Private Display

This is from when we were studying crime fiction in Year 12 Extension English. Fun fun!

Private Display

Lachlan Marnoch, 2012

“That is a secret, private world you’re looking into out there. People do a lot of things in private they couldn’t possibly explain in public.” – Detective Lieutenant Thomas J. Doyle, Rear Window

Avery Overshaw pasted the IP address into his browser, manipulating the keyboard with quivering fingers. After a delay two unmarked, blank fields appeared. He entered Dupin into the first and random series of characters into the second. The screen was swiftly replaced by a black square bordered by a chat zone.

Across the world, a dozen glowing screens cast a dozen faces into pale, eager masks just like his, bent toward their monitors in anticipation. In minutes the black square, repeated on each participant’s screen, stuttered to life, suddenly giving a dimly-lit view of a human figure tied to a chair. The virtual equivalents of catcalls and wolf-whistles echoed through the chatroom.

The woman’s wrinkled face came slowly to life. Her eyes widened. 

“Who are you? Please, what do you want? Oh, God…” she croaked, distorted by the miles over which her voice carried.

A black-clad figure entered the shot, head above-frame, standing behind the woman. A gloved hand, palm open, raised a tool beside the woman’s head to show the camera. Then it showed it to the woman, holding the tool in front of her eyes. She blinked, mouth open. “What is this?”

The figure drew the hammer back behind the old lady’s head. She only had time to scream “Oh God please” before the impact.

Her head lolled forward lifelessly. The attacker knelt, revealing that the figure was wearing a balaclava. It proceeded to remove her pantyhose and stand behind her again, twisting the clothing into a rope. Tenderly, the attacker wrapped the undergarment around the woman’s throat. Then pulled tight.

Afterward, Avery clicked the page closed, grinning as his heart thumped. After a minute’s reverent silence he began shutting the computer down.

It was not until after his monitor’s light blinked off that he realised he had forgotten to use a proxy.

“All the squad cars are taken,” the secretary had smiled at her. “Looks like you’ll need to improvise.”

“And a lovely day to you too,” Detective Sergeant Helen Davies muttered under her breath as she boarded the train. She took note of the graffiti carved into the semi-cushioned seats, the dull grey paint of the walls, the barely-transparent glass. Finding an aisle seat, she allowed her heavy eyelids to close for a minute, only to snap open when her head fell back through the emptiness that should have been a headrest. The designers had instead opted for seats that were reconfigurable to face either direction, as if to highlight the social aspects of public transportation.

Arriving, she emerged onto the throbbing city street and made her way toward the familiar sight of yellow tape and flashing cameras. Commercialism looked down on her in bright red and white while the traffic flowed past in hums and impatient honks.

Detective Constable Timothy Kent raised an eyebrow as he lifted the tape for her. “What happened to you? Even the damn PI was here before you.”

It took her sleep-deprived brain a few seconds to produce an appropriate response. This response took the form of a groan.


“Overshaw.” Another groan. “That idiot!” She didn’t even have the energy to be properly angry. “Fancies himself the next Sherlock or Hercule, its always deduce this, logic that, observe! Why is he here?”

“Seems the victim’s family hired him,” he replied, consulting a notebook. “Saw him in the paper from the De Lacey case, I gather.”

“God damn it. That was a lucky guess, anyone can see that. We did all the groundwork-” she rubbed her eyes. “-and the bastard jumped in at the last minute with his enormous magnifying glass and took the glory.”

Tim nodded over to the body. “Well, he’s over there now. I swear he’s improvising.”

The body of an old woman was sprawled unceremoniously across the pavement, a strip of fabric wrapped around her throat. As she drew closer Helen realised it was a twisted pair of beige pantyhose. The woman’s hair was matted with blood. Over the body stood Avery Overshaw, looking glass out, leaning in close to inspect some detail of its upper torso.

“Ah, officers!” he called without looking up. “At last you have arrived! Fear not, because I have already deduced the cause of death!” A bead of sweat slid down his brow as he stood to look up at them. He was a plump man, with a moustache so fine it could have been drawn on with a pencil, the tips curled to a perfect hyberbolic curve. He wore a suit complete with tails and white bow tie, as well as a combover which failed to hide a receding hairline.

“Blows to the head, rope around the neck... I’d say heart disease,” replied Tim with a straight face.

“You jest, officer, you jest. You were quick to remark on the rope, formed from an undergarment: this was clearly suicide. She hanged herself with her own clothing.”

This left Helen speechless for a few seconds, bewildered by the man’s epic levels of incompetence. When she found her voice, she replied: “So how did she get out here?”

“Well, clearly...” Avery gulped. “Her nursing home... ah... put her here to... ah... escape blame.”

“And the head injuries?”

“Must have... um... hit her head when they cut her down.”

“Alright, thank you for your help, Overshaw. We’ll take it from here.”

He bowed his head. “As you please.” He waddled away. Helen’s brow creased as she watched him go. “Our private eye is losing his touch. Now to the real police work.”

The two of them took a break in a nearby cafe, a crowded affair where archaic machines of the coffee trade took up at least a quarter of the available floor-space. For a minute they sat sipping their orders (a hot chocolate for Helen; she couldn’t stand coffee), then began to brainstorm.

“Well… I was thinking… could this be linked to the murder last week?” Tim began when prompted.

“Completely different MO, so apart from both taking place on a Tuesday night I don’t see how.”

“Not completely different. Both victims were killed in another location and then dumped on the streets. And look at the first case. German woman decapitated and then shot several times in the head with a .22. Ring any bells?”

Davies vaguely recalled something similar, but couldn’t quite dredge it up. “Sort of.”

“It’s exactly what a certain Sydney serial killer did to backpacker Anja Habschied back in ’91.”

A wave of ghostly pinpricks swept across Helen’s body. “Milat. Ivan Milat.”

“Exactly! Now last night’s murder: hit with a hammer and strangled with her own pantyhose. That’s the exact MO of the first murder by Johnny Wayne Glover, the Granny Killer.”

Recognition lit up her eyes. “You know what, you’re right. You’ve got a remarkable memory.”

“For things like this, ma’am. I couldn’t even remember where I left my damn badge this morning.”

“So you think we’re looking at a copycat killer? A... multi-cat killer?”

“It’s a possibility.”

She leaned back in her chair, letting her eyes fall closed for a moment. “Holy shit.”

Tim’s phone blared Skrillex across the cafe. He tapped it open and listened intently for about a minute, then switched it shut.

“Uniform are looking into a theft at the Police and Justice Museum. Someone broke in last night and lifted about a dozen old weapons, including the hammer used by…”

“…John Glover,” Helen finished. “We’re dealing with a perfectionist here. Someone who would risk breaking in to a Police museum just to use the original weapon.” She stood. “We’ve got to move. You interview the victim’s family, I’m going to the Museum.”

Helen walked past implements of death preserved behind glass cabinets, gathering the dust normally reserved for priceless works of art.

“How much is missing?”

A uniform officer referred to a list in her notebook. “A few old revolvers, some knives and concealed blades. Except for the hammer, it’s all weapons confiscated from criminals well into the past. Pretty unlikely that they’re to be used as weapons, they’d be extremely lucky to get the guns working at all; but artefacts like those would make a killing on eBay.”

While they were talking, the museum curator emerged from the nearby bathroom, with a slightly open mouth and wide eyes. “Officers? I think there’s something else you need to see.”

The webcam was taped to the bathroom wall, connected to some kind of antenna. It was pointed at an empty office chair. There was a red stain on it. Helen’s stomach filled with leaden dread. She quickly called Tim and informed him of the development.

“It looks like this antenna broadcasts to a nearby location, probably a computer. From there the footage could be directed anywhere over the internet. It’s a long shot, but I’ve got a feeling that our perp stole the hammer and committed the murder right here, broadcasting it on the internet for perverted fucks who like seeing historical murders re-enacted.” She knelt on one foot to examine the stain.

“That’s an incredibly specific fetish.”

Just for a second, she closed her eyes. The brief lapse in concentration caused her to lose her balance and she almost fell head-first into the chair, but caught herself with a swiftly-placed foot.

“Sorry? Oh, yeah… its one rarely catered for. So when a freak like this pops up he draws them like moths to a flame. The internet is a filthy, sadistic place, voyeurism overdrive. Yeah, we need to look into it further, get the IT people to analyse it all, but I’ve got a feeling we’re onto it.” Christ, I need to sleep.

“There’s something else.” She could almost hear Tim’s frown across the phone. “I’ve got some… strange news. I interviewed the whole family of the victim and not one of them knows who Avery Overshaw is.”

She stood with the speed of a spring bent backward and released. “What? And no-one questioned that he was automatically allowed in an active crime scene?” Suddenly she felt wide awake.

“He’s been involved in cases before, everyone just assumed-”

“Great. So all of that suicide crap was an attempt at misdirection as opposed to sheer incompetence.” She massaged her temple with one hand.

“Probably both, ma’am.”

Helen clenched her teeth and fist, shaking her head. “I think it’s time we caught up with Avery Overshaw.”

Watching this from my current residence, through a second, tiny camera I had embedded in the bathroom’s corner, I couldn’t believe my luck. They can never catch me, I know that, but Dupin’s – or Overshaw, now that I know his real name – bumbling attempts at cover-up will provide an extra layer of entertainment for my loyal viewers. Which is why I am streaming it to you now.

I think you will be very satisfied with my next instalment.

By Simon Wedege Petersen [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Simon Wedege Petersen [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons