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.’