Authors: Rachel Abbott
KILL ME AGAIN
Published in 2016 by Black Dot Publishing Ltd.
Copyright © Rachel Abbott 2016
Rachel Abbott has asserted her right to be identified as the author of this Work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the author.
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It was raining when they came for me. I was staring out of my window watching fat raindrops flow down the glass, streaking across the reflection of my pale face. I was regretting the impetuous decisions I had made – even though at the time they had seemed right – and wondering what was going to happen next in my life.
When the knock came at the door, I didn’t even check who it was. I thought I knew. I thought I had been forgiven. I hurried to the door, pulling it wide, smiling to show my visitor how pleased I was to see him.
I knew instantly it wasn’t the person I had been expecting. I felt a surge of fear travel through my body as I tried to close the door, but it was too late. A second face appeared around the door – a face that matched the first in every detail. Two sets of identical features, their shiny cheeks almost cherubic as they reflected back the light from my hall.
I looked at the matching Chinese masks, and my legs nearly gave way beneath me. The plastic a smooth yellowish flesh tone, the eye sockets diamond-shaped, empty, revealing the glare of human pupils beneath.
I didn’t have time to scream. A gloved hand shot out and grabbed me round the throat, squeezing tighter and tighter until I was sure I would pass out.
Why were they here? What could they want with me?
They spoke quietly, without the rough accent of local thugs that I was expecting. Somehow that made it worse. They were here for a purpose, and I had no idea what that was. They didn’t speak to me; they spoke to each other, as if I wasn’t even there. The urgency in their tone was at odds with the smiling faces of the masks, and every inch of my skin rose in prickles of terror.
I could see the first man’s teeth between the red lips of the mask. They were pressed together, the pale shape of his mouth wide and straight, as if the effort of choking me one-handed was too much for him. The two sets of lips – a human flesh pair within a solid
plastic pair – made my blood freeze, but still I couldn’t take my eyes from the mask and the glimpse of the person I could see beneath.
The second man grabbed my arms and fixed them tightly behind me with something hard and cold that bit into my skin. And then came the gag - between my teeth, tearing into the corners of my mouth, the rough material chafing my flesh.
The two men spoke again, but their words blurred in my head and became little more than a buzzing sound.
I watched as the first man went into the hall. He was leaving us, pulling off his mask as he reached the front door. He didn’t know I’d seen him, reflected in the hall mirror. I realised that seeing his face, knowing I would recognise him again anywhere, could be the end for me. I looked down quickly, hoping neither man had caught my eyes, watching, recording the chiselled features and the slightly hooked nose, knowing my fear had imprinted every detail into my memory. It was a face I would never forget.
The second man turned to look at me, his mask firmly in place.
‘And now we wait,’ he said.
The foyer of the eight-storey office block was flooded with bright light, which only served to emphasise the impenetrable blackness of the car park beyond. The receptionist had left for the night and Maggie Taylor waited inside the glass doors, peering out into the night. She glanced over her shoulder, watching in vain to see if the red light above the lift would change and begin to count down. Maybe the doors would slide open to reveal another late worker, someone who would be happy to walk with Maggie through the deserted car park – a vast empty stretch of dark tarmac leading into the distance, her lone car sitting waiting for her somewhere out of sight.
The weather warnings had provided the perfect excuse for people to leave early, though, and she was sure nobody would be coming to her rescue. She could kick herself for staying so late, knowing there was nothing that made her more anxious than a large empty building that seemed to echo with silence.
A sound behind her sent tiny spikes of fear up Maggie’s arms, and before she could turn she felt a hand low on her back. She spun round and let out a huge breath.
‘Jesus, Frank, don’t creep up on people like that. You scared the life out of me.’
The slight form of Frank Denman stood half a metre behind her, a guilty smile on his thin face.
‘Sorry Maggie,’ he said, looking down at his feet. ‘It’s these brothel creepers. I bought them for comfort, and of course they do make me look a couple of inches taller, but they barely make a sound on a solid floor.’
She couldn’t help but smile back at him. He had saved her skin once today and it wasn’t his fault she was as jumpy as hell. He was a quiet, easy man who never seemed at all fazed by the terrible people he sometimes had to come into contact with.
‘Why are you standing here?’ he asked. ‘Dreading the thought of the cold night air? I would have thought you would have been keen to get back to that man of yours you’re always going on about.’
‘Oh God, do I really talk about him that much?’ she said, pulling a face. ‘Sorry. How boring of me.’
Frank was one of the few people Maggie had got to know reasonably well since she had moved to Manchester seven weeks ago. As a defence lawyer, she had needed a psychologist on more than one occasion to help her understand the likely success of a plea of mental incompetence for one or other of her clients, and she and Frank had shared a few sandwich lunches. He was a great listener – no doubt an asset for a psychologist.
‘Let’s make a move, shall we. Or has our charming client today given you the heebie-jeebies?’
She didn’t want to admit even to Frank how their mutual client had unnerved her. It was her job to deal with people like him, for goodness sake. She just wasn’t used to criminals who stooped as low as this one had.
‘Come on,’ Frank said. ‘I’ll walk you to your car.’
He leaned forward and pulled the door open, and they stepped out into the silent car park.
‘“Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole…”’ he said quietly as they inhaled the frigid air.
Maggie glanced at him as the door swung to behind them. She heard a soft click then a clunk as the locks dropped into place.
‘Sorry,’ Frank said with an embarrassed smile. ‘Just a line from a poem that sprang to mind.’
‘A cheery little number, if you don’t mind me saying so,’ Maggie said, nudging him gently with her elbow. ‘Anyway, I’m off now. You don’t need to walk me to my car, really you don’t. I’m being a bit pathetic. But it’s good to know you’ve got my back.’
Frank gave her a small bow. ‘That I have, my dear.’
Maggie laughed. She loved his occasional formality. ‘See you soon, no doubt,’ she added and with a small wave set off in the general direction of where she thought her car might be.
She turned up the collar of her coat, but once away from the shelter of the building it offered little protection from the sleet-like rain that assaulted the skin of her cheeks with hundreds of tiny, icy arrows. Turning her head to left and to right and with a quick glance
over her shoulder to check there was nobody else about, she hurried towards her car, following the same path she had taken a dozen times without a moment’s concern. Tonight was different. Tonight she sensed the threat of the shadows, which seemed to circle her, growing ever closer. Even with Frank within shouting distance, she felt uncomfortable.
Her new Audi was parked about as far away as it could be from the bright lights of the office building, and as her eyes sought out its dark shape she remembered how she had smiled when told that the colour of her much-loved car was Phantom Black. Now it seemed more like an omen as it merged seamlessly into the moonless night.
Maggie pressed the remote, and the double yellow flashes of her indicator lights gave brief warmth to the monochrome scene. With relief she grabbed the door handle and pulled on it sharply. She jumped into the car, pressed down the central locking switch and leaned back hard against the headrest, breathing again, only to jolt forward and spin round, nervously scanning the rear seat.
,’ she muttered, turning back and thrusting the key into the ignition. Glancing in her rear-view mirror she could just make out the silhouette of Frank, still standing where she had left him.
, she thought.
She knew her fears were irrational. But today she had met the devil himself and he had warned her – warned her of something but she had no idea what. She was an experienced defence lawyer, but the firm she had worked for in Suffolk, where they had lived until recently, dealt with the tamer end of the criminal spectrum and the villains had seemed so normal. She had longed to work on more complex cases, but with the exception of one or two infamous cases for which nobody had as yet been charged, serious crimes there were few and far between. This man today, though – Alf Horton – was the worst she had ever met.
‘I’m so pleased to meet you, Maggie,’ he had said, holding out his hand to shake hers. She had looked at the dry skin on his face and had known exactly how his hand was going to feel.
As she briefly touched his paper-like flesh in the obligatory handshake, thinking of the dead cells that would have been transferred to her own clammy fingers, Horton continued to speak.
‘I’ve heard all about you, and I’m so looking forward to getting to know you better.’
What could he know about her? She had fought to keep all expression from her face as she went through the process of asking the standard questions to begin to formulate his
defence. Ten minutes into the interview, she was relieved to receive a call from the custody sergeant to say that Frank had arrived to begin his psychological assessment. He would be watching and listening from the adjoining room. As Maggie replaced the receiver, Alf leaned across the table towards her, discoloured teeth showing between dried, split lips, and she felt herself backing away as far as she could, so not even his breath could touch her.