This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 1130 words.
Browsing the news channels on TV, radio, and online, Jack was also able to look at the websites of the local newspapers in the places he had visited. The search history didn’t concern him, as he would dispose of the cheap laptop and its hard drive when his project was completed. From comparing the reports, and examining the statements made by each of the police forces concerned, he could easily see that all the investigations were running true to form. Five murders in just over a week. That should have been ringing alarm bells all over the country.
But the truth was that it was not at all unusual. Look back on news reports from previous years, and it was easy to see that daily murders were the norm. Serial killers were still a rarity though. Those that were publicised tended to commit a specific type of murder, on identical or similar victims. The motorway networks were easily tracked as the preferred route they took, and it was often their use of the same vehicle that eventually got them caught.
And the killers had a tendency to fit the profiles popular with law enforcement. Loners, white men between thirty and fifty, usually with a background of some diagnosed mental illness, or childhood abuse. They were the men who harmed animals as children, killed their own pets, and didn’t relate well to their peers. They drifted in and out of jobs, brought attention to themselves by sometimes acting strangely, and found it all but impossible to maintain friendships or relationships in the conventional sense. Others led outwardly normal lives. They married, raised families, and kept their dark secret shut away. Such men usually murdered prostitutes; easily-available targets, and something for them to take out their innate hatred of women on.
Jack was not about to risk killing a prostitute. Besides, it was boring, predictable, and best done with access to a car. That car could be traced. And he had no plans to kill a police officer either. The death of a colleague inspired the police to pull out all the stops. They would work much harder, work overtime for no pay, and take no time off. Killing a cop was a mug’s game. His years of research had shown him that someone who killed a cop was always caught. Even those who had fled to remote parts of other countries were eventually tracked down. If they put as much effort into solving every other type of murder, nobody would ever have escaped justice, and unsolved murders wouldn’t exit, at least in this country.
A lifetime of studying crime, murder, detection rates, and police procedure had led to his plan. Different forces, some as far away as two hundred miles from each other. They didn’t all have the same funding, or access to resources. Some had crackerjack teams of murder detectives, others relied on anyone available in the criminal investigation branch to take on the case. Random crimes, very different victims, and no similar way of killing. Five different people, each one in a completely different county. A wide age range, and a mix of gender and race. His theory was that no connection would ever be made.
Once each force had asked the other if they had experienced a similar crime, and discovered that they hadn’t, they would go back to all those familiar procedures. Investigate family, friends, even work colleagues. Past relationships, previous convictions, juvenile arrests, or detention in a mental health facility. Follow the money or stolen goods, check all the CCTV on the roads leading in and out, as well as the cameras on public buildings, town centres, and private houses. He knew what they would do, and just how long it would take.
Around the country, five different police forces were acting just as Jack presumed they would. In the absence of a definite suspect, they were trawling their records for anyone likely to have committed such a crime. They confirmed with the profilers and psychologists just who they should be looking for, depending on the type of murder they were dealing with. The other forces they had contacted each reported no similar crime. Nothing even close. Inspector Duncan McCall was already dealing with a spate of armed robberies of post offices in and around the town, so Sandy’s murder was not being actively investigated, even after only one week. Diana James had been handed the file to do some follow-ups, and it was already in the second drawer of her desk.
In a large village a long way from that seaside town, the county police force was sparing no expense to find the killer of young Poppy Walker. Search teams, helicopters, dog teams, and even an underwater team, who had soon discovered her cycle in the river. But despite their efforts, they had no evidence whatsoever, and not a single suspect. And the clock was ticking on the investigation.
The quiet and affluent suburb had been shocked my the murder of Gerald Linklater. But the local police had quickly decided it was an opportunistic robbery that had ended in an unplanned murder. They followed the valuables, and couldn’t find them. They had no murder weapon, no CCTV, and no DNA. All the evidential factors they had come to rely upon to solve such cases were absent. So they did what the police often did, without making it public knowledge. They waited, and hoped it would happen again. The truth was that two similar or preferably identical murders were easier to solve than one.
In the sleepy market town, that was exactly what was happening, following the discovery of Ellen Shaw’s body. The top team had been called in from county headquarters to investigate the frenzied murder of the defenceless old lady. With absolutely nothing to go on, the man in charge called his team together, behind closed doors. With the photos of the crime scene projected on a screen behind him, he ran through the details of the case, before his concluding statement. “Someone who does this has either done it before, or will do it again. He or she won’t be able to stop. Our best bet is that something exactly like this will happen again soon, and then we will have more to go on, hopefully”.
In the industrial port far to the south, the hard-pressed police team were hauling in known racists, members of Far-Right groups, and anyone previously convicted of a racially aggravated crime. The murder of a Muslim taxi driver was not actually that rare in the city, and they were confident of being able to tie it in to one earlier that year.
Turning over the notebook to the next section, Jack sipped some carrot juice, as he read his own headline.