A Killer of a One Night Stand Ch. 02byMaxSebastian©
It was only when he picked up her coffee mug and took it into the kitchen to place it in the dishwasher that he realised the wall between the kitchen area and the bathroom was almost entirely transparent.
She'd had a prime view of everything while he'd been taking a shower.
Having vacated the apartment for the various estate agent showings, Jonah spent the day trying to catch up on his thesis work in the British Library, up near King's Cross.
He didn't get a lot done - it was very difficult to concentrate on the subject matter with both the memory of his night with Emma and the thought that Detective Inspector Mulray had undoubtedly had a very good view of him naked in the shower racing constantly around his head.
A few hours of crawling through academic papers and adding little more than doodles to his thesis notes, and he decided to call it a day. His stomach was grumbling by the time he pushed through the doors back onto Euston Road.
With a fast food burger filling the need, he headed for the Tube to take the Northern Line down to Tottenham Court Road, where there was a large internet cafe. It was time to check in on the website again.
Heading back into Kings Cross station, it was hard to avoid the various newspaper boards out for the Evening Standard sellers to peddle their latest edition on the street, which had the headline "Black Widow strikes again" sprawled all over the place.
Jonah picked up a copy, and could see that the tabloid press were having a field day with the police announcement that there was a "sexy female killer" prowling London for well-to-do City bankers to despatch.
It pained him more than a little to think that Nate's terrifying and painful death was now merely little more than a sales aid for the newspapers. He appreciated it was their job, however. And of course like many people around him, he bought a copy himself.
Reading the paper on the Tube brought back the anger.
The way the latest victim was described, not yet confirmed by the police though with sketchy details supplied by a 'source close to the investigation', was clearly along the same lines as the previous victims, including Nate.
The as-yet unnamed man met the murderer in a bar, police believed, before going back to a hotel for sex. According to the paper's police 'source', the victim must have been tied up at some point because of the marks around his wrists. The newspaper was having a field day about that particular detail - attempting to portray the whole thing like some kind of Basic Instinct-style thriller.
Jonah's exhaustion from the previous night's pursuits with Emma seemed to drain away as he read on, replaced by a simmering rage.
Rather than head back to the apartment for much-needed sleep, he stepped off the Tube at Tottenham Court Road, where there just happened to be a large Internet cafe.
He had to keep looking for her, whether it was a ridiculous needle-in-haystack search. He could not let it go. The death of his brother had been so shocking to him, such a random, senseless and unnatural thing, Jonah could not settle without feeling he was doing something to make sense of it all. Life simply could not be this way, when a young person could have their existence extinguished for no reason at all, with the perpetrator going unpunished.
Chances might have been astronomical that he would happen upon the one who had so brutally ended his brother's life, but he had to keep doing something.
Someone had to do something.
He walked up the stairs to the place he'd often come to access the website. A internet cafes went, it was huge. Not so much a "cafe", with its row upon row of computers, like some kind of battery farm for web surfers. But it did supposedly serve food and beverages.
This time, it wasn't very full, giving Jonah plenty of space and relatively good privacy to access the site.
Sitting down in that place always made him feel a little shady, somehow, a little sad. The people around him appeared to be youngish immigrants and students, but even many of them were talking between themselves. He had no real friends in London.
His short time with Emma had been the first time for a while that he'd been able to let things go and even enjoy himself. Perhaps it was selfish of him, but it made him feel the need for human interaction he hadn't ever felt in the cosy halls of his Oxford college, shut in with his books and papers. Nate had often inquired about his social life while all he really wanted to do was study and achieve. Now, he was beginning to see his brother's point.
It was this sprawling metropolis: it brought out the loneliness in you.
There had been the occasional offers of drinks with some of Nate's friends over the past couple of weeks, of course, but the few evenings he had braved such offers, hanging out with Nate's circle had ended up being quite upsetting. He was constantly viewed by the others with an expression of pity and regret. He couldn't relax, felt that even a smile seemed somehow inappropriate.
With Emma, he had been able to pretend to be someone else for a few hours - even though his pretending was more than a little incompetent.
Perhaps his experiment to draw out Nate's killer was really just a manifestation of his genuine need to reach out to people.
He checked his email briefly, and there was nothing much apart from a message from Nate's email provider stating what Jonah had expected, that the company could not provide Nate's email password because of its privacy rules. It seemed ridiculous, Nate being dead, but Jonah could understand it. Perhaps the police had had better luck tapping into his brother's email, but Jonah himself had no official status.
Then, he was logging into the No Strings website, or at least trying to. He quickly realised he had left his mobile phone - containing his password list - in the pocket of the previous night's trousers, now stowed away in the laundry bin back at the apartment. Should have chosen a more memorable password.
He felt that if he was to return to West India Quay to get the password, he'd end up just crashing out to sleep, he was so tired. He wanted to at least make some progress before that happened.
He clicked on the "forgot password" link under the log-in boxes on the website. It offered him a couple of easy security questions, and forced him to then change his password into something more memorable. Then he was in.
He was surprised to find a few flirty messages waiting for him in his in-box once he was logged in.
From what he read about online dating, usually the male users vastly outnumbered the female, and therefore a male user would seldom attract much interest without having first sent out a raft of messages seeking it. Jonah's profile on this website, however, under the name "Robert", seemed to be picking up some interest. It appeared that modeling his profile on his brother was doing the trick - young women liked to date affluent City boys, it seemed.
Looking at the photographs and a few of the details of those who had messaged him, Jonah had to remind himself that this wasn't about his own personal choice. He had very little to go on for the moment in terms of who the killer might be, but he had to at least start looking among the types of girls Nate would go for on a website like this.
So, while 26-year-old Beth might have been more of Jonah's type, and was certainly attractive according to her picture, he thought she might be a little too bookish for Nate. Regretfully, she was not going on Jonah's list.
Maybe one day, when all of this was over, if he was still looking for more of a long-term relationship, he could start looking for the right kind of person through this website. But not yet.
Among the possibilities, two girls appeared much more of Nate's caliber. Both were certainly attractive, and the prospect of meeting girls like these explained why someone as socially confident as Nate might bother with such a thing as an online adult matchmaking service.
Sadie appeared to be a leggy brunette who also worked in the City, seeming from her picture, profile and message to be quite sophisticated and Jonah suspected probably quite posh.
She made Jonah wonder if her working in the City might mean she would see through his "Robert" disguise. But then, the guidance on the website forum did state that he ought to avoid talking about his real life, so that could be an easy defence. He couldn't afford to discount women who worked in Nate's own sphere if he was going to track the killer, though.
Becky was a redhead who said she was a nurse. Nate had always had a thing for nurses - so this freckly 23-year-old was definitely worth checking out. He thought she'd hardly invent such a profession for her profile, despite the advice to keep real details like that a secret.
Perhaps being a nurse meant she was unlikely to be a killer. Perhaps not. You couldn't tell these days, the number of medical professionals who had turned psycho in recent years. Jonah thought perhaps having medical knowledge would give a killer some advantage in actually carrying out the deed.
So, he replied to those two messages to let them know he was available any evening they cared to name. The others he would leave for a day or so, before deciding whether it was a good idea to rule them out of his investigation.
He spent a while tinkering with his profile, attempting to find if there was any way to improve his introductory blurb to make himself seem more like Nate, thereby bettering his chances of attracting the attentions of the killer.
Just as he was finishing up, ready to log-out and slip out to find some supper somewhere, he saw another message drop into his in-box. It was from Becky, asking if it was too cheeky of her to ask if he was free that very evening.
Jonah sighed, and a few heads around him turned to see what his sudden reaction was about. He was tired, and it was tempting to decline the girl's request, or suggest another evening. He figured she wouldn't mind - and if she didn't, who cared?
However, he was quite keen to make progress, and got the feeling that if he turned down a date now, it might be a while until another one came along. Plus, Becky was quite tempting herself if her picture was accurate.
He could sleep on Sunday, he decided, and replied to her that he was available that evening.
This time, he was pleased to see a sudden reply from the girl. She suggested they meet at Tufnell Park Underground Station, which Jonah had to look up - it was in North London, up the Northern Line.
She said she had an aqua-aerobics class after work, but could then meet him afterwards, perhaps at 8pm.
Jonah approved. It would give him just enough time to get home, and change into fresh clothes.
Then, just as he was logging off the website, he realized something: if he could find out Nate's username, he might be able to work out his brother's security questions and gain access to his account!
That could be a major step forward in his investigation, he thought.
But he didn't have time to think about it much, if he was going to get home and prepared for the next date.
He took the Tube up to Tufnell Park, and got there a few minutes early, since he had factored in a little more waiting time than he'd needed for his connections.
He'd never really been to that part of North London before - it seemed pretty residential, but there appeared to be some kind of pub or nightclub up the road. Perhaps that was where Becky would want to go.
What kind of hotel there might be around here, he had no idea. There was no point in worrying that he hadn't booked anything - she'd given him such short notice.
The time ticked by, and Jonah felt the nerves fluttering around inside his stomach. Those standard paranoid little thoughts were starting to tip-toe around his head - would she take one look at him and go home? Would he take one look at her and want to go home?
Of course, there was the possibility that she was the killer. It had to be a possibility - otherwise, he would not be there. Yet once again he did not feel ready to confront a killer right now. It was only his second date, he did not feel quite prepared. Would he ever, though? Was he putting himself unnecessarily at risk?
She was behind him, coming out of the tube station a few minutes late, taking him by surprise.
"Uh... Becky?" He turned, and there she was.
She smiled, and reached up to kiss his cheek, and Jonah felt relief wash over him - she was very pretty, certainly her picture had not lied. She seemed fairly dressed down, however, which Jonah had not been quite expecting - wearing a simple Addidas tracksuit ensemble and tennis shoes, her red hair tied back. It made sense, though, having come straight from her aqua aerobics class.
He concealed a smile - what had he been expecting? A nurse's uniform on a night out?
As she kissed his cheek, he caught the slight tang of chlorine along with her delicately fruity perfume.
"I'm really sorry I'm running so late," she apologised, and led them away in the opposite direction to the pub to which Jonah had assumed they would be going.
"No worries," Jonah said, wondering where they were headed.
"Our instructor kept us late," she explained.
"You work on a Saturday?" he asked, and realised they weren't supposed to be talking about their personal details.
Becky didn't seem to mind, she said: "We work shifts - doesn't really matter whether it's a weekend or not. We're supposed to get two days off a week, but it could be any time. I often lose track."
"So where are we headed?" he asked.
She smiled again, looking apologetic. "Would you mind awfully if we just stuck our noses in a party?"
He shrugged, a little surprised by going with it. "Sure, whatever."
"It's at one of my friend's flat - I haven't seen her for ages, didn't realise I'd promised to drop by tonight until she just texted. I really have to go, even if it's just a few minutes."
"Shouldn't be a problem," Jonah said.
Becky grabbed his hand, said: "We can pretend you're my new boyfriend - noone needs to know."
"Sure," he nodded, and she squeezed his hand gratefully.
She laughed, "I'm in a real state - didn't even get the chance to shower after my aerobics, you must be horrified!"
"No," he smiled, "it was in water, wasn't it?"
He was a little surprised at her apparent casual treatment of this online dating business. She must have done it quite a bit more than he had, if she could just turn up like this all dressed down and unprepared.
They walked through a series of residential streets comprising rows of terraced housing, and Jonah again had that surreal feeling he'd had when he was with Emma, a mixture of disbelief that he was with someone so attractive and that the two of them were planning on sex despite never having met before. There was also that strange feeling that came with two complete strangers meeting like this, two entirely unconnected worlds converging in the most random way.
He felt things tingling a little below the belt - Becky was very attractive, despite her dressed-down appearance.
As they walked, she asked him a little about his work - in a polite way, more than merely inquisitive. He managed to practise some of his invented persona, "Robert". She appeared to believe him, but her focus was definitely distracted.
In a few minutes weaving through a maze of row houses, they arrived outside a fairly non-descript little terraced house that had loud music pumping inside, and was clearly hosting a party.
Just before ringing the bell, Becky asked him to wait.
"How do I look?" she asked once finished, looking up at him.
"Great," he said.
"Good enough for a one night stand?" she asked with a mischievous grin.
"Absolutely," he smiled, and they went in.
The little house was packed with people - and more than a little hot and sweaty. They did a tour of the place, Becky showing her face around to the various people she knew, Jonah politely saying hello, though the music was too loud for any conversation to be heard.
Along the way came plenty of alcohol, which settled Jonah at first, but as they found a position to lurk in the tiny kitchen, Becky nattering to a dark-haired girl, shot glasses were handed round and out came the tequila.
Jonah felt safe enough with Becky already - watching her at this party seemed to rule her out according to the various movie-inspired preconceptions of the anti-social serial killer.
But, as he did his best to keep conversation going with a couple of guys who were more keen to get as much tequila down him as possible, Jonah felt concerned about what might happen if he ran into the real killer incapacitated by alcohol.
Refusing the booze was out of the question - the guys were having none of it, and he could hardly walk out of there to avoid them.
And you couldn't just sip shots of tequila.
So, he tried to act more drunk than he was, and this seemed to placate them. Well, if Becky did want to go through with the one night stand after all this, he might have to wait a while before he could fully perform at this rate.
At last, Becky pulled him away from the tequila boys. She led him on a quick tour of the rest of the house, including the tiny upstairs, then back down to the front room.
With the music now a little slower, Becky nodded towards the other couples slow dancing, and Jonah followed her into the middle, where the pretty redhead pulled him close.
"You wanna get out of here?" she asked after the music faded into the next track, although he could only really read her lips.
He nodded, and she led him through the throng to the narrow hallway and then out into the cool night air.
"Oh, I'm supposed to give you this," she said, pulling a folded piece of paper from her handbag as they walked along the dark streets, Jonah without a clue as to where they were headed.
He took it, and in the streetlight made out the standardised form of a health certificate, dated a few days before. Something stirred between his legs at the apparent confirmation she still wanted to go through with all this. After all the distraction at the party, he'd almost forgotten his primary reason for being here.
"Of course," he said, and reached for his own to give her, which she inspected as quickly as he had glimpsed at hers.
"I only live a few streets away," she said as she handed it back to him.
There was a pause in conversation as they pressed onwards. Jonah didn't really know what to say, it was an odd situation. What was she expecting from him - would they have a drink or two before taking care of business, or get straight down to it? It seemed a little early in the night for this stage of a date.
"I'm sorry this has all been a bit unplanned," Becky said, breaking the silence between them.
"It's no problem," Jonah said.
"I was having a really crappy day at work and felt like some company, if you know what I mean. Don't have a boyfriend, so..."
"Do you do this a lot?" he asked, and as soon as the question passed his lips, he thought perhaps it was inappropriate.
"Every now and then, between boyfriends," she smiled. "Better than meeting someone in a pub or club usually, so."
Again, Jonah felt his persona as "Robert" had long since slipped - maybe he needed acting lessons or something. The party and the alcohol had rendered his City Boy act a little useless. The real Jonah kept showing through.
"How about you? Seems like you just started," she said.
Jonah shrugged, and made the decision to assume this girl was probably not a killer. "You're my second," he admitted.
She grinned again, full of mischief. "Well we'd better make it memorable, then."