Massacre of the Innocents

Morag and  Annie are called in to solve a series of  terrifying murders, in the port of Druard. Both are horrified by these crimes, since the victims are all very young children or frail old people, but who is the sadistic killer, and why is he targeting such young innocent children and harmless old men and women? Morag decides to enlist the help of her profiler, Alex, to help in the investigation. But the truth is even more bizarre and terrifying than they had realised.


The old man looked up. ‘Hallo, my dear, Have you come to escort an old man home? His head was suddenly jerked back, and the sharp blade sliced across his throat. He tried to scream for help but no words would come. Instead, a thick gout of blood erupted from his throat. He sank down onto the ground, his life-blood pouring from his severed neck. The last thing he heard was a low chuckle, before his eyes closed for the last time. The chess-pieces that he was carrying in a box under his arm, spilled out and rolled on the ground around his body.


The messenger came in, tired and still streaked with the dust and dirt of travel. He looked nervously around then asked ‘Is the Lady Morag here? I have an urgent message for her’.

‘I’m here. I’m Morag’. She said, wondering what the message was. The messenger, a tall, dark young man, took out a rolled up scroll from his bag and proffered it to her. ‘It is for your eyes only, lady’. He said, simply. Morag took it from him. ‘Thank you’. She said to the messenger. ‘I’ll ask Gloriana to arrange food and accommodation for you’. ‘It is already arranged, lady. But thank you, just the same’. Morag wondered if Gloriana already knew what was in the message.

She beckoned Demos over to her, then they both left the party that Gloriana had organised on the fields outside the palace for the actors. They went inside the palace and sat on a nearby bench to read the message. It ran:

Dear Morag,

Please return at once! I have neither the skills or the resources to deal with this despicable case. Early last night, two faery children were murdered and an elderly merchant. All of them had their throats cut from behind, but none of the victims are linked in any way. But the weapon was the same in every case. Atalanta, who examined the corpses, confirmed this. It was a long steel poniard knife that killed all three victims, the same weapon in each case. But there is no method, no motive in these killings! I cannot understand it. Please return soon. I cannot cope with this.

Your loving friend. 


Morag was shocked at the message. ‘Poor Amelia’. She said. ‘She’s totally out of her depth with this case’.

Well, that’s why you’ll need more help’. Annie said unexpectedly, by her side.

‘What do you mean, Annie?’ Morag asked.

‘I mean that Helios and I are travelling back to Druard with you’. Annie explained. ‘Gloriana has asked me to give you a hand, that’s if you don’t mind, of course. She wants this case to be solved as soon as possible, before people start to panic. It’s obviously a sensitive case, as far as the faerys are concerned. So she thought another pair of hands might be useful to you. But you’ll still be in overall charge’.

‘Thank you, Annie. I don’t mind working with you again at all.  In fact I should enjoy it very much. I will need all the help I can get on this case’.

‘Fine, then. Count me in’. 

They resolved to wait until the next day before starting out. Demos had pointed out that travelling by night on horseback in the pitch dark was not wise, so they decided to wait until the following morning before setting out. Morag was looking forwards to seeing Druard again. She had made it her own territory, her beat, and she jealously guarded it. But she was disturbed by this case. It didn’t seem to contain any leads, any directions, and none of the murders seemed to have any connection with each other. But she put these things out of her mind until tomorrow and decided to enjoy Annie’s wedding celebrations instead. Which they did, until early in the morning, when even most of the actors had gone home. Morag decided to call a halt. ‘It’s time for bed’. She called.

Next morning they started off early, just after dawn had broken. The sky was still dark blue, with just a glimmer of pink on the horizon. But it was light enough to travel by, so they saddled up, and rode down to the main avenue on their way to Druard, intending to stop at a caravanserai on their journey. They fell into a little procession, led by Morag and Demos, followed by Annie and Helios, and Pei-Ying and Indira, who had come to Elsace for the wedding. They rode out along the Path of Mars on their way to Druard.

They said little on their journey, mainly because most of them were suffering hangovers from the previous night. But they had revived somewhat by the time they reached the caravanserai, and it was a cheerful party that gathered round a table in the

cantina, although still subdued by the dreadful news from Druard.

‘Who do you think is murdering these people, Morag?’ Indira asked, with her mouth full.

‘I don’t know yet, do I?’ Morag snapped. ‘I haven’t seen the reports on the deaths yet, nor had any time to consult with my colleagues who found the bodies’.

‘But….’ began Indira again.

‘No! I’m not discussing this case until I have seen all the details! Is that clear, Indira?’

Indira subsided into silence. Morag groaned. The last thing she wanted was for rumours to fly around the port about these murders, though she had no doubt that they already would have.  
But she did not want to add to them. So they continued on their way in an amicable silence. They reached the outskirts of Druard in the early evening of the next day. Demos and Helios volunteered to stable the horses, while Morag and Annie rushed into the building and down the corridor to the left, to Morag’s office. They burst through the door without knocking. ‘Morag!’ shrieked a small voice. Morag turned just in time to receive a fierce embrace from Persephone. ‘Oh, Morag, you are back!’

‘Yes, I am’. Morag smiled down at the young girl. She had become very fond of this Barbarossi girl, whom she had rescued from a sinking ship, many months ago, and who had now turned into a bright, pretty young woman, who worked in her office as the general secretary. She was liked by everyone for her brightness and welcoming manner to all those who came to the office. But today she seemed distracted and nervous.

‘What’s the matter, Persephone? Where’s Amelia?’ Morag asked, anxiously.

‘Over there. At your desk’. She indicated Morag’s desk, piled high with files. There was movement behind them.

‘Amelia?’ Morag asked.

‘Here, Morag’. A hand waved from behind the files. ‘Thank goodness you’ve come! Amelia stood up from behind her files.
‘I am at my wit’s end with these murders! There have been two more since I sent you my message’.

‘Two more?’ exclaimed Morag in horror.

‘Yes, both of them terrible! The first was a seven-year old boy on a shopping errand for his mother, but the second was even worse!  It was a three-year old boy, an infant who had his throat cut while he lay sleeping in his push-chair! His mother was nearby at the time, but she saw nothing unusual, nor did any of the other mothers. It was only when she returned to the push-chair that she found,,,found…’

‘Her child slaughtered’. Annie said, quietly.

‘Yes’. Amelia whispered, so low that they could barely hear her.

‘Listen to me, Amelia’. Morag said, sharply. ‘I want you to go home, right now, and get some rest. We’ll call you if we need you. We’ve been charged with taking over this case, and that’s what we intend to do. But you’re tired and distressed, and I want you to go home and get some sleep. Go on, now, be off with you!’

She spoke her words gently so that Amelia would not take offence. Amelia didn’t, and she looked positively relieved as she got up and walked out. But Morag noticed her head drooping as she went. Persephone, too, looked after her anxiously. ‘This case has worn her out!’ She cried as soon as Amelia shut the door behind her.

‘I know, Persephone. That’s why I want her to get some rest’.

‘Shall we look through her notes on these cases?’ Annie interrupted. She wasn’t unsympathetic to Amelia, who she knew had survived two attempts on her life, but she did want to get on with these cases. She and Morag sat down together at Morag’s desk, to read through the notes Amelia had prepared. It took them half an hour. They looked at each other dolefully when they had finished. The notes had made grim reading. Of the five victims, four had been young children, the oldest no more than nine years old, the youngest only three. The killer had struck quickly, so quickly that no-one had noticed anything untoward until later. The other victim had been a frail old man, on his way home from his chess club. He, too, had been attacked from behind, and his throat cut.

‘Well, what have we learnt?’ Annie asked, as they finished.

‘We’ve learnt that this killer is a born psychopath. He kills for the fun of it. He doesn’t mind who he kills. That’s why I want to catch him! Before he kills again!’

‘We need more than that. We need to find out his motive for doing this!’

‘Wait! I have an idea. Let’s bring Alex in’.

‘Who’s Alex?’ Annie asked, plaintively.

‘My profiler’.

‘Your what?’

‘My profiler. He’s Scottish, from Edinburgh. If there’s anyone who can find patterns in this whole sorry mess, then he can. He was trained as a profiler. He should be able to identify who the killer might be. And it might narrow things down a bit’.

‘I agree’. Annie said, unexpectedly. ‘All right, bring him on. Where is he?’

‘Persephone!’ Morag called. ‘Is Alex still around?’

‘Yes, Morag. He works late in the evening in his apartment. Shall I go and call him for you?’

‘Yes, if you don’t mind, Persephone. Tell him we have an important job for him’.

Persephone scurried off to perform her errand.

‘While we’re waiting for him, is there anything in these notes that we can consider as important, Annie?’

Annie thought for a moment. ‘Yes’, She eventually said. ‘Why are all these victims so young, apart from the frail old man? Why should that be?’

‘I don’t know’. Morag said, helplessly. ‘Perhaps Alex can tell us. Look, here he is!’

Persephone came back in, followed by Alex. Annie looked at him suspiciously. She did not trust profilers, especially Scottish  ones with carrot-coloured hair. But his voice was soft and musical, she had to admit.

‘What do you want me to do, Morag?’ he asked.

‘I want you to create a profile of a serial killer for me’.

‘No problem’. Alex said, cheerfully. ‘Is it the one that everyones’ talking about, you know, the one that’s been killing all those young lads and lassies?’

‘Yes, it is, and there’s no need to be so flippant about it!’ Annie snapped.

‘I’m sorry, lady, but in my line of work, you can’t afford to be too serious. It’s too macabre for that’.

‘Fair enough’, Annie replied. ‘But a word of warning. Don’t call me “lady” again, ever. You’ll earn my undying enmity, if you do. Just call me Annie, because that’s my name’.

Alex grinned. ‘Fair enough. But don’t put me down until you see what I can do’.

‘I’ll give you Amelia’s notes that you can work from’. Morag suggested quickly, to head off any further hostility between the two. She didn’t want any friction in their small investigative team.

‘Fine, Morag. I’ll give them back to you along with my report first thing in the morning. I’ll work on them tonight’.

‘That’s fine, Alex. See you in the morning’.

‘Ok, Morag’. Alex picked up the file and exited, back to his apartment.

‘Must you do that?’ Morag said hotly, as soon as Alex had left.

‘Do what?’

‘Insult my staff like that!  Alex is only trying to help!’

‘I’m sorry. But I don’t like Scotsmen, especially ones with red hair! And what do we need a profiler for, anyway?’

‘Because we need a fresh pair of eyes on this case!’

‘What for? What’s wrong with ours?’

Morag was silent with exasperation.

‘Please don’t quarrel! Please! I hate it when you quarrel! It was Persephone’s voice, plaintive, from the far end of the office.

‘Just a difference of opinion, that’s all, Persephone’. Morag called back across the office.

There was a loud knock at the main door of the office. Persephone got up from her desk to answer it. She exchanged a few words with the person outside, shut the door and trotted back to Morag with a small note, that she handed to her. Morag read it quickly, her face paling as she did so.

‘There have been another three murders!’ She cried. ’The marshals are with them now!’

‘What are we waiting for? Annie shouted. ‘Let’s go!’

Morag paused just long enough to tell Persephone to tell Alex to wait for their return, then they hastened outside, where they found two saddled horses waiting for them. Morag had already left instructions with the stable to do so. They galloped off in the direction of the Old Town, now gone, across the Path of Mars, towards the north side of the city.

Morag led them to a small, enclosed square to the left before the Merchants’ Quarter, entering it through a small archway. Inside, they saw a macabre sight. Two bloodstained sheets had been laid over the bodies. A large pool of blood was congealing near the corner of the sheet on the larger of the two mounds. 

Morag looked at Annie, and pulled back the blood-soaked cover. She drew in her breath with a gasp. Behind her, she heard Annie do the same. They looked down at the bodies, both saturated in blood. The young girl lay, face down, half across the boy who lay on his back, on the ground. Her bare arm was extended to the boy’s face, as if to comfort him, gleaming whitely in the dark little square. Both their throats had been cut.

‘Poor little things!’ She heard Annie say. ‘They didn’t stand a chance, did they?’

‘No, they didn’t’. Morag replied. She could feel her rage welling up inside her. How could this murderer kill such innocent children? And how could he kill with such swiftness and brutality? She was determined to catch him, now, with the great anger she felt.

Two other marshals had appeared. They introduced themselves as the two officers summoned originally by the tenants of the square on their discovery of the three bodies that morning. ‘When we got here, the bodies were as you see them’. He was a young fresh-faced marshal, clearly shaken by the deaths. ‘Does anyone know when these deaths took place?’ Annie asked, practically.

We think between ten and twelve of the clock last night’. volunteered the young marshal. ‘That is when some of the residents here heard sounds from outside’.

‘What kind of sounds?’ Annie asked, curiously.

The young officer consulted his notes. Finally he said:
‘Strange gulping sounds, followed by a shrill scream cut off halfway’.

‘That sounds like a murder to me’. Morag said, shortly. ‘Annie, I’m going to use my second sight to see if I can get a glimpse of the murderer’.

‘Don’t be alarmed’. Annie said to the perplexed marshals. ‘She can see into the immediate past to find out what has gone on, in an emergency’.

‘That is a great gift!’ gasped the young marshal. ‘Perhaps she can identify the murderer!’

‘Perhaps’. Annie replied. ‘Morag, are you all right?’

Morag was shuddering and shaking, her eyes tightly closed as she saw again that night. She saw a young boy coming into the dark square. He was carrying a small square lantern. He paused , uncertainly. A small dark figure in a robe and cowl came up behind him. Without warning, a blade flashed in the lantern-light, and the boy fell without a sound, blood gushing from his throat. It was all over in a moment of time, but in that moment, a child’s life had been extinguished.

Morag felt helpless. She could not interfere with what she saw. All she could do was observe, since all that she saw had happened already. Next to enter the square was the girl, also carrying a small lantern. The unseen murderer melted back into the shadows. As the girl came forward, she raised her lantern, and saw the body of the boy. She sobbed and then burst into tears. But this did not deter the murderer. He crept up silently behind the crying girl, yanking her head back by the hair, and sliced across her throat with the same knife as he had used on the boy. She fell on her hands and knees, blood gushing from her neck, making strange gulping sounds as she was dying. With the last of her strength she crawled to the boy’s body and fell across it. There, she finally died.

Morag could hear a new sound coming into the square. It was the tit-tattering of a stick on the hard cobbles beneath. It was an old woman, a flower-seller, one which Morag recognised immediately. She was one of the itinerant old women who lived in tumbledown shacks by the sea, eking out a frugal living by selling small potted posies to the wealthier citizens of the port. Morag knew them well, from her patrols in the port. She tapped her way forward, until she saw the bodies of the children. She opened her mouth to scream. But it was too late. Her scrawny throat opened in a sea of red, and she pitched forwards onto her face, in a pool of blood, lifeless. Her small plants tumbled around her, rolling on the ground in their little pots. The murderer backed away quickly, and fled down one of the side streets from the square.

Morag awoke from her second sight to find herself kneeling on the cobbled surface of the square, the others gathered anxiously around her. ‘Don’t worry, I’m back’. She said, as she rose painfully to her feet. ‘Did I say anything?’

‘Yes, you gave us a running commentary’. Annie grinned. ‘At least, we now know that this bastard is both professional and ruthless. The speed of those attacks shows he knows exactly what he’s doing. What I still can’t understand is why’.

Morag shook her head. ‘You’re right, Annie. And I still didn’t see his face. All I saw was a black shadow’. She turned to the female marshal. She was a few years older than her partner, and clearly distressed by these murders. Her lips were quivering with emotion. ‘Do you have children?’ Morag asked, quietly.

The marshal gulped, trying to hold back her fears. ‘Yes, marshal, I have two, Demetrios and Sappha’. As she spoke their names, she finally broke down, and tried to cover her face to hide her tears. Morag led her to a nearby bench to sit down, and squeezed her shoulder gently to comfort her.

Do you know what their names were?’ indicating with a nod, the two dead children. ‘Yes, they were called Petro and Angekina. I found out where they lived and called in upon their parents to tell them what had happened to their children, before you came, marshal’.

‘I’m glad you did’. Morag replied, with relief. ‘We’d better have a look at the old  woman as well’. She paused. ‘How did the parents take the news?’

‘They were inconsolable’. The faery said, flatly. Morag nodded. ‘I can guess’. She said.

‘Marshal, what must it be like lo lose your children like this?’ The faery cried, still close to tears.
‘I don’t know. Almost unbearable, I imagine’. Morag was uncomfortable with this conversation. She had no words of comfort to give. ‘All I can promise is that we’ll get this bastard, and bring some peace back to this land’. She got up abruptly. ‘Annie!’ she called. ‘Let’s go and look at the old woman and see if we can find some clues’.

‘All right’.

Together they walked over to the corpse of the old flower-seller. Annie pulled back the bloodstained cloth. The old woman lay where she had fallen, exactly as Morag remembered. But they were to be disappointed. There were no further clues to be found on or around the body. It was as if the killer had entered, struck the blow, and had vanished into thin air, without leaving a trace behind.

‘This is hopeless! We haven’t got a single clue as to who this murderer is!’ Annie said, despondently.

‘Something will turn up. Even the most careful killer will make a mistake sometime’.

‘When? After he’s killed a few more children?’

Morag had no answer to that. Instead, she walked back to the other two marshals. The death-wagon had arrived and the bodies were being loaded in, by the black-cowled physicians who drove it, a grim vehicle for a grim purpose, though today it was being used as an emergency ambulance. It was covered with a black tarpaulin, supported by semi-circular iron hoops slotted into each wooden side. It was a rough, primitive form of transport, but its present occupants were well past caring about that. They were laid out on wooden slats on each side and covered with the same bloodstained sheets from the square. It was a lugubrious ending for such bright young lives.

She told the drivers to take the bodies to the morgue, then turned to the two marshals. ‘Take the rest of the day off. You’ve done enough. But I want to see your written reports as soon as possible’. The two marshals bobbed their heads in assent, and then left, glad to be out of the dark little square, where three people had met their deaths.

‘Let’s get back to the office’. She suggested. ‘I want to hear what Alex has to say’. Annie grumbled, but she followed Morag back to the customs building, where they dismounted. Curious herself, she followed Morag into the office, where they found, to their surprise, both Ragimund and Gloriana herself, sitting at Morag’s desk. Alex and Persephone were sitting across the room, at Persephone’s desk.

‘What’s this then?’ Annie cried, angrily. ‘Have you come to check up on us? To make sure we’re doing our jobs?’

‘Please be quiet, Annie, and sit down. I’m sure Gloriana is only here to see what progress we have made’. Morag said, smoothly. ‘Alex, what have you got to tell us?’ She did not want any kind of confrontation at this stage. She knew Annie’s volatile temper, so she decided to stay calm and defuse the situation.

‘There have been three more murders’. She said. ‘Annie and I have just returned from investigating them’.

There was a sharp intake of breath from the others in the room.

‘That makes eight in total so far’. Ragimund commented. ‘We must stop this killer! He is causing panic in the port! Mothers are refusing to send their children to school for fear of him! And violence in the port is increasing! Each national group is blaming each other for these slayings! There will be serious bloodshed before long!’

Tell us more about these recent killings, Morag’. Gloriana suggested. So she told them about what they had found that morning in the dark little square.

‘That corresponds with what I’ve found out’. Alex said, excitedly.

‘I’m sorry, Alex, I’d almost forgotten about you. Please tell us your findings’. Morag said, apologetically.

‘Well, I profiled the victims as well as the killer. And guess what I found!’ 

‘No, what?’ Annie said, nastily. She still didn’t like Alex.

‘Well, they’re all local. and they all live in a relatively small area, at the back of the port. Within a two-mile radius, in fact’.

‘So what?’

‘Because all the murders so far have taken place within the same area! Our murderer’s local! He or she knows the area well! That’s how whoever it is can disappear so quickly after a murder! And it knows the victims. Morag’s account has just confirmed this! How else would it know the victims’ route home? And when they would be in a particular spot at a particular time?

‘You mean these last victims were planned!’ Morag said in horror!’

‘Yes, they were ambushed, so to speak! But that’s not all, Morag!’

‘What?’ She cried.

‘This killer’s not an adult. Aye, it’s a child’

This time, they were all shocked into silence.

‘What leads you to that conclusion, Alex?’ Morag asked. His assertion added a new dimension of horror to these murders, which she did not want to accept.

‘Well, firstly, all these victims are quite small children, easy to overcome and destroy by an older child, who isn’t too big, himself or herself. Or they’re old and frail, so likewise. My guess is that this child has found a way to kill easily and quickly children smaller than herself or himself. In the meantime, we go out searching for an adult killer, when all the time the real murderer is much nearer home!’

‘But consider it further. How could the killer know their movements, their routes home? Because they told the killer, little thinking they would be on the way to their own deaths!’

Morag decided to intervene. ‘Alex, this is all well and good, but are you suggesting that this killer is one of their own school-friends?’

‘Yes, I am, Morag. and I am deadly serious’.

‘But’, said Gloriana, suddenly, ‘I cannot believe one of our own faery children could carry out such despicable murders!’

‘And what’s their motive?’ Annie asked, practically.

‘He doesn’t have to have one. This child’s a psychopath, remember? It kills for the sake of it’.

‘Doesn’t it have a gender? Alex, do you have a theory as to whether it’s a boy or a girl?’ Morag asked, out of curiosity.

‘Aye, a girl. No particular reason, except that a young girl is very inconspicuous, compared to a boy. And a girl is more likely to be confided in, particularly by younger children’.

‘How old is this girl likely to be?’ Asked Morag.

‘I’d say no older than fourteen at the most, but probably younger than that. I’d say thirteen’.

‘Thirteen!’ Morag and the others were aghast. They had never expected this evil murderer to be so young! Morag sighed.

‘Annie, we must question every child in the port. We will find her! She will give herself away sooner or later!’

‘Better sooner than later’. Annie growled under her breath. She wanted to find this killer before she claimed any more victims She felt a real hatred for this devilish girl, who had slaughtered so many innocent children so indiscriminately.


The killer looked at herself in the mirror. Surely those stupid marshals couldn’t suspect her! But why had they called all the children to the town hall for a meeting? It was no problem. She would simply put on her pretty face, ‘They’ll never find me!’ She chuckled. She let her herself drop into her demonic face, the one she liked above all. Her pretty face contorted into something ugly, her lips drawn back into a snarl, revealing her teeth. Her eyes became malevolent slits, and the whole structure of her face changed, from the soft roundness of a child to the harsh, angular features of a devil, rapt in torment and cunning. The she-devil looked at herself and laughed. This is what I want to be, she thought. A devil feared by all, and unknown. Above all, she wanted to kill again. To feel that pang of sheer pleasure as she drew the knife across their throats, and see the light disappearing from their eyes, as she slew them silently!

‘Daughter! Supper’s ready1’

‘Coming, mother’ She replied, obediently, and hurried downstairs, putting on her bland face again.


‘These girls are all the same!’ Annie complained, ‘None of them look like serial killers!’

‘Patience, Annie’. Morag said. ‘She will give herself away’.

They had summoned all the girls in the local area to a meeting in the city hall. There, they interviewed each one, individually, but with little success. None of the girls had noticed anything out of the ordinary, nor any bizarre behaviour in any of their companions. Most of them seemed genuinely bewildered at being questioned at all. But Morag persevered. She was more used to this kind of painstaking police work than Annie, whose patience rapidly wore out, The first of the final group of girls turned up. She was a sullen-looking rather hefty girl who answered their questions in monosyllables and was entirely uncooperative. Morag dismissed her as a possible suspect on the grounds that she was too big and clumsy to kill with speed and precision. But the second girl was different. She was not big, but she moved with precision when she sat down. But the odd thing about her was her face. It was bland and pretty, but it was masklike, as if the girl was holding it there by an effort. Morag had the strange impression that she was holding this bland face up like a theatrical mask, to hide the real face behind.  ‘Hello. Melissa, isn’t it?’ looking at the notes on the table in front of her.

‘Yes’. Her voice was dispassionate, devoid of emotion.

‘Where were you yesterday evening between seven and midnight?’

‘At home, with my parents’.

‘Can they verify that?’


‘Excuse me a moment, Melissa. I must go and ask my colleague something’. She got and went to the door of the hall. As she opened the door, she glanced back at Melissa. She stiffened in shock. Melissa’s face had changed. Gone was the pretty bland mask with which she had entered. Instead Morag saw a hideous distorted face stamped with pure evil, the lips curved in a vicious snarl. The transformation only lasted for an instant, but it was enough to genuinely frighten Morag. She wondered
which was the real Melissa – the one wearing the bland pretty mask, or the wicked fiend that she had just seen. She turned to Annie who stood beside her. ‘Did you see that?’ She demanded. ‘I caught a glimpse of it, yes, just as the door was closing. It was hideous, Morag! To think that that thing was behind that pretty little mask of hers! Are you going to arrest her?’

‘No. How can I? We’ve got no proof! We don’t even know if she is the murderer!’

‘Well, I do. So what do you propose?’

‘We’ve got grounds for suspicion, at least. That means I can put her under surveillance. I want to know what she does at night when she goes home’.

‘Home! You’re not letting her go, are you?’

‘I’ve no choice, Annie. I can’t charge her with anything’.

Annie subsided, snorting with anger and frustration. But she knew Morag was bound by the law. So she kept quiet and her temper under control.

‘I’ll put marshal Trope on her case’. Morag added.

‘Who’s marshal Trope?’

‘He’s my best surveillance marshal. If anyone can keep an eye on her without been seen, he’s the one’.

‘Bring him on, then. We’ll need all the help we can get to stop this evil little bitch!’

‘I’ll tell her she can go’.

Annie watched as Morag walked across and spoke to the girl. They both knew the girl was guilty of these unspeakable murders but Melissa showed not a trace of remorse for her unfortunate victims, nor a trace of emotion as she got up to leave. She felt appalling anger against this girl, not just for her vicious crimes, but also for her lack of pity or sorrow for her victims. It was the total indifference towards her victims that so shocked Annie. It was as if she regarded them as animals waiting for slaughter, with no interest in their names or identities. She was utterly ruthless.

She watched the girl leave. There was nothing to suggest that she was an evil murderer, except for that glimpse of her convulsed face before. How were they going to prove it? She waited until Morag returned. ‘How are you going to prove that she’s the killer?’ She demanded. ‘By getting her to confess?’ ‘No’. Morag replied. ‘By catching her in the act’.

Annie stared at her, incredulously. ‘You’re not proposing to sacrifice some poor child to gain an arrest, are you?’

‘Of course not!’ Morag said, hotly. ‘We’ll need to get there before she commits murder. That’s why we need Trope, to track her to wherever she’s going. Hopefully, we can get there first to prevent her’.

‘Hopefully!’ Muttered Annie.

‘Trope will set up a system of relay messengers so that any information will get back to us as soon as possible’.

‘If only we had mobiles!’ Annie groaned.

‘Well, we haven’t, so you’ll have to put up with our cumbersome messages!’

Annie was silent, reflecting on how well Morag was coping with the primitive and archaic conditions of this world. ‘You’ve adapted to this world, Morag. I’m really proud of you. But tell me, are you really happy here?’

Annie could see her smile in the thickening shadows of the hall. ‘Yes, I am, Annie. I really am. I’ve come to love this world, despite its primitive shortcomings, which I’ve got used to. And I’ve come to know its people too, whom I really like and respect. I love the port with its bustle and noise, its comings and goings, and I feel at home there. And I’ve got a really wonderful husband to come home to, despite his chronological shortcomings’.

Annie smiled back. ‘I’m so pleased for you, Morag. Do you think I’d be happy here, if I stayed in Hyperborea?’

‘Does that mean you’re going to be staying here?’ Exclaimed Morag in delight. ‘Oh, Annie, that’s wonderful!’

‘Wait, nothing’s decided yet. But Helios has asked me to move in with him’.

‘That’s great, Annie’. Morag said, sincerely. ‘But what about your parents? Aren’t they going to miss you?’

‘Oh, for goodness sake! They’re only a portal away! Haven’t we got a murderer to catch?’

They settled down to the task in hand. How to get to the murderer without endangering a young girl’s life? They both agreed that they would have to intercept the killer before she got near the victim. So, with a plan in mind, they walked back to Morag’s office, where they found marshal Trope waiting for them.

He was a thin, wiry young man with a mane of dark hair. He looked and sounded professional. ‘What is it that you would have me do, marshal?’ he asked. ‘Keep an eye on a girl named Melissa, and keep me informed as to whether she goes out tonight. If so, when and where. She’s a murder suspect and I want to know her whereabouts. This is her address’. Morag added. 

Trope looked at the address. ‘I know this, marshal. I will send word to you if anything is amiss’.

‘Thank you, Trope. Please send word as quickly as you can’.

‘I will, marshal. I will send one of my messengers’.

With that, he departed, leaving Annie and Morag looking at each other in trepidation.

‘I hope we’re right!’ Annie said.

‘I know we’re right!’

They settled down in the office for a long night, until at least they heard from Trope.

It turned out to be a long and weary night. No news came from Trope. Annie and Morag settled themselves as best they could in armchairs and blankets and waited. Persephone, who had chosen to share their vigil, was fast asleep at her desk, her head cradled in her arms. Morag decided to get up and drape a blanket around her. As she did so, there erupted a loud knocking at the main door. She opened it. A tall gangly, faery youth stood there, holding out a note. ‘From marshal Trope, lady’, He gasped. ‘He wishes you to join him as soon as possible’.

‘Thank you. Just wait here. Do you need some refreshment?’

 ‘No, thank you, lady, just a horse to guide you back’.

‘You shall have it’. Promised Morag.

She hurried back to Annie at the desk. ‘Annie, we’ve got to go out!’

‘I know. I’ve just read Trope’s note. He’s really worried abut something’.

‘Let’s go and find out what it is’.

They clattered out after the messenger. Persephone did not even wake up.

They made their way to the stables, which were still open despite the lateness of the hour. Helios believed in servicing the port on a twenty-four hour basis, and therefore the stables were still well-lit, for the benefit of late travellers, messengers, and marshals such as themselves. They saddled up three horses, and   then left, in search of their fellow marshal, and their murderer.


Persephone woke up, shivering, despite the blanket around her. She looked around. Where was everybody? Then she realised that they had gone to find the murderer. She decided to wait until their return, at least, to see if they had been successful. Pulling a pile of unfinished papers towards her, she began to work methodically through them, intending to work through the rest of the night if necessary.


They tethered the horses about a quarter of a mile from where Trope was, on the advice of the messenger, Dani. They would proceed the rest of the way on foot. ‘Horses are too noisy. They’ll frighten the killer off before you have a chance to arrest him’. He explained. They followed him through the darkness. They came to a large black patch of shadow around the street corner. It covered an amount of foliage in the form of low bushes – rhododendrons, as they found out later, and in the midst of these they found Trope, keeping watch on another large patch of shadow further down the street.

‘She is in there, She is awaiting her next victim, or so I believe. She comes now!’ He suddenly exclaimed.

A long shadow appeared along the length of the street, shortening gradually as the figure drew nearer. As it did, they could see that it was the figure of a small girl, As she drew nearer, her shadow shortened until it was no longer than her own figure. Melissa stepped out from the shadows behind her. There was a flash of  bright steel in her hand, reflecting the light from the few lanterns that were lit along the dark road. Her face was curled in a snarl, so feral and vicious, that they automatically recoiled. They had never seen such an evil face.

Annie and Morag stepped out into road, so the they could be clearly be seen. ‘Melissa! It’s over! Let that child go!’  Morag shouted. Melissa hesitated, her hand already around the girl’s neck and her sharp poniard ready to strike. She looked up. People were beginning to stir in the windows above. Lanterns were being lit, and soon there would be fresh witnesses to her crime. She deeply desired to kill this girl, more than anything, but realised it would be foolhardy, in these circumstances. With an oath, she pushed the girl forward, who sprawled on her face in the road, weeping in fear. ‘Take her, then!’ She screamed, and turned and ran down the street. Annie sprinted off after her.

Morag picked up the frightened little girl from where she had fallen. ‘Where’s your home?’ She asked her, gently. ‘Over there’. the girl whimpered, pointing to one of the doors that opened onto the street, using her other hand to wipe her tears. ‘Let’s get you home then’. Morag said, kindly. She knocked loudly on the door. Eventually, it opened, revealing a tearful faery woman who shrieked with joy when she saw her child.
‘Amaya!’ she cried. ‘Mama1’ The girl screamed in delight.
Morag felt it was time to move on. She remembered the poor families of the murderer’s victims, who would find only misery and grief on their doorstep. ‘I’m a marshal’. She said, quietly, ‘Your daughter’s had a very bad experience, which she will explain to you. But I must go and rejoin my colleague. Goodbye, Amaya’. She left without another word, not wanting to be involved in any questions or debates, looking for Annie.

She found her walking back down the road, looking disconsolate. ‘I lost her’, she explained, in response to Morag’s unspoken question, ‘In that labyrinth of alleys up there’, she pointed up the road, ‘but I know the general direction she was going. North-west’.

‘North-west?’ Morag said thoughtfully. ‘That will take her to the Black River’.

‘What’s the Black River?’

‘It’s a new river, that flows down from the mountains south of Druard. It’s so new that it doesn’t appear on any maps yet. It eventually flows into the sea just west of the port’.

‘What else is so special about it?’

‘Well, the workers in the port and their families sort of adopted it as their river, and they’ve turned the whole eastern shore into a sort of pleasure ground. Not in a bad way, lots of grass, and picnics, that sort of thing. And a few open-air café terraces built out over the river’.

‘Sounds delightful’. Annie said. ‘But why should she go there at this time of night?’

Morag clapped her hand to her forehead. ‘Why didn’t I remember! It’s the festival of the Bore!’

‘What’s that?’

‘It’s a festival to celebrate the coming of the Bore. The Bore is a tidal wave that sweeps down the whole length of the river from the mountains. It is fearsome and sweeps everything away in its path. There’ll be lots of people there, even at this late hour’.

‘Why do they celebrate it if it’s so destructive?’

‘Because it cleanses. It sweeps all the old debris away to make way for a new beginning’.

‘Funny, I had an old vacuum cleaner that used to do that’.

Morag looked at her suspiciously, but Annie’s face was as bland as Melissa’s had been. 

‘Anyway’, She continued, ‘The people here don’t make much money, but they do work hard. They all come from different countries, but they generally get on well. Most of them live in the new Old Town, which has been demolished but rebuilt. The others live in other accommodation, at the back of the port. It’s a good community, a bit rowdy sometimes, but they’re good people. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to harangue you’.

‘No apology needed. It’s good to be briefed, especially by my sister’. She smiled at Morag, who blushed. ‘But one thing occurred to me. This community you’ve described sounds like a perfect hunting ground for our murderer. I believe she’s going to try to kill again tonight’.

‘Tonight! Again! How could she!’ Cried Morag, in horror.

‘Quite easily’. replied Annie. ‘We stopped her earlier on tonight, so she’ll be hungry to kill again. Her kind can’t stop. She needs another kill to satisfy her’. 

‘You make her sound like a predator!’

‘She is, even though she’s only thirteen years old!’

‘We’d better get down to the Black River then, and stop her!’

‘Just what I was going to say!’

They walked along to the Black River in a companionable silence, two sisters together. They were genuinely enjoying each other’s company, despite the grim task on which they were employed. They had missed each other over the last two years and were enjoying being reunited once again. They came at last to the Black River. Annie looked around at the throngs of people promenading along the river-bank, at the strings of bright lanterns that festooned the scene. She heard  the tinny sound of old pianos in the background, the raucous shouts of street-sellers, and the whole amorphous sound of people in a crowd, unfettered by silence, by the need to keep quiet. Down here by the Black River, they were sufficiently well away from the port, not to worry about any undue noise. To Annie’s eyes, it seemed like a noisy coloured dream, which she delighted in.
For Morag, it was a familiar place, noisy and convivial, a place she normally enjoyed. But she was on the watch for a murderer, one who was likely to kill again. So she remained alert, even while swapping friendly insults with those that she knew. But there was no sign of Melissa, and at last she called a halt.

‘Let’s go up there and have a coffee’. She suggested, pointing up to an outdoor café, which was cantilevered out over the river-bank. ‘We can see up and down the river from there’. Annie concurred and they found themselves sitting at a small table in a corner of the large café, looking down over the river, which still showed no sign of disturbance. ‘It’s late this year’. Morag said suddenly.

‘What is?’

‘The Bore. It’s normally been and gone by now’.

‘Oh, what a shame’. Annie said ironically.

‘No, you don’t understand! It’s perfect cover  for slitting a young girl’s throat without anyone noticing! While everyone’s looking at the Bore!’

‘There she is!’ Annie cried suddenly. ‘Downstream! Where that group of girls is!’

Morag peered down the riverside. She saw the group of very young girls about three hundred yards away, standing near a dilapidated old jetty. Worse still, she could see the black-clad figure of Melissa, in their midst, talking urgently to them. ‘We’ve got to stop her!’ She cried.

‘Come on then!’  Annie shouted, running down the stairs, quickly followed by Morag. They burst out onto the bank to be confronted by another obstacle. The numbers of people on the riverbank, had been swelled by the people abandoning their picnics, coming down to see the Bore, which was now imminent. They were met with a solid wall of bodies, that was impossible to get through. They had to go round them, hampered all the time by more people joining the crowd below. After much pushing and jostling, they succeeded in getting through, though with black looks and some black comments. They ignored these however, and found themselves next to the group of small girls around Melissa.

‘I’ll go around to the other side to stop her from escaping’. Annie said, and ran off to do that. Morag decided to address the young girls, and get them out of harm’s way.

‘Get away from her!’ She shouted. ‘Get away! She’s evil!’

The girls just looked bewildered. But one of them turned round and gave a great shriek. ‘Eugh! She’s  a devil!’ She had seen Melissa’s evil visage. In her fury, she had let her pretty mask fall, and now they could all see her twisted demonic face. The girls screamed and fled to find their parents in the crowd.

When Morag turned back to confront Melissa, she was shocked. The girl had resumed her normal bland pretty mask, no doubt for the benefit of the people in the crowd behind, whose heads were beginning to turn towards them.

‘It’s over, Melissa! Give yourself up now!’ She called again, frantically.


She had reverted to her demonic face again. She looked around for a way of escape, but she saw only Annie, her hand on the hilt of her sword, advancing on her.

Behind her was the other marshal, Morag. Facing her was the solid crowd. Behind her there was only the river and the small broken-down jetty. But that offered a glimmer of hope. If she could hold out there until the Bore had passed, there might be enough confusion to effect an escape. She leapt onto the flimsy jetty, ignoring the ominous creaks and groans from the decrepit structure.

‘Melissa!’ Morag cried again. ‘You’ll get swept away by the Bore!’

Melissa just laughed, a hideous sneering sound. Even her laugh was ugly.

‘You think I’m afraid of some little wave? I’m staying here until I can make my escape! And you won’t stop me!’

‘Melissa, why are you doing this? Killing all those innocent young children?’

‘Because I like killing! I am evil! I was born evil! I enjoy killing the innocents! It is my calling!’

‘It’s nobody’s calling! What made you like this, Melissa?’

‘Nothing did! And keep your distance, marshal, or I’ll stick you with this!’ She brandished her poniard, a long pointed razor-like slim knife. Morag and Annie stared at it. They both knew it was the murder weapon.

‘Get off there, now, Melissa!’ Annie shouted suddenly. ‘The Bore’s here!’ Morag looked up. A great foaming white wave of water stretching across the river, was just about to descend on them, with a deafening roar! They hastily jumped back as the river bank flooded. The great wave crashed into the flimsy jetty and swept it away in a moment, along with Melissa. Within seconds there was nothing left of the jetty, or its occupant.

‘That’s it, she’s gone. She can’t say we didn’t warn her’. Annie said, rather cynically.

‘No, but I want to make sure’. Morag replied.

‘How are we going to do that?’

‘By finding her body and identifying it’.

‘What! Searching a river-bed for a rotting corpse? Especially if it’s a psychopath!’

‘It won’t be rotting yet, and anyway, I plan to get someone else to find the body for us. Please don’t be so impatient, Annie!’

Annie stayed quiet, while Morag led them downstream, to find where the Bore had ceased. It was here that she had decided where Melissa’s body was likely to be, washed down by the Bore.  About half a mile downstream, they came to an area of the river which had become a series of rapids. Here, a range of large stones in the river itself had broken up the Bore, whose water was now gushing fiercely between and around the stones, still foaming and eddying in its headlong journey to the sea. The rush of the water made it a noisy place.

Morag looked around for someone who might be able to help her locate a body. The only likely person seemed to be an old man sitting on a flat stone on the bank of the river, puffing on a long-stemmed pipe. Going by his sailcloth jacket, she judged he was a retired sailor or a fisherman, part of the fishing community that existed along the coast.

‘Excuse me, sir, but do you know of anyone round here who could help me find a body? It’s a thirteen-year old girl who we believe to have been drowned in the Bore. We think her body must have washed up here’. Even as she spoke, she was aware of the incongruity of what she was asking of a total stranger. But she was a marshal and entitled to make strange requests of people.

But the old man did not seem to mind her request. He looked at her, thoughtfully, still sucking on his pipe. Then he spoke. ‘You’ll be needing my son, then. He deals with all the floaters around here’. He half-turned and gave a bellow. ‘Oi! Jed! Lady ‘ere’s got a floater for you!’

A young  man ran down the river bank towards them from the groups of people higher up. ‘What is it, Da?’  ‘A floater. This lady’ll tell you’. Morag briefly told him what she had already told his father. The man looked distressed. ‘A young lassie! Oh, that’s terrible!’ ‘Do you think you can find her?’ Asked Morag, practically. ‘Aye, if she’s caught up here, I’ll find her’. The young man replied, confidently. He picked up a long pole with a hook at one end from the riverbank, and leapt from the bank onto the nearest stone in the swirling river. Morag watched, aghast, as he jumped, apparently without effort, from one stone to another, across the river. He paused and stopped at the middle stone in the river, beginning to prod underneath it with his hooked pole.  Then he stiffened suddenly. His hooked pole had loosened something dark under the stone, which, as it floated free, spread out to create an outstretched form, that of a human body, floating face down. ‘I’ve got summat here!’ He shouted to the others on the bank.

‘Bring it in, Jed!’ His father shouted. Jed looked up and nodded. He made his way back over the stones, towing the waterlogged black cloak with his long hooked pole behind him, eventually dragging it onto the bank. Morag bent down and turned the body over. She pulled back the cowl that still obscured the face, and then gave an involuntary gasp. Behind her, she heard Annie do the same.

In death, Melissa’s face had reverted to its bland pretty visage, making her look almost angelic. But Morag and Annie had seen the face behind the innocent one, and they knew the real truth. It did not prevent the fisherwomen of the community, who had gathered around in curiosity, from bursting into loud laments over the poor drowned child, as they saw her.

It was too much for Annie. ‘For goodness sake, let’s get her back to the morgue!’ She whispered savagely. ‘I can’t stand this!’ At that moment, the rattle of cart wheels sounded behind them. Two young faery marshals were guiding a small cart precariously down the riverbank towards them. As they reached them, the oldest of the two jumped down and saluted. ‘I gather that a body has been found, marshal’. He said formally. ‘We are here to convey it to the port morgue’.

‘Fine’. Morag said. ‘That’s it there. She’s a thirteen-year old girl who drowned in the Bore’.  If she was hoping to get a reaction, she was disappointed. The faery marshal merely pursed his lips, and motioned to his companion, who came over. Between them, they picked up the body, and stowed it carefully in the back of the cart. As they did so, her cloak fell away to reveal her bare white legs. Morag averted her eyes. The girl’s bare legs somehow reminded her that this young woman, evil though she was, was still a very young girl. ‘Take her away! She commanded. ‘Take her to the morgue!’

She watched as the wagon drove away up the bank, saddened by the path this young girl had chosen to take in her life. She and Annie turned to go back home, remembering to thank Jed and his father for their help. They were both now very tired, and they were delighted to meet marshal Trope, who had been thoughtful enough to meet them halfway along the river bank, leading their abandoned horses behind him. ‘I thought you might appreciate riding back, ladies’. He grinned. ‘Yes, we would. Thank you, Trope’. Morag smiled. Even Annie was pleased, so much so that she forgot to berate Trope for calling her “lady”. They mounted up and were soon trotting back through the now deserted streets. They hardly spoke to each other. They were too saddened by the events of the night.

‘I wonder what our errant husbands are doing now’. Annie said suddenly. ‘If they’ve got any sense, they’ll be tucked up in nice warm beds’. Morag replied sourly. ‘Let’s go and find out’.  Having arrived at the customs house, they unsaddled their horses themselves, the stable staff having finished at such a late hour, and fed and watered them. This job being done, they walked together into the customs building and towards Morag’s office to check on Persephone, whom they had left asleep at her desk. They found her there still. She had fallen asleep again, and lay there, her head cradled in her arms. ‘Poor thing’. Said Annie. ‘She must have waited up for us all night’. ‘Yes’. Morag said. ‘She did. I’ll give her the day off tomorrow’.

‘I can hear voices in your apartment!’ Annie exclaimed. ‘I think I know who it is!’ Said Morag, happily. She threw open the door to her apartment. The two figures at the far end in the window recess, sitting around a small table, jumped to their feet.





They hugged and embraced each other. Then Annie asked, ‘Is this how you spend your spare time, when we’re out chasing murderers? Playing chess?’

‘Yes, and marbles too!’

‘Marbles!’ Said Annie, derisively.

‘Yes, it is a noble game!’ Morag said, defensively. ‘Demos and Helios have played it many times before’.

‘If you say so’. Annie said grumpily.

Demos looked at them closely. Both young women were tired and dejected. ‘Early as it is, I think this occasion calls for a good breakfast. Shall Helios and I make one for you?’

Annie and Morag looked at each other,  and chorused ‘Yes’.

‘That’ll give us chance to write up our crime notes’. Morag noted, pleased.

‘Crime notes? Now?’

‘Yes, now! Think of those poor parents who are owed justice! Don’t  you think that we ought to get this to the court as soon as possible?’

‘Yes, all right’. Annie said, resignedly.
The next twenty minutes were marked only by the scratching of quill pens on paper, as Annie and Morag completed their reports.

‘Is that it?’

‘Yes, and now we send them off to Gloriana, who will pass them on to the court’.

‘That’s fine then. Let’s go and have breakfast’.

‘Wait! Let’s wake up Persephone first, and see if she wants to join us’.

They gently shook Persephone awake. She woke up alarmed. ‘Oh, I have slept again! I did not meant to! Oh, I am sorry!’

‘It doesn’t matter, Persephone, you can have the rest of the day off. In the meantime, come and join us for breakfast. Demos has prepared one of his special ones’.

‘Did you catch the killer?’ asked Persephone, excitedly.

‘In a manner of  speaking. The killer’s dead, Persephone’.


‘By blow of nature, Persephone. It was not of our doing. Now, come and have breakfast’.

Breakfast lived up to expectations, but Annie and Morag still worried about tomorrow. They were apprehensive about the verdict. They did not know what to expect.

Next morning, they woke up to find three judges on their door step, from the court. They wore their robes, which signified a formal visit. Morag received them in her office. ‘What can I do for you gentlemen”. She enquired.

‘It is what we can do for you, Marshal Morag. This case cannot come to court’.

‘But why?’ asked Morag, stupefied. Behind her, she heard Annie come into the room.

‘I’ll tell you why!’ She snapped. ‘It’s a cover-up!    

 ‘No, it is not! There is just not enough evidence!’ Rejoined one of the other two judges.

‘What do you mean, there’s not enough evidence? There’s the evidence of the surviving children, together with our written reports! What else do you need?’ Annie said, hotly.

‘The court cannot accept the evidence of children in such a case. At best it is totally unreliable’. The eldest judge said, flatly.

‘What! Try telling that to that poor girl, Amaya, who was nearly killed by that vicious little bitch! If it wasn’t for me and Morag, she might not be here at all!’

‘Her account was confused and difficult to follow’. Said the third judge.

‘So might yours be, if you’d just escaped death by a whisker!’ Annie retorted.

‘That is not the point’. The elder of the judges said, somewhat pompously. ‘It is not reliable’.

‘What about our evidence? That should be reliable enough for you!’ Annie was now getting angry.

‘We have not received your reports. The lady Gloriana still has them’.

‘What! I sent them by messenger first thing this morning!’ Morag exclaimed.

‘They have clearly not been received by us!’

‘That is my fault!’ Said a voice behind the judges. It was Gloriana, clad in her judicial robes. ‘I have kept them back for reasons which I shall explain to these marshals. In private, gentlemen, with your permission’. The judges realised they were being dismissed, and left in a flurry of robes.

‘Is there somewhere private that we can talk?’ Gloriana asked urgently.

‘Yes, in my apartment’. Morag said, mystified by all this secrecy. ‘This way’.

She led them into her apartment, and over to her mother’s old balloon-backed chair. Fortunately, Demos and Helios had gone out shopping to replenish their supplies.

‘Is this your mother’s chair?’ Gloriana asked delightedly.

‘Yes, it is’. Morag replied, ‘Would you like to sit in it?’

‘I would be delighted to’. She sat down in it with obvious pleasure. ‘Imagine! I am sitting where the great lady Moran once sat!’

‘Since you’re so comfortable, perhaps you can tell us why you’re suppressing our reports’. Annie said, sourly.

‘Yes, that is simple. I do not want this case to go to court’.

They both stared at her. ‘Why ever not? Asked Annie at length.

‘Too  many awkward questions may be asked. About that wicked demon girl and her crimes!’

‘What does that matter?’

‘It matters because knowledge of her may tear this community apart!’ Snapped Gloriana.

‘In what way?’ Annie snapped back.

‘Have you never thought about the impact of this revelation will do to this community? Have you?’

“What will it do?’ Asked Annie, quietly.

‘It will bring ruination and civil strife to our port community! Imagine the effect the news of a child serial killer in our midst will do! Each individual community will blame each other for it, family against family, and even children turning on each other! That is the price we would have to pay!’

‘Especially if that child killer is one of your own!’ Growled Annie.

Gloriana’s voice softened. ‘Yes, especially that’. She hesitated, then continued. ‘That  is the reason why I am issuing a formal notice to the court this afternoon to the effect that the murderer is dead and that the body has been  identified by two of our marshals. That is the bare truth. I will say nothing further’.
‘Then what am I going to say tomorrow? I promised to speak to those poor families tomorrow morning, who have lost their children. What am I supposed to say to them?’ Morag said angrily. ‘I warn you, I’m not going to lie to those poor people!’

‘No-one is expecting you to!’ Gloriana shouted, now furious. She got up from the chair. ‘All I ask of you is that you do not reveal Melissa’s identity as the murderer. Or her age and sex. For the good of our country!’

‘I knew it! Its a cover-up!’ Annie shouted, furiously.

‘No! All I ask of you, Morag, is that you spare those poor people some truths about how their children died. It is of no use to them now. I will leave it to your conscience. Fare well’.

She turned and departed, leaving them sunk in despair.

‘What are you going to do, Morag?’

‘Tell them the truth. As best as I can’. Morag had sunk her head into her hands in misery.

‘Let’s play Gloriana at her own game. Here’s how you can do it’. Annie outlined her plan. By the time she had finished, Morag was smiling in delight.

‘You’re a genius, Annie’.

‘I know’. Annie said, modestly.

Next morning. Morag was waiting for the families of the dead children. She was still nervous of this occasion, with its deep tragedy. As they filed in, and took their seats on the semi-circle of chairs that she had provided in her office, she could almost feel the cloud of sorrow and grief that they brought with them. They looked at her expectantly. Some of the women were still weeping, dabbing at their eyes with handkerchiefs. Morag got to her feet.

‘Thank you all for coming’, She said loudly and politely. ‘On behalf of all the marshals, may we express our deep sorrow for your grievous loss’. She paused. ‘I thought you might like to know that the murderer of your poor children is dead and gone. The murderer is gone, for ever’.

‘How do you know that?’ Shouted one of the fathers. ‘How could you?’

‘Because my fellow marshal and I identified the body of the murderer late last night’.

There was silence in the room.

‘Are you sure it was the..the murderer?’ Asked one of the women, tremulously.

‘Quite sure’. Morag said firmly. ‘This thing is now dead and gone. Please, if you can, move on with your lives. I know it will be difficult, but please have confidence in yourselves’

The same man who had spoken earlier, put up his hand. ‘Who was it?’ He demanded. This was the question Morag feared. But she spoke up strongly.

‘The murderer was no-one you knew. It was not one of the people in the port. It was no one you knew. But they are dead and gone now’.

Her explanation seemed to satisfy her audience. Morag was reasonably happy she had not had to lie to them. But at the last moment the man who had spoken first turned back. ‘Was he a stranger’ he asked. Morag’s heart sank. ‘The  murderer was indeed a stranger, but not one that you nor I  had ever met before. The killer was not one of your own’. She said, quietly. The man nodded, satisfied. 

She watched them file out. They seemed at least cheered by the news that the murderer was dead, and that justice of a sort, had been done. But Morag felt dissatisfied. The killer had escaped been tried in court for her crimes. It  was not a satisfactory result.

‘Death by misadventure!’ Annie said disbelievingly. ‘Is that all they’re going to do? Try telling that to those poor people who lost their children!’

‘I know’. Morag said miserably.

They were sitting having lunch in Morag’s apartment. Annie was still incredulous at the Hyperborean court’s decision about Melissa.

‘You see, Annie’, explained Morag, ‘The faerys have no means of punishment for such heinous crimes as this. Because she’s a child, they can’t execute her, nor can they banish her. Nor can they lock her up, because they’ve got no prisons’.

‘What could they do with her then?’


‘Nothing? I always thought the law was an ass’.

‘It is in this case’.

‘Anyway, I’ve decided to stay in Hyperborea, come what may’.

‘You have? Oh, Annie, that’s wonderful!’

‘Yes, Helios misses me, for some strange reason’.

‘I’ve missed you too. It’s good to have you back, Annie’.

‘Well, if you can put with my bad temper, I suppose I can put up with you’.

They both laughed, sisters and friends again.


Frank  Jackson 20/04/2017 11251