A Writer’s Notebook VIII
It wasn’t an everyday event. Bodies weren’t. Altogether, not in this part of the country. You could be a serving officer for your whole life and not come into contact with a body. Maybe in London, Manchester, Birmingham, big cities. In those places you would have to deal with bodies, still not every day, but there would be more of them. Dense populations, they threw up bodies. Bodies were more of a policeman’s lot in dense situations.
This body wasn’t pc Brand’s first body. He’d done a few before. Five, in fact. Four traffic accidents and the last one a genuine murder. Domestic. A woman had done for her husband with a hammer and a six inch nail. Given the guy his sleeping pills and then brought the hammer and the six inch nail up in the middle of the night and done the deed. She waited until after breakfast tv to ring in to the station and ask someone to come round and take her statement.
Strange woman. Thin hair and a care-free way with her as though nothing mattered.
But this one today was different again. First off it was outside the district, on the coast. A different administrative area. Somebody had stoved the man’s head in when he was away from home. Maybe they’d driven him away from home in order to do it? Whatever, the body was in someone else’s territory and it should be in its home territory. The Inspector had asked forensic to pick it up but they didn’t have the staff until tomorrow and the ambulance service didn’t want to know and so Brand and his partner and a junior from forensic were given a van and the job of driving out there, picking up the body and bringing it back.
Everything about it made him smile. He wouldn’t have to look at the same streets and the same faces all day. The beat would manage without him. It was a day out, whichever way you looked at it. A good hour and a half to the coast. And the junior from forensic was a nice little number called Emily. He’d never come across her before but she had a great big smile and eyes bluer than than spring.
The thing was already in a body bag, apparently, so they wouldn’t have to touch it. Just load it into the box in the back of the van and bring it home.
What they agreed on, the three of them, was to take a walk along the prom, have a look at the ocean and eat an ice cream. Brand and Emily would have an ice cream and Brand’s partner would have a hot dog instead. Ice cream didn’t suit his teeth. Nothing cold. Brand remembered that from before; the guy was frightened of dentists. He’d put it off until his gums blew up and he couldn’t sleep nights and there was absolutely no alternative.
But when they got to the seaside the heavens opened and there was more water on the prom than in the sea. That’s what Emily said, anyway, and she could have been right, because they couldn’t see the sea. Just a few metres of sand and then a mist like thick wet curtains obscuring everything else from view. Definitely not ice cream weather. Or hot dog weather. Or walking along the prom.
Brand had a chit from his Inspector and he gave it to the Superintendent at the cottage hospital and they got the body in its green body bag from a small room and wheeled it out to the van and Brand signed for it and got back behind the wheel.
Then the sun came out.
Brand leaned forward on the steering wheel and watched the day light up. They looked at each other, he and Emily. He caught his partner’s eyes and not one of them said a word but instead of heading back home they went back to the prom and, sure enough, the curtain had gone and some little kids and their parents and their dogs were playing with a ball on the beech and suddenly it was the kind of weather you didn’t want to be wearing a jacket.
Brand’s was vanilla and strawberry with chocolate sauce. Emily went for a coffee flavoured cornet with a flake stuck in it. And the hot dog was a hot dog with mustard and tomato ketchup and fried onion. Seemed to Brand like it was cooked in yesterday’s oil, but he didn’t care because it wasn’t going into his stomach.
They walked along the prom and when they came to some steps they walked back along the beech. Very nice it was, too. Emily told them a joke about a stupid policeman and they both pretended to laugh. Brand racked his brain to think of a joke about forensics, and he knew one somewhere but it was lost inside him.
All in all they couldnt have walked for more than twenty minutes.
Now they were back where they’d parked the van but the van wasn’t there. There was the space where it had been but the space was empty. Brand looked along the front to see if somebody had maybe moved it further along. But there was no sign of the van. The van had gone.
“Jesus,” said Brand’s partner. Emily was giving off a kind of whistle under her breath.
“What do we do now?” said the partner. “My jacket was in there.”
“Mine too,” brand told them. “And my helmet.”
He knew he’d have to report in to his Inspector, but he didn’t say that to the others. He’d need a while to get his story straight.