Write about now

July 12, 2017

Flash Fiction Challenge – There is no exit

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Eva Therese @ 5:56 pm

Once again, thank you to the great bearded sage for this weeks writing promt “There is no exit”.

The press called him the “I. Q. Killer”. We hadn’t had a serial killer in over two decades at the time and they were having a field day when he was finally caught and the whole thing unravelled.
How was he caught, you might ask? Oldfashioned policework. No epiphanies, no miracles, no nothing, just canvassing and piecing together all the small details that the witnesses gave us. A vague description of a suspicious character here, two letters from a license plate there. But I can see your eyes glazing over, so let me get back to what I’m sure you consider the interesting parts, even if you’re too polite to admit it.
Hawthorne was his name and he was a failed student, failed worker, failed everything, with an axe to grind. He was, by all accounts, pretty smart, but there are lots of almost as smart people out there, who can be bothered to show up to work on time and are actually nice to the people around them, so he kept getting kicked out of everything.
Finally, he snapped. He considered himself some kind of underappreciated genius, kept down by the mediocrity of everyone around him. They couldn’t handle him, they were scared of him, yadda yadda yadda.
So he started kidnapping people. Former teachers and bosses, but also people who he felt had disrespected or belittled him in some way and believe me, he had a very long memory for slights, real and imagined. That’s what made it so hard to find him in the beginning; we didn’t know what the pattern was. Oh, I’m sorry, did I accidentally stray into actual police work again? Forgive me.
Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. He kidnapped these people and brought them to an abandoned house with a soundproof basement. He then told them that the door was locked with a special kind of combination lock. It would display a mathematical puzzle and if they got the answer right, they were free to leave. Get it wrong and the lock would go dark for 12 hours before showing a new puzzle.
These were complex puzzles, but not impossible to solve. Pen and paper would have helped. The scratch marks we found on the floor showed that some of the captives tried using their fingernails to write the calculations. Every single one of them died of dehydration, except the last one, Henry Crow, who was rescued in the nick of time. He’s the reason we know all the details.
He’s a broken man today; last I heard, he had turned to drink as they say. Hawthorne broke him like he probably broke all the others before they died. You see, Hawthorne didn’t just want them dead, he wanted them humiliated. So the combination lock? It was programmed to always go dark for 12 hours, no matter what was punched in. So the prisoners, like Henry Crow, all thought that they were doing something wrong. That they had miscalculated the answer or maybe made an error when typing it in. They all died an agonising death, all the while thinking that they had failed, that they weren’t smart enough.
As for Hawthorn himself, he killed himself when it was clear that he couldn’t evade capture. Jumped off a bridge. Wonder if he felt as much as a failure right before he died. Maybe he always felt that way and just wanted to spread it around. Who knows?


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