Home > Dark Water (DCI Erika Foster #3)

Dark Water (DCI Erika Foster #3)
Author: Robert Bryndza



Prologue

 

 

1

 

 

It was a cold night in late autumn when they dumped the body in the disused quarry. They knew that it was an isolated spot, and that the water was very deep.

What they didn’t know is that they were being watched.

The two of them arrived under darkness, just after three o’clock in the morning. They drove from the houses at the edge of the village, over the empty patch of gravel where the walkers parked their cars, and onto the vast common. They kept the headlights off, and bumped and lurched across the rough ground, joining a footpath, which was soon shrouded on either side by banks of trees. The darkness was thick and clammy, and the only light came over the tops of the trees.

However, nothing about the journey felt stealthy. The car engine seemed to roar out, the suspension groaned as it lurched from side to side. They slowed to a stop as the trees parted, and the water filled quarry came into sight.

What they didn’t know was that a man lived by the quarry. He squatted in an old abandoned cottage, which had almost been reclaimed by the undergrowth. He wanted nothing more than to live a peaceful life. He was outside staring up at the sky and marvelling at its beauty when the car appeared over the ridge and came to a halt. He moved behind a bank of undergrowth and watched, warily. Several times he had chased away local kids, and junkies too.

The moon briefly broke through the clouds as two figures emerged from the car. They took something large from the back, and carried it towards the rowing boat by the water. The first climbed in, and as the second passed the long package into the boat, there was something about the way it bent and flopped that made him realise with horror that it was a body.

The soft splashes of the oars carried across the water. He put a hand to his mouth. He knew he should turn away, but he couldn’t. The splashing oars ceased when the boat reached the middle. A sliver of moon appeared again through a gap in the clouds, illuminating the ripples spreading out from the boat.

He held his breath, as he heard a low rhythmic murmur come from the two figures, almost like a prayer being recited. The boat lurched as they stood, one of them nearly went over the edge. When they were steady, they lifted the package and with a splash and a rattle of chains they tipped it over the edge. The moon sailed out from behind its cloud, shining a bright light on the boat, and the spot where the package had been dumped, the ripples spreading violently outwards.

He also saw the two people in the boat, and saw their faces, recognised who they were.

The man exhaled. He’d been holding his breath. His hands shook. He didn’t want trouble, spent his whole life trying to avoid trouble. A chill breeze stirred up some dry leaves at his feet and he felt a sharp itching in his nose. Before he could do anything he sneezed loudly, it echoed across the water. In the boat their heads snapped up, and began to twist and search the banks. He turned to run, tripped on the root of a tree and fell to the ground knocking the wind out of his chest.

 

* * *

 

Beneath the water in the disused quarry it was still, cold, and very dark. The body sank rapidly, pulled by the weights, down, down, down, finally coming to rest with a nudge in the soft freezing mud.

She would lie still and undisturbed for many years, almost at peace. But above her, on dry land, the nightmare was only just beginning.

 

 

2

 

 

FRIDAY 28TH OCTOBER 2016

 

 

* * *

 

Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster crossed her arms over the bulky life jacket against the icy wind, wishing she’d worn a thicker coat. The small inflatable MET Police Marine Recovery boat churned across the water of the large quarry, dragging behind it a small transponder, scanning the bed deep below.

‘Water depth is twenty-three point seven meters,’ said Sergeant Lorna Crozier, the Dive Supervisor. She was hunched over a small screen at the front of the boat, where the results of the sonar were beamed back and displayed in inky purple shades, blooming across the screen like a bruise.

‘So, it’s going to be tough to salvage what we’re looking for?’ asked Erika, noting her tone.

Lorna nodded. ‘Anything beyond thirty metres is a tough. My divers can only stay down for short periods. The average pond or canal is a couple of meters deep. Even at high tide the Thames at its deepest is ten to twelve meters.’

‘There could be anything down there,’ said Detective Sergeant John McGorry, who was squashed in the small plastic seat beside Erika.

‘Are you trying to sit on my lap?’ she snapped as he leaned across her to peer over the edge.

‘Sorry, Boss,’ he grinned shifting across the seat. ‘I saw this show on the Discovery Channel. Only 5% of the ocean floor is mapped. The ocean occupies 70% of the Earth's surface, that leaves 65% of the Earth, excluding dry land, unexplored…’

Erika followed his youthful gaze across the rippling surface of the water. The visibility can’t have been more than a couple of feet before it became a swirl of dark shadows.

The disused quarry sat at the northern tip of Hayes common, on the outskirts of South London. At the waters edge twenty meters away, clumps of dead reeds swayed in the wind. A large support lorry was parked on the grassy bank, and beside it the small support team were preparing the diving gear. Their orange lifejackets were the only dots of colour on the dingy autumn afternoon. Behind them, gorse and heather stretched away with a mix of greys and browns, and a clump of trees in the far distance were bare. A line of new-build houses backed onto the banks on the opposite side of the quarry, peeping over a long row of fence panels.

The boat reached the end of the quarry and slowed.

‘Turning about,’ said PC Barker a young male officer sat at the rudder of the outboard motor. He performed a sharp turn so they could double back and cross the length of the water for the sixth time.

‘Do you think, some fish or eel down deep could have grown to like super proportions?’ asked John, turning to Lorna, his eyes still shining with enthusiasm.

‘I’ve seen some pretty big fresh water Crayfish when I’ve been diving. Although this quarry isn’t a tributary, so whatever is down there would have to have been introduced,’ replied Lorna, one eye on the screen.

‘I grew up in St Mary Cray, and there was a pet shop near us that, apparently, sold baby crocodiles…’ John’s voice tailed off and he looked back at them raising an eyebrow. He was always upbeat and chatty, which Erika could just about cope with. Although, she dreaded working the early shift with him.

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