Triple homicide in a quiet English township. What really goes on behind the doors of Town Hall?

Stonehome is your atypical carbon copied English town in the southern county of Dorset. A sleepy, reasonable sized place where the locals cling to social opacity and a forced sense of closeness, but as a Detective Sargent, you get to see behind the mask put on for the tourists.

That is not to say that the place is riddled with crime, we get our fair share of rapists and murderers, but it’s all mainly petty theft, domestic violence, minor drug offences and vandalism. Teens acting out against a society they feel is rejecting them because of who they are or what they believe.

So on this occasion the briefing room was a buzz of noise and commotion. Many of the big dicks declaring that this is their opportunity to shine and make a name for themselves, I don’t go for that sort of behaviour, we are police officers, our job is to ensure the safety of the public, not our egos or the budget.

This attitude is probably why a lot of the other officers look down on me, my arrest record is the lowest in the shop, but I have never found anyone really worth arresting. For that I like to think that my return offenders are the lowest and that I’m making a positive show of the constabulary.

The Detective Chief Inspector, Diane Middleton and the Detective Superintendent, James Horshaw, enter the room and all the other inspectors go quiet. In total there are 9 of us from CID and 10 uniformed constables. My partner DC Julie Fairweather sits next to me, she seems to idolise me.

The briefing starts promptly, 3 pictures of brutally carved corpses occupy the wall behind them.

“Triple homicide, looks to be some kind of ritual killing, possibly gang related. No word on the street of any new gangs moving into town, so we could be looking at newbies out to make a name for themselves.” Diane flips her notebook page, “The victims are 2 females in their early 20s and a much older retired gentleman, they were found this morning within an hour of each other, located at these three sites.” The slide shifts with a load click-clunk to show the town and three dots where the bodies were found. “The two women were found at the two northern points around 1 mile apart and the man was found at this southern point, another mile from the others. The only thing linking these killings is the way the bodies were cut the same, so we could be looking at a group.”

“Any estimated time of death?” asks Simon Cummings, the other Detective Sargent.

“Not yet, but prelims show they may have been killed quite close together, possibly in the same place and then later moved, hence more than one person involved.” Diane replied.

“Is it possible that the old man was a witness, wrong place at the wrong time?” I ask.

“That’s your job to find out; you and Julie are to visit the man’s home at the Applesoft Nursery, DS Cummings and DC Aviary will be looking into Jane Doe One, DI Kirkman and DC Bullen will be looking into Jane Doe Two, DI Reynolds, you will be handling the public liaison for the time being. Constables, I believe your Sargent will be coming in in just a second to brief you about cordons and perimeters.”

“I would be remised if I were not to warn you ladies and gentlemen of the importance of this case. It is going to be a focal point here and nationally until we catch the culprits, I want this guy behind bars by the weeks end.” DSI Horshaw announced sternly and with that DCI Middleton and DSI Horshaw left the room.

The sky was grey and seemed to loom over me as Julie and I pulled up outside the Applesoft Nursery, ominously just sitting there, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce and release its payload. The sky was always grey just recently; global warming is what the propaganda would have us believe.

Applesoft Nursery was located by the Harbourne Estate. A run down little place on the east side of town, a council housing estate built up in a hurry to help with the sudden influx of immigrants and the rise of people seeking council housing.

The retirement home itself was well tended and always seemed to have a fresh coat of white wash on the outside walls. The nurses always wore a smile and rushed about busying themselves with the needs and wants of those that dwelt within.

The woman at the reception desk wore a particularly toothy grin filled with large white incisors that could have been used as a colour match for the walls outside.

“Good Afternoon and how may I help you?”

I flash my ID and her smile instantly seemed to stutter a little.

“One of your residences was found this morning, we believe he may have been murdered and we were hoping we could take a look in his room.” I asked.

“Oh my, that is horrible to hear, do you have his name?” Her smile vanished instantly and never returned that day.

“No just the room key that we found on his person.”

I take the key out of my pocket, it was still in the evidence bag and it had a little “Applesoft Nursery” tag on it. I hand it over to her and when she takes it, she looks at it so closely I thought she might have been looking for imperfections in the very particles.

“It’s ok; we can track the serial number on the key to the room number.”

She clicks away at the run down computer in front of her, making the obligatory remark about how slow it is and that the mouse inside needed feeding and I make the necessary grunting noise of approval.

Eventually we get the room number and a name, George Halloway, retired war vet. Served Korea, Northern Ireland and Falkland’s just before retiring she tells me.

The corridors of the place are stark contrast to that of the exterior. Dim lights tarnished yellow and orange with age gave the place a vintage feel, like we were stuck back in the 50s and all the old people walking the halls and sitting in the common rooms only added to that feeling.

Their desperate faces gazed out at Julie and me as we made our way to George’s room. There was no happiness here; no cheer and even the fake smiles of the staff seemed desperately fake and gave an air of caution.

The room seemed a more concentrated version of the hallways, eerie to say the least. The light was an off colour and unnatural, even standing under the bulb it did not seem to shed enough light to read or look at anything.

It was a small apartment, a single room with a separate bedroom and bathroom located next to each other. I left Julie to quiz the nurse while I went to look around the bedroom.

It was quite a bare room with a single wardrobe, a bed and a chest at its foot. The chest contained memorabilia from George’s military career, including photos of just him, his section, troop and regiment, all taken at different times. They were quite yellow and moulded by now and most of them had the glass missing from the frames.

The chest also contained George’s medals, mounted in perfect unison and still quite shiny, he clearly took pride of his service, as any man should and at the bottom, behind mountains of letters was his beret and the cap badge of the Devon and Dorset’s or D&D for short.

Moving to the cupboard of simple and cheap make, the whole thing seemed like it was going to collapse on me as I opened the doors. Inside stank of polish, detergent and starch.

Shoes neatly lined the bottom, shining through a thin layer of dust that had started to gather. The clothes were all a similar mid-brown tweed 2 and 3 piece suits of cheap make. The only thing that stood out was a red bathrobe with an odd motif on the left breast, an upside down star with a skull on top. The military always seemed to like their bizarre motifs.


Julie and I sat in the car, sipping away at overly strong coffees. The clouds had finally started to expunge its contents onto the hapless townsfolk below, the windscreen was awash of raindrops, some saw no reason to remain still and ran down the glass.

Julie was rattling off the information she was able to gleam from the staff, but nothing peculiar seemed to stand out.

George was a quiet man, kept to himself and secretive about his coming and goings. Nothing untoward for an old fellow who had served his country, it was also commonplace for the retired to feel like prisoners in homes like this.

“He would often take walks around the Harbourne Estate of an evening after dinner.” Julie said, probably the first interesting thing she said so far.

“Now why would a frail old man take a walk around one of the most intimidating estates here?” I muttered more to myself than anything.

“Well, he was a war vet; no doubt he found it no different to Ireland I’m guessing.” Julie responded.

“No guesses here, what have I told you? And if you ask anyone who served, they do not want to go back to such places, not even proxies.”

The heavens fully opened up and let the contents of the sky drop on the township below. It grew dark and the windows steamed.

“Perhaps he felt invulnerable or untouchable?”

“Possible,” I put the coffee in the cup holder, no way I am drinking more of that, “Most squaddies acquire a sense of invulnerability, but why not go south, to the nicer parts of town?”

“Surveying the fruits of his labour? His fighting over seas for our freedom and this is what happens to it.”

“That, DC Fairweather, is good deduction right there.” She looks at me, beaming, probably the single brightest thing in this whole dismal place.

“Now we go canvassing.” The smile vanished.


The buildings of the Harbourne Estate were nothing more than port-a-cabins pushed together in long lines and sectioned off into apartments. A cheap solution for a problem the council cared little for.

It was all supposed to only be a temporary solution any way, while more permanent flats were built. Now, the council was looking at demolishing the area within the next few days ready for a new prestigious housing estate for middle class families. The only problem was that the flats were far from ready.

This left tempers flared and patients thin, most of the residence cared little for Julie and my-self and definitely not for an old codger they had never seen, or admit to seeing. We were looked upon as worse than the drug dealers, addicts and hoodlums that prowled the paths and parks in the area.

We ran into DS Simon Cummings and DC Thomas Aviary. They were also canvassing the area, as it turned out that one of the Jane Does, Sarah Pascoe, was a resident here.

“What’s the bet that the other Jane Doe is from here also,” Simon remarked “her neighbour claims to have seen some robed figures help Miss Pascoe into the back of a white van and that they are pretty sure they saw another person already in the back, nothing distinctive though.”

“Red robes?” I asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“George had a red robe, I thought a bathrobe, don’t suppose they caught a motif or emblem?”

“Nope, just red, or maybe purple, you know, with it being dark and all.” Simon rolled his eyes.

After sharing what little information we each had, we moved off. Fat rain drops were beginning up again and I was tired.


The next day the investigation began again in earnest. We were all sat in the confines of the briefing room, still with the three victims projected up on the wall and on the whiteboard on the right wall, three names with a sprawling spider diagram around each. Tiffany Spencer was a name I had not come across.

DCI Middleton came into the room.

“Right, you all know the score, we are starting to develop a picture and all we need now is more information about these robed figures and the van they used. DI Kirkman and DC Bullen will be taking the lead, I need the rest of you to help the uniforms move out the residence of Harbourne, it seems the council in their infinite wisdom has decided to move up the schedule in light of these homicides and if anyone sees Cummings or Aviary, tell them I want to see them in my office, pronto.”

Crowd control, not the job of a CID officer, just as ejecting people from their homes not the job of the Police Force, things could get pretty ugly, but at least the day was looking to be brighter than yesterday.

The clouds were big, fluffy and white, the wind seemed minimal and it was quite pleasant to be outside without a jacket. I was wearing a uniform that had not been donned for quite a few years, Julie was alright it had been less than a year for her and her uniform still fit. Mine was pretty tight.

When we arrived at the estate it seemed that any blue sky that had appeared over the course of the morning was now completely gone and the bleakness returned, though it was still quite warm.

There were several coaches parked up along the street, people in dribs and drabs were making their way toward them with luggage and children in tow. Some were kicking up a really big fuss and I do not blame them, being forcibly ejected from their homes and being carted off to hostels and half way homes until more suitable accommodation could be found.

It felt wrong, the entire thing and as I looked into the faces of the people around me, my heart grew heavy and ashamed, their forlorn faces looking back at me in desperation, pleading for help with their eyes, others looked at me with disgust.

Some of the more strong willed were not giving up and would not be subdued so easily. The uniformed quickly segregated these people and bundled them into meat wagons.

Julie and I were tasked with checking through already cleared buildings for any stragglers. We moved from apartment to apartment, checking every room. A lot of the places still had personal belongings in them and half packed boxes. It was assumed that the families would have a chance to come back and gather their things once they had settled in their new homes.

“What was that?” Julie said.

We were nearly finished searching through the first apartment complex when she thought she heard someone making a noise.

“What did you hear?” I ask.

“I think I heard someone call for help, down here.” She bolted down a corridor.

I followed quickly after her and she led us into an apartment at the end of the long corridor and almost ran into the back of her as she stopped suddenly. Before us, in a small room that was probably a lounge; a small blonde woman sat in the middle of the floor huddled with three children.

When she looked up at us, her eyes were full of fear and her make-up had run profusely where she was crying.

“Oh thank god.” she whispered.

I moved forward to help her to her feet, Julie murmured something and the woman let out a screech that nearly burst my ears and this set the kids wailing. As I turn, I notice Julie lying face down on the ground and a huge red shape moving toward me.

Instincts kick in and as it swings its gangly arm at me I manage to shift to the side, catch the swing and carry the momentum, sending the figure flying over my shoulder. My position was rushed and I was not quite balanced, I almost bowl over with the attacker and that’s when I see two more come into the room.

The fools do not rush me, but instead stare in shock, clearly surprised to see me as I am them. The third is pulling himself up off the floor.

“Don’t just stand there you idiots, get him.” The floor guy says.

“But he’s a cop.” The smart one says.

“So? A witness is a witness.” And just like that, I’m in the same boat as George.

The smart one comes at me, the other is clearly not so smart as he just stands there, hoping the smart one can do it on his own, he is wrong.

He thrusts at me with a fancy looking knife, I jump back and catch his wrist, apply just enough pressure to the nerve cluster and his hand involuntarily opens and drops the weapon. Then it was a simple case of twisting the arm into what is affectionately known as a chicken wing.

“My arm,” he bellows “you’re breaking my arm!”

I see the not so smart guy make a move, I do not give him chance to figure out what he is going to do before I push his smart friend as hard as I could at him and they both bowl over onto the floor. That’s when I feel the pain on the back of my head. Floor guy got in a cheap shot with his black jack but misjudges the required force to knock me out.

I catch his second swing as I turn round and with all the strength I could muster I come in with a fast swing, catch the guy on the side of the head by the temple. His expression goes limp and he almost looks comical with a dumbfounded look on his faces before collapsing to the floor.

The other two scarpered pretty quickly down the hall; I radio it in as fast as I could while checking Julie. She had a nasty gash on the back of her head and blood was dribbling down off her neck and making a small pool on the floor, but she was fine.


The extraction of the Harbourne Estate went long into the evening. The constant flashing blue lights were giving me a headache. I sat with Julie on the back of an ambulance while a paramedic cleaned her up. She was looking very sheepish.

“Cheer up Julie, anyone could get jumped.”

“I know, but it was me.”

“Well, the good news is that you managed to bring us to the biggest clue yet.” I smiled to try and help her feel better, she smiled back.

“Three men attempting to kidnap a young woman in her 20’s is a pretty big piece of the puzzle.” She said softly.

“Yes and they were all wearing red robes with the same motif.”

“So, George was one of these kidnappers?”

“It would seem so.”

“My guess…”

“No! Guessing!”

“OK. So George was killed along with the first two victims, probably not the original intention, maybe he had second thoughts.”

“Indeed, or he was too weak to be of any practical use.”

“OK, that’s you all cleaned up.” The paramedic said.

I offered my hand to help her up and I am surprised about how soft and warm her skin is as she takes it and pulls herself up. She looks at me for a second before we move off.

“So what’s with the robes? You think a cult?” Julie asks.

“Would be the best match, satanic worship, virgin sacrifices and…” That’s when it hits me.

“What?” Julie asks.

I look at her, strands of her dark hair play out in the wind and her big bright blue eyes stare up at me.


We get back to the station as fast as we could, blues and twos blaring the entire way and the traffic parts before us like Moses at the Red Sea.

The briefing room still had the map up on the wall with the three murder locations marked with pins, string wrapped around them and peeling off to photographs of each crime scene. I pull the pins out.

“What are you doing? Chief is going to throw a hissy if you mess with her board.” Julie warns.

“Watch.” Is all I say.

Using a marker, a dot each scene over the pin holes and add two more, line the dots up and there, before us laying over the top of the town an upside down pentagram. Julie just looks at me.

“Seriously?” she says.

“Yes,” I reply, “people often mistake a pentagram as being a symbol of the devil, but it’s actually a symbol of protection. Erect a barrier to prevent energy and forces you don’t want from entering the middle.” I dot the middle to exaggerate my point.

“So there are 2 more victims?”


“And the woman back at Harbourne? She is no virgin, she had three children”

That stumped me for a second.

“Hang on,” Julie says “what’s more pure than a virgin woman?”

We both look at each other, is she as shocked as I am? She is probably more surprised and elated that she figured it out and that was when DCI Middleton entered the room.

“What the hell are you two doing here?” She looks at me with baleful eyes “You are not done at Harbourne yet and Fairweather, you should be at home resting.”

“Chief, I think we cracked it!” Julie says with a lopsided grin.

“What?” The Chiefs surprise was comical.

“There are two more bodies we need to find, here and here.” I point on the map.

“And what makes you say that?” The Chief replies.

“They’re Satanists.” Julie blurted out.

Middleton looked as if she was about to burst out laughing, no doubt if any of the other inspectors had brought this to her, she would entertain the idea.

“Give it a chance,” I said “I am absolutely positive you will find two more bodies.”


It took a little convincing, but the Chief finally gave in after we told her all we had learnt and knew. She reassigned a handful of uniforms to help with the search and Julie and Myself took a site each.

My site was an old pottery factory in the west part of the Old Town. The walls were high and had crumbled in enough places to allow people access if they had intent. The wrought iron gate was padlocked with a fairly modern, heavy duty lock, too broad for the bolt croppers so we had to resort to climbing a low part of the wall.

Clouds zipped past at high speed overhead, making the stars twinkle rapidly. On the ground the wind was barely noticeable. The cold was the only thing making its presence known and even in the thick layers of the body armour I was still wearing, it was noticeable.

The four of us split up, one searching around the confinesd grounds itself, one took the factory floor and the other took the upper floor while I searched the kiln.

The place still smelt of dry clay even though it had not been used in decades. This was the perfect place to stash a body to form a sick giant pentagram and if I were a guessing man, than the kiln or the factory floor would be the best spots.

The kiln was accessed through the main factory which itself was divided into several smaller rooms, each at one point was for a different process in the making of potters items. The thick air lingered with the stifling aroma of dust and age.

The two uniforms went off and begun their search of the rooms while I stood before a door, a degraded plaque still read Oven House and Store, with most of the wording illegible. Opening the creaking door I was greeted by a waft that slapped me in the face, it was thick and pungent.

The Oven house was empty, save for the dust motes that flew in the light of the torch. The walls that made up the shelving were still standing proud, sectioning off portions of the Oven House. At the back was the access to the chimney, the door had been broken off its hinges and laid bedraggled on the floor to one side. As I drew closer, the stench became stronger to the point where it begun to sting and breathing was difficult.

Holding my breath I take a quick glance through the door into the chimney, gasping and nearly retching, before me hanging upside down was the pallid corpse of Simon Cummings, his throat slit and his body carved like that of the other victims.


We all sat in the briefing room. Quite. Julie sat staring ahead at the whiteboard with the original three victims. She had found Thomas Aviary at a closed down factory in the same condition. It was her first time seeing a body up close and the biggest shock was who they were. It could have been us, I kept thinking, no doubt she was too.

Diane came into the room, she stood in front of us taking in each face as she did so, she lingered on me, looking at my very soul. She pressed a button and the projector went click-clunk and the image of Town Hall came up. Now for the end game.

Submitted: August 27, 2015

© Copyright 2023 Carl Worgan. All rights reserved.

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