By David R Graham, 28.04.16

‘Oriole Tighe,’ DS Graville said placing the odontology report back on his desk in the open plan office on the first floor of the London Heathrow Airport Police Station. He leaned back on his swivel chair and slowly linked his hands behind his aquiline head and glanced at the tree that obscured his view beyond the window to his left. He could hear the world going about its business. But he couldn’t see it because of that bloody tree.
‘What’s that, serge?’
Graville turned from the window and lowered his hands to the desk. ‘That, is a name,’ he said.
‘Of?’ his colleague DC Chappell asked looking over his right shoulder.
‘The body found in Swan Lake.’
‘Oh. Right,’ Chappell said turning to rest his arm on the back of his chair ‘You got the report back, then.’
‘I did.’
‘Anything we can use?’
‘The name,’ Graville said with a questioning glance.
‘Do you want me to check the MPB?’
‘I’ll do it,’ Graville said turning to his computer. ‘According to the pathology report,’ he said as he logged on to the MPB site, ‘the body was in the lake between six and eight months. That takes us back to between last July and September.’

‘Any luck?’ Chappell asked entering the office twenty minutes later with two cups of Costa coffee.
‘No,’ Graville said without looking up. ‘There’s no Oriole Tighe on the MPB. And I can only find one on the Web. A wedding singer.‘
‘It’s not her, then?’ Chappell said, finding a space on the desk for Graville’s coffee.
‘I hope not. She’s got a midday booking in Galway tomorrow. Besides,’ Graville said, putting the fingers of his left hand round the coffee cup, and carefully removing the lid with his right, ‘our Oriole was a shade over six feet. The wedding singer is more than a shade under six feet.’
‘You’ve nothing to go on, then?’ Chappell said turning to his own desk.
‘I have a name.’
‘What’s in a name,’ Chappell muttered.
‘Nothing,’ Graville said, taking a careful sip of the steaming coffee, ‘and everything,’ he added, lowering the hot cup to the desk.
Chappell turned. ‘Everything?’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t exactly call an eight month old corpse, and a name, everything.’
Privately, Graville had to agree. But he sensed that there was more to it than that. A lot more. He tried to put it into words. ‘A little more than eight months ago, that corpse was a living person. A person called Oriole Tighe. I wouldn’t exactly call that, nothing. She had a life, a history. People must have known her: friends, family, acquaintances. Someone must have missed her.’
‘Not enough to report it, it seems,’ Chappell said and turned away to ease his neck.
Graville turned the coffee cup slowly with his fingers. ‘No,’ he said. ‘But someone, wanted her to stay missing.’
‘You think she was killed?’ Chappell asked over his shoulder. Then he stood up and sat on the edge of his desk. ‘Murdered?’ he asked over the top of his coffee cup.
‘The feet were missing?’
‘That can happen if the body is weighted down by the ankles. Eventually the flesh decomposed and the body floats to the surface. Yes. I think someone murdered Oriole Tighe.’
Chappell shifted his weight. ‘That name’s not going to get you very far. You’ll need a lot more than that to go on.’
‘I know. I’m going to see if I can get a facial reconstruction done: put it on Crimewatch.’
‘Good idea,’ Chappell said sitting down again. ‘That usually gets a good response.’

‘Not bad looking,’ Chappell muttered as studied the clay features of Oriole Tighe, in a studio in Highgate, a week later.
No, Graville thought, looking at the lean well proportioned face, with its cupids bow mouth, shapely nose, and well spaced eyes, above high cheekbones. Not bad looking at all. Very good looking in fact. Like a model. Or a…
‘What about her hair?’ Chappell asked straightening up and directing the question at the self conscious young forensic scientist standing close by with her hands in the pockets of her white coat.
‘When I’ve cast the model, and made it up. I’ll take pictures, using different style wigs.’
‘Right,’ Chappell said looking back the clay bust.
Graville smiled at the young woman ‘What’s your name?’ he asked.
‘Well, Stephanie. I think you’ve done a remarkable job. I think you have reconstructed Oriole exactly as she looked before she…when she was. Will she be ready for next Tuesday? For Crimewatch?’
‘Yes. She’ll be ready for Monday.’

An email transcript and two monochrome pictures lay on Graville’s desk. The email had been received by the Crimewatch production team; after Oriole’s reconstructed image had appeared on their show the previous night. It was the only response they had received. It was sent from an Internet Cafe in Portsmouth. One of the pictures was of a person entering the cafe wearing a hooded jacket that completely concealed their face. The other was of the same person seated at a computer console. Whoever it was was aware of the cafe’s CCTV and had chosen a console out of direct line of sight of the cameras.
The transcript covered a third of an A4 page. Graville looked at it. He hesitated to read it. What would it tell him about Oriole Tighe? Was he about to learn who she was? Every name has a meaning; a history, a life, he thought. He drew in a quite breath, picked up the transcript, and read the following:

‘Oriole was murdered. They did it at a big house in Harmondsworth. After the sex games they started getting rough. They were out of their heads on crack. They started getting vicious. They punched and kicked us round the room like we were rag dolls. They were laughing like it was a game of football or something.
They’re looking for me right now. They won’t stop until they find me. I know who they are. I know who he is. His name is Wasyl Kozachenko. He started punching Oriole like he was boxing with her. He egged the other four to join in. He threatened them. They’re afraid of him. He started on me. I pretended to lose consciousness. Then I did lose consciousness.
It was dark when they took us to Swan Lake. They used Oriole’s tights to tie rocks to her ankles. She was still alive when they threw her in the lake. I came round while they were doing it. I could hear Oriole moaning. It made them laugh. They were going to do the same with me. I ran. I ran faster than I have ever run in my life. They lost me in the dark. They could barely walk straight. They just kept laughing. I kept running. I’ve been running ever since. I will always be running now.
They’ll find me. I know they will. Kozachenko’s got the Ukrainian government to help him. I just have me. If I go to the police he’ll know where I am. My only chance of staying alive is to be invisible.

Graville put down the transcript. He realised he was holding in his breath. He slowly released as he Googled each character of Wasyl Kozachenko. He came up with a Vassilii Kozachenko; a Ukrainian poet, born in 1913. He typed Wasyl Kozachenko in the Ukrainian Government, and drew a blank. He typed, Wasyl Kozachenko in the Ukrainian Police, and drew a blank. He paused, for a moment. Then he typed Wasyl Kozachenko in the Ukrainian Security Service, and got a hit.
A Wasyl Kozachenko was Deputy Director of the SBU. Ukraine’s State Security Service.

Element of a crime by David Graham

For the ‘Earth’ trigger from our ‘elements’ sequence:

Element of a crime by David Graham


‘Soil,’ DS Cage said, in response to the inspector’s puzzled expression.

‘Soil?’ the inspector said, without altering his expression.

‘Yes. The stuff you get in gardens,’ Cage said, patiently attempting to clarify the obvious.

‘In his throat?’

‘Yes. His entire trachea was blocked with soil.’

‘How did it get—? Was he—?’

‘Forcibly,’ Cage cut in, ‘With a stick. Or some such implement.’

‘So he was murdered?’

Cage resisted the urge to say something else, and responded with a controlled, ‘Yes. That does seem to be the case.’

The inspector fingered the edge of his desk. ‘Good lord,’ he said at length. ‘Choked to death, by soil. That’s bizarre.’

‘Yes,’ Cage said, and waited.

The inspector left off fingering the desk. ‘From the beginning again, Frank,’ he said.

Cage lowered his head to conceal his inhalation, and then slowly read from his PNB, ‘At nine fifty-three on the  morning of Friday the seventeenth of June, a Mr. Julian Valance, a housekeeper, at number 9 Han Street—a leasehold property, off Eaton Square, in Belgravia—made a 999 call to report the discovery of the body of the deceased. Upon our arrival, myself, and DC Wales, found the body of the deceased on a sun lounger in the rear garden. Lacking any immediate evidence of foul play, or of a struggle, my initial assumption was that the decease had died of natural causes: possibly, a heart attack. On closer inspection of the body however, I discovered that the mouth was filled with what myself, and DC Wales, took to be some form of dark soil. On making that discovery, I immediately informed the Coroner’s office; arranged for the house and grounds to be sealed off, as a potential crime scene, and called in SOCO.’ Cage closed his notebook, and looked up.

‘And what did SOCO come up with?’ the inspector asked.

‘Jerry,’ Cage said patiently. ‘It’s all in my reports: and Paul’s.’

The inspector smiled, placed his forearms on the desk, and linked his fingers. ‘I know, Frank,’ he said. ‘I’ve read them. It’s just that I get a better feel for the case, if I hear the details. Indulge me.’

Cage relented somewhat. ‘SOCO came up with very little of substance,’ he said. ‘No signs of foul play, or of a struggle; either inside the premises, or in the grounds; and no fingerprints—or footprints, for that matter—other than those of the housekeeper, and the deceased.’

‘Only two sets of fingerprints?’ the inspector said sceptically. ‘In the whole of the house?’

‘Yes. Either the perpetrator, or perpetrators—I’ll wager there was more than one–wore gloves,’ Cage said, ‘or he, or they, took care not to touch anything. Probably both.’

‘And the Coroner’s report?’

‘That proved much more rewarding. And much more intriguing.’

‘How so?’

‘Because the soil found in the deceased throat, is not found anywhere in the British Isles.’

‘It wasn’t from the deceases own garden?’

‘No. It came from a very long way away from there. A very long way indeed. It is a type of soil unique to a certain region of Iceland.’

‘Iceland? How on earth—sorry, no pun intended. How did soil, from Iceland, get into a man’s throat, in a garden, in central London?’

‘Well. I can only surmise that someone brought it over here.’

‘Someone brought soil all the way from Iceland. Just to force it down a man’s throat?’

‘It would seem so, yes.’

‘Good God. That’s positively macabre. What possible motive would anyone have for doing that?’

‘I don’t know for certain, yet. But I am fairly certain it wasn’t a random act. In fact I believe that the deceased was targeted.’

‘What makes you think that?’

‘Because of who the deceased is—I mean, was.’

‘Go on.’ 

‘His name was—is, Agust Himarsson, and up until eighteen months ago, he was a political correspondent for a weekly tabloid newspaper, based in the suburbs of Reykjavik. He left, under something of a cloud, when the paper refused to publish his accusation that certain, unnamed, Danish criminal elements, were attempting to use Iceland’s State owned Alcohol and Tobacco Company as a conduit to funnel their dirty money through offshore laundering accounts and receive it back cleaned. Eventually, he must have thrown caution to the wind, because he went public, and published his report online. Ironically, since the leak of the Panama papers, much of what he had to say, has proved to be pretty close to the bone.’

‘So you think that Danish criminals came over here and killed him?’

‘It’s possible. But because of the source of the soil, I suspect it was an Icelandic element: possibly sending a message; a warning, to anyone else who might be thinking of trying to exposing their setup.’

‘Well,’ the inspector said, sitting back, ‘if that is the case. I suppose we ought to hand it over to the Icelandic police.’

‘I agree,’ Cage said. ‘In fact, I was going to suggest that I go over there, and liaise with them.’

‘Mmm,’ the inspector murmured knowingly. ‘Maybe we should both go.’

After a moments consideration; they grinned, and said in unison, ‘Naw.’