Butcher’s Block

Sergeant Flynn was waiting at the door when Black arrived at the scene.

‘Through here, ma’am,’ he said and led her down a corridor to one of the kitchens.

The place was already covered in forensic officers crawling over her crime scene like a cloud of talc.

The woman stood out in stark contrast against the white, draped awkwardly over a small wooden table. The table top was overly thick, which allowed it to double as a chopping board.

Her body hung across it. One patent leather red shoe still clinging to its foot, while the other lay discarded on the floor.

She was face down. Her navy blue business skirt was slightly hitched up at the back, revealing the lacy hem of a sensible slip, in what fashion magazines might have called, ‘flesh tone’ or ‘nude’. The tiny betrayal of her undergarment somehow made the scene all the more grotesque.

‘Who found her?’

‘Cleaner,’ said the sergeant, ‘around an hour ago. She had the keys and opened up. Her boss phoned it in.’

‘Where is the cleaner now?’

‘She is with a policewoman in the incident room we have set up in the next block. Doesn’t speak much English, works for the contracted services that do a number of these colleges, but I doubt we will get much out of her for the moment – she is a mess.’

‘Right.’ Black moved around the body, ‘So what else we got?’

‘Well as you can see,’ said Flynn, ‘there is a knife lying approximately a foot away from the victim, presumably having been dropped by her after use. And there is this.’ He pointed to the table surface and the words scratched into the wood.

‘What do we know about the victim?’

‘Melinda McBride, 62, unmarried. She had been with the college a couple of months. Had a reputation as a tough manager, brought in with a brief to get the college back into shape. She had a reputation for cutting budgets.’

‘Seems like budgets weren’t the only thing that got cut last night,’ said Black.

She looked again at the message cut into the wood. Three words.

‘But why,’ asked Flynn, ‘would she have wanted to top herself in here of all places? It is a teaching classroom for christsakes.’

‘What makes you so sure it was suicide?’ asked Black.

‘Well the door was locked for one thing, and she left a suicide note scratched into the table. Flynn pointed to the words: IT WAS ME. ‘She was telling us she did it herself.’

Black sighed, ‘That, Flynn, is no more a suicide note that I am a pantomime horse. Those three words are what we in the world of crime detection like to refer to as motive.’

‘Murder?’ Flynn looked visibly shocked. Black sometimes had to remind herself that he was only a young kid, really.

‘Murder, I am afraid,’ she confirmed.

‘How can you be so sure?’ he asked.

‘You see that small table that she has been left upon,’ said Black, ‘do you know what that is?’

‘No ma’am,’ he replied.

It is a butcher’s block.’

‘But who would want to murder a manager?’ he asked.

‘Correction, Flynn. Who would want to murder a cost-cutting manager?’

‘Yes ma’am.’

‘How many staff and students are there at this college?’ asked Black

Flynn checked his notebook, ‘fifteen hundred.’

Well there is your answer – fifteen hundred people, that’s who.

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