Excerpt from Winterlude

10 March 2013

The red of Helgi's usually healthy complexion had gone, replaced by pallid cheeks.
'It's not pretty, chief,' he said, sucking cold air into his lungs in deep breaths as occasional snowflakes spun through the air. 'Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get used to this part of the job.'

Gunna steeled herself and stepped past the equally pace-faced uniformed officer standing guard and stepped through the doorway. One white suited and masked figure inside was systematically photographing everything, the flash bouncing off the walls that had once been white but had turned a shade of nicotine ivory over the years while the other stooped low over a third figure on the floor. Gunna made out the arms spread wide of a man flat on his ample back. The hands looked huge, pale in the harsh artificial light and the hands, flat to the floor as if holding on, with scattered black hairs growing from the knuckles.

'Anything you can tell me, Sigmar?'

The kneeling figure looked around and shook his head. As he moved, Gunna saw the rest of the body on the floor, a worn leather jacket over a thick chest and a pot belly. She caught her breath at the sight of the man's head. There was no face to speak of, its features flattened and broken.

'Stone dead and it's a damned mess,' Sigmar said, his voice muffled by the mask across his mouth. 'That's all I can tell you right now, Gunna. Sorry.'

'There must have been a weapon involved, surely?

He nodded his head slowly. 'I'd say so. You don't get that kind of result with bare hands.'

'Any identification?'

Sigmar unzipped the man's coat and felt inside, shook his head and leaned back. 'Nothing there?'

'Back pocket?'

He felt along the corpse's side, then leaned over the body to feel the other, before lifting himself upright holding a worn wallet that he placed into Gunna's hand. 'Be my guest,' he said with mock formality.

'Thanks. I'll leave you to it. But the sooner you can tell us anything more, the better,' Gunna told him. 'I can see headlines already.'