Everything went according to plan; the boy is ours. It’s easier when the child is unsure and less likely to offer any resistance. Children are so trusting, even if they’ve met someone once, they believe the person is no longer a stranger. Whose fault is that, if not the parents? They should advise their children to be warier, because we are everywhere. It was easy to lure him away, or so I’m told. I wasn’t there. There’s an alibi to establish and I made it my business to be seen by as many people as possible. I haven’t told you how we work, have I?
It’s simple really. I believed once we left Erebus, I’d be free of my tormentors, but that wasn’t the case. We went our separate ways to different universities and out into the world, but there was always a taut, steel thread holding us together. Freddy, I should give him his full title, Dr Fredrick Leeson, psychiatrist, as it doesn’t matter now you know his identity. As I said at the beginning, the trap is closing and by the time anyone reads this, it’ll be too late for him. I sometimes wonder how he deals with the Hippocratic Oath. Isn’t there written somewhere within the pages of mumbo jumbo he must pledge to do no harm? Still, on the surface he appears to be a pillar of his community. Married man with three young children, he is above reproach. I couldn’t carry off a charade like that. I’ve told him so on several occasions, but his retorts were as vicious as when we were boys. I remain the sissy, the coward. I met his wife Lorna once. I remember thinking of her as the ice queen. She was coolly polite. Instinct told her I was nobody, not worthy of her attention; or perhaps she uses this façade to disguise the coldness of her marriage. It was at the christening of their first child, Jack. He’s seven years old now, the same age as the boy. We make a point of not being in one another’s company too often and our yearly reunions are accepted easier than if we were weekly drinking buddies.
Christy Taylor, our dominant leader, is not the enormous success he always boasted he’d be. Outwardly he shows all the signs of wealth. He drives a Porsche and resides in one of the better areas of the city, but it’s all a front. A widower, without children, he’s free to do as he pleases. He calls himself an entrepreneur and has his fingers in several pies, but none of them ever return the dividends he expects. He is ten per cent businessman, ninety per cent crook. His enterprises include a small chocolate factory and party planning company. These provide the access he needs to his victims, and no one suspects what lies behind the clown’s mask at their child’s birthday party.
We live hundreds of miles apart. This is an act of faith and not of our choosing. It makes an ideal cover for our activities. We take it in turns to kidnap a child. The sex of our victim is of no consequence, especially in my case. It’s about the torture and its delicious ending. I’m as much a prisoner as the child and can’t escape from the never-ending horror of what I’ve become. We’ve acquired the skill with which we carry out each attack through years of trial and error. There have been mishaps in the past, but we learned from our mistakes, and now have the process down to a fine art.
In the beginning, we let the child go free, after it served its purpose, but this was a mistake. So now we kill them. I know how cold and unforgivable the act sounds. In a way, we’re doing them a kindness. What they suffer at our hands is too much for anyone to bear and their deaths are quite humane, as Freddy has access to drugs. I imagine you gasped or clenched your teeth in disbelief at what I’ve said, but that’s fine. I was prepared for your scorn and hatred and of course it’s normal you should feel this way. You are not like me. A monster.
We take one child every three years. This requires an enormous amount of self-control on our part. It’s easier this way and doesn’t arouse suspicion of a serial killer. I try not to think of how my friends satisfy their craving during the other arid years, but I abstain. With the disappearances being so far apart, there’s not yet a pattern for the police to go on and as the boy is only our fourth in twelve years, we’ve managed to avoid detection. Once the intended victim is chosen, you see how I call them victims; I’m not totally devoid of conscience, I know what they are, but I must dehumanise them, so all vestige of empathy is gone. If for instance the child is taken from the area in which I live, then it’ll be either Freddy or Christy who kidnaps them and vice-versa. At no time am I missing and common sense excludes me from any inquiry. It’s quite brilliant, don’t you think? No of course you don’t, I’m being flippant, but consider my words as nothing more than the hysteria of the condemned man.
We have a cottage, Freddy refers to it as a fishing lodge, as he thinks it sounds grander. It was bought over ten years ago. We paid cash and used the services of a solicitor for the purchase, pretending to be overseas buyers. There’s no paper trail to lead to us and the contracts were sent to a safety deposit box in another country. We thought of everything. It took us months of shovelling and back-breaking work to dig out the cellar. We’re not gifted builders and the supports we needed to fortify the walls, were a constant worry, but we managed in the end. Now they’re as impregnable as a castle and there’s no need for soundproofing as there’s no one within twenty miles to hear. The cottage is situated in one of the remotest spots in the country. Land blighted by famine has never recovered and the rock-strewn fields repel the stoutest of hearts. There’s a river close by and while we’ve decorated the walls of the cottage with nets and fishing rods, none of us has a clue what to do with them. We’re interested in sport of another kind.
The room in which we keep the child, the cellar, is decorated to suit. There are toys and books for both sexes and a small fridge stocked with enough food and drink to last for a week. Sometimes we can’t get away at the same time, so there is a waiting period and we’ve insured the child doesn’t starve. The room is lit by a small night light that plugs into the wall. It does little to dispel the gloom, but we couldn’t take the chance of leaving a normal sized lamp on, in case its rays cut through timbers. In such a remote area, any form of light would act as a beacon to the lost traveller or foraging animal. The toilet and washing facilities are too crude to mention. If the room remains sealed for more than a few days, the stench is horrendous.
The child is subdued with the aid of chloroform. Freddy taught us how much to administer. Since the journey to the cottage can take up to three hours, the child is always bound and gagged. We’ve converted the space beneath the back seat of our cars, and it’s proved an ideal method for transportation. So now you know how it is done,
I’ll tell you how we choose our victim. Like all predators we pick the weakest and most vulnerable. The ones from broken homes and those who are most needy suit our purpose. Sometimes the child is in the right place at the right time, for us. We befriend them, listen to their worries and share in their anger against those they deem their enemies. Children are innocent and trusting. Sometimes, I regret what I must do, but the compulsion is strong and overrides my sense of right and wrong. It’s a bit like being an addict and the need must be fed.
For the first time ever, I want to back out of what’s about to happen. In the past, I’ve made several attempts to break away from the group, but they’ve refused to release me; though I believe my efforts were half-hearted. The others think they keep me in check by a series of threats and blackmail. Christy for instance, uses me as a bank, and I’ve lost count of the money I’ve loaned him for one failed venture or another. Each request for aid is made with the underlying hint of what will happen if I refuse and he’s not intelligent enough to realise his threats to me would have repercussions on all of us. I’ve little need for money as my parents left me well provided for and I don’t need to work. It gives me pleasure he must come to me cap in hand and I like the hold this gives me over him.
Freddy feels I am an intricate part of the plan and hints at what might happen if I refuse to continue. For a man of learning, he knows very little. I am the glue holding everything together and this will be plain to see over the coming days. I’m finished with killing and there’s no longer the pleasure of the chase for me. Perhaps I’m developing a conscience, or is it I’m weary and want it to be over? Either way, I’m done.
My sleep is restless of late and the dreams that haunt me are more vivid. They torment me during the day. The images of the small dead bodies are etched upon my brain and refuse to be ignored. It’s been arranged we’ll meet in six days’ time at the cottage. Freddy has a seminar he can’t get out of and we must wait. In the past, I’ve never thought of the child, alone in the dark room and crying for its mother, but now I do. Sometimes I think I hear its grief, and I block my ears to its cries. I think others have started to notice my strange behaviour, though no one made any reference to it. I complain of sleepless nights and hope this excuses the dark circles under my eyes, and the reason I have taken to mumbling to myself. My hands tremble more than they used to; I’m constantly dropping things and I’ve stopped driving as my concentration is poorer, I keep seeing things, especially at night. I’ve escaped several accidents by sheer good luck and my car was rear-ended twice, because I braked for small, dark beings running across the road.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but there’s nothing I do believe in. Is there a God? If there was such a being would it allow things such as us to exist? Still I’m haunted. I know now. I’ve tried to ignore the fleeting shadows I see from the corner of my eye and dismiss the whispers I hear at night, as nothing more than the water running through the pipes or the wind whistling in the chimney. Why now, I wonder? It’s been so many years since the first murder. It’s as though they’ve been waiting, gathering strength for the attack. I think I’m going mad. Sounds like it, doesn’t it? I’ve been a constant visitor to the doctor over the past few months and managed to stash away enough tranquilizers and sleeping pills to make sure the job is done correctly. It wouldn’t do to write this and then botch the whole thing up. She’s working there now; did I tell you already? The boy’s mother, she’s working at the doctor’s surgery. Only part time, she says, during the mornings, while Toby is in school. I found it difficult to speak to her once the plan was formed, but the fact she’s politely aloof helps a little. I can’t imagine her distress at this moment and am tempted to tell her where her boy is being kept, but I won’t. I’ve written two letters, one each for Freddy and Christy. They’re safe in the hands of my solicitor with instructions they be posted on my death. You see I’m not such a complete bastard; I’m giving them a heads up. Unlike the children, they can decide their fate. I hope for their sake, they decide to mimic mine and choose the uncomplicated way out. This diary I’ll seal and place where it’ll be found after my death, when the executors of my will come to clear out the house. I’ve no one to whom I’ll leave my money, so I’ve decided it should go to a children’s charity. Only fitting, don’t you think?
The boy, Toby, will be Freddy and Christy’s swan song. They’ll have no idea until the last minute I’m not joining them. I wish I could see their faces when they realise, I’m not coming, and imagine their confusion when I fail to appear. My absence won’t deter them, and they’ll continue without me. It’s the urge you see, the compulsion to destroy the innocent. Nothing can stop it. At least this time I’ll be spared the smell of the earth as they dig the grave. For me that was the most disturbing part, the smell of the raw soil and the blackness of the hole in which we threw the small bodies. Their deaths were quite humane, they wouldn’t have felt anything, but my mind rebelled at placing them in the dank chasm. I don’t know why, it was the finality of it all. I didn’t believe they were dead. Instead they were seeds I was planting and would sprout into fruition. I know now it sounds like the ravings of a lunatic, but that’s how it was. Perhaps it’s part of my sickness and the reason I felt no remorse for my actions. I never questioned the others about how they felt. We were never ones to share anything, other than our lust for those unable to defend themselves.
The flashing blue lights from the police cars are coming closer now. I can see the dark outline of the uniformed officers at the door of the house opposite mine. They’re questioning everyone in the vicinity about the missing boy. It’ll soon be my turn and I’ll be ready to help. The search is well under way and this is the part I enjoyed the most, the confusion of those investigating as they hit another dead end. I’ll be weeks before the fuss dies down and I’m content to wait until then to end my life. I’m perverse enough to enjoy the show and the certain knowledge the boy has only days to live. I’ll count the hours starting now 144…