As Kimberley approached the house from the back, she slipped out her cell, double-checked that it was switched off and then packed it away into the backpack that she had slung over her left shoulder. Before she reached for her weapon, she pulled the ultra-thin latex gloves from her pocket and pulled them on tight.
The high hedgerows preferred in the community were perfect because nobody could see the woman in the narrow lane between the houses. When Kimberley drew the pistol, it took less than a minute to screw the suppressor onto the end of the barrel. She had no qualms about putting a bullet into somebody if it was necessary, but she didn’t want to broadcast it to the entire neighborhood.
The weapon was twice the original length once fitted with the sound-deadening device, and she held it in a two-handed grip, business end pointing upright and kept away from her face. The fences along the back of the houses were over six feet high with very few gaps between, so without the need to creep along the fences, the off-duty officer made good progress.
When she arrived close to the back of her parents’ house, she peered through a small knothole in the fence. There was that same light showing which Kimberley was now able to confirm was the reflection of the setting sun through the kitchen onto a large hallway mirror.
She eased the back gate open silently and went forward, staying close to the tall hedgerow that continued halfway to the back door. Harriet shared their mother’s love of flowers and thanks to the teenager’s efforts, there was a variety of fragrances drifting across the garden from herbs and blooms alike.
Kimberley crouched at the end of the hedge and surveyed the house, lips slightly parted, as she listened intently and gazed at each window in turn. There was no movement, so she stepped forward quickly to the door and turned to stand with her back to the wall. She retained a grip of her pistol with her right hand and reached to the door handle with her left.
It was a metal handle, and even though she was wearing the gloves, she first touched the handle with the back of her hand. If it was wired to a live circuit inside she would merely be burned and pull her hand away, instead of being electrocuted, causing her fingers to grip by reflex. There was no sensation, so she took hold, turned it, and pushed the door open, staying to one side as she did so. There was no reaction from within.
Once inside, Kimberley discovered that the key was inserted on the inside of the lock. She left it there so as not to forewarn anybody that she’d made entry. From kitchen to hallway, dining room to lounge, she brought the automatic down into the aim as she stepped into each familiar doorway. Kimberley moved with the accustomed stealth borne of practice at armed house clearance. The rooms were tidy and well kept; almost too tidy. It looked as if nobody was living in the place.
When satisfied that the ground floor was unoccupied, she moved close to the staircase and checked the basement door. It was locked but the key wasn’t in the lock, which for that door was unusual. She dismissed the basement with the intention of checking it last. She made her way upstairs, pistol once again at the ready, business end leading the way.
On the upper floor, there were three large bedrooms and the small room that had long ago been converted into a study by her natural father. Each of the bedrooms had en-suite facilities, so Kimberley was careful to ease each door open, but stay back and to one side. Apart from the kitchen and the basement, the entire house was carpeted with deep pile rugs so the only sound came from a large clock in the hallway. It uttered a barely discernible tick-tock.
The bedroom that had once belonged to her was immaculate, and kept like a shrine. Sports trophies, pendants, and certificates still adorned the walls. The bed was made up, but it had been six months before when she’d last slept there on a week-long visit. She moved on and checked her parents’ room. Her mother had been killed in a road traffic accident in December 2002, which was why Kimberley had returned home on that most recent visit.
During that week, Harriet had confided that she was intending to leave home as soon as she got a place at university. Neither of the girls had liked Tony Morgan, their stepfather. Like Bill Forest, the girls’ natural father, Morgan was a police detective with the local force, so had known the family for many years. He’d always been known to have a soft spot for their mother even when their natural father was alive.
Following the death of her husband in a police shoot-out, Linda Forest had taken a year to succumb to Morgan’s charms, even though her two daughters never liked him. Neither of them could pinpoint the reason. Harriet put it succinctly to Kimberley by describing him as a ‘lecherous slime-ball’. Harriet had witnessed him eyeing up her friends when they came by.
Kimberley tried to leave thoughts of the past behind as she stepped into her sister’s bedroom. It was like her own; immaculate. The bed was made and the entire room was tidy and not an item out of place. To most people it wouldn’t ring any alarm bells, but Harriet was one of the most untidy people Kimberley had ever known. The hairs stood up on the nape of her neck. Unless Harriet had a character transplant, she had not been using this room for some time. The detective’s heart raced as she headed back downstairs.
The upstairs and ground floor were too tidy and organized. Kimberley went back to the kitchen and looked around. There wasn’t a single item out of place. Work surfaces were immaculately clean, and there were no used coffee mugs or utensils lying around. The place smelled fresh, which was another strange sensation. There was no smell of coffee or food of any sort and the normally well-stocked fruit bowl was devoid of any content.
A show-home was what the place resembled. There was a subtle fragrance of cedar air-freshener both upstairs and downstairs, but no other aromas. There were no coats hanging in the hall and no shoes near the doormat. She went back to the kitchen.
The key rack was a small wooden trellis with a variety of keys hanging from its eight hooks. It was fitted on a small section of wall just inside the large kitchen. Each key had a colored plastic fob. Kimberley lifted the basement key and realised that her breathing had speeded up.
It was with some trepidation that she turned the handle and eased the narrow door open. It was a large basement, but to the best of her memory was only used to store items prior to donating them to charity, or throwing them out for bulk garbage collection. Kimberley pulled on the old cord at the top of the staircase and two energy-saving lights slowly began to glow down below in the expansive wooden paneled room.
There was a reddish-brown glow due to the predominant color of the wooden walls. The temperature was unusually warm for a basement and there were a mixture of aromas, some of which were vaguely familiar; while others were not. Kimberley took a breath and commanded herself to stay in control as she descended the wooden stairs.
She was half way down, before it occurred to her that the staircase had been treated; there were no creaking noises. Even with a stealthy descent, the stairs should have made some sound. It was about halfway down that she stopped and sniffed the banister. At first she couldn’t place the slight fragrance and then as she set off it struck her; Linseed Oil. It was used on the wooden parts of some weapons to preserve them. Here it had been used to good effect to deaden the creaking of the wooden staircase.
She became aware of the other strange aromas getting stronger as she neared the floor. To her front, like everywhere else in the house, the place seemed to be surprisingly tidy. A few old household appliances and a broken bicycle stood against the wall under a small window. The dull glow of the two bare bulbs was gradually increasing and illuminating most of the room.
The narrow window to the front was just above ground level and the thick growth of a fresh flowerbed could be seen which would obscure the view from outside. As she looked at the stems and bunches of leaves, it struck Kimberley that her mother had never planted flowers in that area so that daylight reached the cellar. It didn’t now. Nothing could be seen from inside, and it would be impossible to look into the basement from the garden.
As she looked around slowly and breathed in, Kimberley recognized the sweet aroma of marijuana, the sharp clinical bite of spirits, stale alcohol, and the stench of cigarette smoke lingering on the many surfaces. Some smells were stale, some recent; all repugnant.
Nothing could have prepared Kimberley for the sight that greeted her when she turned to look around the remainder of the room. Along the length of the main wall were chains with lockable cuffs on the ends. Below these on the floor, were similar metal cuffs, on chains bolted to the wooden floorboards. Hanging neatly from hooks was an array of whips, canes, leather harnesses and other items. She’d seen similar accessories when she was attached to the vice squad. The sickening feeling in her stomach was returning with a vengeance.
On an old pine table were a variety of sex toys. There was also a stainless steel tray, a length of narrow gauge orange rubber tubing, a used syringe, and some white gauze. She lifted the gauze and sniffed it; surgical spirit. Kimberley crossed the room and pulled open a drawer to find small bags of white powder, a variety of pills, and a few spoons with burn marks. There were also other items of drug paraphernalia. Somebody had been preparing syringes, but probably not for themselves.
She opened a lightweight wooden wardrobe, which looked out of place in a basement. Hanging in a neat row were garments that she would usually associate with the world’s oldest profession. Incongruous as it looked, there was school uniform hanging in the line-up. On two shelves below was footwear, ranging from black patent court shoes and regular sling-backs, to Roman thong sandals with heels, stilettos, and knee-high leather boots. Kimberley felt sick.
A few feet from the table and wardrobe was a workbench which had been adapted by the addition of a heavy leather cushion being attached to the uppermost surface. On all four legs of the bench were yet more metal cuffs and chains, all attached low down on the legs. For all intents and purposes it resembled a modern variant of a torture rack.
Kimberley swallowed hard and took a breath. She had seen so many bad things in the line of duty, so expected the worst. She peered into the slightly darker back area of the room where the beams of the dim lights didn’t carry. There were two old tubular steel framed beds with sagging mattresses and piles of bedclothes on them. Chains and cuffs were secured to the wall above the beds, and to the frames at the foot of the beds. They were similar to the shackles she had seen on the main wall.
Taking care where she placed her feet and moving slowly between the various larger items in the dimly lit space, Kimberley saw that there was a body stretched out on the bed on the left. As she advanced slowly concentrating on the body, something touched her face. She stepped back to see another light cord with a naked bulb right overhead.
Kimberley pulled on the relatively new thin white cord and the light came on immediately; it wasn’t an energy-saving bulb. The detective felt the bile rise in her throat as she advanced one more step and looked down on the tear-stained face of a dead teenage girl; a brunette. Her face had been made-up while she was still alive and at some point, the mascara had run in rivulets over her young face. Her crimson lipstick was smudged.
She didn’t recognize the girl. Kimberley tested the pliability of the skin and the girl’s limbs. There were no flies or other insects in or near her orifices, so it appeared that the girl had been dead for hours rather than days. Her body was naked and she had bled heavily after sexual abuse.
There were multiple bruises and lacerations on her body, arms, and legs. There were also injection marks on her arms and legs. The massive bruising suggested that it was a safe bet that the drugs were not self-administered. With heavy heart, the officer lifted a bed sheet and pulled it over the unfortunate girl.
As she moved around the beds, Kimberley was conscious of tears building in her eyes. She swallowed and focused on a partly naked body on the dirty floor on the far side of the other bed. She didn’t rush forward, but took slow, deliberate steps. Her breathing rate raced and her heart was thumping in her chest. In her head she was already shouting, No! Please God! No!
Due to the brighter light above and behind her, she could see the needle marks on the arms and legs of the teenage girl on the floor. The blonde hair was dank and lifeless and the body was undernourished and dirty, but as the tears built up and flowed from Kimberley’s eyes, she froze and stared at her sister’s dead body.
It wasn’t a movie, or the scene from a book. This was real and from four paces away Kimberley recognized death when she saw it. She couldn’t run forward and cradle the abused and mutilated body, because she had to hold back the urge to vomit. Her body held back only because it was already trembling with the grief she was trying to contain.
She had seen gunshot victims, car crash and train crash fatalities, drowning victims, hanging victims, and a dozen other forms of disfigurement in death, but this wasn’t a stranger. The usually cool and calm detective stood there, looking down at the victim of a drug overdose. It wasn’t self-administered and might even have been accidental, but whoever had performed the act had signed the girl’s death warrant.
The blue eyes were open but unseeing, and there were tear tracks in the filth and cosmetics on her face, just like her companion. Her mouth lay slightly open with vomit and white foam caked where it had dribbled from her lips and nostrils onto the floor. This wretch had been her beautiful, vivacious sister, Harriet.
Kimberley finally found the strength to move forward and knelt close to the corpse. She steeled herself for the act, removed her left glove and reached down to touch the once porcelain texture of the teenager’s pretty face. It was even more like porcelain now, smooth, but cold. It occurred to Kimberley that Harriet may have been unconscious, but not actually dead when the two men had been arguing early in the morning. Both girls may still have been alive at that time. Both bodies gave the impression of recent, inept use of drugs by somebody.
As Kimberley stared, still in disbelief, she found herself trying to bring forward from somewhere in her subconscious, those words she used with the relatives of victims. Tears were streaming down her face. She could hear her own consoling words from the most recent time she had to use them to distraught parents.
“I know she’s passed on,” she would say, “but now she’s beyond suffering. It will be our job to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. We will find them.”
“I am so sorry Harry,” Kimberley whispered and started sobbing. “I am so sorry.” She glanced back along the broken body and sobbed uncontrollably. “I’ll find them my baby sister. I’ll find them and I’ll punish them. You will be avenged.” She sniffed and continued to look at her sister before making a pledge. “Whoever did this will beg me to let them die.”
Kimberley stood up and pulled the glove onto her left hand. As she looked at her once beautiful sister she felt a deep sense of duty, to cleanse the ruined body, to make it look pretty once again. What she saw did not reflect what the girl had been in life. Even as the desire tugged at her heartstrings, it was contested by her deep-seated professionalism, which told her that it would be impractical to do anything to her in the circumstances.
She dragged the cleanest of the bed sheets from the bed to lay it over the once gorgeous girl. It was hard to hold back her tears. She wanted to allow herself to be hysterical, to scream, pull down the building, but she had already done it all in her mind on the journey. In a strange way, she had prepared herself for this moment before ever arriving. Somewhere in her subconscious, she knew the shock would hit her in the future, but for now, she had to hold it together.
It was as the hate and anger began to manifest itself and displace some of the sorrow, that Kimberley noticed she hadn’t quite covered Harriet’s arms. She looked at her sister’s hands and noticed something strange for the first time. Both arms were extended away from the body and both hands were close together, fingers pointing.
Kimberley wiped the streaming tears from her eyes with her left forearm and stared at Harriet’s hands. The palms were pressed together, fingers only interlocked at the tips, as if she was praying when she died. Harriet was not the religious type, so it was a highly unusual pose for her to portray. She had often said she wanted to be cremated, but without a service. Her wish was to leave nothing of her earthly body behind.
“Oh my God,” Kimberley gasped. She realized that her sister had been using symbolism, but must have known that when she lost control, her hands would drift apart, so she had tried to lock her fingertips together to hold the unnatural position.
Kimberley remained in one spot, but turned and looked around the basement, slowly taking in every wall, every shelf, and every corner. She was convinced that in her final death throes, Harriet had retained the mental strength to send a message, a subtle message in case a good police officer should be next at the scene. Kimberley owed her dear sister the honour of deciphering that final silent message. She was a good police officer. She would solve the clue the dying girl had offered.
The woman turned, moving her feet only inches at a time, to turn a full 360 degrees twice slowly; observing. It was then that she noticed it, on completion of the second turn. Kimberley stepped across to the corner near the bed, where a simple, wooden cross was nailed to the rough wooden panelling. Below the cross was a narrow shelf which contained about a dozen books, all of which were covered in a film of dust.
Before touching them, Kimberley studied the spine of each and then her tear-filled eyes blinked several times before opening wide. The Holy Bible stood among the books, but the dust on it wasn’t as heavy as on the others. It had been regularly disturbed; or perhaps recently lifted out from the line-up.
Kimberley eased the book from its position and at first glance, it looked perfectly normal, until she opened the front cover. The first 50 pages were intact, just as the final 50 pages were, but the pages between had been hollowed out to produce a recess. Where the centre area of the pages had been removed, a small hard-backed notebook had been inserted. It was Harriet’s journal with the multi-coloured butterfly cover.
Tears continued to stream silently down Kimberley’s face as she flicked through the entries that Harriet had managed to scribble in her more lucid moments. There were small smears of blood accompanying some of the entries. A broken pencil was stuffed down the spine of the book.
The badly abused girl had kept her notes brief from fear of being caught recording the horrors bestowed upon her. Judging by the dates, it appeared that it had only been in her final hours that she was unable to reach the book. The final entry was dated Friday, 13th June.
The fact that Harriet was on the floor, but not restrained, was testament to her being too weak to get to the bookshelf again, but it also strengthened Kimberley’s belief that she was left for dead, but had been unconscious. Later, she had managed to get off the bed.
Kimberley slipped her pistol into the waistband of her jeans. She read in disbelief what had happened to her sister and in what order, but importantly, even in her terror, Harriet had the presence of mind to know she might not survive. She named the people who had drugged her and her unknown companion and preyed on them both repeatedly.
There had been other girls but Harriet was unable to list the names of the others. She did suggest that they had been taken for ‘disposal’. Kimberley’s heart skipped a beat. The ringleader of the deviant group was her stepfather, Detective Tony Morgan.
Harriet and the other girl had been imprisoned and abused for a month. One more look at the short list of names was enough. Kimberley’s mind raced as she decided what to do next. She had to slow down her thoughts, or she’d be worse than useless, and Harriet deserved the best; the very best.
“You’ve got a cute ass,” a male voice said, “real tight and round in them jeans.”
Kimberley froze. She should have remembered about the non-creaking wooden cellar stairs. She concentrated as she slowly turned around, realising as she did, that she had just heard one of the two male voices that had been on Harriet’s phone. As she turned, she knew it would be to stand face to face with the one called Alan. The way he pronounced ‘cute’ was lodged in her memory.
The amended bible was still clutched in both Kimberley’s hands up to her chest when she found herself looking into the eyes of one of her future targets. On facing him, she assessed him rapidly and judged her next actions in those few seconds.
He was at least six foot tall, weighed about 180lbs and was between 25 to 30 years old. The only reason he was still standing upright, was the Remington pump-action shotgun he had levelled at the police officer’s body.
Kimberley’s gaze was unwavering as she looked deep into the man’s lecherous eyes.
She said: “Is your name Alan … Alan Brett?” Her voice was steady.
“Shit, yeah,” he said and grinned. “How did you know my name gorgeous?”
“You’re mentioned in here,” she said. “It seems that you’re going to die soon.” She held out the adapted book, offering it to him.
As Brett’s brow furrowed and his eyes became narrow slits, he glanced down and reached out for the book with his left hand. The full weight of the shotgun was taken by his right hand on the narrow part of the butt near the trigger guard. It caused the barrel to drop out of the aim. At the same time as he took the book, Brett couldn’t help but glance at the well-filled T-shirt immediately in focus behind it.
Kimberley watched him and held her breath to keep her T-shirt stretched for only a few seconds, but it was enough. Only when her left foot shot upwards and the toe of her sneaker buried in the man’s groin, did she let out her breath. With a practiced skip, she changed from one foot to the other and sent her right toecap into Brett’s face as he doubled forward. He dropped the shotgun and the journal. He then stumbled backwards as he coughed out three loosened teeth.
In the few seconds it took Brett to realize what was happening, he felt his hair being gripped by two strong hands, and then a denim-clad knee came up and broke his nose. He closed his eyes again involuntarily as he staggered backwards, in severe pain.
When Brett finally regained some focus and started to straighten, he could see a small black circle. He stared at the black circle, and then the rest of the weapon became much clearer right behind it. The long dark tube was pointing straight at his face. The hand holding the suppressed automatic pistol was rock steady, just like the hardened expression and cold blue eyes of the woman with the cute ass.
Brett realized his body was about to go through some more bad times, but he could never imagine just how soon, or how bad. It was probably better for him that way, and that ignorance was the only good thing that would happen to him for the remainder of his life.