Friday, August 9, 2013

A Great Fall by Phil Temples

DCI Waters arrives at the scene of a suspected crime to find a gruesome and chillingly unusual corpse; by Phil Temples.

"DCI Waters? I'm PC Susan Higgins."

The tall, black police constable extended her hand to me in greeting. She then realized that she was extending a hand covered by a disposable glove.

"Oops. Sorry."

"Not to worry, Higgins," I replied. "I am Waters, indeed. And I'm glad to see that you've taken the proper precautions."

Higgins and her partner, a PC Thomas McElroy, had roped off the crime scene with yellow tape. He, too, was wearing disposable gloves.

"I assume that no one has disturbed the remains?" I asked.

"To our knowledge, no. We arrived at approximately eight thirty-five in the a.m. We spotted no lurkers. My partner is off to canvas the shops on this street for potential eye witnesses."

"Brilliant," I replied.

I bent down to examine the "corpse" - actually, the seven or eight largest parts constituting the remains. I could make out the arms, a leg, and the torso. Other smaller pieces were splayed about in roughly a ten-foot radius. From what I could ascertain, the victim had been quite obese, probably bald. No facial hair was evident.

Odd! The corpse was oozing a thick, pale fluid. Was it blood? Certainly it wasn't red. What in God's name could have happened to this man? A chill shot through my spine. In the most calm, collected voice I could muster, I called out for the constable.

"Higgins?"

"Sir!"

"Please radio dispatch and request that the medical examiner be summoned forthwith. Oh - and tell them we may be dealing with a biological contaminant."

"Yes, Deputy Chief."

We were situated at the corner of Wood Street and St Alphages Garden. Directly above and behind us was a weathered stone wall stood approximately 14 feet in height. The pattern of the victim's remains marking the pavement... Hmm...

This spot marked the location of a portion of the London Wall, a defensive perimeter originally built by the Romans around "Londinium" in A.D. 200. The original wall was six meters high with gateways at road intersections. A wall along the river was added later, with towers along the eastern section in the fourth century. As London grew, the walls were incorporated into buildings or used to provide materials. Although this wall exhibited signs of more modern construction, I was certain that it was a subset of the original structure.

I was careful not to jump to any premature conclusions. However, it appeared that our mysterious victim might have jumped (or was pushed) from the top of the wall.

I walked through a nearby gate into a courtyard in order to better estimate the thickness of the wall. It appeared to be approximately two feet in width. From my courtyard view, I spied several nearby locations from which an individual might gain purchase onto the wall top from nearby windows, and from a sturdy, freestanding metal lattice near the wall. Higgins interrupted my thoughts.

"- Deputy Chief? May I present Doctor Huntington from the M.E.'s office."

"Hello, Nigel," I said. He nodded in response. Nigel and I had worked several cases together over the past dozen years during my career in New Scotland Yard.

"What have we here, Adam?" Huntington asked.

"Most unusual, Doctor. It appears as though this bloke took a swan dive off the wall, here. Perhaps he was ably assisted by person or persons unknown. In any event, I've never seen a corpse like this. Have you?"

Huntington donned a surgical mask, and then he bent down over the torso and inserted a thermometer into the remains. A curious snapping sound could be heard over the street noise.

"Hello!" exclaimed the doctor. "The epidermal layer seems to be quite brittle. It's as though I'd just punched through porcelain. The discoloration - actually, lack of coloration... hmm... I wonder... toxic epidermal necrolysis, perhaps? And the yellow secretion... it could be a reaction to a strong toxin. Perhaps even an agent in the Sarin family. Say, Adam - have any unusual containers been found nearby?"

"The PCs haven't reported any."

As Huntington lifted the torso slightly, I observed a monogramed cufflink with the letters "H.D." I reached into my kit and retrieved a small evidence bag. I sealed the jewelry to have it examined later for fingerprints.

"Rigor hasn't yet set in," mumbled Huntington from under his mask.

"I'll have to get him back to the laboratory, of course, before I can begin to -"

Huntington's discourse was interrupted by a loud commotion down Wood Street. I spied sixteen mounted guards approaching in tight formation. From their markings I ascertained that they were the Queen's Life Guard, provided by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment stationed at Hyde Park Barracks. What in bloody hell were they doing out here?

As the Life Guard reached the cordoned crime scene, all sixteen men dismounted and approached us.

"Excuse me, gentlemen!" I bellowed. "I am DCI Waters, New Scotland Yard. This is a crime scene. You may not enter."

The guards failed to heed my warning. In fact, they seemed oblivious to my and Dr. Huntington's presence. They lifted up the yellow tape, and walked up to the remains of the victim. It seemed to me that some of the men came away teary-eyed upon gazing at the spectacle. One man removed a handkerchief and blew loudly.

"I say, now -" I clamored, ineffectually.

A pair of guards reached down and collected the torso and another piece of the upper chest. It almost appeared comical: the men were placing the parts together as though trying to solve a macabre jigsaw puzzle. Huntington and I both started forward, but strong, firm arms held us both at bay. We were powerless to stop this contamination of the crime scene.

"Do you have any idea what you've done?" cried Huntington.

The captain of the guard looked at us and shook his head slowly in the affirmative. He wore one of the saddest expressions I've ever seen.

"Do you - umm - do you know the deceased?" I asked him.

By this time, other guards were scooping up the smaller remains. One was actually stuffing the man's innards into a chest cavity. Another had taken hold of an arm. It looked as though he was trying to re-attach the severed limb.

It was most sad and pathetic!

The captain turned to address me. "He had a fall," said the captain. He said it slowly, with great emphasis.

"Who? Who was he?" I pleaded.



"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall


All the King's horses and all the King's men


Couldn't put Humpty together again"

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