I was not immediately sure what to make of the tree carving. The presence of the fish symbol, which could already be considered part of Marlin's colophon, indicated that this was no random act of graffiti. "11PM" appeared on the surface to be a statement of time, yet of course 'PM' doubles as both Marlin's initials and his preferred signature, casting doubt on any further meaning beyond this. My own opinion was that perhaps the only part of direct significance was the number 11, the remainder of the markings simply laying claim to authorship. This would later appear to be the case, though at the time I was unable to rule out other possibilities.
My thinking, both then and now, was that perhaps the war memorial was something of a red herring. This now seems a little obvious, since Marlin had centred his photograph on the tree, not the monument beyond. It was only assumption on my part that had fixed the importance of the memorial; clearly the tree itself was of greater significance to Marlin.
Peter Marlin claimed at this time to have killed fourteen people. Putting to one side for a moment the question of whether these claims are genuine, I already knew of course that Marlin felt an urge to gain some kind of recognition for his acts. It therefore seemed logical to me that just as monuments are erected to commemorate the war dead, Marlin had felt a desire to create his own memorial. In effect, to preserve the memory of his own crimes. To commemorate those who had died in his own personal 'war'. Carved into the tree was the number 11. It is my belief that this tree stood as the memorial to Marlin's eleventh victim.
Whether the choice of this particular tree held some significance, I was unsure, though it seemed unlikely to have been merely a random selection. The most obvious possibility was that it marked the location of the crime: that perhaps this was where Marlin's victim had died, or at least that Marlin wanted me to believe so. It also occurred to me that perhaps the tree could be intended as a form of rudimentary 'gravestone', marking the burial of a body beneath. Whilst this would make sense to some degree, especially in view of my appeal to Marlin for some form of concrete evidence, I quickly ruled this out as a possibility. It was clear that the ground surrounding the tree had not been disturbed for some considerable time, and the likelihood of any excavations having taken place, even on a small scale, seemed non-existent.
Consequently, it appeared debatable what the discovery of tree number 0905 had actually proved. On the surface very little, save that Marlin was willing to step beyond the bounds of simple letters and phone calls in his efforts to have me take notice. Yet despite the lack of firm evidence, I was beginning to feel that perhaps this case had some substance after all. If nothing else, my curiosity had been piqued.
This level of interest was to be considerably heightened just moments later.
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