Katherine had made a list. She did not use pen and paper, nor had she made any conscious effort, but she had compiled a short list of people’s names. Suspects. Over and over again she silently repeated the list of names: Carly, Greg, Trudy, Granddad Keith, Shane and Rob.
Katherine knew what her father had done to Carly and Greg, breaking apart their relationship and then destroying Carly after their affair ended. She had never met Trudy, Tim’s boss, but he was always talking about how much she hated him. Her grandfather, her mum’s dad, had sworn to hunt Tim down and kill him after he left his family in pieces. Katherine would never have seriously considered her granddad as a suspect, but her thoughts were fast becoming irrational.
James was not a person Katherine had met, nor had she really heard about him, but he had heard Rob casually discussing possible killers with their mother. Ellen had no idea who it could have been and she immediately discarded Rob’s suggestion of Carly or Greg. From what Katherine could pick out, her ear pressed to the living room door, Shane used to be friends with Tim. Apparently her father did something to piss him off. She did not hear exactly what her father did, however, because her neighbour had chosen that moment to begin mowing his lawn.
The reason Rob was on the list was because Katherine had no idea where he was on the evening of Tim’s death. Neither did Ellen. He refused to answer questions about his whereabouts, although Katherine knew that the police would want to know more. If it was Rob, he would have no alibi. But she didn’t seriously believe that her brother would kill their father, no matter how much he detested the man.
In reality, Katherine’s list was extremely short. While it should be more difficult than it was to compile a list of a man’s suspected murderers, for anyone who properly knew Tim it would have been easy to find over ten names. But nobody did know Tim, not really. He was not a complicated man, but he led a complicated and messy life.
After he left his family in Devon and moved in with his sister and brother-in-law in Salisbury, Tim had become even more of an enigma than before.
Tim’s parents refused to speak to him after Ellen had told them of the atrocities their son had committed. Harriett and Martin were the only people Tim had left, and they gave him somewhere to stay. Katherine knew it was out of pity that they reached out to her father, but she appreciated it nonetheless – they had saved him.
But Tim did not change. While Katherine was fed lies from her father’s mouth about the tidy life he had created for himself, he had continued to cause people pain and upset.
The last of his crimes against innocent people began when he got a job at a supermarket in the city centre. After working for a week on the checkouts, it had come to Tim’s attention that customers were often unwise. Elderly men and women would come to his till, slowly withdraw their wallets, retrieve their debit cards, and stare intently for a couple of seconds at the interior of their card holders before entering their PINs.
It did not take Tim long to work out that these customers had their security codes scribbled on a piece of paper, stuck just above the pockets in which their bank cards were stored. A quick glance over the counter and Tim could see the four digit numbers.
After hatching his simple plan, Tim waited for his next customer that had made this error. A man of around seventy years shuffled to his till, offering a basket of groceries to the sales assistant. Tim scanned and bagged the items, including a gardening magazine. Taking this as a helpful cue, Tim then engaged his customer in a thrilling conversation about gardening, pretending that he was a keen gardener himself. When the man extracted his debit card from his brown, leather wallet, Tim quickly scanned and remembered the PIN, scrawled in black biro in the spot he had been expecting. Continuing the conversation, Tim managed to distract the customer by handing over his bags of shopping. He quickly grabbed the card from the machine and bid the customer goodbye. Wallet in his pocket and hands busied with heavy bags, the customer exited the shop unaware that his card had been stolen.
A few weeks and several scammed shoppers later, Tim’s manager, Trudy, called a staff meeting. It had come to her attention that an unusually high number of customers were calling into the store to check if they had lost their wallets. All of them claimed to have been served by a man fitting two of the workers’ descriptions: Tim and his colleague, James.
Furthermore, a few of these customers had called the shop to warn them that money had been taken from their accounts after having lost their cards there. James had immediately denied all claims and shunted all of the blame onto Tim, who feigned innocence and ignorance. After an hour of failed reasoning and blame-shifting Trudy warned the two men that he would have to alert the police.
Nothing was proved and while the CCTV footage showed Tim hurrying customers from the till, it was not substantial enough for Tim to be labelled the guilty party. Over that few days, Tim had managed to convince most of his colleagues that it was James who had stolen the bank cards. Tim soon became the victim. James left the job just days before Tim did. He had worked there for fifteen years and had a pending application for supervisor, and yet Tim had driven him away after just four short weeks.
Tim did not care that he had ruined James’ career. He did not worry that he had swindled tens of elderly people out of hundreds of pounds. He did not spare a thought for anyone but himself.
The evening after he left that job for the final time, Tim drove back to Harriett’s house in the Porsche he had borrowed from Martin. They had gone away on holiday for the week, and so Tim permitted himself access to the gleaming car.
He did not know that someone was waiting for him inside the house, but he would have had a good idea of who to expect.