Beneath the Surface – Eva Pryce

Mandy gracefully swooped in and out of the looming darkness, blissfully unaware, like all the others, of the grinning spindly shadow following her. She twisted her way through street lamps and drunks, her final destination unknown. All she felt was a powerful desire to continue on with no real idea of why or where she was going. She slipped through a barely visible gap in between two sizeable hedges and, all at once, vanished. To even the most attentive of onlookers, she seemed to disappear into thin air, with the shadow quickly following.

The shadow, dear reader, was obviously her own. This is not a tale of fantasy or whimsy. This is truth. It is a warning to every woman on Earth. You are never safe. There is no escape when fear is masquerading as hope and evil is hiding behind justice.

There seemed to be no good left in the world. This thought lingered in Thomas’ mind as he gazed around at his colleagues, moving swiftly though the bar (as if 5 minutes would make a difference to this case). They slipped between sticky tables and puddles of god-knows-what on the floor; Thomas couldn’t even bring himself to enter the toilet, where there were undoubtedly enough germs and poor decisions made, to cause Satan to turn on his heel. The cops had disgusted looks on their faces as they frantically searched for…. For what? He knew they wouldn’t find anything. It was a footling waste of time. There was no evidence. There were no witnesses. There were no leads. There was no hope. Only fear. These poor women who disappear like smoke in the wind. The pain they could be suffering. The terror gripping them. Then Thomas felt a hand tap his shoulder and he turned to greet his, rather over enthusiastic constable, William.

However, when Thomas turned, William was horrified. For a split second, he saw a terrible smirk strewn across his mentor’s face but it melted into his usual stony features immediately. William assumed that it had been nothing more than a trick of the light and promptly informed Thomas that they had found something.

William scanned the detective’s face, expecting to see shock, possibly even elation at the possibility that they were one step closer to catching the “Maiden Murderer” (the wit of the media apparently knows no bounds) but all William saw was fury.

“This isn’t in keeping with his M.O.”, groaned Thomas, “It is most likely a trick. He’s never done anything like this before.” Thomas’ steely gaze fixed upon William. “Well. What is it?”

William handed Thomas a slip of old-fashion parchment and relief spread across Thomas’ entire stature.

“Pfft. Another wannabe Shakespeare. Talk about living up the cliches.” As Thomas unfurled the crumpled parchment (which had been left at the bar the previous night) he read aloud,

“In a lake of eternal sleep,

Every last one of these women,

Do I keep.

Their weak minds always bend to my will,

And no, I’ve not yet had my fill.”

Nothing. Nothing to work with, no clues. Simply, nothing. You’d think that saying “lake” would’ve made the deflated policemen somewhat optimistic, but having already sent divers into every river, pond and puddle they knew of, it only served to annoy.

“There were no prints on the paper sir,” muttered William, “The others at the bar saw a young girl matching the description of our missing lady with an older gentleman, at around 9:30pm last night. Her boyfriend reported her missing when she didn’t return home last night and none of her relatives and friends have heard anything. The only detail they remember about the man who was with her was..

“Let me guess.” interrupted Thomas. It was almost funny how the singular detail people remembered of this man was possibly the most intriguing. A beautiful gold watch on a metal chain. Thomas believed that this man was hypnotising the young brunettes into traipsing towards their deaths, without any knowledge of what they were actually doing or why. Of course, his narrow minded colleagues had laughed and laughed and insisted that he get out more, when they heard this, but Thomas was sure. Very, very sure.

It was almost too hilarious, seeing the desks of the two policemen side by side. Thomas had turned his office into a base hub for the investigation and so had moved beside William. Thomas’ desk was practically invisible under a mountain of papers and had just one, wilted and depressing plant on it. William’s desk was neat as a pin (a trait he appeared to have picked up from his late wife) and decorated with ornamental gold fish and pictures of his family, who were the resident “psychics” of a travelling circus. Thomas had long since realised that his trusted companion’s family were all con men and frauds, albeit exceedingly good ones.

“We’ve just had the results back,” said William, “The DNA on the note isn’t on file and the bar was covered in dozens of prints that would take months to trace.”

“Another dead end.” said an increasingly worn out Thomas.

All of a sudden every office in the room seemed to sit up perfectly straight, as the commissioner waddled into the room. With a large moustache and horrible grey suit, the commissioner appeared to be part walrus (a fact that lead to many sniggers between Sergeants around the water cooler).  If there were ever a person, thought Thomas, that I would frame for murder, this pompous idiot is definitely first in line.

“Officers Chalmers and Ray. I am here to personally inform you that we will be handing the.. em.. “maiden murderer” case, over to MI7, effective immediately. It was never really in your league, was it?”

If it weren’t for William’s quick thinking, Thomas may have beaten the living day lights out of the walrus.

“You stupid, arrogant excuse for a human being!” screeched Thomas. “They’ll never find him. We have the experience to take him down. He’s a genius and has been five steps ahead of us every inch of the way! If he were ever going to be caught, it would be by someone who has been with this case from the very beginning and not some young upstart with a high tech gadget permanently glued to his hand. You’re an idiot every day of the week but couldn’t you have taken a day off for once?”

“Say one more word Chalmers, and you’ll be suspended for slurring the name of a very superior officer. Ray, take the detective home.”

After a wearing and awkward car ride, William dropped Thomas off at his apartment. Thomas practically jumped out of the car whilst it was still moving. He ran up the stairs, got changed into a new suit and trench coat, grabbed his numerous keys and left once again, slamming the door behind him. He had taken the first ever call about a missing woman. This was his case, his job, his life. No part walrus, arrogant numskull, was going to stand in his way.

Meanwhile, William had returned to his mansion. This was a result of his wife having been filthy rich. She had gone missing some years before but was officially pronounced dead after 7 years (this was the law). William had married the beautiful daughter of a wealthy oil tycoon who had left his entire estate to his only child. William and Katrina genuinely seemed to love each other and this was why people assumed that William never seemed to be able to keep a relationship going for long. The women always seemed to end up moving away or just stop showing up for dates. In fact, it was a source of great confusion to many of his colleagues, as to why William continued to work a thankless job, when he had enough money to never need to work another day in his life.

William poured himself a glass of expensive whisky (the kind that was far too good to be wasted on other people) and wandered up the stairs to a gargantuan master bedroom. He opened the door of a beautiful mahogany cupboard and deposited a single lock of brown hair that he had acquired, in a locked box, which he placed deep inside the expansive cupboard, once more.

Seeing the good weather, and taking into account the fact that he had nothing else to do, William sauntered out of the house, into his back garden and strolled over to a deep and murky pond, that he had always loved.

“Don’t worry my love,” he said reaching his hand towards the pond, “we’ll find some more friends soon. This is just a minor setback. It will still be easy for that moron of a detective to appear in the frame of suspects. We’re too smart for them. All of them.”

A single foot drifted towards the surface of the water.