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“Yes, I know what some of you are thinking, but bear with me for a little while longer.”

“All his appointments are in his electronic diary, sir.” Imogen held up a tablet for the team to see. “Everyone he’s seen for the past twelve months.”

Rocco piped up. “I hear what you say, but doesn’t finding the body in his car make it a little obvious who the killer is? His car; his crime. What other explanation could there be?”

“It just doesn’t feel right. He takes time destroying her, doing the most appalling things to her, then shoves her in his car—naked and uncovered, just laid across the back seat for all to see.”

“He’s a nutter; they panic sometimes.”

“We’ll see. I’ve asked Julian to do some tests; then we’ll know for sure. Until then we won’t make any assumptions.”

“Will you make a list of his appointments for the last fortnight?”

he asked Imogen. “Then we can each take a few and check them out. Now—the murdered girl.” He shook his head. “Someone did a right job on her—the sort of job that takes time and shouts psychopath.”

Imogen Goode heard the ping of new mail, and her blue eyes dipped to her computer screen. There was a message from Julian.

“Sorry to interrupt, but Julian says you want this urgently, sir.”

She was already sending the document to the printer.

It was the diagram Calladine had requested, and as he’d thought, Stone’s vehicle was the last one in the pile-up. He pinned it to the board. It was an important piece in the jigsaw.

He turned back and looked at the team. Where was Ruth? He glanced up at the office clock—nine thirty. Way past her usual time. Well, he couldn’t wait for her.

“This young woman was found dead in a car on the bypass this morning. She definitely wasn’t killed in the smash. She’d been murdered somewhere else—garrotted. There is more, and you’ll all get a copy of the PM report once Doc Hoyle has written it. It won’t make pleasant reading. Our man did a thorough job. Stone was stuck in his car, unable to move, and no doubt screaming for help.

No-one could see anything because of the fog. Even though she was found in his car, it’s my theory that it went like this: another vehicle comes up behind him and stops. This vehicle has the dead girl in it.

Stone probably thinks he’ll get some help, but that’s not what happens. The bastard ignores him and dumps the girl’s body on his rear seat. Next, he tries to cover it up by setting the car alight.”

He stood back, staring at the board. If he was right, then their man must have had no idea what to do with the body. He’d simply seized an opportunity when it had presented itself. That could mean she was his first.

“Like I said, that last bit is only a theory at present. But if I’m wrong then we have to ask ourselves why Stone didn’t hide her?

I’ve got Julian’s lot checking to see if his car was set alight deliberately. If it was, then our man was hoping to cover his tracks.

Stone’s car was the obvious choice—an incapacitated driver and the first car he came across in the heavy fog.” He tapped at the diagram. “I’m not going to pretend; this isn’t going to be easy.

We’re short-staffed, and what with this and the Cassie Rigby case, we’re overstretched. Rocco: you and Imogen take the kid for now.

Ruth and I will look into the murdered girl.”

As he uttered her name, Ruth Bayliss entered the incident room.

She was flustered and looked pale and tired. Putting her coat over a chair back, she nodded at Calladine and sank wearily onto a seat.

“If the Cassie Rigby case turns into something big, then the investigation will escalate and we’ll get more bodies on the job. But we’ll finish all the preliminary checks first. We have to treat this as a simple case of a missing child—if there is such a thing—until we know different. I want all the different agencies kept up to speed with what we find.”

* * *

Ruth hadn’t had the best of starts this morning; yet another row with Jake. The man could be so unreasonable. What he wanted was a woman who kept regular hours, who worked nine to five, then went home and fixed tea. But what he’d got was Ruth and her job.

He even had the nerve to turn his nose up at her hobby—birdwatching. It took her away with a bunch of people he didn’t know, and some of them were men. How stupid was that?

Jake didn’t understand her passion for ornithology, or, given her job, how little time she had to devote to it. Now she’d have Calladine on her back for being late, and she could hardly blame him.

But it wouldn’t take her long to get her brain into gear. She wasn’t sure if the boss was right. How could a missing child ever be a simple case? Something had happened to Cassie Rigby, and if they didn’t find her soon, then Calladine could have a lot to answer for. She swept her dark hair away from her face in irritation, and resolved to get it cut at the first opportunity. She’d only grown it because Jake had said it suited her. Stupid vain female that she’d become all of a sudden—all because of a man. Not like her at all.

Imogen Goode, however, seemed only too pleased to be handed more responsibility, whether the boss was right or not. She smiled at Rocco and nodded. She had already made some headway, having looked over Ruth’s research from the previous day.

“There’s something odd going on. For a start, there is no record of Cassie Rigby’s birth,” she told Ruth. “In fact, there’s no record of Mr and Mrs Rigby ever having had any children at all—weird don’t you think?”

Yes, it was, but why didn’t it surprise her? Right from the off, Ruth and Calladine had suspected that there was more to this than met the eye.

“Check to see if Cassie was born before they got married—look under Mrs Rigby’s maiden name. If that draws a blank, then you’ll have to go and ask them—and don’t let them spin you any tales.

The boss and I got the impression they had something to hide, so push them. Check with the garden centre too—ask if any of the staff saw the child leaving. If she didn’t want to go with whoever took her, then she would have kicked up a fuss and someone would have heard.”

“Do we know who she was, sir?” Ruth turned her attention to the murdered girl. The description Calladine was busy writing on the board looked awful. If he was right, the murder needed sorting every bit as much as the Cassie Rigby case.

“Not a clue. All we have is something written on a livestock tag attached to her ear—the word Vida.” He wrote the word on the board. “Is it a name, a place, or what? I’ve no idea.”

A livestock tag. Ruth shuddered, her eyes widening.

“I’ll check the HOLMES database and see if anything comes up.”

Imogen sat on the edge of Rocco’s desk. “We’ll visit the nursery first. We can take a look at the garden centre while we’re there as well. Robert Rigby had a row with the nursery owner about the council wanting to buy his land,” Imogen explained to Ruth. “Robert Rigby works in planning so there could be something in it—we’ll see.”

“Ruth!” Calladine beckoned his sergeant into his office.

He’d be wanting to talk, she guessed, about her arriving late. It wasn’t her style.

“Come in and close the door behind you. Are you okay? You don’t look right—I’m worried about you. What’s going on?”

Calladine asked.

“I’ve been a bloody fool, Tom.” She sank into a chair facing him.



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