“Take a seat Clement.” I say.
“Clement Fairweather, unusual name?”
“Unusual name, unusual guy. Made it up myself. Clement after the president, Fairweather after the garden centre. Why would anyone allow someone else to choose something as important as their name?”
“Do you mind if I record the session?” I say.
“Why would you want to do that?”
“I need to record three sessions towards my qualification.”
With that his eyes ping wide in delight and a smile spreads across his face like the crease between two rolls of belly fat.
“Yes.” I say.
“Don’t record us.”
“Because it will be boring. Doctor?”
“Marsh, Adam Marsh.”
“It will be boring, Doctor Adam Marsh. It goes like this: How are you? I’m well. Are you taking your meds? Yes, I’m taking my meds. How are your relationships? They’re good. Is anything troubling you? No, not at all. No voices? No Doctor, no voices. What a waste, I'm a proper fucked up nut job.”
“We don’t use language like that.” I say.
“Sorry Doctor, I didn’t mean to swear.”
“I meant ‘nut job’, you have a diagnosis, you’re ill that’s all.” “Pfft. Don’t worry about me, I’m no snowflake, I’m comfortable being a crazy.”
“Well, you aren’t ‘a crazy’ with me, you’re a person Clement. Shall I record?”
“If you do, I can’t tell you about the murders.”
“The daisy deaths. It was me, you know.”
And I don’t know what to say to that. He senses my hesitation.
“Oh Doctor, you’re one of them aren’t you?”
“One of what?” I’m off guard. “The type of shrink that became a shrink because they want to know what’s going on in their own head. That’s you, isn’t it? You could be on this side of the table. Do you have a diagnosis? One brief mention of murder and your antennae go up. Is there a little bit of evil in there?”
He points a finger at the centre of my forehead, invading my space to the extent that I almost swat it away, but I stop myself. I need to control the conversation.
“I think I’ll record.” I say.
“Quite right.' He says. "We’ve had our fun.”
“February third, routine check in with Clement Fairweather. How are you?”
“Are you taking your meds…?”
I let him leave first. Fuck. I handled that badly. Or he handled me well. I go straight to my phone and look up The daisy deaths. They are a thing. Two nineties murders with ritual elements. No one was convicted, although a suspect, a Mr Brown, was questioned.
Over the next weeks, I think about Clement Fairweather a lot. I’m busy pushing the probation forward. Much of it is dull, formulaic. How are you? I’m well. Are you taking your meds? Yes, I’m taking my meds. How are your relationships? They’re good. Is anything troubling you? No, not at all. Clement, with his mention of murder, is the high spot. When his next monthly check in comes up, I anticipate the conversation with excitement. I choose not to record and come ready to spar.
“Morning Clement.” I say.
“Good morning Doctor Marsh.”
“I was thinking about your name. Don’t the forename and surname mean exactly the same thing?” I say, extending a conversational jab.
“That’s what happens in amateur appellation. Complete fuck up. No recording today Doctor Marsh?”
“No recording.” I say.
“You want to talk about the murders, don’t you? You want to unpick the psychology of a killer, see if there are any markers you match up to. Do you want to hear what it’s like to kill someone?” As he speaks his wide eyed, belly fat smile spreads across his face, he knows he is right.
“But it wasn’t you. They arrested no one for the murders. There was one suspect…”
“But they released him, yeah, yeah, yeah.” His voice is suddenly on the edge of aggression. “No recognition whatsoever.”
“Did you want to be famous?”
“Don’t be ridiculous Doctor, fame is for the monkeys. I don’t want any of that. Quiet recognition for my work will do...”
“But it wasn’t you.”
Suddenly he is round the table, hand going into his pocket. I flinch away but he gathers me with a long arm round my shoulders. I try to drop and twist as I’ve been taught, but his grip is formidable.
“So panicky Doctor. Almost as if you believe I’m dangerous. Smile!”
He whips out his phone, takes a picture of the pair of us, then returns to his seat and fiddles.
“There.” He says. “I’ve airdropped it. All you have to do is find the copper that arrested the suspect and show him. He’s named in the paper you read online.”
“Ask him if he knows me. Tell him you’re a shrink and that I’m claiming to be the Daisy Murderer. When he says it wasn’t me, just say, ‘He knows details its impossible for a member of the public to know.’”
“Like all of it.”
I hear a high eagerness in my voice that I should have flattened out.
“Doctor Marsh! You’re excited. I’ve got your evil curiosity going, haven’t I? Listen to your breathing.”
He pauses with a long finger pointed upwards, his ear inclined towards me.
“How beautiful those quick breaths are. Here are four things that no one but the investigating officers knew. On each of her bare feet, I drew an inverted cross with a sharpie. I exposed her left breast to the cold air, and I strangled her with a black leather belt.”
I hear his lingering emphasis on the words ‘bare’, ‘breast’, ‘strangled’ and ‘leather.’ He knows which buttons to press. I feel my breath.
“You said four.” I say, keeping my voice steady.
“Good counting. The fourth is that I placed on her still warm tongue a small square of text from the King James bible.”
“One that read, ‘Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.’”
“Why were they known as the daisy deaths?”
“I crowned the victims with a daisy chain. But that detail was released to the press, everyone knew it.”
D.S. Elliot lives in a tidy bungalow on a quiet estate. The perfect symmetry of the small front garden is unsettling. I take the grey slab path that bisects the garden and rap on the door.
“Yes, D.S. thanks for taking time to see me.”
“It’s Mr Elliot now. I’m long retired. Come in.”
He walks in front of me. I guess he’s seventy. A large physical presence despite his age.
“Tea.” He says.
“No, thank you.” I say. “I won’t take much of your time.”
I take out the phone and show him the picture.
“Do you know this man?”
His reaction is transparent. There is an instant dislike in his eyes.
“I know the face.” He says.
“He claims he’s the perpetrator of the daisy deaths.”
“Does he? We didn’t lock anyone up for those.”
“He says he knows details no one but the killer and the investigating officers would know.”
“For example, there was a square of text placed on the tongue of the victim that said, ‘Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.’ I’ve checked, that was never in the public domain.”
I watch his eyes as I speak. They hold my gaze, unblinking. He is controlling his reaction.
“Bruno Brown is a crackpot, ignore him. He has a fixation on these murders and with me. We pulled him in, but we let him go. He didn’t do it.”
“Yes, the guy on your phone.”
“I don’t know him as Bruno Brown. He was the suspect?”
“He didn’t tell you?”
A harsh little smile tugs at the corners of his mouth.
On my way to Clement Fairweather’s April check in, I notice the sinister daisies blooming. Clement arrives on time, the edge of hypomania evident in his wide eyes from the off.
“Good morning Doctor.”
“Good morning Clement, or should I say Bruno?” I say, trying to take the upper hand.
“You went!’ He clasps his large hands together in delight.”
“Yes, he said you didn’t do it.”
“Of course he did, but he didn’t deny I know things, did he?”
“And last time you told me you wrote on the victims’ feet with a sharpie, we didn’t have sharpies in the 1990s.” I say, flat voiced.
“Oh, Doctor Marsh, you need to get comfortable with anachronism.”
“He also said you’re obsessed with the case and with him.”
“I am a bit. He fucked my mother.” He says, spitting the words out.
“I’m sorry.” I say, meaning, ‘say again’.
“Oh, don’t be sorry.” Says Clement, intentionally taking the wrong meaning. “Lots of people fucked my mother. She was a whore.”
I didn’t expect this. Freudian mother issues. It’s a left turn from his pseudo sociopathy.
“Don’t get excited, Doctor, she was an actual whore. A prostitute, hooker, lady of the night, practitioner of the oldest profession.”
“I get the picture Clement. And what did this have to do with D.S Elliot?”
“He came round for freebies in exchange for not locking her up. I found out one evening when I walked in the back door to find her bent over the kitchen table, long white breasts swinging, and that brute Elliot, behind her with his trousers down.”
“Well, I am sorry about that.”
“Me too. Did you find out anything about the victims?” “No Clement I didn’t.”
“But you want to know, don’t you?”
I do. I absolutely want to know about the victims. And I realise in that thought I confirm that I think he’s guilty, but I say nothing, instead waiting for his next gambit. He walks round the table towards me and crouches so that his mouth is close to my ear. Remembering how I reacted to him taking the selfie of us, I remain calm.
“I know you do. You want to know who they were and why they were chosen.” The heat of his breath plays against my neck. “And you still want to know what it feels like, don’t you? The first struggle, taking control, then that moment when her life leaves her and she falls limp. Oh, it’s magical, Dr Marsh. Then the fun after. The drawing, exposing the breast, the coronation, that delicate positioning of thin bible paper on pink tongue. Imagine that.”
He is almost whispering by the time he finishes and I am picturing what he says. My breathing has become shallow. I don’t realise one of his big hands has worked its way up my thigh and is rubbing my crotch. When I do I jump from my seat.
“Jesus Christ Clement!” I say, but he smiles.
“Who’s a naughty boy?” He says, looking at the bulge in my trousers.
I research the victims. The women differ greatly from each other. Clement is unlikely to talk sense, and I don’t want to face him unless I have to. The erection and its subsequent incarnations are undeniable. I turn to D.S. Elliot. When he agrees to see me, I’m surprised at the relief I feel.
“What can I do for you, Doctor Marsh."
“I did some digging into the victims, Anna Chiles and Barbara Edwards. I wondered if you had any thoughts. They seemed very different?”
“They were. The first was a design student at the poly. Young, fair, really quite beautiful, even as a corpse. And the other was an old whore.”
“Doesn’t seem to make sense?”
“No, I’d have placed any money on the next victim being a similar type.”
“Why did they release Clement, I mean Bruno?”
“He didn’t tell you?”
I shake my head, realising I should have asked.
“We were sure we had him banged to rights, but the second murder happened while he was in custody. It had exactly the same modus operandi, right down to the Song of Solomon quote. As you say, none of that detail was public knowledge and there is no better alibi than being banged up, so we had to let him go. You know who Barbara Edwards was?”
Again, I shake my head.
“Teddy Edwards’ mother?” He says.
“Teddy Edwards?” I say. And then it clicks. “Bruno Brown, Clement Fairweather. His mum?”
“You got there in the end, Doctor. Serial name changer.”
“Clement Fairweather, May check in.” I say placing my phone on the table.
“We’re recording again.” He says, disappointed.
“That’s right, you’ve been playing me. We need to get back on track.”
“But you love it, your cock was very firm, Doctor.”
“You didn’t tell me you were released from custody because the killer murdered your mother.”
“She loved me.” He says.
“I’m not interested in your mommy issues.” I say, lying.
“She loved me, Doctor Marsh. When I was arrested, she went to Elliot and told him to release me. When he refused, she threatened to spill the beans on their extracurricular screwing. Not only that, she threatened to share pillow talk secrets with his superiors. Brown envelopes of cash. So you know what he did?”
“What did he do?”
“He killed her with a leather belt, bared her left breast, removed her shoes, drew inverted crosses on her feet with a sharpie, crowned her with daisies, and left the Song of Solomon on her tongue.” He says, without relish.
“Shit, he killed your mother?” I’m incredulous but immediately know it’s true. “Isn’t that obvious, wouldn’t he be a suspect?”
“Doesn’t matter if you’re the lead investigating officer. He was hardly going to slap his own mugshot on the wall.”
“How do you know she threatened him? You were locked up?”
“He told me all about it before he released me. Said he loved it. The entire enterprise got him hard, just like it did me and you. I bet you’ve been hard since, haven’t you? Only able to get rid of it by choking the snake until it spews?”
Those eyes! They blaze into my dirty soul, and I can’t lie to him. It takes one to know one.
“I haven't killed anyone.” I say.
“As I left the police station, Elliot told me we were in it together and to keep my mouth shut or we'd both be fucked.”
“Jesus.” I say.
“That’s right, we’re each other’s alibis, bound in silence forever.”
I delete the recording. My probation doesn’t need this. I don’t need this.
“Clement Fairweather, June check in.”
“Fuck the recording Doctor Marsh!” Clement says, his eyes popping like ping-pong balls and his fat smile cracking open to reveal a pumpkin-like row of uneven teeth. “Give me a hug.”
I let him hug me and return his affection with a weak hug of my own. He takes my hand and guides it to his crotch.
“Hard as diamond, Doctor Marsh, the thought of you doing taking on the mantle after all these years. Quite wonderful!” He says. “Brilliant! An affirmation for an old crackpot. Tell Clement all about it. Have you spoken to Elliot? He’ll be shitting bricks!”
He pulls the newspaper from his bag. Its headline reads, ‘Daisy Deaths Killer Strikes Again.”