Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Story Teller

Another flash fiction challenge from Terrible Minds.

“Three truths will I tell you and one lie.”
   Oh, shit.

   I wasn’t going to taunt him sexually and goad him into telling me where the fifth girl was before time ran out for her too. This was an intellectual game for him; pitting his Criminal Genius against New Scotland Yard’s Star Detective. Players prolong the game to see their opponents squirm and twist and fail and lose and proclaim themselves winners in the greatest game of all; death against life.
   He was also a Story Teller which is the worst kind of player because the thrill is in making the police conform to whatever twisted narrative they have set their black hearts upon. The cops must waste time and energy avoiding falling in with the plot. The Girl Survived must not be the last line of anyone’s story; but rather the first condition for the rest of her life.
   There was no point in delaying. He’d made time pressure central in those four previous, failed investigations before he walked in with his trophies this morning and identified himself as the Taxi Rank Killer. Anything he said now might be the key into whatever part of his mind held the knowledge I needed. I just hoped he hadn’t read my books.
 “Statement Number One is I’ve read all your books,” he said. “Is that truth or lie, I wonder?
    Except for the poetry: who cares how rough Afghanistan was for you? Egotism and Stress in Combat, however, proved helpful in perfecting my little time capsules. I never realized how much the Medical Corps values studying the belief systems of its enemies. Such a pity your former comrades are losing the war just as thoroughly as The Yard missed my four previous deadlines. I can’t wait to see your reaction when time and oxygen slip away from poor Kelly Mason.”
   “Asphyxiation, even when administered remotely, is usually an impotent sexual sadist’s means of execution. But if you’re as potent as you say, why choose live burial rather than - say - hanging or dissolution in acid? Are your resources so small that you can’t afford the privacy of the remote location needed for more thorough, invasive, and above all powerful methods? Should I be seeking your identity from the Benefits Agency?”
   “Statement Number Two is that all this isn’t caused by any trauma, old or new; or any grudge; or any infantile ideological stance against something or other. Looking for the stressor that set me about my work or burrowing into my background won’t help you build a psychological profile and thus invade my mind. I wasn’t abused as a child and I have not been betrayed and have no incurable disease that’s inspiring me to do these things for kicks before it’s Goodnight Vienna and Lights Out. You won’t crack my skull like an egg in the next -,” he looked at a bare wrist for the confiscated watch and then up for the clock I’d had removed from the interview room wall “-oh, forty-five hours or so.”
   Each girl has been missing for a mere hour before his text message arrived at The Yard. Forty-seven hours later the police station nearest to her parents’ home received a ***YOU LOSE*** text and a map reference where pale-faced detectives and Scenes of Crimes Officers were sent to disinter Charlotte McVeigh, Patsy-Marie Dornish, Daisy Brewster and Alice Hope. He must have taken an extra hour or two this morning after picking up night-shift nursing auxiliary Kelly Mason at the taxi rank outside her hospital in his signature stolen London black cab.
  “So if it’s not illness with you, or a political statement or any kind of revenge, why kidnap and murder all these young women?”
   “Is the greatest forensic mind of our age asking such trite questions? Is the war hero and Army psychiatrist whose return to civilian practice and fame on daytime TV drew the attention of baffled British Bobbies who just had to possess his dark insights and experience of frenzied killing and its aftermath to hunt down my fellow philosophers now asking the easy ones as if I was a drugged-up burglar who’d confess in return for a cigarette break? In five years you’ve become a legend amongst profilers and consulted worldwide by baffled foreign investigators. Statement Number Three is that my motive is one of the classics. Think man; think! What are the few basic motivations that oblige human beings to do terrible, wicked, harmful things?”
  “Firstly, there’s anger at powerlessness, as in the crimes of Dwayne Murdoch. Then there’s pride and revenge against perceived detractors like the demented Dominic Ryan. And greed, for example the Sandra Gill kidnappers who just lost it when she half-escaped and they felt it necessary to kill her and abandon their ransom plan. And fear, of course; Colin Drake believed that Linda Berry was in league with his ex-wife and planned to humiliate him further by exposing his tastes in pornography which is why he murdered her.”
  “I’m devastated, Doctor Pryor, I truly am. How can these pedestrian musings be the words of the soldier-physician who stunned the globe with his insights into the human soul at extremes of emotional experience?
   It’s love, Doctor Pryor; the desire to experience, to cherish, to dwell with the beloved one and thus enjoy the brilliance of their light; the thrill of being intimate with a great soul - a great mind at the height of its powers – at the moment of its greatest passion.”
   I realized with dread why he’d taken three hours, rather than the usual one, to text New Scotland Yard today.
   “Statement Number Four, he said “is that your daughter Emily is a bright, happy girl with a long and healthy life ahead of her.”
  I crossed the room towards him.


Darlene Underdahl said...

Whoa. That was good. I totally understood the mind-love angle. The world needs to see more of Doctor Pryor.

AB Singer said...

Why thank you, Darlene, and welcome.
Alas, I wrote the chap as a foil for the challenge, and the world is likelier to see more of Doctor Fu Manchu unless I get a large forward from Baen. It's my English schoolgirl warrior-sorceress I'll be pushing - just as soon as she's edited.

Meanwhile, no-one goes away empty handed. You wrote something nice about my prose, and I've linked to your e-press page.
I'm that easy.
And we'll always have New Scotland Yard.