The Crime Scene
AUTHOR ONE: SCENE ONE
23:12 p.m. Down Town Los Angeles
“Evening, Detective McBride. This is Detective Flynn, what ya got for us?”
As Detective Daniel McBride listened to the low down from the LA CSI forensic team, Detective Kate Flynn drowned out the sirens, and low hum of voices as she moved her eyes over the crime scene. Mr Wang’s Chinese restaurant is normally a busy eatery, popular with tourists and locals. Tonight, it’s cornered off with police tape, and the media everywhere. They circled the scene like a hungry pack of wolves waiting to fed. Flynn glanced over at the restaurant, the steel shutters covered with graffiti are lowed over the entrance.
“McBride, I’ll catch you inside okay? I’m gonna head in and take a look.”
McBride nodded and returned his attention to the forensic team. Detective Flynn made her way over the Mr. Wang’s, she eyed the outside of the building and news reporters with a sharp eye. Mel Turner a well-known CNN News reporter caught Detective Flynn’s eye. Mel jogged toward her, as she stepped in line with Flynn’s path she shoved a microphone under her nose, and a camera man zoomed in on the action.
“Detective, Detective do you have any idea who the killer is?”
“No… not at this point.” Flynn responded avoiding the camera, mindful not to give away too many details. She kept walking at a brisk pace to the crime scene.
“But Detective, you can’t be serious, this is the third murder in one week. You mean to say the LAPD are still clueless about the killer?”
Flynn stopped dead in her tracks, annoyed at the reporter’s bravery. Cleverly, she tried to get a rise out of her with her comment.
“Ma’am get that microphone outta my face. With all due respect, this is a crime scene and y’all need to move away from here.”
Flynn, increased her pace toward Mr. Wang’s, her flat loafers pounded the pavement as a swarm of reporters headed her way. As Flynn approached the restaurant’s entrance, she inhaled a deep breath, cameras flashed behind her.
“Open up, LAPD.” Flynn announced in a flat tone.
A quick badge flash at the forensic team member, covered in a boiler suit, goggles with camera dangling from his neck gained her access.
“Thanks, Detective Flynn. Can you lead me to the body please?”
“This way Detective.”
Flynn stepped over the threshold of the restaurant into what looked like a regular Friday night occurrence. As she scanned the scene of the crime, it appeared tables were dressed in traditional Chinese cloths, delicious Chinese food left half eaten along with glasses of wine. The guests must have been horrified to find out their meal had to be interrupted as the LAPD were on their way.
“Where’s the owner?”
“Right this way ma’am.” The forensic responded over his shoulder as he led Flynn into the kitchen area. Mr. Wang sat on a crate with his head in his hands sobbing. Flynn lower herself to his level.
“Mr. Wang, I’m Detective Kate Flynn.”
“Hmm, Detective, my business, my customer! Everybody leave unhappy no money, I need money to send home, my wife in China.”
Flynn watched Mr. Wang’s tears overflow as he threw his arms around in frustration, gesturing to the empty dining area and LAPD and forensic team crawling all over his restaurant.
“Mr. Wang, I need to ask you a few questions in a moment okay?”
“Hmm hmm.” Is all Mr. Wang responded as he lowered his head and wept some more.
With a sigh, Flynn pulled herself up to her full five foot nine height, then glanced at the forensic to her left.
“Right this way, Detective.”
Another forensic in a full body suit acknowledged Flynn’s presence with a nod, as he took photos of the body outside the back area of the restaurant.
“Stephen, hi. Okay what have we got here?”
“Well, as you can see Detective, the victim is a white female, around her late twenties, found behind the dumpster over here as Mr. Wang put out the trash.”
“Hmm, okay. Any obvious cause of death?”
“No stab wounds, or gunshots noticed. We’ll need to wait for the full autopsy report.”
“Okay, don’t fall asleep on this one, contact the coroner’s office asap. I’ll be over there first thing for a report. Prints, evidence, I need that on my desk before noon tomorrow.”
“Yes ma’am. No problem, Detective.”
Flynn spun on her heel and walked around the outside area of the restaurant, just a small garden area cornered off by a fence. A few dumpsters, bags of trash, nothing appeared obviously out of place. The question was how had the killer gained access to dump the body. She walked over to the open gate and examined the lock another forensic was dusting off, presumably for prints.
“Flynn, how’s it going?”
The sound of Detective McBride’s voice over her shoulder startled her, she was deep in thought, as she imagined what could have motivated the killer to use the back entrance of Mr. Wang’s to dispose the body.
“Not good, white female, late twenties no obvious signs of death as yet.”
McBride rubbed his grey beard, and narrowed his eyes in thought. The contrast of his salted pepper beard against his smooth chocolate skin, gave him a slight Denzel Washington look.
“Shit, same as the other two, hard to say if there’s a link though, they’re the same age group but no connection with the background. One Hispanic and one African- American.”
“Hmm, we need to find out who she is and see.” Flynn responded as she glanced back over at the victim’s body on the floor.
“Right, what about Mr. Wang?”
“He’s inside in tears, concerned over his business, naturally.”
“Take him in, leave no stone unturned. See what he knows.”
“I’m on it.”
McBride watched Flynn make her way back inside the restaurant, then moved his eyes slowly over the scene of the crime. He felt the sense of urgency he felt every time a crime was committed, especially a murder. Three bodies, one week, three females, late twenties and one killer on the loose. He and Flynn, had work to do.
“This is Detective Kate Flynn, today is Monday 28th August 2017. Present is Detective Daniel McBride. This interview is taking place at Los Angeles Police Department, in interview room three. Mr. Wang you are not under arrest, however we’re carrying out routine investigation questions as you were the first one at the crime scene. You are being interviewed under caution, anything you say may be used as evidence in a court of law. For the purposes of the tape can you please confirm your name, and date of birth.”
“My English… no good, I sorry, not perfect.”
“Take your time Mr. Wang, if at any point you don’t understand or need an interpreter please let us know.
Mr. Wang lowered his gaze to the worn brown wooden table, that separated him and the two detectives. He felt nervous, in all his years in America he had never had a brush with the law.
“Okay, I try.”
“Thank you, when you’re ready sir.” McBride reassured him.
“I Chan- Lee Wang, 13th February 1950.”
Flynn took over the questioning, while McBride made swift notes.
“Thank you. Mr. Wang are you the owner of Mr. Wang’s Chinese eatery in downtown Los Angeles?”
“And for how long have you owned that establishment sir?”
“Since I in America.”
“Which was when please sir, when did you arrive?”
“Ten years, 2000.”
“Thank you. Mr. Wang. Can you tell us in your own words what happened tonight, when you found the body?”
Mr. Wang hesitated, the shock of finding a body on his premises put the fear of God into him.
“Okay, okay. I clean plate, put food in trash bag, tie bag and go outside to dumpster… then… then.”
Mr. Wang places his hands over his face, as he broke down sobbing again. He is inaudible behind his sobs. McBride and Flynn glanced at each other, mindful this could all be an act. McBride cleared his throat and took over the lead.
“Mr. Wang if you could continue please sir, when you’re ready.”
“Yes, yes. I go outside to dumpster and push bin to wall, too far forward, not in right place… Then it no push. I look down, behind, I see body.”
“And then what did you do?”
“I ran inside, call police.”
“Did you touch the body at all?”
“No sir … No no no way.”
“Did you recognise the victim?”
“Does anyone else have access to your property Mr. Wang?”
Slowly, Mr. Wang shook his head as if deep in thought.
Feeling as though the interview was leading to a dead end, McBride closed the interview, pending further investigation.
“Thank you, Mr. Wang. That will be all for tonight, it’s late you’ll be released with no further questions– for now.
8:00 a.m. The Coroner’s Office
“Good to see you Kate as always, under such sad circumstances but good nonetheless.”
Dr. Solvinac eyed Flynn over his half-moon glasses, as he finished off his autopsy report.
He took in her tall stature, and short blonde hair. On the outside Flynn was all business, and radiated more of a masculine air about her. Her tailored dark pant suits, low heel loafers, bare fingernails and lack of cosmetics, gave nothing personal away about her or any kind of femininity. Underneath it all, she had a heart of gold. Over the years the two had become close, since she transferred to the LAPD from the Nevada Police Department, Las Vegas.
“Morning Doc, good to see you too.”
Flynn approached the table with caution, on top was the victim from last night. Her pale skin contrasted against her blonde hair.
“So, who is she?”
“Here we have Danielle Bray. Her ID was in her pocket, oddly. The killer must have taken off with her purse.”
“I see, what else do you know?” Flynn pressed as she followed Dr. Solvinac around the table.
“Thirty five years old, a drinker quite heavy, probably been dead around twenty four hours before she was found. Prior to that she had intercourse, semen was present in her mouth and internally, the semen however is mixed there was more than one man.”
“Thirty five! She looks so much younger! McBride and I were sure she was in her twenties.”
“They all look young in death, Kate. Danielle is in her thirties according to her photo ID, and the autopsy I done.”
“I see, and you say more than one man? And the cause of death?”
“Strangulation, not with the hands, more like stockings or some such thing. There was a struggle too. And yes, just to make your job that much harder there were two semen samples found.”
“She was a busy lady.”
“She sure was, I’ll run a check on the samples and come back to you as soon as I can.”
Flynn, bit the inside of her lip and looked over Danielle’s body slowly.
“Thanks Doc, I’ll be in contact.”
“No problem, see you when the next one turns up.” Dr. Solvinac lightly chuckles.
“That’s not funny Doc, we’re gonna find him.”
“Or her, you never know…” Dr. Solvinac retorts.
“Hey, what’s the latest.”
“She’s thirty five.”
“Thirty five, get outta here, really?”
“Yes really, death by strangulation too. Danielle Bray.”
“Hold on a sec, lemme run her name through the database see what it throws up.”
“There’s more, two semen samples present.”
McBride let out a low whistle on the other end of the line.
“I’m on my way to base, see you soon.” Flynn, pressed end on the call to McBride, threw her car in gear and took off.
“Morning.” Flynn responded as she made her way through the open plan office, of the LA Police department, to McBride’s office. As she opened the door her partner was slumped in his chair, deep in concentration looking at his screen. Ever the snappy dresser today McBride had on his pink shirt open at the neck, with no tie and a pair of black braces. Gold cuff links sparkled at his wrists. Without so much of a greeting Flynn got to business.
“So, what’s up, anything come up?”
“Yep, she works over at the bank on Main Street. Minor records on driving offences, drinking under the influence a few years back. Her next of kin is Leena Bray her younger sister.”
“Right, we better pay a visit and give her the news, then come back and see if this case links up with Kelsey Lopez and DeLisa Jones.” McBride responded as he stood up and reached for his suit jacket.
“Hard to say, Kelsey Lopez, Hispanic, poor, unemployed, DeLisa Jones African- American from a good background, with a nine-five. What the hell could these three women all have in common?”
McBride blew out a slow breath at Flynn’s question. “Wrong place, and the wrong time that’s all we know for now.”
“Can I help you?”
“Detective McBride, this here is Detective Flynn.”
McBride flashed his badge, and Colgate white smile at the pretty blonde who opened the door. Flynn remained poker faced, and unfazed.
“Are you Leena Bray?” McBride questioned.
“We need to speak to you about your sister, Danielle. May we come in please?”
Lena moved to one side, full of confusion she let the detectives into her home. Flynn and McBride walked into Leena’s neat and tidy small condo apartment. Both detectives looked around alert, as they tried to pick up clues about the lifestyle this young lady led.
“Take a seat, would either of you like something to drink?”
“No thanks I’m fine.”
“I’m fine too, thank you.”
“Well, all right, take a seat.” Leena nervously gestured to the seating area.
All three of them lowered themselves to the coach. Flynn, took control.
“Leena, your sister’s body was found late last night.”
“What? Where? How… I just spoke to her the day before yesterday and.. Are you kidding me?” Leena’s pretty face moulded itself into a pleading look.
“No, afraid not. She was found behind a dumpster, by Mr. Wang’s downtown.”
“Downtown? What the hell was she doing there?” The disgust was clear in Leena’s voice.
“When was the last time you saw your sister?”
“I spoke to her the day before yesterday, she had some hot date to go on as always.”
“Did she say who it was with?”
“Some guy named Ryan, she met him online, via an advert he placed.”
“Did she say anything else?”
“Nope, just filled me in on her crazy love life as usual and how things were going at the bank.”
AUTHOR TWO: SCENE TWO.
“What do you have for me?” Flynn asked the uniformed officer waiting by an interrogation room. “This better be as urgent as you claim, we don’t want any repeats of last time.”
Officer Dannally lowered his head in shame. Remembering his false alarm. He’d pulled Flynn from the the actual scene of a crime the very hour the act took place. He looked up at her from beneath his bushy unibrow that stood out against his pale skin. He cleared the lump from his throat before he spoke.
“Yes, ma’am,” he forced through a timid voice. “I have a security guard from a night club downtown. He’s been watching the news and claims to have seen each victim the night of their attacks.”
“Hmmm.” Detective Flynn nodded at the Officer Dannally in approval. “Do you think he’s telling the truth?”
“Seems so, yes,” he answered, still a little embarrassed at her recognition of his last big mistake.
“Has he been briefed and aware of the camera?”
Mcbride chimed in, “I think we should both go in with this one, don’t you boss?”
Mcbride forced open the heavy metal door to a cramped interrogation room. The walls were a dark gray, and the floors thinly industrial grade carpeted. The supposed security guard sat on the opposite side of an elongated fold up table. It separated him from the two entering detectives. Flynn reached her hand across the table first to greet him.
“Sir. I’m Detective Flynn and this is my partner Detective Mcbride.”
The man stood to return the courteous introduction. He was tall, well over six feet with wide shoulders and a sharpe serious look on his smooth mocha face. His dark eyes explored the length of Flynn’s tailored, form fitting suit. After an obvious smirk consumed his face and he adjusted the belt line of his pants, he shook her hand first. His grip was purposefully weak but his hand was big enough to completely engulf hers. The warmth of his rough skin mixed with the way he undressed her with his eyes made her cringe.
“Detective.” He smiled.
Flynn ran a hand down the front buttons of her suit as she took a seat, wholly uncomfortable, which was rare. Not many men were capable of getting under her skin, but this particular one had that look. The look of someone hiding a twisted secret. Something disgusting lurked behind his undressing glare. Flynn’s detective intuition charged full speed ahead, alerting every part of her that something was off with this guy. Her heart pounded in her chest trying to get out. But, she put it in check and put her most collected face on show.
After shaking Mcbride’s hand in just the same fashion, they both took their seat, joining Flynn at the table. Mcbride didn’t waste any time.
“So you say that you’re a security guard at a club down town?” He asked.
“Yep, the Boom Room,” he beamed, looking mostly at Flynn. “Been there for five years now.”
“I’m sorry,” Flynn jumped in. “I don’t think we caught your name?”
“Thomas Toby, or Tom if you’d rather.” He threw her a wink.
“I’ll stick with Thomas,” Flynn mumbled with disgust.
Mcbride placed his large black leather briefcase on the table and began rummaging through photos of each victim. Soon a snapshot of each girl before their murders was laid out on the table.
“So Thomas,” Mcbride said, “You claim that you’ve seen each of these girls in the club within this last week?”
“Yep, every one.” He sat up a little taller in his seat, seeming proud of himself.
“And you’re sure of it?”
“Without a doubt.”
“What else can you tell us? Anything you can think of is helpful.”
“Well, like I said, I’ve been working there for five years. I can tell you a lot actually.”
Thomas scratched his chin with his thumb and forefinger in thought. It wasn’t a look of straining to remember, so much as pondering on how much to actually give away. Finally he nodded to himself as if to confirm the direction he wanted to take. Then he grinned the same proud smirk he sported while shaking Flynn’s hand and blurted out his words.
“They’re escorts. Everyone of them.”
Both Flynn and Mcbride perked up in their seats.
“That’s impossible,” Flynn said. “Not one friend or family member said anything about this. Trust me, we’ve asked every single one.”
“They wouldn’t know, now would they?” Thomas grinned. “Would your daughter want to tell you she was a prostitute?”
“I thought you said escort?” Mcbride corrected.
“Yes, of course.” Thomas rolled his eyes, peeling them away from Flynn to finally give Mcbride his attention.” I can’t speak for this one,” he said while pointing at the Hispanic girl, Kelsey. “She was new to that crew and seemed to carry herself with more class. But blondie here was well known for how deep her deep throat could go, if you know what I mean.”
“So you actually know these women?” Flynn asked, “You didn’t just see them” She accentuated the way she announced ‘see’ while signaling quotations in the air with her fingers.
“I wouldn’t go that far, ma’am.” Thomas corrected her with a giant grin and while holding both palms in the air as if to playfully surrender. “I haven’t actually spoken to any of these women, but they come into the club very often. And, I know their boss well.”
“How well?” Mcbride asked.
Thomas’ smile spread nearly from ear to ear. He leaned across the table on his elbow, and spoke in a low menacing voice, “He’s my brother.”
He stood immediately at attention as the door to the interrogation room slammed behind Mcbride and Flynn.
“I want several search warrants, and I need them within two hours or less. Do whatever you have to do to get them rushed through. We have to act fast before night rolls around. We have a lot of new information, and several leads. I want them all looked into before we have any more victims on our hands.”
“Grab a pen, I don’t want you messing this one up.”
Toby Enterprise was located in the heart of downtown L.A. on a skyrise overlooking the city. Mr. Jarek Toby, Thomas’ brother, stood by his corner office window with arms folded tightly across his massive chest. The resemblance between him and his brother was uncanny, and he gave Detective Flynn the same uneasy feeling… Maybe even worse. She paced the large open room, taking in every book and photo on his overstuffed shelves.
“Tell me again why you’re here.” Jarek grumbled.
“We’re here to talk about your escort service.” Mcbride said, while sitting perfectly calm and collected in a fluffy black leather chair. One ankle propped up on the other knee and hands casually set in his lap.
“I no longer run an escort service.”
One side of Jarek’s lip curled up and his eyes danced with the excitement of a skilled liar.
“Yes Mr. Toby, we’re well aware that the operation was shut down three years ago for prostitution.”
“Which brings me to ask again. Why are you here?”
Mcbride sat forward and lowered his eyes. “Because we’re also aware that your previous clientele upped the price they were willing to pay you to keep the business running under the radar.”
The smirk on Jarek’s face quickly melted away, yet he stuck to claiming his innocence in the matter.
“Toby Enterprise is strictly a holdings company. I buy out businesses, break them down and sell them for a very substantial profit. The escort side of things was a liability. There never has been a need to do anything under the radar. With all do respect Detectives, you’re looking in the wrong place.”
“We have three dead girls on our hands who I’m sure would beg to differ if they were able.” Flynn said, as she stopped to take a closer look at a photo.
The still frame she stopped at sat next to one of Jarek and Thomas together on the beach. It clearly ranked up there with family and it instantly raised the hairs on Flynn’s arms.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Jarek insisted.
Flynn turned on her heels, and held up the photo. “Mr, Toby?” She asked. “Explain to me exactly how you and are brother are both so closely acquainted with Mr. Wang as to be in a photo with him and his entire family?”
“We did business years ago.”
“What kind of business?”
Jarek remained stone faced, yet the color of his ears darkened from a very light brown to a deep scarlet. “Toby Enterprise was a silent partner for Mr. Wang’s restaurant.” He paused as a spark of recognition lit on his face. “Wait a minute. How do you know my little brother?”
Mcbride chuckled, “Wow, you really are in deeper shit than you realize, aren’t you?”
“Okay, what the fuck did that low life tell you exactly?” Jarek scowled, the anger rising in the back of his throat.
“That’s beside the point.” Flynn interjected. “What do you mean was a silent partner?”
“Mr. Wang screwed us out of millions, and at the same time drove a wedge between Thomas and me. When I said I stopped running the escort business, I didn’t mean the entire business stopped.”
“Well Mr. Toby. Why don’t you fill us in on exactly what you do mean.” Flynn said with one hand on her hip and the other still holding the photo in the air. “Also, why don’t you explain to us why you keep these photos in your office if the hate for these individuals is so clear?”
Jarek slumped forward in defeat. With his weight supported by his elbows on his desk he buried his face in the palms of his enormous hands. He pulled in a large breath of oxygen and then let it out very slowly, while rubbing his hands up and down his face.
“You don’t know my brother,” Jarek said. “There’s a reason he’s doing this. He must have finally found out about the affair.” He rubbed his face again with the palm of his hands, this time much rougher, and much more urgently. His demeanor flipped from irritation to an odd sense of urgency and fear.
“What affair Jarek?” Mcbride asked, “Explain quickly please. We’re running short on time, and I’m running short on patience.”
Jarek let out a long breath of anxious air, his cheeks blowing out like a balloon. He reached over the top of his desk, holding a hand out for the photo. Flynn handed it over willingly and finally took a seat in the chair next to Mcbride. She gave Jarek her full and undivided attention, knowing that whatever he had to say must be big. Jarek began pointing at the faces on the picture.
“This man here is Chin-Lou Wang, he his Mr. Wang’s brother. This woman is Sue-Lee and she is Chin-Lou’s daughter. Thomas was engaged to her when she and I had an affair. When Mr. Wang and his brother found out about the affair he threatened to tell Thomas as well as my wife. The escort business was under investigation at the time. So I backed out of our silent partnership in the restaurant giving Mr. Wang full profit. Then I handed the escort’s clientele over to Chin-Lou to run quietly after it’s downfall through Toby Enterprise.”
Detective Mcbride leaned back in his chair and said, “I can imagine Thomas wasn’t very happy about you handing over the business like that?”
“Not at all. Especially when I wouldn’t tell him why I went over his head.” Jarek shook his head in shame. The grief was visible in the purse of his lips and the wrinkle between his brows from pulling them together.
“What happened between Thomas and Sue-Lee?” Flynn asked. “And if you handed over the escort services then why would Thomas say you still run it?”
“Sue-Lee died in a car accident shortly after it all happened. Thomas didn’t take it all very well. He signed over all of his shares of the business to the staff and then took off. I haven’t seen or heard from him since.”
“Hmm…” The wheels in Flynn’s head were turning like a well oiled machine. There had to be something else. Something they were missing.
“Like I said.” Jarek continued. “My brother is a dangerous man. He sent you here knowing that I’d spill the beans. He wouldn’t have done that unless he has something planned… Something big.”
“Do you have anything to hide, Mr. Toby?” Flynn asked. “Any other reason for your brother to send the police to your office? He’s clearly out for revenge. If he wanted us to find out that Mr. Wang’s brother ran a prostitution service then he would have sent us straight there. This is more than just a wild goose chase, you must have something else to hide.”
“No ma’am, I swear I told you everything I can think of.”
Before anyone had the chance to say anything else, there was a loud knock on the door. Four uniformed men barged in, the first holding up an official document.
“Officer Dannally, I’m glad to see you finally made it.” Flynn stood and took the document from the officer’s hand before turning back to Jarek. “Jarek Toby you are hereby under arrest. You a have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. You have the right to an attorney, and if you can’t afford one, then one will be appointed to you. You have been charged with tax evasion.”
“You can’t prove anything!” Jarek shouted over his shoulder, cutting her off. A pair of shiny cuffs clicked as they secured his wrists in place behind his back.
Flynn turned her back to him as she reached into her pocket to answer the phone call ringing in. “Detective Kate Flynn here.”
“Kate, it’s Dr. Slovinac down at the coroner’s office.”
“It’s great to hear from you Doc. Please tell me you have something useful.”
“We have a match to one of our seman samples.”
“And, who was the lucky guy?”
“The specimen in her mouth came up as one Thomas Toby. Does the name ring a bell?”
“Yes Doc. Thank you. Call me as soon as anything else comes through.
Flynn clicked off her phone and slid it back to is place in her pocket. She turned to face Mcbride, “It seems like our boy Jarek here was telling the truth. It’s time to use our next warrant and pay Thomas a little visit.
As they made their way to the door amongst the chaos of the officers searching Jarek’s office a menacing laughter crackled through the air. Mcbride turned back around his face twisted in confusion.
“Is something funny, Mr. Toby?”
“You’re dead!” he laughed. “My brother is going to kill every last one of you mother fuckers.”
Who wants part #2?? Thank you for reading & voting for this writing prompt we loved this week’s challenge, we could write this story more!
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It’s late on a Saturday night and if you’re indoors keeping warm like me, here is a little introduction to the main heroine in the current thriller novel I’m writing. I won’t say too much about her, I’ll let her introduce herself. It’s New Years Eve, and she’s on a mission to prove she is not guilty of murder. So who is?
CHAPTER ONE: CHARLOTTE—2014
31st December 2014, 11:00p.m.
I stare blankly at the familiar scenes on TV I’ve seen year after year. It’s a chilly New Year’s Eve. Despite the minus degree temperature and threat of snow Westminster Bridge, and central London are packed with party goers, old and young, from near and far. Happy faces of all races smiling for the camera, holding up their banners with Happy New Year! They’re all there to see out the old and welcome in the new. Something I’ve longed to do, clear out the old bitter twisted thoughts in my mind and welcome something new.
I tear my eyes from the TV and take in the surroundings of my small shabby room. It’s dimly lit with a bedside lamp and no bigger than a prison cell. Within the four walls house a single bed, a cheap plastic table with two chairs in the corner, a built-in wardrobe and a sink with a leaky tap. The walls were once a shade of magnolia—I remember, with all the years of chain smoking the shade has shifted to a drab shade of yellow.
My room faces the main road opposite Kings College Hospital, London’s largest teaching hospital in south London, Camberwell. Peckham is to the west of the hospital and Brixton to the south of the hospital. Camberwell has never been a pretty place to hang around in, drugs, gangs, drunks and prostitutes are all part of the furniture in this part of town. From what I’ve read in the paper Brixton is now up and coming, it recently opened a Costa Coffee shop and now has quant little cafes by Marks and Spencer. The new so called up and coming young working professionals over the years have invested mummy and daddy’s cash in the area. This has somehow lifted Brixton’s shackles of drugs, gangs, drunks and prostitutes— by day time at least.
I’ve been rooted here in this same spot, a mental institute since the age of thirty. I’m now thirty -five. For the last five years, I’ve been confined within the four walls of a tiny hospital room in Mausely Hospital, ever since that day. The day my whole life changed, when I met Joseph and her.
“Criminally insane” the prosecution labelled me as I stood on the dock at the Old Baily Crown Court, central London five years ago. I laughed at their accusation and refused to believe that I’m the insane one. As the years passed by, I often wonder, am I? Insane? Maybe, for falling in love with Joseph Andrew. Does that make me insane because five years ago I was a woman in love?
“Right then Miss Charlotte let’s get you sorted for the night, shall we?”
The voice of my favourite nurse Patience breaks my thoughts, as she enters my room. She’s a short heavy set lady in her early fifties with skin the colour of mahogany, her hair is always braided neatly and piled up on the top of her head. As usual she looks like she’s about the bust out of her uniform. Nurse Patience is the sister in charge of Rainbow Ward where I’ve spent the last five years. I stare and blink at Nurse Patience’s thickly painted on eyebrows and bright gold lipstick with dark liner, I’m happy to see her. Over the years, I’ve grown fond of her, she treats me like a human being which was more than what the other nurses do.
“Ah— ah Charlotte when was the last time you took a bath, and changed out of that ragged cardigan? Look at this room, cigarette ash is everywhere.”
Nurse Patience opens her thick arms and gestures around the room for me to take note.
“Tomorrow we will start a new regime, being the New Year and all. Let’s start as we mean to go on OK?’’
I look down at my ragged black leggings with a hole in the knee and my pink cardigan. Nurse Patience is right, I’ve not had a bath for days or even left my tiny prison cell room to socialise with the other patients. What is the point in a bath anyway? Over the last five years every time I look in the mirror I see less and less of my former self. I give nurse Patience a faint smile to acknowledge her comments about my appearance and living state.
“Cheer up girly.’’
Nurse Patience says as she leaves the door open, for safety reasons and approaches me slowly. She sits down on my narrow bed. Its springs give way under her heavy behind. Nurse Patience hands me my nightly medicine. Two Olanzapine tablets and a glass of water and watches me with enthusiasm.
“What is this, Lemonade? Patience I’ve not had this is a long time!’’
I giggle as I swallow the content of the plastic cup. Nurse Patience smiles at me with a warm motherly smile.
“Happy New Year Charlotte, and may this year be a better one for you.”
Nurse Patience smiles again and gives me a small wink, she lifts her heavy behind off the bed and makes her way to the door and calls over her shoulder.
“And Charlotte, tomorrow we are taking a bath ah— ha ok!’’
I can’t help but feel a mutual warmth for her as she closes the door quietly behind her. Again I’m in solitude, alone on my stiff single bed sitting upright, I turn back to the TV it’s 11:30p.m. already. I watch a pretty blonde female presenter on the TV wrapped up in a black hat, scarf and gloves walk along Westminster Bridge, she stops random members of the public to ask what brings them to Westminster Bridge this year. I zone out of the TV conversation and roll a cigarette then head over to the mirror. In the dirty plastic mirror above the leaking sink I look at my reflection. I’m greeted with a pale porcelain colour face, sunken in cheeks, greasy dirty blonde hair to my shoulders and dim green eyes. I look every one of my thirty –five years and then some. At five— foot— ten now all I am is a tall thin and frail skeleton of a woman, I lost all my curves years ago.
I pull on my cigarette, as the nicotine hits the back of my throat I think back to my former self and my curves. I remember that’s what attracted him to me. My curves plenty of them for a white English girl he’d always say. A man likes a little booty to hold onto at night! He’d say with a cheeky grin and his gold tooth flashing. I’m less than half the woman I used to be. Depressed at the reflection staring back at me in a bright pink cardigan from the local Scope charity shop along Camberwell New Road, I turn away and go over to the window. I stare out at Kings College Hospital and the main road. The main road is buzzing even more than usual with people. In my mind, I imagine they’re on their way to house parties, to see family and friends and of course central London to visit London’s famous Westminster Bridge fireworks display put on especially for tonight. I spot a group of girls in sky scraper high heels running past the hospital opposite me, to the bus stop to catch the number 176 bus, making its way down Denmark Hill. I smile as I watch them laughing and joking in their skirts and heels.
I tear my eyes away from the group of girls and spot a couple walking up past the hospital toward Denmark Hill station. A black male and a white female are holding hands and well dressed for the cold weather in hats, scarfs and gloves. As he holds her hand he walks along with the natural confidence of a man with everything, his swag in his walk shows he’s full of confidence with his girl on one arm and their Nandos take-away bag on the other. She’s carrying a blue plastic bag a tell tell sign of a trip to the local off licence for cheap Lambrini wine and beers. The sight of them makes my heart stop. My mind races back to a place I’ve not been mentally for a long time. I move away from the window and glance at the clock 11:45p.m.
I finish smoking on my bed, careful not to drop any ash this time in fear of what nurse Patience will say in the morning. I lay down facing the TV, my mind races as I hear the celebrations, well wishes and the pretty presenter on the TV all in good spirits. The crowd around the bridge eagerly await London’s pretty firework display to bring in the New Year.
The Olanzapine starts to kick in and relax my racing mind. I close my eyes and reflect on life and the events that brought me to this drab mental institution in south London.
I’m Charlotte Price-Smith or was, should I say. I had a career and happy go lucky attitude. I was a nurse myself, a paediatric nurse at Lewisham Hospital south London. I loved my job, the kids, caring for others, no two days were ever the same. University and training were hard, throughout my nurse training days the one thing I hid well at the time was my mental instability. I was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic at the age of eighteen. Even then, I hid it well until my best friend Tamara noticed the slashes on my arm and strange behaviour.
My job had been stressful to say the least, back then I’d become reliant on mood stabilisers and sleeping pills. A heavy work load and up and down shift patterns left me burnt out at times. I got through it with the support of colleagues and Tamara. Tamara had been my rock at times. I wish that she’d never moved south from London, to the south West coast of England to Cornwell, to practice medicine after qualifying as a doctor. Over the years our contact has reduced, every now and then I receive a letter with the familiar handwriting on the envelop, and my heart always skips a beat. Someone has remembered my birthday, or just wants to say hi would run through my mind, when an envelope arrived. Over the years, that someone has normally been Tamara. This is more than what my own family has ever done in the last five years I’ve been locked up in an institution. My family were in complete denial about my mental state prior to my life spiralling out of control, and are even more in denial now. Ashamed probably, that their only child turned into a nut job, risked her life in some of the more rough areas of south London to make friends, just to be accepted and decided to date outside her race. The latter was a hard pill for dear old daddy to swallow. He imagined I’d end up with some stuffy upper classed white male from the medical field, and live a nice quiet life in the suburbs of Bromley. Mixing with “those people” in our neighbouring areas of Lewisham and Catford will get me into trouble he’d say … it did.
Five whole years have passed, and not one birthday or Christmas card arrived from my parents, not even a letter to see how I’m doing, cooped up in a mental institution. The ladies on Rainbow Ward as crazy as they are have become my family as well as nurse Patience of course. They accept me, love me and make me feel part of a family. It all stared back in 2008, when Joseph Andrew I and crossed paths at a club, I was on a girl’s night out with Tamara. Tamara and I both know him from college. Back then Joseph and I were from two different backgrounds completely in our college days. I was the middle classed white girl and he the inner city black boy.
All those years later when we met that night at the club, not much changed we were still from two different worlds—but I was drawn to him. Tamara warned me off. The bad boys were trouble—especially Joseph Andrew she said. I couldn’t help myself back then. We exchanged numbers that night at the club and met up for coffee the following Saturday morning. One thing led to another, I fell in love.
I refocus on the TV and watch the crowd along Westminster Bridge cheer, when the ten second countdown begins, I bring my mind back to the present from my old life. I stare at the TV in a zoned-out state. My stabilisers take full effect. I focus on the clock hands on Big Ben on the TV, as the crowd count down.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!! 2015 flashes across the scene. I roll over to face the wall away from the TV. This is the year, I’ll do it, make everyone pay, I’m crazy yes but I’m not a murderer and the whole world will see why.
Oh wow! What will happen next?? Charlotte obviously has a score to settle with someone. But who? Find out in the next flash fiction preview!