John Duck awoke from a deep sleep and, after somehow managing to wake up, sipped from the cup of coffee on the bedside table. A new day was beginning ... Which would not have been so bad if he had not worked in the Criminal Department of a small English town - he lived in a world full of not only wrongdoing but also cruelty. He could say that he had seen in his career everything - crimes, rapes, drug trafficking, violent beatings between neighborhood gangs. But sometimes he could not understand where so much cynicism was in pursuit of a purpose, a characteristic that most criminals demonstrated.
" No matter how much you try to understand human nature, its most hidden motivations, or, on the contrary, no matter how hard you try to plan or reveal the perfect crime, you will sooner or later give birth to the true dimension of your imperfection - you will intersect with someone who was smarter than you ”- he had noted in a small journal that he had different notes.
Without knowing anything yet about what was to come, he somehow sensed that a new experience and a new challenge awaited him, during which he would have to do his best to cope and, finally, to catch the killer.
He didn't even imagine how hard it would be.
At the time when lunchtime was still far away, his colleagues informed him of the latest incident that had shaken their small community: Mrs. H., the owner of a villa, had been found dead in the bathtub, electrocuted with a metal wire connected to the outlet and into the water. No fingerprints were found on the wire (logically, the killer couldn't be so stupid, John exclaimed), no apparent motive for the crime.
" Who was she living with?". The policeman was interested, slightly confused.
" With her husband, Mr. H., her son, Jimmy, a 22-year-old student, and an uncle who suffered from mild mental illness," a colleague's response came.
"Mild mental illness ... Damn it, we already have a suspect!" John murmured, more to himself.
He remain a few moments alone, trying not to understand (it was too early for it, and the data were rather insufficient), but to guess, to use the sixth sense to deduce in which area it might have been the truth.
The only thing that he realized: he was dealing with a really perverted and sick mind, but extremely hidden and cryptic, which would not be easy to read.
A terrible game had just begun...
The next day, early in the morning, before work hours began, John went out for a short walk with the dog, trying to relax and put his thoughts in order.
It was a thick fog and, unintentionally, it associated this cold, foreign landscape with the funerals of poor Mrs. H., which had probably taken place not too long ago. Death ... fog ... murder.
Three notions that at that time seemed inseparable and increased the depressive state in which he had entered with the coming of autumn. Honestly, he would have liked to watch a good comedy or drink some green tea at an afternoon meal with his friends - but unfortunately he didn't have that much time and he couldn't get over his feelings. He had a mission to accomplish, from the moment the case had been presented to him: to catch the killer (or to help in some way to catch him).
He took a deep breath of cold, morning air, then, after returning home briefly, climbed behind the wheel of the car and started for the police station.
It was clarified shortly that there was no new data, but he requested that detailed information about the mentally ill uncle be brought to him as soon as possible. His affection had drawn his attention from the beginning and he wanted to clarify as soon as possible - either to accuse him or to eliminate him.
Within a few hours, he was reading some truly amazing information: the individual had been detained by the police a few years ago for breaking into a lady's house, followed by an attempted rape. He also worked for several years as an electrician before retiring for illness and staying in the care of the H. family for an indefinite period. During a hospitalization at the Nervous Disease Hospital, he did not appear to be extremely aggressive, but was still surprised by the nurses coming out of the hospital yard and waving a knife, while shouting: "There is no God!".
Here, John Duck thought, an almost perfect portrait of a potential assassin: violent tendencies, aggression against women, denial of divinity. In addition, the job of electrician threw on him an additional presumptive guilt: Mrs. H. had died electrocuted. Of course, to introduce a wire, protected by plastic, into a tub full of water you do not need specialized knowledge, but it was still assumed that the uncle had a great dexterity in such things.
He sighed deeply.
Determined not to let himself be involved in a series of assumptions and derivative reasoning, John also asked a question whose answer he was eager to know since he had been presented with the facts of the case:
" In case of death, to whom was the villa and the entire wealth of Mrs. H."?
" Son, Jimmy. The husband was already very wealthy and did not need inheritance, so that through the will, most of the goods and wealth belonged to the son.
John stared, confused. He had not even started the investigation well and he already had two suspects, for equally plausible reasons, which made it difficult for him to find the truth.
But he will start with the uncle. He was determined to clarify as soon as possible.
He had a meeting with him, which initially heightened his confusion: the diagnosis of "mild" mental illnesses was confirmed - the man knew very well who he was, what year he was, he remembered exactly when he worked as an electrician and when he was admitted to the sanatorium, he was largely discerning. But equally, from time to time, he slipped into a world only he knew, he was somehow losing control. John tried, above all, to figure out what his violent side might consist of - this was the one that really interested him, because he would could have linked her to the murder of Mrs. H.
" And do you really think there is no God?" he unexpectedly asks.
" For some there may be ... But for most, no. If you lost a sister in the extermination camps at Auschwitz, a parent in an accident caused by a drunk driver or had a child raped by a pedophile, would you still believe? ” came the surprisingly coherent answer.
" I don't know ... but I'm trying to realize that we, as humans, are responsible for these abominable things," John replied diplomatically. "Finally, in other ideas, what do you think about women in the general way?".
From his answers, it was clarified that the uncle was not only "a little" sick, but also "a little" atheist, "a little" misogynist and "a little" redeeming - which could, of course, potentially incriminate him in the case of Mrs. H. But it was more difficult for John when he realized that his uncle, even he could not be a friendly character, but he seemed genuinely affected by the premature disappearance of the villa owner. A good cop also uses his flair, not just the ability to correlate, just the flair told John that his uncle was not trying to hide anything about Mrs. H, but he was somewhat saddened by the events.
Due to his unpredictability, he could not completely remove him from the list of suspects, but overall it was difficult for him to incriminate him.
Two days later, a "bomb" also came from his colleagues: it turns out that a 16-year-old girl who lived in the apartment below had died identically, electrocuted in the bathtub, 4 months ago. It seems Jimmy had a much more "friendly" relationship with her.
Thus, the suspects of the investigators fell on the son, suspected of having relations with the child and then killed her - either after a dispute between lovers or not to break his relationship. But nothing could be demonstrated.
Not to mention, in the subsequent case, about its testamentary benefits.
Double murder? Passional crime followed by crime of interest, but staged identically?
John took a deep breath and looked at his watch nervously, though he had consulted it five minutes earlier.
He was already feeling dizzy.
John Duck left for a short weekend with his family, trying to relax and forget about everything. A small stay in a mountain resort, refreshing the air - it seems that he needed it more than ever.
One morning, jogging with his wife and daughter, he paused a little and drew deep air into his chest. That chilly, foggy atmosphere reminded him of the similar moment, before the first contact with the details of the crime, even though the magnificent mountain landscape and the all-encompassing tranquility could not be compared with the fast pace of the city.
Poor Mrs. H! She could have stayed, alive and unharmed, at a table playing bridge, or at an afternoon tea with her friends (she could have successfully participated in such an intimate reunion, at the 42 years old which she would have fulfilled in about a month!), she could have laughed, she could have enjoyed life ...
... If there was no cold-blooded killer, a cynical, calculated, unscrupulous individual who killed either for wealth or for whom he knows what passional motive ... An individual whom he, John Duck, had a duty to catch him and bring him to court.
He almost promised, that weekend, that he would do everything in his power to deconstruct the perpetrator.
Returning home, the first thing he started was, of course, the return on all sides of Jimmy's profile and, above all, the attempt to establish any element that might have linked him to the crime.
The guy had an alibi - the evening Mrs. H. had been killed by electric shock, he had received an important phone call from work and had to leave to help the boss with a job.
But John tried not to be too impressed by this. After all, the legacy of the villa and 90% of Mrs. H.'s wealth represented a super-mobile and a super-target, for which our young student would have been able to achieve anything. Including bribing the boss, making an arrangement with him, then he would wait for the rest of the family (more precisely the father and uncle) to leave home, get in the convertible, walk a few hundred meters, then he would return, find the mother in the bathtub and, invoking some pretext, act, wearing some plastic gloves, so as not to leave fingerprints, and then disappear from new, apparently to help his boss in an important project.
Experience told him that such a scenario was more than possible.
But he couldn't catch him with anything. He found nowhere the surgical gloves or anything else he could successfully replace, found no neighbor who saw Jimmy returning home between 9pm and 10.15pm, when the crime had taken place, he did not found in his eyes the glitter of insanity and the fierce determination that should have a murderer.
Worse, he didn't even find evidence in the 4-month-old case of the teenager being suppressed in a similar way, though he didn't doubt he had a connection with her. If, let's say, he had caught something in that case, it would have been a big step forward, but precisely this step John was unable to do it.
Finally, he concluded that, despite the possible motive, either the son was innocent or ... he was dealing with a genius assassin. That he could suspect, pursue everywhere, even unofficially incriminate him, but he would never, really, ever get caught up in the eternal (and henceforth classic) reason: lack of evidence.
At this stage of the investigation, the "bomb" intervened:
His colleagues discovered an element of surprise: in the journal of Mrs. H. (the owner), it is mentioned that he surprised his husband by making advances to the 16-year-old girl. After the teenager was killed, she, Mrs H, began to suspect her husband of being a pervert and killer, but he kept quiet, scared that he might fall victim to her. Basically, she began to live in terror - the terror of living in the house with a killer.
Excerpts from the journal:
" I know my husband doesn't want me anymore, I know that for a long time. He leaves me alone in the house and leaves to make advances to the 16-year-old who lives below ... Then, when he returns home, a bottle of wine launches and he lies down on the couch. Gradually, I will probably have to get used to it. But what burden can be more terrible than knowing that my husband is a pedophile? Why hide it, this is the term. It may not even be a church door, but the law is one for all. What if he is? The last thing our family should do would be a scandal. "
" Drink more and more. I try to go out with my friends from time to time, to forget about the daily worries and tasks that overwhelm me. Our Deckel is adorable, I think it's the only one that holds me and cheers me on. ”
" My hands tremble ... I'm terrified. The girl downstairs was killed, someone electrocuted her while she was taking a bath. Terrible that such people can exist! But ... there is something even worse in this case ... (here the writing became slightly shaken, harder to decipher). I'm afraid he killed her. Probably the girl did not give in to her advances and, blinded, but also hurt in pride, lost control and killed her. Or ... it's still a pretty horrible variant. I noticed he had no sexual appetite. Maybe he's one of those perverts who satisfy his lusts with a dead girl ... and that's why he killed her, and then raped her ... Let's see what the police say. "
" God, hold me! Harry is getting more and more strange. The other day I caught him in the room watching a snuff movie. Lucky he didn't realize I saw what he was looking at. I'm afraid that my turn will come soon ... It's awful, Lord, defend me! I think, no more, no less, than living in the house with a wicked assassin ... Do I have any chance of escape? If I had known, I wouldn't have married him forever. "
John Duck closed the diary pages and stared blankly.
”I have to unmask him. I have to catch him. I have to condemn him.
Otherwise, this monster will kill again”.
He focused as hard as he could on Harry's exposure, but made no visible progress. Everything was incriminate him, at this moment. He had no alibi, he was in the house at the time of the crime, although he claimed that it was just at the other end of the villa, not near the bedroom near which Mrs. H. was bathing. Only an intimate member of the family could have come so close to the victim, in the mentioned hypostasis. The journal, too, was more than eloquent.
But how to prove it? How?
There were no fingerprints on the wire and on the edge of the tub. At nearby stores, no one had seen a member of the H. family buying metal wires with protective plastic surface (but he may have had them hidden somewhere) in recent months. No neighbor had seen or heard anything suspicious.
And then, how to proceed? It had no landmark.
Eventually, he went on a direct attack.
He asked Harry for a meeting, told him he had every reason to suspect him, then showed him the diary.
He turned pale and muttered the following words that proved to be fatal:
" I'm willing to pay very well ... Some things would be better to never be known".
John Duck lit up his face. The killer fell into the trap alone.
" In the name of the law, I arrest you for attempting to bribe a policeman in the exercise of his function and for killing of Mrs. H, the owner of the villa and your wife."
Ever since he waited to utter those words ... Now he could finally do it, which made him feel almost released.
There followed a long, harrowing process, a time in which, although his mission was about to end, John was more focused and focused on the subject than ever. He didn't miss any looks, no words - he wanted to see everything taken to an end.
He could no longer afford picnics on the green grass, he even had to neglect his family, to dedicate himself exclusively to the case. The image of Mrs. H, passed away in death far too early, victim of a cynical, inhuman act, followed him day and night. He had to make justice.
After one of the hearings, Harry waited for him in front of the court. He wanted to talk to him.
John Duck accepted, without much enthusiasm.
" Uncle Billy doesn't believe in God, he seems to have something against him. You?", the husband of the defunct Mrs. H. questioned the policeman.
" I really believe, I told to the uncle. Hell on Earth is brought by us, people, no one else. All we do is work with Satan to get some goods that the son of God has already told us are vain. You would have done well to believe it”, Duck replied.
At that moment, Harry pulled out a crucifix from his sweater and, holding it in his hand, said the following words:
" It is true that I tried to bribe you, an act that brought my arrest. I am perverse, I have strange tendencies and I have rented snuff movies several times. Marriage, from this point of view, was more than a facade. That's why I wanted to give you money to prevent my name, otherwise quite known in the collector's world, from being dragged into a scandal. But I swear by the wounds of Jesus that my vice is limited to watching movies. I've never killed anyone, nor the girl downstairs or my wife. Inspector John Duck, you arrested a wicked man, full of sin, maybe for others crazy, but in terms of crime, an innocent man. Please take my testimony and take the killer. "
John turned white like wax on the face. He knew, intuited, as a very experienced policeman, that the man in front of him had told the truth, without shaking any muscles on his face, no blood flow to his cheeks or other small signs that he would have noticed immediately.
He scheduled the next day for the polygraph test, which he passed, "for good."
He was wrong so bitter!!! What a defeat!!!
But then, for God's sake, who could be the killer?
He also told the judge:
" I brought him here. I'll have to get him out of here, too. Still not giving a verdict, expect to do some further investigations, but I have the impression, 90%, that the guy is innocent. "
It's not possible. It's a hell of a game. Who could do it? Who?
Someone from the house.
Uncle? In a fit of madness? But how can one explain his subsequent state of apathy, near disinterest in murder? A guy suffering from mental illnesses like he would either be proud of what he did, he would see the crime as a trophy, or he would fall to the other extreme, he would have terrible remorse, he would throw himself down crying on the floor begging to be forgiven. He had done neither.
Jimmy? Who inherited everything? Oh, it would have been very likely, but ... he checked his alibi several times. The cameras had recorded him at work at the time when the crime had taken place. Or, having no twin brother, it was impossible (logically!) to be in two different places at the same time.
Harry? The one who had just "confessed"? The amateur of sensation on video? It could have been, but ... his confession had been too "clean". Too true. After so many years of work, he had even become to understand people. And the lie detector test had passed.
Something doesn't fit into this whole story.
John Duck looked at the clock on the wall at a fixed time, and wished he could find, for a moment, in the killer's mind, in this terribly complicated deadly puzzle ... And in a flash, he realised that there is another hypothesis, incredible, hallucinating, insane, in front of which he could lost his mind ... A challenge that proved to be too strong even for him, the great John Duck ...
" No matter how much you try to understand human nature, its most hidden motivations, or, on the contrary, no matter how hard you try to plan or reveal the perfect crime, you will sooner or later give birth to the true dimension of your imperfection - you will intersect with someone who was smarter than you. ”
Beaten with his own words. How else?
The next day, he came up with a shocking proposal for his younger colleagues: an order to exhume Mrs. H., to determine the exact circumstances of her death.
" I think you worked very hard on the case and you need a little rest ...", he tried to squeeze in, rather clumsy and a little diplomatic, a colleague.
" Exhume her!!! It's an order !!! ”John cried, turning red, as they had never seen him before.
Minutes from hell followed. Scenes where John was seen knocking at the gates of Hell, waiting for an absurd, Kafkian verdict, times when he wished he had been born in another state or maybe even another planet.
Moments of maximum tension, close to madness.
Half an hour when he prayed that at least his faith would remain intact.
Then, when he was finally in front of the body, he carefully searched the victim's right hand and found the long-awaited clue there: her fingers were wrapped with a thin, almost imperceptible, transparent plastic eye.
The next day, he was finally able to explain to his colleagues:
" Do you know why we struggle so much?"
" How many crimes arranged to look like suicides have you seen?"
" A lot."
" But suicides staged so that they look like crimes?".
"Precisely. It seems that the time has come. "
" That's why there were no fingerprints. The purpose of the membrane was to hide its fingerprints - she was the one that introduced the wire into the water.
Chronologically: she surprised her husband by cheating on her with the 16-year-old. In order to get revenge, one night she went down to it and stayed for tea under some pretext. The girl took a bath, she called from her mobile phone and, under the pretext of bringing her mobile to answer, approached and introduced a wire connected to electricity ...
Later, she wrote in her personal diary about the husband's so-called apprehensions (which, for the most part, were true, but not entirely) and invented terror ... to eventually kill herself so that she would be (almost) sure the husband will be the one convicted of the crime.
What happened in that evening?
She waited for the son to go to work, the uncle to retire to the room, and the husband to be on the other side of the villa. She put on her transparent plastic membrane, took the wire she had prepared, inserted one end into the socket and placed the other on the edge of the tub. Then she went into the tub. At time zero, she put the wire in the water.
And here it is. The perfect crime.
Revenge beyond the grave.
But it wasn't a crime, it was a suicide”.
John Duck walks his dog in the park, receives a mobile message from his daughter, then sits on a bench and looks at the strange faces of the passersby, trying to decipher them.
”How complicated can the human mind be? What are the fantasies of the lady with the Poodle who just sat next to me? Where's the next killer hiding?”
Maybe he wasn't finally defeated by Mrs. H's perverted mind just because fate (or God) wanted it so ...
" Are you alone?" the stranger with the puppy suddenly asked.
" Now, at this moment, yes ..." he replied. The woman next to him had blue eyes and beautiful legs.
" I would like to hear what a day in your life looks like. I am sure you are an excellent storyteller”, the woman said.
" With great pleasure ... you will just have to be patient enough to listen to me."
The stranger smiles.
" I think, for the first time in ten years of marriage, I will do my best to cheat, even for the sake of a unique adventure, my wife."
" I know how to commit the perfect crime ... Fortunately, this guinea pig next to me does not suspect anything ... and I will do my best to stay that way," she thought, at the same time, the stranger.
" No matter how much you try to understand human nature ..."
Author Notes: Foto: Markus Winkler - Unsplash