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The Hooded VigilanteBorn 1980, M, from Exeter, United Kingdom
It was a dark night. The wind blew softly in the trees and the clouds hung in the sky like lead balloons. A cloaked figure concealed itself from view in the shadows. From this vantage point, it had a clear view of what it had done. On the ground, a few feet away, there lay a dead man with a thin bladed knife stuck in him. Skewered to the body by the knife was a piece of paper that the figure had placed there. It was in fact, a note, with words scrolled across it in red ink. It simply said, “For future crimes”. The figure shivered as it waited, and it pulled its dark brown cloak around itself. The moon came out from behind a cloud, casting light on the figure in the darkness. It revealed the face of a girl; Her blonde hair fell out from beneath the hood as she wrapped her cloak tighter around herself.
“Why did the moon have to come out now?” she complained to herself. It would be morning soon, and there would be onlookers. Then the police would arrive and she would have to blend in, as she always had to do when one of these murders got discovered. She would have to be careful in her job, in the hope that they would not link all the evidence back to her. In all the years she had been doing this, it was now getting harder and harder for her to reconcile the public image she had to keep up, with her extra curricular activities. She looked up. The sun would be up soon, but it was okay; her work was complete, at least for now.
She moved out of concealment and made her way down the street, being careful to stick to the walls. Somewhere a dog barked. “And wasn't that?...” She thought she could hear sirens, and quickened her pace, rounding a corner of the building into a dark alley. She walked to the end, and shrugged her cloak off. It fell to the ground soundlessly. Underneath, she looked like any other young woman: blonde hair, of average height, wearing a black waistcoat over a white shirt. She could have been anyone, really. Picking up the cloak, she then walked down the street and got into her car, which was parked in the hotel car park, just like when she had arrived early that evening. As she opened the door, and got in the driver's seat she thought she would go home and wait for their call. The motorway would be empty this time of night.
The police response time was getting faster and faster, but she was somehow just managing to stay one step ahead of them. There it was: that nagging doubt, again. Why did she ever think she could do this? As she drove, she pulled off her black gloves, revealing pale white skin and fingers as slender as the knife she had used to skewer the note to the body. She had no sooner pulled into her driveway, than her mobile rang and a voice told her that there had been a death at Longbarts Hotel. A man had apparently fallen from the second floor window, and could she deal? Here we go, she thought. She really needed to practise her surprised face. After the call had ended, she let the phone fall in the passenger seat, and drove the alternative route back to Longbarts. When she arrived, she sat in the hotel car park for several minutes trying to take stock of the situation. Her colleagues had worked fast; the crime scene tape was already cordoning off the area, and the chalk outline had been drawn. She was just thinking how best to insert herself into the chaos, when there came a rap on the side window. The electric window wound its way down. She was greeted by coffee, which she accepted gratefully. The bearer of the coffee was a tall man in sunglasses and a pinstriped suit.
“Holly!” the man at the window said, cheerfully.
“Dave!” she responded, in the same cheerful manner.
“God, you're getting quick!”
Holly smiled, “Not as quick as those guys. Looks like an ant colony over there.”
“Better get in there, before there is nothing left.”
She took a sip of coffee and sighed in relief. It was hot and refreshing. Dave looked at her, leaning into the window a little more. “Rough night, huh?”
“You have no idea,” she responded. “I couldn't sleep. You know what I'm like. My mind is always active.”
“Well, you've come to the right place,” Dave said, smiling. “A man was murdered here last night. Here is what we've got so far.” He handed her a beige folder. “The man's name was Howard Graves. He was staying at this hotel, and he was known to us as a major suspect for the killing of a young woman. But we could never charge him. The evidence against him was never substantiated.”
“Looks like somebody did us a favour, then,” Holly smiled.
Dave walked away without saying a word. Holly looked at the file, and sipped her coffee. The file didn't include much, just some papers and a photo of a man about forty five with a beard and balding. Holly breathed heavily as she stepped from the car. She had a sick feeling like she always did when a body was discovered. She calmed herself down and put her game face on, walking to the crime scene.
“What have we got?” she asked. Holly always had a smile when she asked this question, as she knew already. The detective she directed the question to reiterated what they knew so far about the entire incident.
“He was found by a young woman who worked at the hotel, who had gone to clean the room, and noticed that a window to the balcony was open.” Holly looked up at where she had made the man fall from, as if she was seeing it for the first time.
“What a mess. Too high for me.”
“There's more. She looked down and saw a cloaked figure – she was able to see it from the glow of that street light. She also thinks she saw a wisp of blonde hair. The figure had a knife and appeared to be bent over the body. After a minute or two the figure darted away and disappeared into the shadows. It was at this point she called the police.” Holly was struck by a sudden urge to remove all the evidence, but she knew she must fight it, and must look as if she was seeing these items for the first time. As if on cue, a young, keen faced policeman came out of the alley.
“We found these,” he said holding up the knife and the note triumphantly.
“Get those to evidence.”
The young policeman, whose name was Smith, rushed off, eager to do her bidding. He was eager to impress, as it was his first day on the Violent Crimes unit. Up until recently, he had not been allowed out of the station. Holly went back to the hotel, ducking under the tape, and whistled through her teeth. She was just stalling for time. She had to make herself look as innocent as possible. The blow pipe she had used to dispatch this particular evil specimen, had missed with the first two darts. She liked this weapon, it always meant that she could remain detached from the crime she was committing. Last night however, she had to finish the job with the thin bladed knife. She usually only used the knife to secure the note to the body. Usually, the blow pipe had been enough, but for some reason, that evening her aim was off. Had the moon come out at the wrong time, and temporarily dazzled her? Usually when she committed these crimes the night had been moonless, so her night vision was as good as it could be. This had only been crime number five, and already she was detaching the killer inside her from the person she presented to everyone else in her daily life.
She was jerked back to reality by a voice saying, “Agent Stevenson? We are detaining the maid for further questioning, as she appears to be our only witness in this case. We will meet you back at the station.”
As Holly watched, the maid got escorted to the police car, and got inside. As this happened, she swore she saw the slightest look of recognition on the maid's face. The door slammed and the car drove off. Holly remained outside the hotel for several minutes, surveying the scene. What was she going to do? She needed to find out what the maid knew, and fast. But, if she went into the interview room, she would risk exposure. On the other hand if she did nothing, her night wanderings might come to light, and she did not think the police would take her killing of murderers before they escalated to serial killing as a public service. Her rank would be stripped, her badge taken away, and her purpose would disappear with her badge. And even if she could just stay ahead of the manhunt, how long would she last? She did not spend the past thirteen years rising to a rank to where she was in charge of these cases, only to have it taken away now. She needed to clear her head, so she got into her car and drove the familiar route back to her apartment. There were two possible options: 1) She could break into the evidence room and take back the knife and the note. But this would mean having to bypass all the security issues, and in a station where everyone knew her face, that might be hard. Option 2 was more drastic, and she shuddered at the thought – dispatching the maid. But it was the only way she could be sure she would be able to carry on with her extra curricular activities. Squaring her shoulders she distanced herself from the deed she had to do. This was why she used a blow pipe, to disassociate herself from her victims. They taught disassociation at the Police College as well – to not get too close to the case. On the way home, she dialled the station and told them that she wasn't feeling well, and so she would not be coming back to the station to sit in on the interrogation, so they should start without her. The person she spoke to on the phone seemed a bit hesitant at first, but reluctantly agreed to do this.
When she got home, she opened the front door and stood in the living room of her apartment. It was sparsely decorated, minimalist; she had done this because if she was ever caught, she could move to a new place without much trouble. As a kid growing up, she always liked the idea of the lone vigilante fighting against a rotten and corrupt city, so now at thirty four, she saw what she was doing as a noble and just occupation. She had engineered her career by going into the police force so that she could achieve her goal. Her mum and dad had been nothing but encouraging of her when she informed them at eighteen of her decision. They had almost joked, saying 'you're going to clear the scum off the streets.' God, this could almost have been a line from one of the comic books she still read so avidly. So, she joined the police force. It was while on her way home after her graduation, that she had the impulse to visit a fancy dress shop. After looking around she selected the cloak and gloves she now wore in order to give herself anonymity. The blow darts and blow pipe, along with the poison she used, had been purchased a long time ago while touring Asia in her gap year. After returning from touring abroad, she had bought a dart board, set it up in her family's garage, and began honing her skills. She only had room for a finite amount of poison in her suitcase. This was why she only ever used three darts.
The task in hand snapped her back to reality. She walked over to her bookshelf containing her first edition comic books, her fingers hovered over them for several seconds before pulling out a graphic novel. She flipped the cover, there was a recess starting in the front page containing a bottle and some darts. The bottle itself was an advertisement for what it contained; a small glass container, with a glass stopper, the medicinal feel not quite concealing the true intentions of the liquid it contained within. The glass was blackened, helping to obscure the contents from the casual onlooker. She took the bottle out carefully and then the darts, and began dipping darts into the poison almost absent mindedly, as she had done this so many times before. Then, she laid them out to dry and went to get changed. She started by pinning her blonde hair back, and then donned her cloak and gloves. Then she fastened around her waist the belt on which the blow pipe hung. In a concealed drawer there were two rows of knives, the same type as the ones she had used to leave notes on all the bodies. She hated using these, but it was better to be over-prepared, so she drew one out and attached it next to the blow pipe. Finally, she checked that her gun was loaded as her gut feeling told her she might need it tonight. After doing this, she went back outside and got into her car, and drove the half hour back to her place of work. She then concealed herself in some bushes by the window next to the interrogation room. Luck was on her side, the window was partly open. From her vantage point she could see the interrogation was in full swing. She pulled out her mobile and made the call asking the switchboard to put her through to the detective in charge of the interrogation in her absence. While she was on the phone, the interrogation room door opened and the man who had taken the call entered, she waited for a minute, holding her breath until the detective nodded and walked out with the other policeman. The line became live again as she spun her story, “Dave, it is Holly.”
“Yes Holly, I am in the middle of an interrogation,”
“I know, I know, sorry to interrupt, but could you do me a huge favour?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“The file on the man that was murdered today, could you please bring it round to my apartment? I just got back and I don't feel like driving all that way just to settle a feeling I have got in my gut.”
The man on the phone was protesting, saying something about not wanting to leave the witness alone, and he was only in there with Dan, and Dan wouldn't know what to do, and – Holly cut him off, “Yes, I know all this. But, please! I'll buy the coffees for two weeks.” Coffee. She liked that line, you could get around anybody with the promise of coffee. Or tea. Tea was good too. Maybe she should promise coffee and tea. She was brought swiftly back to the phone call as the man said, “Alright. I'll grab the file and leave now. You owe me big time.”
Holly breathed a sigh of relief as she put down the phone. She had to work fast. Dave would have a head start. Killing witnesses was not her style, however this maid knew too much. She had to go. Holly loosened the blowpipe from her belt, put it to her lips, aimed at the maid and blew. She had to wait several seconds for the dart to find its mark. This was the worst part. In all her years of doing this, this part always felt like an eternity. Several things happened then; the maid slumped forward onto the table, the policeman in the room moved to check what had happened to the maid and unfortunately stepped into the line of fire of the second dart she had fired to ensure the first had done its job. With no time for the third dart she scrambled back to her car – she needed to get home fast. She looked at her watch and wondered, how empty was the motorway at this time of day? She started the car, it stalled. Oh come on, not now. She turned the key a second time, again, no dice. She was starting to panic, turned the key a third time, the engine fired up but quickly died. Oh, why? In a split second, she was out the car. She needed to run like the wind, otherwise all could be lost. So she ran in blind panic around an alley, a shortcut. She ran by railings, but as she turned the corner, the wind decided to gust. The cloak snagged on the railings, and she turned back, tugging on her cloak in a desperate attempt to get it free. It ripped, and Holly swore under her breath, but at least it was free. She started to run again, but too late! A voice behind her shouted “STOP! Police!”
She reached for her knife and threw it as she half turned towards the voice. It whistled in the air then found its mark. She knew this as she heard the body fall. There was no time to turn and see who she had hit. “STOP!” Another voice shouted. Her heartbeat was all she could hear now as she accelerated in a futile attempt to escape. In panic she reached for her gun, drew it out and fired behind her. The bullet went wide as she carried on running. Her heart was still pounding in her ears when she got struck in the back by a bullet. She was not sure what was happening, but her pace was slowing. She urged her legs to go faster, but they would not obey. Then she was struck again, and this time the force of the blow propelled her forward onto the cold, grey pavement. Blood was already starting to seep through her clothes creating a pool around her. She heard voices saying, “I think we got the culprit.” A man was coming over now, he knelt down on one side and looked down at her. Her hood was pulled back, and she felt herself being turned over. The last thing she felt before it went dark was her hair falling over her shoulders. The last thing she heard was the policeman exclaim in shocked confusion, “Holly?”
Then the world went black.