had been in and out the house since the discovery of Jack Olsen’s body, but in all the dirt and grime Hector saw something and knelt down to retrieve it. Removing a small plastic tube from the inside pocket of his Crombie overcoat, Hector used a pair of white plastic tweezers to pick up a twig and carefully inserted it into the plastic tube. Hector placed a lid on the tube then put it back into his pocket before ascending the equally soiled stairs to re-join his companions on the landing.
‘Through here if you will gentlemen’ Said Joe as he pushed open the door allowing Hector and Dan to enter the study, Joe followed them in.
To Hector, the room looked like a disorganised mess. Books and papers were strewn about the place, some lying on the floor. Many used cups, glasses, and other assorted cutlery was stacked along most of the available working space. The main desk in the room was cheaply constructed out of mahogany effect chipboard, and had taken quite a battering over the years. Perched on top was a Dell desktop PC with mouse, keyboard, and printer.
‘This is exactly how we found it, the room I mean’ Said Joe.
‘And this is where you found him I presume’ Dan said and pointed to an area of the grubby carpeted floor where there was a rough outline of a human form in fluorescent paint.
‘Yes that’s right; apparently he died where he fell. I have the photographs if you would like to see them?’
‘Yes please’ said Hector, Joe opened a folder he had been carrying with him and handed Hector a couple of large colour photographs.
‘Not very pretty I’m afraid’ said Joe as he sniffed, wiping his nose on a pocket handkerchief. Hector glanced at the photographs before handing them to Dan. Dan grimaced as he studied them.
‘We’ve just about finished here, just cleaning up you know’ informed Joe.
‘Yes, I suppose the family of the … unfortunate, will want to sort out the rest of his things’ Dan added and he handed the photographs back to Joe.
‘Oh, no family, no, he had no living relatives, and no family of his own to speak of, only his boss was interested in us passing on to him anything that the newspaper owned’ Joe added.
‘What kind of things did you hand over?’ Asked Hector
‘Well, just computer files, editorial books and files, you know that kind of thing, intellectual property’
‘We might want to have a word with the editor of the Standard, do you think you could help us out with this, just to make it more official’ Dan asked Joe.
‘Yes, no problem, leave it with me, I’ll contact him in the morning’ Joe replied whilst writing a note on the back of the paper file containing the photographs of the late Mr Jack Olsen.
‘Slowly, you said’ Hector was on his knees examining the dirty carpet around the fluorescent outline of Jack’s body.
’Hmm, what, sorry what? Joe asked searching for Hector and then finding him obscured behind the computer desk.
‘You said he had been frozen slowly, how did you come to that assumption?’
‘Oh, well you see it was the pathology report, clever chaps they are as you know, now let me remember, ah, yes, I remember, something about the crystals, if you freeze a piece of tissue slowly, it allows for large elaborate ice crystals to form that shear and break open the cells and, well make a mess of the tissue, however...’
‘If you freeze something very quickly, the ice crystals that form are much smaller hence less damage to the tissues, yes!’ Finished Hector for Joe.
‘Exactly, yes!’ Joe exclaimed. Dan examined the computer desk and powered up the PC
‘Err, may I?’ Dan asked Joe rather late.
‘Oh yes, no problem we’ve finished with it for now’ Dan waited for the PC to power up, when it had finished a log in prompt appeared on the screen.
‘Damn it!’ cursed Dan ‘I thought I’d find something interesting, something to help us’
‘Oh we’ve had our chaps on to it, they managed to bypass the security, we got everything downloaded from it in duplicate’ Joe explained. ‘Mostly photographs and newspaper related reports and documents, we gave most of it to the editor of the Standard, it was very little use to us’ Dan moved over to the printer, he noticed that a small red LED was flashing, it had been partly obscured by a sticker detailing the printer’s serial number that had begun to peel downwards.
‘This printer it hasn’t been switched off’ Dan said ‘It’s trying to print something out I think!’
‘Bloody hell, we must have missed that, do you think it’s significant?’ Joe asked walking over to join Dan at the printer. Dan had opened the paper tray,
‘Empty, it ran out of paper, I wonder if...’ Dan opened the desk drawers, amongst the clutter he found a few pieces of A4 printer paper, he fed them into the printer, after a short delay the printer ingested the paper and spat out a colourful image in the reception tray, Dan snatched it up. It was a photograph of a dense clump of dead trees.
‘May I?’ Joe asked and held out a hand for Dan to pass him the paper. ‘Nothing, just trees’ Joe handed the paper back to Dan who held it out for Hector to see, but Hector was busily involved in measuring a dirty mark on the carpet using a small retractable tape measure. Dan folded the paper and put it in his pocket. ‘What have you found Hector?’
‘A foot print!’ came Hector’s reply.
‘I’m afraid there’s been a lot of traffic in here these past few days, what with our department’s comings and goings, what I mean is there’s bound to be a lot of dirty police boot prints!’ said Joe apologetically.
‘Then tell me Joe, is it customary for police to attend the scene of a crime barefooted?’ Hector said as he sprung to his feet once more.
‘What? Well I … of course not, well I’ll be a son of a gun! Do you think it’s recent?’
‘It’s a muddy foot print, in fact several, coming from the far side of the room and ending here, at some point your police officers have trampled all over them, but this one remains relatively intact’ Hector took a small compact digital camera out from his pocket and took several photographs of the footprint, he then removed a second plastic capped tube from his coat pocket and a using a small penknife he knelt down and scraped some of the mud from the print and collected the shavings in the tube. ‘I think I’d like to get this material back to our office, for further study’ Said Hector.
Dan Taylor entered the headquarters of the Paranatural Detective Agency holding a plastic bag containing a take-away Indian meal from the nearby Spice Palace. ‘Hector? I brought dinner, how is it going?’ Dan placed his car keys down on the red Chinese tea table. He noticed that Hector had a fire lit, it certainly warmed the room, the temperature outside had been dropping steadily for the past hour. There was music playing from beyond the room; Genesis thought Dan, suddenly the melodic synth and guitar solos were abruptly shut off. ‘Have you eaten?’ Hector came into the sitting room through the connecting door to their makeshift forensic laboratory; he was drying his hands with a towel.
‘No I’m famished, what have you got?’ Hector asked sniffing the air as he approached Dan
‘Chicken Dupiaza, Beef Madras, pilau rice and two naan’
‘Excellent, I could eat a horse!’ replied Hector rubbing his hands together in delight.
‘Not on the menu I’m afraid...I think?’ Dan joked as he went to fetch some plates and cutlery.
‘Did you manage to contact the editor of the Standard?’
‘Yes I have an appointment with him tomorrow at his office; I must say he sounded a rather irascible chap!’ Dan spoke as he returned with the dinner ware. He dished out the meal and they both tucked in greedily.
‘That print-out you got from the house in Mudders Lane, I think you should look at it again, with this!’ Hector held out a magnifying glass and the print out for Dan to take.
‘Oh really, why?’ Dan sucked his thumb, cleaning the curry from it and took the picture and magnifier from Hector.
‘Have a look, in particular towards the centre clump of trees’ Dan peered at the picture through the magnifier.
‘Oh yes, that is odd isn’t it!’ Dan studied the picture again. ‘It’s as though the photograph has something missing, the pixels have been greyed over, all the same tone!’
‘But the shape Dan, look at the shape!’ Again Dan studied the picture,
‘It’s like a human outline!’
‘Bravo! I’m glad we both concur!’ Hector clapped his hands in delight.
‘So what do you make of this Hector?’
‘I believe that there was something in this picture but for reasons unknown to me at the moment it no longer appears to be there, and before you ask, no, I don’t think that whatever it was has been edited out from the picture by way of Photoshop or such like!’
‘But you can’t be certain for sure?’
‘No I can’t, but it’s just a hunch, I can’t explain why’. Dan sat and ate his meal quietly for a moment, he thought Hector knew something about this case that he was holding back from him, he’d also know Hector long enough to know not to pry or push him for answers when they were not immediately forthcoming, but he felt as involved in this case as Hector was and was curious about a few things.
’Hector, what was it that made you take an interest in this case, Joe rarely brings us anything interesting these days.
‘Boredom, boredom Dan, I suppose. I think I felt that this case was the one finally that may lift us out of the mediocre humdrum routine we have found ourselves in of late’. Dan nodded in acceptance of Hectors explanation, but still felt that there was something he was holding back from him.
‘Is there anything you’re not telling me? Something you know? It’s just that as soon as Joe mentioned Brackley Copse, well I don’t think I’ve seen such a reaction from you before!’ Dan placed his knife and fork neatly on the side of his plate and mopped up the remaining juices of his meal with the last bit of naan.
‘There is something Dan, something I’ve never told you before, something I’ve never told anyone, and I certainly haven’t thought about it for a very long time’ Hector looked serious, Dan felt as though he shouldn’t pry any further but curiosity had now got the better of him.
‘Look, you don’t have to tell me, not if you don’t want to’.
’No I want to tell you, in a way I need to tell someone, a friend, it’s something that happened to me a very long time ago, in a way it’s how my career in the paranormal began!