The ME entered the basement after the fire brigade cleared the entrance and removed the collapsed columns. There was no power, but CSU set up lamps to illuminate the dank space, covered in soot and ash from the conflagration that melted the washing machine and everything else it its path.
She was in its path. Dental records would be needed to identify her. Assuming it was even a “her.” The ME thought it probably was, given the skeleton’s wide hips.
“Not much for me to do,” she told the DCI standing behind her. “She could have died from a heart attack for all I know. You’ll have to find out whether she was alive and healthy when she came into this place.”
“Good God,” DCI Eldridge said, shaking his head, “I hope she wasn’t alive when the flames got her.”
The ME caressed the skull. A day before surrounded by skin and covered in hair. Perhaps a beautiful woman who turned heads. Perhaps a plain working-girl lucky to turn a trick or two to make rent.
“Doc. Over here.” Eldridge’s sergeant.
They went to what remained of the clothes dryer. The door was sealed, but something could be seen through the now-smoky glass.
A note. They pried the door open.
“Stephen Armstrong killed me.” Written in eye-liner.
“She was lucky to live so long, to be able to write this and hide it.”
“Lucky? In some ways it’d been luckier to be dead long before it got to her.”