Authors: Rob Kitchin
1a. Choose a victim at random.
1b. Have no prior interaction with the victim before the kill. They should simply be chosen because they were in the right place at the right time.
1c. Take no account of age, sex, looks or any other characteristic in selection.
Master rule: Patterns provide psychological purchase. Avoid patterns.
‘He’s breaking one of his own rules – a so-called master rule,’ he observed bitterly. There was little doubt in McEvoy’s mind that the killer was male. All the criminal statistics showed that women rarely took another life except for revenge or self-defence and even then they tended to do it simply – either a frenzied attack, usually provoked, or a straightforward slaying such as poisoning. They didn’t undertake such an elaborately crafted murder as Laura’s death.
‘Leaving the body and the note gives us psychological purchase. He killed her the way he did to make a point – that he’s in control; that he’s thought it all through. He thinks he can afford to toy with us because he won’t be caught,’ he said, anger and frustration in his voice.
‘You think it’s genuine?’ Hannah asked sceptically. ‘The killer didn’t just leave it to deflect us? Make us think this is about something else?’
‘I think it’s unlikely,’ McEvoy answered. ‘You’ve seen how well planned her murder was. The way she was killed, how the body was prepared, how clean he left the room. If he simply wanted her dead, he would have killed her and then got the hell out of here. This is the genuine article, not some elaborate attempt at deflection. And he’s probably followed his rules. She’s a random victim.’
McEvoy looked out the window and down the valley. ‘Whoever killed her almost certainly doesn’t work here and probably wasn’t staying here either. We’ll follow procedure to make sure we’re not being double-bluffed, but we also need to make sure everyone is asked about seeing strangers or anything unusual. We’ll also need to check past employees and guests. He obviously felt comfortable killing here.’
‘There’ll be something from forensics,’ Hannah offered. ‘He’ll have left something behind, impossible not to, even if he was suited up and took precautions.’
‘Yeah, but how many different people have used that room in the last year?’ McEvoy observed. ‘You’ll probably end up with samples from tens of people. Perhaps 30 or more. Who knows? And what if we’ve got nothing to match it against? There’ll have to be something else to put someone in the frame. Unless he has a prior conviction, forensics are just going to cement the case if we catch the bastard. No offence, Hannah.’
‘None taken. We know the limits.’
‘Do you have any ideas about the quote?’ McEvoy asked, changing tack. ‘His own or from something?’
‘Easiest thing to do is type it into Google and see if anything pops up,’ she suggested. ‘Do you think it’s important?’
‘I’ve no idea,’ McEvoy stated. ‘How about this M and R business?’ he asked, pointing to the header. ‘Chapter One M.’
Fallon shook her head and they stood in silence for a moment reflecting on the note.
As far as McEvoy was concerned it was big trouble. Whoever had committed the murder had crafted the note in advance of the killing. He’d spent time planning it, thinking it through, creating his
‘When do you think he’s going to strike again?’ Fallon asked, breaking the quiet. ‘Assuming he does strike again.’
‘He’ll strike if we don’t catch him,’ McEvoy predicted, certainty in his voice. ‘Maybe in a couple of days, maybe a year or longer. Impossible to predict. The only thing we can do is get on with the case and hope we catch the bastard before it happens again.’
McEvoy sat down opposite a short, thickset man who looked to be in his late thirties. His brown hair was thinning on top and he had two-day stubble. His eyes were red, under which sat two dark crescents.
‘I’m Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy. I’m in charge of the case …’
‘Dermot Brady,’ the man interrupted. ‘I’m an outreach worker at the North Quays drop-in centre.’ His voice was a flat version of upbeat, as if trying to contain a more sunny personality. ‘We thought this would be a good change of scene for them. Instead this happens.’ He threw his arms out wide to make his point.
‘I guess things don’t always turn out as planned,’ McEvoy replied. ‘Certainly not for Laura. How well did you know her?’
‘Not very,’ Brady answered frankly. ‘I don’t think anybody really knew her. She kept herself to herself. You know the kind?’ He didn’t wait for McEvoy to reply. ‘She only used to come into the centre to get something to eat or to keep warm. She often never said a word and she always tried to sit on her own. For a while she started to come with a dog, but after a few weeks it disappeared. I was surprised when she came out on the trip. We all were. She’s never turned up to any of our other events.’
‘She didn’t seem close to anybody?’ McEvoy asked. He was warming to Brady. He seemed to have a bit of verve about him.
‘Not really, no. The only person she seemed to talk to was Karen, but she rarely dropped in. She was nearly always on her own.’
‘Is Karen here?’ McEvoy leant forward in his seat. ‘Did she come on the trip?’
‘Karen! God, she wouldn’t be caught dead on a trip like this. No, Karen tends to avoid us do-gooders. She prefers to fend for herself. She lives in a squat off the
North Circular Road
. Scrounges off her fellow squatters and occasionally does a bit of street work. She’s an addict – heroin mostly, but anything she can get her hands on she’ll take. The only time we see her is if she’s really down on her luck – she comes in begging.’
‘That how Laura survived? Bit of prostitution?’
‘I don’t know.’ Brady shrugged theatrically. ‘I never saw her out soliciting when we did the late-night rounds, but that doesn’t mean it was off-limits. She didn’t seem the type though; too withdrawn; too closed in on herself.’
‘How about drugs?’
‘I think it was just alcohol. Mainly cheap vodka. It deadens the pain and cold. She also smoked. Marlboro Lights if she could afford them, roll-ups if she couldn’t.’
‘Do you have any idea where she was from? Or what she was running from?’
,’ Brady said, imitating a Scouse accent. ‘Maybe not the city, but nearby. She never spoke about her past though. Never spoke about anything, to be honest. I don’t know why she left the place she did or how she got to
‘How long has she been going to the drop-in centre?’
‘About a year, maybe.’ Brady pulled a face of indecision. ‘Definitely over nine months.’
‘What about accommodation?’ McEvoy asked, reclining back in his seat. ‘She sleep rough or did she use the hostels or have some other arrangement?’
‘I’d say she mostly slept rough,’ Brady hazarded. ‘She didn’t seem the kind for the hostels. Probably had some little hideaway on a bit of wasteland or in a derelict building. We never saw her on our patrols round the streets.’
‘Would anyone know?’
‘I doubt it. Perhaps Karen. She really did keep herself to herself, Superintendent.’
‘But she came on this trip,’ McEvoy said, contradicting Brady’s assertion.
‘As I said, we were all shocked. She turned up at the bus a few minutes before we set off. We were hoping she’d come out of her shell a bit. Maybe turned a corner; decided to get her life back into some kind of order.’
‘And how was she?’ McEvoy prompted.
‘The same really to be honest.’ Brady leant back in his chair, relaxing a little. ‘She was always on the margins. She never contributed to the discussions. There’s always one or two like that. They seem to drift around in their own little worlds.’
‘How about last night? When did you last see her?’
‘I don’t know.’ He shrugged. ‘Maybe
. We had a get together in the den. It’s in the building the centre’s staff stay in. It has a cash bar for cans of beer and bottles of wine. They had an allowance of ten euros each and whatever they’d brought themselves.’ He noticed McEvoy arch his eyebrows in question. ‘They wouldn’t come if they were going to be strictly policed,’ he explained. ‘That’s why some of them are on the street. Treating them like children won’t help. Anyway, she sat on her own in the far corner with a bottle of wine. A few of the lads tried to talk to her but she just blanked them.’
‘Do you know what time she left the den?’
‘I don’t know.’ Brady shrugged and splayed his hands. ‘She left earlier than the others, I know that. I’d say shortly after I last saw her. Someone must have seen her leave. She would have had to walk the length of the room to get out.’
‘And you didn’t see her after that?’
‘No. I hung around until about half-one to see the last of them out and up to the dorms, then I went to bed myself. I was sharing a room with Tom, one of the other leaders.’
‘And do you have any idea who might have killed her? Maybe somebody from your group?’
‘No.’ Brady shook his head to reinforce his answer. ‘Look, the kids we brought out here are not exactly saints, but I don’t have any of them pegged as murderers.’ Brady squirmed nervously in his seat and leaned forward. ‘Look, Superintendent, I’m going to come clean, okay.’
McEvoy started to sit up in his chair.
‘I’ve done time.’ The warmth and theatre of his conversation had disappeared. ‘Eight years in Mountjoy, out in five. If I don’t tell you now, it’ll only come back on me later. I know how these things work. I didn’t kill that girl. I swear I didn’t. I’ll take whatever test you want me to. I’ve paid my debt and I continue to pay it. Every day. That’s why I help out at the drop-in centre. I’m serving my community; trying to help others.’
‘What did you do time for?’ McEvoy asked, keeping his voice neutral. Dermot Brady had suddenly become a lot more interesting.
‘Manslaughter,’ Brady said matter-of-fact. ‘Hit and run when I was blind drunk. Killed a small boy and his mother. He was five, she was 28. I was 23 at the time. I was young and stupid and I got what I deserved. Got less than I deserved. It’s haunted me ever since.’
‘And have you been in trouble since you got out?’ McEvoy asked, thinking that if he’d killed once, he could do it again. Just because he was drunk it didn’t mean it hadn’t been deliberate.
‘No, no. I’ve kept my nose clean. I don’t drink, I don’t drive, I go to church every week, and I try and lead an honest life. The only time I come into contact with the guards is when I’m trying to help out one of my homeless friends.’
‘You were right to tell us now, Dermot. Better to do this informally rather than under caution. One last thing. Do you have a last name for her?’
‘No. She never said. She just used the name Laura.’
‘Okay, thanks, I think we can wrap this up for now,’ McEvoy said calmly, keeping his thoughts from his voice and expression. Brady might have killed in the past, but he couldn’t see him as Laura’s killer. The man had repentant do-gooder written all over him. That or he was a hell of an actor.
The imposing black gates to the centre opened and the driver eased his way through. A hustle of journalists and cameramen descended on the car.