Home > The Broken (Echoes from the Past #8)

The Broken (Echoes from the Past #8)
Author: Irina Shapiro

Chapter 1

 

June 2015

London, England

 

A miserable drizzle fell from a leaden sky as Quinn left the house, making her hair damp and coating her face with a sheen of moisture. It was nearly the middle of June, but it was cold enough to wear a thick cardigan. She unfurled her umbrella and hurried toward the Tube station. She’d have loved to take a taxi, but traffic always slowed to a crawl when it rained, and it would take longer to travel cross-town by car than by Tube. Rhys was meeting her at an address in Spitalfields, not an area she was overly familiar with.

Quinn descended into the station and consulted the map. Nearly half an hour later she emerged on Shoreditch Road and walked to the address Rhys had texted her. The building was modern, but not very attractive, and had a discreet sign that proclaimed it to be the City Mortuary. Quinn looked around, wondering what on earth Rhys wanted to show her here. He said they had a new case, but nothing that resembled an archeological find could possibly be located here.

Fishing her mobile out of her bag, Quinn checked her messages. She’d left Alex with a child-minder, a twenty-year-old college student who preferred to take evening classes and work during the day. Nicola had stayed with Alex three times to date and seemed to be taking good care of him. Still, Quinn worried and checked her phone multiple times to make sure there were no frantic calls or texts from Nicola. She didn’t want to annoy Nicola, so she rang Gabe instead, but the call went directly to voicemail. Quinn returned her mobile to her bag and looked up and down the street, hoping Rhys would get there soon.

A few moments later, Rhys emerged from a taxi and greeted Quinn with, “Filthy weather. I prefer a good downpour to this pissing rain any day.”

“Good morning to you too,” Quinn replied. She’d been sheltering in the doorway but would be glad to get inside and out of the rain, which was beginning to come down in earnest. “Rhys, what exactly are we doing here?”

“You’ll see. I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.”

“Nothing you do surprises me anymore, so no danger of that.”

“All the same,” Rhys replied as he held the door open for her.

The interior of the building wasn’t any more pleasant than the exterior, and the familiar smell of carbolic and death accosted Quinn’s senses as soon as they advanced down the narrow corridor. A fluorescent light flickered overhead, threatening to go. It was like something out of a bad horror film.

“Nice place,” Quinn commented. Her sarcasm wasn’t lost on Rhys.

“Not all mortuaries are as upscale as Colin Scott’s. This one’s used primarily by the local Criminal Investigations Department, and from what I understand, there’s no shortage of bodies.”

“Lovely,” Quinn replied, wishing desperately to be out in the fresh air, even if the rain was coming down. This place gave her the creeps. A short, portly man came out to greet them. Quinn placed him somewhere in his sixties, but the bald pate and the sizeable paunch probably added years to his appearance. His thick horn-rimmed spectacles made him look like a wise old owl.

“Mr. Morgan, a pleasure to meet you,” the man said, extending his hand.

“Dr. Clegg, this is Dr. Allenby,” Rhys said.

“Dr. Allenby, an honor. I’m a great admirer of your program. I’m fascinated with anything that has to do with human remains. Occupational hazard, I’m afraid,” he said, chuckling. “You have a real talent for bringing history to life. It’s almost as if you’d known those people and had spent time with them. They seem so heartbreakingly alive when you speak of them.”

“Thank you, Dr. Clegg. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the program,” Quinn said, still unsure of why Rhys had brought her to this seedy mortuary.

“Dr. Clegg, if you would be so kind as to fill Dr. Allenby in on the details before showing her the remains.”

“Of course. Let’s talk in my office, shall we? Can I offer you both a cup of coffee?”

“Yes, thank you,” Rhys replied. Quinn nodded. She hadn’t had any breakfast, per Rhys’s suggestion, but thought a coffee would be safe enough. Dr. Clegg guided them to his office and left them to chat while he went to get the coffee.

“Were you alerted to this case by someone who rang the Echoes from the Past hotline?” Quinn asked. Rhys’s assistant had been fielding a surprising number of calls since Rhys set up the hotline a few months ago.

“No. As a matter of fact, I received a call from your pal, Drew Camden, a few days ago. He thought I’d find this one interesting. He’d heard about it from a mate of his on the Met.”

“Drew called you about a case?” Quinn asked with some surprise.

As far as she knew, Rhys and Drew Camden had never met, but they were very much aware of one another, given Quinn’s search for her twin and their respective roles in locating Jo Turing. Quinn sighed. She hadn’t heard from Jo since she had so suddenly departed a fortnight ago, after their trip to Leicester in search of Jo’s daughter, whom she’d given up at birth. Whatever Jo had learned from the letter her father had left for her seemed to have sent her running, but Jo had never so much as said goodbye or provided even the most basic of explanations. Quinn had tried calling her several times since that day, but her mobile was off, and her agent, Charles Sutcliffe, remained mum, although he had assured Quinn that Jo was fine and off on a new assignment somewhere in the Middle East.

“Drew is a fan of the program,” Rhys replied. “He thought we’d be all over this one.”

“And will we?”

“Oh, I think so. Not a pleasant sight though, from what I understand.”

“It rarely is.”

Rhys turned to look at Quinn. “It’s a baby.”

“We’ve come across babies before,” Quinn replied, puzzled by Rhys’s sudden need to coddle her.

“Not like this one.”

Any further questions were forestalled by Dr. Clegg, who returned with three mugs of coffee. The coffee was surprisingly good, and Quinn drank it quickly, grateful for its warmth.

“Right,” Dr. Clegg said as he reached for a file and opened it in front of him. “The remains were discovered just over a fortnight ago at a property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Brock. The Brocks had lived at that address for nearly fifty years, but it seems they weren’t keen gardeners and never bothered much with their back garden. Having recently retired, Mrs. Brock decided it was high time she planted some flowers in her garden and put her elderly husband to work, digging. The Brocks had successfully planted two rose bushes before coming across something wrapped in oilskin. Upon unwrapping the find, which they hoped would be buried treasure, they came across the remains of a child, wrapped in what remained of a woolen shawl. Naturally, they called the police.”

Dr. Clegg took a noisy sip of coffee and adjusted his spectacles, which were sliding down his nose. “I was called in to examine the remains.”

“And what have you discovered?” Rhys asked. He seemed eager to get to the more pertinent details.

“Given that the body had been wrapped in oilcloth, it was insulated from the moisture in the ground, and therefore better preserved than a body that had been buried without would have been. The assumption was that this might have been a recent burial, but upon closer examination, I determined that this child died over fifty years ago, so no official investigation has been opened.”

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