This is a 3-chapter preview of The Scissors and the Sword, for submission & review purposes.
If you’re interested in the full book, try this page.
CHAPTER 1 – Scissors
Jessica stepped out of the car, blinking at the harsh blue emergency lights in the early-morning darkness. She thanked the officer who had driven her. The October chill forced her to pull her coat tighter as he sped off.
Yawning, she spotted someone in a high-vis vest a short distance away. She stretched her arms wide as she walked over.
The guard caught sight of her as she approached, and Jessica held up her ID for inspection. She started to move past, but the young woman raised her hand in a polite ‘stop’ gesture.
“Sorry, Detective Cartwright – we’ve been told to vet each visitor. It’s a security measure,” she said. Jessica blinked, before stepping back. She thrust her hands into her pockets.
“Really? Look, ah–” she started, reading the guard’s name badge, “-Williams, I’m in a bit of a hurry.” The officer gave the detective an apologetic look as she detached the walkie-talkie mouthpiece from her jacket.
“O-C we have a Jessica Cartwright asking to be let into the cordon; ID checks out, over?”
Jessica shivered against the cold; the warmth of the car had fully left her. She sighed, realising today was probably going to get worse before it got better. It was unusual for the office to send down such a large crew. She much preferred a lower-key arrangement. She liked to have a couple of officers at her side and time to study the scene alone.
With a crackle, the response came through.
“Let her through, over.”
The guard reached into her pocket and produced a small notepad and pen, writing down Jessica’s name, the time, and a few notes before waving her on.
“O-C thought we might keep this out of the morning papers,” she said.
“You thought I might be a journalist?”
Williams shrugged again, as Jessica made her way past.
“Sorry, just following orders,” she said.
The pathway at the edge of the park lay alongside a bank of grass. Jessica followed it to an intersection, where a footpath split off that cut into the park proper. A Victorian gaslight-style lamppost stood at the corner; drowned out by the morning sun. The London streets were covered by the shadows of tall buildings this early. However the park was unfettered, open, and bright. Crossing into the grass, which caught a rich amber hue in the sunrise, it felt odd to make the jarring exchange of concrete for lawns and lamp posts for trees.
She soon saw her destination. A forensic tent had been set up by the earlier team and the area had been floodlit by standing lights running out of a nearby van.
She began her initial inspection; there were no obvious signs of struggle, no glass or clothing… Usually the area around a crime scene was littered with taped-off areas, chalk-marked locations and other paraphernalia that called out anything notable. This time the tent stood alone, save for the lights and a few officers standing close by. She sped up her pace when she saw a uniform filling out some forms.
“Are you the O-C?” She called out. He finished signing a form on his colleague’s clipboard before turning to her.
“Y-Yes, I am,” he answered as she approached. Jessica noted the slight waver in his voice; he seemed startled. “We’ve been waiting for you to arrive,” he added, “I was hoping you’d get here before anything was disturbed.”
Jessica walked past him, parting the opening of the tent, taking out a torch from her pocket.
“So what — gang murder?” She asked, “You seem worried about the papers.”
The officer’s voice came from behind her as she stepped through.
“No, though I can see why you’d expect that.”
Jessica looked back through the zip-door of the tent, puzzled.
“So why the extra security?”
The O-C followed her inside, zipping up the doorway behind them.
“It’s just from a visual inspection, but we think the victims are both students. They’re mid-20s and pretty well-off, too if you look at their clothes.”
On the floor was a large tarpaulin. It covered what could only be two bodies, though the sheet was unusually tented between them. She looked back at the O-C,
“You say victims. You’ve ruled out suicide?”
He answered with a nervous nod.
“Believe me, they didn’t do this to themselves.”
Jessica walked around the edge of the tent, taking in the scene,
“There’s nothing here,” she said.
He swept his hands around the general area, marking out the perimeter that they’d investigated so far.
“We made a quick inspection when we arrived; there doesn’t appear to be anything here but the bodies-”, he paused, before correcting himself, “-oh of course, you’ll want to confirm that. I just mean there was nothing visibly lying around that we spotted, except for the weapons.”
She picked up on his last word.
He pointed to the area where the sheet was unusually tented. She put on a pair of thin gloves, inviting the O-C to do the same, and crouched down adjacent to the head of the corpses. Even from her hunched position she heard his breathing speed up. She reminded herself that not everyone on the force was used to seeing murder scenes up-close.
She didn’t wait for him to be ready before she pulled back the tarpaulin.
The first sight that struck her was the ground. It had been stained with blood. The mottled pattern had shifted to a brown-black texture and was clearly several hours old. Her mind went to work on her analysis. The loss of blood was extensive, but there appeared to be no trail. There was certainly not one outside the tent, which suggested the bleeding was rapid, and the victims had fallen where they had been attacked.
“Just to be sure, your team has found no blood trail? Just this?” She asked.
The man nodded in response.
“They didn’t even try to run,” she mumbled, before pulling the tarpaulin sheet further back to reveal both bodies fully.
What she saw stunned her into silence and brought the startled attitude of the O-C into sharp focus. Jumping to her feet, she maintained her decorum, but could not conceal her surprise. The officer covered his mouth with a hand.
Jessica had seen many murder scenes in her career with the police, although she had only recently become a Scene of Crime Officer. From stabbings, and bullet wounds to car collisions; all that had done little to prepare her for what she now beheld. She looked into the eyes of both deceased, first one, then the other. Their faces were contorted; frozen in a death-mask of sheer terror and inconceivable pain. From the look alone Jessica wholeheartedly agreed with her colleague’s earlier assessment. Suicide was out of the question.
The pair was lying on their side, face-to-face, staring at one another. Each victim bore the slash mark of a razor sharp blade. The slice was a long, savage cut that went from behind the left ear to the right ear, parting at the sides of the mouth, leaving each of their faces carved into a grotesque smile.
The cause of the blood loss was no mystery. The cut had not only sliced their skin, but had dug through the bones at the hinge of their jaws. The force of the attack had almost snapped the connecting bone from their faces.
Suddenly the clues hit her, like a nauseating blow to the gut. The lack of blood trail, the apparent sudden nature of the attack, the sheer ferocity of the injuries… She imagined herself in the victims’ final moments – a blade forced into a soft-spot behind her ear. She knew the imagined blade was at least two inches deep, then felt the searing pain as it drew downward and carved through the skin of her cheek. She heard the left hinge of her jaw snap with an audible crack…
The victims were likely alive when these cuts were made.
She crouched down closer to the bodies, looking carefully at the wound on each face. In each grisly maw that had been formed, she could see the same pattern.
“Found something?” The O-C asked, still keeping his distance. She shook her head as her gloved fingers felt around the bloodied edges of the cuts. She peeled back a little skin and wiped away some blood for a closer look. The young man winced.
“The edges of these cuts aren’t consistent with a knife drawn along the cut.” With her other hand, she traced the line from behind one of her ears, down across her mouth and up to the other ear.
“You’d assume they were cut like that – but that’s not what these marks suggest.”
The O-C looked puzzled. He steeled himself and stepped closer, crouching down in front of her, on the other side of the bodies, and looked at where she was pointing. He examined closely for as long as he could stomach before he leaned back to breathe, covering his nose.
“I don’t see it. Are you sure?” He asked.
“I’ve seen plenty of victims of knife crime, and this cut definitely wasn’t formed that way. This cut was horizontal, like cutting with a sawblade and a vice.” She flattened out her hand and aligned it with the wound. “The cut started at the side of the head, and went right in, through the jawbone – but I can’t imagine how someone could do that – cut through bone.” She looked at the O-C, still crouched down in front of her.
“You okay?” She asked.
He nodded in response, though he didn’t say anything.
“You mentioned a weapon?”
He pointed between the bodies to what had tented the sheet; something that answered at least one question, but posed many more in its place.
Driven into the ground, with a force strong enough to crack and shatter a concrete paving slab, were two pairs of iron tailor’s scissors.
“This is a scene,” she said. The O-C frowned in response.
“Well yes, it’s a crime scene-” he started to speak, but Jessica interrupted him as she stood.
“No, I mean this isn’t some back-alley stabbing, or a mugging gone wrong. This isn’t just a murder. It’s almost ritual.”
Jessica peeled off her gloves and tossed them into a receptacle before she unzipped the door of the tent and took out her phone.
“Steve, hi, get me John Cooper.”
She stepped outside while her call was transferred.
“John,” she said, “this Hyde Park thing’s going to be a big deal. We need to get the rest of the team down here immediately.” She gave a few cursory details, before ending the call abruptly. The O-C had followed her out and spoke as soon as her phone was returned to her pocket.
“Hey, what you said inside about this being ‘ritual’. What did you mean?”
Jessica looked out at the tops of the London skyline, peeking over the trees in the distance.
“I meant that this was premeditated. Someone did this for a reason,” she ran her fingers through her hair, finally starting to feel fully awake.
“We need to find out why, before they do it again.”
CHAPTER 2 – Coroner
“You again? Look, Jess, we’ve been through this before. You need to give me time to work,” Geoff spoke in his predictably awkward tone, which prompted Jessica to roll her eyes. Coroners, in her experience, did not like to be rushed at the best of times. Geoff was particularly difficult to work with when time was at a premium.
“I came over to ask about your initial reaction,” she answered, “we’ll need to make a statement pretty soon.”
She looked out of the office doorway, across the corridor to the kitchen beyond. She watched him pour out the boiling water, swirl it around in the mug and add a couple of sweeteners, before he returned to the office himself. He sat on the chair adjacent to the desk.
The investigation had gone on most of the day. Eventually the scene had been cleaned up and the bodies were moved to the mortuary – at which point they became Geoff’s responsibility. Jessica had grown to respect his work enormously, knowing that he was the best way to get some initial answers.
The coroner was tall, standing at around 6 foot, and was in his late 50s, though his flat grey hair made him look older. The original colour was probably coaxed away from years of stress and his hair was thinning a little on the top, likely for the same reason. Geoff had a full beard, though, and rarely was without a cigarette in hand. He wasn’t much of a “people person”.
She watched as he took a sip, before he placed his cup on the desk and leaned back in his chair. He brought a hand to his forehead and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He was clearly tired, but he seldom appeared to be well-rested.
Jessica slipped her hands into her pockets to keep them warm. In the hospital cellar it was always cold. It was a necessity she never had gotten as used to, as Geoff evidently had.
“What’s your take, then?” She asked.
Geoff sat up before he reached for a small stack of photographs on the desk. He thumbed through them one-by-one. They were the images Jessica had taken earlier of the crime scene, and had arrived in a dossier along with the bodies. She waited patiently for him to speak, though he took his time.
“I’ve just had a quick look at them. They’ve only been here for an hour.” Jessica glanced through the office window that overlooked the mortuary’s main room. She was clearly able to see the two bodies, covered in sheets and awaiting autopsy.
“Yes, but I know that’s long enough for you to have some ideas – and you’re usually right,” she said.
He leaned back in his chair once more and offered the hoarse laugh of a career chain smoker.
“Flattery won’t quite get you everywhere, Jess,” he replied. She to herself, turning back to him, “because this time, I honestly don’t have a clue,” he finished.
Her smile quickly changed to a frown.
“I was worried you’d say that.”
He focused his gaze on her, and put down the photographs before they began to compare their limited notes.
Jessica began with her arrival at the crime scene, and went on to discuss the rest of the day. The O-C had been correct, there was nothing to be found. They followed the usual protocol and worked through the entire area. They even had officers scout around the rest of the park for any additional evidence or possible eyewitnesses. The end result was nothing more than they’d started with: two bodies and two pairs of scissors.
“That in itself is strange. We found literally nothing. No killer leaves a crime scene completely untouched. Even if it’s useless to forensics, they always leave something.”
They both paused for a moment, going back to their drinks, before he continued,
“Could the killer have scrubbed the area down?”
Jessica shook her head.
“No. Even when someone does that, they leave signs that they’ve cleaned up. Plus, this was in the middle of the park. Like if it’s in a bathroom-”
Geoff held up his hand.
“Yeah, I know, just thinking out loud.” Another pause, before he tipped up his mug and finished his tea. He stood up as he did so. “Well, I’ll show you what I was able to work out, then maybe you’ll give me time to actually get some work done.” He left the office, and Jessica followed.
“Into the Rose Garden we go,” joked Geoff, as he walked through the double-doors. Jessica felt a wave of icy air hit her. This mortuary was by strip lights, cooled like a fridge, with tiled floors and metal surfaces, the room had a utilitarian feel. The walls were lined with cabinet drawers, each long enough to hold a corpse, and the room focused around a central pair of tables, “the slabs”, upon which the pair of victims currently lay.
Geoff flicked a switch at the opposite end of the room, turning on two large lamps above the slabs, before he retrieved surgical masks and gloves from a small desk. He tossed a pair to Jessica, who promptly put them on as she approached the grim spectacle.
Geoff pulled back the sheet, leaving it turned-down over the shins and feet of the bodies. Jessica could see them laid out, rather than in the foetal position at the crime scene. They had been stripped, their clothes taken away for forensic analysis, though the bodies had not been extensively cleaned, just in case something was removed that could shed some light on the investigation. Jessica performed a visual inspection of areas she could see.
The man was tall, of slender build, but with a muscular frame. He was clearly a gym-goer. His hair, mottled with blood, was long, though it had been held under a woollen hat and was something of a tangled mess, now. The woman, on the other hand, was shorter and less athletic. Her makeup had been carefully applied prior to the attack; some remnants still clung to her eyelids and eye lashes. Her nails had been painted recently. It was obvious she’d taken great pride in her appearance. However, those details were overshadowed by the maw the killer had carved into their faces. Geoff spoke up,
“Nothing seems to be visibly wrong with them apart from what you saw at the crime scene. The girl has some bruises on her arm, but you can see they’re old. They look more like what you’d get if you knocked into a door-handle. I don’t think they’re related.”
Jessica continued to pace around and between the tables, trying to take in as much as possible.
“What was the cause of death?” Geoff raised an eyebrow, causing her to roll her eyes in response.
“Humour me,” she said.
Geoff walked over to the head end of the bodies and leaned over the male.
“Well, as I’ve said, I’ve only really had a quick look at them, but my guess is a combination of asphyxiation and blood loss, though the snapping of the jawbone is a massive trauma, too.”
Jessica studied Geoff.
“Everything suggests they were killed, like this, instantaneously at the crime scene. It just seems hard to believe,” she said.
He scratched his head.
“Well, I can’t tell you for sure, but we’ll be doing toxicology. I can let you know the results once we have them, but if it isn’t that, it has to be this…” He trailed off, gesturing towards the mutilated faces. He reached into this pocket, taking out a packet of cigarettes and shaking it, until one poked out.
Jessica stepped away from the slab the male was lying on.
“Are the cuts consistent with the scissors?” She asked.
Geoff put the box back, before reaching under the corner of the table, still shrouded with the sheet. He pulled out the two large pairs of scissors, contained in a transparent evidence bag.
“Well, yes and no. I mean they’re the right size, look.” He held the contents of the bag next to the wounds, showing clearly that the blade length and the wound depth were a good match. He placed the scissors on the small desk behind him, before he turned back to grip the slab’s edge while leaning on his hands. “That doesn’t mean I know how this happened,” he added.
“The killer could’ve been very strong,” Jessica offered, “adrenaline does that to people.”
Geoff reached down to replace the sheet and pulled it back over the bodies before he switched off the bright examination lights and sat on a stool near the desk. He discarded his surgical mask, and started to look for his lighter. Jessica took off her own mask and walked over to join him, as he started to explain.
“Nope. Not like this. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, remember? I’ve seen all sorts come through here in that time. I’ve had people from industrial accidents, run over by buses… In 2003, there was a man who was ran over by a forklift – right over his head! Broke his neck.”
Jessica tapped her foot.
“What’s your point?” She asked.
He looked up at her, with an expression of slight exasperation.
“Okay, so the bloke with the broken neck still had a very intact skull, because the skull and jaw are incredibly strong bone structures. I don’t care how much you can lift, you can’t be strong enough to just slice through them with a pair of scissors, no matter how sharp. It’s just not possible. And yet it’s there. Right there. On that slab. Not just once, but twice.” He brought his hand to the bridge of his nose again, as his brow furrowed.
Jessica had to admit, seeing him so perplexed worried her.
“It sounds like your investigation is going no better than mine,” she said. He cracked a smile, as Jessica removed her gloves.
“I need a smoke.” He jumped to his feet, still looking for his lighter. Jessica noticed it on the desk, under a dossier, and picked it up. She couldn’t help noticing the front of the document as she did so.
“Are those the files about these two?” She asked, as she tossed him the lighter.
“No, no,” he answered, “when your office called over and mentioned scissors, I had a look in the database for anything similar.”
“You found a match?”
He shook his head, picking up and leafing through the folder.
“Not really. This is from 2007, you might remember it from the tabloids – The Tailor’s Torso?”
Jessica found the name familiar, but couldn’t quite place it. Since she didn’t interrupt him, he continued.
“They never did find that poor girl’s body. Still, the only thing it had in common was that she stabbed him with a pair of sciss-” He stopped mid-sentence, as if his memory had caught up with him. “Oh, I-… umm… Sorry.” He stammered.
Jessica picked the file out of his hands, closing it.
“It’s fine, Geoff,” she said, flicking through the document, “Can I borrow this?”
“Yes, they’re police records.”
She started to put the dossier in her bag.
“Will you be in touch once you have the full report?” She asked.
He glanced at the calendar,
“Yeah, tomorrow for the preliminary, a week for the complete – just like usual,” he answered, before he began to gather the sheet back over the two bodies.
She made her way towards the double doors, backing into them as she called out,
With a wave, she walked through, feeling a moment of joy in exiting that cold, clinical world, and passing into one of warmth and colour.
CHAPTER 3 – Reassigned
Jessica walked into the briefing room, cradling her takeaway-coffee in one hand and carrying some paperwork in the other. She was running a few minutes early. Taking stock of the room, she made her way toward a table at the back to reorganise her load.
She’d always mused that the name “CID Briefing Hall” conjured up an image of a swanky lecture theatre, though the room was just an empty space filled with folding chairs. Equipped to seat around 100 (though rarely seating more than 50), the room faced a whiteboard nailed to one wall. There were no windows – information shared here was often highly confidential, after all.
Jessica jostled with her coffee to place the documents onto the table top.
“Do you want a hand, detective Cartwright?”
Startled, she looked to her left for the source of the voice.
It was a younger colleague, wearing an indoor uniform. Petite and brown-haired, with a runner’s frame.
Jessica had that awkward feeling she knew who she was, but couldn’t remember her name. Soon she realised she’d left things a bit too long in responding, but her colleague helped her out.
“It’s Williams – Rachel Williams, remember? We met in Hyde Park.”
Jessica felt relieved.
“Oh, Williams!” She exclaimed, “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognise you without all the gear.”
Jessica’s detective status meant that she wore civilian clothes when not at official events. Williams, on the other hand, was wearing a formal, ‘indoors’ uniform that was regulation for someone who walked the beat, though she was missing the hat and high-visibility jacket.
“Oh, of course – I didn’t think. The boots I wear on those assignments make me a few inches taller, and with the hat…” She smiled, “… So you like Tyrell’s as well?” She gestured towards the cup.
“Yeah, I go there before work most days. I like their Americano.”
Williams was already looking around the room as she answered, and Jessica realised she must be quite new in the job. This was probably still a novelty to her.
“Surprised I’ve never ran into you in the morning – it’s opposite my flat, so I go there a lot,” Williams said.
Jessica sipped some of her own coffee, before shuffling her documents on the table-top into order.
“You must live pretty close to my place, if you’re near there,” she said.
Other officers had started to file into the room. Some SOCO staff, forensics experts, victim support officers and less specialised colleagues like Williams. A few of them said a quick ‘hello’ as they passed by, though most just took a folding chair. Amid the hubbub, Williams received a text message on her phone, and started to reply to it.
She got as far as tapping out a few words, before looking back to Jessica.
“Me and the girls are going for some drinks soon, do you want to come? Just to a pub, or something.”
Jessica blinked. She realised with a jolt that she hadn’t been out since taking this job 6 months ago. It had been difficult to maintain social ties, with the move and the workload. In truth, it felt a little awkward being asked by a colleague she hardly knew, but it would probably be more polite to accept the offer now. She could always cancel later.
“Yeah, sounds good Williams. I’ll give you my number, and we’ll see if I’m free. Hang on a sec,” Jessica said as she scrambled to find her phone.
The eager colleague chuckled a little at the repeated mention of her surname.
“It’s Rachel,” she said, before reading out her number. The two were so distracted that they didn’t notice the Chief Inspector enter the room. He made his way to the front of the gathering and raised his voice.
“OK everyone, simmer down, we’ll start to work through the notes.”
Jessica and Rachel took seats near the rear, on the left-hand side, and there was a rummage of chairs as those present fell-in.
“We have a fair bit to get through, but I’ll try and keep things brief. Nevill, you and Johnson are to continue to liaise with the inquiry on that heroin case…” And so the briefing began, as it usually did, with assignments – old, new and changes.
“Rafiq, Williams,” Rachel perked up, “Lerwick, you’re assigned to this Japanese thing at the British Museum. It’s really just for show, but give a good account of yourselves. Report to the assignments desk at 3 o’clock, and they’ll fill you in.”
He went on to talk about some government oversight and matters in the local news, before moving onto current problems.
Various cases came up, across a range of crimes that one would expect from an active London crime unit – drugs in Dagenham, kidnapping in Kennington, counterfeiting in Croydon… Glancing at Rachel, Jessica could see how she sat firmly at attention for every word, as opposed to the slouching exhibited by the more seasoned staff. Jessica was waiting for a particular topic.
“Now, about the scissors case.”
The room murmured, and the Chief Inspector had to wait a moment for silence.
“I received the coroner’s report today, and I don’t think it warrants further investigation, by our unit at least. We’re going to pass it over to the CDD.”
Rachel leaned over as if to whisper to Jessica, but she had already raised her hand. The Chief gestured to her to speak.
“Jackson,” Jessica started, “Isn’t that a bit presumptuous? It’s only been a week, and it was a brutal incident.”
Jackson shook his head.
“I read Geoff Keely’s report this morning, and there are no further lines of enquiry. I’ve made a decision that it isn’t worth frontline police time.”
There was a pause, before Jessica started speaking once more.
Jackson immediately interrupted her.
“If you or anyone else wants to discuss this, we can talk further in my office after this briefing.”
Jessica stopped talking, seething at his dismissive tone. Still, she stayed quiet; it would be unprofessional to argue in such a public forum.
“Next, an update on the court case concerning the people-smuggling operation from last July…”
Jackson continued going through his notes, moving from case-to-case. It gave Rachel a renewed chance to whisper to Jessica,
“What’s the CDD?”
Jessica ignored her for a moment, lost in her own thoughts, prompting Rachel to tap her shoulder. She turned and leaned close to the other woman’s ear, whispering,
“It’s the Complex Detection Division. They deal with crimes that are seen to have little chance of being solved…” She stopped talking for a moment as one of the uniformed officers in front of them glanced back. When he turned away, she resumed her explanation,
“… Though really it’s the case graveyard. It’s so we can say we’re still investigating, when usually it just gets locked in a filing cabinet and forgotten about.” Even as a whisper, Jessica’s voice was irate.
“…I just can’t see why we’d let this go so soon.” Jessica stated, trying to remain calm, but stood firm. Jackson sighed from behind the desk. His office was spacious, but always felt small, due to the amount of files and folders piled on the various surfaces. A photograph of his wife and children was perched near the edge of the table top, obscured by a stack of forms. What skills Jackson had in leadership, he lacked in organisation.
“You handled the scene yourself, Cartwright. What did you find?” He asked. Her response was immediate.
“I hardly think that one sweep of-”
Jackson stood, and cut her short once more, with an angry tone,
“Nothing. Not a bloody thing. Two people slashed to death in the middle of Westminster, under a full moon, and your team didn’t find a bloody thing. No sign of the killer, no witnesses, nothing. It’s a shambles, detective!”
Jessica balled her hands into fists at her sides.
“All that means is that we have a skilled killer on the loose. I don’t appreciate the insinuation that my conduct has been anything less than exemplary!”
In the silence that followed, Jessica noticed that the hush extended to the usually-busy area outside the office too. Jackson slumped back down in his chair.
“There you go again, Detective Constable. Your conduct. This is a team effort, you know,” he said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She asked.
“Forget about it,” he started, “but listen, I’m under no obligation to explain my decision-” Jessica was about to speak, but Jackson held up a hand, before continuing, “but in this case I’ll make an exception.” He reached into his desk drawer, and pulled out a forensic medical file. He tossed it onto the desk, in front of her. Jessica glanced down, and saw Geoff Keely’s signature on a note stapled to the front. Jackson invited her to sit in the chair facing his desk, and she took the opportunity.
“Geoff gave us his report early this morning. It’s brief.”
Jessica leaned back, still maintaining unbroken eye contact. Jackson continued,
“He says he found nothing ‘foreign’ on the two of them – no trace of the killer – even though he thinks they’d need to be manhandled in order to inflict this kind of injury.”
Jessica blurted out her first thought.
“Don’t you dare say ‘impossible’ in this room! In this last week, on this case, I’ve had enough of ‘impossible’. I’ve had people say it, reports say it, this-” he motioned to the coroner’s dossier, “-says it! Everything’s bloody impossible!”
Jessica flinched at his outburst, but refused to back down, trying to think back through what he had said. The phrase that stuck out to her was “in the middle of Westminster”. It hit the ear wrong, coming from him, and she realised that he was likely repeating part of a conversation he’d had with someone else.
In retrospect, it seemed obvious. A savage murder case, yet so close to London landmarks. That led to an inescapable conclusion: the case was being sent over to CDD for political reasons. It was a hunch, she had to admit, but her gut told her that it was true.
“You know if you pass this over to CDD, that’ll be the last we ever hear about it,” she said.
Jackson stood up once more, walking over to a map of London on his wall. He reached, and plucked out a pin on Hyde Park, moving it to the edge of the board.
“You place very little faith in their work.” He looked back over to her for a moment, before putting his hands in his pockets.
“I’ve made a decision, detective. You’re to be reassigned later today.”
Jessica shot up from her chair, planting her hand down in the middle of the file with a thump.
“And what about when Geoff examines the next one slashed with a pair of scissors?”
Jackson turned back to her from the map, with a softer expression. She’d expected a reprimand, but instead he came back over to the desk.
“In truth, Jessica, I think your own experience affects your impartiality.” At the sound of her first name, unusual coming from Jackson, she brought a hand to cover her right forearm, despite wearing long sleeves. When she realised this, her temper from earlier flared as white-hot rage.
“Chief Jackson, I consider myself a professional! This was a violent, unprovoked attack, and must be resolved!” Jackson stood to his full height, and replied unequivocally.
“Dismissed, detective Cartwright.”
“Damnit J-” She protested.
Jessica strode into her own office, still furious at her dismissal. Unable to relax, she found herself staring out of her window, at the packed street.
“Knock-knock?” A voice came from near the door. She whirled around to see Rachel Williams in the open doorway. She sighed, waving her in as she sat in her chair.
“Sorry, you might have heard, my visit to Jackson turned into an argument.”
“Yeah, I think the entire floor heard.”
Jessica brought her hands to her face. She brought her palms together, covering up her mouth and nose, then swiped them downwards, in a futile attempt to mask the embarrassment.
Rachel spoke up.
“Just came to ask if you want to get lunch – this museum thing’s just a rehearsal, and isn’t until 3 o’clock.”
Jessica thought about it for a moment, and was about to refuse, when Rachel added,
“Plus, it might do you some good to get out of the building for an hour or so.”
Much as it would be easy just to sit there, Jessica had to agree; stewing in her own office wouldn’t help anyone.
“I have a couple of things to do, and I need to grab my bag. Meet you in reception, say, 10 minutes?” Rachel agreed, and walked out, leaving Jessica alone with her thoughts. She leaned back in her chair, still feeling humiliated that she lost her temper in the blink an eye. All because he thought she was worked up over a pair of scissors…
“Scissors…” She murmured. Scissors, scissors… She opened her drawer, and the two pairs of scissors were still there, in the evidence bag. The Tailor’s Torso file was also there.
She felt her frustration boil over, and made an on-the-spot decision. It often took weeks for CDD to inventory all the evidence for a new case. That meant that she still had time to find something that would convince Jackson to re-open the investigation, and if she didn’t succeed, then no-one would ever know.
She packed the scissors and file into her bag, and left to meet Williams.
This is a 3-chapter preview of The Scissors and the Sword, for submission & review purposes.
If you’re interested in the full book, try this page.