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By October 10, 2022No Comments


‘No-one else is to be admitted into the apartment until the crime scene officers arrive.’

The junior uniform, who looked as if he’d left the village school about fifteen minutes earlier, gave an awestruck salute and stood by the apartment entrance as if guarding the Kremlin Treasury. There are times when it pays to have a reputation like mine, bad-tempered, uncompromising, a loner. I would have liked to add brilliant and staggeringly handsome to the list, but you can’t have everything.

The penthouse door was shut, but love and Murder Squad Inspectors laugh at locks. My lock-picking skills were a little rusty, but five minutes saw me push the door open. No key in the lock on the other side; that only ever happens in cheap murder mysteries. Cold air gusted through the apartment, and when I stepped into the main living area, I saw why. 

One of the floor to ceiling windows was shattered, as if Sayara had hurled herself at the glass, breaking her way through and out into oblivion. I looked closer, saw that the window was in fact a sliding glass door onto a narrow balcony, the sort that only has room for a few potted plants. A red shoe had fallen on its side near the door, presumably the sister to the one I’d just seen several floors below. One of the dining table chairs had been used to smash the glass, and I wondered why Sayara hadn’t simply opened the door and jumped.

I could see more blood on the glass, spotted and dribbled in places. Early on in my time on the Squad, I’d been called to a smart hotel, where someone had emptied a bottle of champagne and filled the bathtub, before slitting their wrists. It had taken them several goes before they worked out that you slit up the veins, not across them. The blood on the glass reminded me of that, tentative, as if working up to the act, but unsure or frightened of taking that final irrevocable step.

There was a single bloodstain on the pale blue carpet, a shape that looked like the toe of a shoe. I could tell it wasn’t from Sayara’s high-heeled high-fashion footwear. This looked more like a man’s boot, blunt, maybe even steel-toed.

It was then I knew Sayara hadn’t jumped.

While I searched the rest of the apartment, the crime scene boys arrived, complete with white paper overalls, video cameras, and enough lights to shoot a movie. I didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, except to note that Sayara had an extensive collection of black lace lingerie that didn’t really fit my image of her as a quiet middle-aged housewife.

I pointed out the bloodstain on the carpet to the video operator, shook hands with the senior officer, left them to it.

Back outside, I waved Usupov away from the crowd, stood in the shelter of a doorway while I got a much-needed cigarette alight. Wind snatched at the smoke, batted it away. I inhaled, felt the stitches tug in my side, reminding me I’d come close to death myself. I was both angry and worried at the same time. I’m used to people being killed, which means I’m also used to dealing with killers. But who smashes a window with a chair, drags a woman screaming and weeping towards a balcony, throws her over the side like flicking a cigarette butt out of a car window? And how do you stop them doing it again?

‘Keep it to yourself for the moment, Kenesh, but it’s murder?’

Usupov raised an eyebrow, which for him is a big mark of surprise.

‘You’re sure?’

I nodded, spat the taste of nicotine out of my mouth, discarded the cigarette half-smoked.

‘Someone gave her flying lessons, and I don’t think they did it gently. She fought back after the smashed the glass door and she knew she was going to die. You’ll find cuts to her hands and legs that match the blood on the glass fragments upstairs. You might want to test for sedatives; maybe she was given something to try to calm her down, stop her resistance. If they did, well, it didn’t work.’

‘Wouldn’t it have been easier just to shoot her?’ Usupov asked.

‘Sure, but this way you might think that the grieving widow decided she couldn’t live without her husband, wanted to end it all.’

‘But not the way most women exit,’ Ususpov said, and I nodded agreement.

‘That’s why I want it kept quiet for the moment,’ I said, ‘Let whoever killed her think that the idiot police believe it’s suicide.’

‘Lull them into a false sense of security?’ Usupov suggested, but I shook my head.

‘He’s not stupid, but this maybe buys him a little breathing space.’

‘The same person who killed her husband?’

‘Hard to believe there are two separate killers stalking the same family,’ I said, sliding the cigarette packet out of my pocket, then putting it back.

‘The question is, who killed them. And just as important, why?’

One of Usupov’s colleagues called out to him, waved him back. They were going to take the body away, and he was meant to supervise the removal. The building security would clear away the broken glass, hose down the pavement. In a couple of hours there would be no sign that anything had ever happened, apart from yellow crime scene tape tied to the trees, and a red shoe lying forgotten in the gutter.

That’s as much memorial as most of us get.

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