Scared to Live
'A UK passport?' 'Yes. Rose Ann Shepherd, British citizen, born 1944 in London . . .' He flicked through the pages. 'No stamps.' 'What about an address?' 'Your address doesn't appear in your passport.' 'No, but most people give a next of kin. A friend or relative, anyway - maybe two.' 'You're right.' Hitchens turned to the back page again. 'Nope, not in Miss Shepherd's case.' 'No one she wanted informed in the event of an accident?' 'I guess not. You know, this passport looks almost unused to me. Mine has got a bit creased at the spine and started to turn up at one corner.' 'Well, that would explain why there are no stamps.' 'Not necessarily. It just means she hasn't been outside Europe with it. Or rather, outside the Schengen area. You don't get stamped moving between Schengen countries.'
    In her passport photograph, Miss Shepherd was smartly turned out. Her hair was a darker shade of grey, swept back in a business-like manner to match a white blouse, discreet ear studs and a hint of make-up. She had sharp blue eyes and a direct gaze, with the faintest of smiles at the camera. Hitchens took a call on his mobile. 'OK, that's great. Thanks.' He turned to Kessen. 'There was a Vauxhall Astra seen in the village in the early hours of Sunday morning. It doesn't belong to any of the residents, so far as we can tell. One witness is almost sure she's seen it in the village before -and the previous occasion was late at night, too.' 'Any details?' 'Blue.' 'Dark blue? Could have been black in the dark?' 'Nope. Light blue, seen under the streetlight near the phone box. No reg, but it probably started with an X, so it wasn't a new model.' 'You know, we need the media to come on board early in this one, Paul. There are no obvious leads from the house. We've got to get appeals out to locate the driver of that Astra, and anyone who had contact with Rose Shepherd in the last forty-eight hours. No - the last two weeks. God, I don't know -any contact with her, full stop.' Cooper looked up, surprised to hear the DCI getting even a little bit rattled in public. But he could see what was bothering Kessen. The first twenty-four hours were the vital period after any murder. If you didn't have a strong lead within that time, you were destined for a long drawn-out enquiry - and the odds were against bringing the case to a successful conclusion. This murder might be forty hours old already, according to the ME, and there wasn't a single lead in sight. But why didn't someone miss Rose Shepherd? That was the question the DCI had asked earlier. And it was a good question.
    'You know, there's absolutely no sign of an intruder being in the house,' said Kessen. 'Apart from this open window, which shows no traces of having been forced. No tool marks, no damage. Right, Wayne?' Abbott had his phone to his ear. 'And no fingerprints either,' he said. 'I just got an update. The only prints we found on the window are a match for the victim's - and they were on the inside.' 'And every other window in the house is locked down tight. Why wouldn't this one be locked, too? Can anyone suggest an answer to that?' 'Yes,' said Hitchens, looking anxious. 'Because someone used this window to get out of the house. I don't know how he got in - I can only guess the victim let him in through the front door. But he must have gone out this way.' 'We're on ,the first floor. Did he clamber down the drainpipe?' 'Probably.' Hitchens looked out of the window. 'Actually, there isn't a drainpipe. Not within reach.' 'A nice dense ivy, then? Russian vine?' 'Nothing. It's a blank wall . . .' Hitchens hesitated. 'He must have jumped.' 'From this height?' 'Er, yeah.' 'In that case, Paul, I expect you'll find the intruder's prints on the window frame, perhaps some fibres from his clothes on the stone ledge. There'll be some pretty deep footwear impressions in the ground down below, where he landed. Oh, and you'll be looking for a suspect who ran away with two broken legs and a cracked spine.'

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