Author : Dan Whitley

“Detective…” began the Chief as he shook a file folder choked with papers in front of himself. “I give you six months, and you hand me this?”

The Detective swallowed hard. “Sir, I am well aware – perhaps more than anyone else on this case – that our theory is… Well frankly, it’s absurd. Stupid, even.” She sighed. “But it’s where the evidence points.”

“So you want me to believe,” The Chief said, “that there actually is no ‘Vitruvian Vivisector.’ And yet 11 men all committed copycat crimes of his? Over the course of four years?”

“Yes, sir.” The Detective’s icicle words hung heavy in the air.

“How…” The Chief threw his hands. “That’s preposterous!”

“It would be, if it didn’t fit the evidence so perfectly,” the Detective countered. “All 11 men confessed to the only murder they could have possibly committed. They all claimed to be knowingly mimicking the behavior of someone named the Vitruvian Vivisector, and they all claimed they’d heard about him online.”

“So they’re copycatting an urban legend,” the Chief stated flatly.

“Not quite, sir.” The Detective leaned over the Chief’s desk. “I looked into this claim they’d all made about reading about this serial killer online. It’s impossible even to search for. So I looked into the website they’d mentioned.”

The Chief heard her “and,” so he gave her an imploring look.

“It’s a low-traffic porn site, real niche stuff.”

A second imploring look.

The Detective began to fidget uncomfortably. “All 11 men had very similar pasts. They were all between 30 and 35 years old, they had all been the victim of infidelity by a fiancée… In short, they all perfectly matched the profile of the story’s main character.”

“Go on…”

“I had a subordinate try to find this site, this story. He could not. But…” The Detective felt her skin come alive and try to slither off of her. “I successfully found the story myself. Sir.”

The Chief’s expression did not change. “But you don’t fit the criteria. You’re a woman.”

“Yes, but that is the sole discrepancy.” The Detective wanted to wretch.

The Chief sat back in his chair. “So what is your conclusion?”

“There is one last detail,” the Detective declared. “The story simply appears in the registry one day, about five years ago. We picked that code to the bone, sir. No one wrote it, or even uploaded it.”

The Chief rubbed at his temples. “So again: What is your conclusion?”

The Detective set her face. “Our extensive body of evidence leads me to deduce that the website’s server created the story of the Vitruvian Vivisector on its own and that the story only manifests itself to individuals who could act it out in real life. I happened to find it because I was close enough of a match and knew what I was looking for.” Or the damn thing was experimenting, she didn’t add.

“Seize the server,” the Chief said. “Proceed with the 11 murder cases as normal.” He glanced up at the Detective. “And take the rest of the week off.”

The Detective nodded professionally. “Thank you, sir.”

As she strode down the hallway, the Detective put a hand to chest as some odd feeling overcame her, and she happened to poke her sidearm in its holster. Glad I’m not superstitious, she thought. Yet she couldn’t help caressing the weapon while feeling thankful she wasn’t a man.


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