The killer gave himself away by removing a small piece of flesh from beneath the victims’ noses. It was as good as a confession.
“This is one for Marvell,” said the chief.
Psychological profiler Dr Hank Marvell was not a universally popular figure among the officers of Scotland Yard’s Weird Crimes Unit (WCU). Perhaps it was his habit of breezing in and solving in seconds the cases that had long baffled the best brains in the unit. He was not about to make any new friends.
“You are looking for someone German, or of German descent,” said Marvell after he had been thoroughly briefed. His gaze scanned the list of victims’ names eagerly.
A light came on in the chief’s aching brain. “It’s something to do with Hitler?” he groped. “The section he cuts out is like a bloody Hitler moustache?”
“No,” said Marvell. “It’s nothing to do with Hitler. Nice try, though.”
The light went out again. The chief began to see why his men hated Marvell.
“We are dealing with a very peculiar kind of paranoid schizophrenic,” continued the profiler, with that infuriating air of authority that many saw as arrogance.
“Aren’t they all peculiar? Isn’t that the point?”
“What this killer is seeking to do is remove himself from his crimes. Either because he cannot face up to the horror of what he has done, or because, with the twisted logic of a madman, he considers himself to be outwitting the police. As it happens, he is doing no such thing. Quite the opposite, in fact. He is signalling his guilt.” Marvell pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Of course, one mustn’t discount the possibility that that is his intention.”
“You can’t have it both ways,” the chief objected.
“Oh but you can,” said Marvell. “As Jung pointed out, psychic processes are characterised by duality – both… and – rather than polarity – either… or.”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”
“The killer’s conscious will was to deny his culpability. His subconscious wish was to admit his guilt. He found a way to do both.”
Marvell held his forefinger up over his lips, touching with his fingertip the strip of skin – the columella – between his nostrils. It was as if he was signalling for the chief to be silent.
The chief frowned. “He was silencing them?”
“Death is the great silencer, it’s true,” said Marvell. “But even when dead, his victims had his name on their lips. Or rather above their lips. I believe you mentioned an elderly German couple among his victims? Herr and Frau Trumm?”
“What of it?”
“They have a son, Philipp. It just so happens that he came to my attention a few years ago. I diagnosed him then as suffering from an extreme personality disorder. He harboured severe hostility towards his parents, and in fact towards anyone who ever showed him any affection. As soon as I heard the name, I became suspicious. The excision of the philtrum -”
“The concave channel of flesh here.” Marvell touched his face below his nose. “You knew that was what it’s called, of course?”
“The excision of the philtrum proved it beyond doubt. Phil Trumm removes himself from the scene of the crime.” Dr Marvell drew himself up and thrust out his chest in self-congratulation.
The chief sent some men to pick up Philipp Trumm. Meanwhile, he drafted a memo banning the future use of external consultants due to budgetary cutbacks. He told himself it was something he had been meaning to do for some time.