by Robin Bell
Her tongue had been cut out.
Dale Billington swept his hand through his hair, taking perspiration from his forehead along with the sweep of his hand. A cold sweat had overcome him, he felt dizzy and sick, but there was nothing to bring up. It had been a long day, a day in which Dale had not had time for food; and just as he was about to venture home a call came in that a woman had been found.
Police sirens flashed into the darkest alleyway in the world. Dale leant against the wall desperately sucking in his breath. He let out a large stream of breath which the frost made visible. It was January, the snow was falling, and the victim was trying to speak, but instead a horrid gurgling sound was echoing through the alleyway.
This was the third victim of the week, for such a small village this was a huge figure. They were both females in their early twenties as was the third victim who was the first one they had found alive, but like the other two her tongue had been cut out and she couldn’t communicate. She was losing a lot of blood and needed to be rushed to hospital, but as they carried her away she looked straight at Dale and tried to tell him something.
This image haunted Dale all through the night as the silent snow fell outside. He lay in bed, the heating turned up, with the bed littered with piles of papers spelling out the case. A whiskey was on the bedside table next to Dale’s pillow. The pillow was sweat stained and looked liked it needed changing months ago. The whiskey looked sparkling and inviting. It’s no wonder that most nights, including tonight, Dale stayed up drinking rather than putting his head down to sleep.
Dale lit a cigarette and went through the case. In a bustling city centre two murders within a week may be startling, but not as terrifying as when they occur in a small village. Hope, where Dale lived, was a small village in North Wales. The nearest city centre was a half hour drive away. This was the kind of place where everyone knew everyone else and their business.
Dale had been approached in the street numerous times daily regarding these recent murders and could gauge the mood of the entire village; and the mood was panic. Mrs Goggins said she wasn’t leaving the house. Ian Griffiths was interviewed on the news revealing how scared his family was. The other emotion was disbelief; no one could believe this was happening in a quiet little village like Hope.
Dale poured himself another shot of whiskey; straight, no ice. Then the phone rang. It had to be bad news at this time of night.
Indeed it was, another body had been found. It was in the neighbouring village of Caergwrle this time. Out of sight of everywhere, up a steep hill in the old castle ruins lay another body, young, female, and their tongue had been cut out.
This was the castle where King Edward 1st reportedly stayed at after Welsh independence came to an end as he arranged a future government for the country during the year 1282. Now it was atop a hill in ruins, no walls had survived intact after a fire that many believed to be caused by arson on 27th August 1283. Centuries later, more crime had been committed atop this hill around the historic castle. Dale stared at the body, lost in thought.
Dale breathed a sigh of relief that this one could be kept quiet for a short amount of time, it was out of the way, and although people might have seen the lights and the police presence at the castle, nothing needed to be mentioned for at least twenty four hours because no one had seen the body.
It was just like the others, the tongue had been cut out. Dale knew the cause of death would be the fact that she had choked on her own blood. Dale sighed, how could this be happening in this quiet village? Nowhere was immune anymore. He stared down at the body, saddened to his very core, another young life ended.
His attention was distracted for a split second by a rustling in the woodland to the left of him, but that split second in the corner of his eye was the final puzzle piece.
He now had all the clues that he needed.
Later, after intolerable hours of stressful work at the station Dale left to get some food, catch some air, any excuse he could think of. He had to go somewhere alone, but he had a creeping suspicion that he was being followed. Dale kept nervously checking over his shoulder but saw no one following him. Paranoia was a side effect of his line of work.
He stood outside the house that he knew held all the answers. It was tatty, a small two bedroom house with an overgrown front garden and a back garden that consisted of discarded wood and metal, a fridge and a coal shed. The owner of this house was Howard Jones. He had lived there all his life, first with his mother who had become insane in the latter years of her life, and when she died he was left the house in her will.
Dale opened the gate which creaked loudly; it seemed louder because of the surrounding silence. The inhabitants of this quiet serene village were hidden away in fear because of recent events. No one was around.
Dale walked up the path and knocked upon the door, which was swiftly opened, but left on the latch. Howard peered though the small gap and didn’t say anything, just sniffed violently, it was a nervous tic that Howard had. Dale was used to it from previous encounters.
“Howard, its Dale, you remember me? Are you going to let me in?”
Howard just sniffed again.
Last time they talked was when Howard was arrested for claiming to be the killer in several high profile nationwide cases. Dale befriended Howard in a strange way. He felt sorry for this hunched wretch, he knew Howard didn’t know what he’d been doing wrong. It was just the way he had been brought up, he didn’t stand a chance.
Howard lived with his mother as her lover from the age of twelve to when she died when he was thirty. He was never allowed to leave the house and if she was entertaining guests, or going out drinking herself, he was locked in the coal shed.
Dale knew that Howard held the key to this case. It was Howard that Dale had seen in the corner of his eye rustling through the woodland. Dale knew Howard wasn’t the killer, but he knew something, he must.