The Voice of Anton Bouchard
(A Journey into the mind of a Serial Killer)
What makes a serial killer? Some of the finest psychiatrists, psychologists and criminologists in the modern world have pondered that question. Is a serial killer born to it? Does a defective gene present in their biological make-up leave them devoid of feeling or compassion for their fellow man, leading them inexorably toward the destruction of life becoming normal in their daily existence? Might they inherit the desire to kill? The child of a psychopathic murderer simply follows the genetic instructions passed on from his or her parents? Could science classify the evil they perpetrate as a medical condition, something treatable by drugs? The unpredictability of the serial killer makes them the hardest to identify and apprehend. More often than not, luck plays a major role in bringing these misfits of society to justice. Unfortunately, many remain free, and the corpses attributed to them continue to grow in number. In some cases, only the killer's own demise or ageing brings their particular reign of death to an end.
Another theory exists, however, one that has gained greater credibility in recent years. Many ex-soldiers, returning from violent and traumatic experiences on the battlefield have found it increasingly difficult to adjust to civilian life on their discharge from the military, some of these unfortunate individuals themselves becoming killers in civilian life. Unable to return to normality after being desensitized by war, they view death as a normal part of their everyday existence and feel compelled to carry on where their military careers left off. So the theory goes that the mind may become so shaped and moulded by life events, that trauma could turn a previously well-adjusted and respected citizen into that most heinous and reviled of murderers, the serial killer!
In truth, we must confess that we simply don't know the answer. Perhaps one day the specialists and psychiatrists will discover the cause of the aberration that leads one individual to lose so much of their basic humanity that they embark on the systematic and at times ritualistic murder of their fellows.
Until that day arrives, we can only continue to wring our hands in horror and gasp at the terrible headlines that scream at us from the popular press as the struggle for understanding continues.
Meanwhile, the minds of men and women such as Anton Bouchard remain closed to the world, and a clear and permanent danger to the unfortunates who unwittingly and tragically become drawn into their murderous web. So, the next time you pass your neighbour in the street, remember the story about to unfold before your eyes, and remain vigilant, always remain vigilant.
Paris! The mere name of the great French metropolis conjures up thoughts of romance and culture. Great palaces and art galleries abound, and tourists flock to the city of love in their droves year after year. Happy families pass through the French capital on their way to Disney World and tourists in their thousands flock to view the famous sights of the Arc de Triomphe, The Elyseé Palace and the Eiffel Tower.
In the stifling heat of one long and languid summer, however, Paris sadly became the focus of one of the great criminal investigations of the early years of the new century. Known by the popular press as `The Butcher Beast', a seemingly invisible menace targeted attractive young women, subjecting them to horrific torture before finally ending their lives in brutal and bloodthirsty fashion.
As the police carried out their investigation into the string of murders that grew longer with each passing week, the public called out for an end to the killings, for the police to do something to bring the beast to justice. The clamour for positive action, for results grew louder as the murders escalated. Unfortunately for the people of Paris, in the absence of an identifiable motive for the murders and lacking solid evidence of any kind, and with a killer at large who appeared able to cover his tracks perfectly before disappearing like a wraith into the hot steamy night, the police appeared powerless in their efforts to solve the case.
The killer appeared to target random victims and with each new murder the level of brutality grew steadily worse. Soon, the streets of Paris would be devoid of women after dark. Fear would rule and Paris risked becoming a no-go area for the fairer sex. Such an event would lead to a disastrous fall in the number of tourists visiting the city, with the subsequent financial consequences being felt across the whole of the capital. As the heat of summer increased so too did the tension on the streets and the pressure on the police to catch the killer became almost as unbearable as the temperature.
No-one knew who to trust and who to suspect. People began to suspect their neighbours, friends turning against each other on the slightest pretext. It seemed as if everyone had become a suspect in the eyes of the man in the street. Paris became the centre of attention for the world's media. CNN, CBS, ABC, the BBC and ITN; all there to report on the inevitable public fascination with the horrific murders. Oddly enough, every anchor, camera operator and technician from those overseas networks was male. No-one wanted to place their female staff in any unnecessary danger.
The inexorable heat bore down on the city, hanging like a heavy pall above the airless streets and boulevards, and many women began to refuse to leave their homes at night, at least without a trusted escort. Others, either foolish or unwary or both decided that they wouldn't allow the intimidation wrought by the murders to take over their lives, and, ignoring the danger posed by the murderer they determinedly went about their business as normal. Some of course had no choice. They had to work to survive. Most of them stayed lucky and lived. For an unfortunate few however, their luck tragically ran out!
Anton sat, quietly listening, head cocked slightly to one side, determined not to miss a word. He listened to the sound of the other's voice; hypnotic, the intonation soft, yet persuasive. As always, Anton felt mesmerised by the almost musical reverberation inside his head whenever he heard that voice. Enraptured by the soothing voice, he felt cocooned from the world around him, nothing and no-one else existed, only the voice mattered, and Anton listened, captivated and at the same time, trapped by the voice in his mind. The voice slowly faded, receding into the far recesses of his mind, and Anton unconsciously answered in a low voice “I know, I know. I understand what needs to be done”.
“Are you alright, m'sieur?”
The voice of the waitress suddenly cut in on Anton's thoughts. She had arrived at his table intending to offer to refill his coffee cup when she'd heard him talking, apparently to himself. Concern echoed in her voice as she asked her question.
“Eh? What do you want?” snapped Anton, with undisguised venom.
“I'm sorry m'sieur, I merely wondered if you would like a refill.”
The girl held up the gleaming stainless steel coffee pot in demonstration of her offer. Anton's reaction had scared her and she deliberately made no eye contact with her grouchy customer.
“Yes, please, I apologize for snapping, I was just thinking aloud.” said Anton.
The girl allowed herself to relax a little and smiled in acknowledgement of his apology and she quickly filled his cup and turned on her heel, eager to withdraw from the strange, sullen man seated by the window. He watched her as she retreated behind the high counter at the far end of the café. His eyes penetrated deep into her back as she walked, taking in every detail of her walk, the gentle sway of her hips, her hair, the blonde tresses caressing her shoulders as she moved, and the sound of her shoes as they clacked on the shiny, polished floor.
Anton liked what he saw. The girl was just his type. She would fulfil his needs more than admirably. The name on the badge pinned to her dress identified her as Michelle. Yes, Anton would see Michelle again. As if on cue, he heard the voice again. His irritation with the girl, his over sensitive reaction, his sudden flash of anger disappeared, instantly forgotten as he listened quietly, intently, head once again cocked on one side. As the voice receded once again, Anton looked down at his hands; they were shaking. He placed his palms face down upon the chequered pink and white tablecloth, pressing down on the table until the shaking stopped. Anton felt as if he were drowning, drowning in a sea of unimaginable uncontrollable grief, allied to a sense of losing his grip on reality. He tried hard to think rationally about the way his life had begun corkscrewing out of his control.
When had it started? He asked himself the question over and over again as he sat sipping his third sickly sweet black coffee, staring at the passing human traffic through the window of the street-side café; just another anonymous customer in another anonymous café-bar. When had the bloodlust that consumed him first begun to envelope his life? When had the voice within his brain first sent him out to accomplish that which had to be done? And it did have to be done; he knew that as surely as he knew his name, though no-one would ever understand. He knew that with a surety as firm as his belief in the voice. Not that he agreed with everything the voice told him, of course. He was much too intelligent for that! Oh no, he often argued with the voice within until he became blue in the face, but somehow, the voice always seemed to win, to overpower and subdue his sense of logic, his rationale. If ever the police apprehended him he knew for sure that he'd be vilified, hated, probably declared insane. He wasn't insane of course, though only he could testify to that, if he were asked.
Anton was forty-eight years old, and his once luxuriant dark brown hair had turned prematurely grey. He now kept it deliberately very short, so as not to emphasize the early ageing process that had struck him soon after the arrival of the voice. He remained in great physical shape and held himself erect when he walked, his tall frame towering over most of his fellow beings as he passed them in the street. His inner turmoil could perhaps have been betrayed by a visible sadness that showed in his eyes, but few people bothered to look that closely.
He allowed himself to dwell on his thoughts for a minute or two, before the answer to his own question revealed itself from within the deep recesses of his mind.
Three years, or nearly so, he suddenly concluded. That's when it started, when he first heard that nagging, incessant voice deep within his mind. Shortly after the millennium celebrations, that's when it began. He smiled as if satisfied, as if he'd solved a problem that hung heavy on his mind, and just as the solution came to him, he found himself interrupted in his reverie by the sound of a familiar, though unwelcome voice.
“Anton, how are you, it's been too long. Where have you been keeping
André Deladier was firstly a reporter, and secondly his brother-in-law, or should that be ex-brother-in-law? Nowadays he couldn't be too sure. Certainly he was the last person Anton wanted to see or speak to. Seeing André only reminded him of the pain, the awful agonies he had suffered at the loss of his dear Felicité, André's younger sister. She had been Anton's wife, his lover, his life. A doctor specializing in tropical diseases, she'd devoted six months of her life to helping ease the suffering of the poor in the Sudan, only to return to die horribly from a Haemorrhagic Fever contracted during her ministrations on the Dark Continent. At first filled with happiness and contentment that his beautiful wife had returned, Anton had watched helplessly as her organs were slowly absorbed by that terrible disease, had seen her once beautiful features distorted by pain, witnessed the horror as blood seemed to ooze from every part of her body, from her ears, her eye sockets, her nose. He'd watched with helpless horror, unable to stop her organs gradually liquefying, her body gradually destroying itself from within, becoming little more than a shapeless pulp. He cried, he screamed at God, the doctors, at anybody who would listen, but no-one could help his wife. Anton watched as his wife's body, ravaged by that awful disease literally melted away before his eyes. The doctors tried everything they could, but nothing could save his darling Felicité, it was too late, and her death came as an eventual release for her and a sign for him. That's when the voice had first spoken to him, the night she left him, the night so long, so dark, so lonely, when he closed his eyes, vainly trying to sleep and saw only blood, nothing but blood, and he knew then what he had to do. Anton's mind had slipped into a new dimension, and he would never be the same man as he had been before he'd witnessed the absolute horror of Felicité's death.
Now he turned to face Deladier, seeing the resemblance to his wife in the face of her brother, the eyes, the same aquiline nose, even the shared blonde hair, and Anton's hatred for André man simply increased with the reminder that the man's face represented.
“Go away André, I have no time to talk to you”.
“But Anton, we've all been worried about you,”
He was referring to his wife Arlette and son Bernárd. The passage of years had made Anton unreasonably jealous that André at least still had his wife, his family. It had been over a year since Anton had last seen Arlette and his nephew. André unfortunately had the unfortunate habit of bumping into Anton at the most inopportune times as the two of them went about their daily working lives. Why couldn't the man just leave him alone?
“André, how many times must I say this? Go Away! I just want to be left in peace I have neither the time nor the desire to engage in useless chit chat with you or with anyone else”.
Deladier looked at Anton with a mixture of pity and frustration etched on his face. He realised how much Anton had aged in a short time. As for the man's obvious show of temper at his intrusion into his sadness, André had had similar conversations with his late sister's husband on too many occasions in recent years, and he knew that the likelihood of Anton accepting one of his many invitations remained virtually non-existent, but the memory of his sister's love for her husband compelled him to try.
“Anton, Anton, I'll go if that's what you want, but you have to return to reality some time. Felicité is gone. As sad and tragic as her death was, and don't forget that I loved her too, you have to move on. You can't grieve for ever”.
“I have my work” said Anton, and he looked deep into André's eyes, and
something in that look provided André with all the encouragement he needed to hastily depart from the scene, though as he walked away Deladier couldn't resist one last comment.
“Please, just remember that work isn't everything in life Anton. You're preoccupied with death, all day, every day. You just can't leave it alone!”
“Goodbye, André” retorted Anton, thinking to himself You're so right dear brother-in-law, I am preoccupied with death, especially the ones I engineer, the ones which show me the pain, the blood, the cries and the screams, the exquisite final torment that manifests itself in those last seconds of life. That's what makes death worthwhile, but you'd never understand that if I told you, nor would anyone else. You're all too puny and narrow-minded to grasp the essence, the beauty of what I do.”
André had disappeared from sight by the time he finished his musing. Anton hadn't even noticed the man's departure. He left a few euros on the table, not waiting for his change. He grabbed his jacket from its place hanging on the back of his chair, and hurriedly left the café.
He found his car where he'd left it and drove the Peugeot the two miles back to his office, where he busied himself in administrative trivia for a couple of hours before making the decision to call it a day. He couldn't wait to get home. Anton had important work ahead of him and wanted to refresh himself, and prepare for the task he'd set for himself. Despite his urgent need, Anton took a detour on the way home, driving the long way round the streets of Paris. He needed to clear his mind, to wind down after the long day at work. The drive would do it.
The ultra-warm weather had brought the tourists flocking to the city, and as he drove past the thronging crowds he couldn't help but notice that the girls' skirts seemed to be getting shorter by the day, shorts were in abundance and even the businessmen of the city had forsaken their jackets and were, for the most part, walking the streets in short-sleeved shirts, many having dispensed with their ties. The heat had the effect of loosening the inhibitions of the young, and in many cases the not so young. The amount of female flesh on display acted as the burning flame of a candle to a moth. Anton heard the urging of the voice in his mind and recognized the summons. He felt exhilarated, and more than ready.