Mitch slept for fourteen hours. When he got up it was done. The zipping around Europe in a haze of romanticized day dreaming had been fun, but it hadn’t gotten him anywhere. He had escaped his routine and built up a store of sights, sounds, and ideas, that would serve him well in his writing, but he had not figured out his next move.
A friend, who had come up with his wife from Berlin, agreed, nay begged him to leave the BMW with him and let them take Mitch to the airport. Mitch gave him some cash to rent a place to store the car and told his friend that he could take it out for occasional spins, just to keep the battery charged. The friend was giddy. His wife took a small amount of joy in her husband’s delight.
Mitch didn’t want to bother with finding a flight and called Kate. She was thrilled to arrange for him to return, and thus, be in town for the Columbia lecture. He ordered a latte at Café Testa Rossa in the Innsbruck Airport and paid with cash.
A woman in a light blue blouse sat next to him reading what looked like a very dry journal, in Dutch. Mitch thought about how the cultures of Europe melded all over the continent. Then he went back to thinking about “The Girl”.
As if on cue, she said, “There must be someone pretty special waiting at the other end of the flight.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I’m a neurologist and you wreak of ‘in love'”.
“Is there really a scent?”
“Well, there are pheromones, but I was being more figurative than literal. When people are in deep, head over heels, love, it can create a chemical reaction in the brain similar to using cocaine.”
“I have to admit, it’s pretty bad.”
“A week in Columbia with a suitcase full of cash, bad.”
“That is pretty bad.”
“It is. I’ve been in a fog for over a week.”
“So, where is this dream girl, isn’t she with you?”
“No, she’s in California.”
“And you had to leave for work?”
“No, I just left.”
The woman furrowed her brow. “It sounds like you’ve got a interesting story.”
Mitch had been dying to tell the story. The woman listened, asked a few questions and kept encouraging him to continue each time he said, “But I’m going on a bit”.
They talked about her job and a some more about the effects of love on the brain. Mitch felt a little less pathetic. She said one last thing, and it stayed with him, “If she is half as fond of you as you are of her, then you need only think of what would make her happy, and she will be touched. I think you’ll be fine. In the words of a marketing genius for Nike…Just Do It!”
Mitch laughed. It was good advice.
Paul made it to Innsbruck. When he saw the charge on Mitch’s card for his hotel, he had left immediately. It had become obvious that he would need to speed up his intelligence to real time. Since he started following Mitch, he had always been anywhere from a few hours to a day behind.
Now, he had a room at a place down the street and when he inquired, at the desk of Mitch’s hotel, Paul learned that the he had already checked out. So, he had lost him again and there hadn’t been any charges on the card the rest of the day.
He had time to think.
If he was honest, he hadn’t done a great job with the drunk guy Mitch had been with, though at the time, it had seemed like a simple way to get victim number two. In hindsight, he worried if maybe someone had seen him leave right after Mitch and his drinking buddy. It was also apparent that as long as Mitch was traipsing around Europe, trying to build a body count that could be pinned on him, was not going to be easy.
First and foremost, there would likely be numerous jurisdictions involved from multiple countries. It’s possible that nobody would notice the connection between the bodies. It also seemed that he was flying by the seat of his pants. Most serial killers were methodical, at least on TV. If it was too random or crazy, then people wouldn’t believe someone like Mitch could be the killer. He was too respected.
There also needed to be a reason. He had thought that maybe people would believe that the writer had been creating fictional murders for so long that he had decided to give it a try, but that seemed thin.
There was also the matter of his own rather abrupt decision to take a vacation. Paul needed to carefully plan his alibi, lest he get caught up in his own web.
Paul was sick of Europe. He didn’t like living from one hotel to the next and frankly, maintaining the level of hatred that had launched his plan, was exhausting. The answer was obvious. Paul needed to go home and approach the plan like he did with everything else. He needed calm careful consideration, extensive calculating, and excellent research.
He would leave tomorrow. Just the thought helped him relax. Paul spent the rest of the evening going through some of the 1837 emails that had amassed in his absence. He reviewed two proposals, rejected one and gave one a green light. He read a three page piece of code that was performing poorly and crafted a rather elegant solution. The delete button was clicked 218 times. The business of business was familiar and though he had never loved it, at this moment, he liked his old life.
His final thoughts, before he went to bed, was of a judge, reading the sentence, “To be hanged by the neck until dead.” Paul knew that nobody was hung anymore, but it was his fantasy, so he let it take him into a deep sleep.