Friday, 9 February 2007

Chapter 11: On The Spot

Agent Simpson led the way into the entrance hall. We walked through a huge gap in the walls left behind by her colleagues after they had removed the glass doors to facilitate their movements in and out of the building. Inside, a body bag was being carried out by the forensic team. I asked Agent Simpson what had happened.

“That’s the security guard’s body,” she said, “He took a beating then his neck was broken. The perp did nothing to hide the body.”

“It must have been a swift operation if he left the body lying there,” I said. Agent Simpson nodded in agreement.

On the way up to the lab on the second floor, we passed several men in suits taking samples from the floor, the walls, anywhere that might hold some evidence of who did this or the type of explosive they used.

The rubber suit squeaked with every movement and the heat inside was already unbearable. I was beginning to question the wisdom of stopping home for a shower and change.

We entered the lab through an irregularly shaped hole in the wall where the door used to be. It was a complete mess from floor to ceiling. I couldn’t believe that someone had been happily working there just twelve hours earlier. A massive hole had been blown in the outside and inside walls and we could stand on the edge of the room and look outside at the people working below. Papers and fragments of scientific equipment were strewn all over what was left of the room. Ash and dust covered everything. It was going to be difficult to get any decent forensic evidence out of this room but in my experience, if you take enough samples and do enough tests, you nearly always get a lead.

I cast my eyes around the room, taking in as much as I could. It was very important to me not to judge the crime scene on the first thing I looked at. An easy trap to fall into is to pick one thing at the crime scene and focus solely on that, when there might be several other clues screaming out at you in another corner.

“What are your first thoughts?” Agent Simpson asked after only a few seconds, putting me on the spot. No doubt someone had told her I was 'the best' so she probably wanted to test this theory herself. Now it was my turn to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

“The destruction wasn’t caused by something small like a hand grenade,” I said, “Whoever did this wanted to make sure there wasn’t any forensic evidence for us to sift through. We can use the explosive residue to find out what they used but that’s going to take a long time.

“In my opinion, this explosion was intended to cover up what went on in here, not to send a message. I agree with you: it’s unlikely that animal rights protestors did this.”

Two forensics officers were carrying a body bag out of the room. “What happened to the kid?” I asked.

“His body was found behind the equipment over there,” she said, pointing to a fire-damaged refrigerator and filing cabinet, both twisted out of their natural shape, “Not all of his body was destroyed.”

“Which means that he was lying back there, either dead or unconscious when the bomb went off.”

She nodded in agreement. “His body is on the way to the morgue.”

“Good, we’ll need to get down there and take a look at it. I saw security cameras around. Has anyone taken a look at the tapes?”

“The tapes are usually stored at the front desk but they’ve gone missing. It’s likely they were taken when the perp left the building.”

“Who else works in this office?” I asked.

“Doctor Forrest and Doctor Owen are the scientists who run this research lab. We haven’t heard anything from either of them.”

“See if you can find their home addresses,” I said, “I’ll send a patrol car round to pick them up.”

“Do you think they were the intended targets?”

That seemed like an odd question to me. Not because what she was asking didn’t make sense, but because I would have expected anyone to jump to the conclusion that the scientists who ran the lab were in danger. It seemed like common sense to me.

“Whoever did this targeted this lab for a reason. They wanted to stop the research and even went so far as to kill the lab assistant and the security guards, probably only because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Their work may have been stopped but these scientists still have the intellectual capital. They could start their work again in another lab. If the bomber was prepared to go this far, we have to assume the scientists are the next targets.”

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