Read the previous chapter, Chapter 7, here first.
Chapter 8 of Desecration, London Psychic #1. Click here for buy links to the full book.
“Sorry I ran,” she said, shaking her head. “I guess I found your ability a little disturbing. I don’t let people see that side of my life and now that I know your gift is genuine, it’s slightly odd to say the least.”
Blake smiled. “I understand,” he said. “Truly, I have no interest in prying.”
“Would you consider helping me?” Jamie asked, her voice tentative. “I’m assigned to a special task force on this case. It’s high profile because the victim is the daughter of a prominent aristocratic and business family. We’ve kept it quiet so far, but when the story breaks, we need to have answers. I think your sensitivity could help to point us in new directions. What do you think?”
Blake looked at Jamie, visions of her dancing still running through his mind. It wouldn’t be so hard to spend time with her, and perhaps this would be some kind of redemption for the dark side of his gift. If he could use his unusual talents to help solve a crime, maybe it would go some way to righting the wrongs of his past.
“Anything you need, Detective,” Blake said, and he saw hope flicker in her eyes. “I’m happy to help if I can.”
“I don’t have anywhere else to go with this right now, so whatever you can glean from the figurine is going to help.”
Blake looked at his watch. “Reading at the site of the murder would be the most powerful. We could do it now if you like.”
Jamie shook her head.
“I’ll need to get clearance for that tomorrow, since it’s cordoned off as a crime scene. Is there anything else you could do right now? Any leads could help at this stage.”
Blake felt the figurine taunting him with its macabre history, and wanted to try and explain the process of reading.
“There are layers to any object,” he said. “Especially one as old as this. Ivory is similar to bone and a strong emotional medium. When I read, I see the most resonant places first but there may be something more in times before the actual crime scene that would help provide background information.”
Jamie sat back down at the desk opposite him. “Please, try what you can.”
“The problem with deeper reading is that I can go under for too long and it can become overwhelming. If you see me looking faint, would you just remove my hand from the figurine?”
Jamie looked concerned but Blake was determined to get something useful for her. He looked at the figurine again, holding his hand over it, feeling an almost physical resonance.
“It’s macabre, isn’t it?” he said. “I can see why they wanted such things as teaching devices, but I can’t understand why someone would want to have a partially dissected body as an ornament. Let’s see where it’s been.”
Jamie watched Blake’s blue eyes change intensity, a summer sky suddenly filled with storm clouds, as he laid his hands gently on the figurine. It was as if he was no longer present, just a shell, although he still breathed. A sigh caught in Jamie’s throat, for this was the emptiness she felt in Polly’s body when the drugs kicked in and her consciousness slipped away. Something was gone, the vital part of the self. But if Blake’s body was still anchored here, where was his spirit?
Blake parted the veils of swirling shadow in his mind and sensed his surroundings. He was in a large sterile operating room, cold and drafty with high windows to provide light and air, but he was aware that no one could see inside. The walls and floor were white, and precision surgical instruments were laid out on gun-metal grey trays, with scalpels reflecting light from the windows, sharp blades waiting to cut into soft flesh. The figurine was laid across the page of a medical textbook, used as a weight to keep the pages open. The book showed the uterus of a pregnant woman, similar to the dissected innards of the figurine itself and the text was in German.
Blake’s attention shifted around the room. He could hear the sound of the wind whistling through the cracks in the windows, and outside there was staccato shouting and occasional gunshots. Overlaying this was a low moaning and he slowly became aware of figures in the room before him. A woman was strapped to a gurney, her mouth gagged to stifle the noises of pain. A man stood over her in a white coat, a doctor perhaps, but Blake could feel waves of agony coming from the woman, almost a physical assault to his heightened senses. The man was operating on her with no anesthetic and it looked as if he was opening her uterus, examining its function and comparing it to the textbook.
The man made another cut with the scalpel and looked into the deep wound, packing it with surgical sponges to contain the bleeding. Putting down the knife, he reached in with gloved hands and pulled out the woman’s uterus. She arched against the straps holding her down, howled into her gag and then her head lolled back, unconscious with pain. The man cut away the organ and carried it to another bench. Ignoring the woman, he started to dissect it, pulling open the membrane to examine what was inside. Blake felt the world wrench as he witnessed the tiny fetus within, a life snuffed out before it had even begun. The man began to probe at the tiny figure with his scalpel, cutting matchstick limbs and opening the chest in a miniature autopsy. As he worked, the man wrote into an oversized journal that was next to the bench. It spotted with red as blood dripped from his fingers, but he continued scratching the lines, inscribing his findings in neat handwriting. Finally he seemed satisfied, the last full stop an emphatic black mark.
The man barked an order and two women came in, faces pinched and starved, eyes blank and unseeing. They wheeled the gurney with the mutilated woman out of the room and the door swung back behind them. Blake wanted to disconnect but he felt that the emotion imbued in the figurine from this time wasn’t finished yet. He needed to know, so he waited. The doctor moved the figurine from the book, turning the pages to a drawing of twins, conjoined back to back. The doctor looked closely at the figures, tracing them with his fingertip as he examined exactly where the organs were attached, as if pondering how two bodies could be bonded this way. He hummed something, a jaunty tune that made Blake’s breath catch.
The doctor turned and called to the next room. The door opened again and the women wheeled in two gurneys, each carrying a young boy, strapped down firmly. The boys were awake and alert, eyes darting around the room in fear, both gagged. The man motioned for the women to turn the boys over onto their fronts and cut away the clothes from their backs. They did so with an attitude of detachment, as if by swift obedience they could avoid being next on the experiment bench.
The man then stood between the boys and began slicing into the back of one of them. The boy’s screams were high pitched and audible through the gag but the man kept cutting as he began to hum the tune again. The other child turned a deathly pale and froze, his stillness a primeval survival mechanism. Blake wanted to bear witness to the horror even as he knew he couldn’t stop it, for these crimes were committed many years ago and it was too late to help the children. He started pulling away from the scene as the man reached into the first boy’s open wound, his hands covered in gore.
Jamie watched as Blake’s physical presence became stronger in the room. His skin tone paled, beads of sweat appeared on his brow and he took deep breaths to control his nausea. His eyes were wide as he struggled to return to full consciousness. Jamie reached out across the table and touched his scarred hand with gentle fingers. His hand grasped at hers and held it like a lifeline as his breathing finally slowed. After a moment, he let go and Jamie felt a moment of loss, as if the room had dimmed. Blake took a sip of water.
“I think the figurine belonged to Mengele,” he said, meeting Jamie’s eyes, an intensity of horror in his hoarse voice. “The Angel of Death.”
Jamie frowned. “The Nazi doctor? You saw him?”
Blake nodded. “I saw what he did to a woman and then to a set of twins. It was horrific. He treated them as if they were lab-rats, to be mutilated and killed as he desired. There was something about to happen, something grotesque …”
Blake sat back in the chair and pulled his smart-phone out of his pocket. He Googled Josef Mengele and read from what he found.
“Here. Josef Mengele. German SS Officer and physician. Doctorates in anthropology from Munich and medicine from Frankfurt. In 1937, he was an assistant to a leading genetic researcher at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene. He had a particular interest in twins and it became his fixation at Auschwitz. He selected his subjects from the trains as they arrived, picking twins in particular but also collecting genetic anomalies like dwarves.” Blake continued to scroll through the pages, jumping over sections, skipping through the horror until he found it. “My God, that’s what I saw him begin.” Blake paled, feeling his heart thumping with adrenalin as if he were still watching the crimes of over half a century ago.
Jamie took the phone from him and read from the screen. It detailed how Mengele had experimented on a pair of Roma twins, conjoining them back to back by joining their organs together. It was a particularly sick kind of evil.
“The bastard survived the war,” she said, shaking her head. “He escaped to South America with the Odessa organization. He only died in 1979, despite being hunted for his war crimes. That’s unbelievable. You’d think Mossad would have found him, like they got Hess.”
Blake tried to sift through the visions for how this could help Jamie now.
“The figurine was with a medical textbook,” he said, “and Mengele had a notebook. Perhaps they were all kept together as collector’s items?”
Jamie frowned. “The Americans and Brits spirited a lot of German scientists away after the War as well as keeping paperwork on the experiments they did. So much of what was done then has benefitted companies that still exist today, built on a bloody past.” She thought for a moment. “There must be records about what happened to all the Nazi material, but it’s going to take too long to track it down in time to help with the investigation. We’ve got to take a stab at what’s most likely. The figurine was found with the body of an heiress – to a drug company – so perhaps there’s some relationship to Neville Pharmaceuticals.”
Blake nodded. “But was the figurine with the body some kind of threat to expose the company’s connection with the Nazis? Or just a way of saying that the murder was punishment, or recompense, for the past?”
Jamie paced up and down the tiny room, then pulled out her phone and called Alan Missinghall.
“Al, can you run a check on whether any of the Gala dinner attendees were Jewish, or had any kind of Nazi links?” She paused. “Yes, I’ll tell you more later, but that might help us.” She hung up and turned back to Blake. “We know that Jenna Neville was working on exposing the company, campaigning for the rights of the tissue samples and bodies used in experiments. It could equally have been someone protecting the company from that exposure.”
Blake sat quietly, rubbing his temples. “I want to take another look, but I can’t do it today. The visions bring on migraines and I’ve already got a killer headache.” He didn’t mention the hangover. “But tomorrow, could we do it at the crime scene? That might bring more resonant memories.”
Jamie nodded. “Sure. Meet me at the Hunterian Museum at 11.30 and I’ll clear it. Are you sure you’re OK?”
“All in a day’s work.” He smiled, but he could see in her eyes that she knew what the reading cost him.
Jamie picked up the figurine, carefully wrapping it in the cloth and placing it back in her bag. Blake watched her deft hands, bare of jewelry, as she put the comb back in her bun. For a moment, he had an overwhelming desire to unpin her hair and watch her dance. He pushed the sensation away as she thanked him and left.
Blake began to count the minutes until he could have his first drink of the night to drown the visions that morphed in front of his eyes. He needed to obliterate the image of Detective Jamie Brooke dancing with the Angel of Death as blood seeped from the wounds that the Doctor had inflicted on her body.