It was a little blurry, rain spots on the camera lens obscured part of the image but not so much that she didn’t see at once where it was. The canal filled the bottom part of the screen and the trees, just coming into leaf, were an innocent background. Mid screen two figures faced off against each other.
She saw herself, arms outstretched, leaning forward in what appeared to be an attitude of threat and before her, unbalanced and tumbling towards the grey waters was the figure of a girl.
Jean stared unbelieving at the picture in front of her. That it was fake, a horrible lie, was clear to her at once, but oh it was well done. She enlarged the image as much as she could on the small device, and it was impossible to see where the changes had been made. She recognised the picture of herself. It was a still from a little video taken a few weeks earlier at a meeting of the walking club. One of the cars had been stuck in the mud at the end of the walk and they had lined up behind it to push it free. She was wearing her waterproof coat and a pair of dark trousers, close enough to the outfit that she had worn for her walk. The girl was dressed in the same clothes that had clung to her cold dead body, as she had lain on the canal bank while they waited for the police. The hair was the same colour and length but the face was obscured by the action.
It was a cruel joke, a horrible thing to do and tears sprung to Jean’s eyes as she looked at it.
The story must have been reported in the papers already and, in spite of all her hopes, she had been identified, and some evil bastard had thought it might be funny to send her this. It chilled her to the bone. She knew how this could work, it could even now be posted on Twitter and spreading like a virus, popping up on the screens of all her friends.
She would need to call Bob, she must let the police know what had happened. It was unforgivable.
She pulled the list of websites and numbers towards her. She hadn’t got around to increasing the security on this one, it wasn’t used often. Perhaps they had sent this image to all of the sites she used, and this was the one that had made it through. Ah well, she would close the account.
Would she call Bob? Maybe there was no need, this must surely just be a malicious attempt to upset her. She couldn’t think who would do that but whoever it was they had certainly achieved their aim. She needed to limit the damage. She needed some advice.
She glanced at the clock. It was late afternoon but still too early for what she needed to do. She made a copy of the image and printed it out.
Using her magnifying glass, she peered at the paper. It was good, there was no doubt about it. That she had been in that position had been fortunate for the hacker. The video had originally been published as a funny footnote on the walking club blog, and so had been easy for anyone to find. But it would need to be someone who knew her life. The next thought was chilling. Of course, the people who had invaded her home knew her life, they knew much more about her than she liked to think.
If she called the police now, as she really thought she should, it would mean more questions, more drama. The niggling guilt that had been introduced by Bob Rather would re-surface. Had the girl really been quite dead. Why didn’t she try some sort of resuscitation? Finally, she acknowledged the truth she had been denying. If she showed this to the police, would they believe it. Would they believe, even if only briefly, that she had done this thing. Even if they analysed the picture would they believe for just a little while that she had pushed the girl into the water and caused her death. She couldn’t bear it.
It was a cruel hoax. It couldn’t have any bearing on actual events because it hadn’t happened. She would wait. She would talk it over with someone whose judgement she trusted and then make a considered decision.
While she waited, she finished the work she had in front of her. constantly her attention was captured by the evil little picture. She studied it over and over until even she began to question her own memory of the truth. It was terribly convincing.
She didn’t dare look at twitter or Facebook for fear of what might be waiting for her there.