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| Work in Progress
It was becoming almost impossible to drag it any further. The bushes were thick and over-grown and tugged the heavy plastic every inch it was pulled. His arms were trembling with the effort. The ends of his fingers stung with the weight pulling against them.
Something caught on the plastic. It tugged before ripping a gash along the side. He was almost there, just a few feet more. Despite the laden shadows from the bushes there was still enough light coming occasionally from the full moon that danced a weird two step with the low lying clouds. He stopped dragging and examined the length of the macabre parcel. A smooth, marble like hand escaped the rip. Its white flesh, mottled black was almost luminescent. The bushes whipped at his face as he stooped over his spilling bundle, lifting the limb, he tried to tuck it back into the folds of plastic. It had been wrapped to tightly and now that it was open there was no room inside. He tucked the hand in once again; once again it flopped out onto the leaf-cushioned ground. He grabbed the plastic roll and began to pull. At first it did not budge. It was if the ground had a deathly grip on it. The tips of his fingers nipped where the podgy flesh rolled over his freshly bitten fingernails. A cramp threatened along the palm of his hand between the thumb and index finger. Just as he was about to stop and try for a better grip, it moved. Slightly at first. He kept up the momentum and strained against the weight. Gradually it moved a little smoother and faster. Ten minutes later he was standing at the mouth of the pothole it was no more than two feet in diameter and was hidden by dead bushes. Ideally it should have been concealed better, but as yet he could find nothing that did the job as well.
The dead bushes attacked him as soon as he tried to move them, their thorns become razor sharp and the brittle branches whipped his exposed flesh. He did not feel the welts or scratches on his skin any more than he smelt the sweat stench of decay that escaped the dark fissure in the ground.
The parcel was fed into the crevice feet first. It hung on the edge as if suspended by an invisible wire. He knew it would go in, he just had to push it a little further.
Slowly, it slid over the side. It was almost completely lost in the void when the plastic ripped all the way up. A mane of hair so dark it was almost invisible against the fissure spilled out followed by a face with the same luminescent marble skin of the hand earlier. Then slowly it disappeared, the dead eyes looking back at him, leaving behind nothing but the fracture earth.
Joe had seen her at the wine market. It was not her long slender legs the colour of rich dark honey, or her tiny waist that he could almost encase with both his hands. It was not the deep green eyes or her bright smile that made his breath catch in his throat. That made the palms of his hands itch with sweat. It was her hair so thick, and glossy. It was long almost to her waist he guessed. Although it was hard to tell because it was caught up in a crocodile clip.
She stood before him in the queue, her small breast squashed with the two bottles of Lambrusco red, wihch she hugged. He pictured her drinking the wine, saw her laughing as she raised the glass to her thin lips. In that moment he hated her. He wanted to put his hands thumb-to-thumb, finger interlocked around her neck and squeeze the life from her. He would wipe the smile from her face and maybe the lustre of her hair would fade as the light in her eyes went out.
She deftly stepped past him, her wine now in a carrier bag.
"Can I help you sir?" the assistant asked Joe as he studied her leaving the shop.
Joe did not hear the shop assistant or see the baffled look on her face as he followed the girl from the shop. A plan was already fixed in his head while he searched for her around the parked cars. There were not a lot, but he could no see her, she seemed to have disappeared. There was no way she could tell what he had planned for her. He scanned the car park, there were only a few empty cars there. He took a step towards the car park unsure of where to look when he saw her. She was climbing into the passenger seat of the red BMW, which was sitting about a hundred yards down on the other side of the road. It then pulled out into the oncoming traffic and as it past Joe noticed a blond man driving. The existence of the man meant that he had to rethink his plans As the car cruised past, he mentally took a note of the number plate and stored it away.
Two days later he pulled his car up a hundred yards from the red BMW. It had taken him just a couple of hours to track it down. The house was in darkness. He watched the car as the sun rose in the sky. He watched the tall, blond man, dressed in a suit, shirt open at the collar carrying a brief case leave the house.
Joe climbed from his car, his bones were stiff from sitting. He did not skulk or try not to be seen. He walked up the street with the air of someone who belonged there, marched up the drive of the house that only five minutes before had a red BMW in front of it. The windows were all covered with blinds. He knew her sort, she would lie in bed until lunchtime then lounge about while some fat woman cleaned around her for £2.50 an hour.
The back door was closed. The breaking glass shattered the morning stillness. He quickly reached in and turned the key, not hesitating to see if he had disturbed anyone.
The kitchen looked sanitary and unused. He was half way up the stairs when he had his first surprise of the day. From down the landing he heard the low murmur of the TV, above which the rhythmic, unmistakable sound of the shower. And for the first time he hesitated, unsure of what to next. But only for a instant. He followed the sound to the master bedroom. The room was like something from a magazine, everything was perfect, except the white duvet which hung over the edge of the bed to the floor, one of the pillows was on the floor also. As he stepped into the room, he caught a glimpse of movement in the mirror. He could see the diamond mosaic of flesh through the rippled glass shower screen. Steam curled over the top and hung in the air around the ceiling. The shower stopped and the screen was slid open.
A man stood before him, still only visible in the mirror, he was maybe about 25, his body was a mass of honed, sculptured muscle. The flesh glistened with the water. He did not notice the intruder as he began to vigorously dry himself with the giant white towel. Joe was almost rigid with shock.
A man a pissing man! He tried to retrace his steps. A loud crash erupted as he knocked over a set of golf clubs sitting at the door.
The call came into the station at 8.32 am. At 9.02 am Petey woke with a start. The sound of the phone drilled into his sleep. He dropped the receiver from his moist hand. His skin was coated in a thin sheet of sweat. He thought he had screamed, but Louise lay still beside him, tied in a knot with the duvet. Her long hair lay across the pillow like a blanket. He reached out and touched it. It felt somehow warm and alive to the touch. It was funny how hair looked and felt so vibrant, he thought, after all it was only dead cells.
He had been having these dreams for almost six months now, ever since the first disappearance. They were becoming more vivid every time. He was even having flashes in his waking hours. There was nothing he could piece together to make any sense. Louise said it was stress. She said that he needed to cut down his hours. Needed to take a holiday. Petey did not agree. The last thing he wanted was too much time on his hands to lapse into more of his trances where he lost time. At least when he was working he had to keep his mind on things.
He gently rolled out of the giant king size bed making as little noise as possible. He did not want to wake Louise. She would start in about going to see the doctor or more to the point the shrink, he knew deep down that was what she really meant.
The shadows in the room were beginning to recede as the sun washed the walls in a weak mid morning light. His bare feet slapped the wooden floor as he padded his way across to the bathroom. The tiles reflected the stark light when he pulled the cord. He fought the urge to shield his eyes and within seconds he had adjusted to the sterile environment. He found himself looking back from the giant mirror above the dove grey enamelled sink. At once he noticed the vivid red scratch across his cheek. It was not the first time he had found similar marks. Louise said he had scratched himself in his fitful sleep. Petey stripped of his damp t-shirt and ran a shower before he stepped into the steaming hot water that hit his skin like thousands of tiny acupuncture needles.
The cleaner had found the body and had run into the street in hysterics. That was what the report said. She almost got herself knocked down in the process. A few curtains twitched, but none of the neighbours in the rich suburban street came out. The driver of the car, Ms Patricia Conlon, who had been on her way to the airport, phoned the police on her mobile.
"She's just screaming and rubbing her hands on her apron." She told the dispatch, "You need to send someone quick, I have a bloody plane to catch."
Ms Conlon tried to calm the cleaner, who would not or maybe could not say her name. She would not be moved from the kerb on which she sat at the end of the road. The very suggestion of going back into the house sent her even further down the road of incomprehension.
It was not until 9.00 am that the police realised they were investigating a vicious murder. At 9.43 am. Detective Chief Inspector Quinn first set eyes on the carnage in the master bedroom. Gloved, and his boots covered with blue paper slippers, he stepped over the set of golf clubs that lay across the doorway. There were several officers milling about the scene, some scribbling notes, one took flash photographs. Quinn spied the doctor crouched over the crumpled form on the floor. He knew it was a body of a man because he had the report, but at the minute, all he could see was the sheet covered shape.
"Hi Petey." The doctor called cheerfully through the milling police officers. Doctor Philips was a tall gangly man who appeared, no matter what the circumstances to always have a smile on his pale drawn face.
"Well Phil, what've we got?" Petey asked as the doctor pulled the sheet away from the body. Some of the officers in the room nodded acknowledgement to Petey, others did not seem to notice he was there as they went about their examination of the crime scene.
"Multiple stab wounds, too many to count accurately, but I'd say at least twenty-five. The first one killed him. Look." He pulled the sheet further away from the body.
"Very little blood. The knife was at least 4 5 inches long. I'd say death occurred no more than two hours ago, he's still warm."
"Any defensive wounds?" Petey stooped over the bundle on the floor.
"Nothing on the hands, there are few on the arms, but I don't know if they're defensive or that the arms just got in the road in the frenzy."
"Look at the pattern of cuts, and there're so many of them, how'd you describe it?"
"Is he someone?" Petey asked the question of anyone who might have the answer.
"Sir?" one of the officers asked. Petey could not remember his name.
"Is he anyone we should know?"
"Oh! We are gathering info sir, but if you mean is he famous or something, I don't think so."
Petey breathed a sigh of relief.
The first thrust of the knife had been enough. The naked man did not even realise what had happened. It almost made Joe laugh to see the confusion on his face. He was dead before the knife struck again and again and again. Occasionally the momentum faltered as the blade struck bone. He was sure he broke a rib or two. He took no pleasure in it. Everything had gone so wrong.
Finally, after several minutes the attack stopped. The body lay at his feet, as the blood soaked into the think white carpet.
It was only then that composure returned, staring down at the prone shape helped him put things into perspective. He lifted the towel from the floor and wiped the blade of the hunting knife. It landed on the dead feet when he dropped it. He glanced around the room quickly, there was no sign of the woman with the hair here. There was no sign of any woman here no makeup, or hairbrushes, no discarded clothes of underwear slung over the back of the chair. This was not a woman's room. He stepped over the golf clubs and went down the hall to the first closed door. He wanted to search the other rooms, just in case.
"Paul, you up yet?"
Quickly, he silently retraced his steps back into the room and moved to the bathroom. Condensation still hung in the air.
He heard the heavy footsteps. A fat cleaner he thought with a smile. He held his breath and waited, he knew she would not come into the room once she saw the body, but he waited anyway. Heart beating at the normal rate, his palms dry, he studied the room; he was convinced that no woman lived in this house.
He heard the sharp intake of breath and waited for either a scream or a thud as she fainted. Thirty seconds, nothing, silence. Then the calm was pierced by the shriek that continued as if she had an endless source of breath as she fled back down the stairs. He smiled wider as he crept from the bathroom. He was always right, he thought. Things just came to him in images and he knew it would work out for him. He did not remember the dead body of a young man who was supposed to be a young dark haired woman with small breasts.
He went through the house, and out through the door by which he entered. He could hear the woman still shrieking in the front. A few houses down sat his car.
The body was gone, the doctor was gone, PC Sloan, was in the hall. Petey sat on the bed and studied the pattern of blood on the floor. It was blood, it revealed nothing, just a pattern vaguely in the shape of an elephant. It was almost black now as it dried out. He often wondered about how people coped with stuff like this. Not the death, but the evidence of it. Did they get new carpet, did the just scrub it clean. Did they move. He knew from experience some moved. The thought of being in the same house was too much. Petey understood that. He could not remember ever noticing what happened to the furnishings. This carpet would never be cleaned, he thought. There would always be a stain in the shape of an elephant on it.
He had been reading the head lines in the paper about the latest murder. They were calling it a murder, but they had still to find any of the 4 bodies. It showed a picture of a women in her fifties, her face, mascara streaked, her eyes clouded. She hugged a picture frame to her ample chest.
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