Грег Иган: The Nearest

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Грег Иган The Nearest
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    The Nearest
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The Nearest: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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When a detective, a new mother, is assigned to the case of a horrific triple murder, it appears to be a self-contained domestic tragedy, a terrible event but something that doesn’t affect the rest of the community. But it slowly becomes clear that something much darker may be at play, something that spreads out from the scene of the crime to corrode the closest relationships of everyone it touches.

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Greg Egan




Kate heard a knock on the open door of her office, and looked up to see Anneke from dispatch, grimacing apologetically.

“I’ve got a shocker for you, Sarge. Sorry.”

Kate said, “Go ahead.” She’d been back from maternity leave for two weeks; she did not need a content warning for every case that was grimmer than the scenes of cavorting bunnies on her son’s nursery wallpaper. And after spending the morning reviewing a spike in missing persons that was probably just a meaningless statistical blip, she was ready to do anything to get away from her desk.

“Three deceased: a father and two daughters. Mother’s location unknown.”

Murder-suicide, with the fourth body yet to be found? Kate’s heart sank, but she kept her face expressionless. “Gunshot wounds?”

“No, all stabbings.” Anneke hesitated. “The girls were young: five and six. If you want, I’ll ask Roma Street if we can hand this over to Petrie.”

Kate shook her head impatiently. “So do I get a DC, or am I on my own?”

“No DC, but there are four uniforms at the scene you can use for the day.”

Kate bit back a string of expletives; Anneke was just the messenger. Some half-baked algorithm had already decided that this was a self-contained domestic that posed no threat to the wider public, and would more or less solve itself. Until she could prove otherwise, there was no point begging for more resources.

Anneke flicked the report from her notepad to Kate’s; Kate opened the document as she got to her feet and picked up her key fob.

On her way to the car, she read the summary from the officers who’d attended the scene. The deceased were believed to be Robert Mellish, Angela Grimes, and Isabel Grimes; the missing woman was Natalie Grimes. Natalie’s mother, Diane, had tried to call her daughter the previous evening. When she still hadn’t been able to make contact by midmorning, she’d gone to the house and let herself in, finding the deceased lying in their beds. There were no obvious signs of a break-in. The family’s station wagon was gone, but Natalie’s phone was on the bedside table.

When Kate reached the house there were two squad cars and a SOCO van parked in the street, but their presence had attracted no onlookers; it seemed the neighbors here had the decency not to flock around the blue-and-white tape, gawking, while the ever-economising clickbait sites were probably waiting for a chance to outsource their photographic needs to the next fast food delivery that overflew the crime scene.

Kate spoke with the officers who’d made the report, and the two colleagues who’d joined them; they were from the small community policing station in the nearby shopping precinct. With no crowd for them to manage, she decided to send three of them door-knocking.

Diane Grimes was sitting in one of the squad cars, drinking coffee that the shopfront cops must have brought for her. Kate introduced herself and joined her in the back of the car.

“Who’d do this?” Diane asked. Her teeth were chattering. “And why would they take Natalie? She would have torn their eyes out before she let them touch the girls.” Her daughter’s house was modest, single-story brick. Diane looked about seventy, plainly dressed, with no jewelry. Kate was fairly sure that she hadn’t stumbled on a hitherto unknown crime family, enmeshed in a bloody feud in the suburbs of Brisbane.

“Did Natalie or Robert have any debts that you know of?” Kate asked.

“Just the mortgage.”

“They weren’t asking you for money lately?”

“No. Why would they be?” Diane seemed annoyed at the sheer absurdity of the question; it made too little sense to be offensive.

Kate found it hard to see how the couple could have racked up drug or gambling debts that merited a more severe punishment from even the most sadistic loan shark than a broken limb or two. And two teachers at a government high school would make unlikely targets for the kind of heist or abduction that could go so wrong that it left three bodies in its wake.

“Robert was the girls’ father?”

“Yes.” Diane scowled. “Natalie kept her own name when they married, and she gave it to the kids. Why shouldn’t she?”

Kate shook her head, disavowing any opinion on the matter. “I just need to be clear what his relationship was. And as far as you know, was he ever violent toward her, or to the girls?”

Diane said, “Even if I’m the world’s worst judge of character and he fooled me completely, she would never have put up with that.”

“Okay. Were either of them depressed, or medicated for any reason?”


Kate reached over and squeezed her arm. “There’s an alert out for the car. You don’t have to stay here; we’ll call you as soon as we have any news.”

“I want to be here,” Diane insisted. “What if she comes home?”

Kate spared her an opinion on how unlikely that was looking. “Is there someone we can call, to be with you? A friend, or a family member?”

“My son’s at work.”

“Can’t he take the afternoon off?”

Diane said numbly, “I haven’t told him yet. How can I tell him?”

Kate got the number from her and made the call. Patrick Grimes was an electrician, working on a building site in the city; it would take him forty minutes to get here.

She left Diane with the constable, and knocked on the side door of the van. The SOCO, Tim Ng, let her in and she joined him in front of the console.

“What’s the swarm got so far?” she asked.

“No signs of forced entry,” he said. “There’s a window that’s been left open in the laundry, probably just to cool down the house overnight, but no footprints or scuff marks anywhere near it to suggest that it was used to gain access.”

“What are you thinking for time of death?”

“Breakdown profiles from the bloodstains all say yesterday morning, but we’ll really have to wait for the autopsies.”

“Yeah. And the weapon?”

Tim turned to the console and took the view of the interior into the kitchen, tracking in on a slotted wooden block holding a set of knives. The largest slot was empty. Then he pulled back and turned into a passageway that led to the three bedrooms. On the floor, outside the nearest bedroom, was a bloodied knife whose blade the overlaid dimensions showed as matching the slot.

“Whose room is that?” Kate asked.

“The older girl, Isabel, according to the grandmother. The next one is Angela’s, and the parents’ bedroom is at the end of the hall.” Tim steered the view down the passageway, into the master bedroom. The drones had imaged the whole house at a moderate resolution on their first pass, but even as Kate watched, the scene in the bedroom was growing visibly sharper as new data flowed in.

Robert Mellish lay on his back on one side of the double bed. The top sheet had been drawn toward the foot of the bed, down to his knees. He was wearing only a pair of shorts, and his glasses were sitting on the bedside table. A single, deep stab wound pierced the middle of his chest; an anatomical overlay suggested that the blade had entered his heart.

He had no defense wounds on his hands. Kate supposed he might not even have been awake when he was killed.

“There’s a blood trail that starts from here,” Tim said, aiming the viewpoint toward the floor on Robert’s side of the bed, then following a series of congealed droplets out of the room and down the passage. Kate steeled herself as they pursued the trail into Angela’s room. This time, the killer hadn’t pulled the sheet away; the knife had gone right through it, and through the girl’s nightdress too. Kate felt acid rising in her throat, more from anger than nausea.

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