By Jackie Law
Looks can be deceiving. She appeared to be just another young woman, beautiful in a conventional if bland way, but nothing more. Her grooming could not be faulted, her choice of clothes stylish but unimaginative. If she attracted attention it was only from the men who thought of getting her into their bed; she consistently rebuffed all such attempts.
She lived alone in a flat that had been created when a large town house had been renovated by a small time property developer some ten years previously. An elderly neighbour commented that she resembled a woman who had once lived there; she took pains to avoid this neighbour from then on.
Her daily routine rarely changed: a short walk to the train station where she would catch the 7.30 to the city; a book to read on the journey, during which she stymied all attempts at conversation; a leisurely stroll to the office where she would arrive earlier than needed and settle immediately to her work.
Her colleagues had tried on many occasions to persuade her to join them at social gatherings but she always declined. Whilst replying to their questions politely she would not be drawn on any aspects of her personal life, neither did she show more than a passing interest in theirs. She was efficient and effective in her work, leaving promptly at 5pm each day to return home. She would visit a grocery store en route, purchasing simple provisions for one.
When the police car was spotted outside her flat it was assumed that she was the recipient of bad news. Her phone call to the office the next day marked the start of the only sick leave she had taken in nearly three years of employment. It was a fortnight before anyone sought to enquire further about her continued absence.
The unravelling took time. Following the convoluted and complex paths left by cyber crime requires skills that are rare amongst law enforcers. Suicides are all too common when money worries hit those who thought they were immune. Even when the investigations were complete it was far from clear how many deaths she had facilitated.
By then she had gone, leaving an immaculate if spartan flat that bore no traces of it’s former occupant. Multiple flights had been booked and the seats not taken; it was suspected that she had made it as far as South America before the trail ran cold.
The police berated themselves for giving her any sort of warning. The laptop they had seized had taken weeks to get into, only to expose itself as unused save for the complex encryption of the access password. She must have kept it for just such an occasion, a device that bought her time to escape justice.
She would not have considered her incarceration to be justice. She had chosen her victims with care, considering herself a modern day Robin Hood. The wealthy and powerful treated so many with disdain; the young children whose treatment she had funded through complex charitable trusts deserved the chance of life that she could offer. A life for many lives; this was a better trade than the deals these dead men had brokered.
Her father had been her first victim after he drunkenly boasted of how he sequestered his assets to avoid tax, then used these techniques to impoverish her mother when she refused to put up with his womanising and left. She felt no guilt at his distress when the extent of his losses became apparent, necessitating the sale of his extensive property portfolio. She had moved into the flat on a whim following his death, from injuries sustained whilst out riding alone on his former estate. It had taken him until well into the evening to die under that red tree, but she knew how to watch quietly and patiently.
The company in Johannesburg had many applicants but settled on the young English woman when her aptitude tests went off the scale. Her lack of references was queried but her manner and abilities impressed sufficiently to persuade them to give her a chance. They did not regret their decision. She was efficient and effective at her job, reliable almost to a fault. When the owner of the company was found drowned on a beach, having fallen from his personal motor launch a week before, she showed no interest in the gossip about the unexpected loss of his personal fortune. It was, after all, not news to her.