Copyright: Rachel Abbott 2011.
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All characters and events in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental
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Bright sunshine flooded through the tall windows, touching each surface with its dazzling light. Every corner of the room was bathed in a soft yellow glow, and its elegant proportions were displayed to their best advantage. It was a disaster. The one thing she hadn’t allowed for was a sunny day.
Maximum impact - that’s what she was striving for. The clothes, the hair, the jewellery; her attention to detail had been impeccable, and any false note would influence his perception of her credibility. But instead of completing the illusion by creating subtle lighting and atmospheric shadows, the room was more akin to a floodlit stage. It was the end of October in London. It was supposed to be raining.
She didn’t know what to do. Should she close the curtains? No. That would never work. Too obvious by far, and he wouldn’t like it. But time was running out, and she had to think fast. She adjusted everything quickly until she was sure it was as perfect as it could be, angling a wingback leather armchair so that it almost faced the door, sufficient that she could see his face without turning her head. But not straight on. That would give her nowhere to hide. And the light from the window had to be behind her, of course, throwing her face into enough shadow to disguise anything that her eyes might inadvertently reveal.
Her preparations were complete. All she could do now was wait, and think of the inevitability of what was about to happen. Every muscle in her body was taut, and her shoulders were rigid. She forced herself to relax. She heard the sound of a taxi drawing to a halt and a car door slamming. She quickly glanced in the mirror to check that everything was perfect, and was alarmed to see the inner turmoil betrayed in her eyes. She breathed deeply and suppressed the thoughts and images that were crowding her mind, fighting to compose herself.
She heard nothing more for several minutes, but she knew he was in the house. There were no footsteps; the deep pile carpet in the hall and up the staircase to the third floor smothered any sound. But he was moving straight towards the bedroom. Every nerve ending in her body told her so.
The door opened slowly but he remained in the doorway, his expression inscrutable. He didn’t speak for several moments, and she steadily returned his gaze. Nobody could deny that he was a handsome man. His tailored black suit hung perfectly on his tall, lean frame, and his grey-flecked hair was as immaculate as always. He looked every inch the successful man that he was. It was no wonder the media loved him so much.
Finally he smiled, the curve of his lips suggesting only the slightest trace of the victory he was no doubt feeling. Her heart jerked unsteadily, but her eyes didn’t falter.
‘I knew you’d come.’ He paused, and his glance raked her body. ‘You really had no choice, did you?’ He nodded, as if with a sense of self-satisfaction. ‘You look perfect.’
Knowing she could afford no mistakes, she had chosen carefully - selecting a black leather knee length skirt with sheer black stockings coupled with a white silk-knit V-necked top, designed to cling lightly to her breasts and offer a just a hint of what was beneath. Her legs were artfully crossed showing a glimpse of thigh, and her simple but elegant gold jewellery completed the picture. It seemed that he was pleased. She had passed the first test, and prayed that she could keep her emotions in check for just a little longer.
‘Why the gloves?’ he asked, noticing for the first time the elbow length black silk gloves she was wearing.
‘I thought you’d like them.’
He smiled again, and she knew he was mocking her.
‘And you were right.’
He pointed to the ice bucket that she had placed on the marble topped console table, together with two flutes.
‘Champagne! I see we’re celebrating.’ He chuckled without mirth.
She reached across and, willing her hands not to shake, she poured a thin trickle of the pale golden bubbles into both glasses. He walked towards the table, picked up a glass and took one careful sip.
‘Delicious, but a bad idea. I don’t think we should be dulling the senses, do you?’ He carefully put the glass back on the table, and looked straight into her eyes.
‘You’ve taken the initiative. That’s good. Does this mean you’re going to take charge today?’
She stood and walked purposefully towards him, her high stiletto heels sinking into the pile of the carpet. She knew exactly what he wanted, and she touched his cheek with a single gloved finger.
‘It does. I hope you’re ready for this.’
She didn’t need to wait for a reply. All she had to do was sound authoritative, and she knew he would comply.
‘Take your clothes off. All of them. Then lie down on the bed, and wait until I’m ready.’
His eyes narrowed, but she knew he was pleased.
‘And what are you going to do to me?’ he asked, feigning a coolness that he was clearly no longer feeling.
‘For now, I’m just going to watch.’ She forced herself to look into his eyes. They were glittering with excitement, although his face continued to betray little or no emotion. She had seen that look before, and she knew just how dangerous it could be. She pushed the fear to the back of her mind.
He walked across the room, and slowly began removing his clothes, facing her and watching her all the time. Each item that he removed was carefully folded and laid on a chair, until he was completely naked. As always, the sense of the unknown was arousing him and she desperately wanted to look away.
‘And now?’ he asked.
‘Lie on the bed, just as I told you,’ she answered, her voice becoming stronger as she gained confidence.
He moved towards the four-poster bed in the centre of the room, his proud stance betraying how conscious he was of his near perfect body. His lightly tanned back, muscular buttocks and long firm thighs could have belonged to a man half his age. He turned and lay down on the bed, smiling with a sense of triumph.
‘I’m ready.’ His voice was deepening with barely suppressed desire, and she smothered a shudder.
‘See what I’ve got for you,’ she said with what she hoped was a convincing smile.
From her bag she drew out five matching silk scarves, in a deep rich crimson. ‘Your favourite colour.’
He started to lick his lips as his excitement mounted. His features had transformed into an expression that was almost animal, his lips swollen with lust and his eyes blazing with expectation.
She moved over to the bed, and carefully and expertly tied first each arm, and then each leg to one of the four wooden bedposts. She took the fifth scarf, and hesitated just for a second.
With a quick intake of breath and a visible straightening of her spine, she advanced towards the head of the bed.
‘Today’s going to be special - I don’t want you to see anything until the very last minute.’
His answering smile held more than a trace of self-satisfaction, clearly believing that her only aspiration was to give him pleasure.
Without a word, she firmly tied the scarf over his eyes, and moved towards the door. His naked body displayed his excitement, and in a voice barely recognisable he asked, ‘What happens next?’ She glanced across at him, and forced herself to respond.
‘Now you must wait. I promise you, it will be more than you are expecting.’
Quickly she moved into the luxurious bathroom adjoining the master bedroom. She was out of her clothes in seconds, and carefully slid into her costume, never removing the long black gloves. In less than three minutes, she was ready.
As she moved back into the bedroom, she could see that his arousal had not diminished for a second; the anticipation had simply heightened his passion. But a note of uncertainty crept into his voice when he heard a slight rustle as she moved, and then the almost imperceptible sound of two objects - one by one - being carefully placed on the bedside table.
‘What are you wearing? I thought it would be silk.’
She moved her gloved hands down to the scarf that was blindfolding him, and quickly and firmly slid it down from his eyes to his mouth, where she pulled it tightly into place.
He blinked a little, and looked at her in her costume. His arousal had reached such a peak that it took several seconds for him to register what he was seeing, and he stared at her with a look of horror as he tried in vain to cry out.
The mask over her face revealed only her eyes, and they were filled with a mixture of feelings too complex to interpret. Only the few who knew her well would have recognised the most significant of those feelings - that of sheer determination.
She reached across to the bedside table where moments before she had placed a syringe. With a quick indrawn breath she parted the dark hairs in his groin with a gloved hand, and plunged the syringe in as deeply as possible. A low moan was all that could be heard as he fought a futile battle to break free. She knew that the syringe hadn’t hurt too much, but she also knew that he understood what it meant.
And then he was still.
Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas glanced out of the window of his apartment as he quickly moved around the room collecting the few things he needed. The view across the wide, murky river to Greenwich was one that normally gave him real pleasure, but right now he needed to focus and not waste time looking at the scenery.
Bloody stupid having a couple of glasses of wine with his lunch, but then again how could he have known that his first big case with the Met was going to fall on his day off? Sod’s law, no doubt. His performance in the coming days had to be impeccable, and he needed to win the respect and trust of his new team. Asking for a car to be sent as a result of midday drinking was certainly not the start he’d been hoping for.
He hurriedly looked around to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything, but his mantra of ‘phone, keys, wallet, notebook, warrant card’ was so ingrained that he didn’t think it likely. Nevertheless, he checked and doubled checked that he had everything. Slamming the apartment door behind him, he raced down the six flights of stairs and arrived at the double front doors of his apartment block just as a dark blue car screeched around the corner and drew to a halt. Recognising the driver as his new sergeant, Becky Robinson, Tom opened the passenger door and jumped in. The car was moving again before he had so much as fastened his seat belt.
‘Sorry about this, Becky. I didn’t mean to drag you all the way out here,’ Tom said.
‘That’s okay, sir. A pretty posh place you’ve got, if you don’t mind me saying so!’
Tom turned slightly in his seat to look at Becky. He couldn’t quite decide if this was just an observation or if she was fishing for information, but her dark, shiny hair was swinging forward and obscuring her face, so he wasn’t able to judge. He really didn’t have any wish to explain how a policeman, and a divorced policeman at that, could afford to live in a smart apartment in the heart of Docklands. Now was neither the time nor the place.
Fortunately Becky was concentrating on her driving, which seemed to involve a lot of rapid acceleration interspersed with fierce breaking. He was in for a bumpy ride, and was slightly hesitant about distracting her.
‘Think you can drive and talk at the same time, Becky?’
‘No problem. The traffic’s a bit heavy, but I can weave around it.’
Tom had little doubt about that, and was relieved that she didn’t apparently feel the need to look at him as she spoke.
‘Okay, what do we know? All I was told on the phone was ‘suspicious death’ - and that it was one for me. I gather the incident took place in central London, so I guess that’s where we’re heading?’
‘Yep. To the heart of Knightsbridge. The victim is none other than Hugo Fletcher. He’s dead. Obviously. The first officers called to the scene said it looks like it could be murder, but it’s not a sure thing. That’s all I know at the moment.’
Becky swerved violently to the left to avoid a black cab, and pressed her hand hard on the horn. The cabbie stuck his middle finger up at her, and Tom couldn’t help feeling some sympathy for him, despite Becky’s mutterings about taxi drivers.
In the interests of arriving in one piece, he kept his thoughts to himself for a few moments. Hugo Fletcher, of all people. What a way to start his career in the Met. He knew something of the victim’s public life - everybody did. The media couldn’t get enough of him, and the man in the street thought he was some sort of demi-god. But Tom actually knew very little about his private life. He remembered that there was a wife who he had proudly, and rather nauseatingly in Tom’s opinion, presented as his ‘soul mate’ a few years ago. But then there was a bit of gossip about her that he couldn’t quite remember and now she seemed to have dropped out of the public eye completely.