Ghost Virus: Chapter 29


Mindy was sitting in the back of an unmarked police car with DC Baker sitting beside her. There were two other patrol cars parked on the opposite side of Pretoria Road, and five uniformed officers standing in Barry’s front garden talking to DC Willis, including the black WPC who had first rung the doorbell.

Jerry parked awkwardly behind the unmarked car and he and Jamila climbed out. DC Willis came over and said, ‘Hi, Jerry. Definitely looks like another case of your Stuck Clothes Syndrome. But you’re not going to believe what she did.’

‘Well, she cut off his dinkle, didn’t she?’

‘She didn’t just cut it off, Jerry. The paramedics were looking around for it, in case there was a chance it could be sewn back on. But they could find only half of it, and that half of it was fried.’

‘It was what?’

‘That’s right. Fried. And what’s more, it had teeth-marks in it. So I think we have to assume that she was halfway through eating it.’

‘Jesus. Thank God I didn’t have time for that bacon sarnie.’

‘You think it’s another case of her clothes being stuck to her,’ said Jamila.

‘Definitely. We’re not one hundred per cent sure she’s wearing the same jacket as that Marshall girl, but it fits the description. It’s dark blue and it’s velvet and it’s got braid around the buttons. And most of all she keeps insisting that it was the jacket that stabbed him and cut off his dinkle, and not her.’

‘Do we know her name?’ asked Jamila.

DC Willis shook his head. ‘She won’t tell us and she won’t give us her home address, either. She’s got a bag of shopping which she won’t let go of, and that’s come from Budgens which is only just up the road there, so I doubt if she lives very far. The neighbour who called us, Mrs Harris, she’s the local curtain-twitcher. She knows that Mr Williams is on the sex offenders’ register, and so she keeps a beady eye on him. He’s twice been convicted of indecent assault of a girl under the age of twelve, and he still has a month left to run of a six months’ suspended sentence.’

‘What did the paramedics say about his injuries?’

‘Life-changing but not life-threatening. Once he’s out of surgery we should be able to talk to him. I’ve bagged up the knife that the girl must have used to stab him, and the CSEs should be here in a minute. They’ll be able to take dabs off the saucepan in the kitchen and the plate that she used to serve up his willy.’

Jamila said, ‘Let’s go and talk to her. We need to find out where she found that jacket and we also need to know if it’s really stuck to her, like it was with Sophie Marshall.’

She went over to the unmarked car and tapped on the window. DC Baker climbed out and said, ‘I’ve been asking her all kinds of questions but she hasn’t said a word.’

‘OK. Let me try,’ said Jamila. ‘Jerry, do you want to come and sit in the front?’

She sat down in the back seat next to Mindy while Jerry opened the door and sat in the front passenger seat.

‘You don’t have to be frightened,’ Jamila told Mindy. ‘My name is Jamila and this is Jerry and both of us are here to help you. We just need to know why you had to stab that man. Did he try to hurt you?’

Mindy didn’t answer for almost ten seconds. Then, lowering her eyelashes and with her fingers laced together as if she were praying, she said, in a whisper, ‘It wasn’t me who stabbed him.’

‘If it wasn’t you, then who was it? There was nobody else in the house, was there?’

‘Yes.’

‘There was somebody else there? Who was it? Do you know?’

‘Varvara.’

‘Varvara? What kind of a name is that?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘But it was a woman?’

‘Yes.’

‘And what are you saying? That this Varvara did the stabbing?’

‘Yes.’

‘So where is she now? Did she run away?’

‘No. She’s still here. But she’s asleep.’

‘She’s still here? Where? I’m not sure I understand what you mean.’

Mindy turned to Jamila and looked at her steadily.

‘Can’t you see her? She’s inside me. She’s asleep and she’s all bunched up but she’s inside me.’

Jamila glanced at Jerry, and Jerry said, ‘Where did you get that jacket, darling?’

Mindy leaned forward and spoke so softly that Jerry and Jamila could hardly hear her. ‘I found it in the park.’

‘Why are you whispering?’ asked Jamila.

‘Because I don’t want to wake up Varvara. She’ll be angry if she hears me talking to you.’

‘So why don’t you tell us your name?’ said Jerry.

Mindy hesitated, and then she spelled it out for them. ‘M – I – N – D – Y.’

‘All right,’ said Jerry. ‘And can you tell us where you live?’

Mindy closed her eyes, as if she were making sure that the presence that she could feel inside her was still unconscious. Then she spelled out her address in Nimrod Road.

‘Nimrod Road, OK,’ said Jerry. ‘And that’s where you live with your mum and dad?’

Mindy shook her head. ‘No,’ she whispered. ‘Not any more.’

‘What do you mean, “not any more”?’

Mindy’s eyes filled with tears, and her mouth turned down with grief.

‘They’re dead!’ she blurted out. ‘She killed them! Varvara killed them! And I’m supposed to go home and cook them!’

As soon as she had said that, she jolted, and her head jerked back and hit the seat. She lifted both of her hands like claws and dragged the two sides of her jacket even more tightly together. Her eyes rolled back in her head so that only the whites showed, and she bared her teeth in a grimace that would have been laughable if she hadn’t been convulsing so violently and her feet hadn’t started drumming on the floor like a child in a terrible tantrum.

‘You’re not listening to that stupid girl, are you?’ she hissed at them. ‘What can a girl like that know about death and pain and sickness? How can a young girl understand what it is to die? Kormit – yedinstvennyy sposob vernut’sya k zhizni!’

Once she had spat out those words, she stopped convulsing. Her head dropped forward and she tilted sideways against the car door.

Jamila shook her and said, ‘Mindy? Mindy? Can you hear me, Mindy?’

Mindy didn’t respond, but her chest was still rising and falling, and when Jamila touched her fingertips against her neck to check her pulse, she nodded to Jerry that it felt quite normal.

‘Jean can take her straight to hospital,’ she said. ‘The sooner we get this jacket off her the better. I’ll call Dr Fuller and make sure that he’s available.’

Jerry climbed out of the car and beckoned to DC Baker and to one of the uniformed officers. When Jamila had finished speaking on her iPhone to Dr Fuller’s secretary, she climbed out, too. Mindy remained slumped against the door, breathing harshly with her mouth open, and dribbling.

‘Straight to A&E,’ said Jamila. ‘But make sure they know that Dr Fuller’s coming in specially to take care of her. And tell them in no circumstances to try to take any of her clothes off until he gets there.’

DC Baker and the uniformed officer drove off with Mindy to St George’s, leaving Jerry and Jamila standing on the pavement.

‘Bloody hell,’ said Jerry. ‘What she was shouting, that sounded like Polish. Something like that, anyway. I’m not very hot on my Eastern European languages.’

‘Yes, Polish,’ Jamila told him. ‘One of my uncles had a Polish business colleague. He kept trying to touch me up and I hated him. But – there’s no prize for guessing where we’re going now. If Mindy had been lying when she told us that her parents were dead, I would have seen it in her eyes.’

Jerry held out his hand and looked up at the clouds. It had started raining again. ‘Do you know what, skip?’ he told her. ‘This has gone way beyond a joke now. How the hell can we arrest second-hand clothes?’


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