One Left Alive - Helen Phifer


Police Officer Morgan Brookes was driving around aimlessly, trying to get to know the vast rural area that she was responsible for until the end of her shift. Lifting her wrist, she looked at her watch: only another seven hours to go. She loved it here, was grateful she got to work in such a beautiful part of the Lake District. But God it was boring being on your own. She much preferred it when she was in company with another officer. Her colleague, Dan, had been her tutor since leaving her training at headquarters. They had spent hours in each other’s company and become friends; despite his terrible jokes and sometimes blasé attitude, she missed his company.

A burst of static as the radio came to life made her jump.

‘5129 we have an IR at Lake View on Easdale Road, Grasmere. A suspected suicide. There’s a female hanging from a tree.’

Morgan felt a surge of blood rush through her veins, as the adrenalin kicked in. She hadn’t attended a suicide on her own before, but she had been to several when she was completing her training and in company with a more experienced officer. She was ready for this.

‘On my way. I’m single crewed though. Are ambulance travelling?’

‘Yes, we’ll get another patrol travelling as well. You’re the nearest.’

She was glad to hear backup was coming, as she put on her blues and turned the van around, speeding through the lanes to get back to the road she hadn’t long left. Morgan knew where Easdale Road was; she’d driven along it already today. Unsure which house was Lake View, she hoped it would have one of those fancy slate plaques outside the gates, which most of the wealthier houses in the Lakes had. She slowed the van so she could read each one. It was a nightmare; she couldn’t see any house numbers and was relying on a name plate. Passing a cluster of houses without spotting the name or the female figure control had mentioned, she radioed back.

‘Do you have me on ARL?’

‘Yes, we do. According to this map you’re about half a minute away, keep driving, it’s the next house on your right.’

Putting her foot down, Morgan sped up until she found the sign for Lake View and turned into the long driveway. The van rattled as she drove too fast along the narrow drive. Just ahead, in front of the large house, she could see the body dangling from a tree and her stomach did a complete flip. A teenage boy was standing underneath, trying to hold the feet up with his shoulders and her heart felt for him. What an awful thing to find. A phone was clamped to his ear, and the look of relief on his face as she jumped out and ran towards him seared into her mind.

‘Please help me, are you on your own?’

‘Help is coming. They’ll be here any minute. Who are you?’

One look at the woman hanging from the tree told Morgan that it didn’t matter how long the other patrol took; there was nothing they could do for her. Her glazed eyes were staring blankly into the sunset; her small frame looked lost hanging from the branch of the large oak tree. There was a gentle breeze blowing her shoulder-length blonde hair across her face as her body swayed in the breeze. On the branch next to her was a worn child’s rope swing and Morgan wondered if she had young children. It was desperately sad; she looked too young and beautiful to be dead.

‘I’m Harrison.’

‘Harrison, you’re doing a great job. Do you know where there are any ladders?’

He nodded.

‘I’ll take over, you go get them. We’ll need them to cut her down.’

She grabbed hold of the woman’s legs and the boy ran towards an outbuilding. He came back moments later carrying a stepladder, his face red and eyes brimming with tears.

‘Is this your mum?’

He shook his head. ‘No, it’s my girlfriend’s mum. Oh God, why has she done this? Is she alive?’

Morgan couldn’t be the one to call it even though she knew the woman was dead; she needed a paramedic to confirm it, and she didn’t want him to think she wasn’t trying to help despite the hopelessness of the situation.

‘Harrison, I’m Morgan. I don’t think she is, but the paramedics will be able to tell us for sure.’

The sound of an approaching siren filled the air and Morgan had never been so glad to see her colleague, Dan