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“You may commence, Chief Inspector.”
The two constables started to write down notes as I began, my sweating forehead reflecting the bright shine of the desk lamp despite the harsh cold temperature. A notebook with a cheap webcam was recording our talk.
“We were called the September 29th, Dundee division. John, Pamela and I. It was nine or ten, did not bother about the exact time then. The matter occurred on the northern coast less than half an hour from Dundee, in East Haven. Pamela remained in the car when we arrived, and the locals sought John and me.
“’’Tis on the shore, Mr. Scott’, a young guy said without even introducing himself. That was how that weird fellow named people whom he assumed were from Scotland Yard. I guessed. ‘Ol’ O’Brien went on fishin’ and was found… lying on the shore, bloodied all over.’
“He kept avoiding our questions about his identity and occupation, you know. ‘We will dae talk ‘bout it later, Mr. Scott’. ‘You must see this first, Mr. Scott’.
“‘How many hours since this?’ I asked the mannie and his two odd-looking companions. Other than scared faces looking at us behind windows, the town was quiet dead. ‘Since the body was found’.
“He looked down to his early century’s cell phone. ‘Mustn’t be naw more than two, Mr. Scott. ‘Tis ten and twenty – it ‘as found ‘round nine’, so the body was still fresh, I assumed. Less than two hours since death. One might expect just mild rigor mortis in the jawbone and nothing much else. Given that it was a cold night despite it was autumn, we could not rely on body temperature to be more precise on the time of decease.”
“But you were wrong, weren’t you? According to what you told everyone so far.”
“Aye. Bloody fucking wrong, Mr. Constable. As John, myself, the Mr. Scott guy and his two folks arrived at the dark shore of East Haven, we found what used to be the so-called ‘Old O’Brien’. Conventional forensics would be useless.”
I took a moment to get rid of the tension brought with those disturbing memories. I felt sick.
“You all right, Chief Inspector?”
I just answered it by asking for a Mayfair. It is one of the best cheap brands one can buy here, under the Union Jack colours.
“Well. When we found the body, it was lying on the sand, about one metre from the water itself. Eviscerated. Scratch marks all over his bloody abdomen, shredded open. Half of his intestine had been cut off, his liver apparently… gnawed. His four lowermost ribs, both right and left, fractured in many points. No signs of pancreas. His blood drained or whatever fuck happened. Well, hell. Do you wish me to continue this?”
“There were any other signs on the body?”
“Beside the fact it was chewed by a sea hellish hound or something of the sort?”
“You may calm down, Chief Inspector.”
“Don’t tell me to fucking calm down” and I threw the cigarette on the floor. “Just don’t, lad. I have seen murders, rapes, dismemberments, and I can assure you as hell that it was nothing of the sort. That old demon was eaten.”
There was a mortal silence along the next seconds, their young and inexperienced faces in a tempest of both futile restraint and fear.
“There was not any other signs on the body, Mr. Constable. That I can also assure you. There were not even blood steps or anything that could lead us to any other location. Clueless at its definition. No murder weapon, no other cloth scraps, you can name it, and I will tell you it was not there. As if the thing had just popped, disappeared. I spent the rest of the night analysing that massacre. Besides, no one has reportedly witnessed the scene. The awkward guy, we found out be named Gilles, and his radgees found the corpse, as they told us, more than an hour after the murder probably occurred. ”
“And what else, Mr. Raynaud?”
“And what else… there was his boat. You know, O’Brien’s. A wooden two-metre boat, old engine motor attached to its back. It was lying just next to the corpse. There was a huge net, made for catching I don’t know, what kind of damn fish they expect to catch on that shore, and it was heavily blood-stained.”
One of the boys grabbed the forensic report regarding the bloodstains from that night, September 29th. “It matches only James O’Brien’s blood.”
“Nothing on the sand around the scene?”
“It was a windy night. Sand was unreliable.”
“And what else from that night?”
“Besides our frustration? Nothing else. The whole town woke in panic. Local media pictured the event as black magic, given that it wasn’t found any person whose grudge against O’Brien could fill such a murder motive. So, eight in the morning, our cell phones ringing every ten minutes from the central, we came back to Dundee. Wrote the papers and, at least myself, could not sleep for two days.”
“And care to state what have you done during these two days?”
He remained silent.
“You probably want to know about the next incident. That would be more, dunno, useful.”
“Yes, Chief Inspector.”
“I felt urged to investigate the town, despite which conclusions were drawn down back in Dundee. I went by myself three or four times to East Haven next week, and found absolutely nothing worthy of mention. Not a damn lead. Except for…
“I did not find my wee friend down there, and I can regard this as a clue itself. Gilles, the ‘hey, Mr. Scott’ boy. He was a kind of wayward son of a farmer expelled from his home, I gathered, Highlands folk. Dealt with pot and cocaine. And no sign of the other two that were with him that evening as well. He did not live there, but, as it seemed, made his deals in East Haven.”
“And what conclusion did you draw by this, Mr. Raynaud?”
“As you should have learnt, one should not draw out conclusions before one has sufficient evidence.”
“And so did you commence to track down this Gilles?”
“Not actively, no. I just stood down in Dundee and waited for the next move of his. Well, possibly his.”
“And so there was this case”, the older one, no more than 30, started to search through the pile of pages before him. “In Auchmithie, October the 13th.”
I just nodded.
“And you were not assigned to the case, Chief Inspector, am I wrong?”
“Not initially. Thomas was, and his team.”
“And did you bribe him to assume the case?”
I closed my fist to the point it began to hurt. “How dare you, you bampot?”
“I am a police officer, and you are being recorded, Chief Inspector.”
I glared at the cold silent notebook and its webcam. I could see my own decaying face looking at myself. “Sure I am. Well, no, for you deep concern, I did not bribe anyone, right? Friends, Thomas and me.”
“Friends, you say?”
“Friends, I say.”
He did not swallow it, I could see. “Well, please proceed with the facts, Mr. Raynaud.”
I took a deep sigh before stating the events. “Auchmitie, past East Haven and Arbroath toward Aberdeen. I had to see what happened with my own eyes, so I went to the place with Pamela. We drove until that graveyard of a town, and my spine felt frozen when we passed East Haven. I had the sensation the events would unfold in many ways similarly.”
“When the call was received down in Dundee?”, the younger one, who was frantically writing down notes, lifted his head to question me.
“October the 13th, as you’ve said. At ten and a half. We arrived there a few minutes before midnight. We parked our car on the sidewalk just before the way down to the sea. Almost every building was single-storied, and the street lamps were not enough to provide us sight in that clouded night. So we headed down to the beach, guided by Mr. and Ms. Belmont, old Scottish citizens, whose faces were ghostly pale. They said they were ‘strolling around’ when they found a dead couple.”
It came to me again. That feeling of uneasiness. Distress. Cold sweating. As something suddenly going wrong with me just by the act of trying to remember the scene.
“So… we were guided by that aged couple, frightened to their hearts. The man just pointed over a rock near an abandoned shack and said ‘it is over there, officer, sir’, and took hold of the hands of his lady. I leaded the way with Pamela just behind me.
“And we found ‘em. Just like that: on the sand, hidden behind the huge rock, a few minutes past midnight. In their twenties, both of ‘em: a girl with short blonde hair and a skinny long-haired lad. Both with their clothes on, and both… well, in a way that resembled the first victim. The girl had her throat stomped and open, her blood spattered all over them, hey eyes removed and half of the skin of her face was missing, the muscles being grossly chopped, or… bitten.”
I took a few seconds to continue, retaking my breath and weighting my words, their morbidity not even parallel to the true horror of that night.
“The boy, his abdomen and chest were tore open. There was a rib and a few pieces of his sternum right next to him, some of the others smashed to the point they became bone powder. His bowels standing crude on the sand, the remaining piece of his mangled heart still in his chest. As if something had a feast in him.”
“You truly believe that something made this, as some kind of animal, Chief Inspector?”
“You have seen the photos, didn’t you? With your own eyes. Do you really believe that some human could have done this? I do not question the cruelty of it, for what are demons or beasts compared to what we are capable of, but the way it was committed. The method. Humans do not possess claws, as the wounds suggest the murderer thing had, nor are capable of crunching in a way like that. And, most important of it all: humans leave traces.”
The two girlies did not answer me, standing there, like the couple of idiots they were, trying to delve into matters they could not possibly comprehend, for they did not stood there as I stood.
“You may continue.”
I returned a dark look. “There was a syringe near them, almost empty. Druggies, as you could have bet. Dots in their arms. Anyway, we searched thoroughly the area for any marks, any footprints… and found none. As, frankly, it was expected. And then I entered the shack.”
“That you stated to be abandoned.”
“I assumed so. Well, the front door was open, and so I entered while Pamela stood there guarding the scene. There was a kind of manky living room, a kitchen and a bedroom next to a bathroom. All of ‘em foul-smelling, boggin’, like some putrid odour of dead dog. You also saw the pictures taken inside: it’s nothing from this century, and certainly there was none living there for the last decades. You know, besides vagrants and drug addicts. Then as I was leaving the cabin, I looked over to the town, over the small cliff. Amidst the one-storey houses, just beside a street lamp, there stood, looking down to us… Gilles.”
“The young man from East Haven. Are you completely sure of this?”
“Aye, I am. That treacherous son of a bitch. ‘Mr. Scott’, ‘Mr. Scott’. I started to sprint toward him, dashing the way up to town, pistol in hand. And when I reached the place where he was, he had already gone.”
“Do you have proof that it was really him?”
“What are theories without evidence, Mr. Constable? I found a Benson & Hedges Silver, chewed on the end, where he stood.”
“You know Benson & Hedges is a quite popular brand.”
“It is. Though how many of its users actually chew the end? I don’t remember anyone chewing cigarettes, do you? Anyway, it was inductive thinking, but it was the best I had. So I kept it for myself, and the next day I drove back again to East Haven. Mr. Heathorn, the cigarette seller of the town, told me Gilles used to buy Benson & Hedges Silver when in town. My next step was just to trap the guy.
“I parked my own car outside town and stood there during the hours I was not on duty. Five days passed before the night I spotted him, and he immediately went to the beach, almost the same spot where the first murder occurred. Dealt with an old crook, we later found to be cocaine, so I just waited for him to light and smoke a cigarette. When he finished, I exited the car and rushed toward them. His friend ran when he could, but I stopped Gilles. And guess what I found lying on the sand? A chewed Benson & Hedges. Silver. This what I found.”
“And then you shot him.”
“He tried to attack me.”
“That was not what the two witnesses said.”
“And which will you rely on? Wasn’t his knife in his hand? He tried to fucking attack me, and I shot him. I can do that.”
“You murdered Gilles Ainsley, Mr. Raynaud.”
“To hell with this. I did it to stay alive.”
“Ms. Galloway, 56, and Mr. Timberland, 60, attested you shot cold-blooded three times against the victim’s chest after having a brief conversation with him. The contents of which you insist on not revealing since that day. Are three shots supposed to be self-defence?
“And you were wrong about Mr. Ainsley being the culprit of something related to the killings. Last Sunday, a boat was found drifting near Montrose. The three persons there mauled in a way that was associated with the previous victims. Seaweed from deep waters was found inside the boat, and no explanations were given since.”
I kept silent, and I asked for another cigarette. They gave me. I smoked it almost entirely before anyone said anything else. I did not talk about what Gilles told me before he died, before I shot him. Thrice. I would not, ever, to anyone.
“So, is this it?”
“This is it, Mr. Raynaud. Please come with us”, and one of them started to handle the notebook as I was handcuffed.
I did not bother going to the precinct, not even to jail, were it the case.
I surely would be safer than they would. And oh, bloody Satan, I would hear more news on the forthcoming days. News about the eviscerated, the mangled, the chewed. Then they would understand me, and, if I my place, would do what I did.
For Gilles Ainsley was anything but innocent.
He knew it.
‘Mr. Scott’, Mr. Scott’, I kept remembering while being conducted to the police car in that starry night over Dundee.