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The knife drew slowly across her throat as she screamed behind the hard-clamped gloved hand. The blood ran down her neck and stained her blouse, oozing slowly at first but then gushing with gathering force. It spattered onto the bare floorboards, running with the grain and gathering in the joins.
Her writhing slowed as her screams became gurgles, and then they stopped and she hung limp in the arms of her killer.
He dropped her body to the floor, his mouth a cruel gash in his ski mask, then he stepped past the body to the dresser.
He emptied the contents of the jewellery box into the rucksack which had been hanging like a flaccid chrysalis from his back. He rifled through her underwear drawer, examining some of the slighter, lacier items and discarding them after a moment, pulling three black velvet boxes out from the bottom and adding their contents – a necklace and two large-gemmed rings – to his haul.
He turned and walked back across the room, treading through the spreading pool of blood and leaving wet, red boot-marks in his wake.
The wall safe was his next stop, and then the desk in the office.
At the door he discarded his boots, and pulled fresh trainers from a holdall. He pulled off his ski mask and slipped it into a pocket of his jacket, then he exited onto the street and joined the flow of humanity.
“That was where the trail went cold,” said the voiceover. “After committing the same crime in twelve different cities, and leaving twenty corpses in his wake, the killer disappeared. But two years later, Detective Crispin, having refused to give up, found the clue which would crack the case wide open.”
“I don’t understand how you can watch this shit. I think sometimes you’re a sicko,” Mike said as he walked into the lounge in search of his keys and shoes. He found the latter and sat down on the edge of the sofa to pull them on and tie the laces.
Heather shifted in her own seat and then gave a grimace as she extracted her fiancé’s keys from underneath her. She held them out to him with a look of mock-distaste on her face.
“That’s rich, coming from you, considering what you used to do, what you do all day and what you’re going to do now!”
He shrugged as he stood up, slipping the warm keys into his pocket. “The reality is nothing like that, though. Those crime channels you watch glorify and glamourize the whole grisly business. It’s not clever or shiny, it’s just bloody messy.”
She waved him off and turned back to the TV. “Yeah, yeah,” she said. “Have a good day at work with your bloody messy job. See you later.”
He grinned at her and bent down to kiss her cheek, then he walked from the room, grabbed his coat from the hall stand, and headed off to the latest bloody mess.
The Opening Move
Dave shut the front door and dropped his keys onto the small table in the hall. He took two steps and then stopped, walked back to the table, and picked them up again. He’d read on the internet about people using long stiff wires to steal people’s keys through letter boxes. He didn’t want to be burgled, didn’t want someone to get into the flat in the middle of the night, didn’t want someone driving off in his car and listening to his music.
He carried the keys through into the lounge and dropped them on the coffee table instead – making a mental note to remember where he’d put them so he wouldn’t have to spend too much time looking for them in the morning. He dropped his briefcase onto the sofa and chased it with his jacket and his tie.
His next steps took him to the dining table. He pressed the button to bring his laptop to life, kicked his shoes off and sat down.
He typed in his password and the screen opened straight into his internet browser.
He spent all day bent over a computer, checking the markets, making trades, but this was always his routine when he returned home: log on and get into his own, much more interesting business.
He was bent over the keyboard, typing, when the blade entered the back of his neck. It slid smoothly up and into his brain.
Dave let out an involuntary squawk and his stockinged feet drummed on the floor, then he collapsed forward onto the keyboard, his nose typing an endless ‘fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff…’ across the screen.
His killer stepped away from the body, using a small rag to wipe the blade clean of blood and brain matter, then stowing both in a small pouch.
He took a moment to look around, and then stepped over to the coffee table. He lifted the keys which Dave had placed there and slipped them into his pocket.
He removed the few books and magazines from the coffee table, took a folded duster from his pocket and used it to clean the bare surface. He placed the literature in a neat pile on the dining table and straightened the edges.
He then took the chessboard from its place on the small bookcase next to the TV, the one filled with DVDs, and placed it in the centre of the coffee table. He aligned it with the edges, nudging it back and forth until, with a nod, he was happy.
He reached out and picked up a white pawn. He rolled it between his fingers, feeling the edges of the piece through the slickness of his latex gloves, and then he placed it back on the board, two squares advanced from where it had been.
As he left the flat, the laptop started a low scream of beeping as it finally protested.
The Bloody Mess
The policeman held out his hand, palm out, and Mike stopped and produced his ID.
Mike nodded. “I should be on the list.”
The policeman checked the clipboard which he had been holding down by his side, and nodded to himself. He turned and pulled the crime scene tape from the frame, and pushed the door open a little. Mike could tell that the man didn’t want to go inside and probably didn’t even want to look. He held back a smile.
“You know what you’re doing?” the policeman asked.
Mike nodded. “Sure. This isn’t my first time.” He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and looked at it. “Living room?” he asked.
The policeman nodded. “Yeah. Though there’s a bit of fingerprint powder in other rooms too.”
“That’s normal. But no blood or anything?”
The policeman gritted his teeth and Mike wondered how long he had been in the job, and how long he would last.
“No. No blood. Or anything. Just the lounge.”
“Okay,” Mike replied, gave the policeman an overly-hearty smile, and entered the flat.
The lounge was at the end of a short hallway. The late winter light lit the dancing dust in the room, at least partly made up of the police’s powder. It also lit on the dark red stain which started on the dining table and continued on the floor. It formed an oblong outline on the table, showing where something had been removed.
Mike put down his kit and took a closer look. It wasn’t a lot of blood. He’d seen worse.
A quick survey of the room, and he saw that apart from the mess made by the police, this was it. No wonder they had sent him in alone on this job. Naeem would be annoyed to miss out on the work, but that was what seniority brought you.
Mike grimaced at the fact that he saw the chance to clean up someone else’s blood and brain matter as a cause for celebration, then started to unpack his things.
He glanced again around the room as he did so, always curious about what the police might have discovered; wondering if they had caught their killer, and then set to work. If he could get this done quickly, he could be back before Heather left for her shift at the hospital.
He started to clean up the bloody mess.