Socko’s First Fire – Sample

‘What on earth are you doing with that dead pig?’ Corporal Dan Barnes watched incredulously as I tried to manhandle the carcass through the gates and into the yard outside our office at the back of Exam House. ‘And where did you get it? It stinks!’

He was right; it did. It was a bit slimy too, but I didn’t mention that. It was a detail too far. ‘I got it off Old Man Olivier, the butcher in the High Street,’ I told him, stopping my exertions for a brief moment. I hadn’t realised that pigs were quite that heavy, even dead ones. ‘He had his boy drop it round on the wagon. I’ve got a theory…’

I should explain. My name is Socko. Well, actually it’s Andy Garrett, but everyone calls me Socko. I work for KSI—Kingsmen Special Investigations, a small department within the Corps. It’s headed up by Lieutenant Jessica Dixon—Her Royal Highness The Princess Jessica when she’s out of uniform. We call her PJ behind her back, but never to her face. She’s the gaffer, while my oppo and the lazy bum stood complaining in the doorway is Corporal Dan Barnes. Naturally I’m at the bottom of the pecking order.

Barnes rolled his eyes. ‘I hope we didn’t pay much for it—even I can tell from here that it’s off!’
‘We didn’t pay anything for it,’ I told him. ‘The farmer tried to slip it in with some good meat; hoped Olivier wouldn’t notice. But of course he did.’

‘That’s a Watch matter surely,’ Barnes said. ‘No point in us getting involved.’

I agreed with him. ‘Babs Clegg released the, er, victim into my custody after I explained why I wanted it.’

‘And why do you want it? You still haven’t explained that part to me,’ the Corporal said, his tone sounding increasingly exasperated.

‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Remember that body we found a few weeks back?’

Barnes shuddered slightly. ‘The one covered in creepy crawlies? Yeah, I remember. Suicide. Had a note pinned to his coat: “it wos me wot did it, I’m realy sorry.”’ He scratched his nose. I think the smell was starting to get to him; it had been a mild spring, but now in early June, we were only just down to our shirt sleeves. ‘We pinned the murder of that girl on him; the one the Watch pulled out of the river.’

‘I said at the time, it was all too convenient,’ I said. ‘Victim. Killer. Both dead, and a confession, all nice and neat. Saved the city a pretty sum by all accounts.’

‘You said you didn’t believe he could have done it.’

‘Still don’t. But I’ve got no way to prove it—until now.’

‘And that’s where the pig comes in?’

‘Got it in one. I think our murderer was already dead when our girl went into the river.’

‘Because the maggots had all gone? That’s what you said before.’

‘No. Yes. Well, kind of.’

‘The coroner said the girl’s body only looked fresher because it had been in the cold water, and that had preserved it better.’

I shrugged. That was true; I had spent hours arguing the point with Doctor Livingstone but he wouldn’t budge. I wouldn’t be satisfied until I had proven the point one way or the other. And I guess deep down, part of me also wanted to prove the old goat wrong. ‘It’s only by empirical study that we advance our knowledge,’ I said. ‘By watching the pig as it decomposes, and making notes, I can establish a baseline against which we can look at any other corpse and say how long ago it died.’

‘But it’s a pig.’

‘It’s dead meat. I don’t think the maggots and flies much care about the species.’

‘Maybe they don’t, but I do. I’m not having a dead pig lying about here; it’s stinking the place to high heaven. You’ll have to move it down to the river or somewhere out of the way.’

I sighed. ‘I guess you’re right. I’ll go and organise a wagon to take it.’

Corporal Barnes smiled warmly. ‘You know, we could probably find a couple of criminals that need executing. Then you could do a proper study with a body in the water and a body on the bank. I’m sure we could get PJ to approve it.’

I still hadn’t come to terms with the power that Kingsmen wielded over life and death, and the almost callous way that they did it.

My mind was still trying to process what Corporal Barnes had said, when a stern female voice said, ‘You can get PJ to approve what?’

I looked around in surprise. Lieutenant Dixon came striding through the cobbled entrance into the yard. Tall, red haired and in her mid-twenties, she wore black body armour, half-unbuckled, and was pulling off her black leather gloves as she strode up. Barnes and I both snapped to attention and saluted.

‘And what is that dead pig doing in my courtyard?’ she demanded, not waiting for her previous question to be answered.

‘I was just having it removed,’ I stammered.

‘Good. See to it. I want both of you here in ten minutes, ready to move out. We’ve got a mission.’

End of sample


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