It had been a long and tiresome day and Henrik Hanssen was looking forward to being at home with his family. As he climbed the steps to his front door he smiled to himself, taking in the array of pumpkins that were lighting his path, two on either side of each step, each with its own unique design. There were the usual scary faces and witches silhouettes but others were much more detailed; intricate floral designs, nocturnal animals and even one carefully carved to resemble the human brain. Roxanna's efforts were obvious but his 13 year old daughter's efforts weren't that bad either.
As Henrik stepped over the threshold into the welcoming warmth of the house he shouted out, "I'm home," as he closed the door behind him with a satisfying thud. Angel, their black Portuguese Water Dog bounded through from the kitchen to greet him, jumping up Henrik’s legs and barking with excitement. “Hello girl,” Henrik said as he bent down to greet the dog, stroking her behind the ears, just where she liked it best.
"I'm in here," came a voice from the kitchen; it was Roxanna. Henrik glanced up the stairs from where the boom, boom, boom of pop music was coming from; a clear indication of his daughter’s whereabouts and yet another sign that his little girl was growing up much too quickly. Gone were the days when Heidi would be running as fast as Angel to greet him at the door on his return from work; gone where the days when she would leap into his arms, eager to tell him all about her day, Roxanna lingering in the background patiently waiting to welcome her husband home with romantic kisses. Now it was only the dog who was excited to see him.
He removed his coat and hung it on the coat pegs but as he went to walk away he tripped over the bright pink patent Doc Marten boots strewn across the floor in front of him. "What the.....?" He gasped as he grabbed hold of the stair banister to save himself from hitting the floor. "Heidi!" He bellowed up the stairs, "for goodness sake, put your boots away!" He received no response and sighed to himself as he picked the boots up and placed them on the rack where they should have been in the first place. Shaking his head and muttering to himself he made his way through to the kitchen, Angel dutifully following behind.
Roxanna was sat at the kitchen table, her spectacles on and her head buried in her laptop. "Hi," she said without looking up. He assumed she was working on her research; she was spending all her time on it these days.
“I’ve just nearly broken my neck on Heidi’s boots which were just abandoned in the middle of the hallway," he complained. "We really need to be a bit tighter on getting her to tidy up after herself Roxanna.”
“She’s okay,” came his wife’s response. He doubted she was even listening to him and he shook his head again. Honestly, was it only the dog who listened to him these days?
“Anyway," he breathed out of his nose, attempting to release the tension that had built up in his chest, "how was your day?” He rested his hand on Roxanna's shoulder and placed a kiss on the top of her head.
"Not bad. You?" Her eyes did not leave the screen. "I haven't sorted out anything for dinner."
"Right," Henrik replied as he walked over to the refrigerator to see what he could rustle up.
"I've got to take Heidi to a party soon. When she's actually ready that is...," Roxanna said, now looking up at her husband as he moved around the kitchen selecting various cooking utensils.
"What party?" Henrik asked, stalling in his tracks to look at her.
"It’s a Halloween party, at Amelia's house. You do know about it," Roxanna replied as she removed her spectacles and looked over at him in disbelief.
"The invite has been on the notice board for about two weeks. I've spent the last week sorting out her costume."
"Oh. Well who’s going to be there? What time does it go on until? She's got school tomorrow."
"Yes, I'm well aware of that thank you,” came Roxanna’s brusque response. “It just a few chums from Heidi's class. Amelia's mother will be there."
"No boys then?" Henrik asked reproachfully. Heidi attended an independent girl’s school.
Roxanna rolled her eyes, "Henrik, stop worrying." She walked over to where he was stood, now chopping vegetables at the counter and wrapped her arms around his waist. She snuggled into his shirted back and pressed her lips to it, "It’s sweet though, that you worry about boys," she murmured into his back.
"Of course I worry about boys. I worry about everything when it comes to Heidi." He put the knife down and turned into Roxanna's arms, bending his head slightly to kiss her. She readily relaxed into him and kissed him back. "Mmm, I like this," she whispered between kisses.
"Me too," Henrik replied as his hands moved down to cup her buttocks which were enclosed in a tight pencil skirt, giving them a little squeeze as he did. They were in their early sixties now but still found one another irresistible. They were so engrossed in each other, they didn't notice their daughter appear in the doorway.
"Ugh, can't you just leave each other alone? It’s disgusting." Heidi screwed up her eyes, a look of complete and utter disgust at her parent’s behaviour was written all over her face.
Roxanna let out an embarrassed giggle and pulled herself away from Henrik’s grasp but continued to hold onto one of his hands. Henrik looked over at his daughter; she was tall like he was but she had inherited her mother's looks and colouring. Now though, the usually sleek shoulder length blonde hair resembled a bird’s nest and the ends were tinged pink. Her pale skin was hardly visible behind a mask of makeup on her face. A short black dress and tights completed the look.
"I'm ready to go mum," Heidi instructed to her mother.
"Is that what you're wearing?" Henrik was horrified at the way his little girl looked. He let go of Roxanna's hand and took a step forward to take a closer look at Heidi, "and what's on your face?"
"Dad!" Heidi protested.
"It’s a temporary tattoo, that’s all Henrik," Roxanna stepped in as the appeaser; it was a role she was stepping into quite alot recently. "It will wash off." She barged her way in front of Henrik and rested her hand on Heidi's shoulder, "you look amazing darling, doesn't she daddy?"
"Yes," he said reluctantly. "Very scary indeed," he said drolly, trying to force a smile.
"Come on mum, let's go," she said looking at her father disdainfully. God, why was he was so old and boring?
Roxanna let out a sigh, "okay then, let's go.” She grabbed the car keys from the worktop and led the way through to the hallway.
As they pulled their coats on Henrik appeared in the doorway.
"Heidi," Henrik beckoned his daughter to him with his finger.
"What?" The teenager asked reluctantly as she shuffled her Doc Marten clad feet towards him. Henrik looked down into the big blue pools of her eyes, now encircled in thick black eyeliner, "have a good time. I love you." He pulled his daughter into his arms, her head level with his chest and kissed her on the top of her head.
She accepted the affection but as soon as she could, she wriggled free; "Dad! Don’t smudge my face!" she complained. Then, as if it was an afterthought, an almost inaudible "love you," escaped from her mouth.
Roxanna smiled at the scene, glad that Henrik had made a peace offering with their daughter. "I won’t be long."
Henrik smiled back at her, "okay, dinner will be ready when you get back. Drive safely, the wind is starting to pick up out there."
"I will. See you later." She followed Heidi out of the front door and down the steps to the car.
"Bye." Henrik stood in the doorway and waved, watching the car until it had disappeared out of sight and he eventually closed the door. “Come on girl,” he said to Angel who was at his feet.
When he returned to the kitchen he flicked the radio on and poured himself a glass of red wine. It was the one guilty pleasure he allowed himself; listening to The Archers whilst cooking dinner with a glass in his hand. As he prepped the fish steaks the pips sounded to indicate the seven o'clock news bulletin. He listened whilst making an en papillote parcel for the fish, meticulously folding sharp creases in the parchment paper and then sighed when his mobile phone started to ring. It was Sacha calling from the hospital.
"Henrik, I need advice. It's a surgical matter...."
As Henrik listened to his colleague he missed the third item on the news bulletin:
"Police have confirmed reports that a patient has escaped from Fairfield Secure Hospital. No details have been released, as yet, on the identity of the patient or on when or how the escape took place. An official statement from the Police is expected within the next hour."
"Give me a ring if you get fed up of them!" Roxanna joked to Amelia's mum as she watched Heidi disappear into the house.
Amelia's mum laughed, "How I let myself get talked into this I'll never know! Bye Roxanna."
"Bye," Roxanna smiled as the door closed and she turned and stepped out onto the pavement, turning her collar up against the wind and rain that had settled itself in for the night. As she walked to the car she thought about the dinner Henrik was preparing and was eager to get back to their warm home. She would have liked to have curled up on the sofa with a glass of wine but there was no chance of that; Heidi needed collecting again in a few hours and it went without saying that Henrik would already have a glass of wine on the go whilst cooking dinner so he wouldn’t be able to drive.
She was within metres of the Volvo and clicked the button on the key fob in her pocket and watched as the sidelights flashed on the vehicle. Within seconds of seeing the orange lights though, she felt herself being grabbed from behind and dragged towards the floor.
Survival instinct kicked in and she attempted to scream but before she could get a sound out, her breathe was taken away by what felt like a piece of cloth being forced over her mouth. She thrashed her arms about, fighting with all her might to escape from the strong arm that was holding her across her chest. Next though she felt a sharp prick in her left arm and her limbs instantly felt heavy and she struggled to hold the weight of her arms, then her legs buckled beneath her.
Within seconds she had blacked out and had no idea that she was being picked up and bundled into the boot of a car.