Each Sunday, Cal Smyth‘s social media thriller Like, Love, Kill is serialised via Crime Cymru. Here is episode 5…
It’s well into the night by the time Amy is declared dead, police have sealed off her room and statements have been taken. Inspector Christie was obviously still busy dealing with Grace’s murder, so a different DI talked to Kel and Caitlin.
The two women are sitting in a lecture hall where Kel usually hears talks on criminology. It is the nearest building to Amy’s residence block so has been set up as a makeshift interview room. With the police and ambulance crew busy back at the scene, Kel and Caitlin are left alone, the two of them subdued. Kel is able to cope with seeing a dead person, but two in one day is a bit much. Caitlin says:
‘Well you were right something was wrong.’
‘Yea, didn’t think she’d killed herself though.’
‘We knew her history.’
‘Self-harm is one thing. Suicide takes it to another level.’
‘She must have been more upset than she let on.’
‘But upset about what?’
‘Who knows? People keep lots hidden.’
‘Unless it wasn’t suicide.’
Kel holds up her hands, says:
‘Just thinking out loud.’
‘Maybe it’s like the Virgin Suicides. Have you read it?’
‘I saw the film. You think it’s a chain reaction, people killing themselves because others have died?’
‘Who knows why they did it. They never find out in the book or the film.’
Kel nods, remembering a case she read about in Bridgend, Wales. Over the space of one year, over twenty teenagers in the town committed suicide. They all seemed to be vaguely connected, but police couldn’t find a direct link and it was never resolved why they did it. Some people blamed the media for stirring up a suicide cult, glamorising the idea for copy cats. Caitlin sighs:
‘What a day. Grace in the morning. Amy in the evening.’
‘And Charlene two days ago. Three dead women is too much of a coincidence.’
‘It’s all too much for me. I’m going home. You coming?’
‘Er, no. Inspector Christie sent a text asking me to wait. Said he wants to speak to me.’
‘Uh huh. Well try asking him for a drink instead of telling him your theory.’
Kel and Caitlin hug, Caitlin leaving Kel to her thoughts. Amy’s death really does look like suicide. She had a history of self-harm and Kel saw the razor next to Amy’s wrist. Kel formulates three possibilities.
One. Amy was so upset about her life that she decided to commit suicide. Possible, but as far as Kel can tell nothing so bad happened to drive Amy over the edge.
Two. Amy committed suicide because she killed Charlene and Grace then felt guilty. Again, possible. But very difficult to prove.
Three. Amy didn’t commit suicide. It was set up to look like that. More far-fetched than the other two possibilities, but it keeps Kel’s theory alive.
Amy wasn’t as popular as Charlene or Grace, but she was still well liked. If people are being killed for being liked, Amy could easily be a victim. And with all three victims being women, it would point to the killer being a man. But not Mike because he was in custody.
Kel’s thoughts are interrupted by Inspector Christie entering the lecture hall. He slumps into a seat near Kel, says:
‘Ok, so what is going on in this campus?’
‘Is that a genuine question?’
‘I’m here so often I might as well rent a room to stay in.’
‘You could stay at mine.’
Kel goes red as soon as she says it. Though she can see she has also made Inspector Christie blush. If she can make an experienced police inspector blush, it must mean he also likes her. But he keeps it professional:
‘So we’ve got an accidental drowning, a murder and a suicide in the space of three days on the same campus…’
‘It can’t be a coincidence.’
‘I don’t like coincidences either. Though one of them is that you turn up at every scene.’
‘You think I killed them?’
Inspector Christie looks over at Kel, says:
‘No. And I didn’t say they were all killed. This one looks a clear suicide.’
‘It could have been staged.’
‘Go on, tell me your theory.’
‘Really. I’m listening.’
‘Well it came to me when Caitlin said that Amy said she’d kill to have as many likes as Charlene. It sounds silly, but people take this stuff seriously. So if Charlene’s death wasn’t an accident and if Mike didn’t kill Grace, it could be that someone is murdering people for being too liked. I thought it might be Amy, but obviously not.’
‘Unless she killed herself out of guilt.’
‘That’s what I thought.’
‘I’m just following through your theory.’
Kel pauses before saying:
‘But why are you considering my theory? It must mean you’re not charging Mike.’
‘You don’t have evidence against him do you?’
‘I can’t answer that, but I’m sure you’re clever enough to work it out. I think your theory is interesting but I’ll admit I wouldn’t know how to pursue it.’
‘You’d need a social media profiler.’
‘Which is something we don’t have. I’ll be lucky to get any kind of profiler because the three deaths aren’t yet connected.’
‘People are bound to jump to conclusions, especially on social media.’
‘I’m sure you’re right. Too much info has already been shared. Apart from the police, you’re the only person who knows Grace was killed with a knife. If I have to follow new leads, I’d like to keep that out of public knowledge for now.’
Inspector Christie raises himself from the seat, says:
‘Ok, I’m going to take on board your theory. In return you need to leave it to me ok?’
‘It’s been a long day. You should go home and rest.’
Inspector Christie smiles as he exits the lecture hall. Kel exhales. The end of their conversation put their age difference into perspective. She gets realistic. It’s not as if he was going to jump into her bed anyway.
She’s basically been told to stop pursuing her theory. Ok, she didn’t expect to find Amy dead, but she did know something was wrong. Does her theory still hold water? If it does, it means there is a social media serial killer on campus.
Kel better hope her theory is wrong. Whether she is or not, social media is going to go into hyperdrive. She goes onto her phone, thumbs on the internet. The press has already got hold of the story, headlines online before morning paper editions:
‘Suicide on Uni campus makes three dead in three days.’
‘Three days. Three dead women.’
‘Third death on cursed campus.’
Going on to Facebook, Kel sees the rumours have started. The last headline she read has especially trended:
‘UCASS – University of Curses And Sick Suicides.’
‘Are women safe from the campus curse?’
At least people think it’s down to a curse rather than a killer, thinks Kel. As Inspector Christie said, she should go home and rest. She’s just about to leave when a call comes through on her phone from Seb. His usual calm manner has a hesitancy to it:
‘Hey Kel, I take it you’ve heard about Amy?’
‘It was me and Caitlin who found her. I’ve just given a statement to the police.’
‘I had a feeling you might be involved.’
‘Before you start about me being obsessed, I’ve been told by Inspector Christie to go home, so that’s what I’m about to do.’
‘No, that wasn’t what I had in mind to say.’
There is a pause. Kel waits for Seb to continue:
‘They’re saying it’s suicide.’
‘Looked like it. I won’t give you the details.’
There is another pause. Kel can tell Seb has something on his mind, but she’s surprised when he says:
‘I don’t think she committed suicide.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘She called me after lunch. We had a long talk. She felt conflicted because she wanted to be liked and would then feel self-loathing because she wanted it so much. She told me that in the past she used to self-harm, but that she hadn’t for two years. She wanted guidance. We were on the phone for an hour. By the end of the call she was calm, promised she wouldn’t harm herself. I am convinced she was telling the truth.’
‘Have you told this to the police?’
‘What can I tell them? That I am sure I persuaded Amy not to harm herself. They will simply say I misjudged. And maybe I did. But I am adamant my guidance was successful.’
‘Did you record the conversation, anything like that?’
‘No, but I made her promise to text me every hour. She sent me a PM at 3pm and 4pm.’
‘Seb, you have to tell this to Inspector Christie. I’ll tell him you’re going to call. Ok?’
Kel ends the call and sends a text to Inspector Christie:
‘Don’t kill the messenger, but Seb (‘mindfulness facilitator’) is going to call you with info on Amy.’
Kel refrained from telling Inspector Christie what to do with the info. But a text at 4pm cuts it very fine with the timeframe of when Kel and Caitlin found Amy. If the text was sent after the time of death, then Amy didn’t commit suicide.
Mike is back on campus by 11pm. He was in custody for twelve hours, but now he’s in the student union bar with his gym buddies, lording it up:
‘The police didn’t have nothing on me. They kept bluffing, but I stayed cool and they didn’t have no choice but to release an innocent man.’
The others raise their bottles of Heineken, one of the guys saying:
‘To Mike’s freedom.’
Mike smiles and drinks his beer as if he’s just done a stretch in prison. He doesn’t mention to his mates that his parents got a lawyer on Inspector Christie’s ass asap. Nor does he admit that the inspector unnerved him. Not with intimidation, but with his patience. The inspector realised Mike’s parents had wealth and clout but wasn’t fazed. He simply showed Mike the text message and waited either for Mike to confess or for DNA to come through.
Well Mike wasn’t going to admit to a crime he didn’t commit was he. The texts he sent Grace looked bad, but he knew how to keep schtum. His fingerprints weren’t at the scene and there would be no DNA match. Mike hadn’t been to the café since it opened. He wasn’t going to give Grace the pleasure of his custom. The police really didn’t have any choice but to release him.
And now Mike is going to show the police how wrong they were. He takes a group selfie with his mates, posts it on Facebook with the comment:
‘Free and innocent. The police tried to put Grace’s murder on me, for being black no doubt, but this black man is not guilty. To those who supported me, I salute you. To those who doubted, eat my… shorts.’
Mike adds a wink, show he’s got humility and a sense of humour. One of Mike’s mates looks up from his own phone, says:
‘Seen that Amy killed herself?’
‘Worked in Campus Café. Bob haircut. Good bod.’
Another of the guys says:
‘Shame. Would have been good in a threesome. I heard she was bi.’
‘What’s with all the women dying anyway? Be none left to hook up with soon.’
‘No offence Mike, but one story is Amy and Grace were lovers. Amy murdered Grace in a lover’s tiff, then killed herself.’
‘All I can say is Grace liked dick when she was with me. But I suppose after mine, it must have been hard to compare.’
The guys all laugh. Mike is thinking though. He doesn’t think Grace and Amy were lovers. And he knows he didn’t kill her. So who the fuck did?
Irina swims in the Uni pool, finishes her thirty lengths. At 6.30am, there are only a few other swimmers. Irina has been up since dawn, as she always is. With her mind constantly envisioning things, she’s never been a long sleeper. Not an insomniac exactly, but her sleeping patterns are erratic.
One thing she’s thinking about is how to get her exhibition restarted. The problem is with the café still sealed off, she can’t even remove the screens to exhibit elsewhere. The visits from reviewers and the funding body chairman have been postponed until she can set up again. As heartless as it may seem, Irina has to contact the police and ask when she can gain access to the café. It’s frustrating, but it’s all she can do.
Irina gets out of the pool, dries herself and dresses in her dungarees. Walking through the campus to her studio, the only other people awake are delivery men unloading at Tesco and Starbucks. She knows their eyes are on her body, but doesn’t give it a second thought, checking her phone as she walks.
The posts on Facebook are all about the girl who committed suicide last night. Irina saw the news before she went to bed, but was too wrapped up in her own thoughts to give it much attention. Now she pictures Amy, the barista from Campus Café. They were Facebook friends, probably via Grace. Amy must have sent a request and Irina accepted because the more people who see her art the better.
Irina reads the rumours about UCASS campus being cursed. She thinks it is people who are cursed not places. Taking herself as an example, she is cursed to create art. It is in her blood as a woman. And it is usually women who are cursed not men.
The ideas in her mind propel Irina into activity. As soon as she enters her studio, she gets to work. She sets up a camera on a stand with a timer. Takes full length self portraits with a mask over her face, creating a triptych. The first photo shows Irina fully clothed, the second half undressed and the third stark naked.
Irina posts the artwork and comments:
‘Is it a curse to be a woman? Should we be objectified, made to feel self-conscious, killed even for our natural bodies? To the three women whose deaths occurred on campus, I share myself in your honour.’
Sarah sits up in bed. Outside the cottage, a cockerel crows and rouses the day. But she isn’t sure what to write today. Does she have blogger’s block?
With the laptop in front of her, Sarah clicks on the internet. Maybe she will be inspired by the outside world, find a way to connect external events with her personal ordeal. She was asleep early, still easily tired following the op, so when she sees the news it hits her as a surprise.
There has been a third death at UCASS campus. Three young women. First accidental drowning, then a murder and now a suicide. Like the other two girls, Sarah didn’t know Amy well. They are Facebook friends, but she can’t remember how. Through Grace and Campus Café probably.
Logging on to Facebook, Sarah reads the swirl of rumours suggesting that the campus is cursed. She thinks about the ghost stories she read as a teenager. Is it possible? Could the campus have been built on hallowed ground? It’s an interesting premise for a story.
As she scrolls through the feed, Sarah comes to Mike’s post. It makes her feel sick. Three young women have lost their lives and this young man is raving against his supposed vilification. Excuse her language, but what a self-centred prick. Yes, Sarah was one of the people who thought he was guilty of Grace’s murder. Just because he’s been released doesn’t mean he is innocent. Only that there is a lack of evidence.
God knows how she is friends with Mike on Facebook. She should defriend him. Yet she has a perverse desire to read his despicable opinions. It means that she can see what struggles she faces as a female writer.
And now she knows what to write. Her blog today will be about the vilification of females. She writes straight onto her Facebook timeline:
‘Women have been underrepresented, undermined, supressed, raped and killed throughout the ages. Women have died for the vote, stood up to sexism, battled for equality. Women are not cursed but blessed with courage. It is men who should be ashamed by their vilification of women. My blog today is dedicated to women throughout the world…’
Seb is still internally cursing himself as he sits at the kitchen table. His sleep was fitful as he spent the night wondering if he really did get it wrong with Amy. If he did, then he should give up being a mindful facilitator right now.
He couldn’t predict that Grace would be murdered, but surely he would have realised if Amy was suicidal. It is not about his own failings, he knows that. It is about the loss of life of another young woman. He phoned the police as Kel advised. And the inspector immediately took note of the time Amy sent a PM. Seb doesn’t know what this means, but he supposes the inspector is questioning if Amy’s death really was a suicide.
Naturally, Seb can’t share his thoughts that Amy maybe didn’t kill herself. So he’s simply posted an obituary praising Amy’s character:
‘Amy was a young woman full of energy and determination. It is a great shame she will no longer be able to see her ambitions bear fruit. She should be remembered for her vibrant, outgoing personality.’
Next to Seb at the kitchen table, Neel attempts to distract Seb from his dour thoughts by offering fruit and croissants. Seb shakes his head, says:
‘I will just have juice.’
‘It is good for the mind to eat.’
‘I can’t eat when I think I have failed in saving a young woman’s life. Not once, but twice.’
‘Maybe you need to take a meditation sabbatical.’
‘And leave the students without guidance?’
‘It might be healthy for you to restore your guiding powers. I can book a weekend retreat for the two of us.’
‘Neel, the students need my guidance. I need you to look beyond your own desires for a weekend getaway.’
Neel’s face falls. Seb relents, puts an arm around his young lover, says:
‘I’m sorry. I do appreciate your presence in my life, but right now I must find a way to guide people. There are a host of negative energies brewing on UCASS campus. I can feel it.’
‘You are not Jesus. You cannot solve everything.’
‘No, I’m not Neel. And you are not Ghandi. Thanks for breakfast.’
Seb pushes the food to the side and powers up his laptop.
Toby keeps blinking in a nervous reaction. In the aftermath of Grace’s death, he refrained from making comments. The posts following Amy’s suicide though are driving him to distraction.
If she killed herself, why should she be praised? She’s taken the coward’s way out. Was she bullied like Toby was at school? Did she have to suffer humiliation for years on end? Other boys used to hold him down in the school fields, pull down his pants while girls stood around and laugh. For Toby, the girls were more cowardly than the boys. The boys carried out their threats. The girls just watched.
Seb’s praise of Amy is a big joke. Amy spent her life posting pouted selfies. That’s basically all she was good for. Yes, Toby knows Seb also suffered bullying at school. It’s all over his website. But being gay, Seb probably enjoyed getting wedgied.
And Irina’s art is full on comedy. First, would she be taking naked selfies if she was fat and ugly? Toby doesn’t think so. And sorry if he’s being thick, but what the fuck is the connection between her photos and the three dead women?
The post which really blows Toby’s mind though is Sarah’s. If women are so supressed, why are they able to post shit on Facebook non-stop? Toby has to make a comment about this:
‘Well I can see one woman who isn’t supressed.’
Sarah is right back with her reply:
‘What is that supposed to mean?’
‘Means you’ve turned Amy’s death into a blog opportunity.’
There is no immediate response from Sarah. And then he sees that she has unfriended him, which makes him laugh. Good, then he won’t have to read her shit anymore. The good thing about Amy’s death is that it has made him reform his console game concept.
Why is he setting the game in an American High School? A British University campus is much better. He doesn’t want to give the game away, but it would be good to see what kind of reaction the game might get, so he posts:
‘Campus Curse is a bit Scooby Doo. How about Campus Killing? Out now on PS4…’
Kel wakes up feeling groggy, jolted from her sleep by her phone’s ringtone. On the way home last night, she stopped at Tesco, bought two cans of JD and coke. It was the only way she was going to sleep and not spend all night checking for updates online. Inspector Christie told her to rest, so that’s what she did.
Her first morning thought though is that she needs to check any developments. She reaches down to the floor, lifts up her laptop. While it’s turning on, Kel takes her phone from the bedside table. The missed call is from Caitlin. There’s also a WhatsApp from her an hour earlier. It’s now 10.30. Kel checks Caitlin’s message:
‘Mike released last night.’
This isn’t news to Kel as Inspector Christie intimated as much. She sends a WhatsApp back to Caitlin:
‘Yea, Inspector Christie hinted it would happen.’
‘Oh yea. Late night eh?’
Caitlin sending a wink with the text. Kel types back, adding a sad face after the first sentence:
‘Alas, no. He told me to go home and leave the case alone. So like a good girl, that’s what I did.’
‘Well your poor inspector is getting a hard time of it now.’
Kel reaches over to her laptop, clicks up the internet. She goes to The Guardian as a reliable source, sees the article headline:
‘Suspect released from custody. Police pursuing new leads in campus murder enquiry.’
Kel reads the article. It starts off factual, describing how Grace Obafemi’s ex-boyfriend was questioned and then released. But the journalist goes on to write that with three deaths in three days at the same University campus, the police seem to be overwhelmed. And the article finishes with a dig:
‘The Inspector in charge of the murder enquiry was unavailable for comment, but surely questions have to be asked if the local police are able to deal with the case.’
That’s not too much of a hard time thinks Kel. She opens another tab and goes to The Daily Express. Always good to get different opinions. Here, the article’s headline is instantly more damning:
‘Police clueless as killer still at large.’
Kel reads on, the article giving opinion as fact that the police wasted time with an innocent man while Grace’s killer is on the loose. Kel is pretty sure that if Mike was guilty, The Daily Express would be making out that black youth crime is to blame. Instead, the article ends with:
‘As Mike Dunbar has expressed, the police should be tracking a young woman’s killer, not hauling in the first easy suspect. Yet it seems that Inspector Christie is clueless.’
Ok, thinks Kel, that’s a bit more of a hard time. Looking at the below the line comments, the first one Kel reads is:
‘Bring back hanging!’
Kel wonders who that is aimed at – Grace’s killer, Mike or Inspector Christie? She switches back to The Guardian, looks at the BTL comments there. The first one is more articulate than its Daily Express counterpart, though is biased in its own politically correct way:
‘Have the police not moved on since the 80s? If a black woman is killed, does the first suspect have to be a black man?’
No, thinks Kel. Mike was a suspect because as Grace’s ex, he sent her threatening texts. Turning to her phone, Kel goes onto Facebook. Sure enough, at the top of the feed, Mike has joined in and is venting his ire:
‘So are the police going to do their job and find Grace’s killer? Maybe they can start looking at white male suspects.’
Kel is distracted back to her laptop where a breaking news banner moves across the bottom of the screen:
‘Police investigating second murder on University campus.’
Kel clicks on the live feed, reads:
‘In a further development, an anonymous source has informed The Guardian that a suicide on UCASS campus is now being treated as a homicide. This is due to a message being sent from the victim’s phone after the time of death. It has also been revealed that the murder weapon used on Grace Obafemi was a knife from the café she ran.’
Oh shit, thinks Kel. So Amy’s suicide was staged. But how the fuck has this stuff been revealed? If Inspector Christie was fed up with the initial media articles, he’s going to be steaming now. A message bleeps on her phone from Caitlin:
‘Have you seen?’
Before Kel can reply, several Facebook notifications get her attention. On the feed, anger is building:
‘Was Amy killed too?’
‘Fuck, what are the police not telling us?’
‘Police fucking clueless!’
Within a few minutes, rumours snowball as anger and panic merge. People are asking if a killer is on the prowl and the hashtag #campuskiller trends like wildfire.
The details can’t have been a leak from the police because Inspector Christie wanted to keep them secret. Would Seb have gone to the press? Kel sends him a PM:
‘Seb, tell me the anonymous source isn’t you.’
The reply comes back in an instant:
‘No Kel, it was not. Inspector Christie didn’t get back to me after I informed him of Amy’s message. And this is the first time I have even heard about a knife. There is so much negativity flowing through the campus, I feel I need to be on site in case anyone needs face to face guidance.’
Whatever, thinks Kel. Being mindful is the last thing on her mind right now. Of course, it couldn’t have been Seb. It was him who told Kel about Amy’s Facebook message, but he didn’t know about the knife. Apart from the police, the only person who knows about the knife is Kel.
Kel gets a call on her phone. She sees on caller ID that it is Inspector Christie. She knows what’s coming, so gets in quickly:
‘Before you ask, it wasn’t me.’
‘Strange, because you’re the only person who knows.’
‘Maybe it’s a police leak.’
‘You’re accusing one of my guys?’
‘I don’t know, but it wasn’t me.’
‘Three women are dead. At least one of them was murdered. I’m trying to find the killer and am having to deal with details being put in the public domain. It’s not some University Challenge quiz. Interfering with a murder enquiry is a serious offence.’
‘Arrest me then.’
‘Don’t let me find out it was you.’
‘I told you, it wasn’t.’
‘I hope not. Now, please, stop playing detective.’
Inspector Christie ends the call. Fuck you too, thinks Kel. She throws the phone on her bed, shoves the laptop to the side and gets up. She yanks up the window blinds, blinks in the spring light.
A coffee would be good. Pity Campus Café is closed. Kel tells herself that such black humour is a bit near the bone. She makes a cup of instant, black as she doesn’t have any milk. She downs two paracetamols, sips her coffee and thinks.
Did she tell anyone about the knife? No, not even Caitlin. So if it wasn’t the police who leaked the details and she knows it wasn’t her, there is only person who could know. The killer.
Kel gathers her laptop and phone from the bed, sets up at her desk. She understands Inspector Christie’s anger. He’s got at least one murder, probably two, if not three and no suspects. Not only are the press on his back, but so is social media. He’s wrong to blame Kel though. And as experienced a police inspector he might be, he’s not up to speed with the social media aspect.
If the killer is putting out info into the public domain, it means he, or she, is deliberately stirring things up. The killer either wants attention or to taunt the police. It’s working because the press and social media are going to run with the story.
Kel goes through what she knows. Charlene, Grace, Amy. Three dead women all from the same campus. In fact, all worked in the same café. Colleagues rather than good friends. Kel wasn’t really friends with any of them, but had all three on Facebook.
An idea hits Kel. Is this how they are connected? On her phone, Kel checks Facebook friends for Charlene, Grace and Amy. On her laptop, she types up a list of mutual friends. Irina for example. Kel herself. Caitlin of course. Seb is friends with nearly everyone, so he’s there. Naturally, Charlene had friends who weren’t friends with Grace and vice versa, so the list isn’t huge.
Kel starts to build a small network, adding Sarah to the list. Mike is on everyone’s list of friends except Grace’s, but Kel know that is because Grace defriended him, so she puts him on the list too. She also notices that Toby is friends with all the others apart from Sarah. Checking both their timelines, Kel sees that there was interaction until a recent argument, which means that Toby has also been defriended. She’s not sure she even knows who Toby is, though she thinks she’s seen him around. Anyway, she notes down his name.
Kel looks at the list on screen. Charlene, Grace, Amy, Irina, Kel, Caitlin, Seb, Sarah, Mike and Toby. They all have the same ten mutual friends, three of whom are dead.
As Kel sits there in her knickers and t-shirt, what she thinks is this: The killer is one of the ten. And so is the next victim.
Kel needs to research each person. She’s already gone through Mike’s timeline and she knows Caitlin well, so she doesn’t need to check those two. The three dead women are of course out of the equation. That leaves Irina, Seb, Sarah and Toby to research.
In preparation for her research, Kel stands up and stretches. She chucks on some jeans in case any pervert is looking in through her window from the residence block opposite. And she remembers to reply to Caitlin:
‘Yea, I’ve seen. Inspector Christie blamed me for the press leak, but it wasn’t.’
Caitlin comes back with:
‘Prob police leak. Made themselves look inept tho.’
‘Not my prob. Going to spend the day doing research. X.’
Kel is deliberately vague. Caitlin can think she is doing work on her dissertation. As long as Kel isn’t disturbed.
Stretched, dressed and message sent, Kel gets down to work. Using her laptop for its bigger screen, Kel starts with Irina’s Facebook timeline. She goes back to three years ago, when Irina was still in Russia as this is when her posts really start to flourish.
Irina was finishing her BA in Photographic and Media Art at Moscow International Art Academy. Her posts are in English. The one which gets the most attention is this:
‘This is my Final Year Project. It is representation of female expressive form, both internal and external. On surface, women are expected to keep up the beautiful appearance. Underneath, we all have same bodily functions.’
Attached to the post is a video, which opens as soon as Kel pauses on it. In the video, Irina stands on a blank canvas in an art studio. She is dressed in an exquisite ballgown. Her face is made up to extenuate her high-cheekboned looks. And her hair is done in a tight plait, which hangs stylishly to one side. Irina stares at the camera, lifts her dress as she squats and urinates on the canvas. As the yellow stain pools around her ankles and steam rises, Irina winks at the camera.
This is the art piece that first gained Irina a reputation, as the comments testify. It certainly divides opinion. Her fellow students love it. Moscow art critics are not so enamoured. There is a link to a Russian newspaper article, the opening lines of which are automatically translated:
‘Is this art? Should such an esteemed academy as MIAA be producing this kind of shameful work, spoiling the reputation of Russian artists abroad?’
In response to this, Irina shared a review from Rupert Wilkinson, a visiting art patron who has just set up the UCASS art department. His review is positively glowing:
‘This is the work of a young woman ready to take chances and challenge our conceptions of females and art itself. Irina Zhivova is a name to watch.’
As Kel reads on, she can see a palaver ensued. Irina was banned from exhibiting her work in the Moscow Student Project Fair, but was offered a scholarship to do her MA in UCASS. Irina accepted the opportunity and expressed her opinion:
‘It has been stated that by studying in UK, I will be betraying my heritage. According to some newspapers, my work is a black mark against the great Russian traditions. To my critics, I say this. I love my country, but I detest censorship in any shape or form. I must go wherever my art has freedom of expression. There has been a long history of Russian artists, writers and film makers forced to defect. I am honoured to be among them and will always feel nostalgia for my homeland. Hopefully one day, Russia will see my art for what it really is.’
It’s a bold statement from someone who was only 22 at the time. Irina is certainly not afraid to challenge the authorities, thinks Kel. Irina’s not in the UK long before she’s also at it there:
‘The UK is supposedly a free country. Yet a quick look at any Art Awards and gender inequality can easily be seen. On my course in UCASS, there are many talented female artists. How many of these will gain recognition? The percentage of students is roughly 50/50 female and male. Yet in last year’s British Art Awards, 8 out of 10 winners were male. 3 out of the 4 on the judging panel were also male. There is a clear correlation. It is time this was challenged.’
The post is liked in the hundreds. Everyone agrees Irina has a valid point. UCASS Art Patron Rupert Wilkinson attempts to pacify Irina:
‘Unfortunately, statistics do back up your point. However, on my part I can only say that as a judge on the British Art Awards Panel, each piece is judged on merit not on the sex of the artist.’
Irina wasn’t pacified:
‘While I appreciate your effort at objectivity Rupert, gender inequality is deep rooted in the male psyche. You will be making biased judgements subconsciously.’
Kel almost laughs at how Irina put the art patron in his place. It’s not long before Rupert Wilkinson appears again.
Irina’s MA piece was entitled ‘Fucking Artist.’ The subheading was:
‘What a female artist has to do to obtain funding.’
The video is taken from a hidden camera and shows Irina on her back in bed, Rupert Wilkinson on top of her. He’s at least thirty years older and is grunting away while Irina looks serenely over his shoulder, straight at the camera. She makes a money sign with her fingers and rolls her eyes.
Kel’s eyes are wide in disbelief. Irina really is extreme. Kel knew that Irina’s art was notorious, but didn’t know how she gained the reputation. As with the BA piece, the MA video causes an uproar. All documented on Irina’s timeline. A national art critic hails the work:
‘Tracy Emin eat your heart out. This is extreme feminist art. Irina Zhivova is at the forefront of challenging our conceptions. She should be exhibited everywhere.’
The praise and renown gained Irina national funding and a year’s residency in UCASS gallery as well as a rent-free studio. Things didn’t fare so well for Rupert Wilkinson, Irina posting a link to a newspaper article with the headline:
‘Art Patron loses position after student films sex in return for funding.’
Irina knows no bounds. Kel doesn’t know whether she admires Irina’s tactics or not. Caitlin would say that Kel is very direct, but Kel has nothing on Irina. The artist’s life is a lonely one though, as Irina shows in her posts:
‘I spoke to my mother via skype today. She asked me if I have a man in my life. I replied that I do not. She said ‘is there no-one that you like?’ I said ‘no’. My mother sighed and said ‘you will be lonely your whole life.’ Ah, an artist’s destiny.’
As with all Irina’s posts, there is a lot of response. Women say things like:
‘Your art is permanent. Men are temporary.’
Several men offer themselves to Irina, telling her that she is amazing and suggesting they meet up. Irina sends single emojis back, a thumbs up or hands clapping. But there is no interaction to suggest actually meeting.
Art really is the most important thing in Irina’s life. As she muses:
‘What is the role of the artist in the world? Are we there to depict? To decipher? To challenge? These are questions we should constantly ask. What I know is that for art to be worthwhile, you must invest your whole body, heart and soul into it. That you must be prepared to live and die for your art.’
The post of course gets hundreds of likes and gains comments like:
‘Amazing artist. Amazing woman.’
Nearing the present date, Kel speeds through Irina’s timeline. She’s already seen Irina’s posts following the deaths of Grace and Amy.
Kel takes her eyes away from the screen, thinks what she’s learnt. Irina really does live and die for her art. That is clear. This is a woman unafraid to put her body and soul on display, has no fear of challenging authority and thinks nothing of destroying a man’s life – all in the name of art.
Would Irina kill for her art? Kel wouldn’t put it past her. But Grace’s death hasn’t benefited her at all. With the café closed, Irina’s exhibition has been cancelled. And what can she possibly have gained from the deaths of Amy and Charlene?
From another perspective, Irina is extremely popular on Facebook. She has 5,000 friends, 280 followers and continually gets hundreds of likes. If Kel’s theory is correct about the killer, could Irina be marked as the next victim?
The next person on Kel’s list is Sarah. Kel flexes her neck, takes a sip of her undrunk coffee and nearly spits it out. The coffee is cold. Checking the time, Kel sees that she spent almost two hours going through Irina’s timeline.
Kel takes a hesitant look at her phone. There are no messages from Caitlin, which means she got the message that Kel wanted to be left alone. Caitlin really is a good friend, thinks Kel. There when needed and doesn’t get upset when not called because she has her own focus on writing.
There are loads of Facebook notifications on Kel’s phone, which means everyone is gossiping online about Amy’s suicide actually being murder, the possibility of a killer on campus and the police being useless. With great will power, Kel refrains from checking the feed. She’s not going to be distracted from her task.
On Sarah’s timeline, Kel goes back to before Sarah started at UCASS, just as she did with Irina. In Sarah’s case, it’s just over two years earlier. It seemed to be when Sarah discovered Facebook. Initially, all her posts are about her two daughters, aged 9 and 10 at the time.
There are photos of the two girls in Halloween costumes, a whole album dedicated to ‘Easter Egg Hunt’ and a video of the girls performing in a school Christmas concert.
The video has quite a lot of likes, but Kel wonders if anyone actually watched the whole thing. Ok, it’s cute for the first few minutes, but 45 minutes of children singing out of tune? Come on. You could probably insert porn into the middle and no-one would ever know because they don’t watch until the end. Kel tells herself off. She’s on Sarah’s timeline to do research not make Facebook judgements.
Though if Kel’s mum had posted so much about her as a kid, she would have died of embarrassment. As Sarah gets more accustomed to using Facebook, she starts using hashtags like #mygirls and #myworld. The girls’ father is occasionally glimpsed in the background of a photo, but isn’t often mentioned. Either he’s a useless parent or not much appreciated by his wife.
There is the odd post relating to the book club Sarah is in or a literature festival she wants to attend. These show her later literary ambitions, but don’t gain much traction.
The game changer in Sarah’s life is when she is diagnosed with cancer. After a few weeks of posting very little, Sarah makes an announcement:
‘Most of you won’t know, but a week ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I felt a lump in my breast one morning as I was having a shower and started to worry. My husband thought I was maybe over-worrying, but in fairness he did drive me to hospital (after I insisted). It’s taken me a week to come to terms with it, but I feel it is better to be out in the open rather than keep things hidden. The doctors have been fantastic and I am determined to be strong.’
The post gets more response than any of the ones about her daughters ever did. Kel wonders if society is sick. A normal woman approaching forty is averagely liked. When she gets ill, everyone wants to know more. A host of emojis display people’s sympathy and friends have posted on Sarah’s timeline:
‘So sorry to hear this Sarah. Be strong!’
‘If it has been detected at an early stage, you will be fine. Fingers crossed.’
‘Our thoughts are with you.’
‘If I can help in any way, let me know.’
‘Don’t be alone. Please keep us updated.’
It’s the last comment which Sarah seems to have taken to heart:
‘Everyone, thank you for your kind words, but please don’t give me your sympathy. If you feel charitable, give money to cancer research. Next week, I will have my left breast removed. With the support of my family and the team at Gloucester Hospital, I will get through this. And as requested, I will keep you all up to date. #strongwoman.’
Sarah receives praise for her bravery. And a friend from the book club makes a suggestion:
‘Sarah, you are so articulate, why don’t you write about your experiences. It might be therapeutic.’
‘Not a bad idea!’
At first, Sarah’s posts are short and sweet. A photo of her in a hospital gown, with the caption ‘waiting for the second scan.’ Or a pic of a box of chocolates, with the comment:
‘From my husband. Not allowed to eat them, but it’s the thought that counts.’
She also posts a selfie, with make-up and fake eyelashes. Friends comment how gorgeous she looks. Sarah explains:
‘Free make-up session from Gloucester Cosmetics. Bit of pre-op fun.’
Post-op, Sarah gets more serious about her experience:
‘Having a breast removed initially seemed like a life-changer. Would I feel like half a woman? I told myself not to be silly. A woman is not defined by her breasts. This made me realise how our gender has been so easily defined and sexualised by men. It also made me see how much more I have to offer apart from being a wife and mother. I am a person in my own right. Writing all this down, I feel invigorated, ready to revive my life.’
Sarah’s words strike a chord and with the post shared many times, it goes semi-viral. Her amount of friends grows and after a few weeks, Sarah has a new announcement:
‘Today I received two phone calls. The first was from the hospital with the results from a follow up scan. The second was from UCASS in response to my application to do an MA in Creative Writing online.
‘The scan showed that while the lump in my left breast was successfully removed, a second has been detected in my right breast. The surgeon’s advice is for me to have that removed too asap. In the space of a few minutes, I went from despair to numbness to acceptance. The left was already gone. If the right also went, it would provide symmetry.
‘The call from UCASS brought tears of joy. They have accepted me as a mature student and like very much my idea of blogging about dealing with cancer. I really do feel like a new woman.’
And so Sarah’s blogging career starts, daily updates provided via Facebook links. It makes Kel think. How would she cope?
Kel puts her right hand over her left breast. She isn’t interested in having children yet and knows women shouldn’t be objectified, but she feels the sensitivity of her breasts, wants a man to devour them. With the size of her breasts, she could pick up any guy on campus with ease, but they are still basically boys. She can’t help fantasise about a real man, like Inspector Christie for instance.
Kel turns from her personal thoughts and back to Sarah. The initial posts are emotional, but Kel can’t face reading all the blogs. Yes, they are life-affirming, but also bloody tough reading. Kel doesn’t want to know the details of the operations. And if she’s honest, the musings of a middle-aged woman are a bit of a turn off.
Maybe sex is no longer important to Sarah, but it is to Kel. It’s been over a month and she’s starting to feel restless. Sarah might not admit it, but Kel senses tension in some of the posts:
‘How this book can be so hyped, I have no idea. Every female character is sexualised from the very first line of description. Isn’t it possible to write a female character without mentioning her breasts?’
Sarah isn’t one to hold back on her opinions, which extend to politics. After the Brexit vote, Sarah posts:
‘So over half the UK population are idiots! Congratulations, you have just ruined my daughter’s future.’
Well Kel would have preferred to travel freely around Europe, but she doesn’t think her future has been ruined. She feels Sarah can tend towards the dramatic. Understandable considering what life has thrown at her.
Sarah’s recent posts of course refer to Grace and Amy. She decided Mike was guilty straight away and seems to blame men in general. Kel thinks the killer probably is a man, but not necessarily.
Could Sarah be the killer? Kel doubts it. It’s possible that Sarah harbours a secret resentment towards young woman in their prime and wants some kind of revenge for what she has suffered. But how would she even have the energy to carry out the killings?
So could she be a possible victim? This seems more likely to Kel. Sarah is well liked and has a lot of friends. Not on the scale of Grace or Irina, but enough to make her a target.
Kel takes a quick break. It’s almost 2.30 and she hasn’t had breakfast or lunch. She pours away the cold coffee, makes a fresh cup. Opening her cupboard, all she can find is a packet of oatcakes. She could nip to Tesco, but she doesn’t want to leave her room.
As Kel sips her coffee and chews through several oatcakes, she looks out of the window. Is there a killer somewhere on campus? Kel is sure the answer lies online. Besides, she doesn’t have access to forensics etc. Inspector Christie can physically investigate. Kel will stick with her social media research.
Finishing her coffee, Kel returns to her laptop and goes onto Seb’s timeline. With Seb, she has to go further back than with Irina and Sarah. He’s been part of UCASS since its inception five years ago. His Facebook presence started about a year before that.
Kel hardly recognises Seb in the first photos she comes across. He has a side parting and a moustache. There aren’t a lot of photos, but Seb is clearly in a relationship as he can be seen holding hands with another man at a Gay Pride march and kissing the guy in a nightclub. They don’t look happy though, neither smiling.
For three months, Seb doesn’t post anything. Then he’s back a changed man. His updated profile photo shows him with no moustache, a shaved head and gleaming eyes. Seb’s first post back is this:
‘In life, we must sometimes overcome great tragedies. Three months ago, I lost my partner. It was difficult to bear and I was unable to cope. Then I discovered mindfulness. After going on a weekend retreat, I found a way to be at ease with the world. This month, I will be attending a course so that I can become a mindfulness facilitator myself and help guide others through difficult times.’
To Kel, it sounds as if Seb has found Jesus and is going to spread the word. It’s not long before Seb is doing just that. Following on from his course, he sets up a website and offers his services. His amount of Facebook friends slowly grows due to the online mindfulness community he is now part of. Seb posts links on Facebook to his website, where he uses his own past as examples for others:
‘The death of a loved one is a cruel burden to carry through life. Several months ago, my long-term partner took his own life. For a long time, I wondered if I was to blame in some way. Until I came to the realisation that his actions stemmed from his own internal demons. Blaming yourself is in fact selfish and not at all useful. To develop as a person, you must be free of self-loathing. This is part of the mindfulness approach. Perhaps if my partner had embraced mindfulness, he would have seen life differently.’
It’s all a bit too hippy for Kel, but people lap it up. Seb it seems, was one of the first mindfulness facilitators to set up in the UK. Within a few months, he has hundreds more Facebook friends, all appreciating or asking for his guidance:
‘Seb, I read your piece on coping with the death of a loved one and totally identified. So very helpful.’
‘Mindfulness sounds like the fulfilment I am missing in my life. Where can I do a course?’
‘Thank you so much for your personal guidance. I wholly recommend Seb’s mindfulness approach to anyone.’
And so for the next few months, Seb offers his personal guidance and Kel deduces he makes enough money from this to quit his job at Stonewall. His posts are hugely popular, in particular one called ‘Overcoming Bullying’:
‘As I child I was often bullied for being different. My dress sense was quite flamboyant and it was clear early on that I was gay. What I learnt later in life was that it was more difficult for others to come to terms with my sexuality than it was for me. My parents disowned me, friends abandoned me and enemies picked on me. I was called names and physically humiliated on many occasions. For several years, I felt resentment and by mistake entered into destructive relationships. Mindfulness has allowed me to see that bullying is a form of cowardice and ignorance. To come through it shows strength of character. To forgive bullies is liberating. Be free of past evils, cherish the present and be optimistic for the future.’
Not only does this post receive hundreds of likes and comments, but Seb shares praise from a famous TV presenter:
‘After reading Seb’s post on overcoming bullying, I was finally able to leave a destructive past behind. His mindfulness guidance has changed my life.’
With such an endorsement, Seb’s name goes national and he sets his sights on a new goal. As he posts:
‘I am extremely honoured to let you all know that from September, I will be the online mindfulness facilitator for UCASS, a new University that aims to change academia.’
People are happy for Seb:
‘Congrats! I am sure you will inspire a generation of young people.’
Though some feel grief:
‘Does this mean we will no longer have your guidance?’
To which Seb replies:
‘I am always happy to facilitate, but remember that is exactly the word. A guide can only take you so far. Ultimately you must find your own roadmap.’
With Seb’s role at UCASS official, his Facebook friends are now in the thousands. As Kel knows, as soon as you join the Uni, Seb’s friendship is offered. You don’t have to accept but a lot do. Seb is unobtrusive, but if he spots you might need support, he’s there. With Kel he simply asked if she was ok after photos were shared from a drunken student night in town. If she recalls, she basically had her tits out for the camera. She has since deleted the photo she was tagged in, but remembers the embarrassment.
Seb provides weekly mindfulness tips for students, for example how to deal with procrastination:
‘Do you ever feel the need to postpone things? We all do it. Oh, I will do it next week, we say. It might be a chore at home or an essay you need to write. Why do we do this? It is a mechanism to block our fears. If I think about my own procrastinations, I have put off finding love ever since my previous partner died. Why? Because I was scared. Taking a few moments to be mindful, I thought it was time for me to be proactive and procrastinate no longer. Whatever the results, I already feel more relaxed with myself.’
A lot of students really take on board Seb’s tips. As Seb shares on Facebook, UCASS student surveys show that there is high achievement and high levels of satisfaction on campus. He doesn’t directly say this is anything to do with him, but the implication is there.
Kel is a bit more sceptical. UCASS probably has high achievement statistics because it accepts the best calibre students in various fields. You get determined businesswomen like Grace or artists on the verge of international renown like Irina. Ok, you have an occasional drop out like Charlene. But for the most part, UCASS is full of talented individuals. As for satisfaction, don’t students say they’re happy everywhere?
Thinking of being satisfied, Seb’s hint that he will be looking for love is soon made more public in a post about using the internet:
‘Social media, apps and the internet in general are all simply tools. It is important to remember that it is us who control them as humans, not the other way around. On a personal level, I have recently used a mindfulness dating site and found happiness with the marvellous Neel Saidoo. Internet tools should be used to spread love, not hate.’
The first picture of Seb and Neel together shows them with their arms around each other on a bench in a park, surrounded by flowers, the two men smiling for the camera. Kel notes that Neel is considerably younger and very handsome. Seb may not be a famous musician or actor, but being a well-known mindfulness facilitator clearly has an allure. At the start of their relationship, there are lots of personal posts from Seb, including a photo of orange juice with the caption:
‘Freshly squeezed by Neel Saidoo.’
The cynic in Kel wonders how long this lovey dovey stuff will go on for. As it turns out, not forever. In recent months there are less and less such photos. And in the last week, nothing at all. Although that might be accounted for by the deaths of Charlene, Grace and Amy.
In the aftermath of each death, Seb of course praises the women and calls for calm. Getting down to the nitty gritty, Kel’s question is: Could Seb be the killer?
Not unless the whole mindfulness thing is a façade, while underneath Seb wants revenge against the school bullies. But why kill women? Because he’s gay and doesn’t like females? It’s not that Kel thinks like that, she’s just exploring options. It’s much more likely that Seb could be a victim.
He’s extremely popular and has thousands of Facebook friends. With the first three victims being women, Seb would be an anomaly. So far. He also lives off campus, which again doesn’t fit. Though didn’t Seb tell Kel he was thinking of coming? She marks him down as a possible victim.
Kel takes a break from her screen. It would be nice to eat and drink but she can’t face more instant coffee or oatcakes. She sniffs her armpits and decides to have a quick shower. She’s been sitting at her laptop on and off for over five hours.
She showers quickly. Her legs could do with shaving but they can wait for another day. It’s not as if she’s got a man lined up to appreciate them. Feeling refreshed, Kel gets back to work.
Toby is the last person on her list. As a first-year student, he’s only been in UCASS since October. Kel can see he’s had a Facebook account since he was fifteen, four years ago. His posts back then demonstrate his immaturity. There are shared videos of a teacher at the board, unaware that the back of her dress is tucked into her knickers. Toby and his friends pile in with laughing emojis. Kel can picture the sniggering adolescents. There is also a mini rant from Toby:
‘So fucking unfair! Girls in class talk all the time on their phones. I check mine one time and I get it confiscated! Wonder why that is? Maybe because Miss Shitface is a lesbo pervert who likes teenage girls.’
The post gets a mixed response. One girl writes:
‘What’s the matter, are you jealous?’
To which Toby replies:
‘You must be joking.’
Another boy comments:
‘Why don’t you break into school and get it from the confiscation box?’
‘If I get a 100 likes for my post I will…’
He only gets fifteen likes. Just like his age, thinks Kel. She ploughs through a year of similar posts. Through sixth form and in his first year at Uni, Toby is not so immature. He’s also pretty passive. He likes and shares far more than he actually posts or comments. Most of his activity is related to gaming and Kel can see he belongs to a group called ‘Gamers4life.’
Kel has always felt she has better things to do than play games. In her mind, games are for kids. She knows though that games like Grand Theft Auto are 18+ and aimed at adults. Her former boyfriend who was thirty years old used to play it. When she questioned if he wasn’t tool old, he replied that the average age of gamers was 35.
The gaming group has a lot of chat that Kel doesn’t grasp. She clicks a link that takes her to an online forum. Again, some of the conversation goes over Kel’s head as it refers to specific tactics for particular games. One gamer, MeanMachine, is on non-stop. Thinking she’s seen the moniker somewhere, Kel goes back to Toby’s timeline. She finds it in a conversation Toby has with a classmate:
‘The new WOT is so cool.’
‘Sure is mean machine.’
A wink shows the internal joke. Toby is MeanMachine, as a select few know. And as Kel works out, WOT refers to World of Tanks. Switching back to the gaming forum, Kel reads through dialogue between Toby AKA MeanMachine and Killshot:
‘Graphics on GTA6 are epic.’
‘Like you’re there.’
‘Like you’re really taking people down.’
‘And really banging hookers.’
‘Seen the one with red hair?’
‘I did her yesterday.’
‘How was it?’
Kel doesn’t know if she should laugh or not. These guys are talking about a female character in a game as if she’s an actual woman. Treating her like a piece of meat rather than a woman of course. What a couple of nerds. Toby’s probably never had a girlfriend his whole life.
What’s interesting is that Toby’s gaming persona is quite different from how he presents himself on Facebook. With a new ID, he’s much more outgoing and active. Does this mean he could have a split personality? Not necessarily. All gamers are probably the same. It’s the anonymity of a fake name which allows them to escape their shyness in reality.
The gaming forum doesn’t reveal much to Kel. Ok, Toby is into his games. He knows hacks for Black Ops and his character in Grand Theft Auto has fucked a prostitute. Go Toby.
Kel returns to Toby’s Facebook timeline. There is the occasional comment that hints at misogyny, but he’s nearly always slapped down, including by Amy, Sarah and Irina. The stuff he shares borders on the objectionable, weather women whose breasts pop out on TV etc, but Kel isn’t as offended as other women.
She notices that someone on Tumblr seems to really tickle Toby because he often posts a link to the person:
‘Check out Iguy on Tumblr. So funny…’
The attached photo is of a plucked chicken with the caption ‘if you don’t give me a 100 likes, I’ll pluck my eyebrows.’ Kel guesses it is satire. Yes, women youtubers who make a living talking about how to get perfect eyebrows deserve to be laughed at. But it’s noticeable that all Toby’s pisstaking is aimed at women. What about all the guys with their gym selfies? People like Mike. Kel doesn’t see Toby having the balls to make fun of Mike and his mates.
With Iguy mentioned quite a few times, Kel clicks up Tumblr to look him up. The first post she sees has the same theme as the one Toby shared:
‘If I get a million likes I will kill myself. If I get a million and 1, I’ll take a selfie afterwards.’
Kel gets the joke. It’s mildly amusing once. Not so funny by the tenth time. Then she sees something which gets her attention:
‘There’s a girl at Uni who is Trout Pout Queen. If only she would impale herself on her selfie stick.’
Kel makes a connection. Toby sent Amy a photo of a trout in response to a selfie. Kel realises that Toby is Iguy and Trout Pout Queen is Amy. Toby is sharing a link to his own alter ego. With his gaming persona, that means he has three. Checking Iguy’s Tumblr history, she finds reference to other women at UCASS:
‘Art? Porn more like. And not very good at that. She doesn’t even give head.’
The accompanying video clip is from Irina’s MA final project. Toby wasn’t at UCASS when Irina completed her MA, so he has obviously dug up the video. It’s not only Irina and Amy who are on Toby’s radar. So is Charlene. A copied photo of her drunk and stumbling out of a nightclub wearing very little has the caption:
‘Dress like a whore, don’t be surprised if you get raped.’
Two out of three dead women have been dissed by Toby on Tumblr. As has Irina. That’s a lot of fucking connections, thinks Kel. The post about Charlene jogs a memory. When Kel went to the canal, someone said ‘she was probably raped.’ Kel hadn’t taken on board that it was Toby who said it. Until now, she’s never thought what he looked like. Now she pictures his wiry frame, pale face and glasses. Toby was there. An image flashes through her mind. Was he also there at Campus Café the morning Grace was found dead?
A couple of customers were there before they drifted off. Kel gets on her phone to Caitlin. Without replying to Caitlin’s ‘hi’, Kel asks:
‘You remember when we found Grace there were a couple of customers hanging around?’
‘Was one of them Toby? Thin, nerdy guy with glasses?’
‘Uh, might have been, why?’
‘Think Caitlin, it’s important!’
‘Ok, ok… yes, I think he was there. I can’t say 100%, but I’m pretty sure.’
Kel thinks how murderers sometimes return to the scene of the killing. Toby was a bystander twice. On the phone, Caitlin says:
‘So what’s this all about? I thought you were doing research?’
‘I was. Research into who killed Charlene, Grace and Amy. I think the killer is Toby.’
10th November 2019