Addison stopped short of a set of white double doors decorated with rainbows, flowers and a big colourful welcome sign above. She clenched her fists before pressing the call button next to the sign. What did she have to be nervous about? These were just children and she was a grown woman, a policewoman at that. Her fingers ran the cold metal edges of her police badge as a woman’s voice crackled, “May I help you?”
“Um, yes, Detective Sergeant Addison here to speak with the children brought in earlier.” She looked about the door frame for a camera, not sure if she should hold up any identification.
“Yes, of course. Please step through.”
The doors buzzed, and Addison pushed them open. A rush of chilled air shocked her cheeks as if Jack Frost had blown her a kiss. The white tile hall reflected the brilliant fluorescent lights spaced every few feet in the cork drop ceiling. The walls were painted in colourful murals depicting cartoon characters, waving and greeting the occupants of the ward through dialogue bubbles floating above their heads. The murals were interrupted every few feet by numbered solid wooden doors. Addison made a quick peek inside the first open door she came to only to be met by the swollen eyes of a woman who was holding a small child in her arms.
“I’m so sorry, wrong room.” She could feel her face growing flush. She stepped back and that was when she saw the uniformed officers.
“Look who it is, Addy the Detective. Congratulations,” Officer Tony Poole waved Addison over.
“Thanks, Tony, how are the children?” Addison asked, trying to peek in to see them. She could see Jake sleeping in his bed by the window. The curtain was partially pulled covering Anna leaving Jake in full view.
“They are quiet, not said a word,” Poole mentioned. “By the way, this is Officer Rebecca Smith. She’s my new partner now as my old one ditched me.” Tony laughed. Addison playfully punched him in the arm and then stepped into the dimly lit hospital room. A dark blue curtain was pulled across, guarding the children inside from the world. The chemical smell of antiseptic filled her nostrils as she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, offering a silent prayer to a God she hoped was listening. Clearing her throat, she pulled back the curtain revealing Hertfordshire’s two newest orphans.
The frail frame of Jake, the younger of the two, was curled in the fetal position in a hospital bed by a large bay window, like a stray dog too tired to run anymore. Anna lifted her chin, looking at Addison who moved around the foot of her bed, taking a seat in a chair between where the siblings rested. Ribbons of dried tears stained Anna’s rosy cheeks. She sniffled and wiped her bandaged arm across her nose.
“Mummy?” Came the meek question from Jake who turned toward Addison.
“It’s not, Jake, try and get some sleep,” Anna answered softly, Jake rolled back over facing the window again.
“Are you the police?” Anna asked Addison.
“Are you sure? I’ve never met a Detective lady before.”
“Here, I’ll prove it.” Addison reached down to pull her badge from the hem of her trousers and handed it to Anna.
She ran her thumb over the surface of the badge just as Addison had done in the hall.
“Were you at my house?” Anna asked still looking down at the badge.
“Did you help my Mum?”
“I’m here to help you now.” Addison’s throat grew dry as pain radiated up her cheeks. She fought back the tears that welled up at the corners of her eyes.
“Mum needed help.”
Swallowing hard Addison looked down at her fingers which were fidgeting with one another. “Your Mum was hurt bad,” Addison’s voice cracked, “I’m so sorry baby...”
“Mum?” Anna’s doughy brown eyes grew glassy as new streams spilled over and down her face.
Addison moved, sitting on the edge of Anna’s bed, the young girl crumbling into her, sobbing uncontrollably.
“Do you like watching TV?” Addison asked.
The young girl nodded as she pulled away from Addison’s arms. She sat back in her bed as Addison started to sort out the television for them to watch.
“They have two DVD’s here, you can watch, Finding Nemo or Toy Story?”
“Finding Nemo,” Anna nodded to the one on the right Addison was holding up. She turned and put the DVD into the slot and played it. She sat back in her seat between the siblings as the film started.
“Do you watch films with your Mum?” Addison asked.
“Mum always put a film on before Jake goes to bed.”
“Did she put a film on that night?”
“She put on Despicable me, that’s Jake’s favourite.” Anna smiled as she glanced over to Jakes bed.
There was a short silence as the film finally begun. Addison sat comfortably in her seat as she watched the film with her. She noticed Jake had turned in his bed to see the television.
“What time does your Mum normally put you to bed?” Addison asked. Anna shrugged her shoulders.
“I normally can go to bed when I want to, but last night I was really tired. It was about nine.”
“And what about Jake?”
Anna gazed upward as if the answer was scribbled on the ceiling. “About six, I think.”
“Did you both go straight to sleep?”
“No, I was in my bed with Jake; he was having trouble sleeping because of the storm last night,” Anna replied. Her voice was weak and quiet, but Addison could hear her just enough. She started jotting in her notebook what Anna said.
“What happened?” Addison asked. She saw Anna look over to Jake; he shifted slightly on his bed. His bed was next to the window and Anna was located on his left. Anna had asked them to have him next to her.
“The storm scared him, so I comforted him, stroking his hair until he fell asleep. It was what Mum did to me when I was little, and it always helped. I had closed my eyes and fell into a light sleep, and then I heard a noise. It woke me up. Jake was still sleeping soundly.” Anna spoke again. As her confidence grew, she spoke louder.
“What kind of noise did you hear?” Addison asked. Anna sat there in silence for a moment, trying to remember. She glanced over at her brother again, he had fallen back to sleep.
“I don’t know how to describe it. It sounded something like a chair screeching on the floor.” Anna said trying to think. Addison saw the tears building up in her eyes again. There was another pause as they carried on watching the film.
“Was it just, you, Jake and your mother in the house last night?” Addison asked, changing the subject slightly. Anna nodded.
“Did your mother have any visitors?”
Anna shook her head.
“Did you go downstairs to check out what the noise was?” Addison asked. She remembered what Nora had said about the faded barefoot prints. Anna nodded her head confirming their theory.
“Did Jake wake up at any point?”
Anna shook her head again and watched Nemo start his school for the first time. She smiled when the little pink squid inked.
Addison noticed Anna started to fidget more in her bed, her hand stroking her bandages gently.
“When you got downstairs, what did you see?” Addison asked. She knew Anna was starting to feel uncomfortable. She shuffled in her bed before answering. Addison saw that her eyes kept shifting from her arms to her brother.
“I peeked into the kitchen,” Anna spoke finally. “I saw…” she paused. Jake was fidgeting in his bed as if feeling his sister’s pain.
“What did you see Anna?” Addison asked.
“I saw my Mum.” Anna finally admitted.
“What was your Mum doing?”
“She was on the counter, there was a knife in her chest and there was blood everywhere.” Anna finally broke. She started crying into her hands. Addison shut her notebook for a moment. She moved from her chair to the side of the bed. She sat down and put her arms around Anna. She shuffled closer to Addison putting her arms around her waist tightly and wept.
Addison, don’t cry. Addison, don’t cry. Be strong and keep it in, even if you know what the young girl is going through just remember to keep it in.
Addison rocked her gently waiting for her to calm down.
“I’m not allowed to speak of him,” Anna muttered.
Addison moved away slightly so she could see Anna’s face. Anna glanced up at her, eyes full of tears.
“What do you mean?” Addison asked. Her heart started to pump a little faster, she realized that this girl may have seen the killer.
“By my blood, I’m not to speak or he will kill Jake,” Anna spoke again. “But I’ve said too much.”
Addison stared into Anna’s eyes, searching for something. She thought the words sounded like something she had heard before. Her palms started to sweat. Her heartbeat quickening.
“Is there anyone you want me to contact, your father?” Addison asked. Anna shook her head. Addison stood up from her chair and headed for the door.
“Mandy Philips she’s our auntie, also Dad if you can get in contact with him.” Anna said. Her full attention turned back to the film and Addison knew that it was time to leave them to grieve. Addison wrote the name into her notebook and nodded. The two officers came back into the room followed by an older woman. She had dark red hair pulled into a ponytail. She wore square glasses that were bigger than her eyes sitting on the bridge of her nose, green eyes blinking through them.
“This is Emily Carter; she is a social worker for these children.” Officer Poole introduced the woman. Addison gave her a welcoming nod. “This is our Detective Sergeant Addison Scott who is working on the case,” he carried on.
“How are the children? Were they able to give you anything?” Emily squinted at Addison as a critic examining distasteful artwork.
Feeling the scrutinize, Addison crossed her arms over her chest. She had always worn her departmental issued uniform, when on official business, but now she could wear what she pleased if it fell in line with the department’s scope of ‘dress attire.’ Had she committed some fashion blunder? She had seen plenty of businesswomen wearing pinstriped trouser suits, on the streets of London, though without a Taser hooked to the waistband. Maybe she should have listened to her friend when she compared her outfit to that of a 1920’s Chicago mob boss.
“They are very tired and need some rest. They are our only witnesses, so I may need to come back and talk to them again.” Addison mentioned. She took a step to Anna’s bedside again and she glanced up at her.
“I want you to call me if you remember anything, I will be straight here.” Addison handed her work card with her number on it. Anna politely took it. She glanced down at the card taking in the name and number. She gazed up at Addison and gave her a faint smile. Addison nodded taking her leave. She started down the hallway until her phone started to buzz in her pocket. She fished it out and answered it.
“Scott.” Her voice snipped, her eyebrows arching as Robert’s voice began dictating orders. As the one-sided conversation grew on, Addison began gritting her teeth, her nostrils flaring as she paced the hall. At one point she knocked into a cleaning cart, sending most of its contents crashing to the floor and drawing attention from the nurses’ station.
“Shit,” she hissed. Mentally blaming Robert for the mistake.
After the line went dead, Addison felt like slinging her cell phone across the ward. The only thing she recalled from the call was, she had to rush back to the crime scene and update the man in person, who had just crawled under her skin.
She carried on walking down the corridor and into the blinding sunlight, though it was still freezing. She had lost track of time, squinting her eyes as she walked to her car. Setting up shop in the car park was a food van which Addison eyed from her parking space. Why not, she thought as she dropped her car keys back into her pocket, I’m thirsty and that bastard can wait.
The guy in the van handed her the piping cup of coffee, its paper protector stamped with an inspirational quote. ‘Work together to achieve great things’, great even her coffee was against her today. She slapped the money on the counter and headed back toward her car, nursing the strong brew.
She placed the cup in the cup holder, next to her pink metal tumbler, which would have been cold by now. She took a quick look at her watch, before setting off back to the crime scene to pick up her new arrogant partner.
Addison finally arrived back, and she saw Robert Ashworth standing by the blue and white tape outside the house, tapping his foot impatiently waiting for her, throwing the butt of his cigarette to the ground. She grabbed her paper cup of coffee, locked her car and made haste towards Robert.
“I hope you are going to pick that up and put it in the bin.” Addison nodded towards the fag butt on the ground. Robert glanced at it and then back at her.
“How long were you planning to make me wait?” He hissed through his teeth. His dark brown eyes bore into hers, waiting for an explanation. She tried hard not to talk back, but his next move took her a little by surprise. He glanced down at the cup in her hand, snatching it from her. She stood there with her hand still sticking out with a missing cup. She watched as he drained her cup of coffee and threw the empty rubbish into a yellow bin that was attached to a lamppost. He stepped under the tape and started to put on his white Tyvek suit and a pair of latex gloves.
Mental note; always bring two cups of coffee in future. She let out a sigh.
“He can throw things in the bin,” Robert paused and glared at her. Addison held back a smirk. She quickly dipped under the tape and put on a Tyvek suit and gloves, as she rushed into the house after Robert.
He stood at the dining table, paper spread everywhere. He started flicking through Wendy Willis’s bills and post. Addison recognized a letter with a tree symbol, it was a medical letter.
“Was Wendy seeing a counsellor?” Addison asked.
“I believe so, I’ve got someone contacting them for me to find out who she was seeing,” Robert told her.
She started going through the papers and post one by one. School bills for Anna and Jake and letters from her counsellor, appointments.
“What will happen to those kids?” Addison asked curiously. Even though she asked, she knew what was going to happen to those children. Unless their Dad takes them in, they’ll end up in foster care and maybe separated.
A familiar figure caught Addison’s eye as he moved through the threshold of the kitchen door. Dressed the same as Robert, Harry Lynch, the senior crime scene tech, approached them both; a wide-angle lens protruding from a Nikon slung about his neck. “The body is gone now.” His genteel voice was frank but made Addison feel somehow at ease. His eyes drifted from Robert to Addison as the corners of his mouth turned upwards. She felt like a school girl and turned away as she felt her face grow flush. Robert nodded as Harry walked out of the house. Robert carried on flicking through all of Wendy’s letters while Addison was looking around the kitchen. She saw the coffee machine and suddenly she wanted a cup.
“Could do with a coffee right now,” she said to Robert.
“Not my problem.”
“You stole my one.”
“And it was a good cup of coffee,” Robert smirked.
“Pig,” she said in a breath.
“What?” Robert glanced at her.
Robert was looking inside Wendy’s cupboards. Nothing seemed unusual. Addison started going through the drawers. Tea towels, black bags, and cutlery in the draws. She looked in the last one, finding money and a mobile phone.
“Robert,” she called. He came straight to her side, looking in the drawer. She glanced to the side where he stood, he was close, looking over her shoulder.
“Is the mobile phone on?”
“No, it’s not.”
“Bag it,” he spoke.
“And the money?”
“How much is there?” Robert asked.
“You want me to count all of this?”
“Yes, that would be great.”
Addison let out a sigh as she started counting the notes. They were all in twenty’s and she piled them up in hundreds trying to keep track with how much is there.
“Two thousand pounds,” Addison finished.
“That’s a lot of money,” Robert acknowledged. He handed her a couple of bags, which she put the money in one and the phone in another. She handed them to one of the forensic workers who were still dotted around.
“Why does she have this much cash in her draw?”
“We better go and talk to those neighbours and head back to the station as soon as possible.” He finally said. Addison nodded following his direct orders.