On any given day on the weekend, Her Majesty’s park was filled to the brim with her loyal subjects. They would be cavorting with their dogs, riding tandem bikes on tree-lined paths, or just sitting out for a picnic. However, when the sun shone brightly on Molly Cobble’s corpse, the police made sure that no one was around. She laid sprawled on the concrete in the shadow of a great bronze man riding a fearsome bronze horse. Her clothes were intact, and she would seem like a life size porcelain doll left behind if it was not for the coin sized hole that was driven from her forehead through the back of her skull.
Minimal blood. Strange? wrote Inspector Prescott. His tiny notebook was dwarfed by his immense, pudgy hands. His full moustache rippled as he mouthed the words.
“Damnedable thing, isn’t it?” said Chief Constable Murray. The Chief was a hulking man, all iron and sinew. If the Chief were a warship, Prescott would be a dinner roll. “No bullet, no blood.”
“There is this,” said Prescott, pointing at a slight indentation on the bronze horse’s leg. Murray squinted and leaned close to the indention. It was about the same size as the hole in Molly’s corpse.
“What ever hit her also hit the statue. Poor girl never stood a chance,” said Murray in a remorseful tone. “She was a pretty one.”
“Well, that is neither meat or potatoes Chief. Is Stuart and the rest of the technical team on the way?”
“They are coming, so get all your in situ work done before they pack it up. It is an awfully nice day, and we don’t want to keep the park closed for the whole of it.”
“Yes. We wouldn’t want to inconvenience the living with the dead,” observed Prescott innocently. The Chief huffed and stepped back.
The inspector removed a large sketch pad from his satchel and spread a selection of pencils on the ground where he sat. Quickly, he sketched the position of Molly’s body. He wrote observational impressions where they were appropriate, specifically noting where blood ought to have been. Leaning closer to her, he vaguely drew her face. He always eschewed the detail of victims’ faces. He didn’t want things to become more personal than they were.
He could hear the rattling of the mortuary wagon as it thundered down the street over a mile away. It was clockwork machine, all springs and cogs. Its approach was as discrete as a whale giving birth. Prescott rolled his eyes and shook his head, then re-focused on the task at hand. When the rattle of the mortuary wagon nearly got too loud to bear, it came into sight.
Its giant form and dull black paint made it look like as inviting as a dragon’s mouth. With a piercing screech, it rolled to a stop. Stuart, all smiles, stepped out of the machine with a hop in his step. He loved his job, and it showed clearly on his face.
“We have a passenger?” he asked, obviously hiding a hard candy between his cheek and teeth as he spoke.
“It’ll be a moment or two. The Inspector needs to finish up first,” declared the Chief. “Until then, do you mind telling me why you needed to bring that massive hulk down here for one body? Wouldn’t the run about do?” Murray stood, his arms folded across his chest, his toe tapping impatiently.
“Curly took a hard corner in the V-T and spilled a body in front of the Hangings. The todds were all a flutter,” responded Stuart. His slang ruffled the Chief’s shirt. Every week, Stuart added something new to his vocabulary. Prescott knew that V-T was for vehicular transport and that todds was for kids.
“Hangings?” asked Prescott, offering mercy to the Chief, whom he knew hated asking for clarification.
“Rhyming slang. Can you figure it, Metals?” challenged Stuart as the Chief huffed impatiently.
“It’s an easy one. Since kids are around, it must be related to children somehow. Park, playground, or school? School and fool; the Hanging Fool from the Tarot. Seems simple enough, but there’s the additional connotation that it is a place where foolishness, perhaps meaning ignorance, is hanged,” responded Prescott haughtily. The Chief grinned and grunted his approval.
“You’re no fun, Metals. No fun at all.” Stuart leaned against the mechanized behemoth and lit his dirty pipe. “Be a while, yeah?” he asked per functionally.
“Not long enough for that nonsense,” chastised the Chief. “Her Majesty’s citizens are waiting to enjoy the day, so if the Jack and Alice show is done, let’s get to it.”
“Hoi!” cried out Conners, the other member of the technical team. He was pedaling his bicycle hard up hill. Stuart watched, a bemused expression on his face.
“Harder! Harder!” chanted Stuart. Conners, a thickly-built man with skin dark as bog mud, dismounted the bicycle and let it fall unceremoniously into the grass.
“Stuart! You twat!” he admonished breathlessly. “I told you to wait for me.”
“Maybe if you cycle more, you’ll be able to keep up next time,” joked Stuart.
“Compose yourselves, men.” Murray’s tone was reproachful and strict as he spoke. “There’s a body and there are civilians in ear shot. Respect is called for.” Conners shook his head, his lips mouthing threats at Stuart, who kept smiling until Prescott closed his sketchbook and announced that the scene was ready for the technical team.
Quietly, Conners and Stuart loaded the body into the mortuary wagon and set themselves to the task of cleaning any vestiges of the murder.
“What are your thoughts, Prescott?” asked the Chief Constable.
“Maybe some kind of machine. From what I can see, it looks like some kind of suction drill. But the force behind it would have to be incredible in order to leave a mark in the statue. I’m perplexed at the moment.”
“I hope that some clarity comes soon,” said Murray, “I don’t want to wait for another body to show up. There will be more, won’t there?”
“If this was an isolated incident, the killer would have probably tried to hide the body. Who knows?” Prescott didn’t want to hypothesize too much. He had research to do before he could draw any conclusions. Something this strange was bound to leave a trail.