Chapter Forty-Five

Sherdley Park, St Helens

February 12

The grass is white and stiff with hoar frost; it has been the coldest night of the year so far with temperatures down to minus 10 outside the cities and in open spaces like Sherdley Park, in Sutton, on the outskirts of St Helens and a popular open space. It is 8:00am and a clear sky is reluctantly becoming light as the first dog walker of the day ventures for an early morning walk.

   Patrick Hennessy, and his dog Springer Spaniel Charlie, have been going for their early morning walk for the past five years, no matter what the weather. The live off Marshalls Cross Road, to the East of the park and near the lake. Every morning, Charlie waits by the front door, his lead in his mouth, eyeing Patrick excitedly as he dons his heavy winter coat. Patrick has just finished his morning mug of tea; breakfast for both of them must wait until after their walk.

   They set out briskly entering the park through some woods in the direction of the lake. The ground is frozen solid and Patrick notices icicles on a few lower branches where rainwater from a few days ago had dripped down and frozen. Leaves crunched underfoot as Patrick let Charlie off his lead and watched, smiling, as he joyfully raced around seeking new and exciting smells.

   The route Patrick takes hardly changes from day-to-day. He heads for a path known as The Score, to the North and then follows it round south, parallel to Marshalls Cross Road until he reaches another path which leads into woods in the direction of the lake. He heads off the path to the lake through trees and undergrowth until they reach its edge.

   Charlie has vanished. Patrick can hear him barking frantically towards the northern end of the lake. He sighs. He has probably found a dead vole or a mouse. He debates whether to go and find him. He shouts out a couple of time, staring in the direction of the lake but there is no sign of Charlie. He walks briskly over to the lake which is partly hidden by trees and undergrowth. Charlie’s barking is louder now and nearer, so he heads in the direction it is coming from.

   The barking is coming from a copse at the side of the lake which is in its shadow. He can finally spot Charlie who is looking at something in the bushes. When Patrick calls him, he rushes over, his tail wagging excitedly and then runs back to the bushes when Patrick produces his lead. Patrick decides to look at what is so interesting. Can a dead mouse really be so fascinating?

   He reaches the bushes and there is something on the ground partly obscured by Charlie. Patrick steps closer and notices a pair of shoes in the grass. He grabs Charlie’s collar and pulls him back. It is only then that he realises that the shoes have legs. He steps back in horror finally realising that he is staring at a man’s body. He parts more bushes to reveal a face. He puts his hand to his mouth as he sees a staring eye. Its neighbour is missing and where there should be an eye is just a socket.

   What is most horrifying though is the deep gash under the man’s chin. His throat had been cut from side-to-side.

   Patrick attaches Charlie’s lead and looks around to see if there is anyone else he can call on, although the man on the ground is obviously long past any help. There is nobody. The park is empty at this time on a bitterly cold February morning.

   Patrick and Charlie run in the direction of Marshall’s Cross Road. He remembers that there is a call box halfway up it, so he heads for it.

DI Lamplight is tucking into his breakfast. It is Thursday and he always makes a point of having a decent breakfast of a Thursday because his wife Nora is always out at Bingo and he has to make do with a sandwich or a pie and pint at the pub. He has just started tucking in when the phone in the hall rings.

   He pauses with a forkful of bacon and egg halfway to his mouth. ‘Who the bloody Hell can that be at this time of day,’ he says to Nora. ’It better hadn’t be the station, they know not to ring me of a Thursday.’

   It is desk sergeant Ernie James who has drawn the short straw. One other sergeant is just about to go off at the end of his shift and is standing next to Ernie grinning knowing full well what reception Ernie is about to get.

   Before Lamplight can say anything, Ernie takes the initiative saying: ‘We have a really bad one in Sherdley boss which is why I’m ringing. I’ve rung the super too who is also coming out.’

   ‘Tell me,’ snaps Lamplight.

   ‘Dogwalker discovers a man’s body by the lake. Throat cut from ear-to-ear. It’s murder, No doubt about it. A patrol constable is there, and I am about to go out with a team.’

   ‘OK. Nobody goes home. Get everyone out there. Call the pathologist and the crime scene boys. I’m on my way.’

   Ernie grins at his colleague. ‘If you think you are going home chum, think again. He wants everyone at the crime scene.’

   Lamplight is in a bad mood. He has had to abandon his breakfast and instead he is standing by a frozen lake in a frozen park. His hands are numb, and he stamps his feet to keep the circulation going.

   His boss, the station superintendent is there, barking orders to all and sundry and has now retreated to the warmth of his car. Lamplight is waiting for the pathologist to finish his initial examination of the body before going to take a look himself.

   Dr Saville walks over to him, peeling off his rubber gloves as he does so. ‘Not a pretty sight,’ he mutters staring at Lamplight.

   ‘What’s the verdict doc?’ says Lamplight wearily.

   ‘Not much doubt about it, as you can see for yourself,’ says Saville. ‘His throat was slashed comprehensively, from left to right. Death would have been almost instantaneous. I may know more when I do the PM. Shall we say 2:00pm?’ He is about to head off but pauses. Staring at Lamplight. ‘By the way, when you look, you will notice the local wildlife have been having a little meal of him.’

   Lamplight just nods. ‘Lovely,’ he mutters. ‘How long has he been here, would you say doctor?’

   Difficult to say because of the temperature but since late last night I would say. I may be able to give a more accurate time later.’ And with that he walks briskly away.

   Lamplight walks over slowly to the body as the crime scene people begin their examination of the surroundings. A tent has been erected and the area taped off. Despite all his years in the force Lamplight is squeamish when it comes to the gory business of examining corpses. He stands a good three feet away not wishing to get any closer.

   He glances at the face and the empty eye socket and turns away feeling slightly sick. He is about to walk away when something stirs his memory. He takes another cursory look at the mangled face and sees Sergeant James standing close by.

   ‘Have you had a look?’ he asks.

   ‘Just a glance Sir,’ he replies quietly.

   ‘Did you not recognise him?’

   James shakes his head, a puzzled look on his face.

   ‘Take another gander and tell me what you think.’

   James strides over to the crime scene and after a few minutes, returns. ‘I’ll be damned,’ he mutters.

   ‘It’s him, isn’t it?’ says Lamplight.

   ‘Charlie ‘The Dukes’ Kingston, St Helens drugs kingpin,’ says James.

   ‘I wonder what he was doing out here in the middle of the night,’ says Lamplight thoughtfully.

   ‘Meeting somebody who didn’t like him,’ says James. ‘No great loss if you ask me Sir.’

  ‘Indeed.’ Says Lamplight thoughtfully. ‘What is interesting though sergeant is that fact that this is the third drugs related killing in just a few weeks.’

Published by pod1942

I am a cereer journalist having worked for the London Dail Mail, Reuters and latterly the Liverpool Daily Post on Merseyside as well as the journalists’ leader in the region. I have experience as a crime reporter, feature writer, business editor and latterly, a senior sub-editor. My qualifications include a BA (Hons) English, from the University of Liverpool; a BA (Hons) Fine Art and an MA in Creative Practice both from Liverpool Hope University. I now divide my time between art and writing. I will shortly be publishing my first full-length novel, The Poseidon Files and as a taster I have written a short story which features the same central female character in which she talks about her world and her life. It is, however, essentially a ghost story.

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