Friday, 11 October 2019

Full Marks | Crime Detective Mystery

Full Marks
by Neal James

The stench was almost overpowering, and it hit them as soon as they had forced open the front door of the house. Detective Sergeant Marks recognised it immediately – the smell of death and decomposition. He had experienced body discovery before but nothing as bad as this, and they were yet to locate the source. Ten years earlier, as a uniformed PC, he had been called to a house on the local council estate where neighbours had reported an unpleasant odour coming from a property at the end of their street. They had noticed rats going in and out of the place, and hadn’t seen the occupier, a single woman in her late fifties, for some time. It had been down to him as the neighbourhood policeman to gain entry and assess the situation.
You never forget the smell of decomposing human flesh once you have encountered it, but the body hanging from the stairwell by a piece of curtain wire was something which PC Marks hadn’t anticipated. He ran back outside and was violently sick, retching until the pain in his stomach was almost unbearable, and its contents lay on the ground for all to see. He slumped against a wall as his legs gave way, having strength only to instruct one of the now gathering crowd of onlookers to call for an ambulance and police back-up. When his colleagues arrived, he could not hide his embarrassment at being unable to deal with the situation, but the sergeant just patted him on the back, told him to forget it, and sent him home.
Standing here, on another doorstep, and what seemed like a lifetime away from that incident, DS Marks braced himself for what he suspected he was about to see. Covering his mouth and nose with a wet handkerchief, he proceeded methodically through the house until he reached an upstairs sitting room. There, slumped backwards in a chair and surrounded by piles of newspaper, empty beer cans, and the remains of what must have been his last meal, sat…