You get an almost DOUBLE LENGTH entry today, seeing as it’s part 10 and all. Thing is, this also signifies a little intermission. I need to actually do something on my other project, and I can only write one story a day otherwise they get all intermingled and it goes wrong.
Should only take a day or two, then you’ll get part 11. Enjoy.
It was a work of genius really. It was a technique Eldred had designed early on in his career, and it was still paying off well into the autumn years. The way he saw it, killing was still illegal, so the best way to avoid getting in any trouble was to be the first person to report it. Being the actual murderer had the advantage that you always knew when the crime had happened, so you could usually beat other people to the police, unless you were distracted.
Eldred was a very clever man, so he had realised that with his line of work he would be reporting a lot of murders, which may become a little suspicious. This was why he had taken to carefully timing his jobs so that they never coincided with any shift twice in a row. He had a face that people refused to remember, but two trips in a row would be pushing it.
The jittery copper he was talking to now had interviewed him thirteen times before, but still didn’t know who he was. Eldred, on the other hand, knew everything there was to know about the little man. Constable Morris Morris. Eldred had always found it hard to trust people with a first name for a surname, but when it was the same as the person’s first name it became impossible to think they were anything but incompetent. Morris Morris wasn’t doing anything to break this pattern.
There were times when Eldred had wondered if he would make a good police officer. He would certainly be better than Morris. The way to succeed at crimes, he had decided early in his career, was to think like the police. The police would be expecting you to think like a criminal, and they know how to deal with those, but they have a problem coming up with strategies to address themselves.
Police thought in evidence and clues, motives and suspects, if you could work out what they would be looking for before they started then you could direct the investigation from the shadows. Eldred was an artisan when it came to this. Someone had been incarcerated for every one of his murders, but it had never been him. Careful manipulation of the evidence before he left the scene would ensure that someone of his choosing would be the prime suspect, quite often someone who had offended him in the last week.
Today it was going to be the landlord.
Through some well-placed words, Eldred had finally steered Morris onto the topic of the murder. It had taken half an hour.
‘Now then, Mister Fie, would you mind telling me about this supposed murder?’ Morris said.
‘Certainly officer.’ replied Eldred, expertly hiding his contempt. ‘What would you like to know?’
‘Well, let’s begin at the beginning. How did you happen upon the scene?’
‘I was walking my dog on the street and I heard a noise. It was quite loud, my poor dog almost died. Naturally I went to see what could cause such a thing.’
Eldred paused for a moment to let Morris catch up. He was taking notes very slowly, which was why Eldred was using his “noticeably-fake-pedestrian” voice. Morris wasn’t bright enough to realise he was being taken for a ride. His pencil scratched his way through Eldred’s words, and Eldred continued unbidden.
‘The poor fellow was quite dead when I got to the door, and I was all ready to lecture him on the poor etiquette on show by having his door wide open. It took me a good moment to realise there wasn’t a door at all!’
Morris had fallen behind again, but Eldred was on a roll and not feeling particularly merciful. He continued, ramping up the pace just a little so he could see the constable struggle.
‘He was stuck in the wall. Darndest thing I ever did see. Oh, but don’t worry, I didn’t touch anything. I’ve seen those crime shows on The Murder Channel, you’ll be looking for fibres and hairs and things, right?’
It took a moment for Morris to realise he was supposed to reply, as Eldred knew it would. Just as the constable opened his mouth to talk Eldred interrupted. It pleased him to see a little colour rush into Morris’s face, nothing is quite the same kind of fun as annoying the incompetent.
‘There was one other thing, constable. There was a note, I believe. I’m afraid I did move that, but only to read it you understand. A very nasty letter from his landlord, possibly even threatening. I can’t say for certain, I didn’t give it a proper read.’
That was a lie. Eldred had gone to great lengths to find something threatening from the landlord in the apartment. The easiest thing about framing the contractor was that it wasn’t really framing, they tended to have left all sorts of potential evidence lying around, then used a more human-shaped weapon to do the actual deed.
Eldred had found the letter in a drawer by Crawford’s telephone, and it had been a simple task to crumple it in just the right way so that it looked as though the man had been holding it when he died.
Morris finally caught up again. Eldred considered interrupting him yet again, but reasoned that he had given away enough information, they could work out the rest of his story for themselves. The evidence would tell them the rest, and they would just use it to fill in the gaps in his testimony, making a new theory was too much work for people like Morris.
‘Thank you very much for your help, sir.’ the constable said at last.
‘No trouble at all, just doing my civic duty.’ Eldred replied. ‘Do feel free to contact me if I can be of any further help.’
‘Oh, don’t worry sir, we will. You may need to testify in court eventually, will that be okay?’
‘I don’t see why not, constable. In fact, I’d be happy to.’
‘Thank you very much, Mister Fie. Allow me to see you out.’
And he did. Constable Morris politely escorted Eldred back to the reception room, shook his hand and watched him walk right out the front door. Eldred had to stifle a chuckle as he left. Same conversation every time, and yet Morris would already be in the process of forgetting he had even met Eldred Fie. It was as if the other memories were so scared of their new housemate that they would spend the next few days plotting a way to evict him. By the end of the week Morris wouldn’t recognise Eldred if he found him breaking into his house.
This was for the best, of course. Eldred liked the fact he was easily forgotten. He also liked that, after having reported over fifty separate murders he had never once been asked for his address, yet they assumed they already knew it. The simplest of questions, forgotten purely because of his presence. It was more than a little empowering.