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18th, April 2010, Friday, 5:00 AM.

What could drive someone to kill?

Normal people didn’t just decide to murder a bunch of people for no reason, there had to be some kind of external force that put them under enough pressure before they were driven to kill. Something like a feeling of being trapped with no way out, a singular moment of passion, defending oneself or even their loved ones, jealousy, hate, rage, and self-loathing were all reasons people would act upon another, these types of murderers burnt brightly and vanished quickly.

Serial killers were a much more nebulous creature, they already had a driving force behind them, something that led them to specific actions and specific places. They followed elaborate patterns, and they held a sick pride in keeping to them. They placed rules upon themselves, almost like a code of conduct, and rarely deviated from them of their own volition.

The train killer was most definitely the second type, there was an easily recognized pattern to the murders, it always every second day, always a different time but never the same train twice in a row. The killer would sometimes attack during the day, but the vast majority of the victims disappeared during the night.

The media for some reason had felt the need to give the murderer a nickname like some type of trophy. It was also a stupid name if I were being honest, and I couldn’t help but think that if he weren’t already a killer, the name alone might have driven them to kill. I was seriously waiting for the killer to start working double time in revenge for the stupid name, but I was getting distracted. I wasn't going to use the name in silent protest, I'd refer to them simply as the train killer.

Train accidents, train deaths, train enthusiasts, and train-related people, I looked into them all but in order to convert this data into something useful, I had to start making some assumptions, It would allow me to narrow my field of view enough to decide on a course of action.

First, the killer was obviously a cape, incredible deduction sherlock! I hear you say, well fuck you, avoiding detection from the civilians, police, cameras, and capes that were present during the crime was no easily dismissed feat. I certainly couldn't do it, not without destroying the cameras first at least. The killer had never been seen, and all the victims had just vanished when they were outside of any camera's frame of reference, nobody had seen a thing not even the capes on board.

The second piece of information that pointed towards it being a cape that some might have overlooked, some of the victims were rather large people, people who easily weighed over one-hundred kilograms in some cases, manhandling a person that large would be no easy task if you had no enhanced strength or ability that was relevant to the task and it would have been even harder if you consider trying to carry someone away without being seen or heard.

As I said, the killer was obviously a cape, this gave me a place to start from, even if it wasn't much. So, with that information in mind, I was looking at all the train-related shenanigans over the last twenty years. Twenty years? I hear you ask, why was I looking all the way back twenty years? Well, for a cape to trigger in the first place, they needed to have a trigger event, which was usually either an incredibly positive experience or a very traumatic experience, at least that was the popular theory. Most capes apparently triggered somewhere between the ages of twelve and thirty, with the odd rare exception, again this was all information I discovered on the internet, so I was taking it with a grain of salt.

Assuming the information was correct, it is very probable that the train killer is at least twelve years old and no older than thirty. The killer’s theme seemed to be killing people on trains, which probably meant that they had experienced a train-related accident or incident somewhere in their past. At least I thought that the probability seemed high, I also felt that it was likely a train-related event that ended up with survivors, obviously because the train killer was alive and not at all dead. Although it was possible that the killer hadn't been on a train at all, and that it was a family member or loved one that had been involved in an incident involving trains, but still either way I was on to something, at least I thought so.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the killer must have actually triggered in a train accident, although that's not at all off the table, they might have triggered a long time ago, and only just recently developed an issue with trains. Alternatively, they could have had some sort of train-related trauma in the past, and they had very recently triggered, suddenly finding themselves with the power to act on old grudges.

In either case, an incident with a train still seemed highly likely, I had a gut feeling, with no actual evidence to support it, that the killer had triggered recently. The killer had started killing people at the start of this month after all, to me, that sounded like someone had just triggered and started using their powers to kill people, in a once every two-day cycle. It was a bit of a stretch, without any evidence to just assume it, I'll admit.

I had also learned during my investigation that apparently there is only about one parahuman in a population size of eight thousand people, an interesting factoid that was rather relevant.

Brockton bay had many capes, compared to the population size and there were no-doubt even more hidden away that nobody knew about, seeing as I was one of those hidden capes, at least until last year.

This led me to the second branch in the killer's identity tree, had they been a cape for years? Did something happen to the killer to make them suddenly developed an interest in trains?

Something that would cause them to start killing people on them.

The only Brockton Bay cape that had anything to do with a train was Trainwreck and it was just a name, besides I was pretty sure I could eliminate this guy as a possibility I mean, it obviously wasn't him, sure he had the strength to toss people off a train with ease, but he would have been seen ten times over, he was a massive guy, noisy and was generally followed with a large amount of smoke, he was not exactly subtle.

So it was likely that either the cape had only just arrived in Brockton bay recently, or that they had been here for a while but had never revealed themselves after they had triggered. The first felt unlikely for some reason, but I couldn't put my finger on why I felt that way. The best argument I could find against it was that, why would they come to Brockton Bay to kill people?

It was a strange place to go to straight out of the blue, something felt wrong about that argument, but I wasn't sure what it was. Ah, I was banking on the crazy train killer to not be completely insane, that was it.

To wit; A person, thirty or under, train-related in some way, a cape; recently triggered or hidden and never revealed, something set them off at the end of March.

I would need to figure out any train-related things that happened in March, but I think that I could safely assume these things were at least mostly correct, It was a start at least. At the end of my research, I had created four folders on my computer, one of which was completely empty.

The first was simply labeled 'Train accidents', and it was filled with all of the incidents that I could find that had ended with injuries or deaths by trains in the last twenty years before I had filtered it down to just Brockton Bay accidents, I was shocked. I could not believe how many accidents happened on these damn things; it was astounding.

I had always thought that trains were relatively safe, but apparently every year there was at least one train collision or derailment that killed hundreds of people, sometimes multiple. In Brockton Bay alone, within the last twenty years, there had been a grand total of seven train accidents, one derailment, one collision, and three minor incidents.

The collision had killed twenty people but ended up with seventy-four seriously injured, there weren't any standouts within that pool, but the train killer could potentially have been any one of them. The derailment on the other hand was more promising, it had killed one-hundred-and-thirty-one passengers, which seemed a like a massive loss of life for a singular accident, and there was only a single survivor to the derailment: a young boy.

This kid was immediately my first suspect, it seemed so obvious that I couldn't believe nobody had figured out it was him yet. I looked the kid up on the internet, there was zero doubt in my mind that he was the killer his backstory was almost like the plot of a movie. I was sure that I would find that the kid went on to become a maniac or mysteriously disappeared. Instead, all I found was that he drowned in 2003. Shit, okay, I clearly got a little bit ahead of myself there, I should try and be less attached to any suspect.

The second folder was labeled 'Train related', and it was filled with people who were publicly involved in trains within the city, stakeholders, employees or otherwise. Seeing as I had no fucking idea who worked at the train station or even who drove the trains, I was going to have to go get that information the hard way, tomorrow.

Operation: Rob a train station, better name pending.

There were three big names that stood out however, all three had been very pro-train in Brockton Bay following the shipping industries' death. And they had each been very public figures of some renown. One of these was dead, with no surviving family, it clearly wasn't that guy or his immediate relatives. The second guy was no longer in Brockton Bay and had moved on to do a tv show on daytime television, so it probably wasn’t him either.

The only remaining figure was a man named Roy Christner, he had advocated for more railways to be built in Brockton Bay for years and he seemed to like the idea of privatized transport. Almost a decade and change later, he was now the Mayor of Brockton Bay.

Coincidence? I think not.

Interestingly or not, the man was 56 years old so he didn't fit into the parameters I had set to narrow the data down, and it was unlikely that the mayor would randomly start killing people. Rich people tended to commit fewer crimes than poorer people, for a variety of reasons and I couldn't think of a motive that fit for him to kill people on the trains that he had advocated for.

I investigated him some more anyway and quickly found that he was married and that he also had a son who went to Arcadia, the kid was in my very year in fact. We were the same age, I blinked, that was a bit too much of a coincidence. A boy who fits the age bracket for most likely to trigger had a parent that had spent years advocating for more trains, a boy who also went to Arcadia.

The school with all the capes.

Rory Christner skyrocketed to the top of the list of suspects, and I did my best to think back to my classes, trying to remember if I had ever seen the kid before, or even heard his name. I managed to find a picture of the kid standing with his family for a photo, he was tall, wide-shouldered, and had a lot of defined muscle on his arms, he looked to be the sporty type.

What could the motive be, I tried to put myself in his shoes. Big, blonde, and rich, probably plays sports, likely popular, maybe some sort of daddy issues? Is Dad too busy for his son maybe? So Rory wants to strike out at his father, in secret, he goes and kills people on a train to make his dad look bad, because once upon a time he advocated for it?

It didn't seem like an extraordinarily strong motive, and it didn't really feel very convincing. I would have bought it as the plotline in an anime, and it probably would not have broken my suspension of disbelief, but in the real world, the motive seemed way too weak. I would table it for now and come back once I'd found some more suspects.

The third folder was labeled 'Daniel Stansfield', and it was filled with all of the information I could gather on the man, that's right, you little bitches, you thought I would overlook the obviously suspicious guy, that had unlimited money and who owns the vast majority of the railroads.

Daniel Stansfield was sketchy as fuck, he was even older than the Mayor, at a whopping 65 years old, which was such bullshit because the guy looked to be in his early fifties at most. Daniel was married, but I couldn't find any information about his wife anywhere, what was he doing messing about with beautiful young women like miss red dress?

Naughty, naughty.

I didn't think Daniel himself was personally sneaking around on trains, killing people and then for no reason suddenly decided to hire a mercenary to track himself down. Not unless he was exactly as crazy as you would expect the train murderer to be, maybe he was hoping to get me into a compromising position and then pin the entire thing on me? Seemed needlessly convoluted, but it was possible.

Daniel had two sons, one of whom had run off to join a circus a couple of years ago, I am not even kidding either, the dude actually joined a circus. I thought that only happened in movies, rich people were so fucking weird, he left Brockton Bay almost a decade ago, so I could move past that guy as a suspect.

Now, this is where things get spicy, the youngest son of Daniel Stansfield, believe it or not, also went to Arcadia and what was the likelihood of running into two dudes who both had sons at my school. Alright maybe it wasn't completely unlikely, but this was still suspicious as fuck, why was it suspicious as fuck you ask?

If Daniel Stansfield had a superpower, it could be boiled down to unlimited money, he was calm, measured and was known for his incredible business acumen. Daniel was a well-educated man, with a taste for the finer things in life, so ask yourself why would a man with these descriptors send his son to a shitty public school? That same argument works for the mayor as well actually, Roy was also rich, although not even remotely in the same league as Daniel Stansfield, but still a multi-millionaire at the very least.

Why did they both send their sons to Arcadia?

I could think of reasons why the sons might want to go there, it was full of superheroes after all, but that wasn't the kind of decision a child would get to make for themselves, in any case. There was even a top-tier private school right here in the city, Immaculata. Instead, their parents had both chosen a public school, they both sent their kids to Arcadia for some bizarre reason. What could be a potential reason they would have to send their kids to a school full of superheroes?

Oh, I am an idiot, I wrote out my conclusions and stared at the words on the screen.

The List

I stared at my conclusions for a long time, wondering if I had made any mistakes it was possible that I was wrong about everything, but I felt like I had reasoned myself well into these answers. I was also quite sure that I couldn't just go and ask Daniel if his son was the killer. If Daniel were the killer he would try and kill me for obvious reasons. If Dean were the killer, and I told Daniel that I suspected his son, he might try to cover it up or he could use his unlimited money to whoop my ass.

I would have to be on the lookout for hired capes suddenly crawling out of the woodwork.

If it were Rory on the other hand, I would be safe from reprisal, the guy didn't have unlimited money, although he could still easily drop an anonymous bounty on my head. He was the Mayor though, maybe he would turn the media against me or kick me out of the city or something. What the fuck does a mayor even do anyway?

I managed to find more recent pictures of both Rory and Dean in our school photos. Rory Christner and Dean Stansfield were both Caucasian with blonde hair, and they were both tall with big shoulders they could have been brothers, if not for their widely different facial features.

Clockblocker was covered head to toe, with no exposed skin, he very well could be Caucasian. He was, however, rather slim, with much smaller shoulders than either of the sons, neither of them really fit Clockblocker's build so they probably weren't him.

Triumph, on the other hand, was definitely Caucasian and also a big guy with broad shoulders, so I was mostly certain at this point that either Rory Christner or Dean Stansfield was Triumph, it just made too much sense. Through the process of elimination, one of them was Triumph, the other was the train killer. Well, I suppose the other could just be a hidden cape with nothing to do with this at all, but I thought it was unlikely. Triumph had once told me he was 'going to have to bring me in'. I wondered if I would recognize his voice if I heard it again in person.

Looks like I was going to school tomorrow after all.


Friday, 2:37 PM.

Rory Christner was in the same year as me, and somehow I had managed to never see the guy before, we shared exactly one class, home economics. I watched as he beat a bunch of eggs in a bowl while trying to picture him instead beating up criminals in the bowl or beating people to death on a train, the pink apron was throwing me off, I couldn't see it at all.

Rory managed to go roughly two minutes without speaking before the girl next to him started chatting happily to him and the second he spoke I immediately knew he was Triumph. It was like an electric pulse shot down my spine, I had been sharing a class with a cape this entire time, a cape that I had fought against twice. The number of times that I had tried to figure out if one of the new transfers were capes, only to be foiled by a lack of information and here he was the entire time, completely under my radar. I stared at him until he turned and caught me looking.

I nodded at him, he smiled confidently and nodded back.

Dean Stansfield was in the year below me, and I didn't share any classes with the guy for obvious reasons. I did manage to find him right at the end of the day, he was walking to the front gate with another dude that had brown hair, he was Caucasian as well but had a noticeably darker skin tone. They were talking quietly to themselves as they walked, I frowned, they were huddled together and were obviously discussing something they didn't want others to overhear, slightly too far away for me to hear.

The unknown guy was fit, and his arm muscles were well defined, but not big. I stepped past them and I caught his name when Dean said he would meet him downtown in an hour, Chris.

I burnt 'Chris's' face into my mind, It might be a normal guy, or it could be another cape. I watched them go, Chris jumped on a bus while Dean got into a limo, not that unusual for the richer kids. I could probably expect that Chris would take another bus later to meet his friend downtown, while Dean would probably get dropped off with another limo. Where would they go, could I figure it out in time?

It turns out that I couldn't.

I had no idea where they were going and there were hundreds of bus stops downtown, tracking the limo was equally impossible for me. I needed more information on Dean, and I could only think of one thing to do in this situation, I was going to have to break into his house.

Daniel was going to be pissed.

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About the author

Elbowsnapper

Bio: I’m a fantasy author from Australia, and if I were to describe my work in a single sentence it would be; Realism contained within an unrealistic backdrop. I aim to put out high-quality, original, long-form written content that will entertain, and engage you. Expect dark themes, characters making costly mistakes, and unreliable narrators.

My standard process starts by releasing draft chapters to my Patreon, and then to everybody else online. Once the story is completed, I convert it into a more conventional eBook. I also routinely go back and revise, edit and enhance my older work as I improve as a writer.

I now have a website that has links to all of my original works to date.

https://www.elbowsnapper.com/

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