My head is pounding, a pneumatic drill in the depths of my skull. I open my eyes, crusty with dried up blood, scrunch them closed again, as blinding light sears my vision.
I hear a voice.
A sharp slap across my face, I gasp and open my eyes again. The light moves away, I realise it’s one of those bright lamps car mechanics use. Someone places it back on a shelf, turns to kneel before me. It’s David.
“Comfortable sis?” he says.
I realise then, with crushing finality that I am not at home, comfortable in my bed. I am sitting on a cold concrete floor, my hands tied behind my back to what must be a pipe. I can feel it’s cold, rusty metal surface against my wrists. I try to wriggle myself free but he’s used cable ties. I haven’t a cat’s chance in hell of getting out of these. We’re in what looks like a lock up, possibly an old garage. There are oil stains on the floor, some old tools hanging from hooks on the damp brick walls, a battered old desk at the back with an old radio on top and a brown telephone that must have been there since the seventies.
“You bastard,” I whisper. It comes out as a croak; my mouth is so dry.
“I didn’t want it to come to this,” he says, frowning. “But when you met up with Alex the other day I realised I would have to silence you.”
“How do you know about that?”
“I have my sources,” he says.
“You’ve been spying on me? How dare you!”
“Ironically, it was for your protection. Had I known how determined you were to get to the truth, I would have taken care of it sooner.”
My stomach flip-flops, goose bumps prickle my skin as realisation dawns.
“What the fuck David? All those people, for what?!”
He shrugs. “Good old revenge at first,” he says. “After that, it just became too much fun.”
“Fun? Murdering innocent people is fun?” I feel sick. I don’t recognise the man before me anymore, my brother, the one who swore he would always protect me is now some grotesque parody of the man he used to be.
“You will never understand.”
“You’re damn right I won’t.”
“My ex-girlfriend from uni was the first victim,” he says.
“I know,” I reply. “I remember that’s why you took the case despite being advised not to.”
He shrugs again. “I had to. I’d already planted evidence that would implicate your – friend.”
“He’s not my friend,” I snap. “I don’t even know who he is.”
“Well, he was my friend.”
David nods. “Yeah, I knew him at uni too. When I found him shagging Estelle, we weren’t friends for long after that.”
“What, so you killed her just to get your own back?” I demand.
“Not straight away,” he says. “I met up with her years later, she wanted to apologise.”
“You sick, evil, twisted bastard.”
“You flatter me,” he says.
“You’re a coward,” I spit.
David shakes his head, emphatic. “No, no, no. It takes real courage to take a life. You have to look them in the eye. That’s brave.”
“What about all the others then? What did they do to you?”
“Nothing. Well, I say nothing but they all had qualities I despise in people.”
“That’s no reason to kill them.”
David shakes his head. “We’ll have to agree to disagree on that sis.”
“Ok, so what now? You’re going to kill me too?”
“It never crossed my mind until tonight,” he says. “Honest.”
“I appreciate your candour,” I say, laughing bitterly.
“No, it was something Michelle said to me.”
My heart is pounding ferociously, sweat breaks out all over me at the mention of my friend.
“Oh, Christ, not Michelle…”
“The stupid cow managed to get away,” he says. “Hit me over the head with a rock as I was trying to strangle her.”
“That’s why you came to my flat. You thought she’d come straight to me.” David nods.
I scream then, fierce and primal, ripping through my vocal chords as I cry out for my friend, for help, for anyone to hear me. Get me out of this nightmare. David is on me in moments, gripping my jaw with one hand, a knife in the other at my throat. His eyes are wild, he looks crazed.
I’m going to die here.
“Shut up!” he hisses. “Or I’ll kill you right now.”
I whimper to a stop, I am spent, tears course down my face. David relaxes.
“I didn’t want it to come to this,” he says. “My own sister.”
I’m crying, I can’t speak.
“I’ve been hunting him all this time. This weird telepathic connection you two have, I’ve never heard of anything like it. Were it not for that and the fact that he’s so bloody good at hiding I would have taken care of it a long time ago.”
“He’s an innocent man,” I whisper.
“Not to me. He took the one thing I loved the most and sullied it.”
“People make mistakes all the time.”
“That’s no excuse and you know it.”
“You have Jeannie now, a family. Don’t they mean anything to you?”
David shrugs again, I’m finding his nonchalance irritating. He wanders over to the desk, pulls out a drawer, brings it over, showing me the contents.
A wallet, locket, bracelet, earrings, a couple of photographs and various other trinkets. I realise these are trophies, taken from each of his victims. I feel sick when I spot blood stains on some of the items.
“It’s my way of remembering them,” he says, picking through the items, almost reverentially. “They made the ultimate sacrifice.”
“Why are you showing me this?”
David looks at me, straight in the eye. “Just so you know, I will always remember you too.”
“David,” I implore as the knife flashes before my face again. “I’m your sister.”
He has a distant look on his face, his eyes are almost vacant. I realise with a sinking in the pit of my stomach, he’s not even hearing me. This is really it, the end. I close my eyes against the inevitable, I don’t want him to be the last thing I see as I die.
There is a crashing in my ears, a cacophony of noise, bright lights, screams and shouting. I open my eyes, light has flooded in to the lock up from outside, the roller shutter doors have been forced open. Blue flashing lights and bright head lights fill the void, uniformed men pour into the dank space, they have guns, trained on my brother.
It all happens so quickly, he goes to slash at my throat, a shot rings out, hits him in the shoulder and he’s down, the knife clatters to the floor. I kick it away in case he tries to reach for it but he’s rolling around on the ground, clutching his wounded shoulder. He’s crying. I feel numb.
Gentle hands cut the cable ties loose, someone helps me to my feet, leads me outside. Everything is bright, sounds are muffled, like I’m walking through water. I’m taken to an ambulance, someone places a blanket over my shoulders, speaks to me, reassuring but I can’t hear what they’re saying. I stare into space.
I glance up to see someone walking towards me. Michelle.
“Rough night?” she says.
“You could say that,” I reply. I take in her muddy, torn clothes, cuts and bruises on her bare legs. A ring of bruises starting to flower around her neck. “You look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.”
She grimaces. “That’s not too far from the truth.”
We fall into a hug, clinging to each other, relief and shock overwhelming us as the realisation of how close we had both come to death dawns on us.
“Evil bastard,” she sniffs, extricating herself from my arms.
“I’m so sorry Mich.”
“Don’t even think about apologising. He had everyone fooled.”
“I ran into him while I was waiting for a taxi,” she says, lighting up a cigarette. “He offered me a lift. Next thing I know, he’s driving hell bent for leather to some abandoned industrial estate. I managed to get out of the car and ran for it but he came for me, knocked me over and tried to strangle me. I was just lucky there were loads of old broken bricks and rubble on the ground so I managed to grab one and clock him over the head with it.”
Michelle takes a long drag on her cigarette. “I hid under a pile of boxes. After he’d driven past me I made my way out, flagged a cab and went straight to the police. I had no idea he’d go for you otherwise I would have come to you first but I was bloody miles away.”
“If you had, we both wouldn’t be here now,” I say. “You did the right thing.”
“I guess this means your Alex can come out of hiding now,” she says.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
One year later
“The sentencing of David Harris is due to take place later today at the Old Bailey. After a lengthy trial which saw Harris plead not guilty to eight murders, the kidnap and attempted murder of two other women, a unanimous guilty verdict was delivered by the jury of six men and six women…”
I turn the radio off, take my coffee out onto the deck, settle in my favourite chair and gaze out over the lake.
I nod. “Yes. I don’t need to hear the rest of it. He’s going away for a long time.”
“Good, he deserves it.”
“Jeannie called this morning.”
“How is she?”
“She’s ok. She and Tina seem to have really settled in to their new place.”
“That’s good to hear, we should go and visit them soon.”
“Definitely, I need a holiday.”
“This place really is stunning.”
“You should see it after the rain, it’s like a water colour painting.” I stand up, walk to the rail, lean against it, watch the water. A moment or two later, I feel Alex’s arms around me, pulling me into a hug. He whispers in my ear.
“Let it pour.”
© Grace McGowan 2017