She missed the bus by moments, turning the corner and running into the shelter only to see the rear end of number four zero nine, scheduled to arrive at three fifty pm, disappearing into the murky shadows half way down the road. Now she would have a half an hour wait in the cold and was stuck at the grotty bus stop with the rain whipping around the flimsy metal side. And to make it worse, there was a decrepit looking derelict stinking to high heaven from piss and god knows what sitting there leering at her from the middle of the only seat. Shit, if it wasn’t bad enough that she was running late for her afternoon shift, now she was going to be half frozen and wet into the bargain. Oh fuck it.
If things weren’t bad enough the foul smelling old fart was staring at her, his face breaking out into a leer as he patted the seat and mumbled to her that she should sit down next to him and he would keep her warm. As if, she thought, moving toward the edge of the footpath to peer up the road into the gloom in the hopes that a bus might be in sight but no such luck. The drunk, chancing his luck as she turned her back on him, took this opportunity to lurch to his feet and lunge at her from behind in an attempt to grab at her while he fumbled for his fly.
Oh god this can’t be happening she told herself, but before she could take a swing at the creep a car she had noticed pulled into the curb further up the road came slowly to a halt in front of her, the tinted window gliding slowly down and a face leant forward to peer through the narrow opening. ‘Are you all right, do you need some help?’ The voice was soft, well-spoken and extremely welcome. ‘Can I give you a lift?’ it asked politely.
She hesitated for a moment but looking up the road again there was no bus in sight and anything was preferable to sitting there being molested by the disgusting figure now cowering at the back of the shelter. ‘Thanks that would be great. I just need to get up to High Street if you don’t mind.’
The door opened silently and she slipped in to the front passenger seat glad to be in out of the cold and away from the loathsome creature now mumbling to himself again. ‘Are you sure you don’t mind?’ she asked. ‘Not at all, trust me it will be my pleasure,’ the voice responded as the window closed and the doors locked automatically, ‘my pleasure entirely.’
‘Mitzie, Mitzie! Where the bloody hell has she gone? That bloody dog is so disobedient. Really you should take her to one of those obedience schools. She never bloody well comes when I call her.’ ‘That’s because she doesn’t like you darling, you just don’t have a way with her like I do,’ his companion was laughing as they trudged along the narrow overgrown path.
‘Really Margaret when you said lets go for a nice Sunday afternoon stroll I didn’t anticipate you dragging me half way along the river in all this mud looking for your silly mutt. That was not what I thought you had in mind at all.’ ‘Oh yes, and exactly what did you have in mind? No wait, let me guess – a stately walk of ten minutes or so straight down to the pub is more in your line isn’t it? Come on, stop grumbling. I think I can hear her barking over there behind that clump of bushes. She’s probably half way down a rabbit hole and can’t even her us. I promise if you get her then we will go to the pub, my shout. Now be a dear and just go have a look will you, the sooner we get her the sooner we can get going.’
‘Mitzie,’ he called again annoyed at having to scramble through the thick muddy undergrowth after all the rain there had been over the last few days. Everything was soaking wet under foot and his shoes were already leaking, not to mention that the bottom of his pants were soaked through. Parting the branches of the thicket he managed to force his way through and came up short on the river bank.
‘Did you find her, is she there?’ Margaret’s voice called from the path. ‘Stay where you are, don’t come here.’ He picked up the dog after untangling it from the broken branch its collar was caught on, and heedless of further damage to his shoes and clothes, he stumbled back ashen faced onto the path where Margaret was waiting.
‘Have you got your phone? Give me your phone,’ he ordered her, his face green and sweating. ‘What is it? What the hell is wrong?’ Before answering he shoved the dog in her arms and turned quickly off the path only to heave and vomit into the bushes. ‘Call the police,’ he mumbled in between bouts of retching, ‘and for god’s sake stay where you are.’
Crime scene tape stretched across the path keeping the few curious onlookers from getting anywhere near the remains that were now being photographed by forensics along with all the other routine investigations that accompanied a find of that kind. Margaret, Mitzie and their shaky companion had been bundled into a squad car by an over worked and apathetic Detective and taken to the station for further questioning and a strong cup of tea.
All routine and just another case of a body of a woman showing up in that part of the park, one of three over the last two years that fitted a pattern but gave no clues to who, what or why they had been murdered, too commonplace in this day and age to even make it into the local papers.
Another unsolved incident to go into the archives, one of many and not the last so Detective Chief Inspector Donald Shark of the CID, known to his crew members affectionately as Jaws, concluded as he sat in the pub that night with a few of the others that had been there today. All were attempting to wind down and forget the sights and smells that were all too much a part of their lives.
It sucked but it was a job. The passion had long ago disappeared; the horror lingered at night in the dreams that haunted them all. Who needs it, there has to be something better, he just had to find it he thought to himself while downing his third whiskey and admitting that it was too late in his life to change careers now and truth be told, he didn't really want to anyway.
‘Oi Destiny, where are you off to then,’ Rusty Neils called out as a well-dressed and good looking member of the rowdy group stood up to leave. Rusty’s real name was Len but because of his red hair, well it was obvious he would be called Rusty, Rusty Neils. Everyone in the squad had some kind of nick name; it was par for the course. Destiny was David Trahern’s. He was called that because he was deep and philosophical, something that the others normally would think was a load of bollocks but in his case they put up with him because of the brilliant photographic work he did and the fact that at nearly every crime scene he had attended since joining them almost three years ago now, he would survey the scene with different eyes, the eyes of a photographer sharp and keen, spotting details that others had missed or just not noticed.
It wasn’t just that either that earned him the name as on almost every occasion he would quietly pronounce in his soft well-spoken voice, as he looked at the remains of some poor sodding victim, he would declare it was their destiny.
At least David’s name was a bit more flattering than Ian McCafferty’s. He was known as Socks chiefly because at every chance once back at the office he had he would kick off his shoes and his feet stank. Frank Banks was known as Money and Robin Ward was known as the boy wonder. It was all stupid really but helped them to bond; you couldn’t do that line of work without being in tight with those that you worked with, depended upon for support, and in some cases, your sanity.
‘So where are you off to then, got a hot date?’ Rusty chided, the snickering from the group at the table rolling off David’s back. In the nearly three years he had been with that particular squad no one had ever seen him with a bird despite the fact that they fell all over him. He was the one that always dressed immaculately, tailored suits, shoes polished, and hair cut into the latest styles and looking sharp. He even went to a gym, worked out and went for runs after work to keep in shape. He could have been on the cover of a magazine he was so good looking and well turned out. And didn’t they all give him shit for it but still, they admired him and liked him and that said a lot.
‘No mate, I’m knackered. I’m off home, see you all in the morning,’ he responded as he downed the last of his Southern Comfort, crunching the remains of the ice hurriedly and took his glass over to the bar to save the overworked pretty barmaid Betty a trip to their table where no doubt one or more of his colleagues would attempt to hit on her. ‘Night all,’ he nodded to them and was gone.
‘Do you reckon he is gay?’ the boy wonder asked Jaws as a matter of interest. Don shook his head and thought for a moment. ‘Could be but somehow I don’t think so. I think he is just looking for the right one, you know, he still believes in that sort of thing. Got to be someone really special to put up with being married to one of us, just have a look at the statistics, two out of three marriages in the job end in divorce,’ he took another sip of his drink thankful that he had his Iris waiting at home to go to and then he continued on. ‘He could have any bird that he fancied, take Betty here, she is fairly panting for him but no deal or not that I know of. Then again do you remember PC Lucy Barnes, she was gorgeous and had the hots for him something shocking but no deal? It takes all kinds and let’s face it, he does a bloody good job, he knows his stuff.’
‘If you ask me he got burnt when he was younger and never got over it, you know one of those childhood sweetheart things that leave you scarred,’ Socks said, much to the surprise of the others at the table. Socks wasn’t exactly known for being terribly thoughtful about anything to do with love or women. He was on his third marriage and even that was pretty shaky. The fact that he was old school and believed that a woman should be barefoot and pregnant might have had something to do with his not so successful marital history and that was why his remark caused so much wonder from the others. You just never knew about some people despite how they came across.
‘So Boss, any ideas on today’s find?’ Money was asking as he took the recently vacated seat that David had occupied next to Jaws. Don rubbed his nose, a habit that he had when he was deeply concerned about things. ‘You know until we get the autopsy report and follow up on that charm bracelet found under her body that we can’t get a move on but it’s funny, there is something about this one that…’ ‘Another round Jaws?’ Rusty interrupted much to Money’s annoyance, ‘Betty’s about to call last drinks, one for the road?’ ‘No mate, it’s been a long day, think I’ll head home too. Iris will be waiting supper for me. I’ll see you lot in the morning, don’t be late we have a lot to do.’
Coroner’s report –
Age: approximately 23 years
Weight: 8 stone 2 lbs
Cause of Death: Strangulation
Other injuries: multiple burn marks to arm, legs and face, lacerations to upper torso and lower torso, genital mutilation, vaginal and rectum contusions. Left hand third finger missing believed to be crudely amputated.
Injuries found to be pre and post asphyxiation
Possible cause: cigarette burns, sharp knife serrated edge
Sexual activity: Evidence of vaginal and anal penetration pre and post asphyxiation coitus
DNA match: N/A
Finger print match: N/A
Position: body found face down, arms and legs bound with barbed wire behind back
Identity: Julie Dawn Brown
Address: living with parents at XX Summer Hill Road
Missing persons file: Reported missing 23rd November 2007
Date of Death: Between November – December 2007 approximate
Next of Kin: Notified
Personal Case Notes – DCI D Shark:
Victim lived at home with parents. Was quiet, well liked, no apparent enemies. Not involved with the wrong crowd. She belonged to a small group of friends all from sound middle class background, no criminal records found. Tight knit family, parents inconsolable, from all accounts they had never had any trouble, no rejected ex-boyfriend and no other back ground history to indicate perpetrator was known to victim. Victim left for work in afternoon to go to telecommunications sales job in call centre as per normal routine. When she didn’t show up at work her parents were contacted and they called in a missing person’s report that evening. Witness described seeing a girl fitting her description running for a bus but it has been established through the bus company security footage that she did not take the 409 bus due at 3.50 pm bus on route 37.
No other sightings after this time. The weather at the time was wet with heavy rain and cold winds, light and visibility mediocre.
Body located some three miles from bus stop in Fairburrow Park on the banks of Skippington River.
Charm bracelet found beneath body identified as not belonging to victim. The bracelet has been sourced to most major one pound shop outlets and markets, generally popular item and worn predominately by teenage girls, one charm attached: half a heart
The band didn’t live up to its reputation and the music was too loud. It gave her a headache. ‘I’m going, I’ve had enough. Next time you decide to pick a new pub how about making sure it’s not a waste of time and it’s not a million miles from home in some dumpy little village like this,’ Barbara laughed, but really she was more than a little annoyed that she had wasted her night. ‘See you on Monday, have a good weekend Joanne. I’ll call you tomorrow maybe Kristy and we can go out for a meal if I can shake off the headache this lot have given me, that new Chinese place is supposed to be good according to Ben.’
She pulled the collar of her jacket up around her neck as she trudged the two blocks up the street to her car, depressed that it had turned into such a cold wet night. For pity’s sakes this was supposed to be summer and yet here it was bleak and miserable. Why the hell she hadn’t taken her holidays and gone to France with the others she wondered, the thought still made her mad. She could have been off having fun in the sun judging by the postcards she had been getting from her flatmates instead of being stuck at home on her own in an empty flat and now she had to drive miles when she was tired and cold and just wanted to get to bed.
God whatever had possessed them to come all this way to see such a crappie band. That’s the last time she will trust a review in the paper. New and exciting, up and coming, the latest thing, going to be a big hit… what a load of shite she mumbled as she drove home.
When she heard a clunk and her dashboard lights started turning red indicating god knows what was wrong with the car, she swore to herself and pulled over. ‘Oh great,’ she cursed as she looked at her mobile phone and found she was in a blank spot, ‘that’s all I need, no frigging reception.’ She got out and put the bonnet of the car up and stared at the engine willing it to work. ‘Now what the fuck am I going to do?’ she asked herself getting back into the car as the rain began pelting down again.
She was going to have to sit it out and hope that someone would come past and stop, not that she had seen that many other cars, it was late, bucketing and the road was fairly deserted as she peered out the rain soaked windows to paddocks on one side of the road and thick trees on the other.
‘Fuck it,’ she thumped the dashboard with her fist, ‘bloody car. If I had to break down why here and why not up the road where at least there were houses,’ she was muttering to herself. But there wasn’t a light to be seen anywhere along that stretch of the road between her town and the sodding miserable village the pub was in, not for a mile or more and it was pouring down even heavier now. She’d be soaked before she got anywhere near help if she got out and besides; she didn’t fancy wandering around in the dark in the middle of the night. You never knew what kind of nutter was about.
Half an hour passed and she was starting to shiver. She was contemplating how far she could walk with her four inch heels and no warm coat and whether or not she should go down the road or back the way she came. She was no good at estimating distance so she wasn’t sure how far back she had seen the last houses and how long it would take her to walk there. Just when she thought that she was going to be stuck there all night if she didn’t do something soon, a dark coloured car pulled up parallel to hers in the gloom and honked. She wound down her window, grateful to whoever it was for stopping.
‘Are you all right?’ the voice called out, ‘do you need some help?’ ‘Oh thank god, I thought that I would never get home tonight. Could you call the Royal Auto for me?’ She couldn’t see the face of the other car’s driver through the small gap in her window and anyway the other car’s window was partially fogged up and the rain was making it hard to see; distorting the shadows and mingling them with the raindrops running down the glass to create a weird kind of spectral mask blocking her vision.
‘Sorry but there’s no reception here and besides my battery is flat,’ the voice said sounding sympathetic and at the same time apologetic. ‘How about I give you a lift, there’s sure to be better reception further up the road? I don’t like the idea of leaving you here stranded and on your own. You never can be too careful you know,’ the voice cautioned her. ‘Thanks that’s really kind of you.’
She got out of her car, locked it and got into the other car. ‘I really appreciate this. Are you sure it’s not out of your way?’ The doors locked automatically. ‘Trust me, the pleasure is all mine,’ the well spoken voice replied softly, ‘all mine.’
‘Come on, no one will see us.’ ‘Are you sure? I don’t want to be caught with my pants down,’ he protested. ‘There’s no one around and I thought that you were dying for it. That’s all you talked about all week at school. And don’t you go telling your mates, I don’t want to end up with it all over school that we are doing it. You know that you are my first don’t you?’ She stopped and looked at him, her face red, her eyes pleading with him, wanting to believe that he really did like her and wouldn’t dump her the minute that they had done it. ‘I promise I won’t tell,’ he hugged her to him.
She could feel his erection as he hugged her and she got excited just thinking about it. ‘Look what about over there, if we just go down that sort of overgrown track we could get to a spot behind the trees, it looks like it would be really pretty.’ He smiled, ‘Anything, anything you want.’ He was dying for it now, the way her breasts felt as they hugged made him even harder than he had been all week planning things. He was worried he wouldn’t last but he had bought a packet of six condoms with him so he thought that even if he shot his load quickly, the way he felt he would be ready again in no time for seconds or even thirds, he was so rampant. He just wanted to get into her pants, she had the best boobs and arse in the school and besides that, he really did like her.
He took the picnic rug out of his school bag and spread it down on the ground in the little grove that she had picked out, clamping his mouth over hers and hugging her to him as they sank down onto their knees and rolled onto the loosely woven fabric of the rug. He couldn’t wait any longer and fumbled with his zip, his erection springing out. She gasped. ‘Oh ouch, ouch,’ she exclaimed and jumped up. ‘What? What I haven’t done anything, what’s wrong?’
He jumped up frantically trying to stuff himself back into his jeans, shaken by her reaction. ‘No it’s not you, something stuck into my leg,’ she was looking at a red graze along her calf that was bleeding as he reached down and threw the rug back to examine the ground. ‘What the fuck?’ He pushed the stiletto heal protruding from the patch of dirt but it didn’t budge, it couldn’t, it was attached to something that on closer inspection turned out to be the mouldering skeletal remains of a foot and leg.
DCI Don Shark was staring around at the view, getting his bearings and calculating something in his mind, and then nodded to himself with assurance. ‘Look familiar?’ he asked David Trahern as he knelt down taking a close up of the angle of the shoe and what it was attached to. ‘Wot?’ he asked distracted, moving around to get a different angle, dropping his normally polished voice into something that resembled a line from ‘The Only Way is Essex.’ ‘Sorry, let me know when you finish, I want your opinion on something,’ Don told him. He went off in the direction of the two hysterical teens that had alerted the local constabulary who in turn had called it in for the squad to show up.
‘We weren’t doing nothing, honest,’ the lad was saying nearly crying with fright, ‘really we weren’t.’ ‘It’s okay son, you’re not in any trouble. Just tell me what happened and start from the start, don’t leave anything out if you please,’ he said kindly but firmly. He didn’t want to scare the hell out of the kid, that wouldn’t achieve anything but he needed to get to the truth of what they were doing there and why, everything was important in an investigation like this, every detail. ‘Just take your time and tell it in your own words all right.’ ‘We were just having a picnic,’ the girl piped up. ‘Yeh, we were just going to have a picnic and had just sat down when Kylie …’ ‘something sharp poked my leg and…’
‘Can I see you for a moment Sir?’ David Trahern interrupted. ‘Take down their details and keep them here,’ Don said to Ian McCafferty as he followed the photographer over to the side of the crime scene, out of earshot of the young couple. ‘I found these Don, they are new and I doubt that they have anything to do with the body. They’re new on the market, have only been out about six weeks.’ He held out a strip of condoms, six in all and still sealed. Don wondered how David seemed to know so much about them but said nothing. 'Eager and optimistic,' Don commented, looking over to where the pair were standing talking to Ian.
‘Go easy on them,’ David continued nodding towards the young couple, ‘at least they were going to do the right thing even if they are under age,’ he implored, ‘you know what it’s like at that age, raging hormones, too much testosterone, and now with push up bras and internet porn thrown in, teenagers would be rampant for it. I am betting that the both of them are virgins and after today are likely to stay that way for a while to come. First encounters should be special and memorable but for the right reasons, this would be enough to put even the horniest kids off I would think. It doesn’t seem fair does it,’ he said this almost to himself, more of a comment than a question.
Don nodded in agreement. He knew what he meant but at the same time his mind flashed back to the observation that Socks had made, something about first love and David being let down. No, he couldn’t remember exactly what it was but it would come to him with time. He snapped out of his brown study and back to the reality of where they were. ‘Okay thanks David. Oh and when you get a chance later I want to talk to you about something but not now. Best get these kid’s statements so they can get home. They look done in to be honest. And don’t worry, I will take it easy on them, won’t even tell their parents about what they were up to, it won’t be necessary and wouldn’t accomplish anything.’ ‘Thanks Don, cheers mate. I’ll get back to it then.’
The light was going and the sun went down a few hours later when they finally wrapped up the scene. The young couple had been driven to their respective homes and were given the contact number for councillors that dealt with those having experienced trauma and the post traumatic disorders that can often result from it. It was a service that was fairly new but already working wonders within the community in situations such as this. It was available to members too but not too many admitted freely to using it. The pub and a good drinking session was all that a lot of them thought they needed to get things out of their systems but sometimes that wasn’t enough as was the case with Rusty when he had a melt down and disappeared on sick leave for months a few years back and then came back like a new person.
Today however, they were still at the scene and finally David and Don had time to catch up on whatever it was that had been on Don’s mind all afternoon. ‘You have been with us for a while now and I was just wondering if anything strikes you about this case?’ Don asked the younger detective. He didn’t want to influence him in any way so he just left it at that. David thought for a moment. ‘What do you mean? The victim or how she was lying? I know that this isn’t all that far from where Julie Brown was found, similar area, lying face down and bound with barbed wire.’
David looked at Don. ‘We have a serial killer on our hands don’t we. Fits the same pattern, shallow grave, river bank, looks like same layout of the corpse. And…’ ‘Same type of girl, brunette, looks about the same height and weight, we’ll have to see what the autopsy says of course but that’s my way of thinking too. I could swear that we are less than a mile away from where we were with the Julie Brown scene, only difference is that was on the other side of the river.’
‘You know they were doing a lot of landscaping and upkeep to the other side for a while a few years back, maybe that might be why the body is this side this time,’ David said thoughtfully. Don’s eyebrows rose and he looked at David questioningly. ‘I live not that far from here and read it in the local paper, that’s how I know,’ he went on hurriedly, ‘I remember thinking at the time that my taxes were paying for all the work they had planned. There are pot holes on the High Street a foot deep and yet they are spending money on bicycle tracks and the like through the most isolated part of the woods in this part of the park. They don’t have a clue do they?’
Age: approximately 27 years
Weight: 7 stone 12 lbs
Cause of Death: Strangulation
Other injuries: multiple burn marks to arms legs and face, lacerations to upper torso and lower torso and genital mutilation, anal and vaginal contusions, finger nails removed. Injuries found to be pre asphyxiation
Possible cause: cigarette burns, sharp knife serrated edge, possibly bottle or other implement with thick neck graduating out into larger spherical shaped object such as a champagne magnum, pliers
Sexual activity: Evidence of vaginal and anal penetration pre and post asphyxiation coitus
DNA match: N/A
Finger print match: N/A
Position: body found face down, arms and legs bound with barbed wire behind back
Identity: Barbara Anne O’Dowd
Address: Flat 2 XX Bexley Street
Missing persons file: Reported missing 11th August 2010
Date of Death: August 2010 approximate
Next of Kin: Notified
Case Notes DI D Shark:
Victim shared flat with three others. Not reported missing for several days as flat mates were out of the country. Car found abandoned on Saturday 6th August on Somerset Road approximately four miles from the hotel Horse and Hounds where she was last seen leaving by her work friends on Friday the 5th of August. No known issues, no traces of drugs or other substances found in her blood stream. Work mates did not report her missing as she had previously taken days off without contacting work due to suffering migraines and had a long term doctor’s certificate to cover the existing medical condition. It was not until the flat mates returned to find no sign of her and food going off that they were alarmed and reported her missing.
No immediate suspects.
Note: Please refer any inquiries to Detective Chief Inspector Donald Shark - Ongoing investigation into the disappearance and murder of Barbara Anne O’Dowd and Julie Dawn Brown.
Case ID: 20476408RB/111069-1
Code: River Bank Murders Fairview Park
‘We’ve got another one,’ Frank Bank’s voice was almost flat as he stuck his head in the door of Don Shark’s office. The DCI looked up and didn’t even need to ask what Frank was referring to, he knew instinctively. ‘Same side of the river as the first one. Looks like David’s theory could be right; you know the one about the park landscaping program upsetting the routine.’ Don nodded. ‘Get everyone together; I want to do a briefing before we head out.’ ‘No worries Boss.’
By the time they all made it back to the office later that day it was going on for six but that meant nothing. Overtime had been approved and it was full steam ahead in an attempt to get on top of things. ‘If only, if only they could get on top of this case,’ Don sat thinking as he wrote down some notes. He was starting to get heat from above and only rightly so. So far there had not been much publicity about the other bodies found in previous years but it was only a matter of time before the press got a hold of it and turned it into a cause celebre like they usually did. He really didn’t want that to happen with this case, not yet.
He was still haunted somewhat by the parents of Julie Brown. He had kept in contact with them over the years but had heard only three months ago that things weren’t going that well for them. It seems Mrs Brown’s health had deteriorated because of the stress and she wasn’t doing so well and Mr Brown had to give up his job to look after her. Money was tight and medical bills mounted up. All in all he felt so sorry for them. They had loved their daughter, she had never given them one single day of worry in all her life and then this happens.
His thoughts went back to the first day when Julie’s body had turned up and how he had been so jaded, his enthusiasm for the job gone long ago but now he was reinvented. He had a new purpose. He wanted to get the son of a bitch that was doing this, lock them up and throw away the key. And that is what he was determined to do. Even if it was the last thing that he did, scum like this bastard shouldn’t be walking around and getting away with it and god knows how many others there might be out there that they didn’t know about, like the one today he thought.
‘All right listen up,’ he said when he called them into the squad room an hour later. ‘I want all missing person records over the last ten years checked. Get in touch with the cold case unit and notify them of all the details,’ he rubbed his nose and went on. ‘Anyone fitting the description of the type that we are assuming this low life goes for – brunette, 5’3” – 5’5”, slim build, single, large breasted, long shoulder length hair and most important, living or working within a ten mile radius of Fairburrow Park or the river. I want you to go over each and every one of those reports and see if you can come up with anything, anything at all. No matter how small or insignificant you think it is, note it down. If they wore the same perfume, clothes, shoes, went to the same kindergarten, pub, club, hair dresser. Anything that you can find that might be of help I want to know about it and I want it investigated.’
‘Now, just to bring you all up to speed about today’s events. School teacher was taking her class on a nature walk in the park along the river. One of the kiddies wanted to pee so she sent a pair of them behind some bushes. Next thing she hears screaming and thinks that one of them has fallen in the river. Upon investigation she finds them traumatised screaming their heads off standing next to a partially buried body. It seems like all that rain we had last week when the river overflowed the bank has disturbed another burial. Same method as the others, victim buried face down, tied with barbed wire and all the rest. Charm bracelet beneath the corpse, wounds the same if not even more violent. Our killer is not getting as much out of his kicks as he was so he has upped the ante. This time he’s cut off all her fingers.’
‘No ID on the victim yet but we’ll know more in the next few days. Now come on, I want you to all get going on this. Sooner or later he’s going to slip up and we are going to get him. Let’s make it sooner shall we? Destiny I want to see you, my office in ten minutes.’
‘What’s up Gov?’ David asked as he walked into Don’s office. ‘Take a seat,’ he indicated as he finished typing up his note and hit the save button. ‘David you have been here a while and I don’t think that there’s a finer photographer on the force. You have sharp eyes and an attention to detail that is far beyond the job description so I want you to go over all the crime scene photos again and see if you can spot anything, anything remotely similar or unusual… anything that strikes you as being odd,’ he scratched his nose and coughed.
‘I don’t care how insignificant it might seem but just any detail would be help. There is something about these cases that has a common thread and it…’ ‘It’s bothering you?’ David offered. ‘Yes, there is something that I thought of when we were down at that scene with the two youngsters but I can’t remember what it was and I thought that if you go over all the images you might be able to spot it. I hate to ask you to do it, it’s a big task but if anyone can come up with something I am sure it will be you.’
‘I’ll get on it right away boss.’ He turned to leave. ‘David not tonight,’ he said looking at his watch and realising that it was now heading on for seven in the evening, ‘it’s been a long enough day, tomorrow will do. I think we all need to wind down a bit right now. Come on son we’ll call it a night and start again in the morning, fresh eyes and all that. Get your coat and I’ll get the others, I’m sure they could do with a stiff drink before calling it a night.’
They all met up at a pub around the corner, not their usual watering hole but one that had just been refurbished and a few of them had suggested giving it a try as it had been newly renovated and reopened for business earlier in the week. ‘Not a patch on the Rampant Cockerel,’ Socks grumbled as they sat down at a table looking around at the smart décor and the yuppie type of crowd that obviously found the place to their liking. ‘God get a look at that,’ he said as two guys walked past in designer fashion straight out of the latest magazines. ‘Blimey,’ Banksie remarked, ‘this sure is different.’ ‘I miss Betty,’ Socks grumbled again, ‘and what the fuck is that bloody racket they are playing.’
He was referring to the background music playing; a Taylor Swift song followed by Paloma Faith’s Only Love Can Hurt Like This. He turned to complain to David that even the name of the new place was shite, after all what the fuck does “Transformation” have to do with a pub, what a stupid bleeding name was that, he was about to rant when he noticed David softly humming to the music of the song.
‘Don’t tell me you like this shite?’ David shrugged. ‘I don’t mind it, I like all kinds of music,’ he replied smiling. ‘Bloody hell, you must be kidding. Come to think of it, you look like you’d fit in well with this lot,’ he observed, ‘you dress like them.’ David’s face didn’t change and he didn’t say anything but the muscle under his eye flinched. Don noticed it. ‘Well we can’t all be as discerning in taste as you Socks,’ he volunteered in an attempt to appease his best photographer.
The others laughed and Ian, not being the brightest of the bunch, gave a chortle. David eyes met Don’s and there was a mutual respect in them. Don winked back and just rolled his eyes as much as to say ‘ignore him’ and it was left at that but ten minutes later David said to the group he was going to have one last drink and call it a night and excused himself and headed to the bar. Sometimes he wondered what the hell he was doing here in the middle of all of this and then he remembered it was because he loved what he was doing, sort of. He knew too that he had to put up with the likes of Ian and his ignorant comments and views; it was all part of the job.
As he stood by the bar waiting to be served he was miles away and didn’t at once notice the bird standing next to him in the corner of the bar next to the wall. It wasn’t until he heard her mutter ‘Dam it all,’ to herself as she hung up her phone and put it back in her handbag then looked at her watch impatiently that he paid any attention. She then looked around and noticed him watching her. Rolling her eyes she shrugged. ‘Looks like I’ve been stood up,’ she remarked frustrated. ‘It’s their loss,’ he commented with a small half shy smile on his lips. ‘Thanks, I needed that. It’s been one of those days and this just tops it off. I should have known better than to even think of going on a date set up by my girlfriend. What the hell was I even thinking,’ she gave a tiny regretful laugh.
He pulled a sympathetic face. ‘I don’t think that I have ever been on blind date. I don’t think that I would even know what to do on one.’ She laughed, ‘Well I’ll let you in on a little secret,’ she leant forward a little, ‘neither do I. It was the first one that I had ever been on … well nearly been on, and let me tell you, it will be the last one too,’ she laughed.
He looked at her as she was talking. She looked to be maybe in her early thirties, blonde, blue eyes, pretty… very pretty really, and with a great body. When she laughed you automatically wanted to smile, it was infectious. She was well dressed and looked good in the outfit she had on, trendy and not over the top but with an individual flair that caught his attention. All in all she was pretty much of a knock out really and he was liked what he saw. He liked it a lot.
‘If you don’t mind me saying so,’ he said in a conspiratorial tone, ‘there is no way known I would have thought that someone like you even needed to go on a blind date.’ He turned a little red as he said this and she thought it was so cute. Come to think of it he was more than pretty dam cute, he was hot. She ran her eyes over him and gave a little inward shiver. He was really something. There was something about him that was really classy and flash but in the most understated of ways and to top it all off he had the most amazing eyes she’d ever seen. They were like two pools of crystal clear blue water that she just wanted to sink into.
She smiled at him. ‘I think that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.’ She looked him in the eyes and smiled. ‘It’s not a line,’ he told her a worried flooding his face, suddenly embarrassed in case she thought that he only said it for quick pick up. She was about to reply when the barman came up to him to take his order. ‘Can I buy you a drink?’ She hesitated and looked at her watch then thought what the hell. ‘Thanks, just a quick one.’ She smiled. Drinks ordered she smiled again. ‘I didn’t think it was pick up line by the way. You don’t look like the type of guy that would have to stoop to pick up lines.’ It was her turn to get embarrassed at her own honesty.
‘To be honest, I don’t normally pick women up.’ She looked a little surprised then bit her lip kicking herself thinking that she had made a huge mistake not realising that perhaps he was gay. That would figure wouldn’t it? What was the line in the song that said something about all the handsome men being gay? She sighed quietly to herself at the thought of it, just her luck.
He saw the look on her face and must have read her mind. He leant in a little closer not wanting to shout over the music, ‘I’m not gay if that is what you are thinking. I just don’t get out much in case you were wondering. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay,’ he added. ‘Oi Destiny,’ Ian’s loud voice shouted across the room to him, ‘are you coming back or what?’ He cringed a little at the sound of the raucous voice, Ian sounded like such a yobbo.
‘I think your friend is calling you… Destiny?’ she half queried, ‘unusual name,’ she observed. ‘He’s not really a friend, I work with him and my name is David.’ ‘Why did he call you Destiny and by the way my name is Penny?’ she asked curious about such an unusual name. ‘It’s a long story Penny,’ he answered thinking for a moment before going on.
‘Look I haven’t eaten yet and I really want to get out of here, how about we go get a coffee or a bite to eat? That’s if you feel like it?’ She thought for a moment before answering, she hadn’t eaten either, plus she was starving so throwing caution to the wind she smiled. ‘Sure, that would be nice and then you can tell me all about why you are called Destiny, if you want to that is.’ ‘Drink up then and let’s get out of here. There’s a little place down the road that I go to that does some awesome pasta dishes if you like Italian?’ She laughed. ‘You must be my Destiny because I love Italian… sorry couldn’t help myself,’ she apologised.
They both laughed, finished their drinks and left.
Coroner’s report –
Age: approximately 29 years
Weight: 7 stone 2 lbs
Cause of Death: Strangulation
Other injuries: multiple burn marks to arm, legs and face, lacerations to upper torso and lower torso, genital mutilation, anal and rectum contusions. Left hand fingers missing
Injuries found to be pre asphyxiation
Possible cause: cigarette burns, knife possible serrated edge and unknown specific instrument
Sexual activity: Evidence of vaginal and anal penetration pre and post asphyxiation coitus
DNA match: N/A
Finger print match: N/A
Position: body found face down, arms and legs bound with barbed wire behind back
Identity: Deloris Annamaria Garcia
Address: XX Camperdown Grove
Missing persons file: see case notes
Date of Death: November 2011 approximate
Next of Kin: Notified
Personal Case Notes – DI D Shark:
Victim lived at alone. No relatives residing in the United Kingdom. Work colleagues at St Barnabas Blessed of God hospital where she worked as a technician said she was competent at her job but kept to herself. She had given the impression she was unhappy living in the United Kingdom and of late had talked of packing it all in consequently when she didn’t report for work and no contact could be made it was assumed she had left the country and gone back to Africa.
The only known hobby she had was reading classic novels.
Charm bracelet found beneath body identified as not belonging to victim - charm attached: one half of a heart
‘You did all right for yourself last night from what we saw. Did you score?’ Ian leered at David and gave him a nudge as he walked by him at the crack of dawn the next morning, ‘She sure had a great set of tits,’ he added much to David’s disgust. He’d gone to work extra early in the hopes of getting through as much work as he could undisturbed but it seemed like everyone else had had the same idea too.
David cringed and was about to reply when thankfully Don came out of his office and called over to Ian. ‘Have you finished going through that list yet, you need to get cracking making those calls?’ he asked referring to the list of follow up calls to responses from importers of the charm bracelet that they were hoping to get any kind of a lead from. It was a very long shot but perhaps some wholesaler may have noticed some kind of unusual order. They were clutching at straws and they knew it. ‘Steady on boss, there’s a bleeding mountain of them, I haven’t had time to get through more than a quarter of the page yet,’ Ian protested. ‘Well then you had better get a move on hadn’t you?’ Don retorted and walked back into his office, closing the door.
After going through cold cases from the past years, two other cases had been bought to light with similar patterns of injury to the current victims. At the time of discovery no link was established between the two older murders despite bracelets having been found on or near the scene of the remains. Whether this could be attributed to the nature of decomposition and a general disturbance of the first site found nine years ago from natural erosion to the river bank or oversight from the investigating officers at the time of the second event, was debatable. Either way, now that there was an established link was neither here to Don Shark, the investigation was on going and things had to start changing and changing soon.
David said a silent prayer of thanks to Don for his interruption and he headed over to his desk to get started on his own pile of work. He had a mountain of shots to go through and he knew that it would take a lot of time but he was determined to do his job right so for the rest of the morning he sat there patiently scanning all the crime scene images making notes of anything that he thought may be of interest and needing further investigation.
When it got to around lunch time his mobile phone rang and picking it up he was surprised to see the number that Penny had given him last night flash up. ‘Hi how are you? Can you give me a moment?’ he spoke softly into the phone as he got up and walked out into the corridor not wanting to be overheard by the others. He knew that they were curious about him, they always had been but work was work and his private life was something that he definitely didn’t want any of them to know anything much about. That was just the way he was, nothing against them but he had always been like that, even as a kid.
After they had left the pub the night before they had gone to the bistro that he’d mentioned and had a bite to eat. Penny had been just as impressed as he was with the place. The food was to die for and the ambience was comfortable and relaxing. They had sat and talked for hours. The meal delicious and they had sat there lingering over coffee and sharing a dessert of Tiramisu together both bemoaning how hard it was to keep fit when you had a sweet tooth and any dessert meant extra time on the training track, they both laughed. Cardio was a bitch they both agreed but they did love walking and running.
She’d told him about herself, how she was an accountant and how she had been building up her career even though she wasn’t really all that passionate about it, just ambitious and wanting to do the best that she could with the path that life had taken her down whether she truly liked it or not. That was why she hadn’t had a lot of time for a long time to have a social life and consequently the blind date, she had explained.
Unusually for him, he had actually told her what he did for a living and how he was in much the same boat. He had always been passionate about photography and somehow had ended up where he was and although he was totally dedicated to what he was doing, understandably he didn’t have the burning desire to take his career in the job, as they all like to call it, to take it any further.
The two of them seemed to click on a lot of levels. Their tastes in music, films, and even books were similar. She told him how she liked to sketch and had only recently plunged into the world of digital art. He told her how he too was into melding digital art with his photography and how surprised he’d been at the recent upsurge in online art work happening globally.
They both loved eating out too, trying new places and then going home and trying to replicate the dishes they’d experienced by cooking up a storm. It had been a nice night for them both and amazingly they had both enjoyed themselves immensely. When it came to the end of the night he insisted on paying, none of this pay your own way stuff for him he explained, it was his treat he told her. She’d been impressed.
‘You’ll have to let me make it up to you then,’ she told him, ‘that’s if you are interested.’ He’d been a gentleman and insisted on walking her to her car and they had stopped to say goodnight. Normally she would never have dreamt of saying anything of the sort but somehow she felt that he would understand and appreciate the sincerity of her comment. He seemed like such a nice kind of guy and wouldn’t take her as being pushy, or so she hoped. ‘Yeh I’d like that.’ He smiled and she smiled back.
‘Here’s my business card, you can reach me on that number but if you prefer,’ she dug into her handbag and pulled out a pen hastily writing her mobile number on the back, ‘you can always ring my mobile.’ Likewise he gave her his card and did the same. ‘I am always on call so you can reach me on mine any time day or night. If it goes to voice mail leave a message in case I am in the middle of something.’ Poor sod she thought as she imagined what in the middle of something may mean for him. She didn’t even want to think about what that might entail.
So here it was the next day and she had rung him. He was smiling to himself as he found a quiet spot near the stairs to talk to her. ‘Hi are you still there?’ he asked, ‘sorry about that.’ ‘Sorry to ring you at work, I’m in between client’s, just about to go to lunch actually and wanted to ring and say thanks again for last night,’ she told him. ‘You are most welcome. I really enjoyed it too.’
There was a pause in the conversation when both of them felt a little shy. ‘Would you like to…’ ‘If you are free…’ they both spoke at the same time. ‘I’d love to,’ she gave a little laugh, ‘when?’ He chuckled and checked his watch. ‘Look, I am only a couple of blocks away and am due to take a break. I can meet you in ten minutes if you like? Do you know The Hasty Tasty?’ ‘That place that does coffee and the most delicious looking quiches in Broadhurst Lane?’ she queried. ‘That’s the one,’ he affirmed. ‘Sure, okay will meet you there. Can’t wait,’ she smiled into the phone. ‘Me either. See you then.’
‘So real men do eat quiche,’ she laughed as they finished up their lunch and drained the last of their coffee. ‘Well I am not sure that my mob back at work would agree with that but I know I do. I make a pretty mean quiche if I do say so myself.’ ‘I do a chicken pot pie to die for myself,’ she told him. ‘With mash, it’s got to have mash with it.’ ‘Yes totally and lots of peas and carrots and bacon, I love bacon.’ ‘Oh god yes, lashings of it,’ he enthused laughing.
‘Right I will have to make you one then. Perhaps if you aren’t doing anything tonight, I know its short notice and it is Friday night and all and you probably have plans?’ she asked. ‘That would be lovely and no, I don’t have any plans.’ ‘Well okay then.’ ‘I can pick you up after work if you like,’ he added as an afterthought. ‘It’s okay I have my car and I’ll have to run to the supermarket on the way home. How about coming to my place at say seven?’ ‘Seven it is then.’
She didn’t want to say it but she wanted to do some shopping and get home, cook and allow herself enough time to have a shower and get changed and relax a bit plus there was something that she wanted to do and she wasn’t quite sure how long it would take her. Since meeting him last night he was all that she could think about and he had an effect on her that she wasn’t used to. Every time she thought of him she tingled all over and it left her a bit shaky. She felt that she needed a bit of time alone to compose herself and besides; she wanted to do a brilliant job of cooking dinner for him. Silly really but it was important to her.
Likewise he was a little relieved that he would have a bit of time up his sleeve to get home, shower and change. He was trying to keep a lid on his feelings but to be honest he hadn’t been this excited to meet a bird for a long time and he too was feeling a bit of nerves. She was one great looking woman and he really didn’t want to blow it he thought as he walked back to work with a smile on his face.
For the rest of the afternoon he continued to go through image after image. He seemed to have a renewed enthusiasm and determination after meeting Penny. There was a spring in his step and life seemed pretty good or at least a lot better than it had for a long time. He was just going over the last images in one of the cases when Don approached him.
‘How’s it going,’ he asked. ‘Nearly finished, well this lot,’ he pointed to a folder name on the screen. ‘I’ve categorised those images that I think deserve closer scrutiny and want to spend some time going through them. I don’t want to promise anything yet though.’ ‘Look I know you were in at the crack of dawn so how about calling it a day and starting back at it on Monday? I can’t afford for you to burn out. You are too valuable to us David. Go home, get some rest and have a good weekend.’
David looked at his watch pleased to see that he would have plenty of time to get home, showered and changed and get to Penny’s by seven. ‘Thanks Boss, will do. You too, you need it too.’
On the way home he stopped and picked up a bottle of wine and thought about what he was going to wear. He decided on his slate grey pants and his favourite purple silk shirt, it looked classy but hopefully not too overdressed. He didn’t want to frighten her off but he wasn’t quite sure what one wore to a dinner date at someone’s home because he went on so few of them, none at all really when he thought about it. This would be a first for him and he was looking forward to it if he could only play it cool and not blow it.
As an afterthought he called into a little patisserie and chocolate shop around the corner from his place and picked a dessert that he thought they might both like then at the last minute chose some handmade chocolates, had them boxed up in a sweetly elegant gold and black presentation box and headed home. He couldn’t wait to hit the shower, dress and get going.
Penny on the other hand had decided to leave work early. ‘I’m off for the day Carol, have a good weekend,’ she said to her assistant and friend on her way out. ‘Oh, anything special planned? You’re not off to see Kyle are you? You haven’t said how it went last night,’ Carol remarked. She had set Penny up with a friend of her boyfriend by the name of Kyle in the hopes that the two of them would hit it off. ‘Hah, don’t start me, he didn’t even show,’ Penny laughed, ‘but it’s okay, it was a blessing really. I’ll fill you in on Monday. Got to dash now,’ and she was gone.
She did a quick shop, picking up everything that she knew she needed for dinner and ran into the florist and got a bunch of flowers for the table and made her way home with plenty of time to get dinner on.
Deciding what to wear while she was in the shower, she laid her clothes out as her hair was wrapped up in a towel drying off and she did her make up. Nothing too over the top or dramatic, just a natural look with a dash of blush, mascara and some lip gloss. She slipped into her long black and gold fluid Indian skirt she’d decided to wear and added a drawstring top which had long flowing sleeves that bunched up at the wrists, the near sheer fabric of the sleeves falling softly from her slim elegant shoulders. It had matching black silk embroidery down the front of the heavier fabric with tiny little jet buttons and it matched the skirt perfectly.
Adding some black strappy mid heel sandals to the ensemble she stood back to look at the reflection in her mirror. She kind of liked what she saw but she was always her own worst critic so she was never really totally pleased with her presentation and on this occasion she wasn’t really sure if what she had put on was appropriate because she’d never had anyone over to dinner before. Well that was not entirely true, she’d had friends but never a guy.
She gave a little shiver at the thought of him. David was certainly something special but she couldn’t let herself dwell on that or she would get too nervous. Instead she hastily decided to sweep her long blonde hair up in a kind of a loose French roll come top knot and with one last flourish she sprayed herself with a mist of her favourite perfume. It was one that she only used for special occasions so she really didn’t use it much at all but what the heck, she was thinking, this is kind of special or it is to me. The perfume had an immediate effect on her as the top note hit her making her feel a million dollars and totally desirable as she headed back to the kitchen to put the pie in the oven.
When her doorbell rang she nearly jumped out of her skin with excitement. She quickly threw off the Breaking Bad Let’s Cook apron that was her very favourite because she loved the show so much and straightened her top where it had dropped down a little showing a hell of a lot more cleavage than was probably a good idea for a first date.
‘Hi you found me okay?’ she smiled when she opened the door to let David in. ‘Hi sure did, no problems. I don’t live that far away from here so I know the area,’ he smiled back before rather awkwardly leaning in and giving her a very chaste peck on the cheek.
He had been debating whether that would be appropriate on his way over, did one do that on the sort of second date or not he’d pondered then he thought stuff it, go for it what has he got to loose. Penny had automatically responded with a peck back so he thought that he’d made the right choice and smiled to himself pleased that he had gone ahead with it.
‘Hmm, something smells wonderful,’ he observed. ‘It’s the pie; it should be ready in about half an hour.’ ‘I err… didn’t mean the pie,’ he cringed as he said this in case it was too forward but by the look of the pretty blush on her face and the smile that went with it he knew that he hadn’t and that it was the exactly the right thing to say.
‘Come on in, I’ll show you around while dinner is cooking.’
Penny’s house was a renovated terrace on the end of a small row. She’d purchased it during the last market slump, paid a song for it and bought the worst house in the best street. A wise move as prices had soared and with the renovations she had done, a lot of them herself with the help of her father and uncle who happened to be a builder, she had made a killing as far as value went.
There was a long wide hallway with a formal living room leading off to the left. The room had high ceilings, feature picture windows, cornicing and an original Victorian marble fireplace. She had insisted on keeping as many of the existing features as possible during the renovation in the older part of the house including the next room that she had turned into a formal dining room. After that the hallway led into a huge newly added extension with open plan living encompassing a family room, dining area, kitchen and French doors leading off to a conservatory. There was a downstairs shower room and loo in the space under the substantially ornate stairs.
Upstairs midway between the ground floor and first story, next to a beautiful old arched-top lead light window with original stained glass, there was a family sized bathroom with a claw bath and replica suite. Tiling in the traditional subway style had been used to compliment the general feeling of old world charm. Continuing up the stairs was the main bedroom with a walk in robe, shower room and once again large picture windows this time with dual aspect and included an original fireplace again restored to perfection. A second bedroom was a double and had built in robes.
She had even had the loft converted offering two rooms, one she used as an office and the other had her gym equipment in it. David was thoroughly impressed. Everything was tastefully done and with care, flair and attention to detail and he had the feeling that it was a true reflection of her personality.
Once the tour was over and they were back downstairs she grabbed her apron and bustled into the kitchen. ‘Can I give you a hand?’ he offered, ‘love the apron by the way, loved the show. One of, if not the very best dramas going wasn’t it?’ She smiled. ‘I have a confession to make, I have watched and re watched it about six times now from start to finish and the minute…’ ‘The minute you finish you want to start all over again?’ he laughed. ‘Yes!’ ‘My turn for confessions now, I have a mug, chopping board and wind cheater merchandise but haven’t seen the apron before. Now I will simply have to get one,’ he laughed, ‘so next time you want to re watch it I am up for it if you want some company.’ ‘Awesome, that would be so cool,’ she grinned.
She dished up dinner and as they sat eating they talked of their favourite episodes of their show and other shows that they both loved, discovering that they were both mad Game of Thrones fans and adored Sean Bean. Both had theories about how the next season would play out and whether Jon Snow was truly dead or not, neither of them having read the books that the show was based on and therefore totally unaware of any differences between the show and the books and where things may lead.
‘This was absolutely delicious,’ he congratulated her as he finished the last mouthful, ‘you have a way with pastry.’ ‘Okay confession time again, it’s straight out of the freezer, I didn’t have time to make the pastry from scratch,’ she laughed. ‘But the way you added the sesame seeds and the glaze, that was the making of it.’ ‘Oh thank you kind sir, you flatter me,’ she stood and gave him a mock curtsy as she began to clear up the plates. ‘Here, let me give you a hand,’ he insisted, ‘and seeing you cooked allow me to at least do the washing up.’ ‘How about we both do it to save some time or maybe not do it at all, I can do it in the morning.’ ‘No I am not leaving you here with a pile of dishes to do on my account. Now why don’t you just sit down and take it easy and I will have them done in no time,’ he insisted.
While David whipped through the dishes she got out some dessert plates and portioned off the delectable morsels he’d bought for them. ‘God I am so stuffed full of food but these look unreal,’ she drooled. ‘I know what you mean. You are way too good a cook. I don’t think that I will eat for a week I am so full,’ he smiled across the sink at her from the kitchen island. ‘How about we wait a bit and have them later with a coffee?’ she suggested. ‘Sounds like a plan. I have to admit that just walking into the place I bought them from, I feel like I’ve gained ten pounds. Wait till you taste the champagne truffles in the box of chocolates… you’ve never had anything so divine and you can’t stop at one,’ he warned her.
Dishes finally done they sat on the couch listening to the soft music mix she’d put on while he was finishing up in the kitchen. It was an assortment of her favourite songs and was easy on the ear. They felt comfortable with each other now. The pre-dinner jitters gone, there was just a relaxed and contented feeling drifting through them both.
‘I love those flowers,’ he nodded his head towards the centrepiece in the middle of the dining table; ‘they are Asian Lilies aren’t they? They smell wonderful.’ ‘Yes how clever of you to know that. They are my favourite flower. I love the perfume; it fills the whole house and lifts the mood even when I am grumpy and tired.’ ‘I love them too. I’ve tried growing them but haven’t had much success,’ he commented, ‘I haven’t really had the time or the room to indulge my passion for gardening,’ he sighed.
As he sat looking around he noticed the wall behind the L shaped couch was hung with sketches of all different subject matter from landscape to portrait and urban localities. ‘I love the sketches, you have an eye for decorating,’ he remarked. ‘Oh those,’ she said cringing, ‘most of them are just rubbish. I don’t know why I embarrass myself by even hanging them there but normally no one sees them, only me and my family and sometimes a few friends.’
He looked at her and got up and took a closer look, peering at the signature on each picture. ‘Did you do these? I mean I know you said that you liked to sketch but they are brilliant.’ She flinched at the flattery but secretly was just a little bit pleased. ‘I mean it, they are really great.’ ‘Thanks, I guess that I just don’t think they are that good.’ ‘You are far too hard on yourself but … I know what you mean. I don’t have much faith in any of my photographic work either. We are a right pair aren’t we?’
He coughed a little and looked a bit shy. ‘While I’m up I’ll just nip to the …’ he pointed in the direction of the loo. Realising his embarrassment and thinking it was so cute she said, ‘Under the stairs,’ and smiled. He really was quite a doll she was telling herself as she settled into a more comfy position on the couch with her legs curled up under her and her skirt spread out.
‘Did you find it all right?’ she asked when he walked back in. ‘Nearly picked the wrong door,’ he laughed as he sat back down, ‘I didn’t notice another one before when you were showing me around.’ ‘Oh that,’ she shook her head, ‘that one leads to the cellar. I keep it locked I hardly ever go down there it gives me the creeps that much. It’s a pity because it is such a great space but…’ she gave a bit of a shiver. He looked at her enquiringly.
‘When I bought the place,’ she went on to explain, ‘as I said my Uncle is a builder and he knows the area and the history of the suburb pretty well. He also belongs to the local historical society and so he was able to get a lot of information about the house and who had owned it previously. Turns out that way back there was a doctor living here and used the house as his practice.’
‘The house was pretty much of a mess when I first got it, the previous owner had been living here for years and years and hadn’t done anything to maintain it. The rooms were piled high with junk, the wall paper was hanging in shreds, you know typical total renovation job like you see on that show Homes Under the Hammer.’ ‘I love that show, I watch it whenever it is on,’ he interrupted. ‘Hah, so do I and this house would have been perfect for a segment on it, it was so decrepit in fact the old guy had been a bit of a hoarder too and the hallway was full of so much furniture you could barely walk through it.’
‘Anyway when my Uncle and his workers were clearing out the place they had to get the original plans and do all the checks for heritage listing and all that and that was when they found the door to the cellar hidden behind one of the cupboards. I had no idea that it was there and then on the original plan it looked like one huge space and I was over the moon having visions of a home theatre and all the rest of it but when they got down there they were a bit like explorers in an Egyptian tomb because at some point, apart from filling the place with yet more junk that all seemed to be rather an odd assortment, someone had partitioned off a couple of rooms and from what they could tell it had been done a long time ago, way before planning regulations and approval was needed.’
David sat listening fascinated, he loved old buildings and had renovated his own place to an extent so this was something right up his alley.
‘To cut a long story short, they had to clear it bit by bit until they came to a wall. My Uncle measured the proportions and knew that it couldn’t be the existing original cellar wall so he tested a spot that he was sure wasn’t a load bearing wall and knocked a hole through. Now comes the creepy part,’ she gave a half smile of sorts, ‘behind the wall was a room that was empty apart from a couple of purpose built slabs with drainage gutters in them.’ ‘Sounds like an autopsy or even an operating room?’ David queried, immediately recognising their function from the description. She nodded and went on. ‘The only other thing in the room was a sort of dumb waiter kind of thing but bigger than the normal sort that servants would have used according to Uncle John, big enough to …’ ‘To hold a patient or a body,’ David concluded. ‘Yep you got it.’
‘Uncle John did some more digging through the records and it turns out that the doctor that lived here used part of the house as a sort of semi hospital so that’s why the dumb waiter runs all the way up from the basement to the upper floors. Turns out that he had a successful practice until it was discovered that he was an arsenic eater and a cocaine addict and one night at the height of the Jack the Ripper scare, he took off after his scullery maid with a bone saw and ended up locked up in what was termed as a private sanatorium but was probably really an asylum. It was all hushed up by the family and his wife lived on here for many years until the house got sold to pay for the death duties on the estate after he finally snuffed it. Private sanatoriums were rather costly in those days it seems,’ she shivered a little.
‘Yeh I know,’ she rolled her eyes as she spoke, ‘it sounds like the plot out of a trashy Gothic novel doesn’t it? She gave a small laugh. ‘It’s rather ironic too, while they were doing the renovations they used the dumb waiter to put a lot of the building material on and move it up and down. It saved them a lot of trouble really once Uncle had got it into some kind of working order. It’s still there on all the floors, even the loft. You would never tell though, it just looks like a sort of cupboard door on each landing but I still don’t like it.’ She shivered again.
He reached out and took her hand. ‘Heh are you okay?’ ‘Yes, it’s silly really. It’s not the thought of the patients being bundled into that contraption then what must have followed and all that that creeps me out, it was just the first sight of those slabs and the empty black shaft of the dumb waiter when I went down there after they had cleared it up that set my imagination running wild, that kind of stays with me but god, what have I got to complain about with what you must have to face all the time. I don’t know how you do it. How do you cope? If you don’t mind me asking that is… you don’t have to talk about it if you prefer not to.’ She gave his hand a small reassuring squeeze as she said this.
‘It’s okay. I don’t mind telling you. I don’t normally talk about it to anyone really you know but with you…’ he looked into her eyes, ‘it’s different.’ He squeezed her hand back. ‘I don’t know,’ he sighed taking his time to formulate a response, ‘you just do it. You don’t think about it at the time. I think if you did you’d go mad over the reality of it. I mean we don’t just go to murders. It’s not like the TV shows, they can never get across what the smell is like or the taste that sticks in your throat. Blood has this metallic cloying smell and taste that doesn’t leave you and flesh that is rotting, black and green and fly blown moving with live maggots under the skin … well you can imagine if you have ever left a steak out of the fridge and it gets that stink or if you have ever been driving down a country road and for miles before you come across it you can smell the rotting foetid putrefying stench of a road kill. But that’s not the worst of it.’
He sat thinking of a way to put it into words.
‘It’s seeing what humans are capable of. The unbelievable cruelty and stupidity and waste, that’s what stays with you if you let it in. Seeing close up as I have to do what a shot gun will do to a person’s face or what a body looks like after it’s been cut up and shoved into a forty four gallon drum and not found for months. Slabs of meat in a butcher’s shop would be treated with more care.’
‘Then there are the assault victims, the women whose husband or lover or boyfriend or brother has had a right go at them and given them a beating for whatever reason but generally in a jealous rage. And do you know what really gets me?’ he asked her earnestly. She shook her head unable to answer she was so spellbound listening to him.
‘They all look like average folks. There’s nothing remarkable about them. Nothing would give them away as psychopaths. You could walk past them in the street and not bat an eye lid they would look so normal but underneath it all there is something, some tiny spark lurking within them that is waiting to explode out of them. I won’t even tell you about the rapists and child molesters and murderers that like to play with their victims for the thrill of the power over their prey, they are the lowest of the low in my book.’
‘I am so sorry,’ she said with genuine sympathy. ‘Don’t be,’ he shook his head, the darkness that had seemed to descend upon him as he had been talking seeming to lift as he looked back into her eyes again, the million mile stare that had transformed his face disappearing, ‘it’s my job and I have a love hate relationship with it. The bottom line is we catch them and they are dealt with however much we like the judicial system and its rulings or not. It’s destiny. Sorry I shouldn’t have gone on like that but you asked me and I wanted to be totally honest with you.’
He smiled and his face transformed once again into the beautiful man that she was beginning to fall hard for.
‘Oh that reminds me, I almost forgot. I have something for you,’ she got up laughing her memory triggered of earlier that day after she had come home when he mentioned destiny. ‘I am not sure whether you will like this or not but well… here goes.’ He sat intrigued watching her pick up a USB stick he’d noticed to the side of the flat screen smart TV she had speakers hooked up to. After a moment or two the speakers came to life and the opening bars of an orchestral prelude came on then plunged straight into dramatic voices singing in unison - Destiny.
He laughed. ‘Oh my god, what is that?’ he asked. She was laughing too as the ballad continued on. ‘I remembered hearing it on an old retro show one day when I was channel hopping and I couldn’t think of the name of who sang it but I did a bit of a search on You Tube when I got home today. It was apparently a big hit back in the fifties or sixties I think and I couldn’t resist.’ He was laughing, ‘I love it. Just do me a favour and never tell the guys at work about it or I would never hear the end of it.’
The song ended and he got up. ‘Do you mind?’ he asked as he leant over and took the mouse from beside her and hit play again then he stood up. ‘Would you care to dance?’ he asked, his eyes sparkling as he looked at her and taking her hand he gently pulled her to her feet. ‘Would love to,’ she beamed up at him.
The song had a slow tempo. It was typical of its time and the only way to dance to it was one of those slow clinging passionate tightly held embraces you see in a movie of the film noire genre, the kind where the girl always falls for the bad guy but in the end he turns out to be the love of her life that she never gets over.
Once up and holding each other anything else on their minds flew out the window as they clung to each other moving gracefully to his lead. She discovered that he was an expert dancer and the way he held her she melted into his arms. Even when he stepped back from her and stretched out his arms, spinning her around then drawing her back into his embrace, it was so skilful and masterly done that she was amazed by his gracefulness.
When the song ended they were holding each other, one of her small hands in his and other draped around his neck. He was holding her hand and with his other arm wrapped around her waist he was pulling her gently to him. They were both a little breathless and giddy and it wasn’t only from the exertion of the dance.
She looked up at him and into his blue eyes, her body thrilling at the depth of emotion she hoped she wasn’t imagining he felt. He trembled a little as he stared into her eyes and felt his body responding in ways that he hoped like hell he could control but it didn’t help him any too much feeling the heat of her body through her thin top and imagining what lay beneath pressed against him.
It wasn’t her imagination; his body was telling her what was going on in his head and heart as she felt him pressing against her, and her body was responding in kind.
They stood there for moments, it could have been hours or years really and neither would have noticed. Would they fight off the urges that were bathing them both in desire? Should they fight to control what they both wanted so badly to do right at that moment, they each questioned themselves within their own private thoughts.
She wanted him to make a move, she didn’t want to be the one to instigate anything least he think that she did this kind of thing all the time. On the other hand he wasn’t sure of himself. He didn’t want her to think that she was just a pick up and it was the normal thing for him to do, so they stood there locked together both wanting the same thing but not sure if it was the right thing to act on or not.
He leant in a little closer; she moved her face a little closer too. He could feel her breath on his face warm and sweet, she could see the flecks of deeper blue in his eyes drawing her in.
Just as they both moved in unison, about to finally feel each other’s lips on their mouths, his mobile rang.
‘Fuck,’ he swore and brushing her cheek ever so delicately with his warm mouth he let her go and dived into his pocket. ‘Detective Sergeant Trahern speaking,’ he said into his phone. And just like that reality came flooding intrusively back into the room.
Penny obviously could only hear his side of the conversation but knew from how he was responding to the voice on the other end of the line that he must be talking to his superior and that more than likely he would have to leave. She didn’t particularly want the details, it was his job and she didn’t want to intrude in that aspect of his life. If they were, and it was a big if, if they were going to have any kind of a relationship she was determined that it would be on his terms as far as his work went. If he wanted to share then all well and good and if he didn’t, then so be it.
He stood listening for a few moments before responding. ‘It’s the same MO?’ he queried, ‘uh huh, and there’s no doubt about it what so ever?’ He listened again. ‘Okay where?’ He looked across at her for the first time since taking the call and signalled for a pen and paper. ‘Give me a sec Guv.’
Penny shot over to her kitchen bench and grabbed her note pad and a pen that she always kept handy next to her phone station and scooted back to him handing it to him. ‘Thanks luv,’ he said quickly, throwing a wink in her direction. ‘Right Don fire away. Number 54 Clockwork Crescent,’ he scribbled down. ‘Yeh I know where that is. Actually I’m not that far away. Yep right you are.’ He listened again and looked at his watch. ‘I could be there in about half an hour to forty five minutes. Okay I will see you there. No worries. Bye.’
He hung up and shoved the piece of paper in his pocket. ‘I am so sorry; I am going to have to go.’ ‘It’s okay I understand,’ she empathised. ‘Look I wonder … would you mind…’ he hesitated. ‘What is it?’ ‘Well I don’t want to turn up in these,’ he looked down at his good shirt and pants, ‘and I have a change of clothes in my car. I keep some in the boot in case of emergencies along with my kit. Sometimes it can get … messy.’ He didn’t go on and she didn’t want him to go on with the picture that she was forming in her head. ‘You can change up in the spare bedroom, no problems David, help yourself.’ ‘Thanks it will save me having to go all the way home. The crime scene isn’t far and it will save a bit of time. God knows I will be up half the night as it is.’
He ducked out to his car and came back carrying a standard suit, shirt and tie and his thick woollen overcoat as it had turned quite cold during the evening. Dashing up the stairs he changed quickly and came back down to the kitchen where she was just putting their dessert into a container and popping it into the fridge. ‘I am so sorry,’ he said from the doorway as he fished his mobile out of his grey pants pocket along with the address he needed to attend.
She walked over to him. ‘David it’s your job. I know that and accept that it has to come first in your life. Maybe next time?’ she meant the dessert but that wasn’t all that was on her mind. ‘So is there going to be a next time?’ he asked his voice soft and tender. ‘Do you want there to be a next time,’ she tried to sound casual but her heart was pounding away in her chest surprising her with the ferocity of her feelings for him. ‘How about if you aren’t doing anything tomorrow night we finish off that dessert and maybe watch some Breaking Bad?’ was his reply. ‘Sounds like a perfect way to spend a Saturday night to me. I can order in a curry and onion bhajis if you fancy.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘Hell yeh!’
‘Look I have to get going but I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for a wonderful night, great food and … I meant to tell you before,’ he said as he got to the front door and turned, ‘you look sensational.’ ‘You are more than welcome and thanks for coming. I can’t remember when I have enjoyed myself as much. Well I can really,’ she added, ‘I have never enjoyed myself as much.’ He grinned. ‘Neither have I,’ and leant down and pecked her cheek and was gone.
She closed and locked the door and fairly danced her way back to the family room hugging herself she was so happy. She hadn’t stuffed up dinner for a start and then that dance. Oh lord, she’d never had anything that sensual happen to her in her life ever. She was pleased no end that he had said he felt comfortable enough to open up about his work too. It must be such a burden on him despite his attempts at camouflaging his coping mechanisms but she guessed that it was truly the only way that they could handle what they did by ignoring it for the most part. As he had said, if he thought about it too much he would go crazy. Well she was determined that for as long as he wanted to be around she wasn’t going to let that happen.
She looked at the time and realised that it was a lot later than she had thought and as it had been a long day with a hell of a lot of excitement she decided to head to bed, read for a while and then try to get some sleep, that’s if her mind would let her because right now all she could think about was a pair of intensely blue eyes gazing into hers and a body pressed up close to her that left nothing to the imagination. She shivered and said a silent pray for him to keep him safe and then turned out the lights and went upstairs.
David didn’t need a satellite navigation system to tell him that number fifty four was the place he was looking for in Clockwork Crescent; the flashing blue lights of the squad cars, the crime scene tape, the Coroner’s van and the small group of onlookers were enough of a give away. Parking several houses away he climbed out of his car, got his camera kit out of the boot and ducked under the tape, flashing his ID badge at the constable standing miserably on duty in the cold night air.
‘Crime scene is in the top floor flat Sir,’ the constable told him as he pointed to where the top story of the three story terrace house was lit up like a Christmas tree. ‘Your DCI is here already and is waiting on the rest of the crime scene investigators to get here. You can go on up Sir, he’s expecting you.’ ‘Thanks,’ David nodded and walked up the front stairs and in the open front door before making his way up to the top floor flat.
‘David!’ Don called him over to where he was standing talking to an elderly man in a dressing gown that had seen better days. ‘Thanks for your cooperation Mr Tandy, one of our officers will be down directly to take a full statement if you don’t mind and I expect you could do with a cup of tea.’ ‘Yes, tea would be very nice,’ the man said obviously very shaken and upset. ‘I’ll go down and make a pot of tea and perhaps some toast,’ then turning a little green he added to himself, ‘well perhaps not toast and perhaps something a little stronger. Mother has some medicinal brandy somewhere perhaps just this once…’ he was mumbling to himself as he went down the stairs.
Waiting till he was out of ear shot Don then wasted no time bringing David up to speed. ‘We have another one, victim went by the name of Janet Rose Dawson,’ he told him flatly. ‘You said that on the phone but are you sure? I mean I don’t doubt you but if it’s the case then he’s changed his methods. Something happened for him to do that,’ he observed. ‘It’s definitely the same killer. The paramedics suspect strangulation but that can’t be confirmed until a full autopsy has been performed. It appears the victim has been in there for a few weeks with the heater on.’ David rolled his eyes. Oh god, he knew what he was going to be in for under these circumstances and it was not going to be pretty.
‘Apart from being found here in her home, everything else it identical to the river murders. Hands and feet bound behind her with barbed wire. Charm bracelet underneath her body, an empty magnum bottle of champagne found next to her. Fingers cut off.’ Don shook his head and went on. ‘Seems like the occupants of second floor flat had been complaining to Mr Tandy, by the way he’s the caretaker of the whole property, anyway they’ve been complaining about the smell for a while then the first floor mob started complaining too but he’d done nothing about it saying it must be the drains and he’d report it to the landlord if he could get hold of him. It’s one of these property development companies you know the kind?’
David nodded. After the crash in real estate developers had sprung up all over the place taking advantage of the low prices and forming companies that went in and did a quick make over then rented places out and made huge profits, particularly around London where the housing market prices had soared once again.
‘So anyway it all came to a head when flat number one and number two got together when they got home tonight and insisted that Mr Tandy go up and do something about it. The silly sods should have realised weeks ago that something was amiss as they hadn’t seen the girl that lived there for days and days but that’s what comes of suburban living these days. No one pays any attention to their neighbours. They barely even speak. Seems that no one really knew her as she kept to herself, they thought that she may have been a nurse because they were under the impression that she worked shift work and they didn’t want to disturb her.’
‘The weather,’ David exclaimed out of the blue. Don looked at him enquiringly. ‘Sorry Gov, I was just thinking if it is the same perpetrator why change his methods and it has to be because of the weather. Over the last couple of years flooding along the river has become more prevalent and that’s why Deloris was found remember, there had been unprecedented rain that week and the river had broken its banks, that’s how her body had come to be partially uncovered. The once in a life time floods are now more like once a year or every couple of months. What if he knows that there is an increased chance that his victims will be found and so he’s decided it’s too risky and has started to panic? Plus, you remember they refurbished one side of the river with new walking tracks and a new playground?’ Don nodded, ‘well there’s been talk in the local paper that the council on the other side of the river are under pressure to upgrade that side too. That might have been enough to scare our guy away from his regular routine.’
‘Makes sense,’ Don agreed. ‘One thing’s for sure though,’ he told David, ‘it doesn’t help the poor girl that is laying in there right now turned into a pile of rotting black and green maggot ridden mess. Best get cracking lad, the sooner we get this done the sooner we can get home and get to bed and get some sleep.’
‘Easier said than done Guv,’ David murmured as he picked up his kit, took a deep breath and walked into the flat.
He took off his heavy woollen overcoat and carefully laid it on the ground. She wanted it, she must want it as much as he did otherwise why would she be there with him? He looked into her face and her azure eyes met his then trailed down to his lips as they parted and formed a small O shape while watching her every move like a hawk. She was ready, she was dying for it. She was wet for him his mind kept telling him. He stepped forward and his body pushed her backwards up against the rough trunk of the tree. Had it been summer and she had been dressed in something lighter, she would have flinched from the rough bark against her skin but it wasn’t, and she didn’t blink an eye at the rough treatment even when a small sharp twig broke off and pierced her skin. She was too engrossed in the moment to feel anything but the cold on her cheeks and the running through her body.
He ran his hands through the golden halo of hair hanging loosely at the side of her face, spreading it out around her neck and then he slipped them down her throat as he tightened them. Her skin was velvet soft to touch, like a peach that was ripe and fleshy under his long well-manicured fingers. She didn’t even wince at the power in his hands as they closed tighter and tighter around her. See, he told himself, she wants this as much as you do he justified to himself.
When the darkness began to take over her mind and her body began to slip down into oblivion, he let her slide down onto his coat, pulling her under him as she fell. Keeping one hand around her throat he felt for himself, undoing the zip in his pants so his hardness would leap out ready to take her.
At the moment before the small spot of light that was her life began to fade from her eyes, she reached out and touched his manhood, her fingers wrapping around him and urging him forward. He gasped and let go of her throat. She moaned softly in response to his gasp and let her hand run the length of his swollen shaft. He closed his eyes and sucked in his breath. His body pulsed in her hand, twitching with the need and desire that racked through him.
Taking all his weight on one arm, with his other hand he fumbled desperately pushing her dress up around her thighs, feeling for the edge of her panties as he roughly pulled them aside to allow access to her. She groaned at the touch of his fingers as they ran down her, searching for the hollow that would give him so much pleasure once he entered her. When he glided into her hot sweet wetness he knew he had been right, she was silky for him.
Despite his desperate need he moved slowly at first, wanting to savour every moment of her body but when she looked up at him, wetting her lips in between making little mewing sounds, he knew he had no hope. His lips locked over hers, his tongue darting into her mouth like the parry from a sword, thrusting in rhythm to his body, ever faster and harder and deeper.
It was her first contraction of orgasm that pulled him over the edge with her as wave after wave of shuddering climax poured out of them both, leaving him panting for breath and wanting more, so very much more.
She looked up into his eyes and attempted to speak but her voice was no more than a rasp as his long delicate fingers tightened around her throat once more. ‘Shhh,’ he whispered still panting from his own violent release as the soft mewing sounds escaping from her lips faded away , ‘there’s no need to thank me Penny,’ he smiled enigmatically before going on, ‘the pleasure is all mine.’
David woke with a start, trickles of sweat running down his body, lathering him with that milky smell of fear that was so familiar. Oh god, what have I done? He asked himself opening his eyes and frantically staring around his room. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. He was shaking, hot and cold shivers shredding his body into little pieces as his mind spun around and around trying to digest what was real and what wasn’t.
He sat up and looked over to his wardrobe door and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw his overcoat hanging neatly, clean and unstained, no evidence of anything untoward apparent. Thank god, he sighed with relief.
He threw the covers back and sat on the edge of the bed for some moments, his head drooping in his hands as the room span around leaving him nauseous. He always felt like this, every time after it happened. It was always the same, from the very beginning, from his very first this was how it was and nothing would change it, the conversation in his head told him. He felt sick to the stomach. Shower, you need to shower, yeh that’s it, wash away all the disgust then I’ll feel okay.
His legs were sore as he shambled his way into his en suite, unused muscles sore and aching from infrequent exertion of climbing so many stairs on the previous night. He looked at himself in the mirror but hurriedly turned away. No, not yet, he couldn’t face himself yet. Bile flooded his mouth and splattered into the toilet bowl as he just made it in time, his knees hitting the floor with a force that jarred him as he heaved again. Finally the bout passed and he turned on the tap over the shower and stood waiting for it get hot, the hotter the better he thought to himself. When satisfied with the temperature he stepped under the steaming water and stood there not moving.
The water trickled through his hair, over his shoulders and cascaded down from his well-rounded buttocks. He could almost smell the foetid charnel stink washing away down the plug hole, cleaning his body and soul, much to his relief.
Picking up the round white ball of rough body sponge he splashed lashings of his signature body wash all over it and squeezed it with his hands until it was a mass of frothing bubbles, stopping for a moment to inspect his nails, displeased with himself when he found one was torn. Hmm, he must have caught it on something last night but he wouldn’t think of that now. Automatically his hand went to his mouth to chew the roughened nail then he caught himself just in time. No, nail file later, he told himself, his nails were important to the image of himself he had created with so much care.
Running the soapy ball of bath puff under the hot water again he began to scrub, and scrub and scrub. It was all part of his ritual cleansing starting with his shoulders then working his way down his arms, across the fur on his chest, and there was a lot of it he admitted looking down at himself. When he was younger he had been a slave to waxing but not any more. He loved the thick mass of auburn down, it made him feel manlier than he knew himself to be.
Continuing on he washed his arm pits before letting the soap drip over his shoulders again and around his neck as the fragrance of the shower gel engulfed him and transported him to another place, somewhere exotic, alluring and definitely not where he was right now.
His hands moved down his body, over his firm belly and hips to the thick thatch surrounding his manhood. But there it stopped; the slightest touch had been enough to arouse him, life springing forth in the most palpable way. He closed his eyes, gritting his teeth as he felt himself stiffen, aching for release. Without even realising that he had done so, the sponge dropped to the floor of the shower as his hands lathered soap through his thatch, his attempts to ignore his condition an admirable failure for when he opened his eyes he was staring straight into the mirror image of himself across the room in the mirror tiles above the vanity, and his hand was slowly moving in a rhythm that he knew so well.
He closed his eyes again, blocking out the sight and immediately Penny came into focus. Her eyes searching his, her wet lips smiling an invitation, even her erect nipples so visible under her shirt blazed out teasingly. His hand moved faster now, his will power caving with each thought of her tempting his body to let go, to find release.
He groaned loudly, why not, there was no one there to hear him and it felt good, it felt so very good. He was close, so close to letting go, he wanted to, he was desperate to now. He needed to. With that thought he suddenly was racked by his orgasm as wave of contractions shot through him, his belly hurting at the force of his release. He stood one arm supporting him against the tiles of the shower wall and looking across to the mirror, he saw his reflection holding his still hardened member in the other hand continuing to stroke himself, fulfilled and yet needing more. It had been so long, so very long.
It had been after six am when they had finally finished up at the crime scene and then gone back to the office to write up their reports. In David’s case he had to go through the images he’d captured and make sure that he had missed nothing. By the time that Don declared enough was enough it was after nine when he got home and fell into bed dead tired and desperately needing sleep.
He hated the nightmares he had after each murder but he knew that it was his minds way of coping and releasing the built up tension and horror of the situation. It was something that he lived with but it didn’t mean that he had to like it.
After getting out of the shower and drying off he walked into the kitchen with his towel wrapped around his waist and put the kettle on. Despite having thoroughly cleaned his teeth his mouth still felt disgusting and he needed a brew. Flicking on the TV more for some noise than for any other reason, he was just in time to watch the five o'clock news come on. He grabbed his coffee and was just sitting down when the first item on the news aired and it was all about the murder last night.
The report was spot on as far as details went and even included reference to the previous murders at the river. Someone had either leaked information, Mr Tandy had seemed to be lingering a lot on the landing he recalled, or the TV channel had a very good investigative reporter. Either way it didn’t matter much as the fat was in the fire now and any chances of keeping it under wraps were blown.
So be it he shrugged. Women in the area deserved to be warned about the danger to them; it was becoming obvious that this maniac wasn’t going to stop any time soon. Perhaps now Don would arrange a press conference and seek the public’s assistance before another woman fell prey to this degenerate David pondered.
His thoughts then turned to Penny and picking up his phone he punched in her number. ‘Hello,’ she answered almost immediately. ‘Hi, it’s me, David,’ his soft silky voice purred through the phone. ‘Hi,’ she smiled, ‘how are you? Did you get home all right then? Well I mean of course you must have. Did you get any sleep?’ she asked concerned for him. ‘I’m fine thanks. I just got up. I was wondering, are we still on for tonight?’ His heart gave a pound at the thought that she might cancel and he held his breath. ‘Can’t wait,’ she assured him hoping like hell he hadn’t changed his mind, then as an afterthought she added, ‘unless you are too tired?’ ‘No really, I am fine.’ ‘Great, that’s really great,’ she bubbled, kicking herself for sounding like a school girl with a crush.
‘I was wondering,’ he paused self-consciously, ‘is it too early if I come around now?’ She was thrilled. ‘Sure, you can come any time you want to.’ God she was glad that he couldn’t see her at that moment as she had turned bright red at the thought of what she had said and how it sounded even though she had said it innocently enough. ‘Okay,’ he bit his lip to stop himself from chuckling, a silly smirk registering on his face, ‘will be there soon. See you then.’ ‘Bye,’ she breathed into the phone as she hung up.
‘Yes,’ he gave a little punch in the air and sat grinning, glad that he’d called. Wasting no time he climbed into his favourite faded blue jeans and navy coloured long sleeve tee shirt, grabbing his black leather bomber jacket on the way out and arriving at her place some fifteen minutes later.
She’d barely had time to change out of her old track suit pants and brush her hair when her doorbell rang. After he’d hung up she did a little dance and then flew up the stairs, pulled on her jeans and grabbed a white top similar in style to the black one that she’d worn last night and he’d seemed to like. It had a drawstring around the loose neckline and pearl buttons down the front with panels of blue embroidery running down the shoulders to just under the bust. She loved it as it was so comfortable and one of the few things that made her feel that she actually looked half decent.
She slashed on some candy pink lip gloss, gave herself a substantial spray of the perfume that had appeared to make an impression on him last night and she slipped into her little Moroccan black and gold velvet flats that she adored. When the doorbell rang she went flying down the stairs and flung the door open rather breathlessly to find him standing there looking stunning as usual.
‘Hi,’ he grinned. ‘Hi yourself,’ she grinned back, ‘come in,’ she stepped aside as he walked in and closed the door. He leant down placing his hand on her shoulder and kissed her cheek. Not a quick peck as he had done previously but soft and gentle and definitely lingering before pulling away and smiling a little shyly. She drew her breath in and gave him a look that nearly melted his heart then took his hand and led him down the hall and into the family room.
‘How was your day?’ he asked as he stopped next to the dining room table and leant in to sniff the vase of Lilies still looking resplendent. ‘God these smell great, almost as good as you,’ he grinned. She couldn’t hide the blush that spread across her face. ‘You smell pretty good yourself you know, what is that, I meant to ask you the other night when we met?’ ‘Tom Ford, I love it.’ ‘You aren’t the only one,’ she gave a chuckle. ‘Can I get you a drink? Are you hungry, the take away opened at five so if you’d like we can order any time you are ready?’ ‘I’m starving but I can eat whenever you feel like it.’ ‘Oh good, I’m starving too. Let’s go over the menu,’ she grabbed it off the kitchen island along with her note pad and plonked herself down next to him where he had sat down on the couch.
‘Onion bhaji,’ he queried as they sat closely together going through the appetisers and entrees. ‘Definitely, and naan bread we have to have naan bread,’ she insisted. ‘Of course! What about a vindaloo? Do you like hot and spicy?’ he asked innocently enough but her response was somewhat ambiguous in its meaning. ‘I love hot … and spicy, makes the world go round doesn’t it?’ ‘Yes,’ he leant in a little closer, ‘it sure does doesn’t it.’ ‘Food I am talking about,’ she added mischievously.
‘Oh for sure, so am I,’ he purred and gave her a mock serious look followed by the most delicious wink that she’d ever seen. Her body turned to jelly under his gaze.
‘Mm,’ she cleared her throat in an attempt to calm the feelings that were running rampant after the innuendo of their last remarks. ‘Butter chicken, we have to have butter chicken and a side order of poppadoms,’ she said desperately in an attempt to regain some composure. He agreed and suggested that they order several entrée size selections so they could share a bit of each. ‘Love to, sounds like a plan.’ She got up and phoned through the order and then began to set the table. ‘I’ll give you a hand,’ he offered and grabbed the plates from the kitchen bench while she took the cutlery, ‘team work you know,’ and they smiled at each other.
The food arrived and they sat for some time gorging themselves until they were so full they both declared they couldn’t breathe. ‘Oh hell,’ she moaned. ‘What’s the matter?’ ‘We are never going to get through dessert at this rate,’ she laughed. ‘I find that somehow, no matter what, there is always room for dessert.’ She took his comment on face value but couldn’t help thinking that he wasn’t entirely talking about dessert of the food kind. Or she sure hoped he wasn’t.
‘How about we do the dishes, watch a couple of episodes of the first season of Breaking Bad then see what we feel like then?’ he suggested as he got up and began clearing the table. ‘You know you really are quite domesticated. I don’t think that there are many men that would be so handy around the house as you are.’ He shrugged. ‘Do you know many men?’ he asked casually. ‘No,’ she replied, ‘not really. Well not apart from my Dad and Uncle John and they are sort of the old school type, you know it’s a woman’s job to cook and do the dishes. Oh don’t get me wrong, Dad does help out too and can be really sweet to Mum but he’s not one of those guys that believes in sharing the house work. They just come from a different era I guess.’ He thought about this as she went on, ‘Where as you are a SNAG,’ his eye brows rose inquiringly, ‘sensitive new age guy,’ she explained. He felt quite pleased with that and smiled to himself at the thought that she would think of him in that way.
‘What about your mum and dad,’ she asked handing him a plate to dry. ‘Dad died when I was about thirteen. Driving home from work, took a bend too fast. The road was icy and he lost control and his car skidded into a tree. Mum died of cancer when I was eighteen so I have been on my own for quite a while. I guess that’s why I am so domesticated really. I’ve had to be and besides, I rather like it that way. You get set in your ways and like to do things your own way. I’m not sure that anyone could put up with me now really come to think about it.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ she said thinking about what it would have been like losing a father figure right at that time of life that is so important for a boy. ‘Seems to me,’ she went on, ‘that you would be very easy to live with. In fact,’ she felt rather embarrassed admitting it but she ploughed on, ‘you would be any woman’s dream come true.’ She looked at him and he looked back at her digesting her words. ‘It would depend on the woman wouldn’t it! She’d have to be pretty special to put up with a sod like me.’ ‘Oh I don’t know, if you ask me I think that she would think herself pretty dam lucky to be honest.’
She smiled at him and despite everything that he may have thought about himself he was still human and his confidence shot through the roof. ‘Well for what it’s worth, I think anyone that gets to know you would consider themselves to be extraordinarily lucky too.’ He reached across the sink and gently brushed a strand of hair that had fallen across her eyes as he said it. ‘In fact,’ he went on, ‘I think they would consider themselves to be the luckiest man in the world.’
She swallowed and her heart gave a skip as she looked at him. He gave her a little rueful smile at his confession and continued on drying the last of the dishes in an attempt to disguise the emotions he was feeling after his admission. ‘I’ll put the kettle on and make us some coffee,’ she said rather shakily, anything to distract her from the turmoil going through her. ‘Cups are in the cupboard to the left of the hot plates, she said over her shoulder. ‘Right you are,’ and they both busied themselves.
Once the coffee was poured they both picked up their cups and without a word they reached for each other’s hand and walked back to the couch and sat down. She flicked on the DVD player and their show came on and they sat for the next couple of hours engrossed in the world of a cancer riddled teacher making a desperate attempt to leave something worthwhile for his family.
After the third episode she stretched and turned to him. ‘How about some dessert, do you think you have room for it now?’ He laughed, ‘Sure, sounds perfect.’ She busied herself getting it out while he got a large plate and some small side dishes she’d directed him to and spreading the feast out on a tray they both sat back down and put the next episode on.
‘Oh god, you are right. These are to die for,’ she said with her mouthful. ‘Told you didn’t I. Here have you tried this?’ he scooped a spoonful of some sort of cheese cake concoction he’d been sampling and held out the spoon for her. She leant forward and wrapped her lips around the spoon then waited as the taste hit her mouth. ‘Ohh, hmm,’ she moaned in delight. ‘Oh my god,’ she breathed, ‘that is so good. It’s like heaven on a stick,’ she moaned again, ‘it’s like my mouth is having an orgasm.’
His eyes opened wide at her comment and at the accompanying blush that crept over her face. ‘Really?’ he asked and laughed. ‘You know,’ he purred softly, ‘I couldn’t have put it better.’ ‘Well, you know what I mean. It’s pretty sensational isn’t it?’ ‘It most definitely is,’ he replied tenderly, his eyes running over her face, ‘incredibly sensational.’ The words rolled off his tongue.
They left the tray and the remnants of dessert on the coffee table in front of them then sat back and relaxed into the couch. Very casually he stretched his arm out and wrapped it around her shoulder and drew her into him as though it was the most natural thing in the world, both of them comfortable in the space they were in but at the same time palpably aware of the closeness of the other and the effect they were having on their body’s.
‘One more?’ she asked him for the third time as the disc ended and she knew she would have to get up and break the bond that she was feeling with him. ‘Sure, what the hell why not,’ he laughed a little. She came back and sat down curling her legs up under her and nestling into his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her again. Just one more they each kept thinking, neither one of them ready to lose that companionable mood they were experiencing.
Given that they had managed to binge watch the whole of the first season of their show and that neither of them had really slept all that much in the last twenty four hours, it was more than understandable that somehow they both dozed off.
Penny woke up to find David quietly asleep. Managing to untangle herself from his arm without disturbing him, she turned off the TV, grabbed her favourite cashmere throw rug from the chest at the end of her bed and left him downstairs curled up nice and cosy and comfortable. She stood for a moment looking down at him, watching his chest rise and fall with his gentle rhythmic breathing. His face was even more angelic at rest than ever before and she rather pinched herself at the thought that she’d been so very lucky to meet someone quite as beautiful and remarkable as he was, and with that thought she went upstairs, stripped off and hit the sack too.
Half asleep when she got up in the morning, she threw on her silk wrap over her nakedness and wandering downstairs she walked into the family room only to find him sitting bleary eyed on the couch having just woken up himself. ‘Morning sunshine,’ he said groggily, hastily looking down at himself and reaching for a cushion to hide what was obviously a painfully large morning erection but not before she’d spotted it and a wave of lust shot through her.
Oh god there was nothing that she could do to hide the reaction of her nipples standing out stiffly through the flimsy silk fabric of her short robe. ‘Coffee,’ she almost ran to the kettle and busied herself getting out cups and fussing around while she tried hard to get the image of him out of her head. He’d noticed her reaction and was secretly pleased despite his own embarrassment.
‘I am so sorry,’ he was saying as he walked over to the kitchen bench after gaining some composure himself, ‘falling asleep on you like that. I can assure you it wasn’t the company. I must have been a lot more tired than I thought that I was.’ ‘If it makes you feel any better I fell asleep too.’ She grabbed the milk and finished making the coffee. ‘How about I make it up to you and make some breakfast for us or maybe we could even go out for breakfast. I know a little place down near the river that does a wonderful Sunday brunch kind of thing? Then if you’d like, and you don’t have any plans, I had been going to go to an antique market that’s on. I’ve been there before and picked up a few really unusual pieces.’
‘That’s sounds awesome. I’d love to. I love pottering around at markets and car boot sales. You never know what you will pick up. I got an amazing art deco piece at one once. It’s my favourite piece. I have it in my bedroom. Remind me and I’ll show you later.’ ‘Promise? I’ll keep you to that you know,’ he half made a joke of it but beneath his laughing exterior he hoped that she got his drift and was on the same way length. She laughed, ‘Yes, I promise,’ she replied looking him square in the eyes, ‘I hope you do.’
She looked away least the excitement she was feeling was written plainly across her face. ‘I’d better get dressed,’ she looked down at herself. The belt around her waist had loosened a little due to the silky nature of the fabric and was gaping a little across her chest she realised as she caught his eyes running down her. ‘I’ll be back in a flash.’
While she ran upstairs David did a quick tidy up folding up the rug he’d used, straightening the cushions and washing up the tray with their dessert dishes on that they had left in their tiredness the night before. By the time she’d thrown on a pair of black leggings and a long sleeved tee shirt not dissimilar to David’s but in a tangerine colour, brushed her hair, cleaned her teeth and then come back down, he had somehow managed to have the place looking sparkling.
‘Crumbs,’ she blurted out, ‘you can come and live here any time you want to. What on earth have you done to the place? It’s looks great!’ He laughed. ‘I’m normally in such a hurry that I’m just used to taking shortcuts and doing everything quickly. Hope you don’t mind?’ ‘Mind? Hell I love it. You can start on the rest of the house any time you feel like it.’ ‘Love to, just say the word.’ ‘You may regret that you know.’ ‘Never,’ he replied looking like he truly meant it.
They ate ham and cheese croissants with a side order of grilled vine ripened tomatoes and the creamiest scrambled eggs she’d ever tasted. They sat outside on the terrace overlooking the part of the river that was lined with narrow boats, enjoying the sunshine and the sights before heading off to the antiques market.
The hours flew by as they went up one aisle after another browsing through all the trash and treasure that the stall holders had to offer. When they stopped to look at one particular stall Penny spotted a lamp at the back and went over for a closer inspection. It had a brass ornately carved stand and a shade cunningly crafted from pieces of glass then fashioned into a mosaic and shaped into a minaret shape shade.
‘Does this work?’ she asked the lady as she came over to her. ‘Yes luv, it’s in perfect working order it’s just me old man don’t fancy it much anymore. He’s not one for fancy stuff and the lord knows what possessed him to buy it in the first place.’ ‘How much is it?’ Penny enquired, trying not to look too enthusiastic in case the woman noticed her interest and put the price up. ‘Forty quid for you luv,’ the woman replied.
‘I’ll give you thirty,’ David said as he walked up to Penny’s side. ‘Here, what you trying do to me then love, get me old man on to me, he’d have my guts for garters if I let it go at that price. Thirty eight is as low as I can go then love.’ David drew out his wallet and waved a twenty, a ten and a five pound note at her. ‘Thirty five,’ he offered, ‘I am sure that your husband adores you and could never be angry with you, and even if he was, you would make it up to him just with your smile,’ he charmed her. ‘Get away with you. Done deal,’ the woman said laughing and she held out her hand, ‘But only because you’re so smashing love and not for anyone else,’ she leered blatantly running her eyes over him and licking her lips.
‘What are you doing?’ Penny asked. ‘I’m buying it for you, you wanted it and I wanted to get it for you, simple really.’ ‘David I can’t let you do that.’ ‘Why not? Can’t a friend do something nice for another friend?’ ‘Well yes but…’ ‘Penny please, let me get it for you. I really want to.’ ‘Go on luv, let the gent spoil you. You can see that he wants to and if you ask me,’ she winked, ‘he always gets want he wants, or should wiv looks like that,’ she winked salaciously, ‘he’s a real keeper.’
Penny smiled at the lady and didn’t say anything but as they walked away with David carrying the lamp she looped her arm through his. ‘Thank you. That was a lovely thing to do.’ She was surprised by the amount of emotion in her voice but not really surprised by what she was feeling in her heart for him. The lady at the stall was so right.
He was a real keeper.
They made their way into the large pavilion to the side of grounds of the market and spent a good hour or so looking at everything. David picked up a rather elaborately decorated jardinière decorated in a pattern similar to a Clarice Cliff jonquil design in bright colours that he really fancied and Penny fell immediately in love with it too. Then she spotted a rather beautifully carved small octagonal table with an inlay of tiles in a Moorish design, insisting it would be just the thing to put her new lamp on and would fit in the corner of her bedroom perfectly.
By the time they got back outside carrying all their goodies they were both surprised to find that it had clouded over and the weather had turned quite nasty. They had to make a run for it to David’s car and were soaking with David’s jeans and her leggings covered in mud after sloshing through the muddy car park. It was still bucketing when they parked outside Penny’s place. ‘You run in while I get the stuff out of the boot,’ he said to her, ‘there’s no point us both getting soaked again.’ ‘No way, you’d have to make two trips if I did. You grab the lamp and I’ll grab the table, it’s not heavy,’ she insisted and was out the door of the car before he could argue.
Having left his jacket at her place in the morning, when he got inside he was soaked to the skin and she wasn’t much better. ‘Just leave it there,’ she said pointing to the foot of the stairs, ‘I think that my dad left a jumper when he was here last, it might be a bit big for you but at least it is clean and will be warm. I don’t want you catching a cold,’ she sang out to him as she ran up the stairs to her bedroom to get it. ‘Won’t be a tick,’ she added.
He shivered a little with the dampness of his top, cold and wet against his skin. Sod this he thought and pulled it off over his head leaving it in a sodden heap on the tiled floor of the hallway and shivered again.
She had been gone for a few minutes now and looking around, rather than leaving it for her to have to lug up the stairs later, he picked up the lamp in one hand and in the other hand he grabbed the table and carried them upstairs to her bedroom.
When she had gotten up to her bedroom it had taken her a few minutes to find the jumper her dad had left there. Finally ferreting it out, she put it on the chair near her bed and then realised she was shaking with cold and needed to get out of her wet clothes. Even her bra and panties were wet through; the downpour had been so ferocious in its strength that it has soaked right through the thin stretch fabric of her leggings and tee shirt top. She stripped off and was about to slip into a warm pair of track pants and jumper when the door quietly opened to reveal him standing there.
He looked across the room at her nakedness and silently he put the lamp and table down. His eyes never flickered for a moment shining brilliantly blue in the now semi darkness the storm had bought to the room as he gazed at her locked onto the sight before him. He licked his lips, running his tongue sensuously slowly wetting his mouth, unknowingly seducing her at the sight of him in his faded blue jeans clinging to his hips and his bare chest with its soft downy covering of man fur trailing down to the waistband.
She had been holding her jumper in her hand but let it fall to the floor. She knew the time for modesty was gone, her body was telling her not to fight what was inevitable so she stood there letting her body tell him what no words could so adequately do.
He padded over to her having kicked off his wet shoes and socks in the hallway and leaving them next to his top. He moved gracefully like a dancer to stand in front of her. ‘You said the other night maybe next time,’ he murmured huskily as he referred to having dessert but both of them hoping at the time that it meant more. She gave a small nod. ‘Maybe this is next time right now,’ he whispered, gently running his fingers through her hair and brushing a strand off her beautiful face where it had fallen. ‘I think that next time is right now too,’ she answered breathlessly.
Without knowing how, they found themselves in each other’s arms. Their skin cold only moments before, now melding against each other, hot and demanding to be ignored no longer. Bending down he brushed her lips with his and a bolt of lightning shot through them both. She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck as he pulled her in even tighter, his mouth searching for hers needing to kiss her in a way that would leave her in no doubt how very much he wanted her.
When their tongues met it was with such an explosion of passion that they both were breathless and left them tingling all over. It was tender and loving and urgent and carnal all at the same time. He ran his hand around the back of her neck and cupped her head while at the same time bending her backwards a little, supporting the back of her waist with his other hand and kissed her deeply until she thought that she couldn’t breathe for the want of him. Then he suddenly stopped and let her stand upright again.
With his eyes not leaving hers he took a small step backwards away from her and slowly reached down and began undoing the buttons on his jeans. It was erotic and sexy as hell and she stood there watching him mesmerised, her heart beating faster than she had ever thought possible. She watched as he slowly slid his hands into his jeans and with one swift movement pulled them and his underwear down and kicked them off.
She shivered at the sight of his man hood standing erect and so very ready to take her. He was an Adonis.
‘I don’t have any protection,’ he reluctantly admitted staring into her eyes. ‘I am on the pill,’ she replied her eyes never leaving his face as he came closer, ‘and my last lover cheated on me. I had a medical just to be on the safe side and got the all clear. It was a while ago and there hasn’t been anyone else since then,’ she said matter of fact, ‘you?’ she queried. ‘Do you trust me?’ he asked scanning her face. ‘If I didn’t trust you then you wouldn’t be here,’ she replied softly. ‘It’s been a while for me too, a long while. I’ve had physicals and …’ he shrugged as much as to say all was been fine.
She took his hand and led him over to the side of the bed and sat him down then climbed onto the bed and still kneeling, she sat astride him feeling his erection against her, her full shapely breasts only inches away from his face.
Slowly he ran his hands along her arms and up over her shoulders, her skin was soft and velvety. He wanted to kiss every single inch of it but his hands wanted to explore and moved slowly down the slope of her breasts until ever so gently he cupped them and felt their fullness as his delicate fingers lightly touched the two raspberry mounds of her erect nipples. Leaning closer he took first one and then the other in his mouth and with an almost caress of his tongue, he gave the tiniest of flicks. She bit her lip at the touch of his mouth and the feel of his erection as it gave an involuntary pulse against her belly.
Shifting her weight she climbed off him and moved up the bed turning back the covers invitingly as she went. Swinging his legs onto the bed he followed her as she parted hers to allow him room. Taking his weight on his arms he lay on top of her, wallowing in the intimacy they were both feeling. He leant in and kissed her again and a renewed urgency flooded them both. Reaching for himself he then found her and took her with a tenderness that he had never felt before. He wanted to fulfil her and fill her and be everything to her.
His tongue danced with hers as his body began to match its rhythm. ‘Am I hurting you,’ he whispered as a small moan escaped from her lips while he watched her face and the emotions flooding over it. ‘No, oh god no,’ she could barely get out, overwhelmed by the considerateness of his words. She shifted a little and wrapped her legs around his hips; the change in the position bought a new wave of sensations even more glorious than ever. ‘I want you,’ he breathed huskily into her mouth. He didn’t want to rush her, he wanted her to enjoy it and for it to be as memorable for her as it was for him. ‘Oh god yes, I want you so much too,’ she managed to whisper before they were both engulfed by the shattering ecstasy of their orgasm.
He smothered her in kisses while still laying on top of her panting for breath. Her chest was heaving with the earth shattering climax she had just experienced and the unbelievable self-control and selflessness he had shown to her throughout their love making. ‘That was… it was,’ she was lost for words. ‘Orgasmic?’ he offered and they both laughed. ‘You better believe it,’ she answered, ‘that would be the understatement of the year.’
He was laughing as he rolled over onto his side pulling her with him, watching her face and drinking in the dewy afterglow her aura was emitting. ‘What? What are you smiling about and looking so smug for? Just because you gave me the best orgasm I have ever had in my life doesn’t mean you have the right to look as pleased with yourself as you do,’ she said playfully then added, ‘oh hang on, maybe it does,’ and laughed.
‘Well,’ he said running one of his long delicate fingers down her chest and gently across to her nipple before playfully teasing it into erection, ‘you know I could say the same thing about you,’ he admitted. ‘I… I didn’t know a guy could have a multiple until now.’ Her mouth dropped open with surprise at his words then broke out into a sultry smile, pleased as hell with herself. ‘Ha, now look who is looking smug,’ he retorted. She poked him in the ribs and mischievously pulled the hair on his chest.
‘God you know that I love this,’ she ran her fingers through the soft down of his muscular chest and gave a little shiver. ‘I love this,’ he reciprocated cupping her breast mesmerised how just the slightest of his touches could create an almost immediate reaction to her nipples.
He leant in and kissed her again murmuring into her mouth, ‘Is it bad that I want you again?’ Her hand reached down his body searching for him while at the same time she wrapped her free leg over his taught buttock. ‘Only if it is bad that I am ready for you to take me again,’ she purred.
It was after six in the evening when they finally emerged from their hours of passion. They had showered and she had gotten changed. He’d put on her Dad’s jumper and found that all though it was too big for him she decided that he looked so cute in it that he had to keep it as a memento of their first time.
She brushed the now dried mud from his jeans insisting that he never ever throw them out and promising that if she lived to be one hundred she would always have fantasies about them, assuring him that he looked too sexy for her words to do adequate justice to the sight he made when he wears them. Giving his top a quick wash she then threw it in the dryer while they sat deciding what they were going to have for supper, both of them realising they’d missed lunch and were absolutely ravenous.
‘I know that we shouldn’t but it is one of those kind of self-indulgent days so do you fancy a trip to the chippie?’ he suggested. ‘Mushie peas and gravy too?’ she asked. ‘Why not,’ he laughed. ‘There’s one down the road on the high street that does a smashing dinner. I’ll get my coat.’
‘Oh god I can’t breathe,’ she gasped as she ate the last mouthful of fish and slumped back holding her stomach. ‘I know what you mean,’ he laughed, ‘you’re right, they do a right lush nosh up don’t they.’ She groaned. ‘I’ll have to do an extra couple of miles on my river run tomorrow just to work this lot off,’ she grumbled. ‘River run?’ he queried. ‘Yeh, I run the river track down through the park, along this side as far as the footbridge then over and back along the other side. It’s great it goes for miles. I do it all the time. Sometimes I run all the way, other times I walk it but either way I try to do it at least two to three times a week even if it’s raining. I love it.’
‘No,’ he almost shouted, ‘promise me you won’t,’ he said urgently. The tone of his voice startled her. ‘Why, David what is it? Why shouldn’t I?’ ‘Just trust me, don’t. Penny please,’ his whole demeanour was fraught with anxiety and she hadn’t seen him like this, ‘promise me that you won’t go near the river on your own. Promise me,’ he insisted. She looked at him and realised that there must be a very good reason for him to be so adamant. ‘Okay, I promise.’ ‘Look, how about we go for runs together. I really don’t like the idea of you being out on your own; especially by the time you get home it’s after dark. We both love running,’ he went on, ‘so how about we do it together?’ ‘Sure that would be great,’ she replied.
‘David, what is it? There’s something you’re not telling me isn’t there?’ ‘You haven’t seen the news have you?’ he asked. ‘No I haven’t seen it since Friday, why?’ she asked and then she had a sudden thought, ‘has this got something to do with what happened on Friday night when you were called out? It has hasn’t it?’ He looked at her and tossed up whether or not to tell her, and how much to tell her. If he was going to tell her then he decided it was better for her to be pre-warned than not and with that he plunged in and regaled the basics of the case.
By the time that he had finished she was looking a little shaken. ‘I’ve been running down there for years now and all that time…’ she shuddered. ‘You can understand why I don’t want you going anywhere near the place on your own. We haven’t even established if he is doing the killing there or somewhere else then using it as his burial ground and now it’s possible that his MO has changed but even so, I don’t think that it’s a good idea. I couldn’t bear it …’ his voice almost faltered, ‘I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you, not now when I have just found you.’
‘I promise,’ she took his hand, ‘I promise you that I won’t go anywhere near there on my own ever again.’ A tear trickled down her face and splashed onto his hand as he held hers. ‘Heh, what’s this,’ he gently wiped her cheek with his fingers, ‘what’s wrong? I’m so sorry I shouldn’t have told you about the case, now look what I have done,’ he chided himself full of remorse.
She shook her head. ‘No David it’s not that, I am glad you did and anyway it’s not that at all,’ she insisted, ‘I’m glad that you did. I want you to share everything in your life with me, that’s if you want to.’ She looked at his face and read the concern on it like a book. ‘I don’t want anything to happen to you either,’ her voice cracked as she went on, ‘I couldn’t stand it either.’
He took her in his arms and she nestled against his chest, both of them in awe of the other and the feelings that seemed to have grown out of nowhere. ‘Stay with me tonight,’ she said softly.
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ he assured her then kissed the top of her head, ‘I don’t want to leave you.’
The next few weeks flew by with a pile of work for David. The investigation into the murders had taken a much different turn with the media’s involvement now creating a lot of publicity and a slight panic amongst the community. Don had been ordered to hold a press conference by his superiors to stem the tide of questions being asked in the papers about what the police were doing to catch the perpetrator. In his regular calming manner he assured them they were doing all they could to investigate the circumstances of the string of deaths and appealed to the public to come forward with any relevant assistance they may have.
By the end of the third week the squad was exhausted from following up all the flood of leads that had been phoned in to the office, the majority of them had all been less than useless as was the usual case. Everything from suspicious looking neighbours, ex-boyfriends acting funny or who liked to watch murder movies, every man and his dog blamed it on terrorists, the state of the economy or video games; all the calls had to be taken seriously and given the proper investigation and time but all to no avail, it had all been fruitless and they were no closer to finding who was responsible.
Even David had been asked to man the phones and field some of the calls, that was how inundated they were with the response from the public.
David was working long hours every day but that didn’t stop him from seeing Penny. At her invitation he had bought some of his clothes over to her house so that they could spend as much time together as was possible when he wasn’t working and he was sleeping there every other night, the nights he spent at home alone were purely to catch up on some well-deserved rest he told her.
When he was with Penny he was getting some sleep, apart from when they were making love that is, and that was frequently. Since their first time together neither of them could get enough of each other. She was just as besotted with him as he was with her and if it hadn’t been for the gruelling work schedule he was currently working, he could honestly say that it was the happiest he had ever been in his whole life, apart from being tired that is.
On Friday afternoon, at the end of the third punishing week, Don called all the squad together and as a way of a thank you for all their hard work he announced that he would be holding a get together for them all on Saturday late afternoon, wives, partners and girlfriends all invited, and bring a plate was suggested but wasn’t mandatory as he would be putting on a bit of a spread. It was his way to keep moral up and for them all to unwind. The pub was one thing after a long shift but he was smart and knew that these kinds of investigations took their toll on the families too.
They missed having their loved ones with them and often had to put up with irrational mood swings and the irritability they went through because of the long hours, lack of sleep, the sheer frustration of the circumstances, and the horrific nature of the crimes. It wasn’t easy being involved with someone in the job and as Don had said on many occasions, the divorce rate was high because of it, who could blame any woman not being able to cope with that kind of life style on a long term basis, let alone what it did to the kids.
‘So will we be seeing you tomorrow night?’ Don asked David as he shut down his computer ready to leave for the day. David hesitated for a moment before affirming he would be there. He didn’t say that he would be bringing anyone, he had wanted to keep Penny away from his working life, and then after giving it some thought to it he decided that she deserved to be part of it too. It was after all a big part of who he was and consequently as much as he tried not to let it impact on their time together, it was inevitable that it did.
After dining at their favourite Italian restaurant Spinelli’s they went home and made love with just as much passion as if it was the first time, falling asleep in each other’s arms exhausted but sated.
Around four in the morning Penny woke with a start. They were lying in bed spooning, David wrapped around her body and nestling into her but his breathing was heavy and he was sweating. For a moment she couldn’t figure out what it was that had woken her until he began muttering again into her ear in his sleep. She couldn’t make out much of what he was saying but thought that she caught the words “body” and “cupboard”. He must have been having a nightmare for his body was twitching and he groaned a little. Gently she stroked his arm and held him to her a little tighter until it seemed to pass and he drifted into a peaceful stillness.
When they woke in the morning it was something very different that was stirring and had aroused her; his own arousal was palpable and his hands skimming down her body reaching for her while pressing himself against her with some considerable urgency was a welcome way of saying good morning. ‘I want you,’ he said huskily into her ear and moved his hand between her legs gently, then as he was easing his way into her he trailed kisses across her back while continuing to touch her.
She moved her body against him to match his rhythm, the fullness of him in this position tantalising her with new sensations they hadn’t yet experienced. She felt his body give that first shudder of release and it was enough to pull her with him into that golden space of shattering light filled state of bliss. ‘Good morning,’ he said, gently turning her head so he could kiss her, ‘hope I didn’t wake you,’ he grinned.
She grinned back at him and they both burst out laughing. ‘You are so bad,’ she said making it sound like the best thing in the world. ‘And you just love it don’t you?’ he retorted. ‘Hell yes, every single inch of it,’ she purred as she ran her hand down his still engorged member. ‘You are so going to be the death of me.’ ‘Death by sex, hmm sounds like the kind of novel I could write right now since we met.’ He laughed. ‘How about … He died with a smile on his face and a lump in his pants,’ he suggested laughing. ‘Oh what about, She was his man and she did him every which way.’ ‘It was Colonel Mustard in the bedroom with a hard on,’ he chortled.
They were being totally silly now but found it hysterical and rolled around laughing as they each topped the other. ‘Oh god stop, no more,’ he snorted, ‘I haven’t laughed this much in years.’ ‘It was Hercule Poirot and he wasn’t using just his little grey cells mon ami,’ and that sent him off into another fit of laughter. ‘Not to mention what Sherlock Holmes did with his bow that involved Dr Watson, I always thought there were shade of homo eroticism…’ ‘Enough,’ he begged laughing uncontrollably, his amusement infectious and sending her into a fit of giggles. When their laughter eventually subsided he declared it was time to get up. ‘Well okay, but I thought that you already had,’ and that set them off again.
Their light hearted mood continued throughout the day. After breakfast they went for a run, nowhere near the river though, and when they came back they went grocery shopping. ‘I know Don said not to but I think we should take something with us,’ he told her. When he’d gotten to her place the night before he had told her about the get together and asked if she wanted to go. She’d secretly been thrilled that he’d thought to take her and when he said that he actually wanted to kind of show her off to his work mates, her heart had raced with pride.
‘How about we get a Black Forest gateau from our bakery,’ she suggested. He smiled. ‘Great idea, everyone likes cake and they are pretty sensational. Brilliant,’ he nodded and he wasn’t just referring to the idea. He loved the fact that she had said ‘our’ bakery. It sent a thrill through him. ‘Maybe we can pick something delectable up for ourselves too. I have a hankering for some chocolate mousse, preferably spread all over you and I don’t need a spoon to eat it I might add.’ She shivered at the thought of it. ‘Only if you get enough for two, I wouldn’t mind trying my hand or anything else that comes to mind, at a little creativity myself.’
They were in the supermarket at the time the conversation was taking place and he gave her such a look. ‘Here,’ he said smirking, ‘let me take the trolley.’ ‘No it’s okay I’ve got it.’ ‘Penny … I’ve got a hard on now and it’s pretty obvious,’ he explained embarrassed. Her eyes ran down him, he was wearing her favourite jeans. She rolled her eyes at the state he was in and gave him a seductive look, slowly licking her lips as she did. ‘Stop it,’ he begged. ‘I bet that’s not what you will be saying tonight.’ ‘Oh I promise you, it won’t be.’
When it came time to get ready she took some time dressing. She wanted to make a good impression on everyone; she felt it would be important. She didn’t want to look trashy but at the same time she didn’t want to overdo it either. In the end after trying a few outfits David declared that she looked perfect in a pair of well-cut pants and a plain silk shirt. It was classic and classy.
It seemed to him that the whole room stopped when they walked in together holding hands and every eye turned to look at the new comers. He noticed a few of his mates mouths dropped open when they copped a look at the stunning creature he had bought with him putting paid to the speculation that any of them may have had that he was gay. The way they moved together in unison and looked so well suited left it beyond the doubt that these two were very much into each other without a question, full stop, end of story.
Don had been pouring a drink for one of the wives, playing the good host at the time and looked over as they walked in. He smiled to himself, chuffed to see his favourite member of staff turn up looking so content, and David did look content. He looked happier than he had even seen him in the years he’d known him.
Saying hello to everyone as he ushered Penny through the crowd over to where their host was standing, David then introduced her to his boss. ‘Pleased to meet you Don, I’ve heard so much about you,’ she told him. ‘Nice to meet you too Penny, I’ve heard so very little about you,’ he laughed, ‘but I can’t blame David for that, if I was him I would be keeping you all to myself too.’ He smiled kindly at the two of them. It was obvious to him that they were both very much in love and he couldn’t be happier.
If Don spent a lot of the evening getting to know Penny it was only fair. There had been plenty of other social occasions where he had met the majority of his squad’s families so everyone put it down to the novelty of someone new coming into the fold but for him it wasn’t just a case of being that superficial. Unlike the others that wanted to have a squiz at the new bird on the block, Don’s interest went far deeper. He liked and respected David a lot and was intrigued to learn what it was about her that had very obviously captured his heart. It didn’t take all that long either to realise that she was articulate, intelligent, thoughtful, and creative, or pretty much a perfect match for his bright and shining star photographer.
While some of the others, Socks in particular, gave David a bit of a grilling and ribbing about him meeting his destiny, there was not one man there apart from Don who deep down underneath wasn’t totally jealous of him having such a drop down dead gorgeous knock out of a bird on his arm.
As the night progressed and the crowd began to thin, those with kiddies to get home to drifted off earlier than others who had gathered around a keg on the patio and seemed to have settled in for the long haul. David and Penny were not much of the drinking set so apart from doing the obligatory rounds of the crowd they were content to sit inside on the couch in the family room happy to talk to anyone that came their way.
Late in the evening Don joined them their while they sat sipping on a coffee before leaving. The TV was on in the back ground and the eleven o’clock news came on with a mention of the murders still a hot topic in the media. Inevitably the conversation turned to work and the case. When something came up about the charm bracelet Penny rather shyly asked if they had tried Staunton’s. ‘You know that funny little shop we go to when I need art supplies? I know it used to have them because I used to walk past the shop for years. They had quite a few of them if I remember along with some other bits and pieces of jewellery and cheap nick knacks in the window ages ago then suddenly they were gone. I always wondered what an art shop was doing with that kind of merchandise to begin with but I suppose some sales rep had talked them into diversifying and it hadn’t really worked.’
David looked at Don. ‘It’s worth a try. Anything is at this point in time.’ ‘I just thought that because it’s local, and from what the press has said this seems to me to be a local crime,’ she observed a little embarrassed to have put the thought out there in the first place, after all what did she know about this kind of thing other than what she had seen on TV shows.
Don and David looked at each other. ‘You have a smart woman here,’ Don remarked, ‘she’s a keeper.’ They both glanced at each other and turned a little pink Don noticed and smiled to himself. Gone a million he thought and he couldn’t have been happier for them both.
When they got home they went to bed and had the chocolate mousse they had bought for their “dessert” and both declared it was the most satisfying dessert they had ever tasted.
Life continued on at a steady pace for David and Penny as the feelings they had for each other grew deeper and more profound over the next three months. David was practically living there with her on a full time basis, only returning to his flat every now and then to stay the night and to give the place a lived in look to it but really, if truth be told, they were inseparable and had been practically since the first day they met.
When the one month anniversary of their meeting had come around, David had insisted on cooking her dinner and not some quick slap up affair either. They normally didn’t eat in her formal dining room but he wanted the evening to be special and as he’d only been in there once on the night he first went to her place, it was his idea to go the whole hog. They even dressed for the occasion and he spent a couple of hours preparing the food and setting the table.
Because he was such a romantic he even lit the fire in the beautiful fireplace and as he stood back and admired the light it gave out he asked her about the sword that was hanging in pride of place above the mantel. She laughed. ‘Oh that, that was my great grand dads. He was a Knights Templar,’ she told him. ‘Excuse me? He was a what?’ David asked. ‘He was a Knight’s Templar,’ she repeated herself and laughed again. ‘Not the Knights Templar of the crusades though, he belonged to the Masonic lodge and that was part of his regalia.’
‘My dad has the rest of it but I really rather fancied the sword and thought that it would look great above the mantel piece. My mum was glad to see the back of it because she didn’t like it. She thought that it looked kind of viscous but I’ve never seen it that way. I suppose now it would be classed as a prohibited weapon or some such nonsense but back then I guess that times were different and it was acceptable. You know the Masons, it’s all secret handshakes and how olds your grandmother.’
David didn’t really have a clue what she was on about but over dinner she explained a little of what she knew, which wasn’t much really but it went a long way in educating him and then somehow led them into discussing historical figures and the recent series of the Tudors. ‘I tell you what, I wouldn’t have minded losing my head if Henry had of looked anything like Jonathon Rhys Meyers,’ she commented. ‘Oh yes,’ David said a little jealous, ‘well if I had been him and Anne Boleyn looked anything like Natalie Dormer I would have spent the whole of my reign in bed with her trying for kids. She’s hot.’
‘You know,’ she said impishly, ‘I have always wanted to give role play a go.’ He smirked, ‘In that case, come here wench and sit on my knee.’ ‘Your wish is my command my liege,’ she giggled and she did a lot more than just sit on his knee. She discovered he could be very commanding when he chose to and she was more than a willing and devoted subject.
The rest of their anniversary turned out to be a very historical event for them both and a welcome distraction from their day to day lives indeed as the investigation seemed to be dragging out with no results and a lot of fruitless investigation keeping them continually busy.
After Don’s get together he had sent Robin Ward to Staunton’s to check out Penny’s suggestion first thing on the Monday morning and they found she had been right. The owner of the shop had been there for years and he confirmed that at one time when business had been slow they had thought of branching out into gift ware and jewellery and bits and pieces really, he told them, anything that would supplement their income but it had been a bit of a flop.
He remembered the bracelets in question because he’d had an argument with his wife over them. She had come home one day furious that he’d bought up such a big lot and paid through the nose for them when she’d seen them in a local pound shop for half the price that they had paid and that was with a retail mark-up to boot, she’d ranted.
The bracelets had stayed in the window for over a year and it looked like they were going to be stuck with them forever until one day out of the blue, and this was years ago mind you he told them, a bloke came in and bought the whole lot.
‘No,’ he said to Robin, ‘he didn’t remember what he looked like he’d been so surprised that anyone would want them after all this time but he could tell him something about the man.’ Robin was hoping that it would be a lead, anything that would give them some kind of a break through with the case. The shop owner leant forward and declared, ‘He was a bloody idiot because he paid through the nose and double the price he could have bought them for anywhere else.’
The disappointment amongst the squad was palpable but that was months ago now and as time drew on and they drew more and more blanks, moral began to flag. The only saving grace to the whole situation was that there had been no more bodies turn up and everyone agreed that was something to be thankful for.
It was a Tuesday morning around eleven that they got their first big break in the case and things began to turn for them. After taking a call Don announced to the squad room that a girl had been bought into the local hospital with some pretty horrific injuries including what looked to be strangulation marks around her neck. With all the hospitals having been put on alert months ago to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary, an observant doctor had alerted the police. The girl was alive … barely, semi-conscious and heavily sedated. The hospital would be in contact when her condition improved enough for any kind of questioning but at the moment that was considered out of the question.
Details of her attack were sketchy. It appeared that she had been found lying in an abandoned warehouse scheduled for demolition in the old industrial state over to the east of the river by some workers that had come to start clearing the area. She was naked and incoherent, clearly in shock, bleeding from cuts to her body, cigarette burns to her arms and near collapse.
The crime scene investigation revealed a coil of old barbed wire and some pliers near where she had been found but little else. They speculated that the early arrival of the workers had interrupted the perpetrator and considered that it was only that which had saved her life.
It was three days before Leanora Dawkins, the latest victim, was declared fit enough to answer some questions on the following Friday and Don lost no time attending the hospital. He wanted to talk to her himself, he wanted to get the bastard that was doing this so much he could taste it.
Despite being traumatised by the events that had happened to her, Leanora wanted desperately to help in whatever way she could to help catch the ‘evil fucker’ that had done this to her as she put it. As gently as he could Don questioned her about the sequence of advents that had happened to her.
She explained that she had been at work at the pharmacy where she had worked for a number of years. She enjoyed her work and loved the training she’d had over that time with various makeup companies enabling her to set up her own makeover business on the side, mainly doing Bridal make up sessions and cosmetic demonstrations at weekends. It was a lucrative set up and business was booming for her.
On Monday evening after finishing work at six o'clock she had made plans to meet up with a potential new client when Marcie, the girl in question, had phoned to say they had a flat tyre and would be late. They were supposed to meet outside the pharmacy but she suggested meeting at the garage that they had just made it to. It was only about six blocks away so Leanora had agreed to meet them there or, if the puncture was mended first, then they would come and pick her up. She didn’t know the “they” that Marcie had been referring to but thought that it was herself and her boyfriend or dad that would be with her.
She remembered beginning to start walking and thought that she had made it about half way to the garage when a car pulled up and a voice called her over to the passenger side of the car through the door that had opened a little. She admitted now upon reflection it was a stupid thing to do but because she had only spoken on the phone to her client she had no idea what kind of car to expect so thinking that it was her client, tyre now intact had come looking for her, she went over to the car.
The interior of the car was dark and she remembered the person’s voice being softly spoken and having trouble hearing what was said so she stuck her head in thinking her client was possibly sitting in the back seat but before she realised that it was a sole person in the car she had been pulled in and the doors had locked. The rest of the journey had been a blur because something had been shoved over her face that smelt strange and the next thing that she remembered was the pain of something piercing her skin as she lay on what felt like cold broken cement rubble. After that she blacked out again and could only recall vague images of the men that found her in the morning.
‘Is there anything that you can recall about the car?’ Don asked, ‘is there anything at all about what type of car it was, what was the interior like, anything about the man that you can remember would be a help?’ She shook her head. ‘I am so sorry. All I remember was that it was dark, maybe a sort of navy colour and the seats were white. The man was dressed in like a dark coat…’ she shook her head and shivered.
‘I remember his eyes and the shape of his face. In the darkness of his car his hair was a dark sort of auburn.’ ‘Leanora do you think you would recognise him if you saw him again?’ Don asked. ‘I’ll never forget his face,’ she choked, ‘never.’
‘The only other thing I really remember about the car and it was just an impression really,’ she said, ‘was that I thought it was posh and that I would up my price if Marcie could afford a car like that.’ ‘Thanks Leanora,’ Don said, ‘and don’t worry, we’ll get him.’ He got up to leave the room when she called him back.
‘I’ve just remembered something else, he smelt good, in fact,’ she coughed a little and the look of pain caused by the mere movement of her muscles racked across her face, ‘I could have sworn that he was wearing Tom Ford.’ ‘Tom Ford?’ Don queried. ‘Yes, it’s a brand of up market and very expensive designer after shave. The reason I know is because a rep came in trying to get us to sell it but the owner refused to stock it because it’s not the kind of thing that the average person buys. You have to be someone up with those kind of things to want to spend that sort of money. Someone a bit classy and trendy if you know what I mean,’ she explained.
‘Get one of the photo fit guys to come in and take notes of the description that she gives,’ Don ordered once he was out of her room, ‘get them here right now,’ he ordered. ‘Are there any CCTV cameras in the area? Check with shops too, you never know what their security cameras might pick up on. Leanora walking past and any cars that may have been tailing her, anything is worth a shot. Get David to go over the footage. He has sharp eyes and may be able to pick something up. ’
Don pinned the photo fit drawing up on the board they were using in the squad room that contained all the known facts of the case including maps with locations marked on them where victims had been found, as soon as it became available. Next to the drawing was a written description taken from the statement Leanora had given detailing everything that she could remember about his face.
‘He’s out there somewhere Guv,’ David said to Don as he stood next to him, ‘and he’s just made his first mistake. We’ll get him. He’s not as smart as he thinks he is.’ ‘They never are son, they never really are. Go home and have a good weekend with that woman of yours, forget all this for a few days and send Penny my regards will you?’ ‘Will do, you have a good weekend too,’ David replied, ‘try to get some rest.’
After leaving work David swung by Penny’s work and picked her up and they went out for a quick bite at the Italian restaurant they loved. It had become a sort ritual for their Friday night after work start of the weekend date night so to speak and they never got sick of it. It had been another long week between the events of David’s case taking such a dramatic turn, and with tax time coming up for Penny’s clients, she had been flat chat too so after eating they came home and decided just to veg for a while listening to some music and chilling out.
At David’s encouragement Penny had been practising her sketching skills at lot lately and had been working on a sketch of a scene of the Egyptian temple of Abu Simbel as it was when discovered by the Italian explorer Giovanni Battista Belzoni. She had seen a print of the scene hanging in a shop years earlier and it had captured her imagination. She had always regretted not buying it so she had decided to attempt her own version of it but as they sat together on the couch and she worked on it she put it down and sighed, frustrated that she couldn’t get one of the figures in the scene quite in perspective.
‘What’s up?’ David asked, putting aside his tablet that he had been using to read a review of a new photo imaging program that he was interested in. ‘This,’ she pointed to her drawing, ‘I’m kidding myself thinking that I am any good what so ever. I may as well draw stick figures for all the talent that I have.’ He picked up the sketch pad and looked at it then looked at her. ‘You are kidding me right?’ he said genuinely astonished, ‘Pen its brilliant.’ ‘That’s sweet babes but you are just saying that because you feel you have to. It’s a load of old tosh,’ she replied, ‘I am just wasting my time. I am such a hack and can’t draw for peanuts.’
‘Honey, you are fantastic. I bet that you could draw anything or anyone. You bring everything to life, look I will prove it to you,’ he suddenly had an idea and taking the sketch pad out of her hands again he flicked over the page to a clean sheet of paper. ‘Okay I will prove it to you. I am going to describe a face to you and I bet that you can come up with the image that I am thinking of.’ ‘Okay, you are on. I bet that it will come out looking more like a clown than the person. Winner has to do anything and everything the other person asks for everyday for the next week,’ she laughed, ‘deal?’ ‘Deal, I am going to love being waited on hand and foot with you at my beck and call.’
So David sat there describing the person that he had in his mind while Penny sketched away for the next hour or so. She refused to let him see her drawing until she had finished and then when she was quite satisfied she sat back and studied the image on the paper. ‘Heh,’ she said with a frown on her face, ‘this guy looks familiar.’ David was startled. ‘Show me,’ he said nearly snatching the pad out of her hands. When he looked at the sketch he almost gasped.
He hadn’t told her but the face that he had been describing was belonged to the perpetrator and was an exact likeness of the face that was pinned to the board at work just as Leanora had depicted him.
‘You know this guy?’ Penny nodded. ‘Penny I want you think carefully, who is he, where do you know him from?’ he asked urgently. ‘David what is it, what’s wrong? See I told you I couldn’t draw for peanuts. Okay so you win.’ Their bet forgotten for the moment, David had more urgent matters on his mind. ‘Honey how do you know this guy? Who is he, it’s really important.’ ‘David you are scaring me, whatever is the matter? I don’t know; he just looks familiar.’ ‘Honey think; where have you seen him before?’
She looked at David and knew that he was being deadly serious. ‘Why is it so important?’ He debated whether to tell her or not but he knew that he would have to. He didn’t want to cloud her judgement by putting her under pressure but the fact that she was so accurate with her sketch that she had recognised the person meant that apart from Leanora, Penny was the only other person that might be able to identify the fucker that was committing these crimes. David shook his head at the irony. ‘Penny this is the guy that the latest victim described as her attacker.’
She blanched at the implications as they sunk in.
‘Oh god,’ she exclaimed, ‘I’m trying to think. I know I have seen him somewhere but I can’t remember where. Oh David …’ ‘It’s okay, just relax. It will come to you. Do you think it’s someone you’ve seen recently or from work or maybe at a pub? Can you remember anything about him other than his face?’ He was trying hard not to fluster her in anyway, realising that she was getting pretty upset but at the same time he knew it was imperative for her to remember any details she could and he hoped that he could jog her memory without putting too much pressure on her.
‘It’s okay, it will come to you, try to just relax.’ ‘I don’t know,’ she was almost in tears, ‘I just can’t remember.’ ‘It’s okay,’ he said looking at her miserable face and taking her in his arms he held her to him. ‘It’s all right, it will come to you,’ he said soothingly, gently stroking her face.
‘How about a night cap and I run you a bath then we hit the sack? It’s been a long week and we are both tired. You stay there and I’ll get you one.’ He got up and got them both a shot of Drambuie then went upstairs and ran a bath for her, splashing lots of her favourite bubble bath into the water and frothing it up until it was full of hot soapy relaxing bubbles. He lit some candles and some incense just to get the atmosphere nice and relaxed; hoping like hell that if she could de-stress something might come back to her.
While he was upstairs he gave Don a quick call, apologising for the lateness of the hour and briefly explained the situation. ‘Don’t push it with her, I know that you won’t but try to keep it low key if you can. Thanks for letting me know. If anything comes up call, I don’t care what time it is, just keep me up to date,’ Don told him. ‘Will do,’ David replied.
They spent the weekend doing everything they would normally have planned to do but Penny was distracted and he knew she was stressed out and annoyed with herself. On Saturday morning they went to the nursery and bought some new plants for the garden bed that they had been preparing to refurbish. She had a large garden at the back of the house and David was thriving in his newly found passion for landscaping now that he had the room to do it. He’d already repaved her patio outside the conservatory and added a matching feature path.
He had designed an area where they were going to put in a water feature and had been searching on line for the perfect piece to complete it so on Sunday, as a distraction for her, he had made a list of local suppliers including reclamation yards that he thought might have something they could use and he kept her busy going around looking at what was available. By Sunday night she had begun to relax a little and lighten up but she looked tired to him and so he insisted that they have an early night.
He made love to her tenderly as they lay there entwined in each other’s bodies and afterwards as he held her tightly to him he whispered, ‘You know I love you don’t you? I love you Penny and I am in love with you.’ She gazed at him, her eyes shining with tears. ‘I love you. I think that I have loved you since the first day we met,’ she confessed. Their mouths locked in a tender response that nearly broke their hearts with the emotion of the moment before they fell asleep holding each other in a lovers embrace.
‘Anything,’ Don asked when David got into the office referring of course to whether Penny had remembered where she may have seen the face of the killer. ‘Come in to my office,’ he ushered him in and closed the door. ‘Tell me about it,’ Don said wanting all the details. ‘There’s not much really to tell,’ David replied as he regaled how Penny’s revelation had come about. ‘And that’s all that she can remember?’ Don queried. ‘So far,’ David responded, ‘I am hoping that being back at work today and her mind on other things that something might just jog her memory out of the blue. Guess that we will have to wait and see.’ Don nodded.
‘Look I know that it’s not procedure but it is human nature to discuss cases with partners. Some of those here do and others don’t. I don’t know how much you have told her but if you think that by giving her details it might help her remember then do it. Anything that will help, go for it,’ Don told him.
When David got back to his desk he couldn’t help but think of Penny and worry about what this was doing to her, she had been so miserable over the weekend. He loved her, like her he had loved her from the moment they met and all that he wanted was for her to be happy. Love, real true love was like that he sat thinking; it’s all encompassing and overwhelming but not obsessive, never obsessive. That would not be real love that would be… suddenly something came to his mind, something that he had noticed in one of the photos he’d taken, he just had to think of which one it was.
Pulling up a folder with shots that he had marked for further inspection he began going through them until he got to the series of the ones that he was looking for. It was the crime scene of the victim Barbara Anne O’Dowd, the one where the two teenagers had more than just a picnic on their minds when they had found a secluded spot for a rendezvous on the river bank.
He looked at the shots again and zoomed in on a particular area then nodded to himself. He opened folder after folder scrutinising picture after picture, wanting to make sure he was seeing what he thought he was seeing before taking any action. With each image that he got a positive result, he carefully copied it and circled the area that was of importance then when fully satisfied, he printed them out, and leaving the one scene that he knew would be the final clincher to his idea to the last.
It was the murder that broke the pattern, the one at the flat. Slowly and methodically he went over every inch, every pixel of each image then bingo, he almost said out loud. There it was, exactly what he had been looking for. One more piece in the puzzle that he hoped would go a long way in jogging Penny’s memory and lead to the arrest of the killer.
He then rang Penny only to be told by her assistant that she had gone out on a break, mentioning that she needed to get some fresh air. ‘Dam it,’ he swore under his breath. He’d told her not to go out on her own even in broad daylight. He was being so protective of her; she really was so very special to him that the thought of anything happening to her left him feeling sick and shaking. He immediately rang her mobile but frustratingly there was no response and he cursed again. Hadn’t he told her to always have it switched on he asked himself.
Penny had been stressed all weekend. She tried not to let it show but she knew how important it was that she remembered where she had seen the man in her sketch. The pressure she was under had turned her brain to mush and she just couldn’t think. When she got to work in the morning as much as she tried to concentrate on her job it was simply no use. She felt like she was letting David and everyone down and she couldn’t take it. Her head was aching and she couldn’t focus on a thing so, totally fed up with herself, she decided to go for a walk on her own just to have some quiet time.
Her thoughts were scattered and not particularly focussed on anything, all just random things popping into her head. She wandered down the street past all the office buildings for the next few blocks thinking how ironic it had been that she’d met David at a pub not that far from work. There they had been working within a mile of each other and never knowing it.
Thinking along those lines she continued on, reflecting how close by he lived too and how much they had in common, their likes and dislikes, passions and distastes for this and that and now their love and devotion for each other. If anything ever happened to him she didn’t know what she would do she thought.
She worried about what the horrendous nature of his job did to him. He said that he turned off and just got on with it but there had been more than one time that she had been woken by his nightmares and ramblings. She never mentioned them to him in the morning as she was loath to bring anything up that may trigger a bad memory and he never mentioned a thing about his dreams but she did worry about his mental welfare.
There were times that he would sit quietly with what she knew was called “the million mile stare” on his face, there with her in body but not in spirit. It was something that she had read about when she was reading an article on post-traumatic stress disorder suffered mainly by soldiers but not limited to them. Anyone really could fall victim to the disabling condition and all its various insidious side effects. She was just thankful that it hadn’t led him to drink like some of the others in his squad as she suspected.
It was with that thought of how much they meant to each other and how she only wanted him to be safe that she suddenly realised she’d turned off her mobile when she had seen her last client, not wanting any interruptions, and then forgotten to put it back on. Diving into her handbag she pulled it out and flicked on the button waiting patiently as she walked along for her home screen to pop up. When it came to life her message notification went off. She had three missed calls and a text message. Oh shit, she thought under her breath when she saw David’s number next to the missed calls.
‘Do the initials A J mean anything to you?’ the text read, ‘Call me… NOW! David,’ she read as she kept walking. She was puzzled and started thinking. A J, what was he talking about? She walked on trying to think of anyone that she knew with those initials before ringing David. She was lost in the fog as she racked her brain. The image of her sketch kept swirling around in her head coupled with the initials emblazoned across her phone. Because she was so preoccupied and not looking where she was going she bumped full pelt into a man coming out of a door way and nearly lost her footing.
‘Oh I am so sorry…’ she began to apologise as she looked up at the man then she stopped. He was taller than her and as her eyes ran up to his face at first she was puzzled then a look of recognition spread across her face quickly turning to alarm and then horror before she could hide her thoughts. He looked at her. ‘Penny?’ he said, recognising her immediately and about to smile, then seeing her reaction, his face changed to a menacing scowl almost as if he could read her mind.
‘I’m sorry I don’t know what you are talking about,’ she replied thinking quickly, ‘you must have me mistaken with someone else,’ and she turned and began walking hurriedly in the direction of the car park where she parked every day. Her only thought was to get to her car and get home as quickly as she could and get away from the face that had been haunting her for the last few days, the man that she’d bumped into – Alex Jacobs.
How could she have been such an idiot, she asked herself as she made it to her car, got in and drove home? She had told David that he looked familiar. She knew that she had seen him somewhere before but it just wouldn’t come to her but with startling clarity, and the help of the initials he’d texted to her, it all came flooding back the moment that she bumped into him and looked into his face.
It must have been about nine years ago, not long after she started at the accountancy firm and she was just a junior there. She had been called in to assist the senior partner of the firm with a complicated partnership arrangement for some clients. There was a lot of paper work involved in working out each partner’s taxation obligations as it wasn’t a straightforward deal. To complicate matters even further the partners had formed a company, a property investment company with a large portfolio of rental properties, and because each partner was a director to the company it meant a lot of work on their individual tax returns.
Her boss had assigned the job of handling one of the partners exclusively to her. She was up and coming in the practice and it was a test to see how she would handle it. What he didn’t say at the time was that the particular partner in question was a real pain in the butt. He was a smart arse and thought that he knew everything there was to running a business. He hardly ever returned phone calls and practically refused to come into the office to complete paper work, giving the impression that it was all too far beneath him to be bothered, arrogant prick, her superior had concluded. This would be her test of fire and he hoped that she was up to it.
But he needn’t have worried. After the very first phone call with Penny his whole demeanour had changed the minute she had introduced herself. He dropped everything each time she called him. She managed to have him eating out of her hand and everything sorted within a few weeks, the only sticking point was getting him into the office to sign the paper work as he kept insisting that he was far too busy to come in but not too busy to take her out to dinner. She blew it off as a joke but at the same time he had become more and more insistent in the creepiest kind of way and considering his previous reluctance to be compliant in business matters, it made her feel totally uncomfortable.
When he finally realised he would not be getting anywhere without meeting her on her own terms, he very reluctantly agreed to an appointment and she had been relieved. She had put a lot of hard work into the case and had to put up with a lot too as each conversation she’d had with him had become more and more trying. He had begun to get extremely personal with her after the first few calls, trying to chat her up and get her to go out with him. To be honest, she didn’t like him and would be glad to see the back of him once everything was signed on the dotted line. Some of the remarks he’d made to her were extremely sexiest and bordering on disturbing. He made her feel ill at ease and once it was all over she was determined to tell her boss, ambition or not, nothing was worth being made to feel like that.
The long and the short of it all was that finally, after cancelling three times, he did show up and was exactly what she had thought he would be, a real loser. He was smarmy and full of himself and was not at all impressed that she had made sure to have one of the girls from the reception with her to take notes and more or less chaperone the meeting; that was how unnerved she had become at the time. She had the distinct impression that he had only come to the meeting thinking that he was going to get a hell of a lot more out of it than just signed paper work. She was glad to see him go and ironically, after all the hard work that she’d put in, the partnership changed accountants.
It didn’t really matter to her boss; he had not expected anything else really. The fact that she had managed to get him to come in had been a miracle as he had only attended the office a few times before when Penny had first started and had been at the meetings briefly to bring in the paper work and make copies of all the contracts, she hadn’t even remembered seeing him, that was how insignificant she had found him but thinking back she realised that she must have made an impression on him to say the least.
At least at the time of him signing she had proven herself but within a year they heard that the partnership had been dissolved and the company placed under receivership. It seemed that one of the partners had done a runner with a large amount of funds and one guess as to who it was rumoured to be. It didn’t matter all that much to Penny’s prospects as she had done such an outstanding job and, in a funny kind of way it had cemented the pathway of her career.
As the years rolled on and she threw herself into building up her reputation she had forgotten all about the incident. It wasn’t important enough to waste her time on such a loser and life was too full of more important things besides, she’d only seen him that once in her office and had deliberately not made eye contact he was so sleazy, it was only now that the whole event came flooding back to her.
She thought about all of this as she drove home, kicking herself that she hadn’t recognised him sooner but trying to appease her conscience that he’d really meant nothing to her what so ever, he had just been one of those things that you put up with in your job at times, after all he wasn’t the first and only guy to try coming on to her in the work place and it had been years ago now too, and even though at the time he had been a pain to deal with, she never would have thought of him as anything more than that. He had looked so normal, how would she have ever guessed that he would be a potential murderer she argued with herself.
For all her justification that she wasn’t to blame for not remembering sooner, none of it made her feel any easier. Nothing would make her feel any better in fact, she felt sick.
If only she could get home, she just wanted to get home.
The minute that Penny had gotten into her car and locked the doors she had tried to call David but there was no reception in her underground car park. No matter she’d thought as it was only a quick drive till she got home and she’d call him then. She didn’t know why but she just wanted to get home to the safety of her four walls. Seeing Alex had really shaken her up.
As soon as she got in she grabbed her phone and called David. ‘Alex Jacobs, that’s his name and I have just seen him,’ she blurted out.
David went pale. ‘Where are you? Are you safe?’ ‘David I remember it all now, he was a client years ago and …’ ‘Are you safe? Where are you Penny?’ David interrupted almost shouting at her. ‘I’m at home… I bumped into him in Raglan Street coming out of the Barker complex, that big new office building down there and… David, I think he knows that I know. I think he saw it on my face.’ ‘Stay there, lock everything and don’t answer the door whatever you do. I am coming straight home.’ He hung up before she could say anything else.
‘Alex Jacobs, get an alert out for him,’ David rushed into the Don’s office, ‘that’s our man. Penny has just seen him in Raglan Street outside the Barker complex. She recognised him and thinks that he knew there was something wrong. I’ve got to get home.’ Don wasted no time in launching some action. ‘Go, just be careful, you can give me all the details about how you worked this out later,’ he cautioned, ‘I’ll get squad cars there straight away to take up surveillance. It’s better to be safer than sorry,’ he told him as he picked up the phone and hurriedly punched in some numbers, ‘and David,’ he scratched his nose, clearly feeling the pressure but staying as calm as he possibly could, ‘don’t worry; we won’t let anything happen to her.’ David nodded and was gone.
Penny was shaken, more shaken than she cared to admit. She tried to get a grip on herself and shake it off as she went around the house checking all the windows and the French doors in the conservatory that led to the garden, making sure that everything was secure. When finally she was satisfied she put the kettle on to make a cup of coffee. She needed something to settle her nerves.
She sat on the couch sipping her coffee telling herself not to be stupid and that everything would be fine but she kept having flashes of Alex’s face and the change that had come over it when he looked at her reaction to seeing him. She felt sick and panicky. She was uncomfortable too. The business suit she had on felt tight and restrictive and her feet were killing her from practically running to her car in her stiletto shoes. She’d been drenched with sweat too because of the exertion and she could smell the sickly sweet essence of fear all over her.
She put her coffee down on the table and decided she would feel so much better if she had a quick shower and got changed so she went upstairs to the bedroom and turned on the shower to let it heat up while she stripped off her clothes and got out her comfy jeans and a shirt. Stepping into the hot water and letting it cascade down her body she began to feel better already.
David didn’t care about speed restrictions, he fairly floored it to Penny’s place he was in such a desperate hurry to make sure that she was firstly safe, and secondly, to get a full account of what had occurred. He pulled into the small driveway at the side of her house and parked behind her car, not noticing an unmarked police car keeping watch two houses down which had already arrived thanks to Don’s call. They had made it there a few minutes before David and were just putting through a report when he arrived.
Rushing up the front stairs he let himself in with his key. ‘Penny where are you?’ he called out but there was no answer. Immediately all his fears kicked in. Cautiously he slipped into the front room, the formal living room and quickly looked around, but found nothing. Silently he walked slowly down the hallway and peered into the dining room. Everything appeared to be normal. There was no sign of forced entry at the window that opened on to the small side courtyard area which ran along the length of the family room extension and the side of the conservatory, boarded on one side by the fence and the other by the brickwork of the house.
The soft light, through the antique lace curtains, shone across the room and fell on the Knights Templar sword on the wall above the fireplace setting it glinting with a dull sheen. It was a beautiful room and he loved it. They really should use it more often he’d told her only the other day. ‘Perhaps we should have a dinner party and invite Don and his missus over,’ he’d suggested, ‘I know he loves Indian and we could do him a Rogan Josh, it’s his favourite, and we could whip up a batch of coconut ice cream for dessert. We’d have a make a mountain of onion bhajies though; he’s got a thing for them.’
She’d thought that it was a great idea. She really loved Don and admired and respected him. She had a soft spot for him too. From the conversations she’d had with him over the months she had gotten to know him a bit, and it was clear to her that he really loved David and considered their relationship almost like a father son one rather than a boss. That endeared him to her even more. Anyone that loved her boy as much as she did was fine by her. And she sure did love him; he was her David, her destiny.
She loved him with every fibre of her being, heart and soul. She couldn’t imagine her life without him now. She’d looked back reflecting on how very shallow and empty things seemed before she met him. All that she had in her life was her work really. She loved her house and pottering around and she loved sketching and being creative but really that was nothing more than an empty past time without someone to share it with, and not just any old person, but with someone special.
He was that special someone to her and she blessed the day that she went on a blind date that wasn’t. She hoped … no, she had decided months ago not to even put thought to her hopes for where their relationship might go. She was satisfied with where they were at as long as he came home to her and she could make him happy then that was fine by her but sometimes, just sometimes when she was laying in his arms at night listening to his heart beat and feeling the soft rhythm of his breathing, she almost cried with the want and need that she felt for him.
She loved him so much that she wanted those moments to go on forever and the thought that they mightn’t tore at her. She’d often read soppy descriptions of love and silently sniggered at the sentiments so over the top and melodramatic that they had made her cringe but it was not until those quiet moments in his arms, or the look of tenderness she would catch on his face when he thought that she wasn’t looking, it was then that she came to really understand just how deep and accurate all the sonnets ever written were.
He continued down the hallway. The downstairs loo was empty and checking the cellar door that was fine, all locked up tight. There was no key in the door as they both kept the duplicate of the old key on their key chain, David with the original because he rather fancied the ornate look of it, and Penny the copy of it. It was never unlocked ever, at her insistence, and David understood and could live with that though he secretly thought that it would make a perfect home theatre and a dark room for him but no matter, he hoped eventually that one day if they were married… he might be able to change her mind.
He had never broached the subject of marriage with her but that was what he wanted more than anything in his whole life. He loved her beyond reasoning. She would never know what a difference she had made to his life, and to him, how could she; he could never put it into words that would do justice to it. He had been such a lost and lonely soul before they met but now he felt whole for the first time in his life. Even the hideous nightmares that he used to have so frequently were diminishing with time. She was like sunshine coming into his life when before, well before he met her everything had been dark and blank.
She had stirred feelings in him that he had never had. She renewed his faith in humanity with her humour and sense of creativity and compassion. They laughed together. It had been so long since he’d laughed, properly laughed, the kind of belly laugh where your sides ache. He hadn’t had that since he was a kid really, before everything in his life seemed to go pear shaped and he lost his mum, and his dad and the only relationship that he’d ever really known and trusted.
But since they’d met she’d changed all that and he wanted to spend every waking moment with her for the rest of his life. He just had to find the courage to tell her that and he hoped and prayed that she felt the same way.
He walked into the family room but it was empty. He’d half expected to see her sitting on the couch or out in the conservatory but she wasn’t there. As he made his way through the room to check the French doors, thinking that despite him telling her to stay inside she may have gone out into the garden, he noticed her empty cup on the coffee table. He quickly moved into the kitchen and felt the kettle and it was still quite warm so he knew she couldn’t be far away.
The French doors leading into the garden were locked and there was no sign anywhere on the ground floor of anything being disturbed.
At that moment he thought that he heard a noise coming from somewhere above him. It wasn’t that loud but it was distinctive and he wondered for a moment what it was. It was a grating squeaking kind sound, like some kind of rusted pulley being moved that hadn’t been oiled in years straining in protest at its sudden use, and then it was followed by a creak. He racked his brain as to what it might be then suddenly a thought hit him.
He turned around and looked out the conservatory glass doors again and was horrified by what he saw. A cold sickly darkness spread through him and he moved quicker than he had ever done in his life before. In his panic he looked around frantically and then he took off back through the family room. As he was just about to pass the dining room door, out of the corner of his eye, the glint from the Knights Templar sword glimmered and he ran over to where the sword was hanging on display in all its splendour and lifted it down.
The noise of the shower had drowned out all other sounds so Penny hadn’t heard anything. She had only had a quick shower, just a few minutes but long enough to wash away the fear that had gripped her, leaving her feeling refreshed and somewhat sheepish at what she now thought of as her overreaction to the situation she’d found herself in after all, it was broad daylight and there was no possible way that anything could happen to her, Alex didn’t even know where she lived.
Pulling off her shower cap she walked back into the bedroom, dried off and slipped into her clothes, picking up her phone that she’d left on the bed in her haste to get into the shower when a thought crossed her mind that threw her into a new sense of panic. The coal-hole door leading into the cellar!
David had embraced gardening like a duck to water and Penny had given him free range to do whatever he wanted. They had planned various features together and loved getting out into the garden, taking pride in seeing what the fruits of their labour could accomplish. One of the last things that they had decided to tackle was a section of old trellises which had been nailed up to the wall that formed the back of the house at the far end of the terrace, opposite the conservatory.
With all the rain they had been having lately the heavy jasmine bush that had been growing rampant over the years had really run amok. It had too much weight in the tangled clump and had started to pull the trellis down, let alone the fact that it was rotting away the foundations of the woodwork at the base of the structure, so he’d made a start at cutting it back to see if anything could be saved. That was only a few weeks ago but as you do, David had been getting side tracked by other odd jobs which needed his attention so it was only on the previous Sunday he decided he was determined to tackle it and get the job done. So he’d rolled up his sleeves and started to really get stuck into it.
It was as he was in the middle of trimming off the heaviest part of the mess that with a cracking of the splintering rotted wood the whole structure gave way and tumbled down to reveal a doorway set down low on the ground leading into what they realised must have been the cellar coal hole. All of the houses of that time in the area had them but because of her dislike of the cellar she’d never thought to ask her Uncle about whether or not her cellar had one too, and because of her dislike of the partitioned rooms, she’d never really thoroughly explored it entirely.
It had taken David quite a bit of effort to get the door open, the rain and years of neglect had swollen the frame but for the most part the jasmine had afforded some protection to the door itself and once he’d manage to get it open it seemed to be in relatively good order. Upon exploration their theory proved right and the door led down a large chute and into the room that had the slabs hidden right at the back of it in the shadows.
‘I’ll get a proper lock for this at the weekend,’ he’d said as it was too late in the day to get to the hardware, at the time adding, ‘I will have to reinforce the framework too. It will only take a few hours to get it all sorted and it doesn’t matter as no one can get in through the cellar door, we always keep it locked so that’s all right,’ he reassured her.
Penny began to shake a little at the thought of the outside door into the cellar being unsecured. She knew she was being ridiculous because they kept the other door locked and as it was original, it was like all the other doors in the house, solid and built to last but what about the lock, she asked herself? It was old, would it be strong enough to keep anyone out she questioned?
She was so spooked by now that when she walked out of her bedroom and into the hallway, with the intention of heading downstairs to double check the cellar door, she jumped at the sound of her phone ringing in her hand and nearly dropped it. She was in such a state that she hadn’t noticed that she was still holding it after picking it up off her bed.
‘Hello,’ she breathed into it expecting that it must be David as she had thought that he would be there by now but instead she got the shock of her life when he appeared in front of her coming up the stairs.
‘Penny, this is Don Shark,’ the voice on the phone said. ‘Listen very carefully to what I am going to say and hear me out. Don’t say anything else. Do you understand me Penny?’ ‘Yes I understand but...’ ‘Yes or no answers Penny, just listen, this is serious,’ Don urged, ‘do as I say and get out of the house. You have to leave immediately. It’s not safe.’ ‘But…’ ‘Penny do you trust me?’ he asked earnestly. ‘Yes.’ ‘All right then just leave. Go to the front door and leave that way. Penny… the killer is in the house.’ ‘But Don,’ she couldn’t understand, ‘there’s no one here but David …’
Her words died in her throat when she saw the gleam of the sword in his hand at his side and the look on his face. She barely recognised him.
Don Shark knew that he’d met the love of his life the very first time he laid eyes on Iris Ogden. He may have only been a young constable at the time and just starting out in the police force, and she may have only been in her second year of training to be a midwife, but that didn’t deter them. They knew they were meant to be and that was all there was to it.
They had it all worked out. They would marry, keep working until they could afford to put a down payment on a place of their own then start a family and live happily ever afterwards, having the best of both worlds as far as balancing their careers and having a warm close knit family. They very nearly pulled it off too but fate stepped in and sooner than they had planned. Iris fell pregnant at a time that proved to be inopportune.
Iris had just finished her training and was in her first placement as a midwife and loving it. With the unexpected news of her own pregnancy a bit sooner than they would have liked, or afforded, they decided that she would work through for as long as she could before she took maternity leave and Don would work as much over time as he was able. That should see them through all right, or so they thought.
Iris was working hard and giving her new job all she had when she pushed her luck too much and went into labour early, far too early the doctors told her. Daniel Frank Donald Shark was born prematurely, put up a brave fight for nearly three months and then suddenly and unexpectedly, he lost his battle for life. Don and Iris were devastated. Iris blamed herself and Don was inconsolable at the loss of his first born and a son to boot.
Once Iris was well enough she went back to work and threw herself into it like never before. Each birth she assisted in was a double edged sword, thrilled and thankful for the life she had helped bring into the world but saddened for her own loss.
Don continued to shine in the job and worked like a man possessed to move through the force onwards and upwards, moving through the ranks at a great pace over the next six years. He loved his job and he loved Iris but deep down, in that private place that we all have within us, he still mourned the son, the beautiful child that he had lost.
Iris had been told after the first birth that physically she was fine and there was absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t try again for another child, as soon as possible, but it just never happened. They had very nearly given up when some six years after the passing of Daniel, with eyes shining brightly with tears of joy, Iris announced to Don that she was three months pregnant.
‘Right,’ he said, ‘there’s only one thing for it my girl.’ ‘Oh yes and what’s that dear?’ she asked. ‘You are going to stop work right now, put your feet up for the next six months and I am going to look after you whether you want it or not, after all we are going to have a baby.’ True to his words that was exactly what he did.
Louisa Joy Shark was born at 3.42 am on a Sunday morning with no more than a four hour labour and with no complications, much to the relief of both parents. She was the apple of her father’s eye and the day that she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree Don and Iris could not have been prouder. From the minute he first set his eyes on his daughter he loved her to pieces but there was still a small empty space in his heart for his lost son, so it was understandable that David had gone a little way to filling that gap Penny realised after talking to Iris the night of the get together Don had held a while back when the two women had met and hit it off like a house on fire.
Put simply, David was like the son that Don never got to know. They were a similar age had Daniel have lived and knowing his background, David had turned out just the kind of outstanding man that Don would have liked Daniel to be. He was smart, well mannered, polite and talented. He was loyal and devoted to his work, thoughtful and charming. Always well groomed and pleasant to work with and talk to, cooperative and open to suggestions, there was nothing not to like about the man, with one exception, Don had always deduced, Iris told Penny. Don always felt that underneath his quiet exterior David was lonely.
Sure he had his work and he proved time and time again how devoted he was to it. He had told Don when he first joined the squad that he wasn’t particularly ambitious but with the brilliant manner he conducted himself and the outstanding results he achieved, Don had no hesitation in recommending him for promotion time and time again over the years. But as rewarding a career might be, there always seemed to be something missing from his bearing, an air of solitude surrounding him which others may have been shallow enough to mistake as slight arrogance but Don was deeper thinking than that and saw through it.
At one point he had even considered doing a bit of match making and introducing him to his pride and joy Louisa but at Iris’s insistence he was dissuaded and let the matter be. Besides, it wasn’t all that long after he had come up with the idea that Louisa found the love of her life and became engaged, so that put an end to that.
‘That’s why he is so happy to meet you Penny,’ Iris had gone on to explain to her that night ages ago now. Don had noticed a very recent change in him at the time and he wondered about it. He had hoped that it was because he had met someone and he couldn’t be happier for him. He felt a deep affection for David that he was truly like a father caring for a son so it was little wonder that when David had rushed into his office and told him the current circumstances David and Penny found themselves in that Don was more than alarmed, he was scared for Penny and for David too.
Don had long ago realised that David was as deeply in love with Penny as many man could be. He recognised the passion between the two of them every time he had seen them together. It was undeniable even though they weren’t over the top with public displays of their affection for each other, they didn’t need to be. Penny glowed with every look David gave her and he in turn looked at her with eyes shining with pride at every word she said or movement that she made. The two of them may not have known it themselves but it was obvious to anyone that met them, hell a blind man could tell them that they were absolutely head of heals in love with each other and were made for each other. They were simply meant to be. And that scared Don.
If something, anything, was to happen to either of them, it would be the end of the other. A love as deep and profound as the two of them had for each other was all consuming and unquenchable. If you were lucky it happened once in your life time and was indeed a rather precious commodity and needed to be honoured and protected.
Don wasn’t a religious man but as David flew out the door and Don punched in the numbers to his phone to get help on its way to Penny’s home, he said a silent prayer for the two of them then called the rest of the team together. He kept the briefing down to a bare minimal to save time. ‘Check out any CCTV cameras in the area,’ he barked at Ian McCafferty, ‘we need to find Jacobs and locate his whereabouts immediately.’ ‘On it,’ Socks answered, phone already in his hand while he keyed in his login to the government branch that controlled the system. Time was of the essence and in this case could make all the difference. Don knew this and wasted no time more time getting on the road himself.
On the way there he took two calls. One was from Ian confirming that after going through footage from outside the building where Penny had said she’d seen Alex; cameras had caught their altercation and had picked him up following her. They had lost him as she entered her car park but footage of her leaving was caught on camera, as was a dark car following her along High Street Road and turning off in the direction of her home address.
The second call was from the surveillance team that were on site. They informed him that a man answering to the description of one Alex Jacobs had been seen in the vicinity of the address. He had entered a lane that ran the length of the block to the rear of the property having been seen to emerge from a dark coloured sedan parked in the side street to the house and he was then observed climbing over the back fence.
One of the surveillance team had then checked the rear garden and perceived a door into what looked like a cellar had been opened, while the other had gone around to the side of the outside of the house but found nothing amiss there. They had regrouped and contacted Don immediately waiting of further instructions.
While they were relaying this information to Don they also reported the arrival of a man answering the description that they had been given of David, who upon arrival entered through the front door, opening it with a key. Since then, they advised there had been no further movement sighted.
Don’s usually calm and controlled demeanour began to crack. The drive to Penny’s home seemed to be taking forever. Everything had taken a surreal turn of events since the weekend when David had called him to tell him that Penny had recognised the face of the man they had been searching for over the past years. Then to top it off, within days she had seen him. It wasn’t real, Don pinched himself. But over the years of his experience he knew that truth was stranger than fiction and that perhaps David had been right all along when he said that everything was Destiny.
What if David had not met Penny, then where would they be, still in the fog that Alex Jacobs had blinded them with through his cunning and technique? He didn’t know all the details, David had not had time to fill him in and he wasn’t even sure that David knew himself but one thing he did know, he sat thinking in the back of the car speeding towards god knows what, none of it mattered a jot just as long as Penny and David were safe and they caught the bastard that had caused so very much pain and grief to so many.
Don wasted no time and immediately called Penny.
Although he was not familiar with the layout of the house, ironically he did have a scattering of knowledge about the cellar as he and David had only been discussing it a few days ago when he had been lamenting over the cost of some renovations that Iris had been quoted for recently. It seemed like a life time ago now that they had been sitting in his office on Monday of that week, having a very rare tea break and talking about what they had done at the weekend when the subject of the cost of building and materials had come up.
After Don had mentioned that it was Iris’s grand plan to add a conservatory similar to the one that Penny had attached to her house, David jokingly bemoaned that he was spending half his time at the nursery and the other half at the hardware and it was costing a fortune. He’d been on line only the night before checking out the timber he needed to bolster the frame of the coal chute door and had remarked to Penny that he was in the wrong trade.
Don had been interested in what David was going to do and what type of wood he would use, considering himself to be a bit of a handy man in his spare time. He’d even given David the idea of removing the chute and putting stairs in then turning one of the rooms into a games room with access to the patio but David had told him of the cellar layout and wasn’t sure if that would be feasible with all the planning regulations and red tape. Don had given him the name of a friend of his in the council who would be able to advise him and between him and Penny’s Uncle, an idea of sorts was forming. But that was all by the by now with the events that were taking place right now.
Right at this moment, all Don could think of was the distinct possibility that Alex Jacobs was in the house and so was Penny and so was David. He had to warn them and he had to do it quickly and so he had flicked through his mobile and found the contact number for her that David had given him recently when he updated his next of kin details not long after meeting Penny. That in itself had been a fair give away to Don regarding exactly how much she meant to him. Previously the only next of kin details he’d ever provided were for a distant cousin in Australia and that was only because he felt he had to.
‘Penny… the killer is in the house,’ he had said to her. ‘But Don, there’s no one here but David …’ those were the last words that she said to him.
‘David?’ Penny looked at him standing there and barely recognised him, his face looked so peculiar and different. ‘David,’ she rasped again, almost shouting in alarm but he didn’t answer her. She didn’t think that he was even looking at her. ‘David stop, please stop. You are scaring me,’ she begged.
His face was a blank, a mask of some underlying horrific emotion that she had never seen before and hoped that she never saw again. He was her David, her Destiny but he wasn’t, she wasn’t even certain that he was standing there he looked so changed.
Strange how in times of utmost crisis it is the small things that seem to stand out and are remembered long after the event. The way one of the two great arched lead light windows on either end of the house shed a brilliant light through the stained glass and threw David’s body into a shadowy silhouette once he reached the top of the stairs and came to a stop on the landing facing her. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust and focus however once they had, she sucked in every detail of his face and would have it embedded in her memory until the day that she died.
However, not noticed at the time, were the little things such as the clunk of her phone on the thick carpet as it slipped out of her fingers and hit the floor with the frantic but faint voice of Don calling her name as it lay on the carpet still connected, seemingly ignored and of little consequence to her at that moment.
The same could be said for the sudden draught whispering across her back from behind her. It went by unheeded, chilling her warm freshly showered body with its tentacles of menacing tendrils but overlooked at the time when all she could do was stand there gaping in fright.
Then as things do under such surreal circumstances, everything seemed to move in slow motion. She stood horrified as David sprinted directly towards her, his right arm holding the sword outstretched, then just as she waited half expecting to be hit by the piercing blade in her bewildered state of mind, he flew passed her, his left arm sweeping her aside and knocking her flying to the floor.
As she lay in a crumpled heap, stunned by the fall, a loud shriek broke the silence followed quickly by the screeching of metal and an almighty crash but she was too disorientated and unable to focus clearly to take in what was happening in her winded state.
‘Penny? Penny, Penny!’ David’s frantic voice filtered through the haze of fog her mind was in. She looked up at him as he took her face in his hands and brushed away the hair from her eyes. It was him, her David, her Destiny with her again. Back from whatever nightmarish place he had been in, he was now there with her, spreading soft tender kisses mingled with tears of fright and concern for her all over her face.
‘Oh god, my god Penny,’ he was nearly sobbing with relief now, ‘I thought that I was going to lose you!’ ‘David? I don’t understand. What happened?’ ‘It’s all right; it’s all going to be all right now. I’m here darling and I won’t let anything ever happen to you again. Are you all right, did I hurt you? I am so sorry but I had to get past you. He was right behind you,’ he explained. ‘Behind me?’ she questioned, ‘but where, there was no one here but you and Don said … he said the killer was here and you looked so odd. And David you wouldn’t answer me, you just stood there with a look on your face and wouldn’t talk to me. I … I was frightened.’
‘Oh my darling girl, my poor darling girl,’ David took her gently in his arms. ‘I didn’t want to tell you in case you panicked but he was behind you my love.’ ‘I don’t understand. How could he be behind me? When I came out into the hallway there was no one there until you came up the stairs.’ David shook his head. ‘He was there, he was hiding and you wouldn’t have seen him because … he was in the dumb waiter.’ ‘Oh my god,’ Penny shuddered and fell silent for a moment.
In the ensuing silence they both became aware of a faint noise and looking around David swore. ‘Oh god, Don is still on the line.’ As David reached for the phone a loud hammering erupted on the front door of the house.
‘Don? Don its David,’ he spoke quickly into the phone, ‘mate it’s all right, Penny is all right but can you get a couple of guys around to the back of the house and over the fence. Tell them to stand guard at the door into the cellar in case anyone comes out.’
Penny heard Don’s muffled voice but couldn’t catch what he was saying. ‘No, it’s highly unlikely but just a precaution. I will explain when I see you and put in a detailed statement of course but my guess is that it’s over. What’s your ETA?’ he asked. ‘Okay see you in a couple of minutes and can you relay all of this to the two jokers that are nearly banging down our front door?’ More muffled conversation. ‘And Don,’ his voice softened from one of authority and in total command of the situation to the gentle caring well-spoken lover she had fallen in love with, ‘thanks mate.’
‘Are you okay,’ he turned to her as she sat with her back to the wall and hugging her knees. She nodded but still seemed understandably shaky. ‘Do you think that you can make it downstairs,’ he asked and he held out one hand and gently wrapped his arm around her to help her up. She nodded silently; tears of alarm and relief still splashed down her cheeks and smudged across her face as he gently lifted her up. Arm in arm they walked downstairs and into the family room and he helped her onto the couch.
‘You just sit there and I’ll put a brew on.’ She was shaking now and felt chilled to the bone. ‘You’re in shock honey, I’ll get you a rug,’ and he left her to sit quietly while he ran and got her cashmere throw rug, the one that she had covered him with the night that he had first fallen asleep on her couch while they watched Breaking Bad. He then made her a cup of coffee and snuggled her down on the couch propped up with a load of cushions.
‘Babes …’ whatever he had been about to say was left unsaid as a loud knock on the front door sounded. ‘Stay there,’ he insisted and kissed her gently on the face before making his way to the front of the house. She heard his voice as he opened the door then heard Don’s distinctive voice too.
They had both caught a glimpse of a uniformed beat officer making the rounds of the garden when they came downstairs and David had acknowledged their presence and had a quick word to them out of her earshot while she sipped on her coffee but now that Don was here she knew that the investigation would be on in earnest and prepared herself for the barrage of questions that she knew they would both have to go through. Besides, she lay there thinking, she had a few questions of her own that needed answering; like how David knew Alex Jacobs was in the dumb waiter.
‘Penny my dear,’ Don greeted her as he came through the doorway into the room, genuinely delighted and relieved to see her in one piece. ‘Don’t get up,’ he added as she threw the rug off and sat up. ‘David has quickly filled me in and told me that you have had one hell of a shock. We do need to ask you some questions,’ he rubbed his nose but more out of habit than stress this time, ‘both of you,’ he added giving David a rather official looking glance, ‘but that can wait for a bit. The main thing is that you are all right.’
‘Thanks Don,’ she smiled the first time for a long time in that long weary day and then suddenly burst into tears at his sincerity and kindness as she reached out and squeezed his hand. David was at her side immediately and hugging her. ‘Heh, it’s all right. I promise you everything is going to be okay now.’ ‘I know,’ she smiled again through her tears; ‘I have you two looking out for me so what more can a girl ask for?’
Rather than putting Penny through more drama, Don had suggested waiting until the next day to take her statement pleading shock as the reason for delaying the natural course of the investigation but when she realised that David would have to go into work and give his version of what had happened regarding his involvement that day, she insisted that she was fine really and had gotten over the initial shock of the events.
As per normal procedures they were interviewed separately and gave statements detailing the full circumstances of everything that had occurred. David’s interrogation took longer than Penny’s as it was likely to become subject to an internal enquiry but after hearing all the circumstances Don assured them both when they were finished and sitting quietly in his office, that given the nature of the crimes Alex Jacobs had committed, and the extraordinary act of heroism on David’s part, along with his exemplary record of service, he had nothing to worry about. And if he did, then whoever in charge of the enquiry was an idiot and Don would make sure that they knew it.
‘Now,’ Don said, ‘would the two of you mind if you filled me in on exactly what happened. When the line went silent and you didn’t answer me Penny I think I just about had a coronary,’ he confided. ‘And you,’ he turned to David, ‘what the hell was it that led you to finding the bastard’s name? Sorry for the language Penny,’ he added. ‘He was more than a bastard Don so go for it,’ she smiled grimly thinking about the total loser that was now lying dead on a slab at the coroner’s office.
‘You go first,’ Penny told David, ‘I want to hear this too. You didn’t have time to explain it to me before now and I really want to know what it was that gave you his initials. I might add,’ she looked at him with love in her eyes as she said it, ‘if you hadn’t have told me I might very well have been a victim of his too,’ she shuddered remembering the first look on his face when she had bumped into her. It was pure lust, she grimaced again at the thought.
‘Do you remember that conversation we had after those two kids found Barbara O’Dowd? We’d both felt that there was something familiar that we might have missed?’ he asked Don who nodded recalling the talk they had quite clearly. ‘All along I have kept thinking that apart from all the very obvious patterns to the case there was something that I had noticed about that particular crime scene but had not taken it in fully so I went back over the photos and magnified them as much as possible when I spotted something.’
‘I then went through all the other cases to see if was present, a common denominator so to speak, and case after case I found it. The final test would be if I found it present at Janet Dawson’s flat, that would be the clincher that would link him to the others and,’ he looked at Penny, ‘might mean something to Penny and help jog her memory.’
‘When I looked through the shots it took me a while but I finally found it. You have no idea how ecstatic I was. This was the break through, I just felt it was the turning point and of course I wasted no time calling, little realising what a twist of fate was in store for us,’ he told them.
‘But David you still haven’t said what it was that gave you the idea. What was in the photos?’ Penny asked almost frustrated with impatience. ‘Wait here, give me a moment and I will show you.’ He got up and went out to his desk, picked up a folder and sat back down. Opening the manilla folder he spread the shots out across Don’s desk and moved his desk lamp so that the expandable neck was shining the light directly in the direction of the images.
Almost holding their breath, Don and Penny leaned in and looked over the images, paying particular attention to each area that David had circled. ‘Oh my god,’ Penny exclaimed. ‘Lord, David you are incredible. None of us picked this up at the time,’ Don shook his head thinking back to all the crime scenes and seeing them with new eyes. David shrugged. ‘None of them would have meant as much if that,’ and he pointed to the last example he was showing them taken at the flat, ‘if that hadn’t been there. We may have made the mistake of thinking there was a copycat killer or partner on the lose but when I found that, that was when I knew it was the same person and he’d made one hell of a mistake.’
The three of them stood looking at the photos spread out in front of them, each particular image blown up and enhanced with the circle David had marked to show one half of a heart carved into a tree nearby each burial site and containing the initials A J. Even those sites that were old still had the faint trace left on each tree, hard to see as they were with the naked eye but with David’s keen photographic training, attention to detail and magnification, it became obvious they were the mark left of a serial killer, a signature of a mad man.
The last image lying there was a shot taken in the flat of Barbara O’Dowd and showed a large candle on a stand sitting on a bedside table with the same carving on it. ‘That,’ he said pointing to it, ‘was the confirmation that I needed to find to establish it was the same person perpetrating all the murders and when I found it, that was when I called you,’ he said to Penny.
‘But David I still don’t know how you knew that he was in the house. When you came up the stairs and were carrying Great grand dads sword and looked like …’ ‘And looked half out of my mind?’ he finished. ‘Well… yes, sorry but you looked so strange and you wouldn’t speak to me. I guess in the state that I was in I wasn’t thinking clearly myself but for half a moment I…’ ‘You thought that I had gone nuts! I can understand that, I half was but not for the reasons that you thought.’
‘When I got home and called out and you didn’t answer I thought the worst. I went through the house and I knew that you were home because of your coffee cup on the table, I know you well enough to know that you always put it in the sink to be washed and then I found the kettle still quite warm so I knew that you must be around somewhere. Then I went into the conservatory thinking that you might have gone out into the garden and that was when I saw the door to the cellar open. I realised that there was no way known you would have opened it and besides, even though it didn’t have a lock on it and that I had managed to get it open the other day, when I closed it I had to pretty much hammer it closed because of the wood in the frame being so swollen from the rain so I thought that it would take quite a bit of muscle to get it open. That was when I was scared that he must be in the house.’
‘I was half out of my head and frantic to find you then I heard a noise. At first I couldn’t work out what it was that I was hearing and it took me a couple of seconds to puzzle out what it could be that sounded like that but then I put two and two together and realised, the sound that I had heard was coming through the wall from the dumb waiter going upwards and then door to it being opened.’
‘I made a bolt for it up the upstairs but as I was passing the dining room I rushed in and grabbed the sword. If worst came to worst at least I would have some kind of weapon and then I charged up the stairs to find you standing there already in the hallway.’
‘But why didn’t you say anything to me, you wouldn’t answer me and just stood there with that look on your face?’ she asked him again. ‘Because I knew that it was obvious from the way you were just standing there you didn’t know the door to the dumb waiter was open and he was in there and I assumed he was about to jump out. I didn’t want to say anything in case you moved and it gave him an advantage to attack you that was why I thought that if I could keep your attention focussed on me then I figured I had a chance of getting you out of the way and getting to him, or well, if not to him then to the rope that you pull on to move the contraption. But I had to be quick and I was desperate.’
‘That was another reason why I had to push you out of the way, so that I could get a decent swing at the rope and use the length of the sword to my advantage. I hoped like hell that I had made contact and knew almost immediately when he let out a scream that he must have realised I’d severed the rope enough for it to not hold his weight before he could get out. And that was exactly what happened. The rope gave out almost immediately and with nothing to hold it there, it dropped down the two floors so suddenly and with such an impact that he didn’t stand a chance really.’
‘You see I had been down in the cellar not that long ago and had a look at the dumb waiter. I was curious to see how it worked and even though your Uncle had got it back in working order, it had taken a bit of a pounding with all the building material they had been hauling up and down on it, and considering that was a few years ago now, it wasn’t looking in that great a shape. I was actually a little surprised that he was even able to make it work to be honest but my guess was that when he found the door to the cellar and got it open but then the other door to the ground floor was firmly secured, he was in such a rage he was capable of anything.’
‘When I saw you in the hallway dressed in your jeans I thought that you must have come in, had a coffee then gone upstairs and had a shower and that was why you didn’t hear anything. I am pretty sure that after getting into the cellar he would have tried the interior door and finding it locked he must have looked around and decided to take his chances in the dumb waiter. I suppose the one thing that he didn’t expect was to see a maniac come charging at him with a sword,’ David gave a half ironic laugh then his face changed.
‘My only regret is that his neck was broken by the sudden fall after the rope was cut. He won’t be standing trial and the families of the victims won’t get the justice that they deserve.’
‘Perhaps they already have son,’ Don said quietly, ‘perhaps they already have.’
Thank you to those of you who have read this piece and been kind enough to leave comments.
I hope you have enjoyed this little sojourn and your support is greatly appreciated.
May you sleep well and dream not of those things that come darkly creeping through the shadowy pools of the night.
~ Braz ~
On the weekend after the death of Alex Jacobs, David had taken Penny for a weekend away. He booked them into a holiday house in Polperro, Cornwall. They both needed a change of scenery and to escape the horror of the last week. The media had been full of all the details of the series of murders and somehow had found out about the link to Penny and David, and the part that they had played in the solving of the crime. The media and social media were full of it. David couldn’t believe it when a petition was launched on social media to have him promoted, one comment going as far as saying he should get a knighthood. It was too ridiculous for words and got too much for them both coming on top of the revelations their investigations had uncovered now that they knew who was behind the murders.
Upon breaking into Alex Jacob’s penthouse, a luxury apartment that he had funded through some very shady deals and that were currently being investigated by the Taxation office, the true extent of his depravity and long seeded obsessively cruel nature with women had been discovered in a walled up hidden room he had constructed. Jars containing the remains of fingers he had severed from his unfortunate victims as some kind of bizarre sick memento of his twisted and sadistic deeds, along with hundreds of photos appearing to have been taken randomly of women in the street, potential victims it had been concluded, were pinned all over the walls.
Shelves full of journals he had kept for year after year lined the room. His depravity was unlimited and included computer files they found with insidious stomach churning snuff movies and the most depraved pornography any of them had ever witnessed. It was obvious that he was indeed a psychiatric case and had he lived, it was doubtful if he would have been deemed fit to stand trial.
In page after chilling page of diary entries he ranted and rambled on with the most foul and disgusting diatribe against women he had met through his life time, including chillingly, Penny. Entries dated nine years previously detailed his delusional thoughts regarding her teasing him, leading him on, what he had wanted to do to her in her office and on and on. It had made those reading them that knew Penny and David feel sick to the stomach.
A search of his car had revealed yet more evidence, a bag containing a roll of barbed wire and various implements including a can of spray paint. Curious, David had a hunch and after re-examining the photos of the crime scene where Leanora Dawkins had been found, he zoomed in on a part of a wall covered in graffiti only to find Alex’s signature trade mark painted hurriedly amongst the rest of the tags. If that was not enough to settle things the most incriminating find they uncovered was a pair of cutters that, when tested, were found to have traces of blood matching several of the victims and fingerprints matching those taken from Alex Jacob’s corpse.
After the evidence had been gathered and a psychological profile had been completed, it was concluded that a child hood incident involving a girl he had exposed himself to at his school, after having had his attentions rejected - an incident which he claimed was only an innocent case of two kids being kids and for which he had been severely punished for at the time, this incident had been recognised as the catalyst for his lifelong growing hatred of women and his malicious and evil state.
Ian McCafferty went around bragging that he knew it, hadn’t he told everyone it was something to do with unrequited love at a youthful age. For once he was right.
Don had advised David to take a few days off and get out of town. He could see that he needed a break and suspected that Penny did too so at his insistence he took the Friday off and they headed to the West Country arriving late in the afternoon in the picturesque seaside village, just in time to enjoy the most glorious of sunsets from the terrace.
‘How did you find this place?’ Penny asked him as they sat sipping drinks in the growing dusk. ‘Oh you are going to love this,’ he told her. ‘Ages ago I was watching an old episode of Homes Under the Hammer and one of the stories featured a house down here. I just fell in love with the place and I have always wanted to come here and see it for myself, so I got on the net and made a few enquiries and came up with this place.’ ‘It’s glorious,’ she sighed and he agreed.
They felt the tension oozing out of them bit by bit and by the time they had grabbed a bite to eat, enjoyed a long lingering bath together and climbed into bed, they both had unwound enough to have the first decent sleep that they had had in days.
After breakfast the next morning they wandered around the town checking out all the tourist shops and scenic sights like a couple of kids. By lunchtime they had decided to grab a picnic basket full of their favourite goodies and walk up to a cliff top park that afforded the most magnificent views of the coastline. David took his camera with him and Penny packed her sketch pad and pencils. They sat on a rug on the grass and thoroughly enjoyed the delicacies they had chosen then while David stretched out on the rug, Penny did some sketching.
‘Penny,’ David murmured to her. ‘Hmm,’ she replied absent mindedly distracted by the artwork she was engrossed in. ‘Penny,’ he tried again. ‘Yes,’ she continued on with her sketching, her eyes never leaving the paper. ‘Penny,’ he said again and this time the timbre in his voice got her attention, it was so soft and ever so tender that she looked up to find him kneeling in front of her. ‘What? What are you doing?’ she asked, her voice no more than a whisper and her heart was now beating so hard she thought it would break her rib cage.
‘Penny I love you. I couldn’t love you more if I tried,’ he looked into her eyes and at the same time dug his hand into the pocket of her favourite jeans and pulled out a small black leather box. He kneeled there in front of her and opened the box to show her what was inside and at the same time he said the words that she had never allowed herself to imagine.
‘Penny will you marry me?’
Detective Inspector David Trevor Trahern and Miss Penelope Elinor Stafford were married in their garden at their home one year to the day that they met. Detective Chief Inspector Donald Francis Shark was best man and Mrs Iris Joy Shark was matron of honour in the civil service held under bright sunshine on a cloudless day. The bride carried a bouquet of Asian Lilies, the groom and best man had matching button holes of a single lily in their lapels.
No one in the large crowd of family and well-wishers could have been happier for the two of them than Don. The pride he had in David was palpable. When David had asked him to be best man he had joked that if it had been up to him he would have had Don walk him down the aisle, he felt that close to him and considered him not only his closest friend, but his surrogate father. He had moved big tough Don to tears. When Penny asked Iris to be her matron of honour it was the icing on the cake.
A lot had happened in the months after the happily engaged couple had returned from their long weekend away. The first thing, and the one that was the biggest relief to them both, was David’s exoneration from any wrong doing in regards to the death of Alex Jacobs. The coroner bought down a verdict of death by misadventure and everyone sighed in relief that the saddest of episodes was over.
Penny didn’t have the heart to continue with her career and with David’s thorough approval, she quit her job. The money aspect of their situation didn’t worry him one bit, he would rather know that she was happy, that meant more than all the money in the world to him. Instead he encouraged her to follow her passion with her artwork and so she went back to university with the plan to get a Bachelor of Arts degree. Money could wait; happiness was everything to them after what they had been through. And besides, he was now earning more than ever before since Don had recommended him for promotion and he had now achieved the rank of Detective Inspector.
She did have to postpone taking her degree for a while when eighteen months after they had been married Donald David Trahern came into the world. If David and Penny were over the moon it was nothing compared to the way Donald Shark felt once he learnt that he had a god son and name sake. Their happiness was completed within three more years when Destiny Ian Trahern and Iris Lilly Trahern, fraternal twins, were born.
When Donald Shark retired and moved to Polperro some years later, after falling in love with the place on the many visits he and Iris had made to the holiday house that Penny and David had eventually bought there, it heralded a change of lifestyle too for them all. Penny had become a much sort after artist in the intervening years since the children had been born and she had gotten her degree, and David’s hobby of photography had blossomed, winning him prizes in many sort after national and international competitions so they too decided enough was enough and he quit the job and moved permanently to the seaside town that they loved.
Together with Don and Iris and the extremely generous superannuation payouts both of them got when they left the police force behind, they pooled their resources and opened a small restaurant combined with an art gallery featuring Penny’s art and David’s photography. Patrons could sample the fine food cooked by them and enjoy the ambience of wandering through the gallery or sit on the terrace they had built overlooking the pretty harbour views and enjoy morning and afternoon teas and cocktails, weather permitting.
Despite having offers for their house in town that were ludicrously tempting with the huge amounts being proposed, Penny and David kept the house for the three children to live in for when they were older and needed somewhere close to their respective universities. In spite of the event that had happened with Alex Jacobs, they both adored the house filled with so many happy memories that outweighed the one terrible occurrence in their lives. When they had arrived back home from their month away in France and Italy after they went on their honeymoon, David had a surprise for her.
‘Close your eyes,’ he’d said to her and then carefully guided her down the stairs of the cellar. ‘Okay you can open them now!’ She looked around gob smacked at the changes that had been accomplished in such a short space of time. ‘Uncle John and I planned these months ago and arranged a builder to come in and do it now that he has retired,’ he beamed at her reaction. ‘Oh my god,’ she wandered around amazed at the transformation.
The partition walls that had been erected by the former owner back in the eighteen hundreds were gone and replaced with a new configuration containing a large state of the art home theatre room for them both to enjoy, a small dark room for David because he still had a passion for developing film deep at heart, and the room that had held the slabs and dumb waiter that she had so detested and had the coal chute leading into it, well it had been totally refurbished and transformed into a games room with French doors leading to outside stairs cut into the patio and leading up into the garden, it’s re-plastered walls smooth and repainted, all traces of its past now gone. ‘It’s brilliant,’ she said to him.
That night, the first night in their home as husband and wife and the beginning of their new life together, they had sat downstairs in the theatre room and one guess as to what they had watched for hours and hours; Breaking Bad, sharing memories of the first time they had watched their beloved show and the start of something between them that transcended any horror life could throw at them.
‘This is wonderful,’ Penny said as she sat snuggled up in his arms. ‘Thank you for doing this, it’s made such a difference.’ She waved her arm in the general direction of the room, ‘I never thought that I could ever bring myself to use down here, especially after what happened but now … now it’s going to be our special place and filled with nothing but the good memories we make for it.’
‘You are wonderful,’ David replied quietly, ‘I can’t tell you the difference you have made to my life Penny. It’s changed everything for me.’ David smiled and stroked her face.
No need to tell her, he thought to himself. Best she didn’t know what lay hidden within the walls of the house. Under David’s specific instructions he had told the builders to plaster over the openings to the dumb waiter and the dumb waiter shaft for carved into the wooden wall of the box like structure was half a heart carved with the initials: DT.
He stroked her face again with a gentle caress murmuring huskily, ‘Trust me, the pleasure is all mine; my pleasure entirely.’