The story so far.
Susie was murdered back in the summer of 1995.
Eleven years pass by.
Ellie, Susie’s best friend, finally gets the images from that fateful last day developed and is shocked at what she sees.
Meanwhile Susie’s Dad Dave is still struggling to come to terms with his daughter’s murder. He has found a sort of solace in the arms of Beth. But the memories of that fateful day in Ripley continue to haunt him.
This contains graphic forensic details of the rape and murder.
“Hello, this is Phil Walker. I don’t know if you remember me, I was one of the officers on your daughters’ case? Can you call me back please, I want to go over a few things with you?” Phil ended the message with his number and hung up. He swirled the whiskey in the glass in front of him and stared down at the papers scattered over the desk.
In just a few weeks he would retire, but this case, he needed to try and put it to bed. His therapist thought it was the source of his insomnia, that being unable to solve it caused the nightmares, and it had certainly been a huge factor in his wife walking out. Some things just can’t be unseen, no matter how much you drink. He didn’t blame her really.
So many things he wished he had done differently; eaten less, exercised more. Stopped smoking, no better yet, never started in the first place he thought. Perhaps then his arteries wouldn’t be clogged with cholesterol and he would not need the double bypass surgery that was forcing him into retirement. Phil looked at the crime scene photos, they were clinical, emotionless. His memories were anything but.
By the time he had arrived on the scene it was a mess. The Officers that had responded hadn’t taped off the scene. The ground was muddy next to the stream and if there had been any footprints they were obscured now by the police. Someone had even covered her body with a jacket and in doing so they had contaminated the scene further.
Bill, a local man who had found her body while walking his dog, was treated as a suspect, mainly because Phil’s boss had thought he was weird always hanging about with kids; but in truth he had brain damage, deprived of oxygen at birth he had the mental capacity of a child, and was as dangerous as a candy cigarette. Phil lit a cigarette of his own, inhaling deeply. In the interview Bill had repeated over and over how Susie must be so cold without her clothes on and did we get the doctor to look at her poorly head. In the end they had let him go deciding he lacked the sophistication required to pull it off.
He picked up the pathologist report and looked it over for the hundredth time. He had determined that she had been hit with something to subdue her, probably a rock but they hadn’t found it. They thought the killer threw it into the stream, it’s not like they could have checked every rock in there. The blow had been hard enough to cause a concussion and heavy bleeding, and the bone had fractured but this had not killed her. She may have been unconscious for a while but that was not certain. The pathologist had concluded she would definitely have been disoriented but would not commit to anything more than that.
There had been no skin under her finger nails but there had been some algae and the assumption was that she had been cleaned up in some way, using the water from the stream. Her clothes had all been thrown into it, and they had found everything except her underwear down stream. Either the killer took her panties and bra or they had not got snagged on anything and washed away.
There had not been any semen in the vaginal vault either, but traces of spermicide had been found, so the attacker had worn a condom. This forensic countermeasure had been one of the things that Bill would not have been capable of doing. When they showed him a condom packet, he had assumed it was collectable stickers and they had ended up buying him a packet of stickers on the way home as he had got fixated on the stickers being taken away.
Taking a sip of his drink Phil picked up the second page of the report. They had found alcohol in her system too, and she had eaten a sandwich and some strawberries not long before her death too. Their working theory back then had been a date gone wrong. A romantic meeting with some cheap alcohol and strawberries, only when things got heated she had panicked, changed her mind and had been strangled by accident. Given the food she had not digested and the alcohol reading being low they didn’t think she had been drunk a little merry perhaps but not insensible.
It didn’t matter how many times he read this report it bothered him. They were missing something he knew it. Even at 12 Susie had been quite strong, looking at the musculature of her body and she should have been able to put up a fight but there were no defensive wounds. By all accounts she had been feisty and it just didn’t make sense that she hadn’t fought back. Even scared, she had definitely known him, and that can make a difference.
With no physical evidence the case had gone cold, eventually classified as suspended and filed away. Her dad had been furious, but what could they do? They didn’t want to admit that there was no evidence because they had fucked up. Any fibres on her body were inadmissible because of the coat placed over her, and they had not1 recovered any footprints because the scene was trampled by half a dozen cops who should have known better.
A few days after the initial report the pathologist had found bruises around her wrists that they had not been able to explain. Sometimes bruises develop later, so they routinely re-check bodies in cases of suspicious deaths. The bruises were hand prints, but they were small hands, and they suspected they would belong to someone of a short stature. They had dismissed them as being unconnected to the assault, especially as they were the wrong way round. Her attacker would have held her hands above her head, but the thumbs were towards her body and so they had been caused earlier in the day.
Phil looked at the bruises again, and turned the pictures around.
“I’ll be fucking damned,” he said. “There were two of them.”