An age passed before Howard let him in. The house was in disarray, and Dale sat in the only available place there was; the arm of a well worn chair that was placed across from Howards.
“Howard, I know you’re not involved, but you’re lucky it was me that saw you?”
“Where? I ain’t been nowhere.”
“Not even up to Caergwrle Castle? Around the ruins? Through the woods?”
“I was just checking everything was OK?”
“I know you were Howard. But it wasn’t was it?”
“No. She was dead. Was it me again?”
“I don’t think so Howard, but how did you know to go up there, to the castle?”
“I followed him.”
Bingo. This was it. Exactly what Dale had been waiting for, and expecting. He’d got it exactly right. It was that moment in the case when the spine tingled. Dale stood up, and breathing deeply, he began to slowly pace around the unpleasant room, placing his feet carefully around the debris on the floor.
“Who did you follow Howard?”
Dale headed towards the window. He couldn’t stay seated with the adrenalin now coursing through him. He remembered that feeling he had that someone was following him. Dale peered through Howards dirty blinds.
“He lives two doors down. He posts me letters asking for details about the things I’ve done so I’ve been writing him what is in my head and posting it after dark. Then I realised...”
Dale swiftly took a sharp intake of breath, for the second time today he’d seen something move behind foliage. Then he saw another movement a little further away. They knew where he was heading, and had sent a back up team to keep an eye on him.
“No, no, no, no, no.” Dale seethed, anguish pouring out of him. “You say two doors down Howard?”
Howard nodded, and Dale barged past him tripping over the filth all over the floor, he stumbled and slipped his way to the front door in a panic. He let himself out and ran through the thick overgrown garden before leaping over the hedge.
“You idiots,” he shouted at the back up team, there were five of them. Dale looked around. Two more were in hiding that he hadn’t seen on first glance. “The killer is two doors down from here. If he’s seen you he’ll be prepared or already gone.”
“Or going,” one of the back up team said and pointed at a man in a long black coat, which was billowing behind him as he ran down the street.
Dale turned and gave chase, his feet pounding the street. He instantly felt his heart beating hard. The whiskey didn’t help at moments like this. Four in the morning it worked a treat, but right now Dale had to run through the pain. Dale felt sweat pour out of him and his breathing turn wheezy but still he pushed forward, against the tide.
The man was heading towards the park which Dale could see was full of children. Dale looked ahead and made a quick head count of the park. There were twelve kids playing football on the small pitch they’ve made, their coats acting for goalposts, there were three smaller kids on the climbing frame, one atop the slide and two on the swings with another two pushing them.
The man leaped over the park gate, and the heads of the children all turned to see what was going on. They could sense that something was wrong and fear spread amongst the park. Dale leaped over the fence and was closing in on the man even though his body ached. All the children froze apart from the three kids on the climbing frame. They quickly scarpered as the man began to climb up there until he stood atop it. As Dale approached the man pulled out a knife, Dale stopped and stared up at the man who slowly shook his head at him, his eyes full of tears.
Then something happened which created an image Dale would never be able to get out of his head. It seemed to happen in slow motion, and bring with it a nauseous feeling. The man lifted the knife towards his mouth, parted his lips, pushed his tongue out and began to cut through at its base. He held on tight to the tongue and pushed the knife through the sinewy muscle. Screaming commenced from all around, and the kids flocked out of the park. Dale was rooted to the spot as the carving of the tongue continued. Before Dale could do anything the severed tongue was thrown to the floor with a slap and the man collapsed, falling in an ugly bundle from the climbing frame, contorting through the bars before smacking his head off the floor.
The man, they determined his name to be Andrew Thomas, twice married, twice divorced, one kid who wouldn’t speak to him anymore, was in a coma. Howard was brought into the hospital to identify him and was then taken to the station to be questioned. Howard had sent correspondence but never met with Andrew. His correspondence included fantasy tales of crimes Howard had not even committed, except for in his own head. The messages back from Andrew were all about how he was gratified by Howards’ letters and required more, until the last letter in which he told Howard what he had done. Howard had admitted that he followed Andrew out of morbid fascination, but hadn’t seen any evidence that he had killed anyone until the castle killing. Dale suspected this was a lie but didn’t mention anything as he didn’t think Howard deserved to get into trouble even though he may have been able to stop the death of two completely innocent women. When asked whether he knew why Andrew had done it Howard shrugged but pulled a letter from his pocket. It was Andrew’s last letter. It was crumbled and worn, Howard had held it, and read it so many times, that was obvious. It detailed his plans what he was going to do to these specific women who had ignored him and his advances. “They gave me no voice, so I have to make my actions heard, and then take their voice away,” read the most chilling line.
Dale went home, which was around the corner from Howards’ house. He was used to the cases he worked on being further afield and shuddered at the fact that all this had happened this small rural village where he lived, breathed in and walked through every day. He felt like sitting up all night watching the streets, keeping them safe, but instead Dale walked into his house, and with one look behind him closed the door to the outside world.