Hands in her pockets, Elizabeth looked down from the top of the cliffs. The tide had receded gradually over the afternoon, revealing the seaweed-covered rocks, sand and pebbles of the seabed.
The memory of the place was burned into her mind after ten years of constantly returning. The erosion of the waves hadn’t changed the topography. The steep edges fell like a sequence of giant steps. Pulling her collar up to protect her face from the chill winter breeze, she clambered down.
Sea mist drifted in, causing a hazy fog. Above her the ruins of the castle still stood, guarding the bay. Elizabeth remembered the bright floodlights and white forensic tents that had been erected when she had first arrived at this place. The body in the ruins had been the first.
Elizabeth had been thirty-six years old, her first case as lead detective. A body dumped in a remote spot on the coast. Female, early twenties, foreign. Probably linked to human trafficking.
‘Little hope of solving it,’ her boss had told her, ‘but a good one for you to start learning the ropes on. Get to know the procedures, the paperwork. Get used to being the leader of a team.’
Only when the tide had ebbed away the following morning had the others been discovered. All female, the youngest was fifteen. All had signs of physical assault, a mixture of human-inflicted injuries and being battered against the rocks by storm waves. They had been alive when they had gone into the water.
A decade of her life had passed, obsessed by these women. She had been told to drop it. The official investigation had been closed. She had pursued it on her own time.
She hadn’t stayed in court for the verdict to be announced. The jury had only deliberated for an hour. The guilt was clear. Elizabeth had got him at last.
She slipped and slid across the damp rocks to reach the edge of the sea. The dead women would not hear her, she didn’t believe in ghosts or souls, but she felt the need to mark the end somehow. She placed the single red rose on the water and watched it bob on the tide. Closure.
From her pocket she took her resignation letter, sealed in it’s envelope, ready to be given to the Chief Superintendent. After years working this case, she had vowed to quit when it was finally over. Now she took the letter and crumpled it up into a ball before tossing it into the sea.
She wasn’t ready to quit when there were still innocent victims in the world.