Authors: Luke Delaney
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural, #General, #Thrillers, #Suspense
I don’t believe we’re all lucky enough to find our true soul mates in this life, but I have. I would love nothing more than to write her name in lights high above the world for everyone to see, but unfortunately because of my past life I cannot. So instead of a galactic firework display in her honour, I dedicate this book,
, to my incredible wife – LJ, whose love has done much to shape the man I am today.
At our wedding my Dad gave a little speech and described LJ and I as being a powerful force. It took me a few years to fully realize what he meant, but now the meaning of his words is crystal clear, as anyone who’s ever seen us together would understand. We drive each other, push each other forward, challenge each other when it’s needed, criticize each other when it’s warranted, but above all else we love and support each other. We can do all these things because we belong to each other – are safe and secure with each other – respect and adore each other.
So here’s to LJ – loving and dedicated mother, a fearless captain of her industry and inspirational leader both at work and at home – a young girl from a nowhere town who overcame all the significant disadvantages and hurdles life put in her way to reach the very top. And most importantly of all, and as a lesson to everyone, she achieved all this without ever telling a lie, without ever being deceitful, while always being kind and loyal, and with an unshakeable morality.
Without LJ, I could easily have lost my way – at the very least settled for less than I could have been. So for all she has given me I thank her and love her.
Table of Contents
Thomas Keller walked along the quiet suburban street in Anerley, south-east London, an area that provided affordable housing to those attracted to the capital who discovered that they could only afford to live on its edges, financially excluded from the very things they had come to London for in the first place. He knew Oakfield Road well, having walked its length several times over the previous few weeks and he knew in which house Louise Russell lived.
Keller was cautious. Although confident he would draw little attention in his Post Office uniform, this was not his normal route. Someone might realize he shouldn’t be there and that the mail had already been delivered earlier that morning, but he couldn’t wait any longer – he needed Louise Russell
As he approached number 22 he made sure to drop post through the letter boxes of neighbouring houses, just in case some bored resident had nothing to do other than spy on the street where nothing happened anyway. As he posted junk mail his eyes flicked at the windows and doors of the street’s ugly new brick houses, built for practicality with no thought of individuality or warmth. Their design provided excellent privacy, however, and that had made Louise Russell even more attractive to him.
His excitement and fear were rising to levels he could barely control, the blood pumping through his arteries and veins so fast it hurt his head and blurred his vision. He quickly checked inside his postal delivery sack, shuffling the contents around, moving the junk mail aside, touching the items he had brought with him for reassurance – the electric stun-gun he’d bought on one of his rare holidays outside of Britain, the washing-up liquid bottle that contained chloroform, a clean flannel, a roll of heavy-duty tape and a thin blanket. He would need them all soon, very soon.
Only a few steps to the front door now and he could sense the woman inside, could taste and smell her. The architecture of the soulless house meant that once he had reached the front door he could not be seen from the street and nor could Louise Russell’s red Ford Fiesta. He held his hand up to ring the doorbell, but paused to steady himself before pressing the button attached to the door frame, in case he needed to persuade her to open the door to him. After what felt like hours he finally pressed it and waited, until a jerky shadow moved from the bowels of the house towards the front door. He stared at the opaque glass window in the door as the shadow took on colour and the door began to open without hesitation or caution. He hadn’t had to speak after all. Now at last she was standing in front of him with nothing between the two of them, nothing that could keep them apart any longer.
He stood silently, in awe of her. It felt as if her clear, shining green eyes were pulling him forward, towards her glowing skin, her pretty feminine face. She was only a little smaller than he, about five foot six and slim, with straight brown hair cut into what was nearly a bob. She was about the same age as he was, twenty-eight years old. He began to tremble, but not with fear any more, with joy. She smiled and spoke to him. ‘Hi. Do you have something for me?’
‘I’ve come to take you home, Sam,’ he told her. ‘Just like I promised I would.’
Louise Russell smiled through her confusion. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘I don’t think I understand.’
She saw his arm moving quickly towards her and tried to step back, away from the threatening-looking black box he held in his hand, but he’d anticipated she would and he stepped forward to match her stride. When the box touched her chest it felt as if she’d been hit by a wrecking ball. Her feet left the ground as she catapulted backwards and landed hard on the hallway floor. For a few blissful moments she remembered nothing as her world turned to black, but unconsciousness spared her from reality all too briefly. When her eyes opened again she somehow knew she hadn’t been out for long and that she was still unable to command her own movements as her body remained in spasm, her teeth clenched together, preventing her from screaming or begging.
But her eyes were her own and they could see everything as the man dressed like a postman busied himself around her prone body. His stained, buckled teeth repulsed her, as did the odour of his unwashed body. As his head passed close to her face she could see and smell his short, unkempt brown hair, strands of which had stuck to his forehead with sweat. His skin was pale and unhealthy and appeared quite grey, marked with acne and chicken-pox scars. His hands were bony and ugly, too long and thin, the skin almost transparent like an old person’s. Long dirty fingernails fidgeted at things he was taking from his post-bag.
Everything about him made her want to turn from him, to push him away, but she was trapped in the unrelenting grip of whatever he’d touched her with, unable to do anything but watch the nightmare she was at the centre of. And all the time he spoke to her using the name of another as the pictures adorning the walls she knew so well stared down at her – happy photographs of her with her husband, her family, her friends. How many times had she passed the pictures and not taken time to look? Now, paralysed on the floor of her own home, her sanctuary, the same pictures mocked her from above. This couldn’t be happening, not here – not in her home.
‘It’ll be all right, Sam,’ he promised. ‘We’ll get you home as soon as we can, OK. I’ll get you in the car and then it’s only a short trip. Please don’t be scared. There’s no need to be scared. I’m here to look after you now.’
He was touching her, his damp hands stroking her hair, her face and all the time he smiled at her, his heavy breaths invading her senses and turning her stomach. She watched through wild eyes as he took hold of her arms and crossed them at the wrists over her chest, his fingers lingering on her breasts. She watched as he began to unroll a length of wide, black tape from a thick roll he’d brought with him. She prayed silently inside her frozen body, prayed that her husband would appear in the doorway and beat this animal away from her. She prayed to be free from this hell and the hell that was about to happen because now she knew, she understood clearly, he was going to take her with him. Her pain and terror weren’t going to be over quickly, in a place she had no fear of. No, he was going to take her away from here, to a place she could only imagine the horror of. A place she might never leave, alive or dead.
Through her physical and mental agony she suddenly began to feel her body’s control returning to her, the muscles relaxing, her jaw and hands beginning to unclench, her spine beginning to loosen and straighten, the unbearable cramp in her buttocks finally receding, but she was betrayed by her own recovery as her lungs allowed a long breath to escape. He heard her.
‘No, no. Not yet, Sam,’ he told her. ‘Soon, but for the moment you need to relax and let me take care of everything. I swear to you everything will be just the way we wanted it to be. You believe that, don’t you, Sam?’
His voice was a menacing mix of apparent genuine concern, even compassion and a threatening tone that matched the deep hate in his eyes. If she could have answered him she would have agreed with anything he said, so long as he would let her live. She felt rape was a certainty now, her mind instinctively preparing her for that, but her very life, her existence, she would do everything she could to preserve that: she would do anything he asked.
Carefully placing the tape on the floor next to her, he took a washing-up liquid bottle from his bag and a rag. He squirted a clear liquid on the rag. ‘Don’t fight this, Sam. Just breathe normally, it’s better that way.’ Even before the rag covered her mouth and nose she could smell its pungent hospital aroma. She tried to hold her breath but could only manage a few seconds, then the chloroform fumes were sweeping into her lungs and invading her bloodstream. She sensed unconsciousness and welcomed it, but before the sanctity of sleep could descend he pulled it away. ‘Not too much,’ he said. ‘You can have some more when you’re in the car, OK?’
Louise tried to look at him, to focus on his movements, but his image was distorted and his voice warped. She blinked to clear her sight as the first effects of the chloroform began to lessen. She recovered in time to see him binding her wrists together with the tape, the pain of the adhesive being pressed into her skin cutting through even the chloroform. Then his hands moved towards her face, holding something between them. She tried to turn away, but it was useless as she felt the tape being plastered across her mouth, the panic of impending suffocation pressing down on her empty lungs like a ton weight, the effects of the chloroform preventing her thinking rationally or calming herself so she could breathe.
‘Relax,’ he assured her. ‘Relax and breathe through your nose, Sam.’ She tried, but panic and fear still refused to allow any normal sense of self-preservation to ignite.
Suddenly he moved away from her, rifling through her handbag and then the set of drawers next to the front door. Moments later he returned, having found what he was looking for – her car keys.
‘We need to go now, Sam,’ he told her. ‘Before they try and stop us again. Before they try and keep us apart. We need to hide from them, together.’
He struggled to get her to her feet, pulling her torso off the ground by gripping and tugging at her top, her near dead weight almost too much for his slight physique to bear. Finally he managed to wrap her right arm around his neck and began to haul her from the ground.
‘You have to help me, Sam. Help me get you up.’
Through her confusion and fear she could hear the growing anger in his voice and something told her she had to get up if she was to survive the next few moments of this hell. She struggled to make her legs work, the tape around her wrists preventing her from using her arms for balance or leverage, her unsteady feet slipping on the wooden floor.