There’s a serial rapist and killer living near you.
He’s holding your partner.
Soon he will kill her
What are you going to do?
Well, if your name is Felix Croft, you’re going to…
Here’s a short extract from Dominus.
Croft has received a cryptic message telling him that body has be4en left in Allington Woods on the boundary of his property. Fearful that it is his partner, Trish Sinclair, he has dashed out in foul weather to find her.
Now read on…
His thoughts came to a stuttering halt. Oaklands’ retaining wall! How many times had he complained to the council about trees encroaching on his property? It was somewhere to his left; twenty, thirty yards away. Not far. Would Dominus have the audacity to leave her there where she may have been seen from the first floor windows of Croft’s home? Would he have left her hanging so that in her final moments she would be able to see the place where she had been so at peace with the world? He wanted Croft to find her, so the answer was obvious.
The rain ran down Croft’s face in a continuous stream. Making his way towards the dark shadow that was the high wall surrounding his property, he was suddenly aware that he was filthy. Less than an hour ago, he had climbed out of the shower, slipped on a white shirt, clean tie, brushed off his business suit and prepared for the coming day’s argument with the Head of Department, the Bursar and Vice Principal. Arguments on student numbers, on research funding, on meeting government targets. Now he was wet, mud-stained, clambering, scratching his way through impossibly dense and untamed woods on the trail of a madman and his acts of savagery. There was something surreal about it.
Close to the wall he looked in either direction. The maintenance men had done their job well this year. Looking up he could see the sheen of leaden cloud unleashing its fury on the land. Following the line of the wall east and west, there was not a single branch threatening his property.
Then he saw her.
At first he thought it was some strange configuration of an oak tree; a branch hanging down at a severe angle, depressed into a contorted bow by the weight of wet weather and the restrictions of the wall just a few inches from its tip. As he narrowed his eyes on it, he could see that it had a rough, human form. It was no overhanging branch.
He trod the soft, damp grass along the wall side, frequently stumbling on the uneven ground, putting a hand to the mossy wall to support himself.
Under the tree, he trembled, afraid to look up. Not Trish. Please don’t let it be Trish. He realised instantly that his prayer was so unfair. Some woman had been hanged here, and if it was not Trish, then it meant some other poor creature, every bit as innocent as his partner, had met her doom.
Her feet were twelve to eighteen inches from the ground, well within his line of sight. To avoid looking at them, he concentrated upon his shoes, the black leather soaked and already showing a line of ingrained, white salt. He was conscious once more of his own disarray, the wet shirt sticking to his chest as it dried from his body heat, his legs, trembling, aching after their mad dash, the trousers of his business suit creased, bagging, soaked in a mixture of mud, cold perspiration and even colder rain. His heart pounded and he began to shiver, as if, with the end of his crazy race into the woods, the cold had permeated for the first time. He knew, however, that the beating of his heart and the shivering had nothing to do with breathlessness or the cold.
He drew in a breath, charged his lungs with oxygen and stared at those feet, forcing a memory into his mind of Trish’s feet. Did they look the same? It was impossible to know. Feet were not that recognisable. They were bodily addenda, not enhancement. A woman’s feet did not attract a man, her personality and the rest of her body did.
Slowly he forced his head up to look up and up past the strong legs, the flat tummy, sagging breasts until they came to the dead, staring features.
Relief flooded him, followed rapidly by guilt at the relief, followed even more rapidly by fury.
In life Victoria Reid – she was still recognisable as the woman whose face had been all over the previous evening’s Scarbeck Reporter – had been a vibrant and attractive woman; a curvaceous and sexy temptress, a little lacking in breast to be a classic beauty, but nevertheless holding forth the promise of a thrilling partner. Now she was a mere shell. The eyes were open, staring at the ground. Her tongue lolled grotesquely from her mouth, the blonde hair was a straggled mass of weed strung around her neck and face, the skin had a grey cast and a leathery look to it. Around her face, she was bright red, and there was a barely visible weal where the narrow rope had cut into her skin. Her legs too were livid, the blood having settled to the lowest point. At her midriff, the skin had already begun to wrinkle, prior to flaking. He did not know how long she had been here and he dare not touch her. Naked, dehumanised, she had suffered god knows what indignities heaped upon her by this evil man only to be faced by the final terror of a slow and tortuous death, without even the blessing of a long drop to break her neck and leave her unconscious while she expired.
Croft fell to his knees, the frantic dash from Oaklands to this shocking site of execution, the horrifying sight above, had drained him of energy. He felt sick, wanted to throw up, but he forced the queasiness down. In its place, there came a growing sense of rage. Rage for this innocent woman whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, rage against the arbitrary manner in which Dominus had dragged her – and Croft – into this web of insanity, and rage against the man himself.
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