Francesca Thomas snorted, coughed and then woke up. She fumbled half asleep for the ringing phone on the bedside table and brought the receiver to her ear.
‘Hello?’ She mumbled groggily.
‘Fran, its Gethin.’
Francesca hoisted herself up onto one elbow and squinted at the alarm clock on the table. She blinked several times and the blurry veil coating her eyes lessened, allowing her to read the time. 5.45am.
‘What the bloody hell are you doing ringing me at this hour?’
‘You’re not going believe this but Mr Owen’s has only gone and found a body on his land.’
Francesca’s eyes widened in surprise.
‘Fran? You still there?’
‘Yeah I’m here.’ She replied, sitting up suddenly and flicking on the bedside table lamp. The harsh light made her wince and a noise behind her made her twist around.
‘You alright?’ A middle aged man with balding grey hair and two day old stubble enquired, rolling onto his back and peering up at Francesca through half closed eyelids.
‘Gethin found a body up at Owen’s farm.’Francesca whispered, covering the mouthpiece with a hand.
The man raised his eyebrows in mild curiosity and pulled himself up into a seated position.
Francesca dry washed her face and stifled a yawn.
‘Right sit tight. I’ll been down in ten. Try to keep any noseys from getting to close.’
‘Will do Chief. By the way there is something you need to know…about the body.’
‘What’s that?’ Francesca frowned.
‘They removed his lips.’
Francesca made her way up the twisting narrow, pot holed infested road to Farmer Owen’s house. Her beat up Volvo coughed and spluttered, straining with the ascending gradient. She rounded a corner and peered through the dirty windscreen as Farmer Owen’s barn sized house came into view. She had dark, brown hair flecked with oncoming signs of greyness and deep wrinkles framed a pair of watery blue eyes. Her face was round and slightly stretched, betraying signs of weight issue. Stones and dust kicked up under the car’s tyres as the road turned into a rocky track.
‘Bloody farmers.’ She muttered as the bumps and dips in the track threw her about in the seat.
An open gate stood at the end of the track. Francesca slowed as she passed over the cattle grill and into the farmhouse courtyard to avoid the many dogs and chickens darting to and fro. Outside the house she recognized Gethin’s patrol car and pulled up alongside it. As she unfolded herself out of the mud splattered vehicle, the door to the farmhouse opened and an elderly man with a flat cap stepped off the doorstep.
‘Morning Fran.’ He said with a friendly smile.
‘Hello Gareth.’ Francesca replied cheerily.
As she made her way up to the house her duffel coat fell open, revealing a black and white police uniform underneath.
‘Nasty business this.’ Gareth said with a disapproving shake of the head.
Francesca nodded in agreement and rubbed her hands together, the crisp morning air making her fingers tingle. Her veins were purple and prominent, displaying clear signs of varicose.
‘How’s the wife Gareth?’
‘Bossy and argumentative as always.’
‘Just the way you like it.’ Francesca jested.
Gareth’s craggy face crinkled into a grin.
‘You want a cup of tea or anything girl?’
Francesca shook her head.
‘Nah i’m good. Steven made me one before I left. Thanks though.’
Gareth nodded and the two fell silent, both exhausted with conversation.
‘So?’ Francesca finally said, breaking the silence. ‘Do you wanna show me where the…’
‘Right you are.’
He leant back into the house and grabbed his olive, farmer’s vest before closing the door.
Gethin was kicking the heads off dandelions when Francesca and Gareth appeared at the other end of the field. He cleared his throat and straightened up, trying to give off an authoritative air.
‘Gethin.’ She said with a nod.
‘Sorry about the rude awakening.’
‘It’s fine Gethin. Honestly.’
Gethin smiled and led the two through the tall grass. Francesca scanned the green carpet in front of her, looking for signs of the corpse. She was still slightly numbed from the previous telephone conversation. Nothing like this had ever happened before and the realization was struggling to dawn. Part of her refused to believe it, suspecting that Gethin and Gareth had concocted the entire affair as an elaborate wind up. It was at this moment that she saw the body. Through the thin blades of grass she could discern naked flesh protruding from the undergrowth. Francesca approached slowly, treading with the upmost care.
‘Jesus.’ She gasped, raising a hand to her mouth to stop herself from vomiting.
‘You alright?’ Gethin asked, placing a hand gently on her back.
Francesca nodded vigorously, still fearful of opening her mouth.
In front of them lay a naked man. He was extremely old, his wrinkled and saggy skin appearing milky in the early morning sunlight. Both the man’s eyelids had been removed, exposing the man’s eyeballs that appeared bulged and swollen. Francesca shuddered at the way the man’s eyes vacantly stared up to the sky. She wasn’t sure if it was her imagination getting the better of her but she felt she could see fear in his eyes. His eyelids weren’t the only features missing. Both the upper lip and the bottom lip of the man’s mouth had been cut off, revealing the nicotine stained gums and teeth underneath. Francesca’s eyes continued down the man’s body, fearful of what she would find next. What she saw proved worse then anything she had imagined. The man’s scrotum had been sliced off.
‘Jeez.’ She exclaimed with a sharp intake of breath.
‘I know. Gruesome isn’t it?’ Gethin commented with his arms crossed, his expression grim.
Francesca turned away and strode a few paces away.
‘Careful where you step. I may have thrown up a teeny bit.’ Gethin said embarrassed, closing the gap between his thumb and index finger.
Francesca stopped and closed her eyes, trying her best to dispel the nausea. She could hear Gethin and Gareth chatting behind her. Listening harder she could make out the birds singing in the trees and the crickets buzzing loudly in the field around her.
She opened her eyes and swiveled round, slightly dazed.
‘Sorry, did you say something?’
‘I was just wondering what you think we should…about all this?’ Gethin shrugged awkwardly.
Francesca placed her hands on her hips and frowned, thinking hard.
‘I fear we are out of our depth on this one. Put a call back into the station. This is a homicide case now and we need a detective.’
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