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Up From The Ashes

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The phone rang and since no one else seemed to be available for the moment, Stella picked up, expecting to be handed a ‘new’ cold case. Always assuming that Boyd would let her be the primary on any case. As the voice on the other end of the line continued outlining the matter, ending by asking for Boyd, Stella became increasingly puzzled. Two men had been found with severe burns in a house outside London. So not a cold case, a current one? But their department didn’t deal with current cases. That was about all she could make of the phone call. She promised she’d find Boyd and went off in search of him. He had been around an hour or so earlier and she hadn’t heard anything about him leaving, so he should still be somewhere on the premises.

When she found him, he didn’t appear to be at all pleased to see her. He just scowled at her as if she’d disturbed him in the middle of something important, even though it didn’t look as if he was doing anything important at all. As far as she could tell, he had just been sitting, staring into space. Thinking? Just being tired? Suffering from indigestion?

”Well? What is it?”

”There’s a phone call for you, sir.”

”Alright. I’ll take it in here. You can go.”

As if she would want to stay and be spoken to that way. What a rude, unpleasant man. Such a shame that he was also quite brilliant, despite his boorish manners. Not that Spence was much better. Gratefully, Stella returned to her desk.

”Boyd.”

”This is sergeant Atherton, Essex police. Early this morning we had a call from the fire department about a house in the countryside outside Colchester. Two men were found in the house and taken to hospital with severe burns.”

At this point Boyd was about to interrupt the younger man – because that was what he sounded like, just like you’d expect a sergeant to be relatively young unless of course he was a very inefficient older man who never came up for a promotion – and ask him what this was to do with the Cold Case unit. Before he had time to formulate a question, the sergeant went on.

”One of the men says his name is Luke Boyd and that he’s your son. He’s asking for you.”

The sergeant went on to tell Boyd that the young man – and also the older man – had been taken to Colchester County Hospital and probably also what ward the younger man was in, but Boyd wasn’t listening any longer. He wasn’t going to take this. How dared that young impostor – When his son was lying in the morgue, still unburied – because Boyd still hadn’t been able to bring himself to deal with the formalities. And now this – He wasn’t going to stand for it. Maybe on second thought, he should go to that hospital and confront the impostor. He’d show him.

”Excuse me. What ward did you say?”

He forced himself to keep his voice under control and to breathe slowly, even though he felt his heartrate and pulse shoot through the roof. The sergeant repeated his information and Boyd scratched it down on a piece of paper that he later found was an envelope. Not that it mattered. He went downstairs to find a car and drove recklessly fast up to Colchester. His colleagues knew better than to confront him or even ask him where he was going. He caught a glimpse of Grace staring at him, but didn’t bother to even acknowledge her presence. This was something so – outrageous. He didn’t want to be held up with any of her psychological mumbo-jumbo.

Despite his speeding, he didn’t get held up by any uniformed colleagues and he also made his way safely to the hospital, where he parked his car straight across a line, effectively occupying two parking spots. Inside he waved his ID card wildly in the face of an unperturbed woman of Grace’s age.

”I’m told you have a young man here claiming his name is Luke Boyd. In ward – ”

He put his hand into his right pocket and searched for the piece of paper, but didn’t find it and had to waste a few more seconds rummaging around the pocket, where he found a pen and various odds and ends. Eventually, he did find the paper and read the information out loud.

The woman nodded calmly.

”It’s not time for visiting hour yet, but since you are a police officer – I’ll let you in. Not for long, mind. The young man has some quite severe burns, but he should be conscious. Over there. That corridor to the right, then take the lift up to the third floor. If you have any trouble, ask the staff in the Burns Unit.”

”I will.”

He turned and hurried along the right corridor then waited, fuming for the lift that took so long arriving, it seemed to be out of order. By the time he was prepared to give up and demand to know where he could find the stairs, the lift door pinged and opened. A man in white shot Boyd a glance, most likely wondering at the high facial colour, but didn’t say anything. Boyd wouldn’t have noticed anyway. He pushed past the man and pressed the button for the third floor. How much time had he wasted already?

Upstairs, he once again had to show a nurse his ID, and had to wait until she did something to her computer screen, then annoyingly slowly got up, brushed off her skirt and came out into the corridor where he was standing, on the other side of her information desk. Clearly, she wasn’t going to let him find the room on his own. She walked ahead of him and opened the door into a room on the left side of the corridor, then walked up to the bed and checked on the machine monitoring the patient’s vital signs, then nodded seemingly reluctantly.

”Alright. You can have five minutes. No more. The patient needs to rest.”

Boyd ignored her and waited for her to leave. He was going to –

On the bed a very pale young man was lying. He had bandaged hands and a big bandage also covered the top of his head. Tufts of blond hair showed through the bandage. His eyes were closed, but when Boyd approached the bed, he looked up. The pale lips were moving, but at first Boyd couldn’t make out the sound, intent as he was to confront this young impostor.

”Why didn’t you come looking for me?”

That voice – Boyd forced himself to take a closer look. It was impossible. That face – what little was visible between the bandage and the sheet – No. He’d seen the boy dead in the morgue. This couldn’t be happening.

Blindly, Boyd reached for the visitor’s chair and sank down on it. A few more seconds and he would most likely have fainted for the first and only time in his life.

”Luke? Is that you?”

The words were strangely faint.

The young man stared at him in surprise.

”Who else?”

”But your phone – you were dead. What about the overdose?”

The boy stared at him more closely, a puzzled look on his face.

”What’s the matter, dad? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. As far as I’ve heard, I’m not that badly injured. They seem to think I’m going to make it.”

”But you called me. Then you were dead.”

”Dad, you’re not making any sense. My phone? I lost it. If I’d had it, I would have tried to call you. And – dead? Are you going senile? We met just before he found me.”

Boyd forced himself to his feet again and leaned over the boy on the bed, studying his face closely. There couldn’t be any mistake. It was his son. His son, that he knew he’d seen lying dead on a slab in the morgue.

After a while, Boyd was able to regain control of himself. Clearly this was his son, after all, and they were going to get another chance to – That should be enough, but he knew he had to find out more.

”What happened?”

The boy looked away.

”I needed the money.”

”For drugs?”

”No, for bouquets of flowers. Yes, for drugs. You knew that.”

Boyd nodded.

”Go on.”

”That’s how he found me.”

After that, Luke didn’t seem to have much more to say. Even though Boyd kept asking, all Luke would say was that he’d seen a chance to set fire to the house, in an attempt to get out. Before Boyd could ask any more questions, the nurse returned to get rid of him. He waved his ID in her face and loudly exclaimed that the boy was his son and he was going to – The woman ignored him.

”Sir. If you won’t leave now, I’ll have to call Security. You can see the patient again in the morning.”

Seeing the futility of fighting the obnoxious woman, Boyd realized he would have to go. Besides, he could tell that Luke was exhausted and possibly in some pain. It would be no use trying to talk to him more that day.

Confused and shaken up, Boyd returned to the Cold Case unit and his office. By now, word about his hasty departure must have made its rounds throughout the office and he could see Spence and Stella staring at him as he passed their desks on his way to his own. As he might have expected Grace walked into his office a moment later. Good. She could stay. He needed to talk to her anyway.

”It was Luke.”

Grace stared at him, as if not sure what he was getting at.

”He’s not dead.”

Grace studied Boyd searchingly. She had been expecting this for some time now. When you thought about it, perhaps it was surprising her superior hadn’t had a breakdown a long time ago. Filled with pity, she gently tried to reason with him.

”Boyd, I know it must be hard to accept -”

”Don’t give me that psych talk. He was there. In the hospital. Burned, but he’s going to be alright.”

Grace again studied Boyd, weighing his words pensively. He seemed sure of himself. Was able to provide facts to back up his assertion. Surely – but how could it be possible that a boy that he had been to identify at the morgue could suddenly turn up alive in a hospital? That boy in the morgue –

”How closely did you look at that boy at the morgue?”

”I know my own son.”

”Apparently not.”

Boyd faltered. She was right about that.

”Yeah, yeah, the important thing is that he’s alive.”

”I’m really glad to hear that. What really happened?”

”He’d lost his phone and I think he – anyway – someone abducted him and – he wouldn’t say anything more about that, but he set fire to the house and that was how he got out. I have to find out more. What that – what happened to him in that house.”

Grace nodded pensively. She realized that there was much that Boyd hadn’t told her and didn’t want to share with her, but she could wait. Sooner or later, she would find out more.

”Could you ask Eve to get in here?”

Realizing that the audience was over, Grace got up and left. On her way back to her own desk, she looked in on Eve. The younger woman didn’t look very busy. She was sitting down, staring at some papers.

”Boyd asked to talk to you.”

”Oh? I’ll be right there.”

Eve got up and walked over to her boss’ desk. She didn’t have anything important on her to-do list anyway.

”My son – Luke – it turns out he isn’t dead after all. I want you to go over the Colchester County Hospital and run some tests on him. Find out what – anything you can find.”

”Listen, sir. You know that’s not my job. I’m a -”

”I know what you do. But you’re still a bloody doctor, aren’t you?”

She took a deep breath, pretending to study her finger nails. This could be a real conflict of interest. She knew that her boss’ son was a drug addict. Anything might turn up in those tests. Knowing Boyd, he’d probably hold her responsible for whatever she did find.

”The doctors at the hospital are fully capable of -”

Boyd looked as if he wanted to physically grab her and shake her, then he appeared to calm down a little. He looked as if he was thinking.

”Right. Once they’ve finished taking the tests, I want you to look over the results. Tell me what they mean. None of that medical jargon. Just plain English.”

He was her boss. It would be difficult – no, try impossible - to refuse, so Eve decided to give in. At least another doctor or more would be involved. They would be sharing the blame, as it were.

”Fine.”

Only a few days later, a report arrived from the hospital. Boyd had pulled some strings to get the lab to expedite the analysis, just as Eve would have expected. She took a deep breath and braced herself, scanning the computer printout. Hm. It could have been worse, but not much worse. Sexual assault. Physical assault. At least her worst fears weren’t realized. No infection of any kind, except some very mild cases of irritation where Luke had injected himself. You saw that on almost any drug user. Most of them weren’t much good at injections, though you’d expect them to get enough practice. Now all she had to do was tell Boyd. Stupid really. He could have read most of the report for himself. Not much Latin there. Oh, well. Time to face the music.

”Sir – I have gone over the report and apart from the burns Luke has been – physically and sexually assaulted, but – he’s not infected with anything.”

”I knew it. That sick bastard -”

Again, Boyd burst out of the Cold Case unit and vanished downstairs. So nothing had changed there. With a temper like that, Boyd was heading straight for a heart attack or stroke, if she knew anything about medicine. She almost laughed at her own joke on her way back to her own office.

Once again, Boyd waved his ID in the air in front of the reception desk nurse.

”That other man – who came in at the same time as my son. The burns victim. Where is he? I need to talk to him.”

The nurse cast him a look that filled him with even more anger. It looked as if that woman dared to rebuke him. He’d love to – but he didn’t have time for that. That sick pervert upstairs – he’d deal with him and then maybe –

He followed the nurse’s instructions, then not waiting for the other nurse to come and let him in, he pushed open the door to the ward where that bastard was lying, on his own. What did that cost the tax payers?

”You. What did you do to my son?”

The man’s eyes shot open, a look of terror all over his face. Boyd grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him.

”Tell me. What did you do? I’m going to -”

He vaguely heard the door open behind him, then close again, but he was beyond caring who saw him. This man had – he had dared to – he’d pay for what he’d done and then –

The security guards had come up surprisingly quickly. Boyd hadn’t managed to get a single word out of the terrified man on the bed, when two men, who were stronger than he was, grabbed him and dragged him outside into the corridor. He could see the nurse bending over the man on the bed, then the door closed and cut off his view. She was concerned about that –

”Sir. If you don’t calm down, we’ll be forced to restrain you. You are asked to vacate the premises immediately. Sir? If you don’t leave willingly, we’ll be forced to call the police.”

”I am the police, you idiots. Let me go.”

”If you calm down. Just leave. Now.”

Boyd stood facing them, his chest heaving, feeling his heart beat so forcefully it felt as if it was trying to burst out of his chest. It was no use. They were two against one and besides, he also knew what his superiors would have to say about his behaviour. Still angry, but much calmer, he turned and left.

By the time he was back at the office, his phone was ringing insistently. Though his first impulse was to ignore it, he changed his mind and picked up. As he’d expected, it was his immediate superior. Not surprisingly, he was taken off active duty. He wasn’t even going to be allowed to work from his desk.

Eve had an idea and considering how little interest Boyd had shown the dead young man he had believed to be his son, she didn’t think he’d object to her examining the body now, when he’d presumably lost whatever interest he had in it. So she went to check and found that, naturally, he was still there. She informed the attendants that he was now to be considered an unidentified body and that Luke Boyd had been found alive. No one minded when she requested a transfer of the body to her own lab.

Later that afternoon she was ready to begin her examination. A thorough visual inspection of the body confirmed what she had already concluded – the young man was exceptionally like Luke. He could easily have been his brother. On closer examination he turned out to have almost identical injuries to those found on Luke. By now, any traces of drugs in the dead man’s blood stream would be gone and apart from numerous signs of injections all over his body, there wasn’t much else to find. Eve sent out an alert to all police stations, hoping that somewhere someone might find closure if this young man too could be identified.

She put the body into the freezer and went to see Boyd. Perhaps he could help clear up a few questions she had thought of during her examination of the body.

Unfortunately, Boyd wasn’t in the building and she was told he was on temporary leave for using excessive force on a suspect. Grace had no doubt that it was the man who had abducted Luke.

Eve was wondering if perhaps the other young man had been abducted by the same man. She decided that she might as well phone Boyd before getting on with her regular work. With Boyd out of the way, she might actually have some peace to finish her reports as well.

”Hey. I have examined the dead young man. Turns out he has almost identical injuries to Luke’s. And of course, he was a drug addict as well. I couldn’t find out much else, but – excuse me if this sounds odd – does Luke have a brother?”

”Why the hell do you want to know that?”

”I don’t know if you noticed, but they’re very much alike.”

”Yes, now that you mention it, I did notice, thank you very much. At the time I even thought it was Luke, as you well know. What’s your point?”

”Nothing really. Just curious. So Luke doesn’t have a brother?”

”Yes, he does. A half brother. The boy is nine years old. Anything else about my personal life you want to know?”

”No. It just occurred to me that maybe both young men were abducted by the same man.”

Boyd fell silent for a moment. No matter how grumpy and aggressive, he was also a brilliant investigator. Sometimes when he yelled and ranted at his team it was difficult to recall that fact, but Eve did now.

”You could be right. I’ll try to talk to Luke and see if I can find out anything else. He seemed to have no idea why I thought he was dead. When he’s better – I might try telling him about that other boy.”

”Well, that was all. I’ll just get back to work.”

Boyd hung up without a word of goodbye. So what else was new?

On her way back to the lab, Eve stopped by Grace’s desk. She valued the older woman’s input, not only when it came to psychology but in general as well. After informing Grace of her findings, Eve mentioned her now debunked theory about Luke having a brother.

Grace had a thoughtful look on her face, as if something the other woman had said had triggered a memory.

”No, he doesn’t have a brother of that age, but there was something else – Boyd and I were talking to some homeless young people. There was a girl who seemed to be hinting something about Luke, but since Boyd was convinced he was dead or – was that before the other boy was found? In any case, you know Boyd. He wouldn’t encourage anyone to pry into his personal life and brushed her off. It occurred to me that perhaps she did know something about Luke or about the abductor. Perhaps also this other young man. It’s worth finding out. I wonder – I’m sure they put Spence in charge now that Boyd is away, but – if he and Stella could go back to that place and question that girl again. Always assuming she’s still there.”

”If he won’t, I could go with Stella. Or you?”

”That’s very kind of you, but I wouldn’t want to drag you away from your lab. No, if Spence has more important things to do, I could go with Stella.”

”Right. Then I’ll just get back to work. What an odd thing to happen though. First Luke is found dead, or so it seems, then he just comes back from the dead. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”

”You know, neither have I. Unless we’re dealing with twins or – someone who staged their disappearance and that would be a completely different situation. How wonderful though. A chance for – Boyd – to make things right again with Luke.”

Eve wondered at Grace’s tone. It seemed Grace was quite a bit more attached to Boyd than you would expect, considering how Boyd usually treated her. And everyone else for that matter. Was it even possible that – no, she mustn’t start imagining things to pass the time. Surely Grace wasn’t Boyd’s type and that, Eve couldn’t help thinking, was lucky for her.

Since Spence wasn’t at his desk, Grace felt justified in asking Stella along to talk to the homeless girl. As usual, the younger woman seemed to be pleased to be asked. It was a shame that Boyd never seemed to sense his co-workers’ need for approval once in a while.

”Is it to do with that young man found in the burning house?”

”Yes. Didn’t they tell you that it was Boyd’s son, Luke?”

”No. I had no idea.”

”Oh. Well, Boyd likes to keep his personal life private. But I think under the circumstances you need to know that a while back, another young man, extremely similar to Luke was found dead, of an overdose. There was no reason to think that it wasn’t Luke. Then this young man showed up and it turns out he’s the real Luke. Even Boyd has been convinced of that.”

”I see. So where are we going?”

”To see some homeless people. There was a girl who seemed to know something, but Boyd – cut her off. I hope she’s still there.”

”Alright.”

When they got to the place where Grace and Boyd had last seen the girl, there was still a large group of homeless people staying there. Grace walked around, looking for the girl, but couldn’t see her anywhere. Another girl stepped into her path.

”Are you looking for something?”

”Yes. I’m Dr Grace Foley and this is my colleague Stella Goodman. We’re looking for a girl who was here the last time I was here.”

She described the girl but saw no sign of recognition in the older girl’s eyes.

”What do you want with her?”

”We just have some questions for her. She’s not in any trouble.”

”Really? How can you tell?”

”Not from us anyway. If you know something about her, please tell me. It’s important.”

The girl shrugged and walked away.

Grace and Stella spent over half an hour searching through the homeless’ temporary or more permanent shelters and had to step carefully around mentally disturbed, angry people and a few that on first glance looked dead – but found no trace of the girl. It was as Grace had feared. These homeless young people moved around a great deal.

”I’m sorry, Stella. It seems I brought you out here for nothing.”

Stella gave a very Gallic shrug, indicating a philosophical state of mind.

”Oh, well. It can’t be helped.”

They turned to go, when a young man approached them from the side.

”I heard you were looking for a girl. I might know her.”

”Yes?”

”If I tell you – will you do something for me?”

Grace hesitated. She wasn’t authorized to pay witnesses or other informants for their information. That sort of thing was more Boyd’s or Spence’s area, but if this young man just wanted a meal or something – she might be able to use her own money.

”Well, what do you want?”

”Fifty quid?”

”Listen, I’m not a police officer, I’m a psychologist. I’m not authorized to -”

”Twenty?”

Grace hesitated. She didn’t even know if this young man had any relevant information for her but if she didn’t learn anything, she’d have come out here for nothing.

Stella turned on the young man and shot him a brilliant smile.

”Are you hungry? We could get you something to eat if you like. Like my colleague told you, this is very important. It would be really nice of you if you could help us.”

The young man hesitated, then returned the smile, seemingly reluctantly.

”Yes, I am hungry. That’s why -”

”Come along.”

They found a simple, cheap little restaurant and ordered the young man a simple meal. Since they couldn’t very well sit there and not order anything, the each got something, then waited while their guest finished his meal. Grace decided that even if he didn’t have any information, she liked to think that he was feeling a little better after this.

”Alright. I’ll tell you. She’s a friend of mine so – but you swear she’s not in any trouble?”

”That’s true. She’s in no trouble at all from us. We just want some information about a case.”

He told them what area she had gone to. Grace could only hope that she was still there.

”Tell her – tell that Andy misses her. She’ll know where to find me.”

”I’ll do that. Thank you, Andy. Do you know how long she’s been there?”

”Just a few days. She had some trouble and – wanted to move on.”

”I see.”

Grace and Stella watched the young man walk back to his shelter then returned to the car. The area the young woman had moved on to, wasn’t that far. They would soon know if she was still there.

”Thanks. It’s amazing what a pretty face can do.”

Stella blushed a little. Clearly, she didn’t know what to say.

”Oh, I’m sure a little kindness goes a long way.”

”Evidently. Let’s hope she’s still there.”

”Yes.”

It was getting dark, and Grace was getting uncomfortable. If they didn’t find the girl soon, they would just have to come back the next day. Hopefully, Spence would be back by then and if she was really lucky, she might be able to convince him to go out here on his own. To do Boyd a favour he might be more inclined to help. The second the thought was finished, Grace felt guilty. Spence was a good man. Even Boyd –

To her relief, she spotted the girl she was looking for within a few minutes of their arrival. They didn’t even have to leave the car. The girl seemed to recognize her and walked over to say hello. That surprised Grace a little. The last time this girl had seemed shy and possibly not quite well. At second glance, Grace determined that the girl did look quite well, but perhaps – on something. She was hoping she would be able to get the answers she needed, and indeed that the girl had any answers. It was just a vague impression Grace had had.

”Hello.”

”Hello. So you remember me? Dr Grace Foley. And this is my colleague Stella Goodman.”

”Hello, Stella. Are you just going to sit there?”

Grace smothered a sigh. No, it might seem disrespectful to just remain sitting. So she got out and locked the door behind her and stood facing the girl. She heard Stella get out as well. Even if Spence wasn’t around, it felt reassuring to at least have the younger woman with her, watching her back.

”The last time we spoke – you were about to mention something about Luke, weren’t you?”

The girl hesitated. Then she looked around furtively. No one seemed to be watching them. In fact, no one was nearby. The few they could see seemed to be completely intent on their own business.

”Well – not about Luke exactly. If I tell you, you won’t tell anyone I said anything? It’s just between you and me?”

”Yes. I just want the information.”

”Alright. There’s this man – he – likes blond guys. He’s always around, looking for new guys. I thought – when I heard about that guy Luke – he might have been with that man. And I’ve seen others. They – don’t usually come back. I have enough to do, just watching my own back, you know? For once, this one’s not after a girl. But – well, you did ask. I hope that helps you. If he has this guy Luke – it’s probably too late by now, but if you get him, maybe it will help some other guys, later.”

Grace considered. It didn’t sound as if the girl knew much more. In a way, this did answer her question. They’d already found Luke so nothing more specific was needed. So she smiled and nodded.

”Thanks. Take care of yourself. Oh, I have a message for you. Andy says he’s missing you. You’ll know where to find him.”

The girl’s face was lit up by a brief smile.

”Andy’s nice. If he’d been there when I – had to go, I would have -”

They got in the car and left. Grace always felt dejected when she saw all these homeless people. Not only the young, everyone. It was a shame that even today, in the 21 century, people still had to live like this. And there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. She wanted to call the girl back and offer her a meal as well, but sensed that this girl most likely would be too proud to accept her offer. Perhaps the boy wouldn’t have accepted either if Stella hadn’t been with them.

”I think we need to get Spence and Eve out there. To the house. A whole forensics team. You heard her. Those boys never come back. I’m beginning to think Luke wouldn’t have either if it hadn’t been for the fire.”

”Yes, that sounds likely. Well, since the fire department was out there, they would have said if they’d found anyone alive. I’m sure it can wait until the morning.”

”Yes, you’re right. Let’s go home. Can I drop you off somewhere?”

”Thanks.”

Grace dropped Stella off, then returned home. She couldn’t stop thinking about Luke and – Shaking her head, she forced herself to calm down. All this excitement wouldn’t be good for her heart. A cup of tea. A sandwich. Then bed. Tomorrow, she would get back to work on the case.

Spence turned out not to be at all unwilling to go out to the burned out shell of a house. Eve took a forensics team and joined him. While they were working, Grace and Stella waited behind their desks, trying to pay attention to a few older cases or at least typing a few reports.

Towards late afternoon, Eve called in.

”You were right, Grace. We’ve found three bodies so far. All male. I’m bringing them back to the lab. We won’t get more much today. The light is going, but I’m leaving a team for a few more hours.”

”Thanks. Is Spence going too?”

”Yes, there’s not much point in him sticking around now. What did you have in mind?”

”The suspect. The man who came into the hospital at the same time as Luke. Spence could talk to him. In fact, I’ll come with him.”

”You do that.”

”Right.”

Grace decided to go and talk to Stella, before she left. This late in the afternoon, she would most likely not be back to the office today.

”I just talked to Eve. She’s found three bodies and is taking them back here. I’m going with Spence to question the suspect. At the hospital.”

”And you don’t want me to come with you?”

”Not this time. Finish your old reports and then you can go home. If something comes up, call me or Spence. I suppose it’s too much to hope for that they’ll send us someone to replace Boyd temporarily. It won’t have be a Detective Superintendent or even a DI. I’d settle for a DS.”

”Alright. Good luck.”

Stella thought Grace would need it, no matter what she found out. Since this case was connected to Boyd’s son, Grace would probably have to contact Boyd and Stella wouldn’t like to do that for all the gold in the world. Though maybe Grace was braver than she was.

Though Stella didn’t know it, Grace’s thoughts were moving in the same direction. She was glad she wouldn’t have to report back to Boyd just yet. Forty minutes later, Eve walked in and only a few minutes later, Spence.

It turned out Eve had mentioned the suspect to Spence so he was prepared to leave at once.

”I have some paperwork on him. Bertram Craig. 56. Nothing so far from his records, but we haven’t seen everything yet.”

”We could ask Stella to -”

”Good idea.”

It seemed Spence expected Grace to inform Stella, so she did. Stella looked pleased to be able to help, and got to work at once with her search.

Spence and Grace left in separate cars, but pulled into adjacent parking spots outside the Colchester County Hospital. By now, it was almost fully dark, but the parking lot was well lit, as was, naturally, the hospital.

Spence showed the nurse behind the information desk his ID. Grace followed his example. The nurse showed no curiosity, merely directed them to the right floor. Upstairs, Spence followed procedure and let the nurse up there take them to the patient.

Unfortunately, the were greeted by a defiant, silent man, who seemed intent on not giving anything away. Not even when Spence confronted him with the information about the dead bodies found on his property, did the man show much reaction. Grace was beginning to think she might not get much out the man at all, and certainly not this evening. If he was as disturbed as she was beginning to suspect, they might have to rely solely on physical evidence. She hoped Eve would have more luck than they were having.

After fifteen minutes of stubborn silence, they decided to give up. If Grace was able to question the man on her own, perhaps she might get further, but at the moment, it would be better to wait for Eve’s report and – if Luke would be willing to talk – a witness account from a survivor. For all they knew, there might be more surviving witnesses and possibly, as Eve had guessed, more bodies. In the meantime, Grace might as well face the music. She would have to talk to Boyd sooner or later. It might as well be this evening. She would just wait until she got home. If she could just sit down and have a cup of tea –

She and Spence parted ways in the parking lot. Grace only took time to make a brief phone call to Stella, who hadn’t found anything as yet, but was hopeful she might find something once she got in touch with the police department at a former address of the suspect.

”I’m going home now, Stella. You go too, if you’re finished.”

”I will, thank you. See you tomorrow.”

”Yes. Have a good evening.”

As she was driving home, Grace’s mind dwelled uncomfortably on the upcoming phone call with Boyd. Normally, she was much more resigned to Boyd’s moods, but this – it cut a bit too close for comfort. Still, it needed to be done, and maybe she could help. If Luke would find it easier to confide in her – At least they could try. Boyd had to know he wasn’t allowed to investigate the case, or at this time, any case. Certainly not one involving his own son. She would have to make sure he saw that, or this case might be contaminated beyond salvation. Even Grace knew that, after all her years working with the Cold Case unit.

She put off the phone call until she had had time to change and prepare a cup of tea, then finished the tea before she picked up the phone. There was no reason to let Boyd’s temper ruin her whole evening.

”Boyd.”

”It’s me. Grace. I was wondering – has Luke talked to you at all about – that man and the house.”

”No. He’s not really said anything. Why?”

”Well, I went to find that girl we talked to the last time, if you remember her.”

”Yes. Of course I do. Did she have anything useful to add?”

”Yes. She told me about a man who – liked blond young men. Who would look for new ones regularly. And once he’d found them, the girl said that they never come back.”

There was a long silence.

”I’ll try to talk to Luke -”

”Do you think he might open up more to me?”

”He’s my son.”

”Yes, exactly. Whatever you find out, won’t be admissible in court. You know that. If you prefer, you could ask Spence -”

Boyd seemed to hesitate. Then he appeared to come to a decision.

”Alright. You try. Perhaps you’re right. A woman -”

”I’ll go and see Luke at the hospital tomorrow, if they’ll let me.”

”He seemed to be in relatively good shape. I think they’ll let you. Are you sure -”

”Yes?”

”Are you up to it?”

Despite herself, Grace was touched. Surely this meant that Boyd had some consideration for her? Or was it just a hint at her delicate health condition?

”Yes. I’ll be fine.”

Again, Boyd hung up on her without saying goodbye, but she was just relieved the conversation was over. The truth was, she was a bit nervous about her first encounter with Luke. But this was a job, pure and simple. She had interviewed plenty of witnesses in the past. There was no reason why she shouldn’t be able to manage this too.

After Boyd had hung up, he considered what Grace had told him. In a way, he wasn’t surprised. There had to be a reason this man had picked up these young men and he already knew about Luke’s addiction and – the rest of it. Even so, it was hard to stop the images floating into his mind. That day, that man – and Luke on his knees – With an effort, Boyd turned his mind away from the imagery. It was better that Grace talked to the boy. As a psychologist and – Boyd imagined – as a woman – she would be better prepared to deal with any –

Amazingly, Eve had a preliminary report on one of the bodies the following morning and Grace had a feeling she would be done with the other two before the end of the day. He too had injuries similar to those of the two other victims. Even if they would find more bodies or even another survivor, Grace had a feeling they might already have enough to get the suspect. That reminded her of her interview with Luke. For the first time for many years, she had butterflies in her stomach. Not that that was an excuse to put the interview off. No one would be needing her here anyway, so she might as well go.

When she’d parked outside the hospital, she remained in her car, collecting herself. In a way, this would be just like an ordinary interview, though she knew there was more to it than that. She should have brought either Spence or Stella, but this wasn’t a formal interview and in the past she had dealt with witnesses on her own too, so whatever she learned, if Luke was willing to talk, would still be valid.

No use putting it off any longer. Time to face Luke.

Once again she went through the routine of displaying her ID, being directed upstairs, then taken to the patient’s room. She was hoping things would be different this time, but there were never any guarantees.

When she walked in, Luke was actually awake and more or less sitting up. Just as Boyd had said, he did look relatively well, despite the bandages. At least physically. Grace could only imagine how he was feeling. It occurred to her that though she had her suspicions about his experiences in that house, she didn’t really know anything yet. A lot would depend on this interview.

”Hello, Luke. I’m Dr Grace Foley. I – work with your father.”

Why was that so hard? She’d done this a thousand times. Of course she knew what was different this time, and hastily pushed on.

Luke didn’t react very much to her introduction, and she decided to take that as encouragement, although not a very enthusiastic one.

”I was wondering if you feel up to answering a few questions.”

He studied her for a while, then nodded.

”Thank you.”

She had mulled over this interview so many times since last night. When it was time for her to get up, she doubted she had had more than four hours of sleep, at best. Even on the way over, she’d tried and discarded questions. But this was really like any other interview, at least as far as the questions were concerned. She should be able to rely on her experience.

”Luke – we found three dead young men out at that house. Buried. I was wondering if you could tell me a little about why you found yourself out there and – what happened while you were there.”

This was a calculated risk, but she had felt it might be worth it, if it made Luke realize how serious this investigation was.

Unfortunately, Luke looked so disturbed, she feared she had miscalculated and she regretted her idea immediately. She waited a while, but there was no reply. Perhaps if she started with something else – Something she already knew the answer to.

”That fire – do you know what happened?”

It looked as if Luke was visibly collecting himself, trying to calm down.

”I set it.”

”Oh.”

Just as she had known. Luke seemed to sense what she was thinking.

”I – knew he wasn’t going to let me go, so – And my dad – I thought he might – at least I was hoping he would find me, but – do you know what’s up with him? When he came to see me here, he seemed confused. Talked about me being dead, and something about an overdose and – my phone? I lost that just before that man found me. But the rest -”

”Didn’t your father tell you that they’d found a dead young man who very closely resembled you?”

”No. Oh. Not so confused then. And he thought it was me?”

”Yes. We all did. Or at least I did.”

”I see.”

”How do you feel now, Luke? Are you in any pain?”

”Not really. They keep me shot up with painkillers so that’s great.”

”And – your – addiction?”

She could tell that this wasn’t part of what he was willing to discuss, but in the end he managed a shrug.

”I’m doing alright, I think. When I was out there – he didn’t have much for me and since he didn’t let me go, I couldn’t get anything either so – He had some wine. Pills. Not my usual – so anyway, you can tell dad I’m doing as well as can be expected.”

”Luke, it really is very important that you tell me what happened out there. Those other four young men – they can’t speak for themselves anymore. Only you can. If we’re going to put that man away for as long as he deserves, we need evidence. The doctors have examined you so I know something about what he did, but it would help if you told me more. How he found you. Anything at all you’d be willing to tell me about – his behaviour.”

Luke considered her question gloomily, then shrugged and looked up again, facing her.

”If the doctors have told you what he did, I don’t see what else I can tell you.”

”How did he find you?”

”How? He was looking around, window shopping. How do you think they find us? He seemed to like what he saw and told me how much money he was willing to give me and I – needed the money, as you might be able to guess. I went off with him in his car. To that house. If I’d known he wasn’t going to let me go, I wouldn’t have come, but -”

Grace nodded.

”Anything at all you can tell me about his behaviour would help. Was he different – from other -”

”Others? Yes. Far more – strange. Bizarre. I – please. I don’t want to talk about it.”

”I understand, but -”

It was useless. Luke wasn’t going to tell her anything more today. Maybe if she came back later and he began to trust her more, he might say more. Besides, she couldn’t bring herself to press him any more. It was clear that her questions were causing him distress and that was the last thing she wanted.

”It’s alright, Luke. Never mind. I’m glad you’re safe here. Rest. Do your best to get well again.”

He nodded, looking slightly surprised at how easily she gave up.

”Will my dad be back?”

”Probably. I’m sure he wants to see you.”

”Will he be asking me about – that man?”

”No. Your dad – is on temporary leave until this case is resolved. So he’ll just come as your dad.”

Luke rolled his eyes.

”Oh, nice. What a treat.”

Grace smiled. When Luke smiled like that he was so pretty. What a lovely little boy he must have been.

”Well, you’d know. If you work with him.”

She made a non-committal noise.

”I should get going. Take care.”

Luke regarded her seriously, then smiled again.

”You too. Enjoy your time off from my dad.”

”Thank you.”

What a lovely boy he must have been. Such a shame he had ended up living like this. She couldn’t help thinking that Boyd had had something to do with it. Perhaps they were just too much alike and ended up in constant conflict. But no, Luke seemed nothing like his father. She shook her head and gave up that train of thought. It would never lead anywhere productive.

Luke wasn’t surprised when his dad walked in, not fifteen minutes after that lady had left. At least she had been nice. Surprisingly considerate of his feelings. Of course she wasn’t a copper. Doctor? What sort of doctor? But his father’s visit took his mind off the earlier visitor.

”How are you feeling, Luke?”

”Quite well. I heard you’re on leave.”

To Luke’s surprise, his father looked embarrassed. What was going on? His father merely shrugged and did his best to change the subject.

”I brought this – I wasn’t sure but -”

It was a box of chocolates. Amazing. Luke could hardly remember a single time in the past when his father had given him anything other than lectures.

”Oh. Thanks.”

His dad put the box down on the bedside table and pulled the chair closer. If he started asking questions again –

But that lady – Dr Foley – had been right. He didn’t mention the case at all.

”Luke – I was thinking – I was hoping – that you might want to stay with me when you get out of the hospital. Do you think you could do that?”

”What? You don’t want to lock me up somewhere to get cleaned up?”

”I thought – since I’m off work anyway, I could try to – help you.”

Amazing. The old man actually sounded – Luke couldn’t think of a word, but whatever it was, was far from his father’s old abrasive behaviour.

”Maybe.”

”Good.”

”What about mum?”

To Luke’s surprise, his dad once again looked – embarrassed. As if he’d been caught out somehow. What was going on? He couldn’t figure it out.

”Oh. I’ve let her know that you’re here.”

”Dr Foley said they’d found a guy who looked like me. You thought I was dead. Did mum think so too? Or didn’t you tell her?”

”I – uh – yes. I told her, and now I’ve told her it was a mistake.”

”I see.”

Luke decided that the next time he saw Dr Foley or anyone other than his dad who might know, he would ask what his dad had done to be taken off work like that. He’d never heard of him even taking time off in the past. At least not since he was ten years old or so when the whole family had gone to Spain for the holidays.

Boyd was dwelling miserably on what Luke had been going through in the past years. Most of all in that house. He still hadn’t heard from Grace. Had Luke confided in her? Not that Luke’s testimony would change much. He’d learned enough from the doctor’s report. It was intolerable. That someone had done those things to his son. And before that – Boyd clenched his fists.

”Well, I should let you get some rest. I’ll talk to the doctors and see when you’ll be well enough to go – to my place.”

”Alright. I’m feeling quite well, but – I don’t know about the burns.”

”Right. I’ll – be back tomorrow?”

Incredible. His father sounded as if he was asking how he – Luke – felt about a visit from him. For a second, Luke was wondering if he really was dead and this was just some weird – afterlife vision. But whenever the painkillers wore off, he felt the pain in the burns and he knew all this was real.

”Alright. See you then.”

At least until his dad started shouting at him.

”Bye.”

”Bye.”

Luke watched his father walk away. As long as his dad didn’t get any worse than this, he supposed he would be able to stand staying at his place. If his dad got back to normal again, he could always leave. He knew how to get by out there. This time he wouldn’t go off with some sick bastard like that man. Luke suddenly recalled the four dead young men. It could easily have been him. He could see why Dr Foley wanted to know about that man’s behaviour, but – how could he tell anyone about what he’d done to him? No punter was ever easy to deal with, but this – he shuddered. And if he told her, she would probably have to tell his dad too. No. He’d die if the old man found out. Better to just focus on the good things. Being alive. Out of there. His dad behaving like a human being. And Dr Foley really had been nice. Without thinking, Luke reached for the box of chocolates and opened it. He wasn’t really into sweet stuff, but he was beginning to get some of his appetite back.

FIN

© Tonica