The sound of the telephone chiming brought Frank around from his slumber. His neck felt like several hot knives had been inserted into his upper spine, and he growled in pain as he rotated his head to face the source of the offending noise.
Let the machine get it.
His mother was becoming a regular visitor to his mind now. Another wave of red-hot pain skittered down his spine as he jumped to his feet in response to her; despite the natural inclination to obey this maternal instruction he wondered if this was Daisy returning his earlier communication. He moved towards the receiver, each step loosening his muscles which had become stiff in their night-long immobility. The bloody scene in his kitchen was all but forgotten as the feeling of hope that he could confide in his beloved daughter warmed his blood and tunnelled his vision. He was almost at the wall where the phone hung when the answering machine kicked in, and the speaker phone projected a message from the caller on the other end of the line.
“Frank, it’s Markus. I need to talk to you. Where were you yesterday?”
The skin on Frank’s outstretched arm froze, there were no writhing movements beneath it now but its surface became undulated with hundreds of goosebumps and the hairs on his forearm raised themselves as if trying to offer resistance against any further forward motion. Frank duly complied, standing wide-eyed and motionless as his friend’s message continued.
“I’ve had a report that-. Well, listen, why don’t you give me a call back when you get this and we can have a chat. That means by the end of the week latest please Frank, or I’m coming to you.”
The message ended with a heavy clunk as Markus replaced the receiver, the sound seemed to echo around Frank’s kitchen like a percussive siren warning that somehow his friend, his policeman friend, had discovered his murderous deeds. The red light on the body of the phone was blinking on and off to indicate an unheard message and as Frank stared, panicked, back at intermittent illumination it began to resemble a beating red plastic heart, swirling bright fluid around inside its single chamber. Frank didn’t know what to do, he felt dazed and weak; if he was sent to prison, which he surely would be once Markus came to pay him a visit, he’d be a target for all the criminals he’d helped to put there before him. Almost in a trance, he wandered towards his front door, as if fleeing may be his only option to escape capture. He hung his head, staring at the floor, his boots felt heavy and he dragged his feet behind him as he made for the exit, moving like a sulking teenager. He stopped abruptly when he caught sight of the headline on the newspaper hanging through his letterbox; City in fear of Holy Cow Killer: Where will he strike next!?
Frank suddenly drew himself to his full height, eyes wide as he came to an epiphany; if he could catch this serial killer he’d prove there was some good in him still, and the state might be lenient in their punishment of him as a result. He knew he’d still serve time in prison, but with the right lawyer and a carefully constructed plea maybe he could be free in time to continue building bridges with his daughter, with the right therapy of course. For a man as honest as Frank had been thus far in his life, the possibility of being held accountable for actions that he didn’t fully remember or understand, with minimal punishment, was far more appealing than fleeing and living as a fugitive. So he turned on his heels and raced, almost like an excited schoolboy taking to the field for a game of football, into his bedroom where among the leaning tower of files, were newspaper clippings detailing the Holy Cow killings.
Frank thumbed through the newspaper reports like a man possessed, frantically tearing the corners of the pages with the voracity of each turn, but the salient details were all missing, these being press releases rather than official police documents. There were no more details here about each killing than he’d already gleaned from his conversations with Markus, and it was far too dangerous to risk approaching his former friend as a source of information now. Frank threw the last of the newspapers to the ground in frustration, scattering the pages across the floor. He stared in trepidation at the small window in his bedroom, what he was thinking was a risky move but the only option he had left if he was to catch the Holy Cow Killer and grasp a slim chance at redemption; he’d have to return to the last crime scene and search for clues. It was beginning to get dark, so he decided to wait until nightfall before heading back to the barn where he found the van der Linden girl hanging and mutilated in the rafters.