Chief Superintendent Critchley stood at the podium waiting to start the hastily scheduled morning briefing. The press sat waiting patently unaware of what was about to be announced.
’Good Morning ladies and gentlemen. I have called this press conference to report that a number of previously unrelated and unsolved murders have now been linked together and are believed to be the work of one man. This new development is due to the diligent work of the detectives from the City of London Police who are now leading the investigation. They have identified that a killer has been operating in and around the City of London, undetected for the last couple of years. His victim profile is that of single young women. We will be releasing details of the previous victims once all their families have been informed of this new development. This will obviously be a difficult time for them and we ask that you allow them privacy at this time to absorb this new development in these unresolved murders. All efforts are being made to catch the killer. We have made the step of releasing this information so that the general public will be more vigilant. As an extra precaution, we are advising the general public not to use unlicensed taxis. Be aware of who you are meeting. Do not open your front door to people you do not know, but if you must, always ask for identification. I am afraid I cannot answer any questions at this time but a copy of this press release will be handed out at the door. I hope that I will be able to provide you more information in the near future as the investigation progresses. Thank you.’
With that, he got up and left the room with the shouts of questions from the press ringing in his ears.
It was a crisp and clear morning across London. The winter sun was high in the sky and Heather Billcliffe woke up in a dreamy semi sweat. She had left the curtains open in her bedroom allowing the morning sun to slowly wake her. Taking her first steps of the day she padded through to the kitchen to get a glass of water. She was only wearing underwear but seemed unaware that she was almost naked to anyone who chose to look in through her un-curtained windows.
It was Friday morning. One more workday left before the weekend. She couldn’t wait either. On Saturday evening a good friend from university would be performing at the Banana Cabaret, a renowned comedy club in South London that had been the launchpad for so many famous comedians. Then on Sunday morning, her sister would be picking her up to drive them both down to the family home just outside Brighton for a long-awaited family get-together.
Jumping on to a kitchen stool, Heather booted up her laptop computer and started to scroll through the daily news websites. Before she could read any of the articles she heard a knock at her door. Strange, most people that came to her flat would have first contacted her via the video entry system by the main entrance to the flats. She grabbed a dressing gown from the bedroom and pulled it on.
As she approached the front door as the visitor knocked a second time.
’Who is it?’ Heather called out in an exasperated voice. Didn’t people have any patience she thought?
’Thames Water, need to check your water pressure, love,’ came back the reply.
’Hold your ID to the viewer,’ she demanded.
Heather looked through the spyhole in the center of the door. She was confronted with a Thames Water ID.
She attached the guard chain and opened the door. The picture on the ID matched the face in front of her.
’Morning love. I hope I am not disturbing you? My name is Gerry Shuttle. I’m from Thames Water, East London depot. I need to check your water pressure. We’ve recently installed a new mains in Dock St. Have you noticed any problems? Is your water pressure too low or too high? Air bubbles in the pipes? You know, that kind of thing over the last few days?’ he questioned.
Gerry Shuttle was about forty years old Heather estimated. He was broad-shouldered and had a mass of black hair tied back behind his head. He was wearing as she would imagine a blue boiler suit, heavy workman’s boots with a rucksack slung over his left shoulder. The face was plump and unshaven. His eyes quickly dropped to her chest which was partially exposed and she drew the dressing gown tighter and glared back at him.
’No, I have not noticed anything like that. Look, I have not had a shower yet or turned on a tap for that matter. Cant it wait or can I not do it myself?’ she offered.
’Not really love. It should not take more than a few minutes. All I need to do is turn on the taps, make sure you have pressure. Tick it off my list and then get a signature from you to say all is dandy. Then I’m gone and out of your hair,’ he insisted.
Heather released the chain and stood to one side. She followed him into her lounge.
’The kitchen is over there to the right and the bathrooms are off each of the bedrooms beyond the dining area.’
’Thanks love, this will honestly take less than five minutes,’ he replied.
Heather sat back on the kitchen stool making sure that she was not exposing herself in any way. She hated lecherous men.
Within a few minutes, he was back in her kitchen.
’All done love. Your all good. Just sign here please,’ he offered pushing forward a clipboard with a form ready for her to sign.
’Thanks. I can now get on and get to work at last,’ she said thankfully.
’We aim to please, I’ll see myself out,’ he waved and made for the door.
Heather watched the man leave and waited until she heard the door clock click. She then picked up her phone and texted a short message to her manager telling her that she would be a little late due to a visit from a workman. It meant that at least she could relax and not rush. It was Friday and she hoped that it would be a stress-free day. Placing her glass in the dishwasher she started to walk towards her bedroom.
There was another knock at the door. It had only been a few minutes since the man had left. What now she thought?
On reaching the door she looked through and saw again the blue overalls. ’What is it this time?’
’Sorry love, I mislaid a spanner. Can I just check to see if I dropped it in your flat?’ came back the voice from the other side of the door.
Her initial thought was, what did he use a spanner for. But then thought, he’s from the water board. Therefore he must be a plumber. Plumbers use spanners. ’Okay, no problem. Give me a second.’
She again pulled her dressing gown cord tighter and then opened the door. She noticed as she was doing this, that this time she had not engaged the door chain. It was a terrible mistake. With the door open just a couple of inches, she was knocked backwards as the door was kicked open. Staggering to regain her balance she looked back towards the doorway. Again a male form filled it, but the face was different. No ponytail. Shit. But it was too late for Heather.
I raised my fist and punched her hard in the face. I felt her front teeth crumble as she reeled backwards and crashed down on to the floor. Before she could even take her next breath I was on top of her, legs astride her waist. I took her head in both my hands. For a second she looked directly into my eyes. There was nothing there for her to see, just darkness. I then started to pound the back of her head into the teak wood floor. Heather opened her mouth to scream ………………….it never came.