He was but a shadow.
At least it seemed so – flitting here, flitting there; going through life, unnoticed by innocence.
Maybe he had been innocent once – once upon a time, in a land far away – but now …
He broke into the apartment silently. It wasn’t that he knew how to break in correctly or anything like that. Rather, it was as if normal perception had been suspended. Sound had become muffled, light dimmed. Even his appreciation of movement became surreal; slow motion.
Maybe it was the chemicals pounding through his body that did this; or maybe he was entering a more supernatural, evil, reality. Not that he cared. He had intention in his mind, and nothing else mattered.
And so, too, his future victim, as he sat in his chair, unawares. Yet, was he already a victim? Was he already aware of what could soon come to pass?
That is a question for a later time. For now, we must bear witness.
Soon, our shadow approaches the chair. And as he does so, he raises the blade in readiness. Is our victim struggling, fighting, dreading?
We could hardly say that. Rather, it is as if the inevitable will be.
Maybe it always is. No matter what the crime, once begun, so many find it hard to react. It is an alien thing being done – something few can be prepared for – so without experience, the will totally and immediately subsumed, we become passive, pliable – dead.
As our victim now was – dead in reality and dead for all time.
Our murderer – for that is what he is – smiles. Then he takes out his suicide note, places it by the body and leaves.
‘I could kill you now – right now; throttle you, bludgeon you, SLICE you …!
Quentin Freud paused. He had stored up the words for so long. He knew he would use them some day and the time had come. Yet, once spoken, he was drained.
Collapsing to the chair, he craved peace. But Carl …
Carl thought different – said: ‘Go on then – if you dare.’
If you dare. Simple words, yet so goading.
Quentin was essentially a peaceful man. Forty five years of age, he needed to be. You see, his life was like a see-saw – he craved peace, but as a forensic psychologist the chances of that were slim. Murder was his game – and yes, it WAS a game.
It had to be. For if he really thought this was his reality, he could surely go insane.
Carl’s voice pierced his thoughts. He sang:
‘Why am I waiting, oh why …’
Detective Inspector Burley knew she was on the right track. She needed to see him now; needed his advice. But he could be so elusive, secretive … infuriating. And being blonde, beautiful and what could best be described as slender, she knew she could do without Quentin Freud in her head – especially as he was slight and not exactly good looking; except, of course, for that rare but exotic smile.
And anyway, she was thirty and on the fast track. Distractions were NOT needed.
As she approached the door she was aware of voices inside. Immediately she went into stealth mode and smiled. At last, she thought, I might actually meet his nemesis.
‘Let’s face it,’ said Carl after the goading. ‘You couldn’t do it.’
‘But I want to. I want you out of my life.’
‘But it’s such fun.’
‘For us both.’
Quentin considered the idea – briefly. Rejected it. ‘Not for me.’
‘Typical!’ raged Carl. ‘Nothing good in your life, is there?’
‘What is good?’
‘Something you couldn’t understand.’
‘And why is that?’
‘Because you’re the eternal pessimist.’
‘Maybe I am. But why?’
Carl sneered. ‘Oh no, not that again. I suppose you’re going to say I stole your optimism again.’
‘Well you did, didn’t you?’
‘Then finish it.’
Maybe that was the problem.
Yes, Carl was right. He was a pessimist, and maybe pessimists can never really finish anything, ‘cos they know it will go wrong.
Or maybe that’s an excuse for not bothering.
‘Well I can be bothered.’
Quentin Freud stood up from the chair – realized he had brought a heavy lump of wood with him. Grasping it with both hands, he raised it high above his head …
‘Quentin, what are you doing?’ asked DI Burley as she walked into the room, urgently. After all, she’d heard enough to realize trouble was brewing.
‘What?’ He dropped the wood. ‘Oh, nothing …’
Burley looked into his eyes – saw despair. She wanted to reach out to him, but his face said differently – said ‘keep out.’ And then, infuriatingly, Carl smiled from behind Quentin’s eyes.
Damn him, thought DI Burley, damn him.
That smile … like his heart trying to break free.
‘There’s been another suspicious death,’ she said.
Back to the game, thought Quentin.
Agreed, thought Carl.
The drive to the scene was silent. Both Quentin and DI Burley had things to think about – things that were diverting both of them, momentarily, from the case.
Burley had a given name and there was no reason why she didn’t use it, or why others never asked her what it was. At least, that’s what she decided. Maybe it was because she was still in what can be classed as a man’s world – despite all attempts to close the gender gap. And maybe it was because a little of the masculine rubbed off in her demeanour. After all, you don’t get respect as a detective being all pert and pretty and feminine. But Quentin never asked what it was either.
Why this annoyed her so much, she didn’t know. Most of the time he was abrupt and rude; but then there were times when that smile broke out and he seemed a different person – a person she was attracted to; which was unusual in itself, him being a slight, not very good looking kind of guy. But she guessed it was the raw intelligence behind those eyes; an intelligence that was highly seductive – not that it was intentional, she was sure.
As for Quentin, as usual he was of two minds.
This was the sixth case they had been involved with and a good working relationship had been built up. Burley had even got used to his strange ways – ways that were due to that annoying personality in his head.
As Burley put it once, trying to explain to a colleague that Quentin was not mad: ‘He looks at an argument from both sides, you see. And he does that by way of an argument, or dialogue, with himself. He tells me it’s one of the oldest forms of philosophizing, going back all the way to Plato, who imagined the existence of someone called Socrates.’
Unfortunately, she never realized the joke.
But their relationship had one severe problem. Deep in his mind, Carl imagined Burley in ways other than a pure colleague, and at times the involuntary erection was hard to disguise.
Finally they arrived at the scene of the suspicious death – for suspicious death it still had to be; at least until Quentin decided to the contrary.
Entering the room, Quentin noticed its normality. That was the thing about murder – so often it intruded on the normal. That’s why, when it happens, it seems so outrageously abnormal – not belonging in the world of the victim.
So the room was normal – until the see-saw kicked in, and Quentin see – saw – the blood. Puddles of it. Which left Quentin in no doubt it was murder.
He said: ‘Well there’s no way it could have been suicide.’ He observed the neck, the death (murder) weapon by the side of the body, the incriminating slashes of the neck …
‘Not even a suicidal could inflict such a wound – and suicide through cutting one’s throat is not exactly the usual choice.’
‘No, a certainty.’
‘What?’ asked Burley.
‘So it’s definitely murder?’
‘I think so, yes.’
Burley pointed at the piece of paper on the table. ‘But the suicide note …’
Quentin frowned. His face hovered close to it. The forensic team had already found a sample of the victim’s handwriting – not an easy matter in an electronic world of smart phones and tablets (at least a hundred doses a day to take away the pressures of life). And it was clear the suicide note had been written by the victim – again.
For this was the second identical death – and the first, too, had featured a suicide note written by the victim.