This is the second part of a fiction serial, in 1290 words.
Andreas was concerned when Sandy didn’t show up for work at his baker’s shop. On the few occasions she had been too sick to work, she had always phoned in to tell him, usually the night before. He rang her mobile a few times, finally leaving a message. The shop and cafe were getting busy, so he switched Valerie from the counter to the cafe, and took over her job himself. When it got quiet after lunchtime, he looked up Sandy’s address in the staff records, and drove to her flat. In all those years, he had never even asked where she lived before.
He tried all three bells, but got no reply. Just about to head back to his car, he noticed a sign on the wall. It had an arrow pointing to the side, and read ‘Flat Four’. Outside the door, he didn’t notice the bag of food that had been kicked under the hedge, and started to ring the bell on the entryphone system. The loud buzzer echoed inside, but there was no answer over the speaker, or at the door. He gave up after five rings, and drove back to his shop.
Eighty-eight miles due west of that seaside town where Sandy’s body lay undiscovered, Jack got off the train in a nondescript market town. It stood in a different county to where he had been yesterday, and had a different police force responsible for it too. It was bustling in the High Street, obviously market day, with many stalls open on the small central square. Using a large bin at the back of a charity shop, he disposed of the bright yellow cycling jacket he had worn during the train journey. Then he mixed in with the crowds around the stalls, pretending to be interested in what they were selling, but not engaging anyone in conversation. From studying the map, he knew where the Post Office was, and made his way slowly to where it stood, near a set of traffic lights. It wasn’t a good place to loiter, so he went into a side street nearby, and waited out of sight near the junction.
It didn’t take long before he spotted the old lady walk past the end. She was pulling a shopping trolley, and struggling with two carrier bags in her left hand. He let her carry on for a while, before turning left, and casually following her down the hill. When she stopped to untangle the plastic handles, and set them on her wrist more comfortably, he gazed into the window of an Estate Agent’s, apparently inspecting the properties advertised on the cards. Glancing to his right, he saw that his chosen lady had cleared the area of the shops, and there were hardly any people near her. He strolled in the same direction, dropping his speed to stay a few steps behind her.
As he had hoped, the bags became tangled again. She stopped, muttering something unheard over the traffic. As she tried to untwist the handles once more, Jack walked forward, fixing a smile on his face. “Here, let me help you, please”. She turned at the friendly voice, expecting it might be someone she knew. It was a small town, after all. But the smart stranger was unfamiliar to her. He was clean cut, with clothes that were smart, but casual. Like many people these days, he was carrying a rucksack, slung over one shoulder. It occurred to her that she had never seen anyone with such white teeth, and then she replied. “Thank you, these things are so troublesome, always twisting around”.
The man made no attempt to help with the bags. Instead, he took the trolley, so that she could do that herself. When she had settled a bag into each hand, he kept his grip on her trolley. She noticed he was wearing gloves. Very smart. So few people wore gloves anymore. He extended his free hand. “Please carry on, I will pull your trolley home for you. It’s no trouble”. It seemed churlish to refuse, so she nodded. Thank you very much, it’s not far”. On the brief walk to her bungalow in a quiet cul-de-sac, Jack managed to establish that she lived alone, as he suspected. Not a widow, just never married. He asked her name, and she said “Miss Shaw”. He guessed she was close to eighty years old. Her bearing suggested a good upbringing, and her distinctive accent told him that she was probably not from that county originally.
At her door, Jack insisted on helping her inside with the trolley. Ellen Shaw had never been alone in her house with a man, unless you counted the man who had come to fix the washing machine last year. But this chap seemed so nice. Well-spoken, and so polite. She set a lot of store by good manners, and he had them in abundance. Perhaps she ought to offer him a cup of tea. That was the polite thing to do. Nodding at the bags in her hand, she said, “I will just take these into the kitchen, then perhaps you would like some tea?”
Those were the last words Ellen would ever say. As she turned to walk into the kitchen, Jack hit her from behind with the chair that stood next to the telephone table in the hallway. Even holding back on his full strength, the chair smashed as it struck her head, fracturing her skull in the process. Checking that the door was closed behind him, he started to remove his clothes, shoes and socks, and his watch, arranging them carefully into a neat pile. When he was naked, he reached into the rucksack, and removed some latex gloves from a compartment inside, changing from the leather gloves he still had on. Stepping over the unconscious woman in front of him, he glanced into the kitchen. What he needed was right in front of him, a selection of knives in a wooden knife block on the worktop. He chose a wide-bladed knife, almost a foot long. Returning to the slumped form of the old lady, he plunged it repeatedly into her back. She didn’t even groan or move, as the blade went in and out several times. Turning her over, he repeated the process on her chest, still using considerable force to drive the blade though her outer coat, and the clothing beneath. As a final gesture, he dragged the knife across her throat, cutting deeply.
Jack was covered in blood of course, that was inevitable. It had to look like a frenzied attack. That was part of the plan. But to avoid leaving any bloody footprints, he dropped the knife next to her body, walked back a couple of paces, and jumped over her. Then he slid open the door to her small bathroom, and climbed into the bath. Running both taps, he washed himself down with his hands, using the gloves to rub his skin clean. When he was satisfied that it had all gone, he stepped out of the bath. Next to the toilet, he found a plastic bottle of bleach. The old lady’s bath sponge was used to clean the bath, the bleach foaming slightly in the hot water. A small towel hung on a hook behind the door, so he used that to dry himself, and to rub away the wet footprints on the vinyl flooring. Then he went back out into the hallway, wrapped the latex gloves inside the towel, and rolled that up before putting it into his rucksack. He got dressed slowly, surveying the scene before him. Frenzied indeed. Who could doubt that?
As he put on his watch, he smiled. It was not even twelve-thirty. He would easily make the one-ten train.