Carol looked a little nervous. ‘Not really, miss … I mean, Jackie. I haven’t done anything like this before.’
Jackie could understand. First time she saw a dead body with a plastic label on a bruised big toe, it was a shock. Even though it was behind a glass screen. And then having to look at the face. Everything was white. Eyes staring into space.
And how old was Carol? Fifteen.
Archie had done a good job. The body looked wholesome enough. No outward sign of trauma. But it wasn’t Archie on duty that day. Instead, a tall Nordic beauty, with deep blue, ice-cold eyes. Helga Johansson motioned to the screen. ‘Unknown woman, number 69.’
Carol took one look and started to sob. Tried to scrabble at the glass. ‘Serena,’ she cried.
Jackie moved across and hugged Carol close. ‘You can see her later, if you want. When she’s in the chapel of rest.’
Carol nodded, seemingly overcome as the tears began to fall. She started to sob.
Jackie motioned to Helga. ‘For the record, the young woman has been positively identified as Serena Naringa.’
Helga picked up a marker pen and wrote out a new label. ‘I need five minutes of your time DS Steel. Can the child wait outside?’
That was unlike Helga. Usually she couldn’t wait to see the back of the police, especially DCI Angers. Theirs was a conflict of personality. Fire versus Ice.
Jackie parked Carol in the waiting area, with a coke from the dispenser and went back into the mortuary.
Helga went straight to the point. ‘She was a prostitute, right?’
Jackie was cautious. ‘While we don’t have her on our database, from my discussions with Carol, it would appear so.’
‘Yes, I thought so. This victim bears similarities to the other three homicides this month. From a medical viewpoint, that is. Do you want me to carry out DNA testing on the sperm samples?’
Jackie nodded. Ops had also linked Serena’s death to the others. All known prostitutes. ‘Most appropriate. Anything else?’
Helga looked troubled. ‘We tested the blood samples Archie took. HIV positive.’
Jackie nodded again. ‘That backs up what her sister told us. So what?’
‘Let me explain. HIV is an imperfect virus. Think of non-identical twins. This is how the virus replicates itself. That’s why we use a cocktail of drugs to block the reproductive steps. ARV’s to inhibit full blown AIDS.’
Jackie was aware of Anti-Retro-Viral drugs. They had had a training course on HIV infection. Always use a condom. She felt guilty about last night. ‘So what’s different?’
‘There’s more to it,’ replied Helga. ‘This strain is the most virulent that I’ve ever encountered.’
Jackie felt her stomach lurch. She drew in her breath. ‘What’s that mean?’
‘Our current ARVs could be ineffective against this strain. Each cell replicates like octuplets.’ Helga paused. ‘Anyone infected could develop full blown AIDS in a matter of months. Including her clientele and whoever killed her.’
Helga rubbed more salt into the wound. ‘Archie and I are in complete agreement. The whole population of Bridleton is potentially at risk. We’ve already notified the STI unit at the hospital to inform us when any HIV infection is identified. Confidentially, of course.’
Helga screwed up her face at the expletive, but pointed to Serena Naringa. ‘We think your young lady was a carrier; somehow her condition did not progress to AIDS.’ Helga paused and shrugged. ‘We don’t know why. But we need to find out ... quickly.’
‘Friggin’ hell.’ Jackie shuddered. If Helga didn’t have a solution, it was bad news. Carol was right.