DC Walker absently took a sip of his coffee as he watched the CCTV monitor. The woman was sat in the interview room, her coat pulled tightly around her. Blood matted the expensive looking fur in dark clumps, precious DNA evidence yet to be collected. He had tried on several occasions but no-one in his team had been able to persuade the woman to give it up. More physical attempts of retrieving it had led to such a frenzied outburst that his sergeant had ordered them to leave it. Walker looked at the pixilated face gazing back at him as he took another gulp of coffee. He’d dealt with many a murder before, and interviewed many a suspect. But none like this one.
He slowly opened the door to the interview room and paused. The woman didn’t move. Her wide eyes remained fixed on the mirrored wall directly ahead of her. Dark makeup was smudged under her eyes, lipstick stained the skin around her mouth. Her knees were at her chest, her feet tucked onto the standard issue plastic chair, bare ankles betraying her physical delicacy. How she could be responsible for what Walker had seen... well, it didn’t add up.
The woman tightened the grip on her coat as Walker shut the door behind him. She turned her gaze towards him as he sat down on the chair across from her. With difficulty his eyes met hers.
“Look Miss, I think we are going to be here for a while. Can’t you at least give me your first name?”
The woman’s eyes bored into his. She said nothing. Walker sighed and sat back in his chair.
“Okay then. I’m going to give you a name for now, just to try and make things feel a bit more... comfortable. What about Sally? Will that do?”
The woman didn’t move. Walker nodded to himself and looked around the room.
“Well Sally, I’ve got a specialist officer coming over to give you a psychological assessment. I have to say, I’m quite worried about you, and...”
“I don’t need a doctor.”
Walker looked at her. He had barely caught the words, she had spoken so quietly.
“Fair enough, but I think we should have you assessed, all the same. Then I’m hoping we can start working together to get us both out of here as soon as possible.”
Sally held his gaze.
“I won’t be going anywhere.”
“I’m afraid you will be, Sally. Whether it is home or down to Holloway is really up to you.”
“I don’t think it is.”
Sally’s gaze slid back to the mirror. Walker looked down at the table.
“Okay then. But sooner or later you are going to have to co-operate. Nobody wants to hurt you, but we need to establish what happened last night. And you are withholding evidence. It won’t do you any favours in the long run.”
Sally’s gaze didn’t flicker. Taking a deep breath, Walker pushed himself out of his chair and walked to the door.
I just had to have it. As soon as I laid eyes on it I knew it had to be mine. Even without touching it, I knew the fur would be a soft as silk. Putting it on felt like coming home, the heaviness of the coat warming me like a hug from long lost friend.
“I’m sorry dear, but that one isn’t for sale.”
The shop assistant had smiled but the thinness of her lips betrayed her resolve. I soon cracked that. Whether it was down to my natural charm or the offer of £500 cash that did it, I don’t know. My persuasive nature had done me well in the past and landed me quite a handsome divorce settlement. A beautiful piece of vintage fur was just what I needed to complete my transition from down-beaten housewife to sophisticated, self-sufficient woman.
Back in my flat overlooking the park, I eyed my purchase as I half-heartedly emptied another box. Hanging on the back of my bedroom door, it hovered in the periphery of my vision as I attempted to sort through more stuff. With a sigh, I straightened up from my labours and ineffectively massaged my lower back. My eyes fell onto the coat once more. It looked so alluring, so delicious. I shivered, suddenly cold. Outside the sun was setting. The room was getting dark, the haphazard collection of furniture I had been collecting over the last five weeks falling into shadow.
It seemed harmless enough, putting it on, silly even. Okay, I was only hanging around at home trying to put my new life in order, and it certainly looked out of place teamed with my old Levi’s. I just couldn’t resist it. As I wrapped it around my goose-bumped arms, a wave of warmth spread from my belly through to the tips of my body.
It’s hard to describe how I felt. At first I tried to continue with the task in hand but my hands became restless, the chore of putting away my shoes irritating them with its banality. Humming to myself, I threw them into the bottom of my wardrobe and flipped the door closed. It suddenly struck me that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to. I was a free agent, and I’d had enough of tidying up, keeping up appearances and doing what I was supposed to do.
I padded out into the tiny hallway and through to the open-plan living room. Still humming, I opened the fridge. The bottle of white I had remembered as being almost full was decidedly empty. Shrugging, I turned to the cupboards I had stuffed with an eclectic selection of food. The forgotten bottle of Shiraz I was hoping to find wasn’t there. With a cheerful tsk I meandered back to my bedroom and pulled my make-up bag out of a holdall. If a good time wasn’t going to come to me, I was going to have to find it.
Dr Yates gently closed the door behind her. She smiled tightly at the waiting rookie and nodded politely when he enquired if she was done.
“So doc, is she barking or just your run-of the mill cold blooded killer?”
Yates kept her smile firmly in place and walked out of the custody suite without a reply. Flashing her visitor’s pass she jogged up the stairs to Walker’s office. Taking a deep breath, she raised her hand to knock. The door swung open before her hand made contact with the wood. She stepped back quickly as the detective flew out. He looked at her with surprise.
“Ah, doctor. Didn’t see you there. I was just popping out.”
Yates looked down at the crumpled packet of Marlboros in his hand and raised an eyebrow.
“So I see. Why don’t I come with you and fill you in whilst you get your nicotine fix?”
“I would value your company.” He winked and turned to stride towards the fire exit.
Outside the night’s chill lingered in the air. Yates looked at her watch. 7.57. She shivered and wrapped her jacket tight around her. Walker clicked a flame from his lighter and pulled deeply at his cigarette. As he inhaled, he watched the doctor as she absently rubbed warmth into her arms.
“So, how did you get on with our little friend?”
Yates looked at him sharply before turning her attention to the grim rooftop skyline below.
“Well, our “little friend” is quite clearly in a state of shock. And absolutely terrified. She doesn’t have a clue why she is here.” She looked Walker in the eye. “And she doesn’t trust you.”
Walker laughed through a plume of acrid smoke.
“I guess the feeling is mutual. I don’t trust women who walk around London in the early hours covered in blood with a knife in their hands.”
The doctor watched him as he took another drag of his cigarette.
“So you really think she did it?”
Walker raised his eyebrows.
“The evidence would suggest so. The knife won’t come back from forensics for a while yet but her prints will be all over it. And the blood... if it doesn’t match with that of the victim then I’ll...” He dropped his cigarette onto the metal step and crushed it under his shoe. “I’ll quit smoking.”
“I commend you for that. And I don’t dispute the fact that it probably is his blood. I just don’t think she did it.”
Pushing open the door, Walker looked at her, his face suddenly stern.
“Don’t tell me you believe her sob story.”
He gestured the doctor through the door. Yates obliged, being careful not to make physical contact.
“Please don’t insult my intelligence Walker. What I am saying is that, after my initial assessment, I find it hard to believe that she has the capability of killing anything.”
Walker closed the fire exit door and squinted against the yellow light filling the corridor.
“She has the perfect motive.”
Walker held her gaze for a moment. He shook his head and strode past her towards his office.
“Okay. Maybe you could have another chat with her and try to figure out what did happened last night. ‘Cause, quite honestly, I don’t have the time.” He looked back at Yates as he pulled open his office door. “And whilst you’re at it, if you could get that damn coat off her, that would be great.”
Warm stagnant air hit my face as the bouncer pushed open the door. The club was almost as dark as the street outside. The stage at the back of the room was illuminated, blue light giving the redundant double bass and drum kit a surreal glow. Glass candle holders sat like beacons on tables scattered across the room. I felt several pairs of eyes watching me as I walked towards the bar, my shoulders back and my head held high. There was a time when I wouldn’t have dared walk into a bar on my own, certainly without the purpose of meeting someone. But that was then.
I slid onto one of the stools and plucked a menu from between the pumps. As I skimmed through the list of bourbons I noticed the server watching me. I looked up and caught his eye. He was probably no more than twenty-five, a student or wannabe musician paying his way mixing drinks. He held my gaze as he walked over. His hair looked black against his pale skin. Resting his hands on the bar he leant towards me.
“What can I get you?”
Swiftly I glanced down at my menu, not wanting to break eye contact.
“A whisky sour, please.”
His lips curled into a lazy smile. He turned to the row of bottles behind him. I watched his back as he worked. A fitted t-shirt showed off his angular shoulders, the low slung jeans a slim pair of hips. My eyes slowly met his as he turned and placed the drink in front of me.
“There you go. Six-fifty.”
I pulled a note from my clutch and handed it to him.
“Keep the change.”
He raised an eyebrow as he slammed the till shut.
“Thanks.” He nodded at my fur as I slipped it off my shoulders. “Nice coat by the way.”
I smiled and instinctively pulled it back on. I took a sip of my drink. The sharpness of the flavour made me sigh as the alcohol slowly warmed me. The barman eyed me as he polished a glass.
“Mmm, that’s good.”
“My speciality. Not seen you in here before. You a tourist?”
I took another sip before answering.
“No. Just trying somewhere, something new.”
The barman nodded.
“Well, he’s a fucking idiot.”
I felt my smile slide.
He put down the glass in his hand and plucked up the next one.
“The guy who let you go. You’ve just split up with someone, right?” He looked up at me slyly. “Divorced?”
I cocked my head to one side.
“How very perceptive of you. So, what gave it away? My age?”
His laugh was smooth and rich.
“Not exactly. But most women who go out on their own “to try something new” as you put it, dressed up to the nines, are doing it because they have been set free. Liberated. From a man.”
I laced my fingers together and sat forward, my elbows on the bar.
“So is that how you see relationships then? As a kind of captivity?”
He looked at me again.
“Not always. But more often than not.”
“I guess that’s easy to say at your age.”
“Age doesn’t always accurately depict how much you have lived.”
I held his gaze as I drained the rest of my drink. I slammed the empty glass down on the polished wood.
“Maybe not. I’ll have another please barman.”
He laughed again and shook his head as he cleared away my glass.
“Whatever you say. But if you are planning on carrying on drinking these at this rate, I think you can call me Josh.”
I held my hand out daintily.
“Nice to meet you Josh.”
“The pleasures all mine. And you are?”
I raised an eyebrow as he kissed the back of my hand.
“I think you know too much about me already without knowing my name as well, don’t you?”
Yates looked up from her notes. The woman was staring at her with emotionless eyes. The doctor averted hers back to the table, immediately berating herself for betraying her unease. She cleared her throat.
“I understand Walker has decided to call you Sally.” She glanced up. The woman stared back. “I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable doing that. Your name is an integral part of your identity, don’t you think?”
The woman’s eyes flickered.
“I’m not sure I know who I am anymore, doctor.” She said softly.
Yates rested her forearms on the table in front of her.
“That must be frightening. What makes you feel like that?”
The woman shrugged limply.
“That policeman said that... that I did things. I had a knife. And the blood...” Her voice rose as she glanced down at her coat. She looked at Yates, her eyes suddenly wild. “I’m scared of who I might be.”
“I understand. I’d like to help you figure out what happened last night so that you feel less scared, but I’d feel much more comfortable doing that if I could call you by your name.”
The woman studied the doctor’s face closely. Eventually she spoke.
“Okay, but I want to know your name too. Your first name, I mean.”
Yates hoped her smile was reassuring.
“Of course. It’s Emma.”
“Emma.” The woman repeated the name quietly. She looked at her hands. “That’s a nice name.”
“Thank you. So, do you feel like you can tell me yours?”
“I think that I have to.” The woman bit her lip and glanced up. “My name is Marilyn.”
Collapsing onto the back seat of the taxi, I looked up at the ceiling. My head was swimming, intoxicated with alcohol and sex. I pulled my coat around me and closed my eyes.
“Where in Angel do you want to go?”
I let my head loll forwards and smiled at the driver.
“Theberton Street. Off Upper Street.”
The driver’s cigarette-aged face creased.
“You okay? You’re not going to be sick in the back of my cab are you?”
I dropped my head to one side and laughed loudly. The shrillness of the sound surprised me.
“Oh, I promise. I’ve never felt better in my entire life.” I rested my head against the seat and closed my eyes once more. “You can drive now.”
I could hear the driver’s hesitation before the locks clicked shut and the taxi shifted into gear. As he pulled off I wrapped my coat around me and opened my eyes. The streets were almost deserted, only the occasional all nighters dotted the pavements as they staggered home. I caressed my fur. Its softness soothed my almost manic state. I felt high, alive again after years of only existing. And I needed to let him know how I had changed, to thank him for setting me free.
As we pulled up outside the familiar townhouse, I slid a twenty under the protective partition. I jumped out of the taxi without collecting my change and trotted up the steps to the heavy front door. As I rang the doorbell I heard the taxi pull away. A long minute passed before I leant on the bell again.
Light streamed through the stained glass window above the door. I heard his footsteps approach from the other side and quickly smoothed my hair. The lock turned.
He peered out from the gap the chain allowed. His dark hair, streaked with more greys than I remembered, was mussed with sleep.
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
His confusion made me giggle.
“Oh Simon. Nothing’s wrong. I was just in the area and thought I’d drop by to say hello.”
He rubbed his face roughly.
“Marilyn, it’s four in the morning. Not a normal time to be popping in for a cuppa.” He narrowed his eyes. “Have you taken something?”
I threw my head back and laughed again.
“No, my darling, I haven’t taken anything. I’m just happy, that’s all.” I looked him straight in the eye. “Now, are you going to let me in or are you going to bring the coffee outside?”
Simon took a deep breath.
“Can’t we do this tomorrow? Or rather, later today?”
“No, we can’t. You owe me.”
The sudden change in my tone had the desired effect. The kitchen looked different. The black marble worktop gleamed, the chrome sparkled. Not a single utensil was out of place.
“I see you haven’t managed to cook for yourself yet?”
Simon kept his back to me as he poured boiling water into the cafetierre. I watched him as he turned to the fridge and pulled out a pint of milk.
“And full fat milk? Really Simon, that will go straight to your paunch.”
I heard him inhale deeply as he poured.
“So, is that why you came here? To have a go?”
“Oh no, not at all. Like I said I had a really wonderful evening and thought I’d drop by to tell you about it.”
His gaze didn’t leave his hand as he passed over a steaming cup of coffee. I made sure my fingers touched his as I took it from him. His gaze flickered.
“And you thought that the middle of the night was a good time to catch up? I hate to tell you this but most people would consider that a little strange.”
I stared hard at his face. His sandpaper cheeks burned with blood. He looked away.
“Anyway, you’re here now. What do you want to talk about?”
He rested on the kitchen counter behind him and tightened his dressing gown belt. The dressing gown I bought him from Selfridges two Christmases ago. My stomach contracted cruelly.
“I went shopping. I bought this beautiful coat.” I slowly stroked the fur that covered my chest. “Do you like it? It cost five hundred of your hard earned pounds.”
Simon looked at it as he took a sip of coffee.
“It’s very nice. Is that it?”
My laughter made me stagger a bit. Coffee sloshed onto the kitchen floor. Simon flinched.
“No my darling, that isn’t it! Tonight I had a wonderful night. I found a great Blues bar, the sort you wouldn’t be seen dead in. It was perfect. And the bar man was even more perfect.”
I watched his reaction from underneath my eyelashes. He stared back for a few moments before shaking his head at the floor.
“Oh Marilyn. You came here in the middle of the night to tell me you had sex with someone else?”
My mouth curled into a smile. Before I could answer, a floorboard creaked above me. I froze as the noise moved across the ceiling, eventually pausing at the top of the stairs.
“Simon, is everything okay?”
The voice was gentle, female. Young. I looked from the ceiling to Simon.
“Everything’s fine. Go back to bed, I’ll be up in a minute.” He called as he watched me with cold eyes.
The ceiling creaked again as the unseen intruder retreated to the bedroom. My bedroom. My bed. I stared back at him.
Simon’s eyes didn’t leave mine.
“That’s none of your business. We are divorced. We haven’t lived together or slept together in over a year. I’ve moved on.”
My vision blurred, not with tears, but with anger. I gripped the worktop behind me. My breath rasped in my chest. His shape moved towards me.
“Marilyn, I think it’s time for you to leave.”
Wildly I put my hands out and pushed him away.
“You bastard.” I whispered.
He came towards me again.
“Bastard!” I screamed as I lurched forwards, knocking him to one side as I stumbled into the hallway. I heard him crash into the kitchen table as I felt my way to the front door. The building creaked around me as I fumbled with the lock and pushed myself outside. The sky was an inky blue, touched by an unseen sun. I lowered myself down the steps and staggered towards the high street.
It was only when I reached it that I realised I was still screaming.
“You know, you really should agree to see the duty solicitor.”
Marilyn’s eyes met the doctor’s before they returned to the table. Yates watched her as she gnawed around her nails. Blood was starting to shine through thin skin. Marilyn pulled her knees closer to her chest with her free hand.
“A solicitor can’t help me.”
“Well, you aren’t helping yourself right now. DC Walker is convinced you’re guilty, and by refusing to give him your coat you are suggesting you have something to hide.”
Marilyn let her head hang over her chest.
“I know, but I can’t. I...”
“Why can’t you, Marilyn?”
The desperation in Marilyn’s eyes took Yates by surprise. The doctor’s face softened.
“I’m sorry. I’m just struggling to understand.”
“I don’t expect you to understand.”
The two women stared at each other across the table. Slowly, Marilyn uncurled and tepidly placed her feet on the floor. Clutching the edge of the table, she leant forwards.
“I think the coat has done something to me.”
Yates pushed aside her rational response.
Marilyn took a jagged breath.
“I think, I think it has made me different, made me do things. And I’m scared of what will happen if I take it off.”
Yates nodded calmly, silently chastising herself for missing a straight forward case of psychosis. She chose her tone carefully.
“But if it makes you do things, surely taking it off will mean they stop.”
Marilyn looked at her hands.
“It might. But... but it would make the other things stop too. The things I like. The feeling alive, feeling like a woman again, feeling strong...”
As she spoke her voice rose with confidence and a smile touched her lips. She slid back in the chair and pulled the coat closer, letting her head hang back as she looked at the ceiling. The doctor watched her in silence.
“So Emma, what do we do now?”
Yates looked down at her notepad.
“I don’t know Marilyn. What do you think we should do?”
A sharp knock at the door made her jump. She looked around to see Walker stride in, a couple of female officers behind him. He was breathing heavily. The scent of stale coffee and tobacco tainted the air.
“Doctor, sorry to interrupt, but there has been a development.”
Yates looked back at Marilyn. She was curled once more into a tight ball on the edge of her seat. The doctor looked back at the detective.
“Yes, what is it?”
Walker looked pointedly at the door behind him.
“Can we discuss it outside please?”
Yates turned back to her patient. Her eyes were wide again, her skin even paler. The doctor smiled.
It’s okay, I’ll be right back.”
As she stood up the other woman lurched across the table and grabbed her wrist. Instantly the two constables were at her side.
Yates held up her free hand and looked at Marilyn. Tears were already streaking her face.
“Don’t leave me with them, Emma. Please.”
Her voice was like a child’s. Yates smiled again as she gently loosened Marilyn’s grip.
“You’ll be fine. Just fine.”
She turned and slowly walked out of the room. Walker followed and was soon striding ahead of her. Yates picked up her pace to a jog.
“What was that about?”
He waited until they were out of the custody suite before turning to face her.
“You tell me. You’re the bloody psychiatrist.”
Yates folded her arms across her chest.
“Look, I was actually getting somewhere in there. What did you drag me out for? Or was it just a case of feeling the need to assert your authority?”
Walker looked at her sharply.
“You haven’t got a bloody clue. I got you out of there because we found another victim.”
Walker took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He ran his hand over his hair.
“I sent a car over to the address where that cabbie picked her up. No-one answered the door, but it was open. Anyway, the boys went in and...”
The lines on his forehead deepened as he hesitated.
“They found a young man, early twenties, lying on his bed. With a broken bottle of Jack Daniels...”
Walker tilted his head to one side and pointed at his exposed neck. Yates felt the colour drain from her face.
Walker looked past the doctor and grimaced.
“Anyway, the sarge has had enough of this fannying about. Forensics are going to head over to the new crime scene once they have finished off at the ex-marital home. In the meantime we need to get some evidence from our friend here.” He thrust his hands into his pockets. “So, Yates, you are excused.”
Yates looked at him blankly.
“What do you mean? I’m making real progress. She has some delusion that the coat has a kind of control over her. Give me another hour and I can get it for you.”
Walker twisted his mouth.
“Sorry love. Like I say, we’ve had enough of the softly softly approach. With a bit of luck my officers will have got it off her already and will be sealing it up for the lab as we speak.”
A scream pierced the air. Yates, her mouth open to protest, felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. She stood motionless, the pain ringing in her ears as the detective walked away.
Oh God oh God. No, please don’t do this to me. No, don’t take it, no it hurts, it’s killing me, please stop, please please, don’t.
Walker sat heavily at his desk and rubbed his eyes as he tapped his keyboard. Scanning through his emails, he selected a funny, hoping the twisted humour of one of his colleagues would help alleviate the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach. He shook his head. He had targets, expectations to fulfil, and way too many unsolved cases piled up on his desk. He had done what he had to do, and if that had meant pissing off some doctor masquerading as a police officer and being a little bit harsh with a homicidal nutcase, well, it was out of his hands. He squeezed his eyes closed and blinked at the monitor in front of him. He had barely read the first line when the phone rang. Cursing, he picked up the receiver and hooked it under his chin.
On the other end of the phone he could hear several people shouting, hurried footsteps, banging.
“Walker? It’s the custody sergeant here. Get your fucking arse down here right now.”
Walker felt his chest tighten.
“Your fucking suspect, that’s what happened. I have two injured constables down here and a dead body.”
Walker swallowed back rising bile.
“She killed again? How?”
The sergeant laughed hollowly.
“Not quite. She managed to bite a chunk out of the back of PC Khan’s hand and had a good go at Langley’s face though. Before she carked it.”
Walker knocked a tower of paperwork to the floor as he sprang out of his chair.
“You heard me. They finally got that coat off her and she just dropped down. I’m guessing a heart attack or something. Whatever it was, it doesn’t look good though, does it?”
“Never mind him. Just get here. Now.”
It was a crazy thing to do, I know. I just wanted to try it on. I know I shouldn’t have, what with it being evidence and all, but it didn’t do any harm. I’ve never worn fur before. So it’s in a bit of a mess, but it felt really good. I can’t wait to get it back from the cleaners. It will look great with my new dress and those heels for Alan’s birthday party next weekend.
I’ll get in real trouble if anyone figures I’ve taken it. But forensics have done their tests and the case is pretty much closed. Okay so Walker needs to dot a few I’s and cross a few T’s, but it’s never going to go to court.
Everyone else does it. And it’s done now. There’s no point stressing. Might as well just enjoy it. I mean, what harm can it do?