Green with ivy

February 3rd 1973

Raining again. Always bleeding raining in this hole of a town. Had to wear galoshes out to the crime scene, knew there’d be mud. I suppose it was a pretty spot. In its way. Old crumbling ruin, covered in moss and ivy. Think it was a bridge. Not sure.

DCI was there already, puffing on a fag. He started bleating as soon as I splashed through the shallow stream to get to him. Homicide. Maybe a kidnapping. Found some stuff belonging to the vic apparently. Pale blue handbag. One white high heel. Hose. A dress. Torn and bloodstained. Smashed camera. Pretty impressive piece of hardware too. A Zenit E.

Trace amounts of blood at the scene and plenty of footprints. Heels and boots. Must be the vic and the bastard who did whatever he did to her.

The DCI gave me the vic’s purse and I dug around inside. The usual assortment of women’s things. Lipstick, makeup case, perfume. I opened her wallet. Bunch of receipts. The Painter’s Pot. Donald’s Fudge and Ice Cream Shoppe. Allan’s Record Shop. Foyles. I stuffed them back inside and pulled out a Polaroid. There was a man in a yellow turtleneck and brown flares standing off to the side of the snapshot, but in the centre was our missing lass. 

Hair the colour of honey hung around her face and flicked out at the bottom. Her eyes were hidden behind a pair of sunglasses. Full lips, not pouting but shyly smiling, were expertly painted with dusky rose coloured lipstick. She wore a halter top in floral red material and a pale yellow cardigan. Denim short shorts showed off long tanned legs. She was simply stunning; open, honest and alive. 

I could see why she’d been targeted.

DCI said her name was Susannah Potter. A gorgeous first name and so fitting. Pity about the common surname. I looked at the photo again and thought that must be Mr Common Potter standing beside her with his arm wrapped through one of hers.

DCI said the boys would get the photos on the Zenit developed and put me on point. This was to be my big break case; the case that would bump me up a rank. All well and good I suppose. But when I looked back at the photo, I knew there was another reason I felt fire stir in my belly. Another reason why I’d work my ass off into the wee hours of the morning.

I had to find Susannah Potter.


February 4th 1973

I met Mr Common Potter today. I’ve got a new name for him now. Mr Lucky Bastard. How he got a bird like Susannah… God, I’ll never know.

They live in suburbia, but a nice part. Kids playing Cowboys and Indians on the front lawns of brick-house estates. Sunflowers and rubber plants on every doorstep. Fords and Morris’s in all the driveways. The very picture of serenity. I could feel housewives eyes on me as I got out of my Capri, wearing my trench coat and hat. I didn’t look the part. I was a blot on their perfect community.

Mr Lucky Bastard was distraught. Believably so. Twenty years of instincts tell me he’s not our perp. And why would he be? He already had Susannah. Why’d he need to take her out to that green ivy covered bridge and do… something… to her? No, Mr Lucky Bastard was damn near gutted over the whole thing. Eyes red and swollen. Hands clenched into fists. And angry too. Angry at whoever did take her. Angry at me too for not having found her yet. Told him to steady on and give me some goddamn time. Prick.

She’s a photographer. A damn good one. Not one of those feminist photographers that take shots of women with cows’ blood smeared all over their privates to signify their bleeding periods or what not. No, Susannah is a proper landscape photographer. I got to see her dark room. Rows and rows of photos strung up showing beautiful gardens, art-deco buildings or sprawling countryside. I guess that’s why she was out there. Makes me wonder if it was a crime of opportunity? Or did the killer know her and get so enamoured with her he had to have her?

I have to find her.


February 5th 1973

Two days of door-knocking and interviews and nothing. Nothing! How can a knockout like Susannah Potter just disappear without a goddamn person seeing a goddamn thing?

The photo of her got a little creased going in and out of my pocket. I had to cut off the side where it was wrinkled. Shame it was only Mr Lucky Bastard who got cut out of the shot. Ha ha.

Here’s something hinky though, the boys got the snaps developed from Susannah’s Zenit. Some gorgeous shots on there. Beach shots. Must’ve been her last job or something. The weird thing is there are no shots from that woodsy location where her clothes were found. Ok, maybe she hadn’t gotten off a shot yet… but she’d have had to have walked a couple of miles to get to that spot. A photographer surrounded by that beauty who isn’t motivated to crack off even one shot? I dunno.

Think I might visit Mr Lucky Bastard again.


February 6th 1973

What a right prick. Only accused me of tampering with evidence! Didn’t much like that I’d ripped him out of the snapshot I’ve got of Susannah. Took a swing at me! Prick found out who he was dealing with though. Probably the first time someone’s put him in his place before. Found his way to his drinks cabinet and got himself a scotch before he’d even talk to me again. Lots of bottles. 

Said he didn’t know anything about the beach shots. Said Susannah’s last job was up in the highlands. Seemed to be right suspicious of those shots and I got out before needing to put him on the floor again. Prick.

DCI spoke with Susannah’s sister on the phone. She lives in Wales with her family. DCI said the sister hadn’t heard from Susannah in months. Reckoned she was worried last time they spoke. Said Susannah wasn’t her usual self. She was quiet. Withdrawn.

There’s something I’m missing. Don’t know what it is. The camera. The purse. The clothes. Not enough blood to say she was killed. No body. What the hell happened? What the hell happened to a knockout broad with long legs, a shy smile and a prick of a husband? A woman who liked to take photographs of beauty and happiness but maybe didn’t have any of her own? A woman who liked ice-cream sandwiches and had bought a few cans of Astro Zinger Mauve paint recently.

Paint?


February 15th 1973

In the end it was the paint that did it. Why had she bought paint? The house she lived in with Mr Lucky Bastard was new. Didn’t need painting.

Ok, the paint and the receipt for Donald’s Fudge and Ice Cream Shoppe. Ice-cream? In February? Who wants ice-cream in February. Unless you happen to be on the coast. Where the sun still shines. Where the beach is eternal. Where you might want to paint a little Californian style bungalow in Astro Zinger Mauve.

It didn’t take long to find her. I waited at Donald’s for two days before she breezed in, more beautiful than her snapshot could ever capture. With a handsome dude on her arm.

When I confronted her she tried to come up with a quick lie. Too bad she answered when I called out Susannah. “Yes, I am Susannah. Susannah Diamond.” More fitting than Common Potter. But not true.

She crumpled. She caved. She cried. Then she begged. “Don’t tell him I’m here. Please, Oh God, please.”

And it all came out. The violence. The abuse. The jealousy. The drinking. The refuge she took in Mark’s arms. The plan. The fake death. The planting of the evidence at that green place.

Green with ivy.

Green with envy. Envy for a normal life. Envious of girls who didn’t need to wear long sleeves to hide the hand prints. Envious of girls who didn’t need to wear sunglasses to hide the bruises.

Susannah was green with envy. She was green and she needed to be Astro Zinger Mauve.

I tipped my hat and walked out of Donald’s Fudge and Ice Cream Shoppe.

Mr Lucky Bastard’s luck had run out.

* Inspired by Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt Green – #writephoto https://scvincent.com/2017/05/11/thursday-photo-prompt-green-writephoto/

34 thoughts on “Green with ivy

  1. Great story, Jess! The details were fantastic, the characters flushed out well, just wonderful. It’s not often that descriptions are so vivid that you feel you’re right there. This story had that power. I can’t wait to read your next one!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice useage of sentence length. The details about the crime scene are short, almost choppy, but once the protagonist begins describing the woman in the photo the sentences get longer. The protagonist is lingering on the victim as person, while distancing himself from the body and scene. Gave me the immediate sense that this character is developing a connection for the victim. Now he’s engaged.
    It’s interesting how the protagonist is developing a relationship with someone without ever meeting them. He’s learning about her life, becoming jealous of her husband, etc.
    Reaching the ending, part of me wonders if it’s true. It seems almost too convenient for him to find her, alive, which would make her the villain in the story, only to learn that the husband the protagonist hates is the true villain.
    There’s nothing there to suggest it, but I can’t help but wonder if Susannah might be lying, manipulating the protagonist into doing what she wants.
    The protagonist definitely has a strong voice. Just his voice paints a strong picture of the kind of character this is.
    You definitely managed to say a lot while using very few words. Well done.

    Like

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