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 person with a plastic label on a bruised big toe, it was a shock. Even though it was behind a glass screen, and most of the body was covered with a white sheet. 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 face looked was as about as presentable as it could be given the circumstances - limited 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 - kept her voice soft, so as not to upset Carol even more. ‘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?’
Child – ouch, but most 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 put an arm around Carol’s shoulder and took her outside where a social worker was waiting. ‘I won’t be long. Stay with Mrs Williams until I get back, okay?’
Carol nodded. ‘Okay, miss ...err...Jackie.’
Jackie hugged her once more before leaving them. Poor kid. Doesn’t know which way to turn, and now she’ll have Social Services hassling her as well.
Back in the mortuary, Helga went straight to the point. ‘Was Serena a prostitute?’
Jackie kept it neutral. ‘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. I could 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. AIDS infection.’
Shit. Carol was telling the truth.
Jackie knew about AIDS – how deadly it was. They had had a training course on its prevention. Always use a condom. She felt guilty about last night. ‘That’s what her sister told me.’
‘There’s more to it,’ replied Helga. ‘This strain is extremely virulent.’
Jackie felt her stomach lurch. She drew in her breath. ‘What’s that mean?’
‘We won’t be able to slow it down, even with the latest experimental drugs. Each cell replicates like octuplets.’ Helga paused. ‘Anyone infected could die 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. Sexually active people in Bridleton are all potentially at risk. We’ve already notified the Venereal Disease unit at the hospital to inform us when any AIDS 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 remained stable.’ 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.