“Whew, it’s so hot here,” thought Daisy, sitting back in her managerial-type chair and wishing she were at the seaside enjoying a bumper ice-cream. “Nobody is going to come looking for a private detective while it’s 86 degrees.”
It seemed that infidelity was at its highest only in cold wet weather and the chance of irate wives or husbands seeking revenge was now at its lowest.
Just then the door-bell rang. “It must be that horrible young man from downstairs who’s always trying to ask me out,” she thought. Luckily it wasn’t. A very handsome man of about thirty-five walked in.
“Excuse me, are you Miss Hamilton?” he queried, nervously touching his slightly greying moustache.
“I certainly am.” Daisy gave him one of her very special smiles she reserved for interesting men. “Please make yourself comfortable.” Daisy indicated the chair opposite her. The man sat down hesitatingly and looked at his high-tech watch as though he didn’t quite know how to begin.
Daisy thought to herself that he must be married - a handsome man like that always is, unfortunately.
“The fact is that... - oh I haven’t introduced myself,” said the man pulling out his identification card, “I’m Detective-Inspector Morris Singleton.”
Daisy immediately thought that she’d done something wrong and wondered what it could be. “Maybe it’s because I technically trespassed in the Maydew case,” she thought, “or because I‘ve forgotten to pay a parking fine!” However, Daisy decided to brazen it out and smiled pleasantly at the policeman. “How can I be of assistance?”
“Miss Hamilton, I have a great favour to ask you.” He cleared his throat and glanced at his watch again. “We need your help.”
Daisy certainly didn’t expect this. “You need my help...?” she hesitated and resisted the temptation of saying, “Yes, of course, I’d love to.”
“Actually, it’s a very confidential matter,” the policeman went on, “but Colonel Maydew told me I could trust you both as a person and as a professional.”
Daisy felt flattered and intrigued: “Whatever a client says to me is confidential. Please tell me how I can help you,” she said putting on her dignified voice.
“You see, Miss Hamilton, we are looking for the twilight train serial killer, as they call him in the tabloids.”
“Yes, I’ve read about him. But how do I fit into all this?”
“As you may know, he always strikes in the evenings. His victims are women returning home on the ten o'clock train from Eastern Bridge Station after a hard day’s work during the week and the killing takes place before the train reaches Almsworth station, which, of course, is here nearby. Unfortunately we have good reason to believe that he’ll continue doing so because that’s how his sick mind works.”
Daisy asked, “Did these three women have anything in common?”
“Yes, they were all white and between the ages of twenty to thirty. One was a nurse who had just finished her shift, one a company secretary and another a social worker. Ah, and all of them wore glasses.”
The policeman continued, “We want to lay a trap for him - but we need you to help us in doing so. Naturally, all expenses would be paid and there is a reward out for the capture of this monster.”
“I’m beginning to understand - you want me as a stooge. But you have your own police women!” protested Daisy.
“Yes indeed, but we’ve already used all the suitable ones, those who are white and in the same age group, with no result whatsoever. We don’t know why this is! All we know is that we need is a new face - someone who isn’t a policewoman. Obviously,” Singleton looked at Daisy hopefully, “every protection is offered!”
“Well, I don’t know about every protection,” Daisy pointed out. “This maniac manages to go unnoticed notwithstanding the trains are full of policemen and policewomen and his last victim was strangled only a few weeks ago!” Even though Daisy liked Detective-Inspector Singleton she wasn’t going to let him think she was a person who could be easily convinced.
“I see your point,” remarked Singleton. After a moment‘s pause he pulled something out of his pocket. “These are photos of the victims, before they were killed. None of them were particularly conspicuous, they were just normal hard-working women.”
Daisy looked at the photos and felt that she couldn’t let these women down. She breathed a heavy sigh and nodded. “Yes, all right. What do I have to do?”
Singleton explained, “Well, we have planned that we will put a police officer in all the compartments where there is a young woman already sitting alone. This will force the murderer to seek out the only potential victim who is alone in a compartment, and that would be you.”
Daisy took a deep breath, “Well, I look forward to meeting him!”
Detective-Inspector Singleton coughed nervously, “Excellent, - er - but would it be possible for you to... look more ordinary, more similar to the women who were killed. Miss Hamilton, you’ve got beautiful hair - maybe you could wear it in a different way...”
Daisy thought, “Wow, he does like me,” but said, “Thank you for your suggestion but I’m really quite used to changing my appearance when necessary, don’t worry!”
It was arranged that someone would pick Daisy up at nine every evening for five days and take her to Eastern Bridge Station to catch the ten o’clock train and she would get off at Almsworth station.
Daisy had decided to change her hair style completely. Her longish soft light-brown hair was always falling forwards and getting in the way, so she pulled it back into a sort of bun which made her look more nondescript. Moreover she used an insipid browny-grey rinse on her hair. To complete the transformation she added a pair of old-fashioned glasses and limited her make-up to a little grey eye-shadow and an indistinguishable pink lipstick.
Daisy decided to carry an ugly brown shoulder-bag she had hastily bought from a white elephant stall and a couple of books on South American literature. She planned to pretend to read them and make notes in them during the train journey.
Detective-Inspector Singleton and Daisy had agreed that she shouldn’t meet any of the disguised policemen before travelling on the train, so as not to arouse any suspicion in the criminal. Eye contact could prove there was a trap and spoil their chances of catching the murderer.
It was Monday and the temperature had gone down. Daisy tried to find an empty compartment to sit in, unfortunately a rather frumpish lady with a grey chiffon scarf on her head joined her there and Daisy knew that this trip would be useless, as a serial killer would hardly attack her in front of a witness. Detective-Inspector Singleton had also warned Daisy not to change compartments as she might be being watched by the murderer, so she just remained where she was.
There were many people on the train on Tuesday and it was impossible to find an empty compartment so Daisy journeyed home in the company of two tired-looking men with briefcases.
On Wednesday it was pouring with rain and Daisy was getting sick of all this. She wanted something to happen and of course at the same time she was afraid something would happen. “Ah,” she thought, “I can’t wait for all this to finish so I can get back to my usual work,” even though she had no usual work to go back to at the moment.
Daisy had found a compartment to herself and semi-relaxed into her South-American literature books. “Oh damn it!” she exclaimed to herself, “I’ll have a walk along to the toilet and let myself be seen. I’ll leave my books and raincoat on my seat so that if the murderer is around he’ll know a woman is alone here.”
Daisy saw no suspicious people looking strangely at her along the corridor, and as she waited to go into the toilet only the ticket collector passed by. Back again in her seat she looked out of the window at the anonymous black outside. After a while the door was pulled open and the ticket collector stepped inside.
“Ticket please, madam.” Daisy fumbled in her bag for her ticket. “Excuse me, but it’s probably here at the bottom of my bag. You know, I always travel about with such a lot of things that I can never find anything.”
As Daisy looked at the ticket collector she began to notice something strange. He kept staring at her and Daisy began to feel very uneasy. He had no punching machine! He bent towards her and Daisy let out a yell and pulled out a whistle she had at hand in her jacket pocket. But before she could use it, two burly men rushed in and pinned the ticket collector’s arms behind him.
“That’s all right, Miss. Don’t be afraid. We’re policemen.”
Shortly after Detective-Inspector Singleton also rushed in. “What’s going on? What are you two doing? This is Sergeant Blackwell, you dimwits. I brought him in from Scotland Yard. Maybe you’ve scared off the murderer now with all this...”
Daisy felt a terrible idiot. Of course she wasn’t to know the ticket collector was really a policeman.
The next morning Detective-Inspector Singleton came to Daisy’s office.
“I’m sorry I failed you and let out that yell,” Daisy began.
Singleton shook his head, “No no, you were right to try and defend yourself. Now, I have an apology to make. Your trips may have been useless unfortunately.”
Daisy gasped, “Useless - why?”
“We’ve been talking to a profiler who made us aware of the importance of the fact that the murderer has committed his crimes from the twenty-first to the end of the month. This may have a special meaning for him, and it seems that this type of serial killer never changes his habits, which gives us more of a chance of catching him. And on the basis of this, we’re asking you to continue travelling on the train only from the twenty-first up to the end of the month, then we’ll see what happens.”
Daisy pulled out her pocket calendar, “So you want me back... er - next Tuesday, the twenty-first?”
Singleton nodded, “Yes I do.”
Daisy was unable to get much sleep in the next few days and kept waking up asking herself a lot of questions about the serial murderer and her chances of being attacked.
When Tuesday arrived, Daisy felt like a physical wreck. She had bought a new type of toffees which she found she didn’t like at all and threw them into the waste paper bin. However, a cup of strong black coffee at the station revived her a little and when the train arrived Daisy made the usual choice of an empty compartment, sat down and tried to look concentrated on her literature books.
She pulled out a pencil and pretended, as usual, to make notes in the margins. She felt awful but with the constant hum of the train she gradually relaxed and started to fall asleep. She woke up with a terrible start, her heart pounding. A woman was opening the door and coming in.
“Ah that frumpish woman! Now she’s ruined everything again,” thought Daisy.
“Oh, did I frighten you? Excuse me.” The frumpish woman pulled off the grey chiffon scarf she had on her head and sat down. “If you want to go back to sleep I’ll tell you when we get to Almsworth Station – that’s where I’m getting off.”
“No, please don’t worry. I just dropped off for a few minutes.”
“Are you a teacher or something? I saw you were making notes while you were reading.”
“Yes I am. I teach at evening classes.” Daisy didn’t feel like making polite conversation but acted her role out. The woman continued with some other banalities, and as she nattered on Daisy tried to remember something. Something she must remember. But what was it?
“I used to love English literature at school,” added the frumpish woman in a monotonous tone, “but, as you know, when you have a family you...”
As the voice went on and on, Daisy remembered that the woman had mentioned Almsworth Station. “Mm... she seems to know where I got off last time,” Daisy thought to herself. “But why shouldn’t she? It’s not such a big deal!” Then suddenly Daisy couldn’t breathe any more. She tried to muster up all the training she had had at the local gymnasium where they taught women self-defence. Daisy struggled to fight off those terrible hands around her throat and scratched them with her nails, but she knew she couldn’t hold out for long as the blackness began to descend on her. She made one last effort. She moved her right hand down into her jacket pocket and pulled out a torch and pointed it at the attacker’s eyes. The hands left her throat for an instant and Daisy breathed in some oxygen. This gave her enough energy to push herself upwards and pull the alarm. The next thing Daisy saw was Detective-Inspector Singleton pulling the monster away from her with two other men. Daisy fainted and knew no more until Singleton, his face contorted with anguish, was asking, “Miss Hamilton, are you all right? I’m so sorry, I should never have asked you to risk your life like this!”
“I’m much better now, thank you, Detective-Inspector.” Daisy was pleased to see her visitor. She was still in hospital as they had kept her in all night. “Not to worry – all in a day’s work!” she said half-smiling.
There were reddish-black bruises all around her throat after the murderous attack and Daisy had found that she had broken a few nails trying to defend herself. “I trust you’ve got that harridan under lock and key?” she asked.
The Detective-Inspector looked serious, “Miss Hamilton, it wasn’t a she, it was a man dressed as a woman! That’s how he managed to go unnoticed all this time... but now he won’t be able to play games like that any more. He has confessed to all the murders. He said he enjoyed the risk of being seen murdering a woman. And the reason why our use of policewomen was bound to fail was because he knew all of them as he worked in our IT department. He was a policeman!”
“A policeman! Oh my goodness! Well, at least you’ve caught him and that’s the end of this terrible story,” said Daisy in a hoarse voice. “But I must say I don’t think I‘ll be travelling on a train for quite some time after all this!”
Singleton looked down at his boots. “Miss Hamilton, I… I really don’t know how to thank you and say how sorry I am about the attack.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got over the shock now,” answered Daisy, “and I’m really happy I was able to help catch that monster and save other women’s lives.”
“By the way, Miss Hamilton, the reward money will be sent to you in the next few days,” said Singleton.
Daisy thought for a moment and asked, “Detective-Inspector, could you please arrange for it to go to a charity for battered women?”
“Yes, certainly,” he paused for a moment. “Er... Miss Hamilton. Look, my name is Ted, that is, it’s really Morris, but everybody calls me Ted.” He seemed to be struggling to find the right words. “Miss Hamilton, would you accept an invitation to an Italian meal in town or, maybe, if you prefer, a vegetarian restaurant? Just to say thank you...”
Ted seemed oblivious to the fact that he had been holding a bunch of flowers in his hands since he’d arrived. Daisy came to the rescue and exclaimed, “Oh what beautiful flowers, thank you! And do call me Daisy...”
A week or so later Daisy discovered that Ted was not only handsome, but also had excellent taste in food!