This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 1160 words.
Gerald Linklater was sitting on the train wondering why he was even bothering to make the journey home. His wife had left last year, and he hadn’t heard from his daughter since she started at university. His insurance brokerage was on the skids, and the debts were mounting. And he had no idea how long he could hang on to the house, once he stopped paying the mortgage. He had thought about going round to see his on-off girlfriend, but the attraction of her sexual favours was usually outweighed by the demands for money that followed. She always seemed to need to pay a bill, or have to buy some new shoes, and it was quite frankly becoming tiresome. As the signal box flashed past the window, he stood up and folded the raincoat over his arm. The train would soon be slowing for his stop.
When the last but one rush hour train had arrived, Jack hadn’t thought any of those who appeared were likely targets. He considered a smart thirty-something woman who was standing by the entrance, but she had just been waiting for a taxi to arrive. He was glad he hadn’t picked her. She might have been missed too soon. He would wait for the next train.
The heavy man stopped outside the station to light a cigarette. He looked like a businessman who had eaten too many big lunches, and enjoyed too many large whiskies. Perhaps fifty years old, but possibly younger and just not well preserved. A Burberry raincoat was draped over one shoulder, and on the same side, he carried a hard briefcase in his pudgy hand. He didn’t head in the direction of the car park, but set off walking down the approach, onto the main road. Jack emerged from his spot in the shadows and followed some distance behind him. The street lighting was not the best, and at times the path became quite dark. However, it was easy to follow the trail of the cigarette smoke, and the sound of the occasional cough.
The man suddenly stopped. Turning to cross the road, he flicked away the butt of the cigarette, then headed down a dark lane opposite. Jack followed, slowly opening the briefcase he was carrying. He removed a small paring knife from it, and slipped that into his jacket pocket. Then a pair of rubber kitchen gloves, which he held between his teeth as he snapped the clasp shut on his case. He gripped the case under his arm as he slipped on the gloves, and then quickened his pace to catch up, hearing footsteps on gravel ahead. The man had turned into the driveway of a house, slowing his pace to find a set of keys in the raincoat pocket.
Jack spoke clearly, in a friendly tone. “Excuse me, I appear to be lost. Can you point me in the direction of Manor Grove?” From studying his map, he knew that was the name of the next road over, a private road containing just four houses. Gerald had jumped, to hear a voice so close behind him. In the growing darkness, he could make out a well-dressed man younger than him, carrying a briefcase. He stepped forward, catching a flash of incredibly white teeth. “Manor Grove? Why yes”. He didn’t have time for the rest of the directions he was about to give, as the other man suddenly raised his right arm, and stabbed him quickly in the centre of his chest. The small sharp knife easily penetrated Gerald’s heart, and he staggered backwards, looking down at his chest with an expression of disbelief. Then he fell to his knees, finding it hard to breathe. A few seconds later, he would never feel anything again.
Putting his briefcase down on the ground, Jack dragged the heavy body to the side, away from being seen by any passing car or pedestrian. He rummaged through the man’s pockets, taking some cash and cards from his wallet, which he then threw carelessly onto the lawn opposite. Then he removed a watch from the left wrist, and forcefully pulled a sovereign ring from the little finger of the same hand. He put the banknotes into his own trouser pocket, and the watch and ring on the ground. Removing one of the rubber gloves, he placed the watch and ring inside it, only touching them with the other gloved hand. He then removed the second glove, wrapped the first one inside it, and placed the small bundle inside his briefcase. He had deliberately not touched the man’s own case, as he wanted it to look as if he had been in a hurry. Satisfied that this looked like a robbery that had turned into a murder, he sat down on his briefcase. There was still a twenty minute wait for the nine-thirteen train, and it would be best to appear on the platform as it was about to leave. He would jump the side barrier, avoiding any CCTV coverage at the entrance.
They didn’t let Andreas go until almost eight that night. And then only because he had started to demand a lawyer. Although the DNA tests hadn’t come back yet, there was no real evidence to tie him to Sandy’s murder, other than the fact he had discovered the body by forcing the door to her flat. The statements from the bakery staff had been of little use. The dead woman didn’t have a boyfriend, had never fallen out with the owner, and seemed to do nothing that would bring attention to her. McCall did get an address for her mother, just across town. He took Di with him to break the news, and request that someone come in to make a formal identification of the body. She hadn’t been that upset really. Even seeing her daughter on the mortuary trolley had brought no tears or distress. When Di asked if it was the body of Sandra, her daughter, she had just nodded. Then she turned and said, “That’s her. I take it I get a lift home now?” McCall hadn’t been very surprised. He had been a copper for too long to be surprised by anything.
When Di got back from dropping her off, she raised her eyebrows. “She was a cold fish, boss. No mistake”. He nodded, rubbing his face. As she turned, he remembered he had to ask her something.
“Any luck with the sex offenders so far? I forgot to ask”. She shook her head. “We have accounted for nine out of seventeen locally. Seven had pretty good alibis, and two of them are in the County Hospital. One’s had a stroke, and the other has just had a knee replacement operation. We’re still on it”. McCall sighed, and pushed a stack of papers closer to the edge of his desk.
“Might as well release the story to the press now, Di. Proper conference tomorrow, nine sharp”.