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PART OF THE Did You Know…? ISSUE

‘He had wounds to the back of the head. Hitting the windscreen wouldn’t have caused that.’

To Dundee now, and if you haven’t yet made the acquaintance of the city’s fictional detective DI Dania Gorska, then may we recommend that you rectify that as soon as possible. You can start here, with this extract from her latest case, The Murder Stones, written by Hania Allen.

 

Extract taken from The Murder Stones
By Hania Allen
Published by Constable

 

She turned her attention to the car.The driver’s door was open, giving her a clear view of the heavy figure slumped face down over the wheel, his arms dangling.There was no air bag. What she could see of his dark hair was flecked with grey, and blood had seeped through it and trickled into his ear. His sheepskin jacket was worn and patched in places, although the matching gloves looked new. His head was almost touching the windscreen, which had shattered so completely that the mere touch of a finger would dislodge the webbed glass. She brought her face close to the man’s skull, then straightened and gazed at Milo. From the expression on his face, he’d seen it too – the array of wounds to the back of the head.

‘I’m about to move him,’ he said. He glanced at the photographer.‘ Ready, Lisa?’ He leant into the car and gripped the man’s shoulders. Using no more force than was necessary, he eased him back and rested him against the seat. It was then that Dania noticed he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Milo stepped back, inviting her to look.

The man’s craggy, lined face put him in his sixties, although he might have been older. His eyes were open and their expression of terror made it clear he’d been fully aware of what had been about to happen. The purplish-blue bruise on his forehead and the smashed nose suggested that it was the force of the blow on hitting the windscreen that had killed him.

The photographer took several photos, then picked her way round to the other side, leant in at the open passenger door and took several more.

‘That’s me done, Prof,’ she said, fiddling with the camera.

Trying not to disturb the clothing too much, Dania fished around in the man’s pockets. She found only a crumpled white handkerchief, and a small colour photograph of a young woman with fluffy blonde hair. She was laughing as though she’d been caught out by whoever was taking the picture. Dania turned it over, but there was nothing scribbled on the back.

‘His daughter, perhaps?’ Milo said, peering over her shoulder.

‘Or his wife when she was young.’

Dania beckoned to one of the SOCOs, who put the photo into an evidence bag.

She made her way to the passenger side and checked the glove compartment. It contained a single item: a Morris Traveller handbook.

‘Is that what this car is?’ she said to Milo. ‘A Morris Traveller?’

‘Indeed.You don’t see many of them around these days.’

‘There’s no indication of who he is.We’ll have to get an ID from the DVLA.’ She glanced at Milo. ‘Do you know much about these cars?’

‘I used to drive one, would you believe. I bought it when I was a student. Lovely maroon colour. There was a girl in my class I wanted to impress, you see, and I thought having a car would do it.’

Dania looked at him with curiosity. She knew nothing about his private life. She didn’t even know if he was married. ‘And did you?’ she said. ‘Impress her, I mean?’

‘Alas, no. She fell for a boy with a motorbike.The two of them dropped out of medical school and went touring round the world.’

Dania smiled. ‘I see. And do you happen to know if Morris Travellers come with air bags?’

‘Not as far as I’m aware; at least mine didn’t when I bought it. Although it may be possible to have them fitted. But don’t quote me on that.’

‘Kimmie should be able to tell me. What she doesn’t know about cars isn’t worth knowing.’

‘And what’s your current thinking? That there’s an air bag installed, and it failed?’

‘It’s possible. But what puzzles me more is that he wasn’t wearing his seat belt.’

Milo frowned. ‘It never fails to amaze me that even now there are people stupid enough not to buckle up. Right, I’d better get him to the mortuary.’

She watched him leave with one of the SOCOs, then called Hamish over. ‘This man that Tam Adie claimed to have seen leaning into the car. Did he give you an indication of where he was headed? You mentioned woodland.’

‘Aye, into those trees behind you.’

She stared into the wood. The day-old snow covered the ground as far as she could see. ‘What about footprints?’

‘We thought of that. Johnty is already in there, following the tracks. He’s using his scanner.’

‘That must be a thankless task.’

‘You know what Johnty’s like. When it comes to footprints, he never lets up. He said he’ll keep going until he gets to the other side. According to Google Maps, the woodland comes out on to a road. My guess is this unknown man left his car there.’

‘I won’t even ask if there are traffic cams.’

‘Nothing for miles. The nearest are on the A90.’

‘I wonder what made the car crash into the tree. Is there ice on the road?’

‘If you come this way, ma’am, I’ll show you.’

Hamish picked his way through the cluster of SOCOs, Dania following.

She gazed in astonishment at the shape in the road. ‘Good Lord, I’ve never seen a deer that big.’

‘He’s fair bonnie, and no mistake. A red deer, according to SOCO.’

‘Why hasn’t it got antlers?’

‘Aye, well, they shed them in winter, then regrow them.’

‘Seems a waste of time and energy.’ She glanced back towards the Morris. ‘Okay, so he was driving along the road, saw the deer—’

‘Hit it and crashed into the tree. Or swerved to avoid it and crashed into the tree.’

‘Seems straightforward enough. But there’s one thing that bothers me.’

‘Aye?’

‘He had wounds to the back of the head. Hitting the windscreen wouldn’t have caused that.’

‘You think it was this man Tam Adie reported?’

‘Possibly.’ She examined the deer. ‘This animal’s been hit, which must have been the Morris Traveller. But the damage isn’t enough to have killed it.’

‘You think it was already dead?’

‘And here’s the evidence. See these tracks here?’

Hamish squatted on his haunches and peered at the ground.

‘Aye, I ken what you mean.’

‘They suggest the carcass was deliberately dragged.’

‘Which means—’

‘That whoever did it, intended to cause an accident.’

 

The Murder Stones by Hania Allen is published by Constable, priced £8.99.

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