Tuesday, 12 May 2009
A MEETING WITH THE DEVIL - by Neil Fletcher
Another Talkbacker enters the fold...and how...
A MEETING WITH THE DEVIL
If the police had realised that when they began a nationwide hunt for the killer known as ‘The Slasher’ they were looking for someone like Derek Freeman, they would have been very surprised indeed. None of their photofit pictures were remotely like him, and they had been on the look out for a bigger, much stronger man. Derek was on the short side: a thin, weedy looking individual. But what he lacked in stature he certainly made up for in cunning.
He had been doing it for years: killing people. He’d started with his own sister who had been quite literally a pushover. It happened on Beachy Head when Derek was eleven.
It was only in recent years, however, since he had progressed to a more selective kind of killing, that the police had begun to notice things, and begun to realise moreover that a pattern existed between a number of unsolved and previously unconnected murders.
All the victims were women a good deal older than Derek, who was thirty-two. Their bodies when found were all so grossly mutilated, and in such a distinctive manner, that only one person could possibly have been responsible. Derek hacked and tore at his victims with a pair of very sharp decorating scissors.
From a purely psychological point of view the age of his victims was significant. An expert would have said he was repeatedly killing his mother. Derek had been an unwanted child.
He chose the women carefully. In Derek’s eyes they had to be lonely, solitary creatures who seemed, like him, to have been ignored by the world. And as time went on he became ruthlessly adept at seeking out such women in cinemas and pubs, at meetings of various kinds and even in churches. For someone so unremarkable in appearance, Derek very quickly gained their confidence. For the unfortunate women, however, it was a meeting with the devil. None emerged alive from the encounter.
Although killing for Derek was no more than an instinctive reaction to his perception of the world around him, he had begun in recent months to take more than a passing interest in the publicity given to his deeds by the newspapers. He began to enjoy the notoriety – particularly as it was quite obvious that no one, least of all the police, had the slightest clue to his identity.
He became cheeky, and on one occasion actually rang the police to forewarn them of his next murderous enterprise. Another time he wrote them a letter using words cut (with his decorating scissors) from reports in the papers of one of his previous exploits. He couldn’t help smiling to himself when a baffled police force released the letter to an equally mystified press.
They would never get him.
It was on a Tuesday in early October that he saw Vera Singleton sitting on a bench in the park. She was just the right age, and the drab, institutional look of her coarse, greying hair was the sort of detail that led Derek to believe he might be on to something. She was knitting.
Unusually for a woman on her own, she made the first move, staring straight at him and smiling. Then she crossed her legs and Derek could see her knees. That did it.
‘The slut’, he said to himself.
Funnily enough, although none of the women he chose to murder were of the cheap, flashy kind, he nearly always thought of them as such. And it was usually something like the sudden glimpse of a knee, a bare shoulder or a too adventurous neckline that triggered off the subsequent assault.
“Marvellous day,” he said, smiling.
“Isn’t it lovely,” she replied, knitting needles flashing in the sun.
“Have you seen the Michaelmas daisies down at the other end?” Derek asked her.
“No. Are they nice?”
It wasn’t long before they were strolling together in the direction of the Michaelmas daisies.
The path ran alongside the railway with a deep border of evergreen shrubs on either side. Derek chose the railway side, and with the speed of a ferret suddenly threw himself at the woman and dragged her into the bushes. The anguished cries and frenzied thrashing that followed were neatly drowned out by the noise of a passing train.
When the body was found a day or two later, the police had no reason to suspect it had anything to do with ‘The Slasher’. To begin with, Derek had been stabbed ferociously in both eyes and his body punctured all over with something fine and sharp. This time, they realised, they were looking for a very different sort of killer.
Although Neil wrote gardening articles for the horticultural press in the eighties - including reviews of stately homes and gardens for a now defunct glossy, he has never been a career writer. Only fairly recently did he turn to fiction writing due to very positive feedback from other writers on the writing site, Writelink: www.writelink.co.uk