just deserts
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
  click here for a "printer friendly" version

Never saw it coming
by Kevan Youde 




There it was again, like every time he'd done this: an icy sliver in the guts between breastbone and belly-button; stage-fright on his entrance to the scene. He treasured it. If he ever came to a crime scene and didn't feel his bowels loosening, he'd know it was time to retire. He got out of the car and walked to where a uniform with a clipboard stood by blue-and-white tape sealing off an end-of-terrace house.

He signed into the crime scene, struggling to keep the paper flat on the clipboard as it flapped in the fresh evening breeze coming off the river. As he finished a scrawl that would never pass as his signature in court, a figure strode from the house.

“DS Waters,” the figure said, not bothering to offer a hand. “Ambulance has just left. We've got a PC riding-with so that we can get a statement when the breathing tube comes out.”

“Why did you call me?”

“Station told me you were the on-call DI for Operation Maitland.”

“Don't try to be funny, sergeant. I know why the call came through to me. I want to know why you thought this might be relevant to Maitland.”

DS Waters shuffled his lips, had second thoughts and bit back a smart remark.

“My DI thought it matched the MO of your man: young woman living alone attacked on the doorstep when she got home from work.”

It fitted. The fact that the attacks happened when the victims felt the first comfort of home was one of the small cruelties of the assaults that Operation Maitland was investigating. There were a lot of large cruelties to go with those small ones.

“Where does she work?”

“Fitness instructor at a gym off Castle Street. Her customers will be young professionals looking for a buff body rather than your geriatric Zumba crowd.”

Another set of clients to cross-check but he didn't expect anything from it. These attacks started with the house. Each had some quiet, dark corner outside where an attacker could wait unseen and be on top of his victim as soon as they turned the key. Once they were inside and the door shut, the horror began. All the victims lived alone - no flatmates or boyfriends to come home unexpectedly. The attacker wanted time with his victims and he used it to horrible effect. No, these women weren't chosen by clients from work; they were picked because of the way they lived and where they lived.

This house was perfect. The door was set back from the road with a low wall enclosing a small, stone-flagged yard. Before the scene-of-crimes people's harsh, white lights had arrived, the corner where the bins stood would have been a nice, dark spot for a crouching man. He stared at every inch of the yard, looking for something, anything. Nothing.

Unable to delay it any longer, he turned to DS Waters standing by the front door.

The attacks were schizophrenic – possibly literally. Everything before the front door was careful, precise, deliberate. The attacks needed a lot of preparation, following the victims to learn their routine. However, none of the four victims could remember anything strange in the days before the attacks. The door-to-doors had turned up blank as well. Even the nosiest of curtain-twitching neighbours had seen nothing. Before the attacks, this bloke was as stealthy as a deer-hunter but all the painstaking care stopped at the doorway. As soon as things got physical the attacker changed completely – became a frenzied beast – and now the results of a new attack were waiting on the other side of the door.

The other crime scenes had been bloodbaths. Stains and spatters on floors and walls gave a blow-by-blow account of punches and kicks. Once the victim was pummelled into submission she was dragged into the kitchen for the rest of the assault; for the worst part.

He took a deep breath – his last for a while that wouldn't stink of blood – and nodded to DS Waters.

Inside, it was all wrong. Pristine. Untouched.

“You said that the attack happened on the doorstep?”

“It did. Victim had just turned the key when she was shoved inside. She turned to see what was happening and that was when the punch landed.”

“Punch? Singular?”

The other victims had been hit so many times, the medical examiners hadn't tried counting the separate wounds.

“One was all it took,” said DS Waters, smirking like he was in on a joke that was reaching its punch-line. “You'd better come through. It'll be clearer when you see the victim. She's through here with my DI.”

“The victim? But you said she was in the ambulance.”

“Ambulance wasn't for the victim.”

He followed Waters into a room that ran through the house. At the far end, by a window into a back garden, two women sat drinking tea. The figure on the left was the DI: trouser-suit, tied-back hair, posture sympathetic but professional. The other woman looked like she was in shock but handling it well. The mug in her hands was cupped like hot cocoa on a cold night, both hands relishing the warmth or perhaps helping to stop the shaking.

Against the wall, a display case glittered, gold like a pirate's smile. Medals, trophies and shields shone blinding in the light. Above them, a silver frame surrounded a picture of a woman – the victim – raised shoulder high in a boxing ring. Gloved hands held a thick belt high, arms stretched in a V for victory. Beneath the picture, a newspaper headline: ABA North-west England Women's Middleweight Champion.

“Like I said, sir, the attacker pushed her and she threw the punch as she turned. Right upper-cut. Paramedic reckons the attacker's jaw's broken in two places. He never saw it coming.”




Rate this story.

Copyright is reserved by the author. Please do not reproduce any part of this article without consent.


© Winamop 2018