‘What’s happened to DCI Anderson?’ Mercy demanded. ‘He never told me he has left the force.’
‘DCI Anderson,’ had to retire due to ill health,’ Jane reiterated. ‘It happened during the first lockdown. I have taken over his live cases now. Can I help you?’
There was a long silence as Mercy processed this latest information. She was conflicted as whether to divulge her latest vision. Would DCI Donovan believe her or think she was a complete looney?
‘What’s your name?’ Jane asked gently trying to engage her in conversation.
‘Mercy, it’s Mercy.’
‘Hi Mercy, my names Jane,’ she replied warmly. ‘You seem to be in a bit of distress when you called, would you like to talk about it?’
Mercy was still apprehensive, she didn’t even fully believe that her visions weren’t a figment of her imagination.
‘I…,’ Mercy stuttered, ‘think I saw a murder occur.’
Jane took a moment before responding, ‘Can you tell me what you saw?’ Jane picked up her pen ready to take notes.
‘Not over the phone,’ Mercy implored. ‘It has to be face to face.’ She knew that she would be more believable in person.
Jane would receive a call like this once every couple of months; mostly time wasters. However, her intuition led her to think that this was credible, also she had DCI Anderson’s direct mobile number which he only gave to people involved in a case.
‘Has what you’ve witnessed just happened? Do you need immediate assistance?’ Jane asked.
‘No there’s no immediate threat, I not entirely sure when this happened,’ came a vague response from Mercy.
Jane was left somewhat bemused by her statement.
‘Ok are you happy to come to the station? Do you know where it is?’
‘Yes, I’ve been there before,’ she shuddered thinking of the last time she was interviewed their following her father’s death.
‘Ok Mercy, what’s your last name?’ queried Jane.
‘It’s Lambert,’ answered Mercy.
‘It’s late now, can you come tomorrow morning at 10am?’ offered Jane. Maybe Mercy wasn’t as genuine as she thought, and didn’t want to be spending her evening taking statements.
‘Sure, I’ll be there,’ confirmed Mercy and ended the call.
Mercy poured herself a large glass of wine and began to write down everything she envisaged before she forgot. Maybe this really was a figment of her imagination, after all she had stopped taking the prescribed drugs to calm her anxiety. But, the images were vivid, the smell, the breeze, the noise of crunching bone was so realistic as if she had been there at that moment. She would never forget those eyes, but what had this murder got to do with her. Had her own tragic engagement with this person created some sort of twisted bond? She needed a lot of alcohol tonight to get any sleep.
‘L-a-m-b-e-r-t,’ Jane typed into the police database. Several hits were returned. She scrolled down to Mercy. Almost instantly the database returned the parent record [David] Lambert (deceased). Jane read through the summary case notes. It was one of last cases DCI Anderson had worked on before he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It seems the case was resolved several years ago as a break in that went wrong leading to manslaughter. The culprit was never apprehended. The last entry to the case was relatively recently involving Mercy contacting DCI Anderson to report that she had a vision of her father’s death. Mercy was subsequently advised to have bereavement counselling.
‘Oh great,’ thought Jane. ‘Just what I need, someone having a psychotic break.’
However, she couldn’t shake her intuition that there was something more to Mercy’s story.
Jane pressed the tab on the screen for ‘detailed case report’ but was met with an access PIN request.
‘That’s strange,’ she mumbled to herself and typed in a PIN that she has been using since she started working as a Detective Constable. She couldn’t even recall how she came across this PIN.
She tried another random PIN returning the same error message. ‘Perhaps Paul knows what the PIN is,’ she thought to herself, ‘I’ll ask him tomorrow.’ She proceeded to log out and decided that she would order a take away for one.
Mercy woke from a restless nights sleep, if you could call it that. Images of the murder would proliferate her dreams waking her intermittently and then taking a frustratingly long time to fall asleep again. She left her notepad on the nightstand in case she remembered any further details, but it remained untouched.
After showering and dressing she left her flat into a bright but crisp morning. She stopped at the favourite coffee haunt and ordered an pain au raisin and a cappuccino.
She took a seat by the window and as she nibbled her breakfast she wondered how she was going to convince DCI Donovan to take her seriously. Would she just humour her and then recommend that she see another shrink? She didn’t have to go after all, but it felt so real and her gut was telling her she needed to tell somebody.
By the time she had finished her coffee she was resolute. She would tell them what she had experienced and then they can do what they liked with the information, her conscience would be clear.
She took a short bus ride to the station, a grey 1970’s building made from prefabricated concrete as was the architectural style in that era. No doubt riddled with asbestos and a multitude of other sins. She walked up the steps to the reception and asked for DCI Donovan. She was offered a seat in the reception area, a worn out sofa in the sea of terrazzo stone tiles.
After waiting for a few minutes, the elevator pinged and a woman walked with grace and confidence towards her. Her heels clacked and echoed in the voluminous space.
‘Mercy?’ enquired DCI Donovan.
‘Yes, that’s me,’ Mercy answer and stood up to shake her hand.
‘Good to meet you, my name is DCI Donovan but you can call me Jane,’ she accepted her handshake and was surprised by the strength of her grip despite her slim stature.
‘Please follow me, she headed towards the barriers that granted access to the inner sanctum of the building. They proceeded past the lifts and through another door that required a PIN code. They turned ninety degrees left and down a corridor were several doors. They walk past two doors before stopping and turning and facing a door marked ‘Interview Room 3.’ Upon seeing the sign Mercy suddenly became irrationally nervous, she now had doubts whether she done the right thing. Jane must have sensed this and turned to her with a warm smile.
‘Don’t be alarmed, it’s the only meeting rooms we have at the moment,’ she said trying to put Mercy at ease, ‘you’re here at your own request and we would like to hear what you have experienced. There’s a pot of tea and coffee and maybe some biscuits too if we’re lucky.’
Jane opened the door and stood aside to let Mercy past. The room was brighter than Mercy had envisaged, and on the table there was indeed a tray of hot drinks and biscuits. There was also another person in the room, an older quite distinguished gentleman, but from the weariness in his face had led a difficult life.
‘Mercy, this is DCI Paul [Roberts], he’s one of the senior DCI’s at the station. I thought he may be interested in what you had to tell us as he knew DCI Anderson. I hope you don’t mind?’
Mercy thought about it for a moment and then it couldn’t hurt especially if this DCI knew DCI Anderson, it may give some more credibility to her story. She nodded in acceptance.
‘Please take a seat,’ Jane offered. Mercy could feel DCI [Roberts] staring at her intently as she took her seat. A habit Paul had developed over the years.
‘Ok Mercy, I have to go through a bit of formality,’ said Jane once the hot drinks were dispensed along with a biscuit, ‘I must inform you that you are not under caution or arrest, and that you have requested this meeting. If it’s ok with you we can take notes or we can take a recording?’
Mercy considered the options and indicated she preferred they notes were taken.
‘You are entitled to be accompanied by either a legal representative or a friend. Do you wish to call someone or would you like to proceed?’
Mercy hadn’t done anything wrong so decided it would be of no benefit to get someone else. Plus she hadn’t heard or spoken to the family lawyer since the last time he appeared with DCI Anderson. She shook her head and said, ‘let’s proceed.’
‘Thank you, sorry is just procedural. Now that we have gotten that out the way, how can we help you, you were rather distraught when you phoned last night,’ Jane started.
Mercy took a deep breath and looked at Jane then at DCI [Roberts] who had yet to say anything.
‘Well,’ began Mercy. She recanted her vision from the previous evening. Jane and Paul nodded initially to encourage her to speak freely and tell her story. Immediately when she told them it was a vision, both Paul and Jane had to hide their skepticism but as her story developed their nods were replaced with furrowed brows.
Jane leaned forward, listening attentively as Mercy described the woodlands and the the guttural sounds as the victim was bludgeoned with a rock. Surely this was a coincidence, but Mercy described the Joseph’s clothing in a meticulous detail.
Jane had met many supposed clairvoyants in her time. She remembered when she was in her earlier twenties being persuaded to go and see one with her best friend’s mother and her. In a darken room, lit with candles and doused with the smell of sandalwood and orange, an old mage looking woman sat on tasseled cushions in front of a small octagon table. On the table lay ornate playing cards with their faces down.
After a brief introduction, six of the larger than normal playing cards were dealt out face down in front of Jane. Jane was instructed to place a finger on one and turn it over. Pictured on the first card was a suit of cups, signifying water, Jane was informed. The soothsayer explained hat water played a key part in Jane’s life. When Jane, who used to swim for her school, nodded in affirmation, the old woman went onto declare that she will one day live by a body of water like the sea or a great lake. That sounded appealing, she like the thought of being able to go swimming every day. By the end of the reading Jane’s future was almost cast, a great career, married young and a couple of children by the time she was thirty. When she gleefully told her father, who was a sceptical of such practices, he told her she had fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the books – truism. He explained they make predictions that appeal broadly, then refine it according to the receivers reactions. For example, they will say you are a person that can be confident but have moments of insecurities, I mean which person doesn’t, or you will be wealthy in the future. None of these statements can be disproven at the time.
Of course her father was right. Jane didn’t marry early nor have children and she was still searching for someone to share her life with. The only body of water she lived near was a sewage treatment plant about a kilometre away, and on a hot day with the winds blowing in her direction she would be ironically reminded.
From that point on she learnt not to give away any indications of affirmations or otherwise. She maintained a poker like persona, which was often misinterpreted as her being cold and distant.
Jane caught herself leaning forward, admonish herself, and lent back in her chair. She remained stoic for the remainder of Mercy’s recantation, that is until she mentioned the victim being dragged to the river bank by his rucksack. At which point, both Jane and Paul shot each other glances of incredulity.
This didn’t go unnoticed by Mercy, who called them out over it.
‘I’m not imagining this am I?’ she asked in an accusatory tone. ‘This has happened, someone’s been murdered just as I saw,’ her eyes pleaded with them to tell her the truth and confirm she wasn’t going crazy.
‘Mercy, why don’t you finish your story. Then we can discuss what’s next,’ Jane responded. Reluctantly Mercy continued without the reassurance she sought.
Both Jane and Paul remained emotionless for the remainder of the story. Mercy was visibly shaken after having to live through her vision once again. The three of them sat in quiet contemplation before Paul spoke.
‘Thank you, Mercy, I know this must be harrowing for you and may have resurfaced memories from your own father’s death. Right now, please have another hot drink and help yourself to some biscuits. DCI Donovan and I need to consider what you have told us. If you wait here, we will back shortly.’ Paul then led Jane out of the room and walked down the corridors a vacant room.
‘What do you think?’ Jane asked. She was slightly apprehensive about bringing Paul to the meeting given the vagaries during her call with Mercy.
Paul rubbed his eyes; he had been working late on another case. ‘It’s confounding,’ he admitted, ‘she was aware of elements of the murder case, but she could have read about it in the press.’
‘I’ve read all the press coverage there is on the case, both national and local. There’s not much in detail, certainly not to the extent Mercy described,’ Jane replied quickly to counter Paul’s skepticism.
‘Ok, I’ll suspend my disbelief for the moment, let’s go back in and interrogate her like we would an actual eyewitness,’ Paul suggested. ‘However, I need to be away in under thirty minutes, a new case has come in and I’ll need your help.’
‘Can you tell me about the other case?’ Jane enquired.
‘Not now,’ Paul snapped and walked out the door.
Paul and Jane re-entered the room and Mercy looked up from her hot drink. She sat in silence as the others took their seat. This time Paul led the discussion.
‘Mercy, do you know where Mesopotamia Walk is? It’s near River Cherwell in Oxford,’ asked Paul.
‘No, I can’t say I do,’ Mercy answered, ‘is this where it happened?’
‘If you don’t mind, I’ll ask our questions first and then we can answer some of yours,’ Paul said.
‘Can you recollect where you were on 15 April this year?’ Paul continued to ask.
‘Let me think,’ Mercy responded. She sat quietly recollecting her whereabouts around the date.
‘I think,’ she began, ‘I might have been either at my mother’s house in London or travelling back to my flat in Oxford.’ She checked her calendar on her phone to confirm. ‘Yes, I left from London that day, my train was at 10:00 hours.’
‘What did you do when you arrived back?’ Jane questioned.
‘Probably cleaned my flat, you know hoover, steam mop and so on.’
‘Did you see anyone else that day?’ Jane continued questioning.
‘No, I was due to meet my girlfriends for lunch the following day, so I just wanted time to myself.’
‘Do you know a Joseph Farley?’ Paul asked.
Mercy shook her head.
Jane interjected, ‘has this happened to you before?’
Mercy took a deep breath, she was expecting this question. ‘Well,’ she started and then told the two of them the visions she had following her father’s murder. She explained how she had gone through it with DCI Anderson, but he gently dismissed her story as some of the facts didn’t align. Mercy left out the part where her psychologist was also in attendance and the drugs she was prescribed afterwards.
‘Ok,’ Paul announced, putting his hands on his thighs before standing up. ‘Mercy, thank you for coming in and for your account. If you recollect anything else you have DCI Donovan’s contact details.’
‘Wait,” exclaimed Mercy, ‘I thought you were going to answer some of my questions?’
‘I’m afraid that we can’t comment on a live case,’ he said but DCI Anderson can answer any other questions you may have. I have another appointment I’m afraid. Jane when you have seen Mercy out, please come to my office.’ He shook Mercy’s hand and shot Jane a glance before departing the room.
Jane scowled at Paul in return, he had dismissed Mercy’s story out of hand, but her gut was telling her there was more to Mercy’s story.
When the door shut behind Paul, Jane turned to Mercy, ‘as my colleague said we can’t answer questions about a live case, but I can answer any other queries you may have now.’
Mercy was disappointed by DCI Roberts reactions but took the opportunity to ask questions anyway.
‘I’m not crazy right? Some of the things I saw happened, I could tell by your reactions,’ Mercy looked into Jane’s eyes for the truth.
Jane now we’ll practised at her poker face said, ‘some of the things you said are worthy of following up. That’s all I can really say right now.’
‘Did you read DCI Anderson’s report on my father’s murder before today?’ Mercy questioned.
‘Not in detail,’ Jane replied which was the truth as the full case notes where protected by a PIN.
‘Mercy,’ Jane continued, ‘if you do recall anything further or you want to discuss something else, call me, I mean it. I will follow up on some of the things you said and will call you if I have further questions.’
With that Jane stood up signalling the end of this interview. Mercy somewhat deflated and now regretting coming at all, followed Jane out of the room, across the reception hall and to the front door. Jane stood aside and held out her hand for Mercy to shake it. She gripped her hand indicating solidarity with Mercy, and watched her walk down the stairs and across the road. She noted how beautiful she was and how elegantly she carried herself.
Jane found Paul hunched over his desk pouring over photos of a crime scene and the report from the attending PC who was called to the latest scene.
She admonished Paul for his lack of decorum and leaving the interview in the way he did.
‘By the way,’ she said angrily at Paul, ‘why did you lock DCI Anderson’s report of Mercy’s fathers murder?’
‘What are you talking about,’ Paul replied confused.
‘There’s a PIN number on the report,’ she said accusatory.
‘That wasn’t me,’ Paul defended himself. ‘Anyway enough of mystic Meg and her visions, we have another potential murder case. Nothing for eighteen months and now suddenly our third in under six months.’
‘You didn’t find it strange Mercy knew the details of Joseph’s case?’ Jane was not letting it go.
‘Yes it was strange, what I need you to do is check her story out about travelling back to her flat, and then check she wasn’t in the vicinity of the murder site,’ Paul instructed. ‘DCI Anderson is the only one who can lock his report, with our Super Intendant the only other one who can give authority to unlock it. And, I’m not calling our Super because of some girls vision. If you want you can track down DCI Anderson for the PIN, if he hasn’t already passed away.’
‘Maybe I will,’ Jane replied testily.
After a few minutes of tense silence between them, Jane enquired about the new case.
‘A man’s been found dead, half buried at a construction site. We need to go there once I’ve finished reading the reports. Grab your coat and pack your things. We will leave in fifteen minutes.’
‘Ok,’ agreed Jane, walking off to gather her belongings. The one thing Jane was is stubborn and she would check out Mercy’s story when she returned to the office.m, and track down DCI Anderson if she had to.