The Final Memorial
I swung the beam of my torch around the interior of the building. The floor where Vic had lain was bare, save for the fragments of glass from the broken window above. Intensely uneasy, I turned and looked behind me, as if expecting Vic to walk out of the shadows and greet me in person. At that moment in time, nothing seemed beyond the realms of possibility. As I scanned the undergrowth outside the door with my torch, I heard the distant yet reassuring sound of police sirens coming from the main road: the cavalry had arrived. With the added courage this knowledge provided, I stepped into the building once more.
It was almost as though Vic's body had never existed. The room featured no apparent evidence of what I had seen - and touched - less than half an hour earlier. Pulling the door shut behind me to contain the flash, I was able to take three photographs: of the floor where Vic had lain (Photo H), the electrical point of isolation to the side (Photo I) and the south wall, showing the interior view of the door (Photo J). I felt a certain numbness, an inability to comprehend the events which were overtaking me that evening, and a temptation to question my own sense of reality.
I returned outside. Through the trees to the west I caught glimpses of powerful torch beams: the arrival of the police was imminent, yet I felt no compulsion to go and meet them, no motivation to alert them to my location, only a sense of stunned disbelief.
The question of Vic's mortality would become a bone of much contention in this case. It is therefore of the utmost importance that I state my beliefs here as unequivocally as possible.
It is my unswerving conviction that Vic was dead. I cannot prove this, I cannot supply witnesses nor evidence, yet I harbour no doubts regarding this fact. The evidence of my own senses left little, if any, room for error, and I can do no more than to state what I know to be true: that Vic's body had lain on the floor in that brick building on the evening of Friday, 17th October, and that he was unquestionably dead.
I turned my attention back to the memorial on the door. For the first time I considered the possible reasons for the presence of two numbers. Vic had, it seemed, become Marlin's twentieth victim, but what of his twenty-first? Had a second body vanished in similar fashion? Could Marlin have succeeded in killing two individuals at this one location? It was a moment before perhaps the most obvious of the explanations occurred to me. Earlier that evening the brick building had indeed contained two bodies. The second was my own.
Much as I recoiled from the idea, it seemed entirely plausible that I had been Marlin's second intended victim that night. That he had planned to complete his mission there and then with murders 20 and 21, and that I was invited to Shotley Gate solely in order to take the most personal and unwitting of roles in the proceedings. Perhaps the memorial before which I now stood served not only as Peter Marlin's final memorial, but also as my own. Whilst logical in some respects, this hypothesis made little sense in others. Why would Marlin have chosen to create a memorial to two murders when only one had so far been carried out? Why take the additional risk of doing so whilst I was inside the building? And most strikingly obvious of all: why was I not now dead? Standing face to face with his final, unarmed, victim, this apparently experienced assassin made no serious attempt to harm me, and had fled at the earliest opportunity. Given the lengths to which Marlin had gone to bring me to this location, his subsequent failure to carry out this supposed plan seemed incongruous to say the least.
In addition, the fact remained that I did not fit the profile of what I held to be a typical Marlin victim. I was not homeless, nor drug or alcohol dependent, and I would undoubtedly be missed.
I had little time to consider these matters further before two policemen arrived on the scene, torches blazing a trail through the undergrowth at the side of the brick building and around to the entrance where I stood. I quickly identified myself. In the minutes that followed I attempted to convey to the men the reality of the situation, and the events which had taken place that evening. For all my heartfelt animation, it proved a mostly futile act. I had called to report an assault, a possible murder, and a dead body; I stood there now with evidence of none. Mere words could not hope to compensate for that deficiency.
Presently I was escorted back up Marsh Lane to the main road. By this time a second police car had arrived, one of the occupants passing us at the top of the lane and exchanging brief words with his colleague, before continuing on to search the brick building and surrounding area. Back at my car in Visdelou Terrace, I was asked to return to the police station to make a statement. Naturally I agreed, whereupon my escort requested that I first be breathalysed. My heart sank immediately with the knowledge of its inevitable and damning outcome. The time was 8pm. I had consumed three drinks, one a double, at The Bristol Arms less than ninety minutes earlier. As the policeman examined the readout on the breathalyser, I saw any last willingness to believe my story evaporate before my very eyes. It was Friday night and I was just another hallucinating drunk.
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