Each Sunday, Cal Smyth‘s social media thriller Like, Love, Kill is serialised via Crime Cymru. Here is episode 4…

 

10

Kel and the others stand to the side as the police arrive. As soon as Kel saw Grace was dead she called Inspector Christie. Now at the scene, he gives her a strange sideways glance as he enters the café.

Kel acted like a professional before the police came, didn’t let anyone else into the café. Though it was impossible to keep Grace’s murder a secret. The others all heard her on the phone say that a woman had been killed. When Caitlin asked if it was Grace, Kel nodded that it was. Amy tried to get a closer look, but Kel told her they shouldn’t contaminate the scene and barred her from going inside. Not that it stopped Amy from taking a photo through the doorway.

Kel looks up at the top of the door. There is no camera. She asks Caitlin:
‘Grace didn’t have CCTV?’
‘I don’t think she felt it was needed. Who would burgle on campus?’
Well, this definitely wasn’t a burglary gone wrong, thinks Kel. There were no signs of anything taken from the café and even Grace’s phone wasn’t stolen. Grace was deliberately killed.

Amy looks up from her phone, scratches her arm without realising and says:
‘I know it’s wrong to post photos but everyone’s commenting. They all want to know what’s going on. Can’t you tell me anything Kel?’
‘Amy, Grace is dead.’
‘I know, I know. It’s fucking terrible. Really. To be honest I’m freaking out a bit here. I’m bloody glad it was you who saw her not me. Just that everyone wants updates.’
‘I don’t want to say anything until Inspector Christie gives the go ahead.’
Inspector Christie comes back out and talks with Kel:
‘Did anyone else go inside?’
‘No, and I didn’t touch the body. It was obvious she was dead so I called you straight away. Afraid though I wasn’t able to stop Amy posting a photo on Facebook.’
Inspector Christie rolls his eyes, looks over Kel’s shoulder and says:
‘Was there anyone else here who isn’t now?’
Kel turns around to look. Amy is on her phone and Caitlin is looking glazed. Irina moved away from the café to make a call and hasn’t returned. Two of the customers have stuck around and two have left. Kel explains:
‘Amy and Caitlin were here first to start work. Irina’s exhibition was supposed to open this morning so she was here and there were two other customers.’
‘Ok, I met the two girls who work here and Grace when I came to the café yesterday. I’ll talk with them in a minute. So the door was locked and you smashed the glass to gain access?’
‘Yes, I saw the phone and thought we better get in to see if someone was on the floor.’
‘But you weren’t the first at the scene?’
Kel can see Inspector Christie is in his element, ready to go over every detail including questioning Kel’s actions. She doesn’t mind. She has nothing to hide. Kel even finds the inspector’s focus sexy, though she keeps that to herself:
‘It probably looks weird me turning up at both scenes, but I told you something wasn’t right about Charlene’s death. The others were standing around, wondering why Grace was late. I was sure straight away something had happened.’
‘Ok, let’s just focus on Grace for now. Do you know anyone who might have had motive for killing her?’
‘I think you should question her ex boyfriend. He didn’t take their separation well. Caitlin knows more than me about that.’
Inspector Christie beckons Caitlin over, asks:
‘Do you know Grace’s ex-boyfriend?’
‘Yea, Mike.’
‘Did you ever witness any threats from him?’
‘Not directly witness no. I know he was harassing Grace, sending her abusive messages, but she never shared the details.’
‘And you didn’t notice anything suspicious when you arrived?’
‘No, I tried the door and when it was locked I just assumed Grace was late. Amy arrived a few seconds later so we started talking and didn’t think about looking inside. I did start to worry but it was Kel who took the initiative. She seems to have a sense for these things.’
Before Inspector Christie asks his next question, his phone rings. He moves off to take the call. Kel looks at his profile. He’s just as stubbled as two days ago and is wearing another badly ironed shirt. She bets he doesn’t have a woman living with him.

Caitlin interrupts Kel’s thoughts as she says:
‘You know I don’t really believe in premonitions, but I told Amy I had a feeling of déjà vu just before you arrived. Maybe you were right about Charlene. Do you think Mike killed them both?’
‘I think he’s got to be the main suspect.’
Overhearing her name, Amy has sidled over. Phone in hand, she asks:
‘So you think Mike is the killer?’
Kel stares at Amy, says:
‘It’s a murder investigation Amy. You can’t put possible suspects names on Facebook.’
‘Ok, ok. Just asking.’
Inspector Christie returns to the women, having finished his call. He says:
‘I just had a call put through from your university’s mindfulness facilitator.’
Kel wants to laugh at how Inspector Christie says it, but it’s clearly not the time to smile. Though she can see even at a murder scene that the inspector has a cynical edge to him. Inspector Christie continues:
‘It seems last night Grace told him she was worried about Mike’s messages. So do any of you have his surname or address?’
None of Kel, Amy or Caitlin have ever been subject to Mike’s seductions, so they don’t know where he lives. Kel has an idea:
‘Let me check if he’s online.’
Kel thumbs Facebook on her phone, goes to Mike’s timeline. Sure enough Mike posted a photo of himself ten minutes earlier with the weights he’s about to lift. Kel shows her phone to Inspector Christie, says:
‘Mike Dunbar. He’s in the gym. I can show you where it is.’
Amy asks:
‘So you’re going to arrest Mike?’
Inspector Christie turns to Amy, says:
‘If you put that on Facebook, I will have you arrested.’
Amy gulps, lowers her phone. Kel thinks Inspector Christie must be thinking WTF. He’s trying to investigate a murder and he’s surrounded by three female Uni students telling him who to question and asking him who the murderer is. She admires his resolve.

Inspector Christie calls for a police officer to accompany him, tells Kel to lead the way. Kel guides them around the corner to the glass-fronted gym, codes them in through the entrance. Inside, she points out Mike by the weights.
Mike is standing with another guy, both in their gym gear, the two of them looking at their phone screens. Mike looks up as Inspector Christie comes up to him, says:
‘Mike Dunbar?’
‘That’s me.’
‘Would you be able to accompany us to the station? We’d like to ask you a few questions.’
Mike holds up his phone, says:
‘Man, I just saw the pics. I know Grace is dead. So you figure it must be the black ex boyfriend is that it?’
Mike’s veins throb on his forehead. He’s pumped up enough to stand his ground against two policemen, especially with his gym buddy by his side. Mike smiles. He’s not too stupid to get into a fight with the law, just makes his point loud and clear for the whole gym to hear:
‘I know what this is. You want to frame me as the scapegoat. The black guy is guilty straight away init.’
Mike turns to his gym partner, says:
‘Make sure you get this on camera blud.’
‘I’m on it.’
Inspector Christie waits patiently, says:
‘When you’re ready.’
Kel admires the inspector’s calm manner. Who would want to be an inspector in this day and age, especially on a case involving students at a university campus? The murder scene has already been shared on Facebook and now the main suspect is getting himself filmed as he’s taken away for questioning. Every move is documented live.
Mike struts for the camera as he says:
‘No worries, I’ll come. I got nothing to hide. But look at my face now. Any bruises appear later, you know why it is. I moved on from Grace. You can check that with several women, you know what I mean.’

Kel watches as Mike leaves with the police, showboating all the way. She wishes she could accompany Inspector Christie to the station, take part in the questioning. Of course she knows that isn’t possible. She’s just a student. The inspector doesn’t even acknowledge her as they exit the gym, too focused on his quarry. Left redundant, Kel takes a seat by the lockers. She gets on her phone, goes to Facebook and checks Mike’s timeline. Maybe she can find online evidence to help the inspector with his questioning.

When she previously checked Mike’s timeline, she only looked at recent posts connected to Charlene. Now she goes back through his history to a year earlier. Before he met Grace, Mike posted photos with several different women. He’s on the ski slopes with one woman in winter, on the beach with a bikini babe in summer, dining out with a blonde in autumn. But once he got with Grace, it’s only her for several months. Locations are marked, Grace is tagged and emojis are on show:
‘At Gloucester spa, with Grace. Feeling relaxed.’
‘At Cheltenham races, with Grace. Feeling excited.’
‘At Cotswolds Safari, with Grace. Feeling entertained.’
The posts go on in a similar vein. Mike clearly wanted everyone to see they were a couple. In his own words, they were ‘Mr UCASS and his Nigerian Princess’. It seems pretty possessive to Kel. In each of the photos, Mike has his arm around Grace’s waist, pulling her tight to his side. It doesn’t take much analysis to see Mike wanted to be the dominant partner. From what Kel knows of Grace, she was a determined businesswoman, so the relationship was bound to fail.

Once they did split, Mike’s posts make out as if it was down to him:
‘Great to be free again.’
Photos of Mike with several different women appear again. And the gym selfies keep on coming with comments like:
‘Back on track to being Mr UCASS. Never let a woman stop you achieving your goals.’
There are loads of posts such as this, each one eluding to how great Mike’s life is as a single guy and how he’s escaped Grace’s chains, that it was her holding him down rather than the other way around. Classic psychology transference.

Mike has clearly never got over Grace and blames her for his own failures. So he has motive, that’s evident. But is there evidence he actually killed her?

Kel checks Mike’s most recent posts. This morning and yesterday afternoon he posted gym selfies. Does that mean he was free all night to kill Grace? Does he have an alibi? Did he leave any DNA at the murder scene? These are the crucial questions Inspector Christie will be asking. Kel wishes she was in the interrogation room.

She feels a mixture of adrenaline at her own online investigation, disappointment that she’s a student not actually working with the police and guilt that she’s thinking about her own career in the face of Grace’s murder.

The conflicts within Kel make her think of ‘mindfulness facilitator’ Seb. She calls him and gets straight to the point:
‘Hey, I know you spoke with Inspector Christie. So did Grace tell you what Mike sent her?’
‘Kel, you know I can’t break confidentiality. I told the inspector what I know. As soon as I saw Amy’s post, I called the police.’
‘Seb, it was me who led the police to Mike. I’m trying to help the inspector here.’
‘Yes, I just saw you in the video of Mike leaving with the police. But helping out is one thing, becoming obsessed is another.’
Kel ignores Seb’s comment, persists with her questions:
‘So Mike sent Grace abusive texts? Was it revenge porn?’
‘That kind of thing. Grace said they were abusive and explicit. She didn’t give me the full details, but she said the photos were embarrassing and she felt threatened by the messages. She wanted my guidance on what action to take. I urged her not to feel shame and to go to the police.’
‘Ok, thanks for the info.’
Kel ends the call before Seb can tell her to leave the investigation to the police. Seb’s information provides further motive but still doesn’t supply any evidence against Mike. She goes back onto Facebook. In the feed, Amy’s murder scene post vies for top spot with the video of Mike being taken away for questioning.

The comments are pouring in on Amy’s post. Her murder scene photo just shows Grace’s phone and her outstretched hand. People want to know:
‘Is Grace really dead?’
Amy has replied to every question:
‘Yes, police are trying to find her killer right now!!!’
‘OMG, how was she killed?’
‘Don’t know, only Kel Holmes saw but she won’t tell.’
So Kel is now tagged and is besieged by questions. She doesn’t answer any of them. Instead she watches the video of Mike being taken away by the police. She saw it first hand, but she wants to review the scene. She shakes her head at Mike’s grandstanding, bigging it up in front of the police and his gym buddies. It seems fake to Kel. She likes her movies, but Mike has definitely watched too many. Kel has only met Mike a couple of times at parties, but she’s sure she detected a posh accent under the put-on gangster patter. To get into UCASS you either need to have money or obtain a bursary for your achievements. She’s ready to bet Mike is in fact from a rich family rather than academically brilliant.

Strangely, Mike’s antics make Kel start to doubt his guilt. Is he really such an idiot that he would kill his ex girlfriend and then showboat his innocence on film in front of the police?

Either Mike would have to be psychotic or a hundred per cent sure there is no evidence to link him to Grace’s murder. Or, he is actually innocent.

In Kel’s mind, Charlene and Grace’s deaths are connected. She goes onto Charlene’s timeline. Charlene is dead but her timeline is still live. Friends have posted since her death:
‘Love you Charlene.’
‘Student night in town will never be the same.’
‘Can’t believe I won’t see those dance moves ever again.’
Kel wonders who the posts are actually for. She’s pretty sure Charlene isn’t reading them from her grave. Even if Kel believed in God, would heaven have been updated? Or hell for that matter? Are angels and demons sitting around checking that their online presence is still strong in the living world? Kel somehow doubts it. Kel scrolls down to what she wants to check: the exact time Charlene was last seen. Charlene commented on the salsa photo at 12.34, which is when she was on the bus back to campus.

Kel switches to Mike’s timeline and thumbs down to the same timeframe. She should have checked this before. And now she sees that Mike was tagged in a photo in a nightclub at 12.40. Which means Mike couldn’t have killed Charlene.

Of course it could be that Charlene’s death really was an accident and is unconnected to Grace’s murder. But Kel doesn’t buy it.

A flurry of notifications distracts Kel from her thoughts. She swipes to the main feed and what she sees sends shivers down her spine. Grace has just posted from the dead.

 

11

Kel recovers her composure and tries to analyse Grace’s post from the dead. There are two screenshots side by side. To the left is a photo of Grace giving a blow job, her eyes closed and mouth around an erect black penis. Kel’s guess is that the penis belongs to Mike. The other screenshot is of a text from Mike:
‘Ungrateful bitch. After all I did for you. No fear, Mr UCASS don’t need your whore pussy. Think u r so fucking amazing eh? We’ll see who laughs last.’
The message is an indirect threat that at the very least shows Mike in the worst possible light. It bellies his protested innocence. He looks like a guilty man.

People immediately react to the post. Someone asks:
‘Grace is that you? Are you alive?’
Which is like the most stupid fucking question, thinks Kel, because Grace is well and truly dead. Kel saw Grace’s body with her own eyes. And her murder has been posted all over Facebook. Though Kel supposes people might think it is some prank. The next person’s comment is more focused on the actual content:
‘Fuck! Look what Mike sent her!’
The comments flood in, an anti-Mike tide:
‘And he tried to say he was innocent!’
‘Guilty as.’
‘What a sick man.’
‘He tried to humiliate Grace, then threaten her. It didn’t work so he killed her. Hope he rots in jail.’
‘So, Mike, who will laugh last? Thought you could get away with murder and Grace shames you from the dead.’
Kel stops reading. Yes, Mike is going to have a hard time explaining his texts to the police. If the police know about it. Kel calls Inspector Christie. He doesn’t answer, which isn’t a surprise. He’s probably in the middle of questioning Mike. But Kel doubts the inspector has seen Grace’s Facebook post and he needs to see it. She takes a screenshot of the screenshots and sends it to the inspector via WhatsApp with the caption:
‘Look at this.’
Maybe the inspector won’t think it’s important. Kel adds a second message:
‘Evidence of Mike threatening Grace.’
Although there is a major question of how Grace has posted from the dead. Kel can’t sit in the gym anymore. She needs to move and think. She exits the gym and heads back towards the café.

Amy and Caitlin are no longer there. If their statements have been taken, there’s no point in them hanging around. A police officer guards the café doorway. Inside, forensics are still at work. Kel thinks about what she saw when she found Grace’s body. Grace’s phone was on the floor. Presumably it was taken away to be examined. Kel sends another message to Inspector Christie:
‘Was the phone bagged?’
Because what are the options here? One. Someone sneaked in, stole the phone and posted on Grace’s Facebook timeline. The only person who went inside the café was Amy, but Kel ushered her out instantly. And it would require knowing Grace’s passcode on the phone. Two. The phone was bagged by the police, a technician worked out the passcode and leaked the screenshots. This seems highly unlikely as it would mean someone in the police being really unprofessional. Three… before Kel can formulate the third option, she gets a call from Inspector Christie:
‘Look Kelly, what’s all this? I appreciate your help earlier, but you can’t just keep calling.’
‘Well I wasn’t calling to see if you wanted a drink! Did you see the pic?’
‘I didn’t have time to open it.’
‘Grace just posted a text of Mike threatening her. Maybe you should check it.’
Kel waits for a few seconds while the inspector checks the screenshot. He comes back on speaker:
‘Ok, and this is on Facebook?’
‘Yep. Apparently Grace just posted from the dead. Unless someone has access to her phone.’
‘Not possible. Forensics brushed it for fingerprints and the tech guy is literally working on it now.’
Kel works out the third option:
‘It must have been set up as a delayed post. Maybe your guy can find that out.’
‘It’s not CSI here, but I’ll tell him. Ok, thanks for your help. I’ll contact you if we need a statement.’

Kel exhales as the inspector ends the call. What did she expect? That he asked her to join his team of investigators?
She needs to go home and shower. That’s what she was going to do after the gym a few hours earlier. As Kel turns to leave, various news crew appear. Whereas Charlene’s death made the local news, Grace’s murder is going national.
Not wanting to be interviewed, Kel heads to her flat and mulls over Grace’s Facebook post. Why would she set it up as a delayed post? Did she suspect Mike would harm her and so set up future evidence against him? If she was that afraid, why not just call the police? The other possibility is that whoever killed her set up the post to frame Mike.
It’s all conjecture. Kel needs to bounce her ideas off someone. She calls Caitlin:
‘Hey, where are you?’
‘Back in my flat. I couldn’t face standing around there any more. You?’
‘I was in the gym, but I’m out now. Did you see the video of Mike being taken away?’
‘Yea, I saw it. So the Inspector dumped you?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Come on I saw you fancy him.’
‘How are we even talking about this?’
‘Coping mechanism I guess. First Charlene, then Grace. It’s too much.’
‘That’s what I want to talk about. Maybe Mike killed Grace but he didn’t kill Charlene.’
‘I thought you thought her death wasn’t accidental.’
‘I don’t. But Mike didn’t do it. I checked his timeline. He was tagged in a photo in town at the same time Charlene was on the bus back to campus.’
‘So what does that mean?’
‘It means maybe he didn’t kill Grace either.’
‘What? You just led the police to him. Not to mention the screenshots that have appeared on Grace’s timeline. Which is like beyond bizarre. Who knows how Grace set that up, but they sure make Mike look guilty.’
‘I know and he’s got motive alright. But you saw his behaviour on the video. Would a killer really act like that?’
‘I don’t know. You’re the expert.’
‘What if someone has put up the screenshots to frame Mike?’
‘I think you’ve watched too many movies.’
‘And I think it’s too much of a coincidence that Charlene and Grace both die within a few days. Do you think there is anyone else who would have a grudge against both women?’
‘Like who?’
‘Humour me. Irina just vanished from the scene. That was pretty strange. And Amy was acting really nervously. Not to mention that she was continually posting about Grace’s murder. She was more concerned about that than Grace being dead.’
‘You think a woman killed Charlene and Grace?’
‘Hello, 21st century Caitlin. Haven’t you read Gone Girl?’
‘Fine, I’ll humour you. Irina needed the café open because it was her exhibition opening, so I really can’t see what she would gain from killing Grace. And Amy was nervous because she didn’t sleep all night.’
‘Because maybe she was busy killing Grace.’
‘Ok, this is just to pander to your sick mind. The other day, Amy did say that she would kill to have as many likes as Charlene. But it was just a figure of speech. She takes being liked too seriously. I really can’t imagine that she would actually kill someone because they had more likes than her.’
‘Why not? Charlene and Grace were two extremely popular women. Maybe Amy can’t cope with that so kills them out of envy.’
‘You’re crazy Kel.’
‘People kill for all sorts of crazy reasons. My dad murdered a guy because he thought the guy looked at my mum.’
‘Which brings us back to relationship jealousy and why it’s more likely to be Mike.’
‘And maybe Mike is guilty, but until he’s proven guilty I’m just keeping an open mind.’
‘Ok Kel, do what you have to do. I can’t stop you and I don’t want to think about it anymore. It’s terrible to say, but life goes on and I need to get writing. You should concentrate on your dissertation too.’
Kel tells Caitlin she’ll catch up with her later and ends the call. Caitlin is right, but there is no way Kel can stop her investigation. This is real life, not her dissertation. Mike is still the main suspect for Grace’s murder, but Kel will just check out Amy.

 

12

Amy sits on her bed and looks at her phone screen. Her post has lost momentum and she doesn’t know how to get it back.

Her initial post about Grace being dead gathered more reaction than she’s ever had. With Grace’s name attached, the reach was wide. Amy also mentioned Caitlin, Irina and Kel so their tagged names added to the reach.

Amy’s ambition is to make it in marketing not journalism, but she jumped at the chance to provide live updates. She was the first person to share news of Grace’s murder. She captured the police arriving. And she let everyone know the police were after the killer.

But then the video of Mike was posted and it soon outdid Amy’s post. The video is more action than Amy’s passive photo. She should have ignored Kel and got a close up. The pic of Grace’s hand and phone is suggestive, but not the same as showing how she was actually killed. And Kel, the bitch, wouldn’t tell her any details, so Amy’s updates dried up.

Kel sucking up to the police inspector, who she obviously fancies the pants off. Jesus, the guy’s like the age of her dad. And the inspector had a hard-on because a girl twenty years younger wants to fuck him, so he had to man-up in front of Kel, telling Amy he would arrest her. That was hardly called for. Wouldn’t have made any difference if she told everyone Mike was going to be arrested because he filmed it himself.

Mike’s video is more divisive and opinion generating. His gym buddies all support his stance whereas women are starting to react against the blatant male chauvinism. The murder scene no longer held as much interest for people so there was no point Amy hanging around.

But what to do in her room? She can’t sleep no matter how tired she is. And is she just going let to her 15 minutes of Facebook fame slip away?

No ideas come to Amy as she reads the feed. And then she gapes in horror at Grace’s post from the dead. WTF?
Comments and reactions pop up non-stop. Amy knows there is no chance now. First Charlene, then Grace. Both women were more popular than her when they were alive and they outlike her even when dead.

Is she never going to win? Will other women always be more liked? The envy within her battles with self-loathing. She’s aware that she cares more about how liked she is than two dead women. She is really fucking sick. She deserves to be hurt.

Amy leaps off the bed, runs into the bathroom and picks up the razor. She still has the phone in her other hand. Razor or phone? Hurt herself or call Seb?

###

Irina is in her studio, zoned in on her laptop as she puts the finishing touches to an art video montage.
As soon as she knew Grace was dead, she had to make several calls. There was no point in reviewers or the funding body chairman coming to the café as the exhibition wouldn’t be opening.

It might seem ruthless, but Irina is an artist not a police inspector. Grace’s murder is a tragedy. Irina can’t solve the crime though. Her role as an artist is to interpret the world. So she went back to her studio and started on an homage piece to Grace.

In the video Irina has created, Grace’s face morphs into Amy Winehouse, Anne Frank, Princess Diana and Emilia Eckhart. It is not just for Grace but for every woman who achieved something in society and died young. Irina isn’t saying that Grace’s business acumen is on a par with the achievements of the other women, but it’s about wider recognition of what women can do. The soundtrack is Amazing Grace, performed by a Nigerian gospel choir.

Irina clicks up Facebook to post the video and sees the latest developments, including Grace’s screenshots. Irina doesn’t believe in God. She does however think spirits can be channelled. In reality, it is probably some glitch that delayed Grace’s post. It doesn’t matter. Irina feels as if her work as a female artist is linked to Grace’s death.

If Grace was killed by a man’s hand, not only has Mike taken a young woman’s life, but he has seriously fucked up Irina’s chance of obtaining funding. Her Russian blood boils. She would like to kill the idiot. Men are necessary, for sex if nothing else, but they can be complete fools too.

Irina posts her video with the comment:
‘This is homage to Grace and to all women. Women who strived to achieve greatness. Women who died far too young. Women who are suppressed by men. Women who have not been recognised. Women who are amazing.’

###

Sarah is sitting up in bed, re-reading her daily blog. She’s spent the morning writing it. This blog covers her feelings of loss and strength as a woman, summed up by the last few lines:
‘I no longer have breasts, yet I am still a woman. I am no less a mother or a wife and I have become a writer because of it. When my daughters were babies, they needed my breasts for milk and comfort. Now as they negotiate adolescence, they need a different kind of support. Hopefully they will read these words and be inspired to be the wonderful women I know they can be.’

Sarah edits the blog, corrects a few errors and checks the word count. It’s a good morning’s work. She puts up the blog, then turns to Facebook – both to put a link to her blog and to see what’s going on in the outside world. Being holed up in her country cottage is good for writing but brings isolation.

She can’t believe it when she reads about Grace being killed. She went to the café a few months ago when she visited the campus. Sarah’s course is online, but she met up with her professor before her latest operation. The skype tutorials are fine, but the face to face interaction created an extra bond.

Sarah clicks on the video of Mike and is appalled. Even if he is innocent, how can he be so nonchalant about his ex girlfriend’s murder? What has society come to that appearance is more important than grieving?
Unbelievably, there are comments in support of Mike. All from men:
‘21st century and still persecuted for being black!’
‘Woman killed. Black man must be guilty.’
‘Don’t let the bastards get to you Mike!’

Surely Grace’s murder is more important than Mike feeling aggrieved at being questioned? Sarah’s sadness and despair turn to outrage as Grace’s post appears on the feed. It is a horrific breach of privacy if someone has gained access to Grace’s phone and posted the screenshots. And yet whoever has done it is right in outing Mike. Grace’s ex boyfriend is clearly guilty and he has the temerity to play the race card and protest his innocence. Sarah types her thoughts:
‘This is the 21st century yet male violence towards women persists. Grace was a young woman full of ambition. A man has killed her out of jealousy and hate. This is not about race as he claims, but about gender. Just this morning I wrote in my blog about what it means to be a woman without breasts. The pornification of women has led men to believe they can get away with murder. Grace’s bravery in shaming her killer shows that they will not.’

###

Seb has so much to do that he needs to prioritise. People need calming. Mindfulness needs to be spread even in such a dreadful circumstance. Especially in such a circumstance.

A cup of green tea stands cold by the side. Since bringing it, Neel hasn’t been seen. Seb doesn’t know if that means Neel is sulking or realised the importance of Seb’s work. He doesn’t have space to think about it.

Seb mentally makes a list of what to prioritise and what to put to the side. Neel is to the side. He might be ten years younger, but he is a grown man. Seb also can’t worry about Kel. He does wonder about her obsession, but he senses she has the strength to work through her life choices.

Although, as poor Grace has shown, you can never tell. Seb wishes he did more. Why did she contact him so late? He didn’t notice any problems before, just saw a confident young business woman. Should Seb have been more forceful in urging Grace to go to the police? She contacted him for help and he failed to see how dangerous the situation was. He failed her.

Seb closes his eyes and does a short breathing exercise. It is not useful to blame himself. This is what he would tell others, so he should practice what he preaches.

Opening his eyes, Seb feels ready to spread love. Facebook is fast filling with vitriol. Calmness needs to be restored. There are comments from Mike’s friends not only backing his innocence but also justifying his actions if he did kill Grace. In return, women are calling out all men as aggressors.

A gender war seems to be breaking out on social media. Seb raises his fingers above the keyboard, lets the words flow from his mind and types:
‘People, let us remember Grace as the amazing young person she was. Full of grace and goodness, Grace was a gift to the world, showing how to be a good human being. You will notice I have not used terms such as ‘woman’ or ‘mankind’. Let us not get dragged into a battle of gender. Grace’s death is a tragedy. Such crimes should not occur and I am sure justice will be done. However, it will benefit nobody to display hate towards either sex. Let us unite as humans in grief for Grace.’

###

Toby doesn’t know what annoys him more, Irina’s ‘homage’ to women or Sarah’s anti-man rant.

If women are so clever why have two of them died within the space of two days? And if Grace knew Mike had it in for her, why didn’t she do anything about it?

Not that Toby is Mike’s mate or anything. Toby has never been to the gym in his life. And Mike is the kind of guy who was a school bully. They are Facebook friends because of mutual acquaintances, but Mike doesn’t even recognise him to say hi when they pass each other on campus.

Mike’s video made Toby laugh though. He doubts that it was Mike’s intention to make a comedy, but the acting was so bad. Sure, Mike is muscled-up, but he’s hardly a gangster. He’s a student at UCASS for fuck’s sake. Well, he’ll get the chance to toughen up in prison by the looks of it. Because now that his threats to Grace have been revealed, Mike is going down.

The thing is, Grace probably deserved it. Look at the photo. She’s sucking dick like a whore. So what did she expect?
And what were all the other women doing? Waiting around outside the café, more interested in their phones than a dead woman a few metres away from them. Yes, he saw them as he passed by on his way to the morning lecture. It wasn’t until Kel arrived that any action took place. So that’s one in four women who have a brain.

Most women just spend their time whining on Facebook. You would think Facebook was made for women the way they chat non-stop and complain all the time about men. Don’t they know it was originally created so that guys could like or dislike women’s photos?

Women are so self-absorbed, they don’t see the irony. It’s all about themselves, no matter what they make out. Take Irina’s homage to Grace. Why has she really posted that? It’s so that her art won’t be forgotten. Her exhibition was cancelled so she needs to gain the attention in another way. As for Sarah’s diatribe against men, she conveniently managed to include a link to her blog. The real reason she’s commented on Grace’s death is basically to promote her own writing. Toby can see through their posts. He’s surprised Amy hasn’t posted a selfie, claiming Grace’s death has made her so sad she has to demonstrate it. But since her 15 minutes of Facebook fame, Amy has gone surprisingly silent.

 

13

Kel closes her eyes as she showers. It’s been a few hours since she was on the running machine in the gym, sweat drying on her skin in the spring air as she jogged to the café. Then the adrenaline of breaking into the café and finding Grace, before aiding Inspector Christie track down Mike.

Thinking of the inspector, Kel has a vision of him in the shower with her. Kel’s hands all over his chest, making him crazy. Inspector Christie kissing her breasts before taking her in the shower.

Kel touches herself as she envisages the scene. She comes, opens her eyes and laughs at herself. She really has watched too many 18+ films on Netflix.

Out of the shower, Kel is once more fizzing with energy. She throws on jeans and a top, pulls her hair into a pony tail. She’s suddenly hungry. She didn’t have breakfast and its nearly lunchtime. She finds a pot noodle in her cupboard, pours in boiled water and gobbles it up.

Ok, now she’s ready. An after-lunch latte would be perfect, but Campus Café won’t be open anymore. It’s the first time Kel has been able to stop and think about Grace. As with Charlene, Kel didn’t know Grace well. And as with the first loss of life, Grace’s death is just as sad. Kel has been so focused on finding Grace’s killer that she cut off emotion. That is exactly why she would make a great investigator, even if she does say so herself.

Kel powers up her laptop. First she checks the news for any updates on the case, reads the scroll at the bottom of the BBC homepage:
‘A 20-year-old student is being questioned over the murder of café owner Grace Obafemi.’
Tell Kel something she doesn’t know. The BBC is behind the times. Everyone on Facebook already knows the student being questioned is Mike Dunbar. What is interesting to Kel is that Mike still hasn’t been charged. Which means that despite the evidence of his threats to Grace and obvious motive, Mike is sticking to not guilty.

As Kel said to Caitlin, Mike is the most likely killer. But while there are doubts, Kel is going to check her theory. Is she shoehorning real life into her dissertation on social media criminals? Trying to find a killer for the times? Is it so far-fetched? If Amy was annoyed that Charlene had more likes than her, would she actually kill for it?

Kel compares the Facebook pages of Charlene, Grace and Amy. Charlene has 2,308 friends. Grace had 3,600 friends. Amy has 1,980 friends. Scanning posts from each woman, Kel quickly sees that Grace and Charlene regularly got more likes than Amy. So the two dead women were more popular than Amy, which fits Kel’s theory.

Amy is good looking and constantly active, but maybe doesn’t have the clear ambition of Grace or natural charm of Charlene. Amy has more friends and likes than Kel say or Caitlin, but they wouldn’t be competition. It would be the more popular women Amy is jealous of. Kel guesses it must be frustrating if you want to be liked so much.

Doing a google search, Kel sees that Amy is on Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn as well as Facebook. Amy doesn’t pause in her social media activity. Kel doesn’t want to go on to Amy’s LinkedIn profile because it will be seen that she viewed it. But from what’s in the public domain, Kel can see Amy has presented herself professionally. A contrast to Snapchat, where Amy has a million silly selfies.

Does this mean that Amy is able to have different personalities? As Caitlin would say, that’s probably reading too much into things. Everyone is able to be professional one minute and silly the next. Personalities are not one dimensional.

Kel wonders how truthful people’s self-portrayal on social media really is. On the face of it, everything is exposed. People post when they have a partner and when they don’t. They share what they eat and what they’re thinking. They tell the world what they’re doing, where they’re doing it and who they’re doing it with. Yet some stuff has to remain hidden. For example, Kel could post a photo of herself after a shower saying she felt good, but she’s not going to reveal that she had imaginary sex.

Going on to Amy’s timeline, Kel scrolls through what Amy has exposed. The first thing she notices is that Amy is pretty narcissistic. One day she’ll post a make-up selfie with the comment:
‘Look good, feel good.’
And on another day, Amy will tell her friends:
‘Can’t come, bad hair day. No way anyone’s seeing me like this.’
It doesn’t matter if the comments are positive or negative, they are all about how she looks. Amy is also constantly trying to join the crowd. Whether it is Grace or some famous person, Amy wants to be part of it. She hashtags CampusCafé, namechecks Kim Kardashian. In relation to a Kardashian, bitchy banter abounds between Amy and her friends:
‘Want to be famous? Get sextaping!’
‘You’ll need a boob job first.’
‘Your tits, my legs.’
‘Girl on girl?’
‘Whatever it takes baby.’
There are also public conversations which show Amy getting nervous about the lack of response from friends:
‘Hey did you get my PM?’
‘Sorry was busy.’
‘For two days? WTF?’
When the friend doesn’t respond, Amy replies to her own reply:
‘Ok, so I now know you’re ignoring me.’
Amy has replied to herself again after five minutes:
‘I can see you’ve posted on Laura’s timeline. Guess she’s more important than me. Good to find out who your real friends are.’

Amy’s peers are far more prominent than her family, but Kel gets a glimpse. One photo of Amy looking bored with her parents outside a grand country house. Another of Amy much happier in the driver’s seat of a brand new 4×4, the photo captioned:
‘18th birthday pres from the rents.’
Kel has seen Amy drive off in the car. The family photos confirm what Amy’s posh, southern counties accent already told her: Amy comes from wealth and is slumming it at Uni. Kel shouldn’t let her own working class background make her judgemental. She takes a break from Amy’s timeline to sum up what she’s learnt. Amy is a bit of a narcissist, can be bitchy and wants to be liked. But isn’t that a summary of half the people Kel knows on Facebook? And doesn’t everyone want to be liked?

What Kel needs to discover is what isn’t on display. She’s noticed that a lot of stuff has been edited. So posts could have been deleted and Amy’s self-presentation altered. Kel clicks on Amy’s list of friends. A few of them, like Caitlin and Grace, are mutual friends of Kel’s. Kel searches the friends she doesn’t know. Amy’s UCASS classmates don’t turn up anything interesting. A cousin hints at something though with the comment:
‘So glad you’re back on track to recovery cuz X.’
The comment was a year earlier, before Amy started at UCASS. There’s nothing on Amy’s timeline at that point to suggest she was ill. Kel finds friends who made comments around the same time. With one of them she discovers what Amy has deleted.

The friend is called Serena. And Serena belongs to a group called ‘Self-harm girls rule’. On the group page, Kel sees photos are shared of cuts to arms, legs and even genitalia. Bloody hell, thinks Kel, in some countries, women are fighting for female genital mutilation to be banned and these girls are deliberately doing it to themselves.

Kel takes her eyes from the sick pics and focuses on the task. Serena’s comments to Amy now make sense:
‘Are you out of the club Amy? SHGR forever!’
So Amy used to self-harm. Does that mean she’s capable of killing? Or does it simply show she’s a danger to herself?
Kel needs to talk to Amy. An investigator interviews a suspect, even if just to eliminate them from the list. Kel sends Amy a PM:
‘Hey Amy, I know I was a bit abrupt earlier. Was so focused on finding Grace’s killer. Thinking there might be something useful in your photo. Fancy coffee?’
The message doesn’t implicate Amy, but does indicate what Kel would like to talk about. While she waits for Amy to read and reply, Kel checks the feed.

She watches Irina’s video homage to Grace and thinks Irina really is an artist. Who else would think of creating such a montage? Sarah’s post comes across as hard-line feminist. Kel likes guys so she’s not so anti-man, but she understands the stance. Some of the male comments are fucked up. Under the screenshot of Grace giving a blow job, some guy has written:
‘Maybe she had it coming.’
The comment has got a lot of likes, all from male names. Seb of course has tried to calm things down. His post has also received many likes, but doesn’t seem to have stopped the offensive comments.

Maybe Kel really is wasting her time checking out Amy. There is a lot of male aggression out there. If Mike didn’t kill Grace, maybe it was one of the guys who has posted in support of him.

It’s just that Kel’s instinct tells her a killer wouldn’t show themselves up so easily. She checks to see if Amy has read her message. It’s still unread. Amy isn’t online, but she might have disabled that function. Kel goes back to the top of Amy’s timeline. The last time Amy posted was when she tagged Kel five hours earlier.

Kel calls Caitlin and gets straight to it:
‘Hey, have you got Amy’s number?’
‘Yes thanks.’
‘Can you call her?’
‘Er, why?’
‘To see if she wants to meet. I sent her a PM, but she hasn’t responded.’
‘Maybe she’s in a lecture.’
‘Can you try? I need to ask her some questions.’
‘Come on Kel, leave Amy alone. I’m sorry I told you what she said. And the police have got Mike in custody.’
‘In custody yes, but he’s still not been charged.’
‘So what are you going to do, ask Amy if she killed Grace?’
‘Look, I found out some stuff about her. Did you know she self-harmed?’
Caitlin sighs:
‘It doesn’t surprise me. She never said anything, but I saw how she would scratch her arm when she was nervous or near sharp objects. That doesn’t make her a murderer though.’
‘I know. I just need to talk to her so she can be ruled out as a suspect if nothing else.’
‘Kel, you know I love you, but aren’t you getting a bit deluded? You’re not a police inspector.’
‘Come on Caitlin, call her for me.’
‘Fine. Call you back in a min.’
Kel checks the news while she waits for Caitlin to get back to her. There are no new developments. Caitlin calls back, says:
‘I tried but there’s no answer.’
‘Do you know where she lives?’
‘In the block opposite Tesco.’
‘Let’s go over there.’
‘Kel, I’m in the middle of writing a chapter.’
‘It’s important Caitlin. Something’s not right. Was I wrong about Grace?’
Caitlin exhales before replying:
‘Ok, see you there in five.’

 

14

Kel and Caitlin meet outside Tesco, Caitlin not enthusiastic about Kel’s mission:
‘I don’t know if I want you to be right that something is wrong so that there is a reason to leave my writing or proved wrong that Amy has nothing to do with it.’
‘Which number is her flat?’
‘Don’t know. We walked back from work together one day because I needed to go to Tesco. I remember when I came out she waved from that window.’

Caitlin points to a window on the second floor of the student residence block. There is no light or movement inside. Kel crosses to the building, Caitlin in her wake. Kel checks the intercom, says:
‘It’s ok, her name’s here.’
Kel presses the buzzer. Nothing happens. She presses again. Still no response. Caitlin shrugs, says:
‘Like I said, she’s probably in an afternoon lecture.’
‘Then let’s find out. Where’s the business building?’
‘I don’t know where the business building is. I study creative writing, which is what I want to be doing now.’
Kel strides over to a campus map laminated onto a column. She finds the business and marketing building, traces a route with her finger. She points the way they need to go, says:
‘This way.’

Caitlin sighs as she follows, making her complaints known:
‘Kel, I want to go back to my flat, have a cup of tea and carry on with my writing. I don’t want to spend the afternoon traipsing around campus looking for Amy.’
‘So you don’t want to find out who killed Grace?’
‘Why can’t you accept it was Mike?’
‘Because it wasn’t him. He’s a misogynist bastard who tried to control and humiliate Grace, but it makes no sense that he would kill her, lock the café and leave no traces only to then let himself be caught and look guilty so easily. Why didn’t he take Grace’s phone for example?’
‘Because he was in a rush?’
‘Whoever killed Grace wasn’t in a rush. They had time and presence of mind to lock the café door.’
‘Ok, I see what you’re saying. But by the same logic, do you think Amy has that cold killer instinct? As you found out, behind her outgoing online persona, she’s got a nervous disposition and used to self-harm.’
‘That’s true. But I still want to question her.’
Caitlin gives up as they pass the Creative Arts department where her own lectures are held. They turn a corner and arrive at the Business and Management block. With Kel in the lead, they head to the reception desk.
Kel holds up her student ID as if it’s a police badge and says:
‘Hi, we need to get an urgent message to our friend and don’t know what lecture she is in. Is it possible to find out?’
The receptionist says:
‘What’s her name?’
‘Amy Bartlet.’
The receptionist taps into her pc, looks at the screen, says:
‘There are no marketing lectures today.’
‘Oh, ok, thanks.’
Kel turns on her heels and exits the building, Caitlin left to follow suit. Outside, Caitlin says:
‘Well that was a waste of time.’
‘No, it showed she’s gone off the radar.’
‘Kel, she could be anywhere.’
‘Exactly.’
‘Exactly what? She might be with a friend or boyfriend. Or girlfriend for all we know.’
Kel slips her phone put of her jeans back pocket, goes onto Facebook and checks her own timeline, then Amy’s. She says:
‘She still hasn’t read my message. And she hasn’t posted anything since this morning.’
‘Not everyone is online every minute.’
‘Amy is.’
‘Why have you got it in for Amy?’
‘Isn’t it weird that she hasn’t responded to any of this?’
‘Any of what?’
‘This.’

Kel shows Caitlin her phone, scrolling through the continuous posts about Grace and Mike as they read together. Mike’s video has gone viral and his name is now in the news. It’s not just local, but national. TV networks have interviewed students. Mike’s gym buddy is in a clip, saying:
‘I’m saying it now, Mike is innocent. I get it that he’s a suspect, being Grace’s ex. But Mike moved on. Why would he mess up his life killing her? He’s getting ready to be Mr UCASS. It makes no sense, you know.’

In another online clip, a member of UCASS Business Society tells an interviewer:
‘It’s just so hard to comprehend. Only last night Grace was hosting the Business Society in Campus Café. She was amazing in everything she did. She didn’t deserve to be murdered. I don’t know if her ex is guilty, but the texts he sent her are extremely threatening.’
Kel turns to Caitlin, says:
‘Looks like we escaped being interviewed.’
‘Thank God. I sometimes think people care more about their own onscreen glory than being feeling genuine sympathy.’
‘People like Amy. She should be lapping this up, giving interviews on national TV.’

Another video link pops on the feed. Kel thumbs the link, which connects to a live interview with Inspector Christie outside the police station. Looking like he doesn’t want to be there, Inspector Christie says:
‘I can confirm that we are currently questioning Grace’s ex-boyfriend. No charges have been made and enquiries are still ongoing. We are at present waiting for forensic analysis to come through.’
The interviewer asks:
‘I understand that this is the second death in a few days at UCASS campus. Is that correct?’
‘The first death was ruled as accidental drowning. We are treating the second as a murder enquiry. At present there is no connection between the two tragic events. There will be a press release when we have any updates.’
The interview ends with Inspector Christie stalking back into the station. Kel shakes her head, says:
‘I’m telling you, there is a connection.’
‘So you think you know more than an experienced police inspector?’
‘No, course not. He’s doing his job, but he’s missing the social media aspect in all this.’
‘Well that’s your theory.’
‘I’m going to tell him.’
‘You can’t just accuse Amy.’
‘I won’t. And he probably won’t listen anyway.’
Kel calls Inspector Christie. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t answer. Kel leaves a message on voicemail:
‘Hi, it’s Kel. I know you don’t want me to waste police time, but please hear me out. If it turns out Mike is innocent, I have a theory. I think Charlene and Grace were killed for being too liked on Facebook. It might seem crazy, but I think it’s worth the police pursuing that avenue.’
Kel ends her message. Caitlin says:
‘Very professional.’
‘Of course.’
‘Come on, you have the hots for him.’
‘A bit.’
‘Well, you’ve done your bit, so now let’s please go back to our flats.’
‘Ok, but let’s just check Amy’s place again on the way.’
Caitlin rolls her eyes but doesn’t refuse as they set off back through campus towards the student residence blocks. By the time they reach Amy’s building, the sun is low in the sky, getting ready to set. The widows in the building are lit up. Kel points at Amy’s window, says:
‘Why is it all steamed up?’
‘Maybe she’s inside having sex and doesn’t want to be disturbed.’
‘Tough.’
Kel tries the intercom, but gets no response. She presses another number, says she’s looking for Amy and gets buzzed in. Holding the door open for Caitlin, Kel says:
‘That’s what we should have done in the first place.’

As Kel and Caitlin walk up to the second floor, they hear the usual sounds inside a student residence block. Music pumping from behind one door. Sex going on behind another. Coming to Amy’s door, Kel knocks. There’s no answer. Kel presses her ear to the door, hears the sound of running water, says:
‘The shower’s on.’
‘Which explains the steamy window.’
‘We’ll give her a few minutes.’
‘She could be in there for ages.’
‘True. Let’s get her out then.’
Kel bangs hard on the door, calls loudly:
‘Amy!’
There’s no reply and the shower’s still running. Caitlin shrugs, says:
‘Maybe she can’t hear you.’
‘Only if she was deaf.’

Kel squats down to look through the keyhole, leaning on the door handle as she does so. The handle presses down and the door starts to open. Kel immediately stands, pushes the door open fully. The room is full of steam. Kel calls out:
‘Amy?’
Caitlin tugs at Kel’s sleeve, says:
‘You can’t just go in.’
Kel shrugs Caitlin off, steps into the flat. The shower is still on. Kel calls out once more:
‘Amy, it’s Kel.’
Kel moves towards the shower, sees a shape inside the cubicle. Kel yanks open the door, says:
‘Oh fuck.’
Amy is slumped on the floor, her wrists cut.

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