We mustn’t forget to address my opponents. Such as they are at least—does one really have opponents if they don’t even realize a game is afoot? A philosophical question, to be sure, and one I suspect has no satisfactory answer. Serial murder cases—especially those that take place in multiple states—often fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI. In case you live under a rock, they are an oft-fictionalized national law enforcement organization featured in television shows like Criminal Minds and Profiler. If you are naïve enough to believe these programs, there are a virtually inexhaustible number of sexually sadistic psychopaths, who will—almost without fail—be captured in roughly 42 minutes. Nevertheless, I’ve had quite the prolific career and there’s not been the slightest indication that they even know of my existence. Yet.
As inept an organization as it is, the FBI does have a few tools at their disposal that I must be wary of in order to continue my recreational pursuits unhindered. The first is known as ViCAP. It is a database replete with case files depicting some of the most unspeakable and unimaginable horrors ever committed. Oh, whom do I think I’m kidding? There are no unimaginable horrors—only those of you too inferior and faint-hearted to conceive of them. ViCAP is a resplendent digital playground of death and mutilation and pain. In it reside the intimate details of nearly 100,000 violent crime cases committed over the past thirty years—perhaps even a few of my own. When police come across a homicide or other violent crime that has very specific or peculiar details, they create a ViCAP file and enter it into the database. FBI analysts then analyze those files and compare them against others with similar identifying features. In this way, ViCAP is designed to help identify repeat or serial offenders. But ViCAP does have several of its own “fatal” flaws.
As is the case with any system, it is only as good as the data entered into it, and subsequently the analysts reviewing it. Law enforcement officers are not required to use the system, and therefore often don’t. Small agencies often don’t have the resources to key their cases and larger agencies are often too busy to complete the extensive questionnaire. After all, deploying tanks and deciding whether to wield their military-issued firepower to keep the peace must take up a significant amount of their time. And while 100,000 case files may sound impressive, it really represents only a tiny fraction of the more than three million unsolved violent crime cases that have been committed since ViCAP’s inception. From my perspective, that’s a massive safe haven in which to hide.
There are also a very few exceptional “profilers” at the Bureau. Officially, they are “forensic psychologists,” or "criminologists" but the more common and informal title is derived from their supposed ability to create a “psychological profile” of an offender based on their actions or evidence left at the scene of a crime. In fiction, they are often given an almost psychic ability to see into the dark minds and darker souls of criminals like me. In reality, they study human and deviant behavior and analyze crime scene evidence against the question “why?” instead of just “what and how?”
Many consider forensic psychology to be a pseudo-science—unreliable at best, total garbage at worst—and law enforcement is quick to point out how rarely profiles aid in the capture of the criminals they hunt. They also like to hype the inevitable inaccuracies. But to dismiss it outright would be a potentially lethal mistake—profilers can be dangerous to someone like me. Psychology plays a role in everything we do, and the devils are often in the tiniest of details. But fortunately, criminologists can only play by the rules they know. And provided that I too know those rules and refuse to play by them, I can manipulate the game (and thus the players) however I wish.
And I have. For nearly fifteen years.
Perhaps the most dangerous of all of the Bureau’s tools is its state-of-the-art lab in Quantico, Virginia. Every flake of skin, hair, print, fiber, or fluid has the potential to lead to capture. And it is impossible to completely prevent leaving analysts such evidence to work with, no matter how hard one tries. Locard’s exchange principle states: “every contact leaves a trace.” And it is a truth that cannot be circumvented—only minimized. I take every possible precaution to prevent these transfers, but I have to assume that somewhere, among the thousands of pieces of evidence from the dozens of murders I have committed, is an exemplar that might one day identify me.
But not today. Today, I will kill again. Armed with my considerable intellect, and an unequaled understanding of the laws governing the game, I will continue to manipulate the rules until the game itself is mine.
So let’s see how good you really are, Nicholas. Can you beat me at my own game?