The naked body of a young woman lay face down on the double bed like a discarded doll, a towelling cord wrapped tightly around her neck.
“Dressing gown cord,” explained Donovan. “The ‘otel supplies gowns for their guests. The room’s been checked and photographed. Mr Wallace said everything should be left as it was found till you arrived. The doctor’s been and gone, and Forensic are waiting to move in when you’ve finished.”
Ray had no idea why he had been summoned. He had only received news of his promotion a month ago and was due to take up his new post in the Serious Crime Squad in two weeks. The previous night he’d been out with the lads from the Flying Squad celebrating his promotion. The evening had started well, then some bastard had put something in his drink. Now his head was pounding and his tongue felt like an old dish-rag. He had no track record of leading a murder inquiry. However, investigating a suspicious death was part and parcel of police work, and he’d seen far too many corpses in his career – more than he cared to remember. At least this one was relatively fresh and thankfully there was no blood.
“When was she found?” he asked
“About nine o’clock this morning, by the cleaning maid.”
Ray looked at his watch. It was one p.m. He bent over the body, hoping he gave the impression he was an expert. The girl was a brunette with short straight hair, cut in a bob, and may have once been pretty, but the blue and swollen face had changed all that. He checked her fingers. There was a silver ring containing a semi-precious stone on the right hand. Her left hand showed no sign of jewellery, past or present.
“Has her next of kin been informed?” he asked.
“Was she married?”
“I don’t think she was. We’re checking ‘er background – boyfriends etcetera. The room was registered in the name of Mr and Mrs Roberts. The receptionist says the register was signed by a man who was probably in ‘is forties. She thinks she recognised him from somewhere but can’t think where.”
Ray straightened up, glad that the examination was over and he had not felt sick. He surveyed the scene. A pile of clothing lay in an untidy heap on the floor. His eyes registered a smart-looking black dress, black tights, black bra and pink panties. He knew better than to touch anything. They were in a double bedroom, expensively furnished with oak panelling, matching furniture and a marble en-suite bathroom. In the bathroom, the towels were neatly folded and it looked unused. The weather outside was hot, the hottest spring ever recorded, but both rooms were cold and he found himself shivering.
Donovan noticed. “I turned the air-conditioning up. The doc suggested it – we didn’t know when you’d get ‘ere.”
Ray nodded, relieved that it wasn’t the proximity of death that chilled the air. He spoke quickly to maintain his air of professionalism. “Okay, tell me what you know.”
Donovan opened his pocket book. “The victim, as yet not formerly identified, is thought to be Mary Rayner, a twenty-two-year-old white female – up until the end of December, last year, she was a Detective Constable here at Wellstone.”