Read the previous chapter, Chapter 1, here first.
Chapter 2 of Deviance, London Psychic #3. Click here for buy links to the full book.
“Stay back,” Magda's strong voice called out. “Move away now.”
Jamie pushed through the throng even as the group surged forward to look. Human nature was ever to gaze at whatever horror lay beyond. Some of them pulled out their phones to take pictures.
She reached the edge of the railing that protected the ruined foundations and looked down. In the middle of the courtyard, a man lay spread-eagle on his back. Jamie automatically processed the crime scene in her mind, as she had always done in the police, scanning the area and noting the details of the body. The man's arms were a ruin of bloody flesh, the skin flayed off with a very sharp knife by the look of the clean wound edges. He wore the remains of a shredded cassock, slashed around the torso, the white collar still visible. His mouth was stuffed with white feathers and more lay around him, stained by his own blood.
“Call the police,” Jamie shouted, her tone authoritative. “We need to secure the scene.”
As Magda pulled her phone out, Jamie ran down the steps towards the man. The blood around him was fresh and he could still be alive. Stepping carefully so as not to disturb the area too much, Jamie bent to feel the pulse at his neck. There was nothing, but there still might be hope. She had to try.
With the cuff of her sleeve over her fingers, she tugged the feathers from his mouth, the goose down stuffed so deep into his throat that she couldn't get them all out.
After a moment, Jamie stopped. There was no way this man was alive. His face was frozen in agony, his eyes bulging and bloodshot. His thick dark hair was shot through with a streak of white. Jamie was aware of the lack of life in him. His body was still warm but the essence of it had gone, leaving only this ruined flesh. It was now more important to preserve the scene for those who could look into his death and bring him some kind of justice.
Jamie wiped away the prick of tears, frustration at another wasted life and the fact that she would not be on the police team that would investigate his murder. Her statement would be taken, as she had once taken them, but she would be on the outside this time.
Who was this man and why was his body left here? Was it a statement to the community and, if so, which part?
Jamie looked up at the faces staring down at her. At one end, the frightened faces of the sex workers and at the other, the hard expressions of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. Sirens rang out in the London night as the police arrived on the scene.
Dale Cameron stood in the shadows of Winchester Square, his heart pounding as the rush flooded through him. The sense of almost being discovered gave him an added thrill. He knew he should leave but he couldn't bring himself to move just yet. The initial scream of panic at discovery of the body had given way to a low hubbub. He could hear someone weeping. He breathed deeply and let the sounds sink into his consciousness as he savored the aftermath of violence.
He clutched a dark blue waterproof bag in his fist. It was designed to keep things dry while kayaking on the river, perfect for the collection of his trophies. It was heavy now, weighed down by the bloody skin inside. He stroked the outside of the bag with tentative fingers. The kill was nothing compared to the harvest of his bloody keepsakes.
Sirens burst through the noise of the disturbed crowd. Dale snapped out of his reverie. The sound belonged to his other self, his daytime self, and his phone would soon be ringing with the news.
A slow smile crept across his face.
As a Detective Superintendent he could even stay and help process the crime scene. The officers on duty would respect him even more for doing grunt work far below his station. Part of him was tempted by the idea – part of him wanted to skate so close to the edge that they might even suspect him. But no … He shook his head. There was too much at stake now and he was so close to his goal. These small purges were nothing to what he had planned for Southwark. For now, he needed to get away from the scene before it was locked down.
Dale walked through the back streets of London Bridge to his car with a confident stride. Not too slow, not too fast. Nothing that would draw attention to himself. He placed the bag in the trunk and got into the driver's seat, giving himself a moment before completing the final phase of his ritual.
He leaned over and opened the glove compartment, then reached in and pulled out a pot of Ponds Cold Cream. He unscrewed the top and lifted it to his nose, closing his eyes as he inhaled the floral scent.
Dale smiled. His mother had had such beautiful skin, with the translucence of Egyptian alabaster. He used to watch her as a boy as she smoothed cream into her arms and hands, massaging it slowly until it had all disappeared, leaving only a trace of scent in the air. One day, she had turned to him, the sunlight from the window a halo around her golden hair. Come here, darling. Let me put some on you. He had stood between her knees as she took a dab from the fragrant jar. The lotion was slick on her palms as she rubbed it between them and then she took his arm and touched him with cool fingers. Goosebumps rippled over Dale's skin at the memory, the sensation clear in his mind, a moment of happiness. But then … his face darkened and he screwed the top back on the cream, slamming it back into the glove compartment. He would not sully the perfect memory tonight.