© Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch
The small town in which the Old Lady lived had suffered a series of unsolved murders. All of the victims were elderly. Police doubted that the victims knew each other, but just before disappearing, each one had visited the Senior Center to collect a box of food commodities which featured a two pound block of cheese. All of the victims had eventually been found lying by the side of heavily forested roads. In every case, a gunshot wound to the head was the cause of death. The cheese boxes were nowhere to be found. Authorities were on the hunt for the "Cheese Box Killer"
In fact, the Old Lady was the killer. This explained why the victims were elderly--quite simply a case of her being able to subdue them. There had been younger ones in earlier days for she had been killing for more than forty years. Without notes it was difficult to remember them all, but she thought the body count was probably 58. She had never been questioned by the police, never been a suspect, nor what they called today a "person of interest". It was her life's work and she was very, very good at it.
The ache in her gut started when she was 16 years old. A strange desire to kill people kept flooding her thoughts. She wanted to become a serial killer more prolific and clever than the Nut Jobs who left clues behind and spent the rest of their lives in prison. It did not cross her mind that this behavior was abnormal or that she herself would be considered "nuts".
The next evening she had borrowed her Dad's car and driven to a nearby lake. A few minutes later, a drunk staggered up to the vehicle, talking too much, repeating himself over and over. She struck him on the head with a tire iron, using all of the force she could muster. He dropped immediately and lay still. On the way home she felt a warm sense of power. That night she slept like a baby.
She killed regularly and it felt good. During the next seven years the authorities searched for the "Tire Iron Killer" with stepped up patrols and sophisticated forensics. They hinted that tips would soon lead them to the killer, but in fact they had nothing. She knew that to continue to escape detection she would have to change her techniques.
With her next paycheck, she purchased a tent, a propane torch and a backpack. She had always loved to camp so she began spending weekends at campgrounds which featured hiking trails. All were located at least 50 miles from home. Hiking deep into the woods and making certain that she was alone, she pitched the tent and used the torch to build a roaring campfire. Someone always came along, attracted by the light. The tire iron continued to do its work, but now she rolled the bodies into the fire to be consumed in the night. She always slept well.
The following day she monitored the campfire, boosting it with the torch until it was unlikely that the ashes would give up the remnants of a person. Cars left behind by the missing campers led police to believe that they had been lost or injured in accidents. Search and rescue dogs were brought to the areas but they turned up nothing.
After more than a dozen had disappeared, a forest ranger brought cadaver dogs onto the trails that had already been searched. When the canines found human remains in the ashes of a campfire, it became clear that the missing campers had been murdered. She became known as the "Campfire Killer". It was time to change again.
Years earlier when she lived in another state, she had purchased a hunting rifle. It was considered a man's gun, but she was tall and strong, so handling the weapon was not a problem. She had secreted the gun from the beginning so that no one knew that she owned it.
Thus began her longest killing period. During hunting season she would enter the woods dressed in a hunter's jacket and hat, carrying the rifle, her hunting license carefully folded in a pocket. When she spotted a hunter alone, she shot him and walked away. All of the deaths were believed to be accidents for she never used the same woods twice. Much to her disappointment, the police had never figured out that they should have been investigating a series of murders.
After her retirement, she began to slow down physically. When she applied for a food commodities "cheese box", she noticed that there were always some seniors struggling with their boxes because they had no transportation. She offered them a ride home which was gratefully accepted. Instead of taking them home, she drove to remote roads and knocked them unconscious with the tire iron. When she found the right ditch, she opened the passenger door and they rolled cooperatively into the trenches. She terminated them with bullets to the head from a pistol she had owned for years but which she had never previously fired. As always, if she left behind any footprints, they were from shoes purchased from the second hand store. These shoes were two sizes larger than those she ordinarily wore.
From watching the news reports, she knew that the police would watch the food distribution in the future, for it was their only clue. Now she had to be content with picking up her own food supplies and going home. Several times she saw them sitting there, parked outside the Center on "Cheese Box" day, mature but not yet senior citizens, rumpled suits, inquiring eyes. They never questioned her.
Now she had only one regret. Though she had escaped detection for more than forty years, she had a desire to be recognized by the world for her stealth and her success. She had killed with impunity but the fame that was certainly her due, had eluded her.
She had taken note of the Unabomber, who killed for 16 years, only to be tripped up by sending his "Manifesto" to the newspapers for printing. His writing style had been recognized by a brother who subsequently turned him in.
BTK had killed for more than twenty years. "How many do I have to kill before I get some recognition?", he had written to a newspaper. Finally, he sent a computer disc to a reporter. The disc was traced to the computer in a church where BTK was the President.
Both men were in prison for life. Stupid jerks!
She was not going to make these types of mistakes. Gaining her deserved notoriety, but remaining unidentified and free, would require some very careful planning. From the beginning the plan involved the cheese boxes, for there were seven of them. In the first box, she placed one of the oversize shoes. The shoe had been washed in hot water and bleach, then handled with rubber gloves. The Old Lady knew that the weather favored the fact that she had probably left footprints behind at the murder scenes.
The second box contained .357 Magnum shells, the kind she used in the murders. Ballistics would match them to the murder slugs. She was careful to wipe the shells to eliminate any fingerprints.
In the third box she placed the carefully wiped State ID of one of the murder victims. The ID had been left behind in a purse. The bag and all of its other contents had been consumed in her woodstove.
The fourth box contained a simple list which read: Tire Iron Killer, Campsite Killer, Dead Hunters, Cheese Box Killer. Using a computer, an alert cop would be able to access information from other states. If he were clever enough, he would connect the dots. She was careful not to leave any fingerprints on the list.
In the fifth box she placed a bra which she had purchased at Walmart. She left the price tags on so that the item would not be associated with a victim. The idea was to show that the killer was female.
The sixth box contained a new hunter's hat. It was not the one she had actually worn because of possible DNA residue. It bothered her that her hunter killings had never been properly evaluated.. She hoped the hat would spur a review of the killings and a new conclusion that they were murders,
Finally, in the seventh box she placed one of the blocks of cheese.
This would be her one and only chance. BTK had been induced to send more communications when the newspapers who received his clues remained silent. The trap had worked.
Very early the following morning she placed her bag of cheese boxes in the car for delivery. One by one she placed a box in the doorways of the Post Office, the bank across the street, the newspaper office, the Tax Assessor's (because it was next door to the Sheriff's Dept.), the office supply store, the Courthouse and the feed store. Because these facilities might have a camera focused on doorways, she had dressed in a man's coat and hat, and covered her license plates with thick brown mud.
That afternoon, with some effort, the Old Lady dug a hole near her house and buried the pistol, rifle, tire iron, and all of her ammunition. The man's jacket, the hat, and the remaining oversize shoe had already been burned in the woodstove. She remembered to hose down the plates on her car.
She looked forward with some anticipation to watching the local news that evening, but the day's efforts had left her weary. She closed her eyes for a relaxing nap, certain that she would awaken in time for the broadcast.
She did not awaken again.
Epilogue: It had taken the local Task Force five days to put it together. They now knew that the Cheese Box Killer was a life long serial killer, surprisingly a woman. What began as a local story was saturating national cable television, placing the small town on the map. For the latest news release, all seven cheese boxes and their contents were lined up on a table for everyone to see. The police assured the public that the perpetrator would be arrested "shortly".
It never happened.