Death is a Service Rendered-4

“How do you know they are all the same person?”

“Good guess-work. Based on the writing style and certain markers. For example, none of these nicknames will reveal themselves in pictures or give any other clues to their identity… and as soon as someone tries to find out, they disappear immediately. Also, their “kinks” are all very specific and very distinctive. All these nicknames eventually talk about meeting the object of their interest, in hotel rooms, all describe what they want to do in a way that suggests they haven’t actually ever submitted to those actions. They get the details wrong. They talk submissive words but express themselves as dominants.”

“Sorry, I don’t know what you mean.”

“I mean, they pretend to be submissive people, want things done to them, use stock phrases they have picked up from real subs, but then just.. well… just simply get it wrong and when found out, return to more dominant language. “

“How did you put together the list?”

“I won’t tell you that. Let’s just say that if you have some of your people monitor the main BDSM sites, they might turn up again and then it’s up to you to find him.”

“Definitely a him.”

“How do you know?”

“Well, if you ask a woman on-line and they have trouble telling you what the latest romantic status of the current favourite reality star is, you have a man on your hands.”

Ross, despite himself, laughed. “And you suspect one of these is our guy?”

“There is another one you should look at more than the others but my source can’t offer you their real name this time… but there is a feature that makes me wonder.” Piers looked even more uncomfortable.

“Which is?”

“The main nick he uses is one of my own. One I haven’t used in years, but he has appropriated it. The envelope also contains a log of a conversation he had with our Alicia.”

Ross took the envelope, opened it and placed the sheet of names aside. He looked at the second sheet.

“Lady_Tone? This is Alicia, how do you know?”

“It’s a log from the website of a friend. He keeps good records admissible in court.”

“And the other person?”

“We don’t know. It was a hacked account.”

“And so, no proof at all then”

Piers sighed. “I know, but it’s enough to investigate, don’t you think?

“Possibly. What about these other names then… why offer them too?”

“You might get lucky. One of them might be behind this nick too.”

Ross considered this. For some time.

“OK Piers, this is what I’m going to do. And for all our sakes, don’t give Khan any grief when he finds out about this arrangement. I want you in on the interviews when we speak to these people. I’ll have the team trawl the websites for the mystery “robin” and call you in immediately if we need your help in trying to get him to reveal himself.”

I’ll have one of the team, Paula probably, to come to your office tomorrow and brief you on our other work. I see a tie-in.”

“How so?”

“We finally managed to speak to Carrie. And from what you have just shown me, I think we really do need some help from you.”

Piers looked surprised, but Ross had a hard look in his eye and Piers didn’t like it.

*

The next day, Piers’ mood hadn’t improved. He hadn’t enjoyed his forced visit to Ross. He could feel himself being drawn in, not as an expert outsider, but as a hooked fish. To make matters worse, he had a newspaper in front of him. The newspaper that had published Alice’s photograph of her Cousin, had finally published more from the same shoot.

There, on the front page was a photograph of the young Carrie in another “spanking story” pose, this one a more salacious wide-eyed look behind her shoulder, hair carefully covering one eye. In the porn trade, it was the shot you used to take of the “victim” over someone’s knee and looking back shocked at what was happening to her rear end. Only the head shot was mercifully printed on the page. Inside however, there was a two-page spread showing other poses that were less discreet. They included a classic standing-in-a-corner shot of Carrie with her hand demurely covering her bare bottom.

He was right, and it gave him no thrill this time. Ross would be furious. He forced himself to read the news story.

Kinky Cousin and Carrie Carry On

Police remain baffled by the murder of Alice Hart-Graham, cousin of gorgeous Carrie, seen here in pictures that will shock her fans…

The rest of the piece spent more time wondering how Carrie would live down her “porn star” past. It was a cynical story and no-one came out well… especially Ross, named as the “clueless” head of the investigation.

There was the expected knock on the door, exactly at the time Ross said, and Detective Sergeant Paula Morris entered the apartment. Piers asked her to sit at the table while he brought through coffee. After some stilted introductions, Paula warmed a little as she drank.

“I see that you have seen the paper Mr. Fellowes, as you can imagine, the bosses were not happy.”

“Piers, please. Yes, I can imagine. Has Ross had a word with the editor?”

Paula grimaced. “I think it was more like a string of threats to be honest Sir.”

Piers looked thoughtfully at the young police officer. She was in plain clothes that said “uniform” as much as if she were wearing the real thing. No makeup, pretty without being distracting, she held herself apart. Perhaps in other circumstances, he would have encouraged her to explore herself with him. He pushed the thought away.

“Ross said you would bring me up to date with the investigations.”

“Yes Sir, and I was asked if you would also show me the likely websites where we would find our stalker that is using your name.”

“Ok, we will do that, in the meantime if you would…” He looked meaningfully at the thin file she had placed on the desk. She opened the file immediately and entered into formal briefing-speak.”

“Firstly, we have a declaration of confidentiality for you to sign Sir.”

Realising that this was nothing official, but simply Ross trying to make a point, he dutifully signed and it disappeared into the file.

“I have been authorised to leave you with these papers Sir. In summary they will tell you four things about our recent investigations.”

Piers waited with amusement for the girl to count the points off with her fingers, but instead she looked distractedly out the window and spoke as though drawing water carefully from a well without spilling any.

Firstly, we have interviewed Carrie Hart-Graham and ruled out any direct connection with the murder of her cousin. She was out of the country, out of contact with Alice and, if I can say Sir, out of her trolley as well. It took us four hours to get 15 minutes of useful background that allowed us to close that line of enquiry.”

“Said with feeling, Miss Morris.”

She ignored this.

“Her main beef was with the press and those photographs. She claims it was a favour to her cousin about eight years ago to get her business going and was the only time she remembers meeting her… not even family gatherings. We think there is more to the story than this not least because conveniently she would have been 16 at the time and therefore technically a minor, but we aren’t pressing.”

“Secondly, the DNA test on the blood on the bed confirms that it belongs to Caucasian male but there is no match from our records. Through this we have ruled out a link with the hotel staff, her friends and other possible suspects. We have also ruled out for other reasons five of the eleven of the suspects on the list you provided Sir. Including one who admitted to using several pseudonyms, but not yours.”

“How did they take to being approached?”

“Not well as you might expect. However, where we could, we ruled them out quickly when it became obvious they were out of the country at the time. Of the remaining six, we only asked them in as they didn’t have a firm alibi. Sir, some of them guessed how we got to know of them.” She smiled for the first time at Piers’ discomfited expression.

“Yes, well, I expect a few hate mails to arrive no doubt.” He also made a note to himself to warn Brian, who had provided the names. It was also likely that he would lose a little more of his friendship… a high price to pay for what was always likely to be no more than a delaying tactic.

“We are arranging interviews and we would like you to attend.”

Piers grimaced again.

We have also traced the origin of the various BDSM articles and the clothing. The equipment was bought recently from three separate specialist websites… they used untraceable payment systems as is usually the case for those sites and an anonymous pick up location. The clothing remains a bit of a mystery… it’s standard high street stuff, clearly unused, no DNA to match the blood or her and most odd of all, the sizes don’t match…unless we are looking for a long legged, dwarf with size 12 feet, narrow chest, and the testicles of a 7 year old… boys underwear you see.”

“Humour, Detective Sergeant. I am impressed.”

“And finally, we have found footage of her being killed.”

Piers spilled his coffee and she looked towards him with more amusement.

“The webcams! So, show me!”

She pulled a secure data pen from the file and Piers brought over his laptop. As it loaded, she explained.

“Purely co-incidentally, another team in Glasgow were investigating snuff sites and they were referred to a new video that appeared on one of the target sites. The site was taken down immediately as the owners insisted they only used “authentic” fake snuff videos if you can believe the language.”

“I can believe it, there is worse out there.”

She nodded and paused to drink as the webcam stream began.

“We think we are only seeing a very small part of what was recorded. No more than two minute’s worth.”

The webcam had been positioned at an angle to the chair he remembered from the scene photograph. Paula explained the layout of the room and it was confirmed the webcam had been placed on the windowsill. There was no doubt it was real footage of Alice’s last moments. No other person appeared in the shot and no voices were heard, although she could clearly be seen to be pleading and glancing fearfully to the side. She is rocking in the chair, arms tightly wrapped around her, but unbound. Paula explained she would have been looking at the bed, the edge of which was just in shot.

“There is no pretence there Detective, she is very afraid.”

The webcam is repositioned by an unseen hand and it focuses on part of the bed in front of her as she sits on the chair. On the edge of the bed, there is a large metal box with dials and leads ending to large wicked looking crocodile clips which dangle, unattached, to the floor. The webcam is re-positioned back again and Alice can be seen to be rocking backwards and forwards in even greater agitation. Then in a moment that no-one who watched the footage ever forgets, she jerks and spasms, finally resting in the position he recalled from the scene photographs.

“So, it was heart failure after all?”

“Yes Sir. The post-mortem confirmed that. Apparently, she did have a slight heart imperfection, not in her medical records, that would have contributed. But we are treating it as at the very least, manslaughter. The autopsy also found marks on the lips of her clitoris. We think she had already experienced the box not long before the footage was recorded.

Piers rose from the table to think.

“Show me the shot of the box again please.” He waited until she had the still on the screen and he returned to look at it closely. She zoomed to fill the screen with the box.

“It is a standard voltage generator specially made for the BDSM market for those into electro-torture. They are usually quite mild and despite their fearsome look, they are safe enough. If used properly.”

Paula peered at the image but gave up on why it didn’t look fatal and asked for an explanation.

“The knob that varies the amount of electricity flowing through the clips is turned well over to the right, the dial shows it in the red zone. Normally there is a limiter but I suspect in this case it’s been disabled. At this point, if we had sound it would have been buzzing loudly. If she had already experienced it, even at a lower level, the shock to her sensitive areas would have been excruciating. Given that you think she didn’t experience the full effect, she either died before they could use it to its capacity, or she died of fright, thinking about it.” DS Paula Morris nodded:

“We think her heart failure was caused by anxiety, as the marks don’t suggest a fatal electrocution.”

“Or perhaps she had just seen what was about to happen to her: I’m thinking of the poor bastard who must have bled to death in front of her.”

There was at this point a silence between them that lasted for some time in mutual understanding of what Alice must have known in her last minutes. DS Morris broke the silence.

“So why don’t you think her heart failure was caused by having experienced this torture?”

Piers took a deep breath. “Because pain is usually in BDSM play a transitory thing, it will eventually subside. She had been looking at this device for some time already, she knew what it could do. It was frightening, but not fatal. No, I think what really terrified her was what was being said to her at the same time. Something that would have terrified her even more than electricity.”

Paula shook her head, I can’t imagine the terror she would have felt… if it were me, I would have been terrified enough.”

“No, you wouldn’t. The reason why there is no sound, is not just so we couldn’t identify the voice, but to hide WHAT was being said.”

“Which was?”

Piers shook his head. “Who knows. But we can speculate… What would be more terrifying than receiving maddeningly high bursts of electricity induced pain on your genitals?”

She shrugged.

“Being told that this and other pain just as bad, was going to be your fate forever?”

“So what are we dealing with, a game gone bad and so manslaughter, or two murders?”

“That is for others to decide. In the meantime, I think we either have a dangerous incompetent, or we have a murdering sadist of a high order on our hands. We need to find him either way.”

Piers watched her digest this information, then asked to no-one in particular, but to the room:

“But what about the blood, who did it belong to? Who held the leads, who was the other person in the room, have we got this all wrong?”

They watched the short video again in silence, but nothing further prompted them to speculate. They watched her die many times.

Chapter 7

Ross stood by the wall mounted screen and watched the questioning of the final man on Piers Fellowes’ list. He had watched nearly all of the interviews, at least briefly, during the course of the week and found them a sorry and sad group. Some of them cried. Some had threatened. All were a waste of time. The only pleasure he had was the sight of their “expert witness” Piers Fellowes looking decidedly uncomfortable in the room with some of them. Two had known who he was and resented being marked by someone they might have thought of as, if not a friend, then someone who would have defended their singular sexual interests.

Ross had felt particularly sorry for one young man who had a young family. His wife was asking questions elsewhere in the station and not getting any answers, to her shrill protests. The pale father was going to have to explain himself afterwards.

The interviewing officer, himself, finished the last session and both he and Piers left the room. Now they were both back in the de-briefing room where Khan also sat. Ignoring Piers, Khan spoke:

“Well Ross, I take it nothing of interest?”

“None Sir, none of the DNA tests match the blood we found. All have provided new information about solid alibis for the day in question or couldn’t have possibly been involved.”

“What do you mean, couldn’t have been involved?”

Piers looked uncomfortable at Ross’s withering glance. Piers was moved to speak.

“One had died last year”

Khan smiled. “Maybe you’re not our man after all Piers: not keeping up are we?

Piers smiled weakly and sat down by the screen.

“Of course, these were always going to be long shots: just people we in the lifestyle would have considered odd.”

“Odder, surely!”

Piers couldn’t ignore the jibe.

“No, DS Khan, you can never be absolutely sure of anyone, but I still think it was worth at least ruling them out. But then, can I ask, has your monitoring of websites found the other possible suspect yet?”

Ross answered this one, sensing a row breaking out between them.

“Well, we have spent about two weeks so far trawling through the chat websites Mr Fellowes suggested. Nothing so far.”

“Hmph. Well keep me up to date gentlemen.” Khan nodded to both and left the room. Piers sighed, Ross threw a pen on the table.

“Bloody waste of time Piers. You’re not doing yourself any favours here.”

“You are having a review meeting with the team later on this afternoon, yes?”

“And?”

“Can I join it. I would very much like to hear how your people are trying to put this together.”

Ross had already been wondering if his team needed a fresh impetus. They had on this case for over a month and nothing was turning up. But he resented the time Piers had just wasted.

“Not today Piers, but I think it would be useful if we all had a bit of a refresher on the sort of person we might be looking for. Maybe a presentation session some other time?”

Piers nodded. Let my PA know a date and we will see.

At that moment, a flustered looking girl popped her head round the door.

“Sir, we have two people at the reception they’ve just come in wanting to see you. It’s Carrie Sir.”

Ross looked a little surprised but recovered quickly. Show her into one of the interview rooms;” and as she hurried away he shouted after her; “one of the nicer interview rooms; I’ll be down in a minute!”

Ross turned to Piers and smiled. Unless it turns formal, perhaps you would like to join me?”

*

Carrie Hart-Graham was barely recognisable to Ross as she sat like a long-legged, pinioned deer in the chair opposite him. Her famous looks had been well covered by the tea cosy hat and dark glasses she had discarded on the table in front of her. Her clothes were carefully chosen high street denim and cotton; including a rough wool coat that her publicist would have cried at seeing. But it wasn’t her publicist or any of her entourage here in the room with her. It was a lawyer.

The lawyer spoke only to introduce herself and her client. She had been engaged by Miss Hart-Graham for only this purpose; to voluntarily add to her previous comments where she might have inadvertently missed out some information. Her client’s presence here was only on the basis that it was an informal discussion. She would reserve judgement on the need for formal interview once she herself had heard her client’s words.

“That’s not your decision,” barked Ross.

The lawyer apologised for the impertinence, but otherwise she would advise Miss Hart-Graham to leave now if that was to be the case. Ross considered this for a minute, looked over to Piers who shrugged.

“I would like, nevertheless, for Mr Fellowes here to sit in on the conversation.”

The lawyer looked over to her client, who also shrugged, and this was taken by all to be an agreement.”

“OK, Miss Hart-Graham, how can I help you?”

There was a silence, a shifting of her shapely buttock on plastic and a fluttering of hands.

“It’s those fucking photographs. Can’t you do something about those bloody photographs!”

Ross looked exasperated. He knew that the story had lasted well. Alice’s death was a minor sentence at the end of the articles. What had kept the story going, as Piers had predicted, was the drip feeding of salacious photographs of Carrie. He had already ticked of one of his own team for pinning them up on the case whiteboard as a gratuitous display not relevant to their work. Frankly, since then, he had hardly given them further thought.

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