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‘I’ll be waiting here then… at eleven.’ His Daughter waved without turning around leaving Oswald cursing himself for getting her there late. The nearest with the car that he could get to the venue, had been the cathedral pay and display, five hundred yards or so away, so he had insisted that he walked her to the front of the City Hall.

looking around he noticed a food vender across the Plaza. ‘Coffee’ he thought. It gave him the excuse he was looking for to kick around outside for a bit, just to make sure she got in OK,
The December wind made him hug inside his coat tightly as he gave up and slowly made his way back to his car; he blew on his coffee and looked down at the glistening frosted pavement and the myriad of footprint patterns left by the hordes of concert goers.

‘What’s that?’ He stopped still and stared at the frosty granite surface. The hairs on the back of his neck began to tingle with professional unease. Looking closer he could feel his senses sharpening, his mind naturally separating the foot swirls and marks on the pavement.
To the average person, the patterns were just meaningless marks like any other foot print on a frosty pavement. To Oswald Patterson-Makunda they were wrong… very wrong.

He dropped into a crouch like his Grandfather had taught him many years before and took his time studying the swirls and patterns.
‘Get Closer boy, as close as you can, study the print for as long as it takes to feel the rhythm of the animal.’ He thought back to the old trackers words and the hours spent learning from him under African skies.

He spotted it, the thing that was wrong, the thing that had stopped him short and made him stare at the ground, made him put down his hot coffee to get a closer look.

There…‘Signs of a struggle.’ He could see the pattern clearly now, he looked around, no one was about, this was the quiet side of the building, the darker end where not many people seemed to walk.

The marks were barely visible in the frost, someone had been walking, a woman he thought. A woman had been walking when two people had pulled her down from behind.
He checked around and found the mark where her bottom had hit the pavement and the hand print at the side where she had tried to control the fall.
What had happened next? He looked harder, scanning the ground for any clues. He was still on his haunches so he stood up and took a step back, widening his vision from the impact area.

‘It’s all vision Oswald, everything leaves trace of presence, you just have to learn how to look for it.’ The old man’s words tumbled into his brain sharpening his desire to solve this puzzle. He felt the rush of excitement cursing through him.
He knew there was violence here but he couldn’t help the buzz as he scanned the ground, piecing together what had happened.
Then he saw the drag marks.
The Women had been hoisted up and dragged backwards, her shoes leaving faint little tram lines in the frost. He followed the marks carefully around the corner of a building then they disappeared for a while, as though the women had been lifted completely off the ground. So for about twenty yards he followed the footprints that had carried her. Then… he heard the low, gentle moan.

The women looked about twenty five; she was sprawled on her side behind a large red bin, her left arm folded awkwardly up behind her. Her face was a mass of blood from a head wound that had bled profusely, her eyes were closed, the eyeballs moving about behind the lids, her breathing was ragged and Oswald noticed that her throat had been cut.

He quickly pulled his mobile phone from his coat pocket and speed dialled the Ambulance service. The couple of seconds that it took to connect was enough time for him to scan the scene and commit the details of it to memory.

He knelt down and placed two fingers on the women’s carotid artery. There was still a strong pulse. He looked closer at the slash wound on her throat. The Trachea had been slightly pierced but it looked as if the blade had struggled across the Thyroid Cartilage, blood was trickling not shooting out of the wound. Oswald knew from experience that it was much harder to cut a throat than it appeared.

The Ambulance control centre answered on the third ring.
‘South Yorkshire Control’ said the female telephonist.
‘This is Detective Inspector Patterson, Sheffield Police. I am at the south side of the Sheffield City Hall about twenty yards up the first alley off the plaza.’
Oswald looked around for bearings.
‘I think that I’m behind the Dickensian Bar.
‘Go ahead’ said the operator.
I have a female IC 1 with a dislocated shoulder and a slash wound to the throat there’s no arterial damage that I can find. Oswald took off his jacket and placed it under the Women’s head. He didn’t feel the chill wind anymore.

The paramedics were quick on the scene and quickly got to work saving the women’s life. Not far behind them came the police and Chief Inspector Gavin Scotter who took one look at Oswald and cursed loudly making sure everyone at the crime scene knew how he felt.

Whilst the area was quickly taped off for the Scenes of Crime Officers, Oswald took a walk back down to the entrance of the alley; he leant against a cold brick wall and stared at the frosted tarmac where the foot prints and drag marks had been ten minutes before.

‘Ten minutes’ he mused. ‘This has only just happened! If I had been five minutes earlier I would have been a witness.’ He closed his eyes and pictured the swirl and spiral patterns of the footprints.

‘Training shoes’ he knew what the men who did this, had on their feet. If he could catch them tonight, he knew that he could identify them from the pattern on their training shoes!

He bounced off the wall and began to stride back to the knot of police that had gathered around Chief Inspector Scotter but something in the corner of his eye stopped him dead.
‘What’s this?’ he said out loud.

He bent down and looked at an opened, black leather wallet style purse that had been discarded against the wall. The gloom and the shadows had made the object nearly invisible to the casual passer by. Oswald could see that the wallet still had money and credit cards inside. ‘Not a robbery then’ he thought. A white driving license with a picture of the injured women on it had been hastily stuffed back into the clear plastic window segment leaving the edge sticking out at a crooked angle.

Oswald knew better than to touch the wallet so he turned it on its end with the tip of a pen from his inside pocket. Crouching down as close to it as he could get without touching it with his nose, he closed his eyes, focused all his concentration and sniffed.

‘What the fuck are you doing contaminating my crime scene Inspector?’
Oswald didn’t jump at the voice, he had heard the man approaching yards away. His eyes remained closed for a second longer while he processed all the information that he needed. When he opened them, a small crowd of officers had gathered around to witness the show.

‘Is that the women’s purse there?’
Oswald stood up and dusted his knees; the Botswanan stood a full six inches taller than his commanding officer.
‘Yes Sir’ he held the man’s gaze.
‘And what the fuck where you doing down there with it?’
‘I was sniffing it Sir.’
A couple of the uniformed officers who were stood next to the Chief Inspector smirked with mirth. The Chief just stared at Oswald bemused.
‘Wasn’t it you who found the girl?’
‘Yes sir… I had just dropped my daughter at the concert and was walking back to my car.’
'And you just happened to stroll thirty yards up an unlit alley?’
‘No Sir. I noticed the scuffle marks in the frost on the pavement and I followed the drag lines around the corner Sir… where I found the women.’

The Chief took a step back and tilted his head on to one side, while he weighed up Oswald’s story.
‘Fuck me Patterson. And I’m supposed to believe that rubbish?’ the Chief started shaking his head, turned on his heels and began to walk back to the crime scene.
‘Sir’ shouted Oswald. ‘I think we can still catch the men who did this… tonight!’

The Chief spun around, his face bright red with anger.
‘What by sniffing wallets and patterns in the fucking frost? You’re not back in the Serengeti Patterson, hunting antelopes with your granddad. This is real police work lad. This is Sheffield not fucking Botswana; we do things the right way.’
The Chief was nearly fit to burst with rage.
‘Fuck off home Oswald and leave it to the Scenes of Crimes eh?’ The man turned on his heel, leaving Oswald standing with just two other policemen.

One of the officers was a sergeant who he had worked with before.
‘What have you got Oz?’ the man asked, his expression serious.
Oswald smiled.
‘We’re looking for two men.’ The Sergeant took out his pocket book and began taking notes without question.
‘This wasn’t a rape a robbery or a random attack and we’re not dealing with professionals here either.’ The sergeant looked up.
‘Someone paid a couple of scumbags to do this thing. They had to check that they had the right person by looking at the women’s i.d. in her wallet.’
‘Prints?’ asked the sergeant hopefully.
‘I doubt it, I smelled a faint whiff of rubber on the leather… these men where wearing surgical gloves.’ This made the sergeant smile.
‘So how are we going to find them then Oz?’
It was Oswald’s turn to smile now.
‘Training shoes… I will recognise the pattern on their training shoes… and how many people are walking around Sheffield city centre on a Saturday night before Christmas wearing training shoes? Get the lads to detain anyone who looks half suspicious wearing training shoes, then call me.’

The sergeant mingled back in with the group of police who where standing around the crime scene. Oswald noticed that it wasn’t long before he was having a number of quite words with select officers who all seemed to quickly disappear from the group.
The other man left standing next to Oswald was stood stock still, staring directly at him. Oswald grinned.
‘I’ve heard about you’ the man said.
‘All good I hope?’ Oswald turned on his heel and began the long walk back to his car.
he spent the next hour and a half running around the city answering calls on his mobile phone from eager police who were busy detaining anyone in training shoes. Oswald looked at them all and not one of them matched the print that he had seen.

Frustrated, he made his way back to the City Hall, twenty minutes late for his daughter. Using his police credentials to gain access to the crime scene, he pulled his car under the perimeter tape… only to get instantly blocked in by a ‘scenes of crime’ van.
‘Inspector Patterson!’ Oswald knew from the voice that he was in trouble. He turned and waited while Chief Inspector Scotter strode angrily across to him.
‘Are you running a one man show here again Patterson?’ He didn’t give him time to answer. ‘Because if you are? You’re in deep shit… Firstly, I know you found the girl but this is not you’re case… secondly… I have reports of officers all over the city detaining anyone wearing training shoes… You can’t possibly expect me to believe that you could identify someone’s footwear from a mark that you glimpsed in the frost?’
The Chief finished his tirade and stood looking up at Oswald, face red and nostrils flaring.
‘Yes Sir, I could.’ Oswald tried to look as calm and convincing as he could.
The man exploded again.
‘Bullshit…total and utter bullshit!’ The Chief’s eyes narrowed to slits.
‘Go home Inspector, I will see you in my office first thing in the morning.’ With that, the Chief turned on his heel and strode off.

His daughter wasn’t at all pleased to be kept waiting and even less happy when she realised that the car was blocked in by a van.
‘Do you fancy a burger?’ Oswald asked hopefully.
‘Ok’ the girl mumbled. ‘But not from that dodgy van. I want a McDonalds.’
Resigned to a cold walk, Oswald fastened the top button of his shirt and thrust his hands into his pockets. His daughter didn’t even notice that he didn’t have a coat any longer.

The doorman who stood outside the burger bar looked a little flustered. Oswald knew him of old and greeted him warmly.
‘Good to see you Oz’ he smiled. Are you involved in what’s going on at the City Hall?’
‘Sort of Jimmy, but for the moment we just want a burger.’ The doorman smiled at the girl who scowled back.
‘Ok mate, be careful as you go in. I’ve just had to throw some drunken youths out for chucking tomato sauce all over the place.’
‘Kid’s n pop eh Jimmy?’ The doorman smiled.

The burger bar was fairly quite, Oswald spotted a group of Asian lads chatting animatedly at the counter whilst waiting for their meals. There were a few more table occupied by late drinkers and two guys were huddled in the corner, whispering and laughing about something.

Oswald noticed the empty sachets that Jimmy had mentioned were strewn around a couple of the tables. Splatters of red tomato sauce were smeared on seats and squashed across the floor. A member of the cleaning crew was heading sullenly across from the counter with a large blue handled mom and a dustpan.

Oswald moved fast, he grabbed the youth with the mop by the arm and swung him back through the staff door. Flashing his i.d. at the wide eyed lad, he explained what he wanted him to do. He then walked calmly back in front of the counter where his daughter was staring at him in some surprise.

‘This is serious Ebony’ he whispered. ‘Go outside, don’t look back and wait for me on the corner over there. Tell Jimmy to stay out front and not let anyone else in and tell him that more police will be arriving in a minute.’
His daughter nodded once, glanced over her fathers shoulder and made her way to the door without a word.

Oswald paid for a hot black coffee from the confused young women behind the counter; took a sip, smiled to himself and headed over to sit with the two whispering men.
‘Good evening Gentlemen.’ The two men looked at Oswald confused. ‘I notice that you didn’t watch where you were walking when you entered the restaurant.’
Oswald pointed at the men’s feet.
‘You have trailed ketchup all the way to your table.’
The men looked down at their training shoes and the red footprints leading to the table where they sat.

Oswald took out his wallet and placed his Police i.d. face up on the table.
‘You made two fatal mistakes tonight… Firstly you left the women alive and she is already talking…’ Oswald glanced at the cuff of one of the men and spotted the fine white powder from the latex, surgical glove.
‘And secondly’ he grinned at the two men. ‘We have found the gloves you were wearing.’ Both men glanced at the big brown rubbish bin in the entrance to the restaurant.
Oswald sat back, took a sip from his coffee and smiled to himself with satisfaction. The flashing blue lights pulling up outside, momentarily lit up the resignation of defeat in the men’s faces.


The following comments are for "Trace of Presence"
by Writingglory

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