He didn’t smile as he inserted the knife, but he felt the satisfaction within him. With only slight pressure, the fine blade slid remarkably easily into her chest. The sun was shining and the sky quite, quite blue, just the way he loved it for a moment like this; colour mattered. The grasses on the dyke bank softly sighed their green tune and swallows looped and flickered with azure ease down over the water to drink, unconcerned about the scene being played out just above and alongside their surface glide. The savage bruise to her face was turned to the ground and she seemed almost asleep, were it not for the now irregular breathing and the gurgle in her throat. It was kindness itself to ease her out of this life whilst she lay unconscious, the violence of an hour ago lost to her. He cradled her head as she moved on, stroking her hair with the tenderness of the lover he wasn’t.
A moment of stillness hung over the fen, as of a breath held for fear of disturbing a sleeping giant. Then, as he pushed his boot hard against the bank to raise himself and turned his head to check the horizon for human interference, a frog leaped into the dyke and a wren skittered away from a waterside reed thicket. The moment and he were done.
He slid her into the water, rinsed his hands and the knife and walked away without looking back, along the bank to the rough hardcore track where the stolen van stood in the space between rough elders and hawthorns. Glancing frequently towards the distant road, he pulled the bike from the vehicle, stripped off his every garment and threw all into the back before dressing again in the mountain biker gear he’d brought with him. A sprinkle of petrol, a tossed match and he was off on the bike, on his way up the track away from the road with just the knife, wrapped in plastic, in his Camelbak. From a distance, the smoke looked like the work of a farmer.
Twelve miles away, he dropped the knife from a bridge into the waters of the Welland and tossed the plastic wrapping after it. Then he rode home, where he hosed off the bike and his shoes with the meticulous care he always applied after a cross-country jaunt and went inside to complete the cleansing process. In the bathroom, he stared carefully at the image in the mirror, gazing with calm confidence into the eyes which had now avidly watched the utter horror of three randomly-chosen women.
Away in the fen, the woman’s body had floated face down to the centre of the dyke. It would be four days before a field hand in a tractor would glance down and then stare intently at a shape which could not be misinterpreted.