This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 1290 words.
The investigation concludes
Jenny woke up in the unfamiliar hospital bed in the early hours of the following morning. She had a terrible thirst, and an awful taste in her mouth. There was something over her face, which she soon realised was an oxygen mask, and a tube was connected to a needle in her wrist, leading up to a sagging bag of fluid. She managed to move her head off the pillows, craning her neck around the small room.
The sleepy policewoman sitting on a chair by the door spotted the woman moving and stood up, dropping the crossword book off her lap. She opened the door, and spoke softly to her colleague standing outside. “She’s awake. Can you tell the nurse in charge, and let the Inspector know?” He nodded, shifting the heavy sub-machine gun around his body on its thick strap as he walked down the corridor.
A nurse came in and checked the machines around the bed, as well as the contents of the bag of fluid. Gently lifting the mask from Jenny’s face, she offered her some water through a straw. “Gently now. Just sip it. No gulping”. Refreshed by even that small drink, Jenny spoke to the blue-uniformed young woman. “I need to pee”. The nurse nodded, replaced the mask on Jenny’s face, and walked over to a rack in the corner to pick up a cardboard disposable bedpan.
Two hours later, far to the north, Gemma Fox exchanged idle chatter with her friendly postman, standing next to his red van. Among the usual pile of brown envelopes and charity donation requests he had handed over was a padded post-bag, her name and address handwritten on the front. Alan the postman had drawn her attention to it. “You must have a rich friend, Gemma. That’s got three times the necessary postage on it that has”. Back inside the cluttered farmhouse, Gemma opened the unusual item, and shook the small flash drive out onto the kitchen table. After reading the short note, she took it through to the old dining room once used as the farm’s office, and plugged it into a port on the PC. The dogs were jumping around her feet, expecting their morning walk.
They would have to wait.
Commander McDonald looked around the briefing room at the tired faces of her team. Nobody had been home since the shooting, and the incident with the car that had run over and killed Leonora. They had a name from the driving licence and car hire papers, and fingerprints taken from the unconscious woman had confirmed they could place her at almost every crime scene, except the cafe fire, and Mrs Holloway’s. Added to that was the statement from the officer who had spoken to her in the car. But he hadn’t cautioned her, and nobody had overheard what she said to him. That was likely to be inadmissible in court. Jennifer Ann Pettifer. No record, not so much as a fine. Unmarried, a successful contracts lawyer who had a good reputation. The list previously provided by the school did name her as attending at the same time as all the victims. But there was nothing remarkable about the woman.
Other than the fact that she had managed to commit nine murders, including the guest house owner, and never once become a suspect.
A search of her flat had revealed nothing incriminating, though the search history on her laptop was enough to have charges brought, along with the fingerprints of course. And they had found the first suspect car, covered up in the car park space belonging to her flat. It was going to be wrapped up now, no question about that. Someone had gone to speak to Catherine Harris, waking her up during the night. She didn’t remember any Jenny Pettifer from school, and couldn’t recall anyone else who might have. The police surveillance was removed from Catherine, and she was told she could relax now, with the killer in custody.
Gemma Fox had read the contents of the flash drive twice, before taking her dogs for a long walk. That gave her time to think. She wasn’t about to carry out Jenny’s wishes just yet, that was for certain. There had to be some money in this, lots of it. She should contact the newspapers, perhaps a TV station too. See how much they would offer her for the exclusive rights to the confessions of a serial killer. There had to be a book deal in there as well. She would worry about what the police might say later. Gemma hurried home to research some contact numbers, a broad smile on her face.
Jenny had been counting on her to do exactly that.
The different police forces that had been involved received the information from the National Crime Agency with surprise and confusion. The killer was a whiter-than-white forty-something woman with no record, and no apparent motive. Small wonder they hadn’t made any progress. They had no idea that they were looking for someone like that. As they closed all their outstanding files on the various cases, Commander McDonald’s huge task of preparing the case against Jenny was just starting. But everyone needed some sleep first, including her.
Various doctors came and went, with Jenny drifting in and out of sleep between their visits. The pain relief coming through the drip bag was wonderful, and she felt like she had polished off a whole bottle of vodka. The local breast cancer specialist had examined her, then turned away with a discernible shake of his head. A search on the hospital computer system had discovered her records at a different hospital some distance away, and they had spoken to her consultant surgeon, Mr Abdullah. ” I tried to get her in, to suggest an elective mastectomy for the left breast. But she ignored my letters and messages. Even so, I doubt it would have changed the outcome. It had quite obviously spread into her bones. The lady had declined all treatment, you see”.
Just before six that evening, a refreshed Commander McDonald arrived at the hospital with two colleagues. She wanted to see whether confronted with the fingerprint evidence, Jenny would be prepared to make a confession statement without the presence of a solicitor. The head nurse stopped the three police officers at the desk, and rang the on-call doctor taking the oncology patients. When he arrived, the three plain clothes police officers were standing outside Jenny’s room, speaking to the armed officer on guard. The doctor was busy, and not in the mood to bandy words with stone-faced cops.
“You absolutely cannot interview her. She is on a very strong dose of morphine, and would hardly be responsible for any answers she gave you, or able to understand any caution before questioning. You have to realise that the woman is seriously ill. Terminally ill, do you understand that?” The conversation was loud, voices raised. In her bed, Jenny opened her eyes and moved her head to one side. She could hear every word.
Commander McDonald attempted to reason with the doctor, trying not to look at his mop of unkempt hair, which was distracting her. “Of course I understand, doctor. But I have a case to prepare, and it will take weeks to get all the charges sorted. I need to make a start now. If she confesses, it will save countless hours of police work. Surely you realise that?” The doctor started to chuckle. “Weeks? She has two days, three at the most. Forget your weeks, that woman is never going to stand trial. She will be dead by the weekend”.
Behind the oxygen mask, Jenny started to chuckle too.