Bloodline: Part One
by Jennifer Summers
1641 – South East England
The swirling, ankle deep mist slowly crept along the water and the surrounding bank as if it was searching for its prey. The sound of the gentle lapping stream that ran through the outskirts of the village was soft, hypnotising and almost deafening in the night’s silence.
The shadows now long gone and the silvery shine of the night sun hidden behind the dark clouds slowly passing by, plunging the village into darkness. A sign of things to come.
In the distance, a soft glow moved slowly forward, flickering on the trees around them and lighting the path ahead. The wooden bridge that separated the small village from the marshland beyond came into view. As the light intensified, a crowd approached the small clearing just before the bridge. Their voices, soft and gentle on their approach, were now gaining in intensity as they approached their destination.
The Witchfinder General emerged from the crowd. His brown piercing eyes focused as he stared ahead, ignoring the two women struggling behind him, tied with rope. The darkness around him hid his features. Only his long thin nose could been seen from under his black wide-brimmed hat from the flickering light of the torches that the following crowd possessed. Dressed in dark breeches and long white woollen socks, his black satin overcoat thick and long, black footwear matching the darkness surrounding him with only a small showing of white ruff around the neckline.
The eldest of the two women, her face worn, tired and frightened for what she knew was inevitable. A soft cry was heard coming from the younger of the two, her daughter, as she struggled to understand why this was happening. Murmuring swept through the crowd as two men guided them to the stone plinth in the middle of the clearing; black and charred, awaiting another victim from the General.
Taking a few steps backwards as the General turned and faced the plinth, he raised a book from his side and began reading.
“We gather hence upon this eve, to offer absolution and redemption for the two unrepentant souls that stand before thee…” the General said, interrupted by the rise in murmurings of the crowd behind him.
“…to absolve these two sinners from the mark of evil, the mark of thy devil himself. To deliver these souls into thy bosom of thy Lord and Saviour, to be judged for eternity,” he finished. His voice raised a little to be heard over the increase in the crowd’s cries.
“Witches… Burn them… Kill them. Kill them!”
The two men tied the mother and the daughter to the seven-foot poll as the General completed his speech. A trickle of blood oozed from the tightened bonds, slowly dripping in a rhythmic fashion upon the cold, charred stone beneath them.
Busying themselves, they placed the kindling around the outskirts of the plinth. Ignoring the pleas and cries from the mother and daughter as the realisation of their situation became real.
The crowd now buoyed by the actions of the two men increased with more vigour towards the two women. Jeers of hatred and contempt angrily aimed at them. Throwing whatever they had at hand in the direction of the women.
“Kill them… Witches… Burn them to hell…. Kill them! Kill them!”
A raised hand slowly silenced the crowd enough that they could hear him without shouting. Lowering his hand as the jeers and shouting eventually subsided, he continued.
“I have found these unfortunate wretches guilty of the practicing of witchcraft, and according to the laws of the land will now be cleansed of this evil wickedness.” He paused.
The effect obvious and purposeful as the crowd rose in voracity and anger.
“Do you repent? Do you renounce the mark of the daemon, the lord Lucifer, the unholy mark of evil?” he continued. His head and hands now raised up towards the heavens.
A shout drew the General’s attention back to the writhing form of the mother and daughter as their arms tried to break free of the bonds that shackled them to the posts and held them prisoners.
“Thou has forsaken us. Thy judgement is untrue. Thy daughter is but a child and as innocent as I of the crimes levied upon us!”
The General lowered his head. A crooked smile appearing briefly as he expelled an audible sigh. He signalled the two men with a slow nod of his head.
They knew the sign. They had seen him give it so many times in the past. Taking a torch each from the crowd they threw them onto the kindling that surrounded the base of the plinth, which began rising to just a few inches below their feet.
The crowd watched with anticipation on their faces. The jeers of hatred increased with joyous rapport as the smoke slowly arose, swirling upwards searching for fuel. As a flicker of flame danced around the feet of the two women, the crackling of the tinder pierced through the night and the jeers of the crowd. Rising with the speed and intensity of a caged beast, the flames now free flowing in the darkness, illuminating the leader and the crowd with an eerie flickering of light.
A piercing scream echoed around them, stunning the crowd into complete silence as the dancing flame took hold of the cotton material of the youngest of the two, followed moments later by her mother next to her.
The leader took a step back, his eyes wide with momentary horror. He had condemned dozens of men, women and children to this fiery grave over the years but today was the first time that he had been party to the physical deed. To witness the act and be responsible for the demise of another human being by his own hand.
As the fire increased in intensity, the mother and daughter’s blistering flesh now became exposed as the cotton fabric that they were wearing faded within the inferno.
The silence of the night witness to the blood-curling screams of the women as their exposed bodies turned black and charred as the fire consumed everything in its path.
Another scream caught the attention of the General as he watched the scene unfolding before him. Realising that the voice emanated from behind him, he turned just as a man barged and fought his way to the front of the now stunned crowd, a look of horror and fear was etched into his face as he approached the General and the fiery scene before them.
He ignored the General, who had taken a small step backwards as the man approached. Moving slowly forward as far as he could get with the heat from the flames that had now completely engulfed the women, he feel to his knees with his head in his hands.
Looking up, he could see the face of the eldest of the women, now a mixture of black and red as the skin had began to solidify into a black mass. A small soft smile had appeared onto the woman’s face and she was looking at him from behind the fiery hell that the General had condemned her to.
A murmur of distaste rippled through the crowd as the acrid smell of burning flesh and hair had now flowed into their senses.
With a final scream as the eldest of the women succumbed, the only sound after was the crackling of the tinder and the long wooden pole as the oxygen burned and evaporated into the ether all around them.
Spinning around, anger flashing in his brown eyes. He lurched forward and grabbed the General, the man, the human form of evil that had passed judgement to the execution, a visible grin of pleasure clear upon the his face.
“What have thy done!” he screamed, shaking the General violently, tears flowing.
His grip on the leader tightened, bringing him face-to-face. The murmurs from the crowd now more of a whisper as their attention concentrated on the confrontation that was taking place before them.
The crackling of the wood was loud and more prominent as the fire consumed everything in its path. The two bodies now black, charred beyond recognition and lifeless as the bonds released them from the flames, and they plummeted from the plinth onto the clearing below, smouldering in the chill of the night.
Forcing himself free, the General raised his hands, and turning to the assembled crowd behind him, he spoke again.
“Thy judgment is complete, thy souls have returned to the fiery eternity of hell from whence they came. Thy Lord have mercy on their eternal souls.”
The stranger turned and walked towards the remains of the two women that now lay on the floor before him. Bending down he reached out to touch the indistinguishable faces of them both. A soft sizzle reverberated around those standing in silence as his living skin touched the hot dead charred black remains of the bodies.
Spinning his head around, the form of the General and the crowd slowly retreating into the distance, their bloodlust now quenched. The stranger screamed after them.
“Thou will pay for this, on thy eternal soul thou will pay for this murder!”
All his anger, pain and loss erupting and directed towards the General and the judgment that had caused the loss of the two most important souls to him – his wife and daughter.
Stopping, the General turned around. His gaze now firmly fixed upon the grieving husband huddling by what was left of his family.
The General leered back at the man, contentment and pleasure at the outcome this eve written on his face, his eyes reflecting the dwindling fire before him as though it was one with his soul. The satisfaction radiated from every pore within his body, sending a chill through the stranger’s soul.
Spinning around, the General walked away from the scene of devastation he had inflicted upon another, the tortured voice of the husband echoing through the night behind him.
“Thou will pay for this. I swear on everything that is holy, upon thy soul, thou will pay.” the husband spluttered, his head bent over the remains of his family, tears spilling onto their charred bodies and more hisses as his tears hit the lifeless, smouldering corpses.
2018 – South East England
It had been a long night. Five murders, a rape (suspected gang-related) and other petty crimes within the Brighton area. McCleod was just glad that this day was over. Although, she knew tomorrow would be more of the same. An endless battle against those that believed they were above the law.
McCleod had been added more cases by her immediate superior; much to her disgust, and her argument that she had enough on her
desk with the ever-growing amount of paperwork that was now building into a leaning tower on her in-tray fell on deaf ears. A grunt and a dismissive wave of his hand; McCleod got the message – `I’m not interested`.
`Less staff. Governmental deficiencies and the loss of faith within the local community, and we are supposed to carry on, be here and protect the public!!` she murmured to herself as she opened up the fire exit into the underground parking garage.
Walking swiftly towards her car, her hand fumbling around in her bag trying to find her keys as she approached.
Detective Inspector Louise McCleod was what most people who saw her would be regarded as pretty. All her work colleagues thought so and even some of the women agreed. At 5 ft 7ins and rapidly approaching the big four zero her body was still in the same shape as when she was in her twenties; something that most of her
female colleagues had become envious of. Her shoulder-length brown hair rarely saw her shoulders these days and tended to be either bunched into a ball or tied back into a ponytail. Her piercing green eyes sparkled with life within from a contented soul but gave the victims comfort and support that they needed in their time of grief. But also gave the perpetrators the unnerving realisation that their individual circumstances and situation were in dire straits.
The parking garage was virtually empty now. Every step McCleod took echoed through the bleakness of grey that surrounded her. Seeping into every pore within her body and making the tiredness that had been a working day heighten a hundred fold.
The familiar coldness and shape of her keys found her fingers as she pulled them from her bag, bringing a sense of relief and contentment. Turning the key in the lock of her car the soft click as the doors released and the flashing light reverberated and flashed around her.
McCleod felt a soft intermittent vibration from her bag followed by her favourite song – `Angels Calling`, by a soft rock band; Rooster who were based in London. They had exploded onto the music scene back in the early 2000`s and had had a few hits. Then after a second album the fickle business that is the music industry just seemed to let them disappear into the vaults of remembrance. But for McCleod there would never be a better band.
McCleod knew who was calling. Even without taking the phone out of her bag and looking at the caller ID. Letting the phone carry on through the song she eventually bit the bullet and swiped to accept the call.
`Yep!` she said.
The formalities of her response long gone and the usually greeting of `McCleod` purposely forgotten at this hour. She knew what was coming and with the tiredness she felt, her body screamed for rest. Rolling her eyes as the caller prattled on.
Her heart sinking as the mistake of answering her mobile slowly sank in. All she wanted to do was get home, pour a rather generous glass of wine and slouch in the comfort of her sofa and sleep until her alarm told her it was time to return.
`Surely, that wasn’t too much to ask!!!` she thought to herself.
McCleod had joined the police some ten years earlier when she was approaching her thirties. It was something that she had never thought she would do or even that she had the intelligence to do. It was a chance encounter with her then future boss at one of the local bars when she was out with `the girls` that would change her perceptions on signing up. She would eventually cave into her curiosity and enlist some six months later. Now with her career on track and rising through the ranks rapidly. Her love life had taken quite the opposite turn – into the non-existent.
`OK. Be there in five` she responded. Slamming the car door and replacing the keys into her bag, she headed back from where she had come from. Back to the poorly illuminated office that was so very nearly a distant memory. At least for another six hours or so.
After two flights of stairs and her dragging her heels. McCleod finally reached the floor where her office was located. Turning the corner as she exited the door, the familiar sight of the double glass doors with huge black lettering spread across it, `Serious Crime Unit` came into view. As she approached the glass doors the familiar sound of the soft whoosh as they parted in separate directions letting her enter.
McCleod stepped in as the glass doors closed. Instinctively turning around to see them rejoin again. Gazing around at her surroundings her face said everything, `So close. So damn close`. She located her bosses office immediately, and the familiar hunched form of DCI James Taylor.
`Jesus. Does this man not have a home to go to!!` McCleod thought to herself as she slowly made the short trek to his glass office. The main office space was filled with two rows of desks and chairs leading up to her desk near the DCIs office. The windows ran intermittently down the east side from where McCleod was walking and the illumination from the overhead fluorescent lights engulfed the office with its inhuman yellow and white tinge. Just enough to see with, but enough to give you a headache after hours of looking at a computer screen.
McCleod knew what the time was, but she looked anyway. Exhaling rather forcefully as her fears were realised when her watch read `0135`.
`Shit!!` she murmured.
Knocking on the closed door of DCI Taylor. She didn’t even wait for a reply or a grunt which was his usual response. McCleod just walked in.
Positioning herself in-between the two empty chairs that faced the huge wooden desk and the still hunched frame of DCI Taylor, she waited for a response – any response.
`McCleod` he eventually said plainly. Not even looking up as his hand frantically scribbled something that McCleod couldn’t see onto a piece of paper. `Take a seat`.
McCleod took one of the seats next to her. Scanning the partly furnished office, she realised that she had not really been within these walls of the office long enough for the bleakness of its décor to fully sink in.
The DCI was a minimalist. With a laptop on the wooden table to her right. An in and out tray that was overflowing with paperwork. He even had a yak ka plant in the right hand corner of the room. That to her mind had seen better days.
The walls were bare. Just the original bleak governmental paintwork of beige. There was a medium sized bulletin board behind the DCIs right shoulder which had the mug shots of the most wanted this month with the number one candidate just a black silhouette of a man’s head with long hair. Underneath was written
NAME – UNKNOWN.
To the right of the bulletin hung something that McCleod thought was very much out of place in this office and the person that occupied it. A calendar with pictures of cats posing in different positions and wearing different outfits for the month. Her boss must have received this as a gift, as he didn’t seem or come across as an
animal kind of a person and besides, he never left this office. To her knowledge anyway.
McCleod knew that DCI Taylor didn’t have any airs or graces when it came to those that were beneath him. Although he was known to praise an individual(s) on occasion, he didn’t suffer fools lightly and would make that known to either new the members of his team or those that he had deemed to have stepped out of line.
He had perfectly short combed hair. Not a single follicle out of place and gelled back exposing his Neanderthal forehead for the world to see. His blue eyes sparkled with a soul within that was content with the outcome of his life, even in this fluorescent yellow drummed light. Though considered by many handsome; in a roguish kind of
way. McCleod noticed that he had the look about him of a rat forging for scrapes of food. His lips were thin and pursed and showed no resemblance of humour, which sat under a long thin nose that came to an abnormal point at the tip.
The sound of paper being ruffled brought McCleod back from her own musings and re-focused onto the still hunched frame of her boss.
`Right…` he eventually stated. Putting his pen down onto the paper that had shown him so much interest. Slowly he looked up and stared at McCleod.
`The killer has struck again. This time on the other side of town. DS Bainbridge is running the initial investigation and I want you to go down there and assist him` he stated. His eyes steady and focused. Waiting for a rebuttal that he knew was coming from one of his officers. It didn’t.
McCleod sat there without a word and continued with the exchange of looks that they had somehow gotten into. With a soft nervous cough he continued.
`This is the address that Bainbridge is at and I need you to go down there now…` he said. His attention now taken in finding the scrape of paper that had the address on.
`A-ha..` he said. Pulling out a torn piece of paper from under the others in front of him, thrusting his arm out towards McCleod expecting her to take it straight away.
Readjusting her gaze towards the thin and bony fingers that held the address he continued
`DS Bainbridge will get you up to speed when you get down there..` he started. But with no response and his focus still on McCleod that sat no more than three feet or so before him, he finished, `OK?`.
Leaning forward McCleod slowly took the scrape of paper from his hand and without looking at it placed it into her jacket pocket. `I will need the report on my desk in the morning. No arguments.` he stated. His head lowering and returning back to whatever activity he had been doing when McCleod had walked into his office. His hand now once again rapidly scribbling onto the paper in front of him and all of his focus now lost within his own contentment.
McCleod rose from her chair, turning she walked to the still open door. Turning around she could vaguely see some of the scribbling that he had been so distracted by. It looked to her like the beginnings of a family tree.
`Yes boss` she replied flatly, a small wry smile on her lips `Boss…` She had expected more of a response than what she received. A small grunt of displeasure at being disturbed at his task in hand.
`You know…` she started. Pausing to see if any other response came her way. Seeing that it didn’t she continued, `…you know it is morning already. Don t you?`
McCleod didn’t even wait for an answer. Spinning around she walked towards the exit without looking back. She could feel her bosses eyes burrowing into the back of her head without looking, and that feeling continued until she was out of sight.
McCleod was down the stairs and opening her car door within five minutes. Breathing a huge sigh of relief as she slammed the door shut and that she was now on her way from this place. She turned the keys in the ignition and with the growl of the engine as it came to life she thrust the gear into first.
Exiting the car park she turned right and continued through the unnaturally deserted streets. She knew where the address was and even at the speed limit it would take her around 30-40 minutes to get there; notwithstanding any unforeseen traffic problems.
`What a fucking night!` she muttered to herself.
McCleod arrived at the address as she predicted, with 35 minutes. Turning into the huge courtyard, the flashing blue lights seemed brighter tonight than on other nights. Advertising to the residents that the police had arrived.
A crowd had formed on the pavement outside the cordoned area with the two police officers assigned to control any onlookers and to disperse the new spectators.
The gravel beneath the tyres showed their contempt at the huge weight that was being exerted upon them as they scrunched and hit the bodywork of the car as McCleod parked up behind a huge police van that had barely missed the verge of flowers on the right of the courtyard.
Stepping out of the car she took in her surroundings. To her immediate left was the centre piece of the courtyard; normally in any other mansion in the UK would be an old tree that had survived for hundreds of years. But at this mansion it was a fountain. Standing at nearly half the height of the actual building, the lights turning on and off in sequence with white and yellow beams extending their grip to the heavens.
The windows of the mansion covered three floors and all of them had stained glass, each one depicting a fable or story. A knight with his trusty stead holding a pike on one hand and a sword in the other as they pierced the flesh of the green dragon, was one that McCleod had noticed first on the second floor. Another had the haloed form of Jesus in his mothers arms, another the pied piper skipping along with the flute to his mouth whilst the children following behind him with accepting smiles upon their young faces.
As McCleod approached the officer standing guard by the front door, she could hear the two officers by the entrance to the courtyard reiterating their orders.
`Right, go home. There is nothing to see here.`,` please, disperse and return to you homes`. There was even at one point`…look, back off and go home. I am not going to tell you twice`.
McCleod smiled to herself as she approached the main door. She knew that the two officers that were assigned to the crowd control were newbies and that they were knobbed off at doing such a menial job, as well as being there. It was something that she personally knew from when she started, only to well.
Pulling out her warrant card the officer gave a slight nod and moved to the left to let her inside. She entered the small alcove or reception area which was comprised of coats and jackets on the right hand side and rows upon rows of men and women’s shoes on the opposing side.
Looking up she saw a large coat of arms hanging in the middle of the arched wooden entrance to the main house. The two swords crossed underneath the crown in a flattened `x`, with two serpents underneath them back to front, their split tongues elongated as though they were searching for their prey.
`Who IS this guy?` she muttered to herself as she entered into the main reception.
Her mouth opened at what she had walked into. The whole area had white and black mini ceramic squares covering the whole of the floor in front of her. With a large wooden door directly in front of her some fifty or sixty yards away. Covered by a stair case on the left and right and meeting in the middle above the wooden door. The
carpet on the stairs was a striking crimson colour and the hand rails were golden with small leaves running up and meeting at the top.
Framed works of art on both walls hanging in incremental distance from each another, culminated in two huge paintings either side of the wooden door at the top of the stairs. Both were men in armour and holding swords at the hilt with the tip on the base of the painting. The same coat of arms embed upon their painted metal skin.
With small coffee tables scattered around the reception area were the home of the ornaments and vases. McCleod mused that these objects within this room where probably not even encroaching a ten year salary for her.
Turning her head she noticed a door on her left and a door opposite. Both closed and an officer at each one. Taking a few steps into the middle of the reception area she looked up at the chandelier. Its refracted colours streaming across the whole of the room bringing out the colours of the rainbow that were within. Detective Inspector McCleod?` a voice quietly asked.
Turning and looking at the recipient of the sudden breaker of her peace, she noticed a young man standing in front of her. He was wearing a blue onesie with matching footwear, a black notebook in his right hand and a pencil in the other. His face she noticed was free of the worldly lines of time and still had the pinkness of youth
imprinted upon his skin. His eyes seemed to be a green and brown colour. Something that McCleod had never seen before and his features were not handsome but, not what one would call ugly. The one thing that she noticed more than her initial observation was his hair; that hair she had seen before. It was as he opened his mouth that it suddenly occurred to her – it was the same as DCI Taylor’s,
right down to the gelled slickness.
`Just McCleod` she responded.
`Oh, I’m sorry?` he replied embarrassingly.
`For what? You haven’t done anything yet. Have you?` she asked, toying with him a little and releasing a small smile as she tried to walk past him as he squirmed in his cheap imitation leather shoes.
`I..er…i…` he stammered trying to form a cohesive sentence as he manoeuvred in front of her. Picking up a blue bundle from his left in one swift move.
`Its McCleod` she stated in a softer tone. The fun had run out already as she looked into his eyes and the wounding, uncomfortable feeling that he felt written all over his face, `And you are?`
`Oh..er..Bainbridge. DS Bainbridge ma`am` he said. McCleod took a step to bypass Bainbridge, she felt a small pressure on her arm. Turing her head slightly to the right she looked directly into Bainbridge’s eyes and the flush of red rising in his cheeks.
`Erm. Ma’am, you will have to put these on…` he said quietly. Handing her the same clothing that he was wearing.
`Excuse me?` McCleod asked, her body turned fully to confront Bainbridge and her bright green eyes blazing with annoyance. `Well, er, if you want to go any further, you WILL have to put these on` he said, trying to make his voice sound more authoritative. But failing miserably.
McCleod knew he was right. But still, knowing that and having someone tell you are two completely different things.
`OK. Fine` McCleod said, taking in an audible breath as she did so.
As she put the blue garment over her own clothes she reiterated to Bainbridge once again.
`McCleod` she said quietly as she put the blue coverings over her
`Sorry?` Bainbridge asked.
`Never mind…` McCleod bluntly retorted. Standing up she had a quick look around again and walked towards the right hand staircase. `…is the body up there?` Pointing in the direction she was walking.
`Yes, ma’am` Bainbridge replied as he tried to keep up with McCleod. `The coroner is with the body now`.
`Oh really..` she stated, `..lets see what he has to say for himself, shall we?`
`Ma’am` replied Bainbridge. Ignoring the look of contempt that McCleod had thrust his way. He followed quietly behind.
McCleod hated the rank system. She was one of a few that didn’t take pleasure in ordering others to do things for her, although she did like the small increase in salary that she received. If something had to be done then she would do it herself. She had worked this way all her life and the fact that all the officers that were below her
had to do the same job, if not more work, then she would never use her rank in any shape or form. They were all one unit, worked as one and took the blame as one. Instead of the usual `ma’am`, she would always just get them to call her `McCleod`.
Bainbridge rejoined McCleod just as she reached the wooden door at the top of the staircase. The huge brass round knob didn’t turn and had to be pushed to gain access into the next part of the house. Something she saw Bainbridge find amusing in her struggle to turn the knob with both hands.
Letting the door slowly close behind them with a soft click they found themselves in a long hallway. The décor was much of the same as the carpet on the stairs they had just climbed. The walls and the carpet were the same striking crimson and had
gold coloured crowns randomly placed throughout the hallway. The walls were divided into oblong areas that had a gold trim around each one towards the single door that was some fifty or sixty yards in front of them. There was four small coffee tables, two on each side and had the same vases that were on show within the
reception area downstairs. There were two doorways that were open, one on either side.
Bainbridge followed McCleod as she walked to the door on the right
and entered, whilst he stayed in the hallway. The whole room was white with gold trim throughout. The two long sofas sat in the middle of the room with a huge long oblong glass coffee table in the middle. On top were a few magazines that the reader had put to one side. `No doubt for a later read` she mused.
The two windows within the room rose from the floor to the ceiling and both had a huge wooden seat in front of them. The room had bookshelves throughout except for the left hand side which had an open fire and a huge mirror above, and underneath all the furniture was a fluffy white carpet. The fire was still smouldering as McCleod turned to face Bainbridge.
`Who did you say lived here`
`Erm…` Bainbridge mumbled, flicking through his little black book.
`…ah, the owner of the building is Judge Henry-Appier and the
The room opposite was much of the same and a brief look within gave McCleod all the information that she needed. A well read individual that had hugely expensive tastes but, could afford to partake in whatever took his fancy.
`And the victim is where?` asked McCleod as she rejoined Bainbridge in the hallway.
`Through that door and on the next level, ma’am` replied Bainbridge, holding out his arm and pointing to the door ahead.
`McCleod. Please` she replied heading towards the wooden door ahead of them.
`Who found the body?` asked McCleod.
`That would be the wife, ma’am…` replied Bainbridge, `…she has been taken to hospital. The state of the body was something no-one shou…..`. Bainbridge let the sentence trail off as he took a gulp and deep breath.
`You OK` McCleod asked, stopping and looking at the now ashen faced Sergeant.
`I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute` replied Bainbridge.
McCleod climbed the spiral staircase that was behind the door. It
had the same striking crimson carpet as the hallway they had just
left. Ahead was another wooden door, Bainbridge re-joined her as
she entered the upper floor. The hallway was exactly the same as
the one that they had just left; only in reverse.
`This way, ma… sorry, McCleod` Bainbridge corrected himself.
Pointing to the room on the left and taking a step backwards till his
back hit the closed door that they had come through.
McCleod realising that Bainbridge wasn’t following her into the
room, turned and looked at him, his face still ashen. That youthful
pinkness that had been there in the reception area now gone.
`You coming?` she asked, smiling softly. She knew the answer but
felt that a little ribbing wouldn’t be that harmful.
`Erm, no…` Bainbridge sheepishly replied,`… I think that I will stay
here and look around a bit more`.
`OK` McCleod stated, entering into the room that Bainbridge had
It soon became apparent why Bainbridge didn’t want to enter the
crime scene. The air that surrounded her smelt and tasted metallic
and even the scene before her stopped her in her tracks. She just
stood there dumbfounded at the outcome of another’s anger before
The room itself was exactly the same as the other rooms in the
house. The bookshelves now replaced by a huge bed to her left and
the fire place was now to her right. The curtains were closed and the
windows shut. The forensic team were busy changing the white
windowsills and frame with the black powder that would give them
the perpetrator of this crime.
`Ah, McCleod` came a husky voice to her right.
Turning towards where the voice had originated from she saw the
familiar sight of the pathologist that always seemed to be there
when a dead body had been found. Even though his office had at
least five more competent pathologists available.
`Morning Potty` replied McCleod taking tentative steps towards the
`Do you have to keep calling me that?` he asked, `Christ almighty,
that was almost thirty years ago now. Cant you let it lie`.
`Well, some things follow you where ever you may go…` replied
McCleod, `…and anyway, it is a sign of love`.
`Love my arse!` he snapped back, turning back to the body in
The pathologist had trained late in his life for the job that he now
called `his calling`. It would be on one of the students annual parties
to celebrate the ending of another year of study that would earn him
his nickname, and it spread like wildfire throughout the whole of the
force. Even before he had graduated, everyone knew `Potty`.
The story went, that at the party the queues had been so long that
most of the guests had to find other ways of re-leaving themselves.
Richard Craner was one such individual. Although it was the need
that he couldn’t just whip it out in one of the many bushes at the
hotel. He eventually found in an open room a young child’s potty.
Others that were at the party had sworn that the sight of such an
innocuous object brought tears of joy to young Richards eyes.
So the name stuck. McCleod had heard the story and other rumours
about that night but never asked Richard whether it was true and
continued as many others did on using the nickname, as well as `
Potty the Pathologist`, that on occasion would be used.
`Holy shit!!` exclaimed McCleod as she stood by Potty.
`I couldn’t have put it better myself` said Potty.
`So I understand` mumbled McCleod, her smile showing her near
perfect set of white teeth.
`What!!` retorted Potty.
`Oh, nothing` replied McCleod.
`Ah, well then` said Potty.
`What can you tell me about the body?` asked McCleod.
`The body?` asked Potty, `Ah, yes. The body…..is dying`.
`Oh, very funny…` replied McCleod. It took some seconds before
her mind had registered what Potty had said and continued,
`…what’d you mean dying. Surely you mean dead?`.
`No…` said Potty,`I mean exactly what I said…dying`.
McCleod followed his arm to where he was pointing. Her face grimacing at the carnage that another had inflicting on this poor soul.
The body of the judge was still slowly moving from side to side as McCleod and Potty stood in front of him. He had a thick rope around his neck and was attached to one of the light fittings. The face of the Judge had been battered, half of his head had been caved in and unrecognisable. He only had his left eye remaining and the only part
of this once human face that resembled normality was the left hand side of his mouth. Most of his teeth were now lying within a mixture of organs and bone beneath his exposed torso.
The torso of the body had been ripped apart from the groin to the breastplate exposing the white colour of the bones that were left, his genitals were missing and all of the insides of the individual were now in a steaming heap on the floor.
It was what Potty was pointing at that made McCleod take an audible breath. Something she regretted immediately as the smell and taste made her refluxes gag.
`See…` Potty said, his finger pointing to the left middle side of the body.
McCleod couldn’t believe it.
`How is that possible?…` asked McCleod, `…with the amount of trauma that the body had received. How can this be`.
`Well you can see for yourself…` Potty said,`…I cant tell you how it is possible.
Medically this man should be dead. But, as you can see…`
`…his heart is still beating` McCleod finished.
`That’s not all…` Potty stated. `…have you not noticed anything else`.
`What?` asked McCleod. `Have a look further up` Potty stated flatly. McCleod let her eyes slowly go up towards what was the Judges face. It was then that she noticed what Potty had meant.
`Now I know I couldn’t have seen that` she thought to herself as she unconsciously leant forward placing her hand over her mouth and nose.
`Told ya` snapped Potty, `And you call yourself a bloody detective`.
`But that is not possible…` McCleod said in disbelief.
`I can assure you that this is happening and what you are seeing is true`
McCleod used her free hand to make sure that what she was seeing was indeed true and not a figment of their imagination. Using her finger she moved it from left to right and watched whilst she did so.
The lone eye followed her finger as it moved.
It was true, the eye was moving.
`Oh, stop it!!` Potty snapped as he gently hit McCleods arm down. Ignoring the indignant look she thrust his way.
`Oh my God` McCleod said, `Cant you do anything for him?`
`What exactly do you propose I do. Give him CPR!` snapped Potty,
`Other than relieving the pain, I am afraid there is nothing medically speaking that I can do for him`.
McCleod watched as the heart slowed down. Every beat struggling
to produce another until finally the trauma took the life.
Everyone in the room was now looking at the Judge as his heart gave a small jolt and then abruptly stopped.
`I take it you cannot tell me the cause of death` said McCleod softly.
`Now I know you are taking the piss!!` snapped Potty.
`What’d you mean?` asked McCleod.
`Take a look at the now deceased…` Potty snapped, `… he has no face, he has been hung, drawn and quartered. All of this somehow whilst he is still alive. Why don’t you have a wild guess at what he died of and make my job a lot easier!`.
`OK, you have made your point` responded McCleod turning away from the Judge and walking to the door, `Just let me know what you find`.
Potty mumbled something that McCleod couldn’t quite pick up as she left the room. The thoughts of how another human being could do this running around her mind. She had seen a lot in her time in the force but nothing as personnel and vicious as what she had just witnessed.
Walking back through the corridors and the stairs, she shed the blue outfit and dumped them into one of the bins provided. Taking a huge breath of fresh air as she stood at the entrance, her mind trying to comprehend the hows and whys of another random murder. Her mind suddenly kicked into gear.
`If the killer can make someone stay alive whilst inflicting so much pain and injury. Then he must have done this before. There will be a record, somewhere`.
The sound of someone vomiting from her left brought her gaze to the hunched form of Bainbridge letting one of his many meals hit the flowers that were below.
`It will get better` she said as she patted him on the back sending him into another convulsion of vomiting.
`Keep me informed of what’s going on` she barked as she walked back to her car. Bainbridge raised his arm in response. Opening the car door she noticed that a camera crew had arrived and the reporter was shouting to her.
`Can you tell us anything about the victim? What has happened?`.
Ignoring the demands of the reporter McCleod slammed the car door and just sat there watching all the officers fluttering about.
`Can this day get any worse!!`
As McCleod entered her flat the sun was rising, sending a stream of yellow light and gently heat into her living/dining room.
Leaning against her front door the sound of the click and lock brought McCleod a sense of peace as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her mind still coming to terms with the crime scene she had just left.
McCleod had already contacted Bainbridge on the journey home, informing him that she would be following up on a lead for the case and that she could be contacted via her mobile phone but, only in an emergency.
She knew she was lying and was pretty sure Bainbridge knew as well but to his credit just replied `yes ma’am` and hung up.
Walking into the living/dining room McCleod looked around at her home, and this was her home. Somewhere where she always felt safe and to leave the horrors of her job outside. From the moment she first saw the flat she knew this was the place that she could call home. It was as though she had some kind of connection with the bricks and mortar around her.
It wasn’t the biggest of flats. It had only two rooms, the bedroom and the living/dining room. The toilet and shower were in-between. These days she very rarely felt the comfort of her bed and crashed most of the time on her sofa.
The living/dining room had all the usual units you would expect to find in a new or refurbished flat. They ran from her left in an L shape and finishing with the oven in the alcoved part of the L. All the white goods were included within the price. A pine unit stretched from right to left underneath the huge bayed window in front of her sofa. With a dining table to her right which was full of paperwork; cases that she had tried in vain to catch up with. That was before DCI Taylor had assigned the Judges murder to her and Bainbridge.
Opening the fridge she pulled out a half bottle of rose and from the wall unit to her left a huge wine glass. Filling the glass nearly to the top she placed it onto the coffee table that was in the middle of the sofa and window and let the sofa embrace her tired and weary body.
The sound of her mobile phone interrupted a dreamless sleep. Picking up the phone she saw that the caller ID just showed a mobile number.
`Hello` she weakly replied as her mind tried to rapidly engage and wake up.
`Ma’am` came the reply.
`Who is this?` asked McCleod, the middle of her brow meeting in confusion.
`Oh, sorry. Its DS Bainbridge ma’am` he said, `Are you OK?` `Yeah I’m fine` she replied,`Just need a cup of coffee. That’s all`
`Where have you been? The Superintendent and the DCI are looking for you. You need to come in as soon as you can` Bainbridge stated. Worry and concern clearly sounding in his strained voice.
`Why do they want me? Its only been a few ho…` McCleod answered.
`Ma’am. No-one has been able to get in contact with you for over 24 hours. We were starting to get worried. Are you sure you are OK?` Bainbridge interrupted.
`What do you mean, no-one could get hold of me…` started McCleod,`…did you not ring, or send someone round?`
`Erm, we did both. But the phone went to answer and when we knocked on the flat door there was no answer…` said Bainbridge, coughing a couple of times he continued,`…which reminds me, the DCI would like the receipt for your new front door when you get it replaced.
What!!` McCleod snapped, `what have you done to my front door?`
McCleod got up and turning to her right walked around the sofa and table to look at her door. The wooden sides were all splintered, although the door was closed it was somehow at an awkward angle. She noticed that there was now a three inch hole where the lock used to be.
`Wh…wh…what have you done?` McCleod spluttered, her mind trying to get around that her colleagues have not only broke into her home but destroyed her front door as well, `Why didn’t you wake me, if you broke into my flat!` she snapped, feeling her face grow hotter and hotter by the minute as her anger rose.
`Ma’am. That is what I am trying to tell you. You were not in your flat. It was empty. All we found was a full glass of wine on the coffee table`.
`Well, that cant be. I am standing in my god damn flat at this moment in time and haven’t left all day since I got home this morning` replied McCleod, the rising anger now sounding in her voice.
`Ma’am…` Bainbridge started and with another nervous cough he continued, `…that was over 24 hours ago. No-one has heard or seen you since`.
`But, that cant be…` replied McCleod her hands starting to shake a little, `…if I wasn’t here then where the hell was I?`
`That’s what the commissioner and the DCI want to talk to you about. They have asked just about everyone else that had been in contact with you during the day of the Judges murder` Bainbridge explained,` I…I…I…don’t know what else to do!`
`OK..OK..OK. I’ll be there as soon as I can.. Just calm down will you…` McCleod said, taking an audible sigh, `…OK` `Yes ma’am` replied Bainbridge, then adding, `I’m glad your OK`.
The sudden silence told McCleod that Bainbridge had hung up. Throwing her mobile onto her sofa she walked over to pick up the glass of wine that she hadn’t touched. It was then that she noticed something different, something new, something that shouldn’t have been there.
Sitting on the sofa, her face draining of all colour she put her head in her hands and tried to comprehend what the hell was going on. Rubbing her eyes, she half expected that the sight would be gone when she re-looked. But as she opened her eyes, it was still there…
Two bloody footprints just inches from where her head had been.
1648 – South East England
On the outskirts of the village, less than a mile from where the General condemned his victims, sat a small cottage surrounded by an oaken wood. The dark oak beams barely visible in the half-light of the moon, and the usually vibrant exterior of white now dull and grey. A single sodden footpath lead away from the building into the distance, the tall red oaks lining each side.
Two windows sat on opposite sides of an old and rickety wooden door that had been left open, shining a small line of yellow light into the world outside. A small patch of tendered earth was to the right, and the fruits of the gardener’s labours now bearing fruit as its occupants extended to the heavens. Upon the wooden roof sat a small circular tube which exhaled the smoke from within, high into the night sky. Gently bending to the will of the soft wind that had engulfed the area.
Inside, the two rooms that were available were lit by the flickering yellow light of foul-smelling candles that were dotted around. Made from the fat of livestock, the smell within became intoxicating and upon occasion nauseating.
A huge wooden table sat to the right of the open door. Its sloping thick top made by an individual with limited knowledge of carpentry, or by someone in a rush to complete the project. It was surrounded by three chairs; much of the same workmanship. One at the head of the table and the other two to the left-hand side. Opposite was a huge open fire with a metal rod running the whole length of the fireplace. In the middle hung a huge blackened cauldron; the contents of vegetables and potatoes bubbling away within.
To the left was the second room. A small crowd had amassed around a queen-sized wooden bed. The strapping hanging underneath. The four legs rose about a foot off the ground onto the wooden frame. The mattress that was made of straw hung out of its material container as the weight of the occupant pushed the contents outwards..
William had never recovered from the events that changed his life seven years previous. The loss of his wife and daughter weighed heavy on his mind and his heart. His soul waiting, wanting to be reunited with them once more. Their screams and the images that he bore witness to that night still as fresh as they were seven years ago, and tortured him day and night.
The physicians and apothecaries of the area had diagnosed William with dysentery and had only given him a very short time to get his affairs in order. Standing in the corner of the bedroom they watched while a young woman tended to his bouts of coughing and mopping
up the trickles of blood from his mouth.
Dressed in a dark woollen dress that was full length and a white apron that showed her curves when tightened. Her head was covered with a white cloth bonnet and her blond hair tied into a ball.
Her features were gentle and her bright brown eyes full of concern for William, as she wiped once again the blood trickling from his mouth.
`Thou will pay for the insurrection that he hast levied upon thy tortured and tormented soul. Thy murder o…` William spluttered. His rantings sending globules of red liquid splattering upon his blanket.
`Thou must find solace, William` replied the young woman gently, as she mopped his brow and tried to soak up the blood with a cloth.
`Thy will gain retribution, in this life or the next for a murder most deceitful` hissed William, sending him into another coughing fit.
`Thou must rest…` she replied,`…thy anger will blacken thy soul from this foolishness. Thou must preserve thy strength`.
The young woman could see in his eyes that even time hadn’t diminished the anger towards the General, and even now as William lay in front of her, she knew that this would never be over for him.
As he closed his eyes, the murmurs and whispers from the crowd behind attracted the young woman’s attention. Turning, she noticed the tall black silhouette of the General as he entered. The fear on the crowds faces plain to see as they slowly parted, letting him
`Thou is not welcome her…` she started to say, but a raised hand and a look from his icy cold brown eyes stopped her mid-sentence.
`Leave us!!` he stated as he lowered his hand and approached William. Kneeling he gazed at William as his breathing settled. `Thou will not repeat thyself!` he barked. The onlookers knew better than to disobey the General and as the crowd dissipated back through the open door the whispers and murmurs eased. He leant forward towards William’s ear.
`Thou must repent thy worldly woes, my son` he quietly stated.
William slowly opened his eyes and rested his gaze upon the one person in his last hours he hoped he wouldn’t see. His eyes now ablaze with anger he tried to sit up, but another coughing fit forced him to relapse back into the mattress.
`Thou will pay most dearly for thy crimes levied upon those held most loved` William hissed.
His eyes following the General’s movement towards him once again.
`Thy is the law. Thy answers to no man` he hissed. Leaning to the right and picking up the cloth, `soon thy will be but a distant memory of a life that once existed.’
`I will gain justice for thine crimes!` William hissed.
`Thou will not have time…` the General whispered into his ear. Composing himself he continued, `…my son.’
Moving his arm up and forward he moved the cloth just above his face. William watched as the cloth came towards him and followed the movement.
`Thou must be redeemed. Judged by God` the General stated, his voice more guttural and forceful.
`Thy will see thou in hell!` hissed William. His eyes full of fear and hate towards this man before him. ` Revenge will be thine!`
William knew what was coming. He knew that the General had to take the one person within the village that had always stood firm and questioned him. But secretly he welcomed it.
`Rest in peace thy son, may the Lord have mercy upon thy poor excuse of a soul` the General hissed as he made the sign of the cross over his body. Moving the cloth over William’s mouth and nose and with the force of all his weight pushed down upon William’s face.
William struggled as weak as he was for his right to live. But his efforts and his ever-increasing weakness were pale in light of the advantage that the General now had over him.
For the briefest of seconds, William saw the monster that was before him. His eyes glowed a faint red within the brown eyes that everyone knew. The Generals mouth gave a slow grin of pleasure as Williams body slowly gave into the lack of air and as the spasms grew weaker. The General pressed harder.
`Thou will never see the `morrow` the General whispered.
A loud snap was heard as the General continued with all of his might, and William became silent and still. His eyes wide and bulging, a small trickle of blood running from the side of his mouth.
As the General rose, he walked towards the door. He looked in his right hand and gave another at William. Throwing the bloodstained cloth onto the body, and with a small smile, he exited the house..
The crowd had gathered outside the small cottage and were whispering amongst themselves as the General came to a stop before them. Raising his head and arms to the heavens, the crowd became silent.
`Thy brother has passed. May the light of the Lord have mercy upon his soul…` he pronounced, after a brief pause for a reaction, he continued, `… AMEN`.
The crowd didn’t respond in the way that he had become accustomed to. They had slowly backed off from their position with a look of horror and fear upon their faces.
A soft crimson glow appeared behind the General as he spoke.
Growing in intensity as he pronounced `Amen`. As the General lowered his hands and watched the crowd cower in front of him, a ghostly spectre slowly rose behind him.
Its arms raised to the side and the skull form leaned over the General’s head. Its eyes were as black as charcoal and the mouth was a large black `O`. The spectre gradually moved closer to the General’s head, its black `O` shaped mouth growing wider as it lowered towards him. With the white bones showing through its scantly clothed form, blowing in an unseen and unfelt wind.
As the crimson glow faded the spectre disappeared backwards in lines of white and red until the last thing the crowd could see was a bright white spot above the wooden table inside.
They gazed upon the light as it flickered and then disappeared completely.
To the right of where the single spot of white light had briefly stood, there was the image of another. Their face unclear as ripples rose from the base to its head. Turning its head to the right and back again the look of fear appeared briefly upon the blemished form..
A flicker, another ripple and the image slowly faded into streaming white wisps as they intertwined and rose towards the heavens above.