It was a damp, cold Friday night in the month of September - the time of the year that witnesses the rapid transition from Summer to Winter in England.
The rains finding themselves lost in transition, as always, showered their wrath onto the city in intermittent outbursts. Coupled with the cold winds, they performed as a debilitating force.
London was preparing for the onslaught of what was going to be a brutally cold season up ahead.
As the hour drew closer to midnight, the skies cleared a bit and the showers temporarily subsided. Even the breeze came to a standstill in tandem. And all was silent - even the pitter-patter of raindrops falling from the leaves and rooftops to the earth had ceased. Momentarily, deathly silence was all that prevailed.
Like the storm after the calm, it was then that the last northbound overground train from Central London noisily rolled in to platform number two of Weltham railway station. The brakes resentfully screeched, almost as if protesting any impediment to their owner's forward march, but nonetheless the coaches came to a halt reluctantly.
The clock struck twelve at the exact moment when Justin's feet landed in a puddle on the platform whilst he disembarked from the bogie he was occupying.
As his boots and socks got drenched, he cursed out loud - this was the latest in the series of mishaps in his already messed up day. So for the nth time in the evening, he cursed the excess work, the numerous issues, and his unrelenting manager courtesy of whom he had to stretch so late into the night on a Friday of all days; he then spat out abuses at himself for being such a lonely soul and for that very reason ending up in this God-forsaken suburban town at this ungodly hour to be with his friend and to experience some semblance of company; finally he concluded by grumbling about the crazy weather and how he hated the rain and the cold.
As he exited the station and walked out onto the High Street, he cheered up a bit. After all, his day at work had ended and he wouldn't get to see all those files nor his superior's ugly face for the next two days. Also, the suburb felt better than being amidst the din prevalent in the city. Finally the rain and breeze had also stopped. The weekend had, in fact, started off on a wonderful note, or so he comforted himself.
By the time he reached the turning for Baron Road, towards the other end of which was his friend's residence, he was back to feeling his cheerful, optimistic self. If the road he was now walking along was very dark and poorly lit up as compared to the bright street he had just left behind, Justin didn't pay any heed to it. It seemed like a curfew was in progress - not a living soul out on the streets, not a sound to be heard - but it didn't bother him. He was done cribbing for now, and would resume on Monday when he was back at work.
As his eyes got accustomed to the low lighting, he could distinctly make out the figure of a person shuffling further down the road, a few blocks away, in the direction away from him.
In high spirits, all that Justin could think of was playing a prank on the unsuspecting person. Good-natured though he was, Justin was notorious for the pranks that he played on his poor family, friends and even at times, on total strangers!
Plan in mind and without thinking twice, Justin stealthily but speedily moved up to within a bock behind the solitary night walker. Then he put his plan into action. All of a sudden. he started walking with heavy footsteps, purposefully, almost like a stalker or a sociopath out to get his victim!
The person ahead seemed to get startled momentarily, an apparent shiver went down the person's body, and the pace of the shuffling increased a bit. Justin knew his trick had worked, but he was surprised the person didn't even glance back to see who was behind.
So again, deliberately, he stalked the "victim" as if homing in. Again, the person ahead shuffled ahead even faster, all the while without as much as looking back.
When there was hardly any gap between Justin and the person, the latter came to an abrupt halt, almost as if frozen to the spot. Justin, who was almost on a collision course with his "victim", swerved and just managed to brush past the person.
Still the person neither turned around to look at the "stalker" nor were any comments made in protest at the apparent joke, but Justin snickered loud enough just to erase any remaining doubts in the person's mind as to what had just happened...
Feeling smug about himself, Justin could feel the jump in his stride as he moved on. Oh yes! His weekend had started alright. Even his pal's house was close by.
Whistling to himself as he walked, initially Justin didn't hear the heavy footsteps approaching from behind. Moments later he became aware of the situation as the sounds grew louder in the still night, and the footsteps drew closer.
He smiled to himself, thinking, "Two can play at this staged game of cat and mouse, eh?". Very well then, he too could play the cool customer - so he continued walking on at his original pace, without turning to look back even once.
But for some reason, the role reversal made the hair on the back of his neck stand up!
Just like Justin had done earlier, the other person continued walking up purposefully, on a collision course, but the energy that his "stalker" exuded gave him the shivers. Or maybe his mind was playing games with him. Worse still, he knew how he hated being at the receiving end of pranks, and was a scardey-cat in reality!
When the heavy footsteps were not far behind, Justin had had enough. It was time to put an end to this joke once and for all. If it came to it, he'd apologize for the confusion that he had "unwittingly" created.
By the time Justin turned around to confront his "adversary", the person was just a couple of meters away. What Justin saw horrified him to the core! He tried to scream out, but the voice died within him...
Headlines in the next day's paper: "The Serial Killer of Borough of Brant has claimed a 7th victim within a space of 3 weeks! The nature of the wounds inflicted on the deceased, the murder weapon used, and the timing of the crime are all reported to be the same as in the previous cases. The only, and very significant aberration in the crime pattern is that all the previous victims were females - the latest victim, though, is a male - 26 years-old Justin Fraisier of Victory Park, Central London.
With this latest incident, investigators who were earlier on the verge of a breakthrough in terms of building a psychological profile of the killer are totally flummoxed. The deviation in the murder pattern has forced them to get back at the drawing board and to start their quest for the elusive psychopath all over again - and to think of it, they believed they were so close to solving the case.
Could the latest murder be a ruse by the criminal to throw the cops off his tracks, or is the killer actually an unpredictable maniac as is being thought? Only time will tell..."