Events took an unexpected turn five days later, on the morning of Tuesday, 2nd September. I received a small package, similar in appearance to the first. Once again the envelope was typed, and was postmarked Ipswich, September 1st. Again it contained a photocopied, handwritten note (Note Two), which on this occasion simply read:
"I AM SERIOUS. TAKE NOTE.
It was not the letter itself which disturbed me, but rather the item which accompanied it. The envelope contained a severed finger. My initial reaction was one of horror, swiftly overtaken by scepticism as to whether the item was, in reality, what it appeared to be. The finger was wrapped in approximately half a dozen tissues, and had a rubbery, almost unreal quality. There was no trace of blood or fluid of any kind on the tissues. Reluctant closer inspection told me that it did, however, appear to be the genuine article: the little finger of a left hand, severed just below the second joint.
Viewed in the light of this new arrival, the letter of the previous week took on an entirely new significance of course, and having successfully located its whereabouts, I took both the original note and this new package to my editor. Shortly afterwards, the police were called.
It has to be said that the reaction we received from the police was initially surprising, though on reflection entirely understandable. Far from launching a murder enquiry, they took the pragmatic view that however grisly the discovery of a severed finger may be, it is not in itself evidence of a crime. It certainly did not indicate any loss of life, and, in terms of a criminal investigation, was fairly meaningless. Even taken in the context of the accompanying letters, the police took the view that we were more likely dealing here with a sick individual, rather than a dangerous criminal.
Considering my own experiences as a journalist, it was hard to disagree. The letters alone would have been routinely ignored, not only by myself, but by the majority of my colleagues also. It was purely the addition of the finger which had prompted a rethink on my part, and ultimately the police felt that the item made little or no difference. It perhaps indicated that we were dealing with a mentally ill adult rather than a mischievous schoolboy, but beyond that, there was little to suggest we should be taking the situation unduly seriously.
In addition, the most obvious point, which underpinned everything the police had to say, was that clearly a man who claims to have killed fourteen people in recent times, is by definition a liar, since there is not so much as a scrap of evidence to back up such a story, and crimes of that magnitude simply do not go unnoticed.
Conversely, the evidence for the opposing view was overwhelming: it is hardly unprecedented for an unbalanced individual to seek attention by claiming responsibility for any amount of fictitious crimes. And if one's efforts in that direction are ignored at the first attempt, what better way to grab your target's attention than to cut off your own finger? No rational person would contemplate such an act of course, but by definition we are not dealing with a rational person here. And ultimately, it cannot be denied that if this were Marlin's intention, it had worked: he had indeed made me take notice.
At this stage I was willing to accept the police's argument. I have an innate aversion to any form of manipulation, and I couldn't help feeling that I had acted in precisely the way the sender of these letters had hoped. In a flash I had gone from total disinterest, to a police report, and in the process given Marlin precisely the kind of attention he sought. I was happy to put an end to that.
The police retained the finger, which I regret to say I neglected to photograph, a lack of foresight which I still rue to this day. Admittedly it would add no real substance to the case, but for the sake of completeness, I would like to have a record of the item. To date, the authorities have declined to return it to me, as I am told it may constitute evidence of a crime yet to be discovered, and has been filed as such. Whether this is strictly true, I am unsure. As a somewhat cynical journalist, I cannot help feeling that the finger may have found its way into the nearest bin within minutes of my departure. Whatever the case, I don't expect to see it again.
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