Monday, 21 October, 2002
I read a lot of crime novels and true crime stories several years ago, and noted that what gets killers caught are patterns that they either fail to notice or insist upon repeating despite the risk. If there's no pattern in the victims, or the timing or manner of killing, there's very little for investigators to go on. I had plotted a story in which the killer picks random people in random cities, and using many different methods to kill them. Besides being a depressing thought, I decided not to go ahead with the story for two reasons: 1) I didn't want to give anybody any ideas (a groundless fear—people already get wacky ideas); and 2) I couldn't think of any realistic way that the killer could have been caught or even how an investigator could tie the killings together. I'd have to add some brilliant deduction or unbelievable stroke of luck for "The Hero" to get anywhere. I'm not too concerned anymore about giving people ideas-I'm sure there are plenty of nutcases out there who have thought up even more frightening things. Heck, there might even be people out there already doing random killings. I couldn't come up with a plausible way to get around my second objection, though, without making the story seem contrived. What little I've learned about crime scene investigation over the past few years still hasn't changed my mind. Somebody who just wanted to kill random people could get away with it for quite some time, despite the best efforts of our law enforcement community. It's a frightening thought.
As you might imagine, it's the D.C. area sniper who got me to thinking about this again. That one probably would have remained free had he stopped after the 7th or 8th attack. But he's gotten careless, and will undoubtedly be caught if he continues.