The rusted skeletons of a bygone age were strewn over the grass bank. No crime lab will come and look for them, no one would ever be brought to justice.

The tide had gone out and Jody took advantage of this to have a walk. She was in a hard coated suit – which allowed her to walk through the wreckage without worrying about her coat being torn. She took a deep breath. The filtration mask of the environment suit took out the stench of the metal, the run off from the house boats and the waterlogged vegetation.

The deep breaths were doing the job of clearing her head. Her old friend had given her a conundrum. Rather, she had asked for it.

Westerfield had told her about the case, about her place in it, and the confusion he had – no motive, no demands, no pattern apart from the sense of counting.

She looked out towards the sea. Over where her grandfather had seen deer and taken photos of them for her to see on his antique spime. But she wasn’t seeing the grey sky, or the reflection of it in the receding water. She was looking at the case.

Jody had been in a specialist crime think tank prior to her stint as bar owner and all the skills she had hoped to put behind her had kicked back in. The murder of the old man would have been spectacular. A supremely rich man, secure in his apartment looking out over the entire city. But he was dead. The murder wouldn’t have “counted.” The next attack was public. On the transport system. Her bar wasn’t even open when he attacked it. The people who died there just happened to be there.

She opened the comm link in her suit and patched through to Westerfield.

“The murders cycle, you said?”

“This isn’t your case, Jody. Forget about it.”

“And this happens around Shopmas – but this year is the big one. He’s perfected his technique and he’s making it count.”

“We know all this.”

“He wants people to take notice.”

“So he’s a terrorist?”

She turned and saw her boys leaving the boat, and she waved to them.

“No – you need to work out who they want to take notice.”

“Is that all?”

“Hang on Charles.” She flicked to eldest son’s line.

“Mom?”

“Hey Aaron. You be careful out there today, ok? Get home early, too. There’s something going on and it might not be safe out there.”

“Ok, mom. We’ll be back before it gets dark. Love you.”

“Love you too. You look after your brother.”

She flicked back and turned to face the sea again. “Charles. Run me some more information.” Which was unfortunate, because she totally failed to see a twitching shadow of a man peel out from the shadow and follow her children.