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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2237230-Light-and-Dust---Part-Two
Rated: 18+ · Serial · Detective · #2237230
Chapters Three to Five of a police procedural novel set in Cardiff, UK
CHAPTER THREE


They walked down in silence. Past the cars, along the lane.
         The larger of the two houses showed signs of recent renovation: sharp render, a scrub mark of cement still evident on the empty driveway, a trace of whitewash on the uncovered windows. In the shadow of the first house stood a double-fronted stone cottage, thick-walled and low-roofed. A ten-year-old Volkswagen Golf parked on the drive.
         ‘Are you OK?’ Wilde’s voice came as an echo.
         Shaw pushed open the wooden gate. The scene had invaded his every thought, every broken memory. Somewhere inside the house, a dog barked.
         The front door was opened by a response officer. She was in her twenties, blonde strands falling loose from her ponytail. She tried for a smile.
         ‘Where is she?’
         The officer led them into a traditional lounge: low-beamed ceilings, antique leather sofas. A real fire burned in the hearth, the air thick with the aroma of wood smoke.
         The woman curled up on the sofa was in her late fifties, with shoulder-length hair and hard features. She wore jeans and a heavy woollen jumper, a mug held in both hands like she was scared she might drop it.
         Shaw and Wilde seated themselves on the spare sofa, unthreatening, unofficial. Wilde introduced them both, first names only, her softest voice.
         Shaw was happy for her to take the lead.
         Her first question was one of concern for Paula Young’s wellbeing.
         ‘I’m OK.’ A weak smile for a weak lie.
         Wilde waited for Shaw to take out his pocketbook. ‘Tell me about this morning,’ she said. ‘Start at the beginning.’
         Paula leaned forward and placed the mug on the floor. ‘I took the dog out first thing. When we got up near the trees, he ran off into the woods. I called him back, but he wouldn’t listen.’
         ‘What time was that?’
         ‘Six o'clock, maybe a little before.’
         ‘Do you usually head out so early?’
         ‘I have bad dreams. Sometimes I try to walk them off.’
         Shaw looked up from his notebook. ‘Was anybody else here when you left?’
         ‘No. I live alone. My husband died last year.’
         Wilde said, ‘Did you see anybody on the lane? A neighbour, perhaps?’
         ‘No, nobody.’ She turned to the wall. ‘The house next door is up for sale. There’s nobody around here. I used to like the solitude.’
         ‘Tell us how you found the body.’
         Paula wiped her eyes. ‘The dog wouldn’t come back. When I went in after him, he was standing over something on the ground, just standing there, not doing anything. When I got closer, I thought it was someone sleeping rough. I grabbed the dog, and then I realised what had been done to her. I ran back here and called the police.’
         Shaw said, ‘Did you recognise the woman? Had you seen her before this morning?’
         Her eyes flashed between the detectives. ‘Do you think I killed her?’
         Wilde leaned forward in her seat, comforting, reassuring. ‘As yet, we haven’t been able to identify the woman you found. If you could give us a name, it would make our job a lot easier.’
         ‘I’d never seen her before, I swear to you.’
         Shaw made a note. ‘Did you notice anything unusual, anything out of place, before or after you found the body?’
         ‘I didn’t see anyone. I never do in the mornings.’
         ‘What about yesterday? Was there anybody out on the road or in the woods?’
         ‘We went on the same walk last night at about six o’clock. She wasn’t there then. At least, the dog didn’t pick up on anything.’
         ‘What happened after you got back last night?’
         Paula Young shook her head. ‘Nothing. I watched television. An old black and white film.’ She picked a thread loose on her sleeve. ‘I didn’t even hear a car passing.’ She stared out of the window. ‘How could this have happened? While I was sitting here, he was out there, doing that. How could I have been oblivious to the horror so close?’
         Shaw leaned forward. ‘You say him. Why do you think the killer is male?’
         ‘Well, it’s got to be, hasn’t it?’ She didn’t look at Shaw. ‘That has to have been a man. Only a man could do that. Only a man could have that kind of hatred for a woman.’
         Shaw closed his pocketbook.
         Wilde got to her feet. ‘We’re done for now,’ she said. ‘But we will need to speak to you again, to get a formal statement from you. That’ll be later today or tomorrow.’
         Paula Young turned to Shaw. ‘Whoever she was, whatever she did, she didn’t deserve what happened to her. That wasn’t the work of an ordinary man.’ Her voice trailed away to nothing. ‘That was the hand of the devil.’

***


Back at the cordon, additional vehicles were parked at the roadside: a black Vauxhall, a silver Ford and a CSI van.
         The major crimes duty officer was standing near the Vauxhall, a mobile phone held to his ear. He was in his early fifties, wearing Tyveks open over a dark suit. Shaw had worked with Richard North before, both on division and major crimes.
         North pocketed his mobile. He extended his hand to Shaw. ‘Tom, good to see you again.’
         ‘This is DS Hannah Wilde,’ Shaw said. ‘The CID duty sergeant.’
         North looked at her. ‘You viewed the body?’
         ‘We declared it a major crime.’
         North turned back towards the woods. ‘You called that right. CSIs have located a handbag near the scene: a purse with bank cards and a driving licence. We believe the victim is thirty-two-year-old Laura Fields. No form. No recent police contact.’
         ‘Any sign of the murder weapon?’ Shaw asked.
         North shook his head. ‘Nothing as yet. Did you get anything from the informant?’
         ‘Precious little,’ Wilde said. ‘She’s distressed, but given what she’s seen that’s understandable. She claims she didn’t recognise the victim.’
         North checked his watch. ‘I’ve scheduled a resource conference with the divisional commander for nine o’clock. I’d like to give her some idea of what happened here. The incident room will be at Cardiff Bay. I’ll talk to DI Stone about sorting a team. Can you both make an immediate start on victim enquiries? Somewhere, hidden or otherwise, in the detail of her life is the reason she’s dead.’
         ‘Sir.’ Wilde started towards the Vauxhall.
         Shaw stood and watched her go. Watched her six-point turn the car in the narrow lane. Watched until the lights faded to nothing. Then he started to move. 





CHAPTER FOUR


Cardiff Bay Police Station stood on James Street: a modern four-storey brick building with a tower at the southwest corner and a lighthouse sculpture on the pavement outside.
         Shaw rolled the Alfa to a stop at the yard gates, keyed in a four-digit access code, then reversed into a parking space near the prisoner entrance.
         A cold wind swirled fallen leaves across the car park. Shaw swiped his ID to access the custody suite with its blue-grey walls, peeling advice posters and rubberised flooring. At the glass-fronted desk, a teenage lad was being processed, closely flanked by two response officers. Crack thin, dressed in a tracksuit and baseball cap, the kid was agitated, uncooperative, refusing to turn out his pockets. Across the room, a corridor led one way to the cells and the other, past a suite of interview rooms, into the station.
         As Shaw was leaving the custody area, the youth kicked off. The uniforms took him down, and the sergeant came out from behind the desk. Shaw climbed the stairs to the second floor.
         The CID office was empty. Shaw shrugged off his jacket, settled at his desk and logged onto the computer.
         The door opened, and Max Stone walked into the office. He was wearing an immaculate grey suit with a dark blue tie.
He handed Shaw a sheet of paper. ‘I’ve spoken to DCI North about staffing requirements. I’ve put together a mini-squad to get started. He’s requested you and Wilde on outside enquiries.’
         Shaw scanned the list of names. ‘OK.’
         ‘You don’t want this?’
         Shaw logged onto the Police National Computer database. ‘I want it.’
         ‘Then what?’
         Shaw didn’t answer. He couldn’t find the words.
         ‘Tom?’
         ‘I don’t see how we can afford to dedicate two sergeants to this.’
         ‘We’re obliged to provide whatever investigative resources MCU require. We’ll cover the volume crime provision, OK? An enquiry of this scale could be a career-maker.’
         'I’m fine where I am,’ Shaw said, his focus on the screen.
         ‘It’s not just about you. This could be beneficial for Hannah, too.’
         Shaw looked up. ‘She’s a good copper,’ he said. ‘The best this nick has. She doesn’t need this enquiry to make her career. She needs integrity, and we both know she’s got that.’
         ‘Which is why North wants her on the squad,’ Stone said. ‘He’s heard the stories. I assured him she’s the best detective I have.’
         Shaw scratched his jaw. ‘One of the best, yeah?’
         ‘Your words, Tom.’ Stone looked around the office. ‘Where is she?’
         ‘On her way. Traffic’s building.’
         Stone leaned against the desk. ‘Did you see Victoria last night?’
         ‘We went for a drink. I don’t know if it’ll go anywhere.’
         ‘Why not?’
         Shaw thought about the woman lying dead on the cold ground. ‘I don’t think I’m ready.’
         Stone straightened. ‘I don’t want to speak out of turn, Tom, but you’ve got to live your life. It’s been three years since Louise died.’
         ‘With respect, sir, I don’t need you to tell me that.’
         ‘I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant.’
         Shaw regretted his tone immediately. ‘I know it isn’t, Max. I had the dream again last night. First time in months.’
         He entered the name Laura Fields as the search criteria. Her date of birth. The results returned within seconds: two possible matches.
         ‘You must like this woman. You took a risk going to see her. Don’t throw away a chance of happiness.’
         Shaw had to concede Stone was right. ‘I got her business card,’ he said. ‘Maybe I’ll give her a call.’
         Stone moved away from the desk. ‘Listen, do you fancy a pint after work?’
         On the screen, an image loaded: a drawn, gaunt woman with form for violence and drug offences. ‘Sounds good,’ Shaw said. ‘I’ll give you a shout later.’
         Almost at the door, Stone turned back. ‘Oh, and, Tom.’
         Shaw glanced up.
         ‘I don’t mind being stood up if you’ve got a better offer on the table.’
         Shaw waited for Stone to leave the room, closing the door behind him, before he clicked the second result. Address match with the driving licence. No police contact. No image on file. But Shaw didn’t need a photograph to know how she had looked. In death, and in life.
         He sent the report to print, then closed the PNC and turned his attention to the list of names Stone had compiled. He lifted the telephone and started to dial.
         The door opened, and Hannah Wilde entered the room, slipping out of her overcoat.
         The receiver held in the crook of his neck, Shaw pretended to check his watch. ‘What took you so long?’

***


The Major Incident Room was almost identical to the CID office on the floor below: same grey-blue colour scheme, opaque glass offices, full-height windows streaming light. Shaw sat perched on the edge of a desk. Wilde leaned beside him. Other officers loitered, coffee cups and notepads in hand, waiting for the briefing to begin. The interactive whiteboard at the front of the room displayed an aerial photograph of the area around Langcross Wood.
         Richard North entered the office accompanied by a woman Shaw didn’t recognise. She wore a black skirt suit and white blouse, blonde hair pulled back into a severe ponytail. The pair positioned themselves near the whiteboard, and the room fell silent.
         North introduced himself as the Senior Investigating Officer on Operation Nightbird, and his colleague as Detective Inspector Samantha Dillon, the Deputy SIO.
         North pointed to the satellite image on the whiteboard. ‘This morning, the body of a white female was discovered in woodland just outside the Leckwith area of the city. The cause of death is as yet unconfirmed, but the victim sustained multiple significant stab injuries.’
         He tapped the board, brought up an image lifted from social media: a blonde woman, smiling, a candid shot taken, maybe, in a pub, a wine glass half cropped from the frame, a chalkboard menu on the wall behind her. ‘Items recovered from the scene indicate the deceased to be thirty-two-year-old Laura Fields, a teacher at Eastern High School. Address in Canton. We’ve got nothing on her: no recent contact, no previous.’
         Shaw was drawn to the likeness: the agonising reminder of a hundred million moments, all forgotten, all burned into his memory forever.
         Samantha Dillon stepped up. She tapped the board and opened a series of crime scene images.
         Shaw turned his attention from the screen. He opened his pocketbook, and pretended to make notes.
         ‘The victim sustained numerous stab wounds, with severe damage inflicted to the abdomen, including sexual wounding to the vagina. The breast and chest area was also damaged, with significant injury to the head, neck and face. Her throat was cut almost to the spinal cord. There are no obvious historic injuries, but with the damage done, it’s hard to be sure. The precision of the blows suggests one attacker, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an accomplice, either at the scene or at another location.
         ‘The way the body was posed, and not left as she fell, the way she was laid out, it’s almost as though she was being presented to whoever found her.’
         North tapped the board again, opened another scene image. ‘From the amount of blood, it appears the area in which the body was found is the attack site, kill site and dumpsite. Searches of the area near the body revealed a woman’s handbag containing several items we believe belong to the victim: a purse which contained fifty pounds in cash, and credit and debit cards and driving licence.
         ‘The victim’s clothing is about average for somebody of her age with a middle-decent income. Monsoon dress, Tesco own brand underwear. Shoes by New Look. There is no apparent smell of alcohol about the body, and no sign of intravenous drug use.’
         Steven Harrison, a bear of a man nudging retirement, sat slumped in a chair. ‘So where’s the motive?’
         ‘Right now,’ Dillon said, ‘there isn’t one.’
         ‘It doesn’t look like a robbery,’ Ender Kaplan offered. He was tall and dark, late-twenties, dressed in a grey suit. ‘Her bag was lying there, feet away, and he ignored it.’
         Kate Langdon, a blonde in her early forties, shook her head. ‘Perhaps the offender panicked. What if it started as a robbery, but went south? Laura put up more of a fight than the killer expected, and it ended up in a brawl. Afterwards, he forgot all about her bag and legged it.’
         Shaw said, ‘She’s dressed for a night out. If robbery isn’t the motive, and I agree it most likely isn’t, where’s her jewellery?’
         ‘That’s a good question,’ Dillon said. ‘When Laura was found, she wasn’t wearing any jewellery. There was also no mobile telephone among her possessions. We have to explore the possibility her killer took these items as trophies. A full search of the area will be conducted once the initial scene work has been completed.’
         Harrison dragged himself upright. ‘Our victim is dressed for a night out. Except she winds up dead in a woodland miles away from anywhere. Is there any mileage in the suggestion she may have been on the game? These are financially difficult times. Maybe a punter took her to the woods, things turned ugly, whatever, he pulled a knife.’
         Shaw said, ‘Initial intelligence does not support that theory. Basic financial checks have not indicated a level of earning or spending beyond her teaching income. There’s nothing on her social media that suggests anything even vaguely promiscuous. But, as you say, there’s no logical reason she’d be in Langcross Wood in her evening best on a Tuesday night.’
         ‘I’m not convinced,’ Wilde said. ‘Monsoon dress and Tesco knickers sounds like a date without anticipated action.’
         ‘Don’t judge everyone by your standards, Hannah,’ Harrison said.
         ‘I don’t,’ Wilde quipped, ‘have any standards.’
         Matthew Marsh, a dark-haired man in a blue suit, sat straight-backed on the edge of a desk, pen and notepad in hand. ‘I don’t see why a schoolteacher with a clean record would resort to selling herself. Isn’t that a leap?’
         ‘I’ve seen all sorts,’ Harrison said.
         North cut across the conversation. ‘We’ll decide lines of enquiry once we’ve contacted the victim’s family and associates. I don’t want to waste resources looking under rocks when the killer is standing right in front of us.’
         A tall, slender black woman raised a hand. She wore a dark blue suit, her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. ‘What about the injuries?’ Samina Sediq asked. ‘There has to be a sexual element to this crime. The assault on the vagina and the breasts indicate some sort of sexual jealousy, some sort of passion. A kind of hatred.’
         ‘This is like nothing I have ever seen,’ Dillon said. ‘To stab somebody that many times, with that ferocity, takes a lot of effort. That’s rage, extreme instrumental and emotional aggression. But it would be a mistake to assume that the victim in any way caused that anger, or that the offender’s rage was not displaced.’
         Shaw leaned forward. ‘What do you mean?’
         ‘There’s every chance this was a random attack; Laura Fields could simply have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.’
         'There is an element of staging to the scene,’ North said. ‘I believe there is a very real possibility our offender has done something like this before. I want to start researching past offences with a similar MO. Any volunteers?’
         A blonde-haired young woman raised a hand. Jennifer Cole was relatively new to CID, and Nightbird was her first murder enquiry.
         ‘I’m going to set the parameters wide,’ North told her. ‘Anything that’s even vaguely comparable to this morning’s scene. Force-wide within the last five years.’
         Cole scrawled herself a note.
         North looked at his watch. ‘Right about now, somebody is realising Laura Fields is missing from her job. That somebody is going to start ringing around trying to find her. Let’s make sure we’ve got to the people that matter before then. Laura Fields’s parents live in Penarth. Somebody other than the family liaison officer needs to deliver the death message. I want the FLO in there picking up the pieces, not breaking the world apart.’
         ‘We’ll do it,’ Wilde volunteered.
         ‘OK, good. We’ll use information from that visit to form the basis for the FLO risk assessment.’
         Shaw cast Wilde a look.
         Dillon stepped forward. ‘Right now, we have no suspect parameters other than this may have happened some time after six o’clock yesterday evening. We have no witnesses, no descriptions. Talking to the victim’s family and associates has to be a priority.
         ‘This woman has touched hundreds of lives: people mostly oblivious to the fact they are about to become involved in a murder enquiry. But somewhere out there someone is waiting for us. Someone all too aware of the role they have played in the life and death of Laura Fields.’
         North closed down the board. ‘Until the offender is apprehended there remains a significant further risk to human life. We don’t know what Laura Fields was doing in Langcross Wood, or what happened prior to the discovery of her body. But I want everyone to keep an open mind. Assume nothing. Believe nobody. Check everything.’
         He thanked everyone in advance for their hard work and dedication. He wished them luck. 





CHAPTER FIVE


The sky was starting to cloud, pale morning light diffused through folds of grey. Penarth: a seaside town five miles southwest of the city centre. A good area. Prosperous. Safe.
         Shaw drove. Wilde sat quiet in the passenger seat, staring out through the windscreen, her face set, unmoving. This element of the job never got any easier.
         Westbourne Road, a wide, tree-lined avenue of impressive sandstone houses. Shaw rolled the Vauxhall to a stop outside a house with double bay windows and a year-old Mercedes on the drive.
         ‘Are you ready?’
         Shaw killed the engine. ‘Nothing like.’
         They walked together to the front entrance. Wilde pressed the doorbell.
         There was movement inside the house before the door opened, and a small, grey-haired woman peered out at them.
         ‘Eileen Fields?’ Shaw asked.
         ‘Yes?’
         ‘We’re from the police. Can we come inside?’
         Eileen Fields raised a hand to her mouth. ‘Is it Anna? Oh, God! Tell me it’s not her!’
         A man emerged from a room inside the house. Tall and thin, his face deeply lined, he wore a shirt and tie beneath a buttoned cardigan. David Fields took his wife by the arm and guided her back into the house. Shaw followed Wilde inside, then closed the door behind them.
         The immaculate lounge was well decorated: white walls, high ceilings with ornate cornicing, and deep blue carpet. Antique leather furniture. A painting above the fireplace: oil on canvas, a seascape in stunning blues and greens.
         David Fields directed his wife into an armchair, perched himself beside her on the arm.
         ‘It’s Anna,’ Eileen said. ‘Has something happened to her?’
         Shaw said, ‘It’s not Anna.’
         Then the realisation hit, and she shook her head. ‘No, God.’
         Shaw braced himself. ‘I am sorry to have to inform you that the body of a woman was discovered this morning. We believe it is Laura.’
         There was a moment when it felt like all the air had been sucked from the room: a moment of sheer disbelief, of worlds falling apart. The first sound came from the mother: a wail of utter despair. A sound that made the hairs on the back of Shaw’s neck stand on end and his eyes burn. She turned her face to her husband, emitting an unholy yowl.
         David Fields looked down at his chest, at his wife buried there, as though his heart had been torn from its cage.
         He spoke first. ‘How?’
         Shaw said, ‘The exact cause of death hasn’t yet been determined. Laura was assaulted, and she sustained a number of injuries. We believe that’s what killed her.’
         David shook his head. ‘She was murdered?’
         ‘I’m very sorry.’
         Eileen Fields extracted herself from her husband’s embrace. ‘No. Not Laura. It can’t be. She was here on Saturday. We had lunch. I spoke to her just yesterday on the telephone.’
         Shaw said, ‘We are as sure as we can be without formal identification that it is Laura.’
         ‘So you don’t know it’s her?’
         ‘We have photographs. We need to obtain a DNA sample from you both to confirm her identity. It’s just a formality.’
         Eileen Fields said, ‘Where is she now?’
         Shaw closed his eyes, longer than a blink. ‘She’s at the hospital.’
         ‘I want to see her,’ Eileen Fields said.
         ‘We can talk about that in a little while.’
         Eileen Fields levered herself out of the chair. She left the room, her husband staring after her. He made no attempt to follow his wife out.
         ‘Do you want to check she’s all right?’ Wilde asked.
         David waved the question away. ‘She needs to be sure you haven’t made a mistake.’
         Eileen re-entered the room carrying a framed photograph. She crossed to the detectives and handed the frame to Shaw. A professional portrait: dark background, good lighting, pin sharp focus. Shaw took in every familiar, beautiful detail. He gripped the photograph to steady his hand.
         ‘Is that her?’ Eileen demanded. ‘Is she dead?’
         Shaw looked up. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry, but she is.’
         Wilde took the photograph from Shaw, and handed it back to Eileen Fields with exaggerated care. ‘Laura was found in Langcross Wood, near Leckwith. Do you know of any connection she may have had with the woodland or the surrounding area?’
         ‘I’ve never heard of it,’ Eileen said, returning to her seat. ‘What was she doing there?’
         David prised the photograph from his wife, and studied it. ‘Who did this to her?’
         Wilde opened her hands. ‘We don’t know the answers to either of those questions.’
         ‘Was anything troubling Laura?’ Shaw asked. ‘Did she speak of any financial difficulties? Had she fallen out with anyone?’
         ‘What are you suggesting?’ David Fields demanded.
         Shaw held steady. ‘We’re not suggesting anything, sir. These questions–’
         ‘Are just plain offensive.’
         ‘Please,’ Wilde said. ‘I know this is difficult for you. I promise we do not want to cause offence or make insinuations. I am sorry this has happened, truly I am, but we need to build a picture of Laura’s life – a true and accurate picture – in a very short space of time. We have to establish exactly what happened in the hours, days and weeks leading up to this. In order for us to do that, we need you to answer all of our questions fully and frankly. We are on your side.’
         ‘Look around you,’ David Fields said. ‘Does it look like she had money worries?’
         Shaw said, ‘What about problems at work? Anybody she’d argued with, anybody causing trouble?’
         Eileen looked up at her husband. ‘If he’s done anything to her, I swear to God I will kill him myself.’
         ‘Who?’ Shaw asked.
         David held his wife to him. ‘Steve Adlington. He was Laura’s boyfriend for a while, but he’s no good, a waster.’
         ‘When did that relationship end?’ Wilde asked.
         Eileen said, ‘They were together for a few months, until last October or November.’
         'Was he violent to her?’
         ‘Not that she ever told us,’ David said. ‘But he had that look about him.’
         ‘How was the break-up?’
         ‘She didn’t say much about it,’ Eileen said. ‘But I never liked him. I don’t know what she was ever doing with him. I just thank God she’d moved on.’
         ‘Laura was seeing somebody else?’
         Eileen nodded. ‘Robert Lloyd. A teacher from one of the other high schools.’
         Shaw made a note. ‘When did they meet?’
         ‘Just before Christmas.’
         ‘What can you tell us about Laura’s job?’
         ‘She loves it,’ Eileen Fields said, her eyes drifting to the painting above the fire. ‘She’s always had such a raw talent for art.’
         ‘How long had she been teaching?’
         ‘A while now,’ Eileen said. ‘Three or four years.’
         David stroked his wife’s head. His voice was a broken whisper. ‘But she can’t be. How can she be dead?’
         ‘I am deeply sorry for your loss,’ Wilde said. ‘You will be appointed a specialist officer who will help you in any way they can. In the meantime, is there anybody you’d like us to call?’
         ‘There’s just Anna,’ Eileen said. ‘And we’ll tell her ourselves. It’ll have to come from us.’
         Wilde asked, ‘If Laura was in trouble, who would she confide in?’
         Eileen said, ‘Me. She’s my daughter.’
         ‘Of course. And who else?’
         ‘Anna, her sister. They were close growing up. And she has a couple of good friends she’s had since school. I’m not sure about the people she works with.’
         David Fields gestured to the painting over the fireplace. ‘She did an exhibition back last month, and she was incredibly well received. She has more shows lined up in the spring. It’s all taking off.’
         Eileen Fields looked up at her husband. ‘Laura is such a beautiful person,’ she said. ‘Everybody will always say that, won’t they? Nobody ever had a bad word to say about her. Everyone loved her.’
         David stoked her face with the back of his hand. ‘It’ll be all right,’ he whispered to her, a gentle shushing sound, looking from Wilde to Shaw. ‘They’ll find whoever did this. They’ll find them, and they’ll make them pay.’

***


They walked out in silence.
         Shaw watched Wilde open the car door and fold herself into the passenger seat. The Fields’s grief had engulfed the house like black smoke, and now it had followed them out, clinging to their clothes and hair.
         ‘What’s going on, Tom?’
         Shaw turned to Wilde. ‘What do you mean?’
         ‘Who is she?’
         Shaw shook his head. ‘I don’t know.’
         Wilde spun to face him. ‘Don’t fucking lie to me. You freaked out at the scene, and that was nothing to do with what had been done to her. You haven’t looked at a single crime scene image. And when her mother handed you that photograph, your hands were shaking so much, I thought you were going to drop it. Were you having an affair with her?’
         The insinuation cut Shaw. ‘I never met her.’
         ‘Then what is going on, Tom? Everything we’ve been through, and you don’t trust me?’
         Shaw gripped the steering wheel. ‘Of course I trust you.’
         ‘Then tell me what’s going on.’
         He pulled out his warrant card, lifted the flap that held the force crest and dug his fingers into the slot behind. He unfolded a passport photograph, creased and fading, and the similarity struck him in reverse.
         He handed the square of paper to Wilde.
         ‘Jesus, Tom,’ she said.
         ‘She looks like Louise,’ Shaw said, finally finding the words. ‘Laura Fields looks like my dead wife.’
         Wilde handed the photograph back. ‘You need to tell North about this.’
         ‘It’s not relevant.’
         ‘How is it irrelevant? You’ve been off your game since we walked into the scene.’
         ‘I was caught off guard,’ Shaw said. ‘I admit that, but it’ll pass. I know Laura Fields is not Louise. I’m not looking for justice for Louise; her death was an accident. Laura was murdered, horrifically, and if anything her similarity to Louise just strengthens my resolve to catch whoever did this.’
         Wilde swore.
         ‘Please, you have to trust me.’
         ‘You know I trust you. You stood by me when everybody else wanted nothing to do with me.’
         ‘You did what was right,’ Shaw said. ‘I’ll always support you for that. There’s nobody I’d rather have watching my back.’
         ‘Yeah, well, I’ve got your back with this, Tom. Don’t let me down.’
         ‘Give me until tomorrow. If you still think I’m too involved, go to North. I won’t stop you.’
         Wilde didn’t respond, but Shaw knew she’d accepted the deal. He turned the key in the ignition and pulled away from the kerb. 
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