After weeks of evidence pointing to his guilt, he’s finally proven his innocence.

The police have let him go, but his problems have only just begun…

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(c) 2016 Simon Goodson.
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As Carl Stevens flyer left the police station and lifted into the sky dozens of media flyers circled, each trying to get a shot of the infamous suspect or a scoop on where he was heading next.  A few drifted too close and had to swerve away quickly as one of the bodyguard’s sleek black Hunters peeled off towards them threateningly. 

They didn’t back off far though.  Carl was the story of the decade, maybe the century.  War hero, rich, still handsome despite his age.  And now the prime suspect for more than thirty gruesome murders.  What a combination.

An unremarkable dark brown ground-car threaded its way through the streets below.  Slumped in the back seat staring through the one way glass Carl smiled wearily as he watched the media circus follow his flyer into the sky.  His chief bodyguard, Phil Mason, hadn’t been happy about the plan but Carl had insisted.  This wouldn’t work unless everyone was convinced Carl was in the flyer, and for that his bodyguards had to be seen protecting it.  Besides, he had his security alarm.  If anything happened help would come dropping from the skies in under a minute.

Phil still hadn’t been happy, but Carl told him he needed the time, the space, to think.  The last three months had been a nightmare.  Up until then the killings had been background news.  Gruesome, unpleasant but ultimately unrelated to him.  He sank back into the seat, closing his eyes and remembering.  The first had been shocking, the second chilling.  But as the numbers mounted his ability to sympathise faded.  The murders became just more information on the vid.

Then three months ago a relatively unknown reporter by the name of Margaret McGann had written an article claiming that Carl had been in the area when each of the last five victims were killed, and in each case had been alone with the chance to commit the murder.  Overnight she went from a third rate unknown to a national star.  And in most peoples minds he went from rich retired war hero to mass murderer.

Over the next few days she had written more articles, each linking him with more of the murders.  Showing that each time Carl had been in the area, had the opportunity.  Once the articles started the police had questioned him several times but there was no motive, no evidence that wasn’t circumstantial.  Nothing linking him to the murders. 

He could almost have believed it was a smear campaign against him if the murders weren’t so brutal.  He’d been forced to learn far more about them than he’d ever wanted.  The victims varied between young and old, men and women, frail and strong.  Each body was found mutilated, organs ripped out and often missing.  Their skulls were always smashed open, most of the brains missing and the rest mushed. 

Whoever did this should have been covered in blood and gore, easy to detect on the extensive security cameras around the city.  Except the cameras were being glitched.  Whoever was carrying out the attacks was clever, cunning.  And quite clearly deranged.

There had been moments when Carl even doubted himself.  Could it be him?  Could he be doing this and not be aware of it?  Could something in his past, the horrors of war, be surfacing?  Two more women were murdered over the next week, during the short periods he was alone.  The press, especially Margaret McGann, had a field day.  Headlines called for Carl to be locked up.  Psychiatrists were interviewed about the traumas of war and how they could linger into later life.  Crowds started to gather outside the gates to his mansion.  Carl was distraught, half believing it could be him.  He spent his days surrounded by people, his nights in a secure room bolted from the outside with a guard constantly stationed outside the door.

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