The Chief Inspector prints a flyer each time another woman is murdered. The woman is referred to by name; the unknown assailants are referred to as Citizen “10,” Citizen “11,” and so on. This serves the dual purpose of honoring the victims and letting the public know how many killers are out there. Some outsiders have suggested there is only one, but that would necessitate an individual ego and self-centeredness our society does not possess.
Katrina’s admirer was sweet; he doted on her from afar. She had become His Trina. The Station Master in her hamlet had introduced them through correspondence. Her admirer was looking for someone full of hope, unlike the jaded girls in his district. That she could belly dance was an unexpected bonus. He would put her in one of his little shows.
Our Chief Inspector will not rest until the killers are brought to justice, and what an exacting justice it will be! These foreign marauders will feel the hammer of the State.
For Katrina, this was also a way out of her province. Life had not been miserable but that wasn’t good enough. She would travel; be adventurous; her spirit would spread open.
We hang flyers at the train station to warn women not to travel by train (and also to advertise the holiday schedule because that must come out whether or not there are killers on the loose and we only have so much 80 lb. stock paper).
Her uncle warned Katrina. The city will swallow you whole. That would be fine, as long as it didn’t take her apart, piece by piece, over decades.
Our train station is a very windy place. The flyers become torn on their sides; their bottoms are shredded. Eventually, the pieces scatter in the woods. That is a fact of life here. Nevertheless, due to public outcry, we have hired a well-respected local to tend to the flyers. He is quite famous for his Top Hat, which will present a major challenge, given the wind.
In Katrina’s province, there had been a rumor of killers of women, but improving her station in life required bold action. Besides, there was no reason to fear; her gentleman would be waiting for her. What a team they will make! This man from her dreams, who brought all the places he had traveled alive in her mind, like only The Great Poet had done before.
By mistake, the former Commandant built the depot at the edge of town instead of in the center. This was outside of our control and so no apology is necessary but, as a result, the station has become a gathering spot for our fringe element: vagrants, drunks, the mentally challenged and the deviant (we are too polite to go into further detail). In lieu of an apology, we did make an announcement which apologized for any inconvenience the misplacing of the station had caused our fine citizens.
Katrina was surprised they let her bring her dog on the train but that is the province for you; not much concern about anything, nothing really matters. She will go somewhere that matters. Her name will be known. Her dog will run freely in the woods. She has never had him on a leash and the city will not change her.
Great news! At a symposium, our Chief Inspector heard of a new machine which will allow us to print the flyers more cheaply. This improvement will be available sometime within the next ten years. We will keep you posted on this exciting development but in all events expect the flyers to become more like a commodity.
Katrina is surprised there are not more people at the station when her train arrives. This will make it easier to spot her new lover. She will recognize him by his Top Hat.
Thanks to the efforts of our man in the Top Hat more than ten deviants have been arrested near the station. This has exceeded our expectations.
The station in the city looks worse than the one in her hamlet. Katrina pulls her stockings up over her knees. Because her province is frigid, she wears stockings on her arms as well. Missing feet, they run up her lean limbs, which were called gangly when she was young but which had become two of her greatest assets. An imposing man in a Top Hat waits impatiently by the tracks. Two stacks of flyers, each wrapped in a leather strap with large metal buckles, dangle from his hands.
Another one has been found, near the train station, in the woods.
Another one has been found, near the train station, in the woods. Choked. And also, sliced. We will no longer print new flyers every time, however, because it’s getting too expensive. Besides, this one was not from here, but from a faraway province we suspect (her stockings were ripped and, subpar). If we knew her name, we would tell you, but not print it because, well, you already know, the flyers.
On an unrelated note, due to our Chief Inspector’s razor sharp eye, a dog has been rescued in the woods near the station. Such a magnificent mane and a hunting dog nonetheless! Leather straps found tied to a tree nearby were too thick for the dog’s neck so the Chief Inspector left them to be retrieved at a later date. Out of the goodness of his heart, he brought the dog home. There is no need to describe the animal; you will see him in the photos we distribute with our special holiday flyers. As always, they will be posted at the station in time for the annual celebration, which this year will include carnival rides and be hosted by our newly-appointed Station Master (Our Chief Inspector is too busy with his growing family). There’s no need to print the Station Master’s name because, well, you already know him; he’s the man with the Top Hat in whom we have now vested total authority to tend to the flyers.
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Bobby Sauro’s short fiction has appeared in Connotation Press, Fiction Southeast, elimae, Burnt Bridge, Corium, Dew on the Kudzu, and Red Fez. He resides in Atlanta but can often be found at www.sauromotel.com, a literary motel that houses short stories and articles about Kafka, Springsteen, sweet potato vendors and the occasional 1980’s vending machine. He once worked for a Chinese professor who knew Stalin and in a nail polish factory, but not at the same time.
Header image courtesy of Paul Garaizar via unsplash.
Originally published at Fiction Attic Press.