By Tony Domaille
I didn’t mean to kill her. I thought I had researched well enough to make sure she was only very sick. No one was more surprised than me when she died, but that’s how it all started.
My plan was to watch her vomiting and tell her she was getting her comeuppance. Fool around with other women’s husbands and there is a price to pay. But she didn’t vomit. She just sank to her knees, struggling for breath and complaining she couldn’t swallow. I remember the desperate what’s happening to me look in her eyes. And then she was dead on the floor in front of me.
For a moment I regretted it. She hadn’t messed around with my husband. I don’t have one. But I quickly decided she deserved it for all the upset she had caused to others. Our mutual friends. Then, in the next moment, I realised I would have to kill again. What could I do? She was dead and it was obvious the police would be looking for someone with a connection to her. Someone who had an axe to grind or, in my case, a poison to use. So, I had no choice. I had to kill someone else, the same way. Someone with whom I had no connection so the police would look elsewhere.
So, a few days later, I poisoned some poor random. I picked him up in a pub. Then it was back to his for…well, let’s just say our motives were not the same. Craig – I think that was his name - stopped breathing even quicker than Samantha, and it did the trick.
‘The police are looking for a serial killer.’
‘It’s like something out of the movies.’
The girls at work quickly forgot the discomfort of being questioned about Samantha’s death as intrigue took over. The police were looking in the wrong direction.
I should have stopped there. If I had, maybe the police would never have caught me. But the compulsion took over and I had to kill again.
My compulsion isn’t about killing though. It’s something else. You see, I have always had this thing about odd numbers. I hate them. So much so that, if there is an odd number of anything, I must even things up. I can’t have one blue coat; it must be two. I can’t have one cut glass vase, there must be a pair. My obsession used to confine itself to objects, but once the killing started it became a wider thing.
I suppose I always knew that I couldn’t cover my tracks forever. And I think the police did well to catch me, considering I killed people with no connection to me or each other. I guess they have some smart detectives, though I’m not so sure about the one who interviewed me after my arrest. He had this constant look of being astounded as I explained how it had been.
‘You say you killed Craig Somerville, someone you didn’t know, to deflect any suspicion away from you in the killing of Samantha Wright?’
I said, ‘Yes.’
‘But then you killed a third person. Stephanie Elliot.’
‘Why did you kill Stephanie?’
Ah, Stephanie. She just dropped into my lap as victims go. I was in the library when she just presented as the obvious choice. She ran my books through her scanner and smiled at me. It was then that I saw she had odd coloured eyes. One brown, one grey. How could she go through life with different coloured eyes? How could she smile so easily when her world was so wrong? Oh, I know it wasn’t her fault, but I did have to kill another, and killing her just seemed I would be evening things up.
It was really easy. I simply hung around outside the library and then followed her to a café when she went for her lunch. Then I did the whole, ‘Oh, you’re the lady from the library,’ thing, distracted her, laced her coffee, and then left her to die at her table.
‘Why did you kill Stephanie?’ the Detective repeated his question.
‘I did it to make an even number,’ I told him. I just couldn’t be bothered to explain the whole thing. It was the evening up of the number that mattered. That’s all he needed to know.
‘But by then you had killed three people.’
I shook my head in disappointment at the quality of the Detective’s understanding. ‘I already told you I didn’t deliberately kill Samantha. The killing of Stephanie evened up my deliberate killing of Craig.’
I didn’t want to antagonise him, but I felt like telling him he was stupid. Much as it disappointed me that I couldn’t even up my accidental killing – by definition you cannot deliberately kill by accident – I could even up my deliberate killing. Stephanie and Craig made an even number. I explained, and he looked pained.
‘But you killed again after that,’ he said.
I rolled my eyes and helped him again. ‘Once Craig and Stephanie were dead, I realised they were an even number of people, but it was one man and one woman. That’s odd numbers.’
The Detective looked at me blankly. Surely it was not too much to grasp that I had to kill again. I needed to kill another man and another woman, to make the genders even. So, I did.
As I explained to the Detective, I tried to do it as humanely as possible. I saw a newspaper article about elderly people being lonely. Iris Hope was ninety and the report talked about her seeing no one for days on end. Only someone popping in for twenty minutes in the morning to help her up from bed. So, when I called on Iris one afternoon and told her I was extra care, she was delighted. She was very happy for me to make a pot of tea and have a chat. And she loved the cake I brought, so she died happier than she might have been.
The next day I found a homeless guy under the railway arches, and I gave him a pizza. Even though he was cold and dirty, he visibly brightened as he tucked into my gift of a meal. Then he found he couldn’t swallow. I only just had time to tell him I was sending him to a better place before he stopped breathing. I never got his name.
I told the Detective. ‘The numbers have to be even. Always even.’
His face betrayed his mixed feelings of disgust and fascination as he listened to my confessions. I told him about where and when with each killing, and that I had taught myself to be more sophisticated with my poisons. He ought to have been grateful to have all these murders solved, but he didn’t look it. He ought to have been grateful that they caught me when they did. After killing Iris and the homeless guy I got upset because only one of them was black. I wanted to kill someone else to even the ethnic number, but it would have put me back on odd numbers overall. You see where this is going? The Detective didn’t get it.
The shrinks they made me see get it. They talked to me about trying to control what they call my ‘irrational urges.’ They say my obsession with even numbers is part of a psychosis, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting order. Even numbers give order. Don’t get me started on odd numbers.
So here I am in the reception area at a maximum-security hospital, waiting to start my life sentence. I think I’ll like it here. They’re giving me two of everything. Two pairs of trousers, two shirts, two of each of the toiletries… When the warden handed me only one toothbrush I asked if I could have two and she just shrugged and gave me another.
Now I’m waiting to be taken to my cell. They’ve told me I will be sharing so I am pleased there will be two of everything there as well. Even numbers.
There’s a TV on the reception wall and my case is headline news. My young Detective is talking to a crowd of reporters and photographers. At first, I feel glad I am getting so much attention, but then he irritates me by saying, ‘These were five senseless murders.’
Samantha’s death wasn’t senseless. She brought it upon herself. My other killings have all the reason in the world, he just doesn’t understand.
The Detective looks into the camera and says, ‘We are grateful that justice has been done and Alison Harding will spend the rest of her life in a maximum-security hospital, where she can no longer do anyone any harm.’
I smile. I already know I have to kill someone in here. Killing inside evens up killing outside. But once I have killed one in here…
About the author
Bio: Tony is an award-winning playwright, director, and co-founder of Journeyman Theatre Productions, with more than twenty plays published and produced in eighteen countries. Tony has also had many short stories published in anthologies and magazines. You can follow him here -https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/