It really was hidden. A small pond but the fish were huge. Every now and then, they’d surface. Some had been there for years, probably decades. Didn’t get a nibble though. All afternoon fishing, not one nibble.
Went back to the old geezer and told him. He asked us what bait we were using. Boilees and sweetcorn of course, we said. What else could you use?
He shook his head. Them fish, he said, ain’t normal pond fish. These lot are tame, they play a game to get food. He pointed at the little pond. That other pond’s different, he says. Fish aren’t used to people. What you need is live bait.
Spent ages digging up worms and trying it. Real battle of wits, it was. The fish were clever, sly old things. It was the fun of the chase. Casting, trying to outwit them. The old man knew that. In his own way, he was passing that onto us. To this day I remember his face when we told him we’d caught something. Never forget it. Sometimes, he said, only live bait’ll work.
Course, he was right. I never forgot it either. When all these murders became a problem, I thought back to his words.
We’d tried everything, the press were losing faith in me and everyone else on the force. I was looking at demotion. I remembered the old man’s words. Would live bait work? Would it?
I passed a message on to this street gal. She was a good gal, never hurt no one. Weren’t her fault she was down and out, kicked out of home at seventeen, on the streets for two years. She did tricks for food and booze. Just to survive, though. Only to survive.
The message said go to the canal at eight. It’d be worth her while. She’d worked down there before. An old shack by the water. Perfect hideout for her kind of work. I felt bad about using her. I’d be there though, there’s no way she’d get hurt.
I got to the shack myself at seven, hid in the old cupboard. Eye holes in the rotten wood, I could see everything. She was outside waiting just after eight. A punter comes up and talks to her. He looked shifty, eyes looking everywhere. I could my feel fists clench when he started touching her. Enough to make you sick, that is. She dragged him inside. Forty quid for full, I heard her say. I could feel my face getting hot, my arms shaking as he started on her.
I burst out the cupboard and the knife started to smash into his body. Blow after blow after blow. Long after he was dead the blows kept coming. Finally the mist cleared and I stopped. I dropped the knife, grabbed her wrists and handcuffed her.
“I’m arresting you for murder,” I started.
Well, who are they gonna believe? Me, the respected policeman, a serial killer? Or a street girl doing tricks, killing the men who paid her? I'd been watching her for a while. Disgusted me what those blokes did. I had to stop them, didn't I?
That’s what live bait's all about. You sacrifice something for a bigger fish. You gotta think of the bigger picture. She’ll be safer inside anyway. Streets ain’t no place for a young woman. Never know what kind of weirdo you’ll come across out here.
Charlie Wade lives in Derbyshire, England and has written three books, a comedy spy thriller, a post credit crunch dystopia and a crime thriller. He's had six short stories published online and his story, Pleading and Bleeding, was in Out Of The Gutter Magazine issue 7. He blogs at http://spiesliesandpies.blogspot.com/