As I settled into an all too familiar chair, icy rain had begun to fall in torrents. A December blizzard was fast approaching and a white-out was predicted to hit the village by midnight.
Was I wary of this disruptive 'Hand of Fate'? I would have liked to say, "No". In truth however, the impending cold snap did leave me with precious little time to 'finish the job'.
I briefly allowed my mind to creep into unsettled recesses and dwell on silent thoughts of what could have been. I was the best at my craft - and yet I felt alone. The claustrophobic sense of isolation feeding off my mind was becoming overwhelmingly oppressive. And yet another part of me tonight felt strangely energised. Alive.
Hesitating but momentarily, I turned the computer on and glanced at the crisply documented profile residing next to it. Mechanical whirring noises added to an impalpable ambience that had long since taken abode within my oak study.
As I worked, the foreboding staccato playing on my window pane was relentless and beads of perspiration rolled down my rigid back in spite of the plunging temperatures. My perfect brows were now oddly furrowed and my rugged reflection on the monitor screen showed intense emotion.
The lights in my study flickered tantalisingly and I once again felt my tattered soul wasting away in this god-forsaken place. My work had left me enervated. I had to finish this job and leave - before it became too late.
My weary fingers hammered the keyboard in relentless fashion, and my thoughts drifted to where it all began eleven months ago. Ah - the scribbled message: "ALL WORK & NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY".
In that singular instant, my life had been transformed. The first call. The first dismembered remains. The first scribbled note. The first kill. The second. The third!
Eleven murders appropriately followed. And murder "number twelve", as far as I was aware, was to take place before midnight.
"The Surgeon" (a misnomer dubbed by our often errant local media) invariably left THAT cryptic message after each ‘sterling performance’. He was deemed to be a perfectionist. His modus operandi never changed. He simply 'upped' the level of murderous complexity on his next victim. He was after all 'a dull boy'.
The first victim had only his spleen expertly removed and carefully placed near his lifeless body. February's victim had both her spleen and her liver neatly placed by the soles of her feet. March's victim then had the pancreas join the 'merry ensemble'. Unsurprisingly perhaps, November's victim had a crime scene resembling that of an organ harvest clinic....
The victims were clearly painstakingly selected. Intense research was evidently involved with each one. They were watched, their habits studied. Not one of the victims showed signs of retaliation during their ordeal.
"The Surgeon" was apparently swift - and incisive. Within seconds, the victim's aorta would be sliced apart. This precluded incisions to the right and left coronary arteries. As the blood both coagulated and seeped, the 'artwork' transpired.
The relevant authorities were suitably aghast and baffled. There was no apparent motive for the killings save for the one common feature of the victims - they were all hypochondriacs. And yet was this a reason enough to kill?
"No", I whispered to myself as I continued to hammer the keyboard relentlessly. The first snowflakes had begun to strike the dark, forlorn street outside. I knew - and only I really knew - the reason for the crimes.
How else should the cryptic message be understood? "The Surgeon" was a workaholic. And he needed a 'mental diversion'.
The phone suddenly rang with force, shattering the eerie ambience into a thousand splinters. In spite of myself I snatched at it.
"Yes, yes Mrs Chatsworth," I replied with an air of authority. I will be there at once!"
As expected, the urgent phone call had come. Glancing at my wall clock, my tired eyes noted the time: 8.30p.m. The call had come 20 minutes earlier than I had anticipated.
"Perfect," I whispered to myself.
I gathered what I needed with speed and care. Breathing deeply I turned the computer off.
I walked purposefully towards my front door. Time was of the essence. I closed my eyes momentarily, walked the 'threshold of no return', and swung the door shut. I was ready. It was time for closure.
As I locked my front door for the last time on this dark and cold December night, subdued light flashed across the gold placard situated perfectly on my front door: