“Sorry, love; I didn’t think you’d still be up.” Detective Inspector Barry Funt found his wife in their kitchen, nursing a mug of camomile tea.
“You look stressed out,” she rose to help him take off his coat. “You’re working too hard. That’s your trouble.”
Funt rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “We’re so close. I can almost taste it.”
Mrs Funt grimaced. “I’m not sure I’d want to taste a high-profile murder case!”
Funt grunted. He wasn’t in the mood for levity. He nodded at the kettle. “Just boiled?”
Mrs Funt busied herself with a mug and teaspoon. Barry lowered himself onto a chair at the table and propped his head in his hands.
“All it takes is one slip-up. Just one,” his speech was interrupted and his words stretched by a yawn. “They always make one. Eventually. But this bugger is clever. Covers his tracks every time. Never leaves a trace, not so much as a hair. But we’ll get him. Don’t you worry.”
Mrs Funt fetched the milk carton from the fridge.
“But we have had a kind of breakthrough. The victims are all linked after all. Bit tenuous but it’s there. Turns out they all worked for the same children’s home at one time or another. Some of them had moved away, changed professions – that’s what made it so hard to make the connection. But they all did, back in the day. We’re tracking the last few on the list, in case he goes for them next. Or in case he is one of them. You hear all sorts, don’t you, about what goes on in some of these places, don’t you? No wonder our man is unhinged. Anyone would go stark raving doolally-tap in those circumstances.”
Mrs Funt stirred the tea. She tapped the spoon on the rim of the mug.
“Makes me look back and think how grateful I was to have decent parents. Wish I’d appreciated them more at the time. You don’t, though, do you? When you’re a kid. You don’t know when you’re well off.”
Mrs Funt placed the mug before him.
“Sorry, love; me going on. When your own – I mean, you went into care, didn’t you? And you turned out all right!”
Mrs Funt turned her back and wiped the counter top with a damp sponge. It didn’t need it; Mrs Funt knew how to keep a place clean.
“Of course, we’re looking into all the kids who lived there. Going back decades. Of course, some of them have changed their names – got themselves adopted, or married, or what-not, so they’ve been harder to trace. But my money’s on someone with insider knowledge, someone who knows how the police operate. That’s how he keeps one step ahead of the game, all along the line. Might even be a copper! Imagine that! A copper running rings around the force. But he’ll slip up eventually. They always do.”
Mrs Funt froze. The window over the sink showed a pale reflection of her face, an inscrutable mask, severe beneath the wig she always wore. Since the experiments…
“What makes you think it’s a man?” she asked without turning around. Her hand slid into a drawer; her fingers closed around the handle of the bread knife.
Funt grunted again. “Dunno, love,” he shrugged. “Not being sexist. But you get a feeling in a case like this. Copper’s instinct or what-have-you. No, our man’s a man. I’d stake my reputation on it.”
Mrs Funt’s hand relaxed and withdrew. She closed the drawer. She went to her husband and stroked his thinning hair.
It’s a good thing you’re so crap at your job, my love, she smirked to herself. Leaving sensitive files around the house. Talking about cases over the dinner table. I reckon everything I need to find the last ones on my list is in the briefcase you so carelessly dropped in the hallway. Two more! Just two more to go and then, perhaps, I can put what was done to me behind me for good.