Fame? On its own? It’s useless. Trust me on this one. Now, fortune, on its own, is nothing to be sniffed at. In fact, you could say it is to be positively encouraged. You wouldn’t catch me amongst the morons who fail to tick the “no publicity” box on their winning lottery tickets.
Little Jenny Braithwaite sat on the park swing and watched the gas explosion tear apart her family home, killing her distant parents and squabbling siblings. What the concerned policewoman, the tearful social worker, and the pitying family that adopted her didn’t twig was that an hour earlier this precocious twelve year old had gotten fed up of waiting alone in the big house, had snuffed out the pilot light, duck-taped the switch on the oven door, and selected gas mark 5, all before going out to play. Only after she repeated the trick on her new family did the authorities become suspicious. Death count - 7.
I’m the fourth of five children. My parents used childbirth as an alternative to Relate, and these sporadic bouts of fertile love making were the only real counterpoint to twenty-two years of mutual contempt. Lost in a hubbub of a deeply chaotic house I didn’t even have the novelty of being the youngest child very long. My parents would introduce their brood with the most recent first, and then from the oldest down. Whether they adopted this order because they were already struggling, or whether they were struggling because of the order they adopted is a moot point, all I can say for certain is that I used to dread the long pause before they managed to recollect my name.
Actually it’s not strictly true that everyone thought he was happy. His parents didn’t. His plaintive emails, and his tearful phonecalls, told them that he was far from happy. Eventually his father told him to stop as he was upsetting his mother. That was the same day he memorised the combination on the Level 2 pathogens locker, and a mere two weeks before that fateful and fatal Burns Night. Death count - 12.
I was a geeky kid. Awkward and slight, I retreated into books for safety. I learnt the meanings of words I couldn’t pronounce, and a skewed view of the world where exciting things were around every corner.
I went to University relieved to be leaving a school where I had had no friends, expecting the best years of my life. I left university with a first class degree, a hefty loan, and a sense of relief that I was leaving a place where I had had no friends. Intelligence without confidence is much like fame without fortune. So no, they were not the best years of my life, though, and this would surprise my younger self, they weren’t the worst either.
Encouraged by this success Alistair began a grand tour of Europe, but on the way to Venice he came unstuck trying to push a sullen teenager under the Orient Express. Unfortunately, he didn’t like to boast about his art, but based on his holiday snaps the authorities managed to link him to unexplained deaths in 8 countries, including two more double murders. Death count 12+.
We all have murderous thoughts. Passing visions of violence meted out on some annoying person who crosses our path. While you might linger on thoughts of killing your boss, or a rival, or even your partner, these are individual targets too close to home to actually do anything about. And even if you did, the chain would probably end there. For a serial murderer, your victims should be of casual acquaintance. How much effort is it to move from a sudden hatred of that guy who pushes past you on the underground to extending a foot that trips him and sends him into the path of the approaching tube train? And having got away with it, would you not feel challenged to rise to the next occasion, and the next? There is always a ready supply of people short on manners, or with goals and aspirations incomprehensible to and incompatible with your own. As an intelligent man on a professional career path, who also happened to be terminally shy and difficult to get close to, what always annoyed me was the realisation that we – professional, intelligent people, – were being out-bred by morons.
They came for me a couple of months later. They explained that there was a crime they were investigating, and though they didn’t think I was involved, I could be easily eliminated from their investigations – all it took was a swab from the inside of my cheek, and no sir, we can’t explain what it was about, though if necessary they could obtain a warrant – and thanks for your cooperation. Two weeks later I was famous. It turns out that there was a link between Martin, Alistair, Tom and Jenny. And me. We were, in fact, related. They were, in fact, my children.
When I was twenty-eight, a lonely virgin despairing of ever getting my end away, watching as chav fathers and chav mothers had chav babies who rapidly grew up into insolent chav kids, I visited a small specialist clinic in a basement on Harley Street, and having filled in a few forms – mostly honestly – I signed up to be a sperm donor. I’d come to the conclusion that even if I ever found someone, I probably wouldn’t want kids. But I was damned if I was going to miss the chance to pass on my good health and intelligence, as they seemed like qualities increasingly in short supply.
Well, I passed on more than that. I passed on a rare set of genes. A heady mixture of low level autism, high testosterone, and a couple of quirky brain chemistry anomalies that frankly I don’t understand. And as the news broke that the Olympic bomber was linked to 3 other mass murderers, debate raged through England on the issue of nature versus nurture, whether mass murderers were born or built, with me at its core. After the second fire bomb attempt, they moved me to a safe house with twenty-four hour police supervision. It felt like an expensive prison. The politicians jumped at the idea that the scientists had successfully identified the genes that make up a mass murderer, and in record time passed an amendment to the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2011 – clause 127.
Then they came for me again. Not exactly difficult since I hadn’t been out of their sight for over 3 weeks. A young man in a red tie offered me a stark choice. Immediate and unlimited detention without charge as a potential (genetic) terrorist, or a cocktail of drugs designed to render me infertile.
I pointed out that these two options didn’t exactly cover the same bases – one was to prevent me going postal, and the other to prevent me having children who might go postal. I pointed out that I was pushing 60, and hadn’t had sex for 12 years, and would gratefully guarantee to wear a condom if I was ever given the chance. I pointed out that I had never committed any crime, well, not of any significance, and certainly never a violent one.
The man in the red tie pointed out that since Martin had blown himself up leaving barely enough for genetic analysis the public was still very much looking for some sort of positive action in the wake of the Olympic bombing. He pointed out that he had four strong men ready to hold me down while I was force-fed the drugs. And then he pointed out that yes, the options didn’t cover both possibilities, but if I liked I could choose both options, but I’d better make some sort of choice fast before he made it for me.
I chose wrong. I wasn’t to know, of course, but the anaphylactic shock almost killed me. I was in a coma for 6 months, and when I awoke I found that a lot had changed. A couple of pharmaceutical companies had gone bust, despite claims that my side effects were one in a million, and besides, they had a MUCH safer drug that had just been granted a licence. The civil liberties groups had finally forced the government to suspend clause 127 pending further investigation. I was, fortunately, no longer head line news, and was free to pick up any pieces of my life that I might have left. And – oh yes. Whether fertile or not, I was never having sex again. The drugs had unmanned me. I took Viagra until the world went blue, but to no avail.
The other thing that happened was that biometric ID cards finally went live. A rushed job in the immediate panic after the bombing, they had hedged their bets by including facial, fingerprinting and most controversially, genetic information. I awoke to find that even I had one, provided free of charge, by His Majesty’s (King William’s) Government. So if they ever did decide to enforce clause 127, everything they could possibly want was already in place. However the politicians had been backtracking in recent months, and were heading towards a softer, more caring image. Unless, I suppose, another atrocity took place.
And so, I’m about to step out of my door carrying my little bag of tricks. I can’t tell you what I’m planning to do, it would spoil the surprise. But I can tell you that England will never be the same again. Oh, and when they come to your door with a warrant in one hand and a cocktail of drugs in the other, well, that’s my parting gift to you. No, please don’t thank me. You deserve it.
© Liam Hogan, 2008
How to Build a Mass Murderer by Liam Hogan was read by Clive Greenwood at the Liars' League Fame & Fortune event on 10 June 2008.