This is the 41st story in the Series of Novellas concerning the life and career of Murder Squad Detective Joseph Lind.
His long-term partner of several years, Shelley Anne Shield has suffered an accident that puts her out of action for some time. Upon her return to work she again aggravates the recent injury which casts doubt over her ever returning to the Murder Squad.
Lind is partnered with the young, bright eyed and bushy tailed raw recruit Sasha Blayney who had worked previously with both Lind and Shields.
Death is part of living and violent death an acceptance in modern day civilisations. This does not make it right and Police Forces around the World are partly there due to its insidious nature.
A fire deliberately lit, razes a busy but small General Store in a Shopping strip in a suburb in inner Sydney. An elderly woman's body is found in the charred remains of the establishment. The Shop's senior Owner barely makes it out of the inferno alive albeit badly burnt.
- - - - - - - - - - -
A week after the fire, the chap succumbs to his burns over much of his body.
The Insurance Company suspects insurance fraud. A copy-cat episode of a similar elk of some years previously in a neighbouring suburb.
Murder Squad Detectives Lind and Blayney are called in because of the charred remains of the elderly customer of the Store requires their involvement. A Report prepared for the Coroner seems to be all that is required.
Not all is as it seems and with the help of the Senior Fire Officer Doug Saunders, the arson becomes one of suspicious circumstances as the investigation proceeds.
Concurrently, in a small hamlet south of Sydney where a successful General Practitioners' business looks after the needs of the small community, the ghastly murder of one of the Doctors has Lind and Blayney delving into a history of sexual and emotional intrigue in the Practise proving perhaps that violent death is not a curable disease.
"You'd have to be quick to get the cable tie around her neck and pull it tight...she had to have put up a bit of a fight, you'd think, wouldn't you?
I tried to demonstrate with my hands. Getting them too close to the Victim's head which earned the ire of the Lead Forensic Pathologist. Still, I continued, getting my hands in a knot. Now sure that the Perpetrator must have had some 'dry runs' to get the process right!
"Yeah, but once you did that, there was no way of giving any slack if you didn't know how to unlock the tie quickly. She would have been in shock possibly, by the suddenness of the attack. Maybe it froze her."
"Mmm... she tried though. She got that pair of scissors up around the tie before she collapsed. All that did was to drive the sharp, pointy end of the scissors blade in up under her chin... it came out near the root of the tongue from the force of her head dropping down in death... she was so close to saving herself though... bloody bad luck!"
"She gave it her best shot... bad luck, you reckon?"
"Yeah. Just not good enough by a bloody whisker."
"It would be fair to say that the Perp, once he applied the garrotte, got the hell out of here, quick smart...otherwise you'd think he wouldn't have allowed the good Doctor to get to that pair of scissors and do what she did. It would be an almost instinctive action on her part."
"A good Doctor?"
"Aren't they all? Mmm... so they say... very popular... she had the largest Patient base of the Surgery Business."
"Drugs? There's always various drugs lying about in a Doctor's surgery, isn't there?"
"According to the other partners, the Nurse and the Receptionists, nothing is missing. Nothing rummaged or rifled through... no... nothing forced open. The Drug Cupboard hasn't been touched... no."
"Mmm... if they weren't after drugs, then what?
I straightened, feeling my back display its objection to me bending over for so long.
"That's your sphere of responsibility, Joe. Move out the way and let me finish with mine, huh?"
"Between seven and twelve last night..."
"You can't be more specific?"
"It was a chilly night last night. The door and the window were wide open. That's how she preferred it, night and day, summer, or winter so the others have commented. There's no figuring some people. I can't be more exact on time of death until I get her on the table... and even then, I may not be able to narrow it down any further. Sorry."
"Hell! It was bloody cold! It's nigh on the middle of winter. Why is the Practise paying for ducted air-conditioning when you have one member always insisting on leaving her outside door and windows open?'' The question more to myself for future investigation. ''Who found her?"
"Her husband... one of the Doctor partners in the Practise... now move. There are four Doctors in the business."
"Was that door open when you got here?"
"Yes... now get out of the way, will you?"
She gave me a grouchy look and growled under her breath.
"Gawd, you're touchy this morning, my beautiful young thing."
Brenda Wzerlic threatened to throw an anal thermometer at me.
I could only guess at where it may have been recently. Man, she could be obnoxious when she wanted, I thought as I sidled out of the way and headed for the door!
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
Murder Squad Series: