Read The Killing Type Online

Authors: Wayne Jones

Tags: #mystery, #novel, #killing, #killing type, #wayne jones

The Killing Type

The Killing Type

 

 

The Killing Type

 

Wayne Jones

 

copyright © 2015
Wayne Jones

 

Chapter 1

 

There are dangers on the
streets at night in my sleepy, pretty little town of Knosting.
About a month before I started my general research, a man was
killed at the corner of Princess and Division Streets and his body
was dragged not into a nearby alley (and there
is
one, about 100 metres from where
the murder took place) or to any other secluded area, but a full
block west along Princess to the corner of another street whose
name escapes me just now. The police were puzzled. Why kill someone
nearly in the middle of downtown and then drag the body for what
the police estimate would have taken three to five
minutes?

I followed the case closely
in the
Gazette
(embarrassingly large type on the front page for days). The
police offered three theories: the killer wanted to be caught; he
thrived on the risk; his actions were those of a deranged mind.
Frankly, I never thought those explanations were very imaginative
or accurate. They sound like lines from a book by some pop-psych
criminologist. Or worse: some populist with an agenda that includes
(to take theory three) designating murderers as crazy monsters so
far beyond the bounds of civilized society that the justice system
needn’t waste its time finessing any treatment. “Kill the
bastards,” “lock him up and throw away the key,” and so
on.

Supplementing this simplistic view is
the shock that people exhibit when, say, the killer is revealed to
be the person next door, a family man with a wife and a dog and two
lovely children (a boy and a girl, of course), and who—and this is
the “kicker,” as I heard today over my latte—had never demonstrated
any previous tendency even towards the most minor aggression, let
alone murder. One wonders what exactly people expect: perhaps that
he had a bad habit of banging the garbage cans around when he was
setting them on the curb after midnight, or he was unkind to
insects, or didn’t he shoot a gun at one of his children that time
when they disagreed about whether it should be sausage or chicken
on barbecue night?

I watch the news and hope that I am
not being too ungenerous in saying that the genuine-seeming
puzzlement and earnestness on the part of the interviewees simply
astound me. “You know, it terrifies me that this could happen right
next door.” Of course, I blame the reporters more than the hapless
near-victims or acquaintances, who are dazed by the event to begin
with and are perhaps taken by surprise by such journalistic
inanity. If the dumb questions are not asked in the first place,
then people who are not used to being on television anyway will not
be put in the awkward position of stating the inaccurately obvious,
or scrambling to find something to say about an event that is both
too hard and too easy to explain.

There was one other
curiosity (if I can use such a frivolous word) about this murder,
which distracted people somewhat from the police’s lazy
speculations. The man—his name is Douglas Quade—had been stabbed
once through the heart (“cleanly,” the
Gazette
unaccountably called it) but
the word BEGIN had been meticulously carved into his chest, neatly,
like with a computer set to all caps. His shirt had been
unbuttoned, the word was carved, and then the shirt was buttoned
again. It was unnerving and disturbing for people, and in the
frenzy of details—a man killed downtown, dragged a block, the
killer possibly a “madman” (the police again), and the fact of a
murder in the first place—in the messy panic of all of this, it was
the carving into the victim’s chest that people remembered and
focused on.

 

I arrived in Knosting a year before
this murder occurred, pushed out of a cushy associate professorship
at Toronto University. The whole affair started with the head of
the Department of English disputing the value of my research, and
ended with ad hominem attacks on both sides, a few angry emails
that I shouldn’t have sent, and finally an agreement between the
department and me that if I would just resign they would not fire
me and would supply me with a small sum of money for my transition
as well as a favourable letter of reference. Such are the dirty,
petty politics of academic departments.

I felt then, and still feel, that the
basic thrust of my research was valid, even revolutionary. There
are certain silos of convention and conservatism in the study of
English language and literature, and I freely admit that I am
outside of those. Still, that didn’t give the department head the
right to disparage my work and to insist that I consider other
avenues—or risk a drubbing when it came time for my consideration
for tenure. The core of my research is deceptively simple: the
relationship between the typewriter (and computer) keyboard and the
literary works that have been created with it. How are novels
influenced by the fact that they were created using a keyboard?
What are the differences between works produced with a keyboard,
and those not (either because of the authors’ choice, or the fact
that it hadn’t been invented till about the late 19th
century)?

Oh, the bleating sounds that emanated
from the English department mere weeks after my arrival there.
Pseudo-research, some called it, tantamount to the study of
astrology or phrenology. Enlightened readers will recognize the
small-minded brayings (to mix my animal metaphors) of colleagues
who can think of no other way to protect their own dubious
scholarship than by trying to invalidate work which they don’t
understand or are threatened by. My research has aspects of
literary criticism and social history and psychology and the
history of technology all combined into one fascinating topic.
There’s nothing of the fusty, hoary, tedious old enquiries and
methodologies practiced by cranks from Abilene to
Zembla.

Still, I’ve changed my
focus. Or let’s say
expanded
it. I will hold steadfastly to my keyboard
research even though it will be on hiatus, but the conjunction of
my arrival and that first murder (yes, unfortunately, there have
been more) have made me interested in mysteries and murders and,
well, murder mysteries. I am not yet sure of my “angle,” as the
candidates for assistant professor at Toronto U. used to so crudely
put it, but I am tending toward something as basic as a book about
the local murders. I’ve become something of an amateur sleuth and
enthusiast of the cases here in Knosting. My book will not be a
tossed-off quickie, taking advantage of the resolution of the case
to foist a dumb summary on a relieved public eager to gobble up any
slapdash compilation of prurient details. Some days I do imagine a
sort of dual vindication, when perhaps I contribute to the bringing
of the killer to justice, but also when my former academic
colleagues realize how very wrong they were about me, about my
research, about the way I was treated. How tedious it was at TU
when nervous lecturers and foppish tenured professors would insist
on prefacing every speech and every article in the faculty
newsletter with quotations from obscure texts from the obscure
minor literary figures who were the subjects of their research. Or
worse: Shakespeare reduced to only the most obvious lines
from
Hamlet
, or
Samuel Johnson quoted on everything requiring a learned
curmudgeon.

A word about my current professional
and financial situation ... The attentive reader will have noticed
that I left Toronto U. with “a small sum of money.” Let’s be frank:
it was two years’ salary. I did not leave a narrow-minded English
department in one city for a more enlightened one in another.
Instead, I consider myself an independent or freelance researcher
now. The “downside,” as they say in the vernacular, is that I have
no salary, but the (ahem) upside is that I have a luxury of free
time in which to pursue my interests. I’ve also sworn myself to a
spartan lifestyle with a strict regimen of eating and an absolute
avoidance of consumeristic purchases. I haven’t been to a
restaurant, haven’t bought a book, haven’t outfitted myself with
anything but the most basic clothing essentials for months and
months. I live in a room in a big old heritage house owned by a
lady who appreciates the tenancy of a quiet and dependable scholar,
and who is willing to charge me less because of it.

I am a little afraid to sit down and
work it out in full mathematical detail, but generally I estimate
that I can stretch two years’ salary to at least three. I flatter
myself that I can also eventually earn a little income here and
there doing other freelance work of various kinds, a feature in the
newspaper, perhaps a piece on the radio. However, I won’t worry
about it. The long-term plan is to last here for a couple of years,
publish a book, and then resume my keyboard research at some other
university in Canada or the United States.

There is an obvious terror in many
eyes that you catch along Princess Street. “The killer is still out
there,” you hear and read, and people seem as perplexed by the fact
that the police have not caught him yet as they are by this having
happened at all in this town in the first place. Personally, I take
a more practical and philosophical approach to the situation. On
one hand, I believe that there are “lottery odds” that I will be
the next chosen victim—1 in 100,000, I mean, really: how likely is
it that it is going to be little old me? On the other hand, though
I value my life and generally enjoy it, yet I am ready to shuffle
off and shuffle away at any time.

I stop in at my favourite pub, and
eventually the raver—about politics, about religion, and lately
about murder—sets down his pool cue and comes over to my
table.

“So, are they gonna catch this bastard
or what?”

I look up from what has been a good
glass of Caffrey’s up till now, and just shake my head. “I don’t
know. What do you think?”

He looks up at the ceiling for a
second. I wonder whether he has heard something or whether this is
his method for studied consideration. I can see that his lips are
slightly pursed, his face taut. When his head comes down, his gaze
is direct and forceful.

“Goddamn fuckin police,” he says. “I
don’t know whether I hate those cocksuckers more than the killer,
for fuck sake. How long does it take to track down this guy? Tell
me that.”

He is looking at me as if, possibly, I
might have the answer to this ridiculous troglodyte of a rhetorical
question, and I just shake my head and purse my own lips and look
down at my beer to signal where my real interests lie. He’s still
standing there after I sip, and then sip again, and the silence
feels like a challenge, or at least a hole that I am responsible
for filling in.

“It makes you wonder,” I say only half
logically, and unfortunately it only encourages him.

“You’re goddamn right it makes you
wonder. Like, maybe a cop is the killer and they’re just all
covering up.”

I truly start to wonder whether I
might have to drink up, pay my tab, and leave on some pretence. You
know, I might say, you just seem too stupid to talk to. I think I
may have to leave now and go home to do my hair or paint the second
bedroom or blow my own brains out so that I don’t have to listen
to—

I calm myself. “Listen,” I lie, “I
thought I read that the police had arrested somebody ...” I let it
trail off, tantalizingly.

“No shit?” And then to the bartender:
“Jimmy, do you have a paper here? Today’s paper?”

He walks off and I feel guilty about
my silly little ruse, but at the same time pleased that something
simple worked so well. I do drink up, leave a five for Jimmy, and
then nod towards the raver, who is not even noticing me now, he’s
so busy asking Jimmy to turn on the radio, turn on the TV, he has
to see the news.

 

Chapter 2

 

Quiet. It’s a cloudy and
cool Canada Day, feeling more like fall than the 11th day of
summer. I’ve avoided the library and all human contact today,
confining myself to my cozy room. Admittedly, the place is a mess,
but a controlled one. I enforce what I call a silo method of
organization in the seeming chaos of this room. There are
newspapers piled and generally discarded there by the couch, for
example, and personal toiletries covering the entire top of one of
the dressers, but nothing in any one category is located in more
than one place. There is no can of shaving cream down there among
the newspapers, there is no clipping from the
Gazette
absorbing aftershave lotion or
the coagulated excrescence from the plastic-capped top of a tube of
toothpaste. I was one of those ill-treated kids who would segregate
the foods on his middle-class dinner plate so that—to take an
example of a combination of atrocities that I cannot stomach at all
now—the mashed potatoes would not touch the green peas and neither
would touch the well-cooked, immaculately sliced roast beef, and
gravy, oh, horrid gravy, would never be allowed to sully any of
them. My father chided me for taking so long to finish a simple
meal, my mother felt that I was merely playing with the one outlet
for her creative expression, and my sister teased me mercilessly
and, hateful wench, would poke her fork into one of the piles when
my parents weren’t looking and try to mix them all up.

Other books

Alight by Scott Sigler
Act of Mercy by Peter Tremayne
In the Bad Boy's Bed by Sophia Ryan
Rough (RRR #2) by Kimball Lee
Grizzly Flying Home by Sloane Meyers
Untimely You by K Webster
Soldiers of Fortune by Jana DeLeon
The Alpha's Mate by Eve Adrian