"That guy over there with Jimmy. He went to Smithson High too, but I think he's older than you. He's pretty shaken up. His wife is coming to get him soon. Name's Marsh."
I look at the well-built man clad in running garb sitting on a park bench with Jimmy, one of our constables. I think the man is Phillip Marsh's older brother. I don't think we've ever spoken.
"I'll go and talk to him."
"Okay. Don't be too long—we need to take a look at her before we get out of here." I make my way over to our witness, trying to remember his name. Spencer? Cooper?
Something like that. "Hello."
Jimmy and the man look up at me.
"I'm Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock."
Jimmy smiles at me briefly. "This is Connor Marsh. He found the body of the young lady this morning. He was running laps."
"Hi, Connor," I say.
"To be honest I was only going to do one. One lap. I'm not as fit as I used to be." Connor doesn't look at me as he speaks. His eyes are fixed on a stick near his feet. He is nudging it back and forth between them.
"Tell me about when you first saw the body," I say.
He kicks at the stick again. "God, it was so weird. You know?" He looks up at me again and there's a flash of recognition in his eyes. I'm pretty sure that after I finished school and started going to the gym behind the library I'd see him there lifting weights. He squints and turns his gaze to the lake. "I was running. Just down there, along the bend." He points down to a curve in the path about twenty meters from Rosalind's body. "I wasn't thinking. Well, you know what I mean: I wasn't thinking about anything in particular. I was just running. I decided not to do another lap and started to slow down and then I saw her in the water." He breathes out heavily. "I didn't know what she was at first. Thought it was probably rubbish or something. And then I sort of realized what I was looking at in a weird moment. I totally freaked out." Connor pushes his hair back from his eyes and says, "I heard one of the cops say she's a teacher at the school."
I hold his gaze but I say nothing and keep my expression neutral.
"I know the one. She went there too, like us. She was really pretty." Connor looks at me. "Probably in your year, I reckon."
Jimmy's head snaps toward me. I ignore him.
"Connor, did you notice anyone else this morning? Anyone hanging around? Anything at all that you can remember might be helpful."
He is looking at the ground again. I notice the top of a tattoo snaking out of his ankle sock. It looks like the Smithson Saints Football Club emblem. "I don't think I saw anyone. Maybe there was a girl in her car when I first pulled up in the car park. Talking on her phone. I think I remember that."
"Anything else?" I press.
"I don't think so. Well, not really. I think I ran past someone walking their dog at some point. A guy, I think. An older guy maybe. Sorry, it was pretty early and I wasn't paying attention."
"That's okay. If you recall anything else just let us know."
"Do the flowers mean anything?"
Connor nods. "Yeah, there were flowers around her in the water. Looked like roses." I exchange a look with Jimmy. He shrugs subtly. "We can't speculate at this stage.
We'll obviously be investigating everything." I speak smoothly but my blood has turned white-hot.
"Can I go soon? My wife is coming to get me but she'll have the kids with her, so I think I should wait near the car park." He glances down toward the crime scene and shivers despite the heat. "Not here."
"That's fine, mate, I'll come with you."
Jimmy's calmness is always reassuring. He'd make a great voiceover artist selling life insurance or something.
"Hey, Connor, one more thing," I say as they get up. "You didn't touch the body, did you?"
"No way. I didn't even go very close. To be honest, I'm not good with stuff like that."
"A good way to be, mate, a good way to be," Jimmy says, leading Connor away.
Rocking onto the balls of my feet, I survey the scene again. A couple of young girls wearing neon running shoes and black lycra are clutching at each other, their faces ashen. They're probably Smithson students, I think, grimacing. There are a few mothers cautiously pushing their children on the swings and half-heartedly helping them to navigate the slide as they fix their eyes squarely on the activity near the edge of the lake. I can hear the low hum of a chopper approaching. Bloody reporters. We need to keep moving.
This excerpt ends on page 16 of the hardcover edition.