Monday, October 25, 2010

Corpse Flower

The trail of blood led to a glasshouse, one of those massive Victorian affairs that were all Romanesque arches in wrought iron, white paint peeling away from the red iron undercoat thanks to the heat and humidity inside. White followed the little yellow triangles as the climbed up the numbers, each one marking a drop of some poor bastard's precious life fluid.

A young constable handed him a blue paper suit at the door. "It's the plants sir. Some of them are irritants."

"I'm irritated already and I haven't even gone inside yet."

"Yes sir." The constable's expression was frozen between sympathy and impertinence. "Just follow your nose. Do you want a mask?"

"No need. I've seen enough bodies in my time."

"It's not the body, sir."

"I'll have one." Peters caught up and snatched a paper suit and mask. He began putting them on. "The victim is a lad called Milford Brooks. Twenty four years old and worked at the steelworks down by the railway on Goodge Street. Married to a woman called Melanie with a six year old daughter, Bella. It looks like he crawled here looking for help."

"In a greenhouse?"

"Yes sir. Apparently the owner has lights on a timer to simulate the tropics. The victim must have thought there was someone here."

"Let's see, shall we?" White pulled open the door and stepped inside. He wrinkled his nose. "I thought you said he died last night."

"He did sir." Peters took out his notebook. "What you can smell is a flower, an Amorphophallus titanum or Giant Corpse Flower. Very rare, so I'm told."

"What will they think of next?" White looked up at a series of long tubes hanging from a vine. "I've seen these before. Arboreal Pitcher plants, yes?"

"Yes sir." Peters waved away a fly. "All the plants in here are either carnivorous or have some connection to decomposition."

"Fascinating." White moved on, pausing at the body to stare at the hundreds of worms, maggots and flies that covered it. "Do we have a cause of death or did the arboretum?"

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