Read the previous chapter, Chapter 2, here first.
Chapter 3 of Deviance, London Psychic #3. Click here for buy links to the full book.
High ceilings of paneled glass supported by the green pillars of Borough Market allowed the light to flood into even the inner corners of the building. There had been a food market here since the eleventh century, but these days it was aimed more at the high-end restaurants and well-paid foodies of the city. Jamie walked past an artisan baker, who piled sourdough and spelt loaves next to tempting sticky fudge brownies. She inhaled the smell of fresh bread and baked sugar goodies, sweetness lingering on the back of her throat. Her stomach rumbled in anticipation, but the problem with Borough was the sheer volume of choice. It was hard to know what to choose when every stall contained another tiny world of culinary pleasure.
Jamie was exhausted from last night. The police had arrived quickly and taken statements from those people who remained, although many had vanished into the darkness when the body had been discovered. Because of her history and contacts, her own statement had been processed quickly. She had been able to leave before the others, but she couldn't get the image of the man's face out of her mind and sleep had been hard to come by.
She weaved her way through the market, navigating the early shoppers, glancing at the abundance of produce as she passed. One stall was covered with baskets of mushrooms: wild, golden chanterelles and purplish pied bleu lying next to the thick trunks of king oysters. There were butchers with fresh game, carcasses of ducks and deer hanging down outside the shops where men with heavy hands served packets of paper-wrapped choice cuts. Proud chefs sold specialized wares – cider from a local orchard, honey made from urban Hackney bees, cured prosciutto from the happiest free-range, acorn-fed pigs. There was also a row of street-food stalls and coffee carts at the back near Southwark Cathedral, and Jamie wound her way through the crowds in that direction.
She was beginning to find her way around after moving into Southwark last month. Her old flat in Lambeth had become unbearable after Polly's death, memories slamming into her whenever she walked in the door. Jamie had wept in the empty room before locking it for the last time, but her daughter was free now and Jamie needed to live as Polly had asked her to. She had handed over all her old cases after resigning from the Metropolitan Police, and closed that door as well. But she couldn't bring herself to leave London. The city held her tightly, curled itself within her.
Jamie caught sight of Detective Sergeant Alan Missinghall at the edge of the throng, his six-foot-five frame dwarfing the people around him. He was struggling to hold two coffee cups along with several bags brimming with pastries. Jamie grinned as she hurried through the crowds towards him, happy that some things never changed. Missinghall always made food a priority.
“Let me help with that,” she said. He turned at her approach.
“Hi, Jamie. Good to see you.”
Missinghall handed her the pastries and bent to kiss her cheek. Jamie was slightly bemused by the affection, something he would never have shown on the job. They had worked together on a number of cases and he had been junior to her at the time, as a Detective Constable. He had covered her back during a couple of dangerous investigations and was probably her closest friend in the Met by the end.
“Let's go sit in the churchyard with these,” she said, leading the way through the gates and into the grounds of Southwark Cathedral, where they found a free bench in a patch of sun. They sat in comfortable silence for a moment sipping coffee as the busy market bustled behind them and the calls of the market traders echoed across the little square.
“How's business then?” Missinghall asked, as he started into the second cheese and ham croissant. He leaned forward, making sure the crumbs fell to the pavement below. Pigeons came pecking within seconds and cleared up his scraps. This area was teeming with bird life, drawn by the rich pickings from Borough Market.
“It's quite a different side of the city, that's for sure.” Jamie smiled. “But it's interesting work so far, especially round here. I got a few clients within days of putting up the new website. Thanks for putting the word out.”
Missinghall grinned. “Recommending you is good for my reputation. You're quite the celebrity, to be honest. And that pic on the website is a hit.”
Jamie blushed a little. She had used a picture of herself in black leather, standing with arms crossed against her motorbike, black hair loose in the wind and the City of London in the background. Her gaze was no-nonsense and capable, with a hint of challenge. It was a look she had never been able to fully embrace when she worked as a Detective Sergeant, but now she worked as a private investigator, she could do whatever she liked.
It was hardly idyllic, however, and Jamie pushed down her guilt at lying to Missinghall. Her new business as a private investigator was only just paying the bills, and the cases were dull and repetitive. Prenuptial investigations and matrimonial surveillance were not quite as fascinating as homicide cases. It seemed that the pull of death was in her blood, echoing the pulse of the city. She missed the all-consuming cases in the way that an addict missed a fix – with the sure knowledge that it was killing as she indulged. She missed the camaraderie and the sense of doing something good for the community – though she didn't miss the paperwork, or Detective Superintendent Dale Cameron.
“And what about you, Al?” Jamie said. “How's life as a DS?”
“The promotion's alright and the missus appreciates it. But to be honest, I miss the way we worked together. I guess I'll get used to it soon enough. Nothing stays the same in this city …” Missinghall's voice trailed off as he looked up at the Gothic cathedral in front of him. “Well, nothing except the architecture anyway. I'm glad we can still meet up though, and you know I'm happy to help out if I can.”
Jamie took another sip of coffee, letting the hot, bitter liquid soothe her tired brain.
“Do you know anything about the homicide that happened here last night?”
Missinghall chuckled. “I thought you'd want to know more about it when I saw your name on the witness statements. We off the record?”
“Of course. I'm part of the community here now and I was there, so …”
“Turns out that the murdered man, Nicholas Randolph, worked here at Southwark Cathedral. He was part of the community outreach team, working closely with the toms. There have been suggestions that he used to be a sex worker himself, but not confirmed as yet. You might be able to find that out more easily than we can. People round here are pretty tight-lipped about that kind of thing.”
Jamie frowned. “What about his arms? They looked flayed.”
“We got some pictures from the next of kin. Randolph had full-sleeve tattoos that revealed quite a bit about his past. A combination of religious iconography and gay-pride images.”
Jamie raised an eyebrow. “You can see how some might have objected to that. Any suspects?”
Missinghall shook his head slowly. “You know I can't talk about that.” He paused and looked up at the sky. He took a deep breath and Jamie waited, taking another sip of coffee and allowing him the silence.
Finally, his dark eyes met hers and she saw concern there. “Look, tell your mates round here to keep an eye out.” He paused. “Off the record, this isn't the first homicide with this MO. There've been two other bodies found recently in Southwark – undesirable characters by some definitions. They also had flayed parts of their bodies where tattoos had been excised. But they were illegal immigrants and this is the first high-profile case. A man of the church, whatever his past. Even the Mayor has gotten involved. With the run-up to the election, he'll be antsy to get this solved.”
“Is Dale Cameron really running?” Jamie asked.
Missinghall grimaced at the name. Dale Cameron was a rising star in the Met with the looks of a corporate CEO and the slippery shoulders to match. He had been their superior officer on previous cases, and crossing him had directly led to Jamie's resignation from the police. When she'd woken from nightmares of smoke and burning body parts, she'd been sure that he had been in the drug-fueled haze of the Hellfire Caves.
“Yes,” Missinghall said, shaking his head. “He's got a good chance, as well. Loads of the top brass want someone with a hard line on crime in the Mayor's seat. And Cameron is a hard bastard, that's for sure.” He sighed. “But whatever we think of him, he certainly gets results. Crime's down across the city. He's cracking down on immigrants and he's moving the homeless and mentally ill out of the central areas.”
“That's what people want, I guess,” Jamie said. “As long as it doesn't upset their own lives in any way.”
Missinghall looked at his watch. “I've gotta go, sorry.” He stood up and brushed pastry crumbs from his suit. “Do this again sometime?”
Jamie smiled up at him. “That would be great. Thanks for coming, Al. Stay in touch.”
Missinghall turned and walked away but after a few steps he came back, his eyes serious.
“There's also been a rise in reported missing persons around here,” he said. “Prostitutes, illegal immigrants, homeless addicts. You know we don't have the resources to pursue all the cases in detail, especially with people who move on so quickly. But it's worrying, so stay out of trouble, Jamie.”
Jamie put her hand on her heart and gave him a look that made him grin before he walked off into the crowded streets. But she knew she couldn't let it go. The police would do their investigation into the murder, but there was something wrong in Southwark and after last night, she was already involved
Jamie stood and walked to the cathedral door, her eyes drawn to the flint cobbles embedded in the walls on either side. She reached out to stroke one of the rocks, its surface smooth and almost metallic to the touch, the colors layered like the center of the earth. Then she pushed open the door to Southwark Cathedral and walked inside, determined to find something of Nicholas Randolph here.
The Gothic cathedral was a mixture of the architecture of ancient faith and a modern sensibility, appealing to tourists and the faithful alike. A series of medieval bosses were attached to the back wall, fastened there as remnants of the fifteenth-century church. One of them portrayed the Devil devouring Judas, its face blackened by fire and time.
One of the stone tombs caught Jamie's eye. It had Thomas Cure 1588 written above it, a memorial for a saddler to the Tudor King Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. With a prominent ribcage and skeletal bones with an over-large head, it looked nothing like the tombs usually seen in churches. Instead of a representation of the man in life, this was a cadaver effigy, a decomposing body, a direct memento mori to remind people that our physical remains will soon be as this. Jamie shivered a little in the cold of the stone church.
“May I help you?”
Jamie turned to find a bright-eyed older woman, leaflets clutched in her hand and a ‘Volunteer' badge pinned neatly to her lilac knitted sweater. Jamie smiled.
“Thank you, that would be great. I'm doing some research about the area and I've heard that the medieval church here was involved with the brothels. Is that true?”
The woman frowned, her face showing distaste. “As much as many of us would like to erase the past, it's the truth. The church used to be St Mary Overie and it was owned by the Bishop of Winchester. He licensed the stews, as they were known, in Southwark for four hundred years. But of course, that was a long time ago and we are now actively working to clean up the community, to rid it of that dirty past.”
“I'm interested in the work the church does with the community,” Jamie said. “Is there someone in particular I could talk to about that?”
The woman smiled, clearly relieved to be focusing on a more suitable topic. “Well, we're all involved,” she said, pride evident in her voice. “Was there anything in particular you wanted to find out about? Volunteering perhaps …” She looked Jamie up and down, in the way only an older woman could. “We have rehab groups, too.”
At her words, Jamie became more aware of her appearance. She'd lost weight recently, eating only for fuel these days. Her cheekbones stood out against pale skin. She rarely wore makeup and she tied her dyed black hair into a tight bun most days. But drug-addict chic was not really the professional look she was aiming for.
“Did you know Nicholas Randolph?” Jamie asked.
The woman froze, her breath catching at the name. She put a hand against the wall, her head drooping a little. Tears glistened in her eyes.
“I'm sorry,” Jamie whispered. “Were you close?”
“He was Nick to us,” the woman said. “And he was a good man, despite what some said about his past.” A hard edge came into her voice at that. “But the Lord forgives and washes our sins whiter than snow. The darker spark within us may lapse into old habits but even that can be forgiven. Repentance is a daily practice after all, and I'm afraid that Southwark more than most is testament to the dual nature of sinner and saint. Nick was both, as are we all.”
“Was his community outreach program supported by all in the church?”
The woman hesitated and doubt flickered in her eyes. “Yes, of course, we're an inclusive church. We have an altar for the victims of AIDS … Although, of course we cannot ignore what the Bible says about sexual sin. Nick was more tolerant than many, for sure, and he worked with some …” She paused and shook her head. “Well, let's just say that I'm not sure there's anyone who can replace Nick in that particular part of the community outreach program.” The woman shuffled her leaflets and then handed one to Jamie. “Here's some information about the church windows and the main tombs of interest. I'll leave you to continue alone.”
The woman turned away to greet a family of American tourists who would be unlikely to ask such difficult questions.
Jamie walked towards the middle of the church and paused in front of a stained glass window portraying characters from Shakespeare's plays. This had been the playwright's borough, back when theatre was part of the pleasure bank of the Thames alongside the prostitutes, bear baiting and gambling dens. The replica of the Globe Theatre stood a few streets away, and the stained glass honored the greatest of the Bard's plays. Prospero commanded the tempest with Caliban at his feet, Hamlet stood contemplating the skull of Horatio and the donkey-headed Bottom cavorted with pixies, while around them, all the world continued to be a stage.
At the very back corner of the cathedral, Jamie found the chapel to the victims of AIDS. A young man knelt on an altar cushion, his eyes closed, lips moving in silent prayer. There was a noticeboard set up by the side and Jamie walked closer to see what the church was involved in.
There were pictures from community events, people smiling at sausage-sizzles under rain-soaked skies, children making origami animals to accompany Noah into the ark. In one picture, Jamie spotted Nicholas Randolph, his dark hair recognizable with the streak of white. He looked younger in life, his face relaxed and happy. He wore a shirt with sleeves rolled up, revealing a rainbow on one arm, the promise from God not to destroy the world again and now a symbol for acceptance. Next to him, her face alive with laughter, was Magda Raven.