This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1030 words.
Jenny moves house
Stirring from a late afternoon nap on the sofa, Jenny felt something wet on her chest, and noticed the stain on her dressing gown. A quick look at the dressing showed it was damp, and she went into the bathroom to examine her breast. The inside of the dressing contained a pinkish fluid, still damp to the touch. The top of the lump had a small crusty residue on it, so she decided to leave well enough alone, and applied a clean dressing with fresh tape. Taking two painkillers to combat the dull ache that ran from under her armpit around to her back, she made a cup of tea, and took it back into the living room.
The rolling news channel on TV had some stuff about fires in the Amazon jungle, followed by a few interviews with people who knew a famous singer who had just died. As she thought about switching over, the scene changed to an outside broadcast. Almost dropping her mug of tea, Jenny stared at the screen, gripping the mug with both hands. A young woman was standing outside her old school, a very serious expression set on her face.
If she hadn’t been involved, Jenny would have thought it was a boring report, rather routine. A series of apparently unrelated murder victims had been found to all have been staff and pupils from that school. But other than that apparent connection, there was little concrete information. The current head teacher had declined to comment, and there was no mention of the time period they were interested in. As the reporter reeled off the names, the twins were absent from her short list. It seemed their death was still being treated as an accident then. So far.
The girl finished by saying that police sources would only say that investigations were ongoing into all the crimes, and would neither confirm nor deny that they were looking for one killer.
Opening her laptop, Jenny began to surf around sites offering holiday accommodation for rent. She was going to have to move, and sooner rather than later.
Catherine Harris was furious. She had even contemplated asking Steve Upshaw to surrender his phone, so she could check on any calls he had made. But she couldn’t afford to start sowing seeds of dissent in the team now that it was out in the open. Her admin assistant had been fending off calls from the media all day, telling them to contact the Press Officer on her usual number. The Press Officer had finally switched off her phone, tired of constantly arguing about their flat ‘no comment’ response to every question.
Police emergency call centres were receiving calls from parents of children still attending the school, as well as from dozens of former pupils of all ages, fearful that they would be next on the list of the serial killer. In his incident room, Ivor Jones continued to join the dots, seemingly unconcerned about the chaos going on around him. But he was also furious, as he realised that whoever had leaked that information had done little more than disturb a wasp’s nest. They would now be inundated with unrelated inquiries that would consume inordinate amounts of police time and resources. Meanwhile, the killer would also be alerted, and likely go to ground.
In another meeting room in a different police station, Izzy baker was listening to Chief Inspector Tennant go over the news. With the story going public, he had been forced to get involved. The trouble was that the victims were the only ones who might have known the killer, and they were all dead. They had to find someone who was at the school during that time who was still alive, and willing to speak about why they thought this might be happening. He proposed that they release the dates they were interested in, and make a public appeal for ex-pupils to contact them, if they were there during the same period as the victims. Izzy blew out her cheeks. That could involve hundreds of girls, and mean a huge amount of work. But as her boss rambled on, she decided to keep her mouth shut.
In her house just over the Welsh border, Pam Hayter watched the news with a sinking feeling in her belly. She had just about got Tanya Birch’s case sidelined, and now she had to try to find out for sure if she had ever gone to that school hundreds of miles away. She had been given Sergeant Jones’ number, and had put off calling him all day. She didn’t even know if he had that information anyway, and she had her fingers crossed that another force would take the whole thing on as one investigation, so she could return to her quiet life.
The woman had sounded very friendly on the phone. Jenny had given her a false name, a story about wanting peace and quiet to finish a novel she was writing, and agreed to pay cash in advance for a three-month rental. The cottage was suitably remote, though there were some local shops a reasonable drive away. It had good Wi-Fi, according to the woman who owned it, and the sheets and towels would be changed every week. There was a dry barn where she could park the car, and the nearest neighbour was over three miles away. Even better, it was almost two hundred miles from where Jenny lived at the moment, and she could get the key the day after tomorrow. As she started to sort out what she would have to take from her flat, Jenny felt a bit wobbly, and had to sit down.
From his office chair, Inspector Meacham was listening to Ronnie tell him that there was nothing worth following up from all those hours of CCTV. He nodded when the detective finished speaking.
“Thanks for trying, Ronnie. Now you are going to have to go through everything taken from the house, and maybe even instigate a second search”. Ronnie’s face fell, as the Inspector continued.
“I want to know for certain if Mrs Watson ever went to that school”.