Footsteps. Fast. Right behind her.
She turns in alarm. A man stands there. He is wearing a Butcher's red and white striped apron. In his hand he carries a Meat Cleaver. His eyes are the black soulless eyes of a lunatic. She opens her mouth to scream but a huge powerful hand reaches out and crushes her mouth. She can make no sound. She kicks out, connects. He grunts, spins her to the ground. Straddles her, one hand still across her mouth, his knees on her upper arms, his weight, he is a big man, pressing down on her chest. Her eyes look up at him in terror. He smiles, an evil twisted smile. For a moment he just sits there while she kicks her legs in vain. Suddenly, he lifts the cleaver, brings it flashing down. It cuts through her left arm just above the elbow as if it were a piece of ham. The fingers twitch on the severed arm. He watches them in fascination, until they stop. She feels a terrible searing pain, then shock. She wants to scream but cannot. She wants to pass out, but does not. He swings his arm again and her right arm is amputated in the same way. Often, they pass out after the first or second cut. He carries strong smelling salts that he uses to revive them when that happens - there is not much time after the blood starts pumping from the stubs of her arms. Once, a very disappointing time, the girl died of terror as the cleaver descended for the first time. He was very angry at that and hacked at her lifeless corpse until there was little more left than a mess of shredded flesh. But this one looks strong. He gained nothing sexual from his evil acts - he wanted only to see the terror and best of all, to witness the very moment that her life left her. That was the thrill, that was what he was addicted to. He released his hand from her mouth. She tried to scream then but all that came out was a gurgled babble. As he turned around - still straddling her but now with his back to her face, she managed to say, "please, please don't..." but the cleaver fell just above her right knee, but not quite severing the leg. It rose and fell again, this time parting the lower leg. Her life was ebbing away; he knew time was running out fast. She managed a feeble scream as the cleaver fell on her left leg, then again. He stood up now, looked down at the bloody torso of the girl whose eyes looked back on the verge of insanity - he knew that look, had seen it before. He knelt at her side. Raised the cleaver one last time, brought it down across her neck, so hard that it severed her head and buried itself in the tarmac footpath.
When she had walked down the street she had noticed a few parked cars but they meant nothing to her. Across the road she had seen, in the shadows, a familiar shape; it was a Land Rover. She knew that because it was the same sort of vehicle as the one her Andy drove in the photos he emailed her from Afghanistan. She didn't see the driver, hunched behind the wheel - he was too deep in the shadows. No sooner had the thought been created than she was past the vehicle and the thought was erased as quickly as she had made it. An irrelevance.
The Butcher crossed the road to the Land Rover. It is about thirty feet away. He has an arrogance about being discovered, and arrogance that had so far proved correct. All the Police had been able to establish was that their killer struck at random, always severed the limbs and head, left a great deal of blood and gore, footprints too, at the scene, and that the body parts would turn up all over the town. In very public places. This was his real purpose - the vengance he wanted to commit upon the town. He took five very strong plastic sacks from the back of the Land Rover. The inside of the vehicle was unusual. It was completely sealed in thick plastic sheeting. Not a single trace of metal was left uncovered. When he had bagged the remains of his latest victim he tossed them into the back, then folded down a flap of the plastic which he secured with duct tape. When he had finished he would take out the liner, burn it and everything he was wearing, then hose down the vehicle inside and out with a bleach solution. He turned on the lights, indicated, and drove away. Happy.
I turn,"is anybody there ?"Daft cow. As if. That's what they always say on the telly aint it. Well I can't get any wetter but I do wish this soddin' rain would stop. It's pissing down. I'm freezing. I'm stood here, me tights are in shreds, me feet are sore and feel like they are cut to bits from running barefoot. All me mascara must have been washed off by now and I spent eighty quid in the hairdressers this afternoon , eighty quid! - in that posh one by the Market Place, yeah? I have me favourite pair of shoes in me hand - I say pair but one has the heel hanging off so I had to take them both off. Anyway, run in them heels ? I don't think so. Shit! I cry a little but the rain washes the salty tears away. I am shaking with the cold, and with fear. Get a grip girl.
Bugger! I am sure I can hear somebody. Look at my shoes! Three months I had to save for them. A real (not a knock off) pair of Jimmy Choos. I hope I can get them fixed at the heel bar in town. And look at the state of me! Me dress is ripped - no taking that back for a refund as usual; you know, buy it on Friday,wear it on Saturday night,take it back on Monday. Not this time. Me bra,oh my god! Wasn't really a bra I suppose, more an expensive strip of lace that barely covered my nips. Agent Provocateur it is. Classy. What's me mum gonna say when she sees me in this state ? Not much when I tell her - if she's even in that is. She got her Giro yesterday so she is more likely pissed as usual, probably still up her latest fellah's place or worse, he's giving her a good shagging indoors. I hope not. Bleedin' walls in our flat are so thin I can even hear him fart - dirty sod that he is. And as for when they're at it - oh phu-lease!
Footsteps. Closer ? I swear I can hear them splashing in the puddles.
I want to look back over me shoulder but I am scared of what I might see. Its all over the papers - about that nutter on the loose chopping up young girls and leaving bits of them all over the town - there was a head stuck the railings outside TopShop a couple of weeks ago. I never saw it but a mate of mine said she did. Said she threw up all over their window. What's that all about and why ain't they got him yet ? Should've thought about that before I jumped out of the minicab -bit late for that now and anyway, for all I know that loser I was with might even be the nutter. I shiver again, but not from the cold. I listen. Is it someone ? I mean, is it really? Hard to tell with that rain hammering on the factory roofs. I thought a short-cut through the trading estate would be okay tonight.Only an idiot, or a nutter, would be out in this. Oh,and me. If it wasn't for whatshisname?, Toons ? Yeah 'Toons' he called himself. Tosser. Good looking, yeah he bought me a few drinks, made me laugh, we danced a bit - hands a bit too wandering for me,I mean, not after meeting a bloke for thirty minutes. I never did like one night stands. Well okay, we did have a bit of a snog when the deejay played a slow one. He tried for a grope again then, but he didn't get one. He pressed himself hard (and I do mean hard) against me, but I ignored him.Randy sod.Mind you, big randy sod. Shame really.
Footsteps. "Hello?" I swear I heard someone then. A lot closer.
I turn a corner. Shit! The streetlights are all out. It looks bloody dark. Still, not far now. A steaming mug of milky coffee is what I need now. And a ciggy. Tried to light one. In this weather ? Hope I have some at home because all I have now is a soggy packet of brown mulch.That Toons! So we get a taxi. He asked me back to his place but I turned him down - I mean, he was okay but not exactly the kind of bloke that I am going to lose any sleep over. Thanks for a good night,quick snog (if I must), and with a bit of luck he will drop me off as we agreed, and pick up the fare. Then we got into the taxi. He was all over me. The dirty bugger of a cabbie (who I didn't understand a word of what he said) twisted his mirror so he could watch as he drove. Toons was pawing at me and going for the zip in his flies. Yeah ? Does he really think I am going to shag him in the back of a taxi with the perv driver watching? What? Well, third date maybe but I only met the dirty sod a couple of hours ago. And then he slapped me. I swear the driver laughed.
The slap hurt. "That's it you bastard! Stop this car now! Let me out!"
"Easy babe. I slipped is all. What, you reckon I'm the kind of tosser that beats women ? "
"You just fucking did! Now stop the car, please". Maybe if I am pleasant about it he will.
"Not yet Babe. You know how much they charge for a drink in there ? I spent a lot of money on you darlin' and I want more than a quick tongue in me mouth - and by the way love, you taste like a fucking ashtray. How about a blow then ?"
"You really know how to talk to a girl,don't you? Toons ? More like Looney Toons". I manage to tap the driver on his shoulder,"stop now please.Pull over. I want to walk."
"Walk?" says Toons,"in this ?, laughing." It's pissing down you stupid bitch. Now why don't you calm down and we have some fun eh ?"
Then he grabbed me hard. One hand ripped my dress and then he tore at my bra which lasted all of three seconds. Quick as a flash he had his mouth over my tit-sucking at it like my sister's baby sucks hers. Sexy ? In your dreams. But Toons thinks it is, thinks he is turning me on. We come to the lights at the Shopping Precinct on Roman Street. They are red so we stop. I manage to wriggle a shoe off. I belt him with it across the 'ead so hard the heel breaks. He yells as blood pours down his face. I grab me handbag, open the door, and fall out in a heap onto the wet road. He screams at me from the car. I kick the other shoe off, grab it, and stumble to my feet. Toons is trying to get out of the car. His hand is in the door, pulling him out. I kick the door shut as hard as I can and he screams - his fingers get trapped in the door. I run.
Footsteps. Faster. Running ? Real close, right behind me.
"Fuck off!" I shout, and try to run faster. I need to run faster. In this dress ? No chance, but I must.
Is it Toons ? Oh fuck no! Not that nutter the papers call 'The Butcher'. Dare I look ? No. Only a bit further to the subway under the ring road - then home to me flat on the estate on the other side. Once I get across I can lose whoever it is - the estate is packed full of rat runs. Most people won't use the subway at night - the local gangs and druggies own it then, but I'm okay because I know most of them, and most of them know my brother - my very big brother. Shit! If anyone is there, in this weather ?, but if, they will help me. Thing is, they'll all be in one of their own flats in this rain, stoned out of their tiny minds. But if I can at least get there. Run girl! Run! I get glimpses of the minicab's headlights as I dodge into turnings left and right, knowing they are looking for me. And then an arm reaches out from the dark and a strong hand grabs me and I scream, do I ever scream. The hand tries to turn me but I belt it with me other Choo. It draws blood. I hear a grunt. Then the street lights up. Not the street lights - the road. A car! There's a car coming! Oh fuck! Not the minicab! But maybe it is. Maybe Tunes will get out and I can run off again. Run ? I'm knackered. The road lights up from the headlights of another car. Whoever has me lets go, I turn and see him legging it across the road. A big bloke he is, seven foot tall, a bleedin' giant. Is he wearing an apron ?? Apron ? What's that all about? A flash of a butcher's apron. Its him! Then he's gone.
A big black car skids to a halt. I hear a nice soft polite voice. It's a BMW. I don't know nothing about cars but I know a BMW when I see one. This is one of the big ones. Its black, so are the windows, very dark, can't see in. One of the back windows lowers silently and a dark face smiles nicely at me. "Excuse me lady. Are you in trouble ? You look very cold ? Why are you out here in this weather ? You have no coat ? "
I am shitting meself. "No, I'm okay now thanks, nearly 'ome".
"Really ? It looks like you have had a bad time. Can I offer you a lift ? Do you need the Police?"
Police ? If he is offering to get the Old Bill he can't be so bad. I shake me head. "No, don't need 'em ta, all the same." I lean nearer to the window. The warmth oozes from the car. It smells fresh - no booze smell, no cigarette smell. "Anyway, what are you doing at this time of night, here, in this soddin' rain ?"
He seems to grimace as I say 'soddin'. "We are returning from night prayers. Where do you need to go ? You can get dry and warm in here, if you like. Look, take my phone. My name is Doctor Sahid. I work at the Hospital.", he offers his mobile through the window, "call them please, to check who I am ? I assure you I will get you home on just a few minutes." He smiles again, the door clicks open an inch. I jump back. I am holding his phone. He gets out. In the rain. I can see his suit is expensive. Not from any High Street - and his shoes ain't from no shoe shop neither. Now shoes I know about. And, and he's wearing a white shirt, and a tie. There is a glint of gold on his wrist. Is that a Rolex?
"I'm soaked. I'll mess up your motor if I get in." I say weakly, because I do so want to get in.
"Not a problem. The seats are leather. It will wipe away, I assure you."
He stands there holding the door. Smiling. I catch a better look at his wrist and see the gold Rolex (yeah I know one of them too - me brother has a fake one. Bet this aint no fake). The rain doesn't seem to bother him. I surrender.
"I live on the estate over there, across the Ring Road", I point." Its not so far really but I'm freezing, and I think there that nutter in the papers is on the loose around here too."
"Ah yes. A very nasty business. That must be the man who ran off ?"
"Yeah, that was him. You scared him off I reckon.", I say as I slide into that lovely warm soft hide seat. The plush leather seems to wrap around me, and it is so warm. Then I notice another man on the other side of the seat - I couldn't see him until I got in. He is very fat, at least 25 stone I would guess. He is dressed in one of those white robe things - me mum calls them kaftans. I tell her she is a thick cow, but I don't know the right name for them. He is so fat than when Doctor Sahid gets in, we all have to squeeze together - and the BM ain't exactly small.
"This is my cousin, Omar" says Sahid. Omar turns to look at me. He is eating a kebab. He smiles a greeting through a mouth full of lamb and flat bread.
"Omar, Omar", says Sahid wearily to me, "I tell him all this junk he eats is bad for him, that it will kill him you know, but still..." Sahid shakes his head, "the man driving is my brother Mohammed and sitting next to him is my other brother, Hassan. We have a big family. I have two more brothers and a sister too! Tell me, what is your name ? Do you have and brothers and sisters ?"
He speaks so nicely, precisely. If he was on the phone I could never tell he wasn't English. The car speeds up. We are going quite fast now.
"Yeah, I got a big brother who looks out for me. Me name is Chloe."
"Chloe, a very pretty name for a very pretty girl".
I look out of the window. We are driving away from the ring road, back the way I came from Club 1. "Hold on, this ain't the way" I say, a little alarmed now.
"Relax Chloe" says Sahid, "you are confused. This route takes us past the Hospital and then to the bridge over the ring road. It is a matter of minutes". I catch Omar looking at me tits - his look ain't nice, dirty sod.
"And you can cut that out fat-boy!" I say to him, trying to pull me ripped dress up a bit. Sahid has turned away. He turns back and smiles again. I see his hand move quickly and I feel a sharp prick in my thigh.
"What the fuck are you doing!" I shout.
"Relax. I told you I am a Doctor. Just a small sedative to calm you a little".
"Oh year, right. As if! On call are we, with your mates. Got all your stuff here too ? Stop the fucking car!" Not again! And then it begins.
I feel a strange tingling in my feet. It moves up my legs like a delicate wave, as if a butterfly was brushing its wings against my skin. As it moves I have to relax, to let go, and I feel myself drifting, floating to somewhere beautiful. I give in and let myself go. I raise my hands weakly. When I look at them I can see tendrils of different colour light that seem to leak from my fingertips and these tendrils begin to wrap and entwine themselves into a great ball that keeps on growing and pulsing. I feel so, so, euphoric. The ball grows and grows and I feel something, something.... I was once in a love thing with this guy - we lived together for nearly a year. Thing is, he was the most, I do mean the most, amazing shag I have ever had. You talk multiple orgasms, how about permanent orgasms, one after the other! Well this feeling, its sort of like that, but then it ain't nothing like that - its a hundred times better, a million times more intense, and I shudder with the ecstasy of it. That ball is huge now I can see myself, a tiny creature like and ant, trying to climb up it and every time it pulses I moan with the pleasure of it, like nothing ever before. And then it explodes. It is black and I know nothing.
Footsteps. I'm awake.
Where am I ? Here we go again. Another prize for an original thought. Derr! But then, where am I ? I'm in bed.Whose bed ? Not Sahid's, I hope. I try to sit up but then I realise that one arm is in plaster. One of me legs hurts a bit. I look down and see that one that hurts is in plaster too. There is some kind of funny collar round me neck. Stops he moving me head. What the fuck happened. I can hear those footsteps again, they're at the door...which opens and a nurse walks in. Followed by another man in a scruffy suit. I know what he is, I know him - he done me once for nicking a poxy bottle of wine from Tesco. Wine was shit.
I look at the nurse who is about to take me temperature. "Where am I ?" I croak. My mouth is so dry.
"You're okay, quite safe. You're in the General Hospital. You had a lucky escape my girl." Says the nurse kindly. She has a funny accent. Polish I think.
"Escape ? I need a drink. Can I have some water ?"
"Of course, I'll pour you some. We had you sedated for a day or two, but now you need lots of rest. The Doctor will see you soon. We are very busy so it might be quite late."
"Doctor ? Doctor Sahid ?"
"Who ?" the Nurse replies with a puzzled look.
"Sahid. I seem to know that name. It's all a bit fuzzy."
"Probably the anaesthetic. There's no Doctor Sahid at this Hospital. This gentleman", for the first time the Nurse motions the Policeman to the bedside, "This is Detective Sergeant Roberts. If you feel up to it he would like to ask you a few questions. Do you think you can ?"
What does he want ? Might as well get it over with and find out. It just gets better. Oh shit! I did have a couple of spliffs in me handbag ! "Yeah, alright, fire away", I say. Waiting for the caution. Been here before.
"Chloe" says the DS, "Do you remember anything about what happened that night ?"
I nod. "Some yeah. Some is a bit sort of hazy, blurred like but bits of it are coming back, and I start to remember that feeling I had, in the back of a car ? Yeah, it was a BMW.
"Can you tell me what happened, where you had been, why you were on the trading estate at that time of night, no coat, no umbrella ?"
"I was in Club 1. I Pulled. Got in a minicab with him - he tried to rape me on the back seat. I hit him, got out and legged it. Wanted to take a short cut home, across the Trading Estate to the subway. Next thing, somebody grabs me! I'm shitting myself".
"The man, do you think it was a man who grabbed you ?"
I nod. "Oh yeah, it was a bloke alright. Big bastard."
"Did you get a look at him ?"
"It was dark. Street lights was busted. He ran off a few yards then dodged across the road."
"Do you know why he ran off ?"
"Yeah, yeah, I've got it all now. It was the lights. The lights of the BM. He was caught in them for a second - I swear no more. I saw, I saw that he, well he had one of those stripy aprons like they wear at the meat counter in the Supermarket - oh Fuck! Like a butcher. Was he...was that him ?" Now I am beginning to lose it a bit.
"I might well have been, well yes, very probably. But relax. You're perfectly safe here. So were running away from a minicab, somebody grabbed you and got scared off by another car, this BMW ?"
"Yeah. They were nice blokes. One said he was Doctor Sahid. Works here he said but when I asked the nurse to see him she said she had never heard of him. Ain't that strange ?"
"Do you remember the accident ?"
"Accident ? What accident ? Oh, so that's what all this plaster stuff is about, yeah ?"
"Mmm. You were very lucky."
"You reckon ? So what happened...oh I know, the Doctor, he gave me a sedative, I was out of it, well out of it."
"Sedative ? Is that what he told you ?" The DS shook his head, "No, he isn't a Doctor, here on anywhere. What he gave you was good old Heroin - they always do."
"H ? Do what ? I smoke a bit of puff, but never nothing else. And what do you mean, that's what they always do ?"
"Get a girl hooked on heroin, takes about a week, then they all rape her, then they put her to work. Like I said, you were lucky that night, what with your friend from the Club, the Butcher, and then Sahid and his lot."
"You said there was an accident ? "
"Yes, and a lot of things make sense now. The car you were in, the BMW. Going at a hell of a lick. So was the minicab that was chasing after you, probably. If they had bothered to tax and MOT their BMW they might have changed the bald tyres. As it was, on that road, the flooding, the speed. Head on it was. Minicab was all but destroyed. The driver took a dive through the windscreen. Lad in the back, neck snapped like a twig. Both dead. Lad in the back had a nasty wound on the side if his face that happened before the crash. Forensic found a scrap of material that matches you dress, so it was probably the minicab you were in and your would be rapist in the back. The rain washed your shoes quite well but there were some hairs stuck in one of the broken heels that matched those of the Lad. The heel matches the wound."
I will admit that shocked me. I mean its one thing for a bloke to get a bit handy, but another for him to wind up dead. Like that. "What about the other car? Are they all ok ?"
"Built like a tank and at least all the airbags worked. Bit of front end damage, that's about it."
"And Sahid, the others ?"
"In custody. Enough Heroin in the car to space out half the town. We think they had just done some kind of a deal. Finding you was just a bonus for the prostitute operation."
"Prossie ? They were going to make me a junkie-prossie ? The bastards! Wait till my brother finds out - he'll kill 'em!"
"Not for some time he won't. They're going down for a long, long time. You will testify ?"
"You fucking bet I will".
"Well thanks Chloe, you've been a big help. You better rest now. I'll come back in a few days, if that's ok ?"
I nod. Christ I'm knackered. He leaves. As I feel myself drift away I know one thing - that feeling, oh my god that feeling. As soon as I get out of here....I must have that just one more time. That won't hurt will it ? Not just the once more then never again....
I wake up. Outside its dark. Night. I can just reach the glass of water so I take a mouthful. The footsteps are coming to my door but I know that because the nurse said she would check regularly and that sometime, the Doctor, a real Doctor, would pop in. The door opens. An unusually big man for a Doctor backs in, pulling a small trolley which he parks at the side of my bed. He turns and I see he has one of those mask things over his mouth. He has the usual white coat, although the buttons are struggling to hold it closed over something underneath and a stethoscope swings from his neck. He lifts the cloth that covers the top of the trolley off and I can see a number of shiny sharp looking instruments there. Funny? I thought those things were only in operating theatres. Something aint quite right here. I open my mouth to speak but like lightning a hand grabs my mouth. The white coat bursts open to reveal a red striped apron and his other hand reaches to the trolley and picks up - a meat cleaver.
Footsteps. Heavy, closing.
They are very close now and I can almost feel the breath of their barking dogs. I can't run much further. I shouldn't have come this way - now there's only the Quarry in front and them - them behind. But I taught them a lesson, that poxy town of theirs. Four hundred years my family have served this town, providing game and meat. Our shop was hardly changed in all that time. Tourists used to stop to take photos, inside as well as out. Now all gone. Said our shop was listed they did, special, a heritage - that was until the big money arrived and they flattened acres to build their Mall and their Supermarkets. Now our shop is under a car-park. My dad died of a broken heart, two years later. A week after that, mam took every pill she could find in the house and went to meet Dad. But they won't forget us, not now. Bastards. I'll have to stop, I'm right at the edge now, just a footstep or two. I turn, I can see them running at me. They let the dogs go. The dogs run at me but I have my cleaver and I cut the first one down. Another goes for my wrist, the one holding my cleaver. I raise my arm - the dog is nothing to me. It swings there for a moment, then I tear it away and hurl it into the Quarry. The Police are here now, looking in shock and disbelief at the dead dog and then over the lip of the Quarry at the broken animal far below. One of the Policeman steps forward to swing at me but another pulls him back sharply as he sees my cleaver about to rise.
One of the Police calls for back-up. They are facing a man mountain around six feet eight, not fat, just solid muscle. He can't go anywhere. He has killed both dogs and one Officer. We need a firearms unit. We are going to try the Tasers. As the message us sent a Taser is fired. For a second the man shakes, then pulls out the barbs and throws them to the ground. Unseen, as this happens, two officers creep forwards, one on each side, both perilously close to the edge. The moment the barbs hit they jump up. He stretches out two arms like tree boughs, dropping the cleaver, and throws both of them aside as if he were squatting flies. One man stumbles back to his colleagues, the other is not so lucky; he slips on the edge, his hands claw at the air for balance, he falls into the Quarry. He screams all the way down.
I look around at the faces of the Policemen - boys the lot of them. None of these boys were even born when the Mall went up. None of them know me. The whole town has moved on, full of people who take the train to London every day. No time for the past. They don't remember our shop - they don't know me. Think I am some big thick idiot ? No. I went to University, got my degree - in accountancy. I ran all the finances for Dad, we were doing well. Left me enough to buy the old farm I live on, way out of town, hard to find alone. I like it. It was all a waste of time. I can't say I didn't enjoy those bitches - that was an unexpected bonus, I only wanted revenge. Time to go now.
The man turns away. "He's going to jump", shouts a Policeman.
"Let the bastard do it!", replies another.
"Jump you evil bastard! Save the public some money".
I take one.