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Absolutely no one is sorry when the infamous Ruislip Wood Ripper, a serial killer who has already murdered three women, ends up dead in the forest, shot by a hunter while on the cusp of attacking his fourth victim. But there are just a few coincidences too many in this case for the taste of Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd. Was it really just pure luck that hunter Reginald Hargreaves just happened to be in the right place at the right time? And why did no one warn French tourist Anne Marie Sauvage that there was a killer on the loose in Ruislip Woods? This is a crime short of 6200 words or approx. 20 print pages altogether
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by Cora Buhlert
Copyright © 2014 by Cora Buhlert
All rights reserved.
Cover photo © Pedro S.
Pegasus Pulp Publications
As Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd squeezed herself into a pair of Wellington boots, she decided — not for the first time — that she hated the countryside. There was a reason she’d chosen to live and work in London in spite of the exorbitant living costs. And a large part of that reason was that living and working in London meant never having to deal with Wellington boots or at least almost never.
Of course, Ruislip Woods hardly counted as countryside, at least not in the eyes of the Wellington boots and waxed jackets brigade. However, it was vast and wild and green and full of trees and with way too few properly paved roads and paths. Even worse, it required putting on Wellington boots to reach a crime scene. And if a place had all the drawbacks of the countryside, in Helen’s eyes that meant it was countryside.
Even worse, this was the fourth time in as many months that Helen’s job forced her to trudge through the bloody countryside that was Ruislip Woods. And judging by the first three times, Helen already dreaded what she’d find at the end of her hike.
After a much too lengthy and muddy hike from the parking lot, Helen finally reached the crime scene. Police tape was fluttering between the trees and a couple of uniforms were standing guard, rubbing their hands together against the early morning cold. Helen nodded to them, fervently wishing for a cup of coffee. Damn it, she should’ve stopped at a coffee shop on the drive here.
Police Constable Walker met her on a narrow path between the trees, his shoes and trouser hems stained with the ever present mud.
“Morning, boss,” he said and — miracle of miracles — handed her a paper cup of coffee. And — yet more miracles — it was even still warm. A little, at least.
Forensics were swarming all over the crime scene as usual, blundering through the undergrowth in their white coveralls. Dr. Rajiv, the forensic medical examiner, was kneeling next to a body, taking the temperature. An ambulance was parked off to one side between the trees — and why did the ambulance get to drive all the way to the crime scene anyway, while Helen had to walk?
“The Ruislip Wood Ripper again?” Helen asked with a sinking feeling in her stomach.
PC Walker nodded, his normally cheerful face unusually grim.
In the past four months, the Ruislip Wood Ripper, as the press called him, had raped and murdered three women, always in the early hours of the morning, always in Ruislip Woods. The victims so far had been a hiker, a jogger and a woman walking her dog, all young, all pretty, all blonde.
It had been over a month since the last murder, so Helen had hoped that the killer had just given up, deterred by the increased police presence around Ruislip Woods, the encroaching autumn or simply by the fact that most women were too scared out of their mind to go walking alone in Ruislip Woods. But apparently, her optimism had been misplaced, for the Ruislip Wood Ripper had just found his fourth victim.
Helen chanced to look over at the ambulance — a hell lot of good that would do now — and saw that the backdoor was open and two paramedics were fussing over a young blonde woman.
“Witness?” Helen asked.
PC Walker shook his head. “Intended victim, one Anne Marie Sauvage.”
“The victim survived,” Helen exclaimed. She pointed at the spot, where Dr. Rajiv was kneeling next to a body. “But then who…?”
“The Ruislip Wood Ripper,” PC Walker replied, “Or rather what’s left of him.”
“And we’re sure it’s the Ruislip Wood Ripper?”
“Well, we’ll have to wait for the DNA test to be completely certain, but… yes, otherwise we’re pretty sure. The victim…” PC Walker pointed at the young woman in the back of the ambulance. “…said that she was out jogging, when the killer attacked her. At least, as far as anybody can make out. She’s French and her English isn’t very good.”
“French,” Helen repeated. It certainly explained why the woman was careless enough to go jogging all alone in Ruislip Woods in the early morning, while there was a killer at large. Because she hadn’t known of the danger.
“Get an interpreter here,” she ordered, “We need to take her statement as soon as the paramedics are finished with her.”
Helen looked at the young woman being treated in the back of the ambulance with new appreciation. “And she killed him? She killed the Ruislip Wood Ripper?”
If she really did, the girl certainly deserved a medal.
PC Walker shook his head. “She just got lucky. The killer attacked her, she screamed, a hunter heard her and shot the bastard. Good riddance, too.”
Helen couldn’t help but agree.
“What about the hunter?” she asked.
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