This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 1530 words.
Jack Porter was a man with a plan. It was a plan that had consumed his life since the relatively young age of fifteen. A plan that he had never once diverted from.
Self-discipline was his driving force. For twenty years, he had made lists, ticked off tasks when they were done, and lived to a rule book that only existed in his head. Everything was down on paper, and could all be easily destroyed. Nothing was ever done on a computer or mobile phone. There was no electronic trail to follow. As the day approached, he made some last minute adjustments. He had to smile at the irony. The only way that this complex plan would work was if it appeared to be unplanned. Random. It had to appear to be random. And pointless.
Of course, it wasn’t pointless to him. The opposite was the case. It was the whole point of his existence.
Two decades of healthy eating. Rigorous exercise, developing the perfect physique. No alcohol, no smoking, and most of all, no transgressions. Never bring yourself to notice. Commit no crime, however seemingly insignificant. Relationships were impossible, as nobody else could ever be involved in the plan. That had included his parents of course, and had meant leaving home as soon as he had a good job, and the means to pay his own way. No friends, no interaction with neighbours, just being sociable enough to manage to appear relatively normal to work colleagues.
Attract no attention.
That was one of the first items on his list, all those years ago.
Saving money was important. No luxuries, no holidays, not even a passport. Save and save, stockpiling funds for when the time came. Maps were important too. Maps of unfamiliar places. Places where he was not known, and would never be recognised. Places where he would blend into a crowd, walking past unnoticed.
When the day came, it started quietly. He spoke to his boss, telling him he was leaving. David had been surprised, but had wished him well, and told him he could always come back. Jack was a valued employee, perhaps the best the company had ever known. Never one day off sick, and always professional. Accrued holiday time meant he would leave the next day. No time for embarrassing leaving parties, or awkward questions. When David had asked about references, and promised to supply a good one, Jack had smiled. References would not be necessary. When asked what he would be doing, where he would be working, Jack had smiled again. Taking some time out for a personal project. That seemed to satisfy David, who smiled as if he had some idea what Jack might be doing.
But he could have had no idea at all.
Sandra Piper was known to everyone as Sandy. In that small coastal town where few people ever moved away, she grew up with the same people she went to school with, and still had the same friends she had first met in class. Life hadn’t worked out that well for her. Oldest of three, she had been expected to help with the younger children from an early age, and when Dad had died in a factory accident, Mum told her she had to leave school and get a job. Any job. So she had gone for an interview at the local baker’s shop, the one with the busy cafe attached to it. They needed a waitress, and didn’t care too much about experience. Fifteen years later, and she was still there. Overweight, and overlooked. Serving up tea, coffee, and breakfasts from seven. Lunch after midday, and cream teas from three until four-thirty. Busy during the summer, dull and boring in the winter. Her siblings were all grown up now, and she had moved out into her own place. It was only a rented studio flat across town, but it gave her the freedom to do what she liked with her life. That wasn’t too much, aside from watching TV, and eating whatever she liked.
Jack had discarded the bright red lightweight jacket. He put it into a carrier bag, then placed that bag into one of the industrial bins behind the shops. A bright red jacket would stand out on any CCTV in the railway station. But he wouldn’t be wearing it when he got the train back later. Pay cash for the ticket, with money drawn out from the bank close to home. The place was busy with the early summer tourists, those people trying to save money by taking their annual trip outside the school holiday season. He wandered around aimlessly, at least to any outsider’s view. The sort of thing you did in seaside towns. Looking in shop windows, passing through amusement arcades, leaning against railings by the beach, and watching the sea. But Jack knew the place from his maps. He knew it as well as if he had always lived there, and better than some that had. As he traversed the streets, what had been lines on paper appeared in three dimensions. Buildings, alleyways, side streets, and car parks. In less than an hour, he had found at least two places he was happy with, and sat on a bench in the seafront gardens, biding his time.
Sandy was hot in her uniform. It was close-fitting and uncomfortable, and the stupid hat she had to wear to cover her hair made her scalp itch. The black tights made her feet hot in the cheap shoes, and as closing time approached, she dreamed of getting home, and changing into something cooler. And it wasn’t even high summer. She knew she would get a lot hotter, once the season was in full swing, and that made her wish for a bad summer again, like last year. Looking at the clock on the wall of the cafe, she guessed that she would be lucky to get away by five at the earliest. At least she had a bag of unsold pasties and sausage rolls to take home, so wouldn’t have to bother to cook anything later.
Jack noticed her walking toward him. Short, chubby, flat-footed, shuffling in cheap shoes. Red-faced in the evening sun, squeezed into a shiny black uniform that looked to be at least a size too small. Perfect.
She walked slowly, which he found annoying. How anyone walked that slowly was beyond his comprehension. Perhaps she was just tired, and in no particular hurry to get anywhere, but he had to keep doubling back, for fear of overtaking her. He examined the mental map he had stored up. After fifteen minutes, he concluded that she must be heading for a residential street away from the busy seafront area. That was good. Only a ten minute walk back to the station for him. He checked his watch. All being well, he could catch the six twenty-six, with time to spare.
Sandy walked around to the side entrance, where the door led upstairs to her tiny flat in the converted house. She liked having her own front door, and had turned down a few flats with communal entrances. She put down the bag of food, and fished for her key in the battered handbag.
Jack moved very fast, closing the distance from the front gate to the woman rapidly. As she turned the key and nudged the door open, he came from behind her, a gloved hand clamping over her mouth as he pushed her inside the small lobby. His grip was so firm, she was unable to make much noise, just a strange sound like a cat crying outside. He closed the door with his heel, and pushed her head down hard against the stairs. For a second, he paused. No sounds of alarm from outside or inside. Pulling her back up, he struck her head repeatedly against the edge of the fourth stair, one hand still over her mouth, and the other holding the back of her head firmly. When he was happy that she had no fight left in her, he raised her dress with some difficulty, and pulled off her tights. Wrapping them around her neck to form a ligature, he placed his knee between her shoulders, and leaned back. There was a gurgling sound, and her legs twitched violently. But it was soon over, much sooner than he had imagined. Undressing her with gloves on was trickier than he thought it would be, especially the clips on the sturdy bra. When she was naked, he turned her onto her back in the tight space available on the staircase. He had no interest in looking at her white flabby body, but it had to appear to be a sex crime. That was part of the plan.
As expected, he got the six twenty-six, with time to spare. The train was almost empty, heading away from the seaside, rather than toward it. When it passed through a long tunnel, Jack could see his face reflected in the window. He smiled, content with how the day had gone. Then he spoke quietly, to his own reflection.