Footprints in the sand

Present day – St Ives

Flies buzzed round the decomposing, bloated corpse as seagulls circled overhead like vultures. It was a sweltering summer’s morning in early August. An ethereal figure, that of a young man hovered nearby as the sun scorched his empty eye sockets. In life, his eyes were piercing sapphire blue and broke hearts.

His mangled torso entwined in seaweed had been found by a young couple walking their dog just after dawn, washed up on Peregrine* beach.

As the body was driven away, three more shadowy figures, that of a middle aged man and woman and a young woman in her early 20s joined the young man and floated down the beach towards the sea.

Steadying his hand, knife poised, the young rookie pathologist sliced into the cold, sandy flesh of the unidentified cadaver.

A week earlier

The fisherman’s tavern tucked away in St Jude’s Bay* was getting busy when James arrived mid-afternoon after driving down from London with his mother’s ashes to scatter in the sea. When his father had died they had scattered his ashes there too. The family had a holiday home in St Ives and James recalled the happy summers of his childhood. It was also where his parents had first met. Now they were both gone. His mother’s funeral had only taken place two days ago and his eyes were still red raw. He had barely slept since her death two weeks ago. She had taken an overdose and was found by her housekeeper in the bath the following morning. Beside the bath was an envelope containing a letter.

The shaky writing looked like a spider with its legs dipped in ink had scurried across the page and some of it was illegible. Nevertheless, James got the gist and read the contents in horror and in total disbelief.

A month earlier, London’s notorious black cab killer had been murdered in his hospital bed while on remand. In her final letter, his mother had confessed to the killing.

Distraught, James sunk several more whiskeys and as the tide was coming in headed rather unsteadily down to the beach.

Eight months earlier

It was a few weeks before Christmas and James’s sister Saskia had just stumbled out of a club onto the greasy pavement. It was the early hours of the morning and the streets were more or less empty. It was pelting down and Saskia was tired and drunk. In the distance she saw a black cab slowly approaching and stumbled towards it waving her arms.

The next day her mutilated remains had been found dumped in bin liners by the River Thames, near Embankment. She had been raped, strangled, stabbed & butchered. Her killer, a middle aged black cab driver with a hatred for young blonde women had struck again. Saskia was his third victim. Shortly afterwards he was arrested after his forth potential victim, an off duty police officer, fought back.

Saskia’s mother, Jenny, was totally devastated. The day she received the news was only a few days after the fifth anniversary of her husband’s death. The notorious gangster Johnny Mack had been found shot on wasteland in Essex a few days short of his 50th birthday. His killer had never been caught but she vowed that she would get justice for Saskia. When she buried her daughter the day before Christmas Eve she vowed that she would make sure the monster who had taken her baby away from her would go to hell. A life for a life.

One month earlier

And so the day arrived. Thanks to an anonymous tip off on Twitter, Jenny knew which hospital Jonathan Hardy, her daughter’s killer, had been admitted to following his attempted murder whilst on remand. He had been cut up pretty badly with a razor blade which had narrowly missed a carotid artery. As he had lost a significant amount of blood he had been placed in HDU so that he could be closely monitored.

Slipping into her nurse’s uniform, carefully pulling on a long brunette wig over her short blonde bob and attaching her fake identify badge, she slipped into the night. She had been a nurse in a previous life so was comfortable around hospitals and could easily blend in. All she had to do was get past the prison guard stationed outside his room, put the pillow over his head and it would all be over.

Returning to her flat, Jenny poured herself a large vodka and began writing a letter to her blue eyed boy. Since her daughter’s death, the black moth had unfurled its wings again and hope had fled. She had been there several times before but this time she no longer had the energy left to fight back. Swallowing a handful of Valium, washed down with the rest of the vodka, she ran herself a bath. As she slipped into unconsciousness, she saw her daughter surrounded by bright light holding out her hand. As she took her last breath, Jenny grabbed it.

When the housekeeper discovered Jenny’s body the next morning, she noticed a tiny white feather clutched in her hand.

One week later

A couple of miles along the shore from where the unidentified corpse was found, fishermen were reported to have pulled out a rusty urn from their fishing nets. As one of the fishermen opened the urn he described feeling an icy cold blast of air whip his face and the petrified screams of a drowning man.

Inside they discovered a disintegrating, waterlogged green tinged envelope. However, it was still quite well preserved considering it had been in the water so long. What appeared to be the letter ‘J’ was handwritten in black ink on the front.

And so the sea continues her onward journey, sometimes turbulent, sometimes calm but as surly as the tide goes out ashes will be scattered and footprints left on the sand.
*fictitious places

Copyright © 2016 Anne D Morgan