I entered the cell and glanced at its sole occupant. She looked utterly miserable. Cell wasn’t the word they had used to describe this room, calling it instead an “isolation ward”. I had been in enough prisons to know better. I glanced around the room, looking for somewhere to sit; naturally it was unfurnished. Just bare, grey walls coated in vinyl that would be slightly spongy to the touch. The door clicked shut behind me and I knew, without looking, that there would be no lock or handle on the inside face of the door; only a slab of timber offering no purchase or hope of escape. The thought sent a shiver down my spine; enough time spent here would shake the sanity of even the most rational soul.
“Good morning Marie,” I said, taking a step forward “my name is Robert Williams, I’m a detective with the metropolitan police.”
“Is it morning already?” The woman spoke softly, raising her eyes to meet mine. She was seated on the floor, one leg curled beneath her, the other sprawled out in front. I was shocked at the deep lines the last few days had carved into her youthful face.
“Already past ten.” I tried to affect a cheery tone but it came out sounding flat.
“Oh.” She responded listlessly, still gazing at me.
“Marie, we need to talk about what happened at your apartment, two days ago.” I tried the direct approach. Marie’s face switched in an instant from an expression of abject misery to utter dread. Her eyes darted around the room as if looking for escape and she rapidly shuffled back until she was pressed against the far wall.
“Can you see it?” She whispered.
“See what Marie.” I tried to remain calm.
“The writing…….on the wall.” She motioned with a crooked finger towards a blank piece of grey wall.
“Marie, there’s nothing there.” My affected calm was beginning to waver. Marie began to mumble under her breath, just on the edge of hearing. Frustrated and concerned in equal measure I took a step towards her. As soon as I moved she fixed me with another stare, drew in a long breath and screamed at the top of her lungs.
“IT’S AN OMEN!”
*12 Hours Earlier*
I trudged up the concrete staircase, familiar paint strips peeling from the familiar mouldering walls. It was the fourth time in the last fortnight that I’d paid a visit to The Lawn; an imaginatively named apartment block in one of the less desirable areas of town. As I reached the fourteenth floor I saw the yellow and black striping of police tape outside apartment 143. Passing the uniformed officer at the door, the scene inside was distressingly familiar. At a casual glance it was the same as the last three calls to this building. The dreary bedsit stank even worse than it normally would have; every available surface was covered with fluids that rightly belonged inside of a human body. I turned back to the uniform on the door.
“Any sign of forced ent…” I cut myself short. Ragged splinters of the plastic door were barely clinging to the frame. The majority of the door itself was lying on the stained carpet several feet away. Just as I was turning back to examine the room more thoroughly, the head of Met forensics, walked in through the remains of the doorway. I smiled half-heartedly.
“What can you tell me Carla?”
“Not much,” she knew me well enough to be honest “the apartment was leased by Mr Lars Anders, what’s left of him is now decorating the premises.” She made a vague circular motion towards the room with her pen. “Plenty of other prints and DNA throughout the place but none of it is immediately suspicious.” She paused and offered me a slight smile “Of course I’ll leave the conclusions down to you.”
“It’s going to be the same as the others isn’t it.” I replied, trying not to sigh. Three other gruesome and suspicious deaths in this block in the last two weeks and not a scrap of useful forensic evidence.
“I wouldn’t like to guess, but” Carla paused again “if I was a gambling woman that’s where I’d put my money.”
*18 Hours Later*
The phone was ringing, groggily I put out my hand, knocking the receiver onto the floor but handily answering the call. I scrabbled on the floor in the darkness before finally recovering the phone.
“Hello.” I mumbled hoarsely.
“Bob, it’s Sam from the station.”
“Sam? What time is it? Why are you still working?” Surprise covered my annoyance at being woken.
“Bob listen, I’ve figured it out, we need to get an armed unit over to sixteen-twelve immediately!” Sam said, feverishly. I was used to his eagerness, a young kid looking to prove himself. But being woken in the middle of the night was something new.
“What are you talking about?”
“The Lawn, The bloody Lawn Bob!” He drew a quick breath. “Listen, get down to the station right now and I’ll give you the details.”
So I found myself outside apartment 612 in the small hours with an armed escort from SO19. Sam had convinced me; he hadn’t found any new evidence, no groundbreaking forensics had turned up in the nick of time. But I was convinced just the same, he’d found a pattern in the apartment numbers, something so close to random that it would have been missed by anybody else. Suddenly one of the armed troopers spoke.
“Contact, by the stairs!” There was a sudden glare of muzzle flash and the deafening report of a Remington shotgun; and then all hell broke loose.
*30 Hours Later*
“Robert, I’m detective Holroyd.” I eyed the guy suspiciously. A city type in a crumpled but expensive suit. From my seated position on the floor of the cell he loomed over me.
“Can you see it?” I replied venomously.
“See what Bob?” I could see the tension around his eyes.
“The writing on the wall,” I shook my head, suddenly exhausted “it won’t go away.” The numbers were crawling in my peripheral vision. I closed my eyes, it didn’t help.
“No Bob, I can’t see anything.”“It’s…” I leapt to my feet as my vision clouded over “IT’S AN OMEN!”