The Coroner

Free The Coroner by M.R. Hall

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Authors: M.R. Hall
stars.
        The
nightmares rolled on through the restless small hours: she started awake as a
faceless murderer unsheathed a knife and thrust it at her guts. Collapsing into
the pillow, her heart thumping against her ribs, she looked over at the clock
and saw it was nearly seven a.m. Slowly coming to, she became aware of a noise
outside the window: metallic scraping.
        She
swung out of bed and anxiously hooked the corner of the blind back with her
finger. Steve, his back to her, stood over by the cart track stroking a sickle
with a sharpening stone. He tested the blade with his thumb and started into
the weeds with big, relaxed strokes. Not a trace of tension in his frame.
    ----
        

CHAPTER FIVE
        
        Thank
God for temazepam. She arrived at the office to find Alison agitatedly
directing removal men who had brought in half a dozen filing cabinets and were
now filling the rest of reception with document boxes.
        Jenny
was barely through the door when Alison turned to her accusingly and said, 'I
told you there was nowhere to put it all, Mrs Cooper.'
        'We'll
rent some storage and archive what we don't need.'
        'And
who's going to pay for that?'
        'We
managed to pay for an office at the police station.' She grabbed her mail from
the tray on Alison's desk. 'Could we have a word?'
        Alison
hurled some instructions at the removers and followed Jenny into her office.
        'The
chief super was surprised that you were moving me, to say the least. We've
always found it a mutually beneficial arrangement. My ex-colleagues are often
helping out.'
        'And
what's in it for them?'
        'Mr
Marshall and I uncovered several murders over the years that would never have
got to the police otherwise. There was a man who poisoned his wife with
insulin, a girl who smothered her baby . . .'
        Sorting
her mail, Jenny said, 'The difference between the police and the coroner is
that the police chase convictions, the coroner chases the truth. One doesn't
necessarily follow from the other.'
        'I
was a detective for twenty years and I never saw a false conviction.'
        'But
did you always find the truth? And once you had a suspect, did you even want to
find it?'
        'You're
not a fan of the police, Mrs Cooper?'
        Jenny
opened her briefcase and brought out the Katy Taylor file. She handed it to
Alison. 'Did you read the constable's report before Mr Marshall signed the
death certificate?'
        'I
usually do.'
        'She
was found six miles from home wearing high-heeled shoes. Why wasn't there a
detailed search of the area? Why no forensics? Why no investigation into how
she got there, who brought her, where the drugs came from? And if the police
decided they had other priorities, why didn't Marshall ask those questions'
        'He'd
have had his reasons.'
        'You
were working for him at the time; what do you think they were?'
        Alison
fingered the corner of the file. 'I didn't discuss the case with him in
detail—'
        'He
must have said something.'
        'Only
that Dr Peterson was sure it was an overdose and that Detective Superintendent
Swainton in CID was happy with that.'
        'So
he had a heads-together with the police?'
        'He
would have spoken to them, of course.'
        'And
if Swainton was content to mark it down as accidental that was good enough for
him?'
        'It
wasn't like that. He had a very good relationship with the CID. They trusted
each other.'
        'I
see.' Jenny was getting the picture: Marshall didn't tread on CID's toes and in
return he got an ex-copper with an office at the station to do his legwork. 'In
this case I'm afraid his trust wasn't justified. I'm revoking the death
certificate and starting again, with a proper investigation this time.'
        'What
am I going to tell CID?'
        'It's
nothing to do with them.' She grabbed a legal pad and slotted it in

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