Chapter 1 : Every Day I Write The Book
I don't know when I realised it was him...
I've been studying Creative Writing for about a year now. It's been a bit of a challenge, let me tell you. Before I started I'd written quite a bit for work - business reports, stuff like that – but of course there is a whole different set of challenges once you try to tell a story.
I think my tutor has been losing patience with me. I've found some of the exercises quite difficult and some of his comments haven't been exactly helpful. "Polish up the English or English up the Polish as the case may be," was one of them. He likes puns.
Two weeks ago he gave me another project. "You have terrible problems in writing believable characters," he said.
"Oh, don't pussy-foot around," I thought, "come right out and say it."
"If I said they are two dimensional I'd be suggesting that they possess a level of reality beyond anything that I could seriously defend. I find it easier to understand the motivation and feelings of the green man on the road crossing lights than anyone in this piece." He tossed the fruits of several long evening's efforts back at me. I probably looked less than happy at his criticism. "Look, Stuart," he said, "let me suggest a different approach."
I was pretty hacked off at this point. "Like what?" I said.
"Your problem is observation. You don't study people, so you can't write about what moves them. You don't listen to them speak, so you can't write dialogue. If you want to get better at writing, first you have to get better at watching and listening."
For the first time, something he said made some sense.
"Try something for me. Choose someone you know. Write their diary. As if they were writing it. Watch what they do. Listen to what they say. Don't make anything up. Just record it. Describe what's going on around them if you need to but let their actions and words speak for themselves. Do it for a month. Then come back and we'll talk about it. If you really try to write their life as it is then maybe you'll find you can write their life as it might be. Then you'll have a story."
So I agreed to give it a try. I looked around for a subject and I chose Ray.
I live in this house with a group of other students and twenty-going-on-thirty somethings. I've got a bed sit up in the second floor front, we all share a kitchen and there's this big lounge where you can collapse with a beer if you feel the need for company. Nobody stays here long. The students come and go each year. The rest of us seem to move out after about eighteen months as job or girlfriends call. Except me, Stuart Pollock. I've been here five years now.
I'm not sure why I chose Ray. Maybe I thought it would be easy to write about him because he's around the house quite a lot. I didn't really know anything about him at all, even though I met him a year ago and we both lived within twenty feet of one another. I guess that's just another example of what my tutor thinks is my problem.
The question is would I have chosen Ray if I knew then what I know now? Or even suspected?
I spent quite a while just watching him. Working out how to describe him; his build, his clothes; the way he smirks sometimes; the way he starts if he doesn't hear you coming. What does he look like? Slim, a bit taller than me, I guess around five eleven. Around thirty, thirty two I guess; a bit older than most of us. He's quite dark; dark eyes, dark complexion, short dark hair. It's odd; he manages to look quite foreign and very English at the same time.
Anyway, that was how I started. It was good practice, just like my tutor said. I filled three or four pages with little quirky things about how he moved, how he sat, stuff like that. The details don't matter for this story – that's a bit of a paradox isn't it – but I really felt I was getting to grips with his character and his behaviour around the house.
That was the start of the trouble – around the house. Actually that was the only place I'd ever seen Ray. I didn't know what he did for a job. He didn't seem to have a social life; never joined the rest of us at the pub. He didn't often stay long in the living room. He spent a lot of time in his own room.
I found it fascinating. Why was he like that? What did he do? Where did he go when he went out?
That was easy enough to answer. A few times I followed him. He didn't seem to go anywhere much. Just walking around. I'd be looking at him and he'd be looking at the streets. He seemed to be as much of a watcher as I was. It's just that, as it turned out, we were watching out for different things.
Chapter 2 : I Read the News Today
There had been reports in the local paper and on local TV and radio. I hadn't really taken much notice until the girlfriend of one of my flat mates – Dee she was called - said, "Isn't it terrible?"
She explained about this masked attacker,.,. how he was breaking into houses, always students, always girls. He didn't steal anything. He didn't rape the women. Didn't do anything sexual as far as anyone could tell. He wasn't even particularly violent. He just tied the women up and left them helpless.
She said the police were hopeless - they hadn't been able to do anything to stop him – and all they could do was to appeal for witnesses and advise young women to be particularly vigilant, ensure their doors and windows were locked and bolted and so on. She said it was disgusting. He was obviously a pervert. Who could do something like that? He must be crazy. And somebody must be shielding him. Someone must know who it is and what they are doing.
We'd all sat around in the living room listening to her sounding off about how she didn't understand how any girl could let a man do that to them. She'd sat on the floor, arms and legs folded, nodding her head as she made her points emphatically in a high pitched voice. It was funny really; this slight, slim girl in her jeans and her tee shirt, almost childlike in her anger, bewailing the irredeemable nature of men but sounding like someone had just stolen her ice cream.
A week later – about the middle of March - we'd heard she'd been a victim.
We read about it in the paper. She'd been studying at home, working on her computer, listening to music on her iPod when he'd attacked her. Of course she wouldn't have heard him, she'd have had the volume right up. She might have caught a glimpse of him reflected in the screen of her laptop before he struck but perhaps not. It must have been a terrible shock for her. A gloved hand clamped over her mouth, being pulled backwards and pushed to the floor. And then what?
Well, the papers were suitably vague. Don't want to give away anything the police might use in their investigations, someone in the house said. You could guess, though from other reports. It wasn't hard to imagine him wrapping ropes around her wrists, pulling a cloth across her mouth. Winding more ropes around her body, tying her arms to her sides, pulling the ropes tightly across those pert little tits.
Well, of course, it just seemed like a horrible coincidence when we heard about it. Until I realised that the expression in Ray's eyes had seemed rather cold and detached as everyone was saying what a terrible thing it was.
I suppose that was when I started suspecting. And when I should have said something. Especially when I realised that I'd been following him on the night it had happened. And I'd walked right past her house.
Chapter 3 : Suspicious Minds
I didn't say anything right away. I suppose it was pretty selfish of me. Mostly I thought that if I said anything then I'd have to start my project all over again and I didn't fancy that. A little bit of me thought that it might make the project even more interesting. I suppose that it was that thought that won out in the end. And anyway I might have been wrong. It all might have been a big coincidence.
I was intrigued though and I wondered if I could find out more. That's one of the consequences of being told to watch people and think about what makes them tick. It sucks you in.
Actually it wasn't difficult to find out more. I waited until Ray was out one lunchtime. The house was quiet. Pretty much everyone else was out too. The door to his room wasn't locked; none of us bothered with that. Ray had left his laptop on the table in his room. A rucksack was pushed under the bed. I pulled it out.
And that was when I knew I was right.
The evidence was pretty incontrovertible. Hanks of rope, rolls of tape, some stips of thick black cloth. Even one of those ball things threaded on a strap that's supposed to be used as a gag. There was some other stuff in there too, thin latex gloves, a ski mask, and a knife; a very big knife. It wasn't hard to see how his victims would react confronted with that. The blade shone mirror-like, its chromed surface reflecting my face as I looked at it. The handle was heavy in my hand. It felt as though you would only have to lean the point of the blade on flesh and then let go to have the knife slice into flesh. It was frightening me and I was holding it. I put it back quickly into its sheath. There was other stuff too, in the pockets of the bag. A small camera and a packet of condoms that hadn't been opened.
Then there was his computer. He really hadn't been careful with that. The history log of his browser was pretty incriminating. Site after site that featured girls tied up and gagged. I mean, I know there's a lot of porn on the Internet but I hadn't realised how specialised this stuff could be. Secretaries in bondage, tied cheer leaders, uniform bondage ... all sorts. It was pretty obvious where his interests lay. None of the girls were naked though, I noticed. Odd that. I mean you'd have thought – well, I'd have thought – that it was some sort of sex thing and he'd want them naked, but no. And it wasn't really porn, either. Nothing that I'd call sex on show, anyway.
If there had been any doubt about Ray, the contents of his images folder blew those away. There were a series of folders with names like "Rebecca 12 Feb", "Angie 07 March" and so on. And of course there was "Dee 15 March".
There were two lots of pictures. Some he'd taken on the street a few following behind her, one reflected in a shop window, another obviously snatched from waist level as he'd walked past her in a coffee shop. There was even one he'd taken when she was in the house that time. I certainly hadn't noticed him taking it. Presumably she hadn't either.
Then there were the others; the ones taken during what I'll call his "visit". She'd been wearing the same jeans she'd had on in our house together with a pale yellow tee shirt and a dark brown shirt worn loose over it. All the shots of her were after he had tied up, gagged and blindfolded her – that was what the strips of black cloth were for – but they were shot from different angles as she lay on the floor. He had turned her over so that he'd taken pictures from the front – I'd been surprisingly good about guessing how he would have tied her with the ropes criss-crossing her chest – and the back. There were some close-up shots of the tape spread across her lips, the way the rope cut into the flesh of her wrists and the way it creased the denim of her jeans where he'd tied her ankles. Together they painted a picture of Ray as someone who was really fascinated by the details. He wouldn't have had the problems I had with my writing.
I put everything back as it had been. I mean her would obviously be upset if he thought I was poking around with his things. Even so it was obvious that Ray that was responsible. He'd certainly got all the tools he needed in his rucksack and the pictures just confirmed it.
Chapter 4 : Street Life
Well, I thought it would be all right, you see. I mean all the accounts in the papers said that he tied his victims up and then left them blindfolded. Even so, I thought I ought to wear a mask. I'm not stupid you know and, well he might change his mind or what the police call his "modus operandi" mightn't he?
So this time when I followed him I waited until after he left. He was in the house for about fifteen minutes I guess. I watched him leave, the back pack over his shoulder. He'd obviously got in through a back window or something so I went around behind the house. Everything was dark. It was a bit spooky really. The back door was ajar. He must have come out that way. Well it was easier for me than climbing in. I put my mask on and my gloves and went in. It led into the kitchen. It was all dark but it wasn't completely quiet. There was this sort of squeaking noise coming from one of the rooms upstairs. I guessed that it must have been whoever he'd attacked. I really had to see. I tried to go up the stairs quietly but I think she must have heard me because the squeaking suddenly stopped. It wasn't a problem because I'd worked out where it was coming from by then so I just went on as quietly as I could.
I looked around the edge of the door and there she was. It was OK because he had tied her up like all the newspapers said he did and she was gagged which was why she was just kind of squeaking, and she had a blindfold on so she couldn't see me. Ray had really made a bit of a mess because there were things all over the floor, drawers turned upside down, a real mess. But he'd made a really neat job of tying the girl up which was sort of odd really. She was sitting on a chair and he'd tied her hands behind her so they were behind the back of the chair too. He had tied her quite tightly because even though she'd been struggling she didn't seem to have loosened off the ropes at all. And there was quite a lot of rope. Around her waist and across her lap and around her knees and her ankles. He'd tied them together and then pulled them back against the rail that ran between the two front legs of the chair so she couldn't swing her feet about at all. He'd really done a very thorough job. I couldn't get much idea of what the girl looked like, what with the blindfold over her eyes and the gag across her mouth but she had quite an attractive figure it seemed to me, though I guess that rope pulling her waist in and her arms pulled back like that made her breasts look bigger than they would have otherwise.
I didn't think I should stay though. I didn't want to frighten her any more than she was already. That didn't seem fair. So I backed away from the door and left her. She must have heard me coming up the stairs because when I got to the back door I could hear her squeaking again. It's funny, you would have thought that the gag would keep her quieter than that. Still, I don't really know about this sort of thing, so perhaps it's not surprising at all. I guess that's the sort of observation stuff my tutor was talking about.
Why didn't I tell the police then? Well, it probably would have been sensible, but I was intrigued I suppose and I really didn't want to start researching someone else. Or maybe you don't think that is much of an excuse...
Chapter 5 : Hot Legs
It was the second time I'd followed him.
I was quite interested to see what he had done with her gag this time. I think there must a risk when you push cloth into the girl's mouth that she will choke on it somehow. Obviously the same thing has occurred to Ray because I saw that this time he'd tied a cloth between her lips first and then pushed the wadding into her mouth on top of that. The cloth looked like a strip of sheet or something but then as she was struggling around I saw he'd actually torn it from her shirt. Any way with the cloth tied like that she couldn't swallow the wadding so he'd pushed quite a lot in and then put tape across on top of it. Her cheeks were really bulging from the packing. But it was obviously working a lot better than Ray's previous efforts and it's safer for the girl too, so I guess that's good. The only thing is it doesn't really look as neat because you've got the cloth under the tape and the packing really bulges out. Well, I guess that's not so important really and it's good that Ray is obviously thinking about how he does things, developing ideas, coming up with new ways. That's good.
There was something else different I noticed this time too. There wasn't as much mess around the place. With the other girl, he had really turned the place over; drawers emptied out, clothes pulled off hangars. And the girls in the paper had all said he'd stolen lots of stuff, jewellery, things like that. But this time there was none of that. Just the girl. On the bed. Tied up. Gagged. Blindfolded. Oh, yeah. And her skirt was up around her waist.
This was a new development.
It was only after I got back I started thinking about something my creative writing tutor had said. "Remember," he'd said, "it's not enough for your audience to know what your characters do, they have to know why they do it and they have to believe why they do it too. Motivation is the driving force that explains how characters respond to circumstance." I realised then that I had absolutely no explanation for Ray's behaviour.
I mean, I suppose he's got some sort of mental disorder. I mean he's obsessive about neatness in the way he ties the girls up, although that could just be careful craftsmanship or the safest way to see that they don't escape. Hang on, this man goes around tying girls up and photographing them, do we need any more evidence of mental disorder?
On the other hand he's quite rational. He doesn't engage much with us when we're talking in the house but if he does it's always with a well thought out point of view. If you asked me what I thought his politics were I'd have said he's left of centre. He's a libertarian, which is odd in someone that seems to take great pleasure from restricting liberty.
Certainly he's not very sociable though. He doesn't spend much time with the rest of us. Thinking back, I haven't seen him around the house for a couple of days.