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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Ink Pen Killer

Detective Chief Inspector Conway addressed the police officers assembled before him, ‘As senior investigating officer in this case, I have called this briefing to update you all about a critical development.

‘The Ink Pen Killer, as the press have dubbed him or her, is the most prolific serial killer in British history. Nevertheless, this investigation has been ongoing for two years and has failed to identify the murderer.

‘You will recall that IPK has a very specific modus operandi: All victims have taught English within primary or secondary education in Britain since 1985. All have been brutally stabbed to death with a traditional ink pen of a type that would have been in common use in the early twentieth century. Finally, a handwritten letter has been left beside each body.

‘Until now, it had proven impossible to decipher the contents of those letters. They had been analysed by linguists and cryptographers but no similarity could be found with any known language or code.

‘Those communications have now been decrypted thanks to the youngest member of our team, WPC Stone.

‘WPC Stone was educated in Britain during the period in which the victims taught and recognised the script in the letters as typical of writing by young people who had also been educated within that time. Fortunately, in order to complete her application form to join the Force, Rosetta undertook an intensive remedial literacy course. She is now bilingual in Standard English and BSLE, or British School-leavers English, and has thus been able to translate the murderer’s words.

‘All the letters are identical, and I will now read to you their chilling, translated content:

“You will never stop me until all English teachers of the past two decades are dead.

“My great grandmother left school at fourteen yet could write beautifully and spell every word.

“Why is it, then, that I and millions like me, even the cleverest amongst us, have left British schools unable to compose or write down a comprehensible sentence?

“Why is it that when showing to someone over fifty anything that we have written, it is met with howls of derisive laughter?

“Why are we destined to suffer painful anxiety each time we submit an educational assignment or job application form? We know that our literacy skills are diabolical but we cannot recognise our mistakes.

“I hold this victim culpable, together with those I have already killed and those who will subsequently be exterminated.

“They claim to have just been following orders from the Ministry of Education. That was no excuse at Nuremberg and is no excuse to me. They must have known that most of their pupils left school unable to read or write even the words ‘modern literacy teaching methods’.

“English teachers have blighted my life, and each death will avenge not just me, but my generation.


‘As a result of this message, it has been decided to close the investigation. This decision has not been taken lightly, as we realise that very many former English teachers will remain in mortal danger. The motive for the killings, however, implicates millions of suspects, and it would be impossible to even attempt to eliminate them all.’

As the officers left the briefing room, no one observed the enigmatic smile of WPC Stone.