Chapter 20News

The first half of the week unfolded uneventfully. Even some minor incidents at work were not enough to deviate my thoughts from the foretelling word on the last note. But life continued to be mundane, typical and normal. Not worth mentioning. The reason for me doing so, is because of what was layered on top of it near the end of the week. The commonplace was made all the more extraordinary by the headlines of Thursday's paper. In the time it took people to walk from their cars to their desks, the news had already done its laps around the office. There was hardly anything else that anyone would talk about. An event that not many people, even in this large city, would hear of this close to home. Fear, excitement, drama. For me the whole thing hit uncomfortably close to home, in a way that no one else in the company knew about.

Next serial killer victim found.

Initially, this headline brought up many memories of escape and fleeing, the thrill of being hunted, but it didn't last. As soon as I read the article myself, it dawned on me that it was someone completely different. A male murderer, though his gender hadn't been confirmed or denied by the police, that indiscriminately butchered both men and women of various ages. The paper didn't venture too deeply into detail about the whole affair but instead found it enough to quote some numbers about the city and how safe it had been here the last fifty years and how people should not have to worry, statistically speaking. It was clear that my own exploits were still not worth writing about, be it through ignorance or ill will, which was fine with me. However, knowing the killer wasn't me didn't give as much peace of mind as one might think. The two mentioned aspects of his modus operandi disturbed me somewhat.

For one, he cut up his victims.

Into rather little pieces, it appeared. And the worst thing, which appeared beyond the grasp of the editors, was the precision and care with which he did so. Cutting a human isn't as easy as one might think, even with very sharp tools. Bone, skin, muscle, arteries and more all have different densities and consistencies. Try a saw and you'd shatter bone and tear skin. Try a knife and the bone will stop you. While a chainsaw might work for the rough work, using it to create elaborate, almost jig-saw like pieces out of the human body is not an option. Somehow this slaughterer managed beyond the comprehension of his fellow man. In fact, this very detail of his work made him so infamous with so few kills. A mere five bodies, or rather victims, had been found. The last one in this city. None of the victims were especially well hidden either, they had been left to be discovered. There had been no trace of him otherwise, no pattern, no clear goal. Just that tiny little matter of his calling card.

He left a note.

At each scene of the crime was found an elegantly hand-written note on thick white paper. Not much clarity or detail on the descriptions beyond those simple words, diligently guarded by the officials to the great dismay of the press. Both the notes and his detailed work with the bodies itself had earned him a strange nickname, the artist. A name that I was sure would cause copyright problems if it ever became official. Then again, licencing issues were probably the least of his worries in the court of law. They did now show a sketch of the man, a picture of the victim or the note with the article, just a gloomy and ominous aerial view of the city at a cloudy dusk. It was understandable that the police did not want people to look at the artist's work and get inspired.

Not that people needed an image for that.

Work and the Internet were buzzing with rumors like a hive of wasps on steroids, and just about as annoying. Because it had been in different times and locations, with months in between, each kill had only caused a minor wave of gossip through the sea of humanity. Each wave specifically centered on the individual scene of the crime, logically. But the fifth one, executed with increasing skill, had finally caused resonating ripples to traverse the world. It was absolutely annoying to hear all the crazy things that people came up with, simple gossip that expanded to crazy amounts. The strangest of which, at least one I found worth repeating, was the idea that the bodies were cut into perfect pieces to build models of buildings. Ridiculous of course, but still thriving among the people like fungus on thrown-away bread. I cared little for such nonsense; my priorities rested elsewhere.

Was this my admirer?

That was of course the question on my mind, echoing around with every word that people spoke. And so many of them were spoken, offering so little time for distraction by work or otherwise. It forced me to seek solace subtly stroking myself in the bathrooms at times, mentally fiercely fleeing far from the gossip tornado that had everyone in its hold. There was no escape, not even for me, as office politics and social rules dictated my participation in this madness as both a manager and a woman. People asked me for opinions, more juicy details and various questions I would rather not have heard in the confines of our building. It only took half a day for me to be weary of all of this, and there was still one and a half day to go. There was but one island of hope in all of this that had kept me sane: it wasn't about me.

Or was it?

The details of the killer, especially the amount of effort put into those simple things displaying elegance and the complete lack of proof the police conveyed, pointed so firmly to the same person that had sent me the two notes. Even if that was so, it wasn't like I feared for my own life, that just didn't feel like how things were. It was not exactly fear-instilling to compliment someone on a job impressively done, rather the opposite, though the anonymity of the note did have me worried. The confusion of the second note's foreshadowing balanced out the level of fear somewhat, but still not to the expected extent of a victim. I also doubted his previous interests had gotten similar messages before they were brutally murdered. A term, incidentally, that appeared to be at odds with the elegance of his gruesome work. The Internet, papers and TV spoke only of a single message per victim, each of them containing usually a single word (supposedly one of them containing two), but no one could, with completely certainty, relay the actual words. The police had done a surprisingly good job at hiding that. There were, again, plenty of rumors, but no facts. It was only a matter of time.

Soon.

The leeches and vultures that called themselves the press would find their way into the truth of this matter. They cared much more about sensation than actual truth, but there was plenty of attention to be found for the person who could photograph the notes. Plenty of imitations surfaced among the dribble, people taking the effort to even fake the corresponding and realistic looking but ultimately fake dossier. They all contradicted, perhaps one of them was true. None of them were confirmed by the police. They wouldn't need to. Stories lead their own lives, growing until they fade away into unavoidable obscurity.

Wild-fires die, eventually.

The police were not forthcoming with information. They kept quiet about what they knew or devised, rightfully assuming he'd read the news as well and would be a step ahead if they said too much. However, it was fairly clear, even to the relative layman's eye, that they knew as much as they said; practically nothing. It was almost a shame not to work as a detective, as I would have liked to hear the rumors inside the bowels of government, the trenches of the truncheons. Possibly similar, probably different. Did they know more? Was this the same person? A question that was impossible to answer.

For me.

It was therefore mostly fortuitous that it was resolved without any direct action required on my part. Sadly, the inaction needed also meant additional worries and anger to its origin. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The answer fell right into my lap on Saturday morning, almost literally. It had been a rough two days, both in and out of work. Everyone was having a field-day with dangerous fresh news, even though the actual killing had been done more than a week ago. The body had only been recently discovered, making it not altogether unlikely that the prey had long since escaped the clutches of the blue-uniformed hunters. It wasn't as if this city was an island in an impassable ocean. Even by foot someone could easily escape the city, let alone via all the hundreds of roads or public transportation that were at our disposal. But, as the man had apparently found our city good enough to murder in, he might as well be honored by everyone.

Apparently.

When I got up on Saturday morning, the prominent thing on my mind was just to get away from the media madhouse. While I still considered it fully possible that the killer in question was directly or indirectly related to the notes in my possession, enough was enough. Therefore, after a long refreshing shower including some well-appreciated use of the massage setting of the shower head, I headed downstairs to make myself a nice cup of herbal tea. It was thus, with a cup of tea in my hand, that I cast a glance aside, into the hallway of my house and noticed a white square on the floor.

Another note.

In movies, they have this terrible tendency to let mugs, cups and glasses drop whenever a particularly dramatic discovery is presented. It was one of those little cliches in movies that I found somewhat unrealistic until the same thing happened to me. A note in my own house was, I considered, shocking enough for a similar revelation, but my cup survived the experience. Two steps and a simple placement of the cup on the same dresser that once had contained the other notes made the cliche completely implausible. The note itself was indeed what I thought it was, complete with smell, elegant writing and again a single word that told so much while saying so little. Answering the question in the forefront of my mind with a clarity that would have been preferred at a later time, such as after breakfast. The question that had been taunting, haunting me since I knew of the news. Was this serial killer my admirer? The note appeared to answer.

Yes.