After a gas fire explosion kills a family of four, DI King witnesses a fake repairman, whose involvement in the case may be more than first seems. The next day, a young girl comes to the Oxford police, claiming to be a survivor of the explosion, who knows something to be feared. Suddenly, Agnetha is dealing with a killer.
Detective Agnetha King picked her heeled shoes through the wreckage of a house, coughing in the deep stench of gas in the air, and puffing it back out.
“Careful, here,” she called back to the two men walking behind her, “definitely gas.”
In response, they whipped out handkerchiefs and covered their airways with the fabrics. The DI smiled. Typical of them. She herself didn’t cover up but for the trenchcoat that whipped down to her knees.
A scurrying sound came from the ground to her right, and the first of the two officers, plain clothed, came up off his hands and knees. Agnetha hadn’t even seen him go down, such was DS Blackburn’s speed and skill.
She flicked her eyes to the object in his hands, a fragment of a photograph, charred but clear.
“Must’ve been a big family. Look, ma’am.”
Blackburn held the picture closer to Agnetha’s face. Raising her eyebrows, she counted: four faces; a young girl with light hair, an older woman with a hand on her shoulder; a man wearing large, circular glasses; an old lady sitting in front of them.
“Spooky,” she said of the archaic poses. “They do look close.”
The DI coughed once more.
“Are you okay, ma’am?” asked her associate.
She waved her hand in his direction. “I’ll be fine, Blackburn. Good work; keep searching. There glass there?”
“Yup, the picture was definitely in a frame.”
“Right.” Agnetha pointed to the dark char of coals and metallic sparks. “Here’s the cause. Faulty gas fire, wiring. Get forensics to check it, if you think.” The stench caused vile to roll up in her throat. Agnetha swallowed.
“So, you’ve found the killer.”
“Yes, now where are the victims?”
From the back of the remains of the bungalow, a voice called. “Ma’am. You’d better see this.” Constable Willis beckoned her.
Kicking rubble over, and scowling at her choice of footwear, the DI marched over to the constable, before lifting a sleeve up to her nose. An altogether different odour made her gag.
“There we go. Oh, God.” Circular spectacles showed her where a face should have been. “What a mess of charred flesh. Excuse me.”
Agnetha turned and stormed out of the wreckage. That sight of the mangled, burnt body implanted into her mind and held, carved there. She took a deep breath.
“Oh, God, I’m better than this.”
She closed her eyes, willing herself not to throw up. Once the shaking had subsided, she turned back to Blackburn. It was just as typical of him to have followed her out.
“All right. Let’s get this mess cleaned up.”