"So why here?" I ask in place of Why do we do this job when it's all dead SoccerTots and bones and standing in fields in the bloody rain?"And I don't mean, why not Valentine Street? I mean, why here—Caxton? Why this spot, specifically?" I do a slow 360, taking in our surroundings, which to be frank aren't much. Apart from the three of us standing here like peasants in a Constable painting and a rusted tractor in the next field, there isn't a single point of interest as far as the eye can see. Just a vista of bleached land and a temporarily sullen sky. "OK, sure, you're off the beaten track a bit, but you aren't exactly sheltered. Even at night, you'd have to feel slightly exposed."
Navarro shrugs, as though the methods of a killer aren't his to judge.
"Ah, come on, Ed, help us out," says Parnell, all chummy now. "You know the area. If you were going to bury a body, would you really do it here?"
"Maybe. We aren't exactly spoiled for choice around these parts. There aren't too many wooded areas, and The Fens, just north of here, is a completely flat landscape." The smirk is back. "Do you know what my guv'nor says? He says FENs stands for Fucking Enormous Nothing."
I smile. Parnell laughs generously. "Fucking Enormous Nothing, that's a good one." He's back to business quickly. "But seriously though, there must be somewhere safer than this? Somewhere more secluded?"
Navarro considers it this time, rubbing at his goatee. "Me, personally, if I'd killed my sister-in-law—which would be an honor and a privilege, I tell you—I wouldn't bury her at all. I'd weigh her down and throw her in the Ramsey Forty Foot—it's a big drainage dike about twenty miles north of here."
Dragging him from his daydream, I say, "You know, you both keep using the word 'buried,' but she wasn't buried, not really."
"Well, she wasn't under the ground, no," Navarro concedes. "But he did a thorough job of hiding her."
I step closer to the ditch, peering at the space left, the nothingness. "Hiding is different from burying, though. Hiding's quicker. This person was in a rush."
"Hold on, 'this person?'" Navarro's eyes narrow, piqued and suspicious. "Look, I know we're skirting around this until we get dental records back, but this 'is' Holly Kemp. The locket, it's engraved HOLLY. It's got photos of her parents inside. It's hers. And she's one of his, isn't she?" We say nothing. "Well, my guv'nor spoke to the DCI who headed things up back then and they're still convinced. He admitted it, right?"
He, Christopher Dean Masters, did indeed admit it. And then he denied it, then admitted it, denied it, then admitted it, and so on and so on, until the original investigators stopped giving him the airtime and the warped satisfaction.
"Believe me, I wish she was one of ours. Our clear-up stats aren't great at the moment." This should rattle my cage but depressingly, I hear him. Too many cases and a major drop in the number of murder detectives makes you clinical—brain-fried and clinical. "I thought she was one of ours, actually. The minute the call came through, I said, That's Ania Duvac, that is. I had a £10 bet with Jonesy, our exhibits officer." He clocks my expression and his face flushes—boiled potato to raw beetroot with one misjudged admission. "Look, it wasn't my idea. Jonesy'd bet on two flies crawling up a wall. He's got a real problem, that one. Anyway, I knew I'd lost my tenner the second I got here. Ania only went missing last September, see. You'd expect to see a bit of muscle tissue still attached." He smiles to himself. "The lads think it's weird, but I've got a real interest in this type of stuff. I know a thing or two about decay."
Fair play to him. It's more than I do. You see, policing is generally a conveyor belt of firsts. You walk your first beat, make your first arrest. You brace yourself for the first time you shatter a heart with the words, "I'm so sorry to have to tell you . . ." And despite what the old guard say—the know-it-alls, the thirty-year-service brigade, the retired peacocks propping up the bar at so-and-so's leaving party, regaling anyone naive enough to listen about the time they met the Kray twins—you never ever stop learning. There's no finite number of head-fucks this job can serve up. Today, for example, despite it being four years since I first joined Murder, since I crouched over my very first corpse at my very first crime scene, this—Holly Kemp—is my first set of bones.
No blood. No wounds. No gag-reflex smell.
No small but poignant detail to connect you to your victim.