Who’s up for a new murder investigation?
The Fourth Victim by John Mead
Genres: Crime, Mystery
Published: 28th October, 2018
Joanne Hensley sat on the sofa in her small front room, hunched over and intently peering down at her mobile phone which she held cupped in both hands. She desperately did not want to text her daughter, Lynsey, again. She had once already, without forethought, only half an hour ago. What would her daughter think? Lynsey was nearly eighteen and preparing to live away from home to go to university, what would she think of her mother not coping with her being barely an hour late back from her usual run.
The first text had been an involuntary reflex, she had noticed the time, realised her daughter was overdue and had text, ‘Hi, where are you? Dinner as normal?’ Then she had started preparing their meal, peeling and cutting vegetables to sit in plastic boxes waiting to be cooked when her daughter returned home. However the lack of any response, so unlike her daughter whose phone seemed an extension of her body, began to gnaw away at her.
A half hour passed. Perhaps her daughter had bumped into a friend and stopped for a chat and a coffee, just like the young woman she had become, independent and social, so unlike her earlier teenage years of misery and isolation. Eventually, increasingly worried at the uncharacteristic lack of response, Joanne had picked up her phone and sat down. Although she did not know what she could say without sounding the overly anxious parent, so for more than ten minutes she had sat rejecting each phrase she came up with. Now she just sat, telepathically willing her daughter to take the initiative and phone. Then the door bell rang.
She jumped, dropping the phone and swearing at her own stupidity, realising how life was going to torment her when Lynsey finally left home, and went to the door knowing her daughter would see through her hurriedly assumed composure. Only as she opened the door did she wonder why her daughter had rung the bell when she had a key, but it was two other young women on the doorstep and not Lynsey. It took Joanne a moment or two to register that the women wore police uniforms: the bulky blue vests, trousers, white shirts, hats and equipment belts. Her mind resisting the implications of what the uniforms might suggest.
‘Yes?’ was all she could think to say, her tone suggesting she resented their presence although she was acutely aware that she had no reason to feel this.
‘Mrs Joanne Hensley?’ the slightly older looking police officer, an asian woman, asked. Her companion was fiddling with her phone, exactly like Lynsey, she couldn’t even put it down while she was on duty. The phone even looked like the one Lynsey owned, even had the same case.
‘Yes,’ Joanne’s mind had lost the ability to communicate as she focused on the phone in the second officer’s hand. Why was the phone sealed in a clear plastic bag? Why did the young constable, a pretty blonde just like Lynsey, scan her face then nod to her companion?
‘You have a daughter, Lynsey Hensley?’ the first officer asked, barely waiting for Joanne to nod her head in acknowledgment before continuing, ‘I am Sergeant Mehta and this is Constable Porter. May we come in?’ The sergeant glanced behind her as she spoke causing Joanne to look in that direction and, for the first time, she noticed the tall, slightly overweight man in a suit and tie standing at the gate intently watching the scene play out.
‘Who are you?’ Joanne asked, annoyed at the man’s intrusion. ‘Detective Inspector Merry,’ the man informed her, his voice calm though authoritative. ‘We should go inside.’
The two female officers got her indoors and sat down, with well practised ease. Scanning the room as they entered, checking out the various photos of Lynsey that were dotted around: memories of school, holidays and selfies often taken with a friend or her mother. Any residual doubt in the inspector’s mind was banished by those captured memories. The sergeant took a seat beside Joanne on the small sofa while the constable stood at her side and the inspector remained standing, shifting uneasily, in front of the three of them.
‘What is it you want?’ Joanne demanded, she could understand two uniformed officers coming to tell her that Lynsey was injured in a fall or they had found her phone and were returning it but why send a detective inspector? Then it struck her she didn’t want to know what she had known from the moment she had seen the uniforms, the officers, blank faces and concerned eyes. All Joanne really wanted was for everything to go back, for the day to restart again so she didn’t have to face what was about to come.
‘I am sorry to have to tell you,’ Inspector Merry began, noticing the mother’s face already starting to crumble and the tears forming in her eyes, ‘that a body of a young woman has been found in Swedenborg Gardens. From the details we have taken from her phone we believe this to be your daughter, Lynsey.’
‘No, she is out jogging,’ her words did not sound right, slurred and masked by her dry throat, her body trembling, her mind fixated on the phone in the police woman’s hands. The phone which looked exactly like her daughter’s.
‘She was wearing a grey top with a zipper front, with a white stripe down each arm, plain black jogging pants reaching to above the ankle and bright orange trainers?’ Joanne nodded unable to speak, tears starting to flow, as the sergeant reeled off the description of what her daughter had been wearing, ‘Jogger’s waist bag, with her keys, student oyster card and five pounds in change, her phone in an arm carrier with earphones.’ Joanne tried once again to speak but words would not form, though she nodded in confirmation.
It was then that it came out, the grief erupting from deep inside her. She slipped forward, collapsing onto her knees, tears pouring down her face, her body heaving from the racking sobs. The officers continued to assist her in their well-ordered and distant manner, their own emotions being kept at bay behind their wall of professionalism, but she was not aware of them. She could only focus on the well of swirling black misery that her world had become.
Who is John Mead?
Born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estate ever built. I was the first pupil from my local secondary modern school to attend university.
I have travelled extensively during my life from America to Tibet. I enjoy going to the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that I am an avid ‘people watcher’ and love to find out about people, their lives, culture and history.
Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in my novels are based on real incidents and people I have come across. Although I have allowed myself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.