Kim laid in the dark. She was on a cold, moist concrete floor. A metal door shut her off from the rest of the world. If she tried very hard, she could peer through the cracks at the edges of the metal door and see the faint light of the world outside.
She could not remember how many days had passed since she had been locked inside the small cell, perhaps a few days. She still wasn’t very good at understanding days. However, she had eaten two meals a day. The food was slid through a small hatch in the bottom of the door. A man’s hand had been holding the plate of food each time.
I want mummy, she thought to herself. She imagined her mother’s face, her eyes red with tears and her skin pale with worry. Kim yearned to bury her head in her chest, wanted the fear and sadness to seep away in that soothing embrace.
Instead, the cold surrounded her and the sound of dripping water came from somewhere deep inside the building with a constant tap, tap, tap.
Are you looking for me? she wondered. “Mummy…” she said to herself and adjusted herself on the floor.
Outside, she heard footsteps approaching. The heavily booted feet clomped towards her, grinding slightly with the sound of grit against the concrete floor. Kim watched as the light beyond the door darkened and the footsteps came to a halt.
She pulled back until her back was against the far wall of her small cell.
Is it dinner time? she asked herself.
There was a squeal of metal and a loud clap as the bolt was pulled back.
Her heart pounded, her pulse thumping in her ears.
The door opened, screaming on its rusting hinges. The light hurt her eyes, but she could just make out the large masculine form of the man beyond the doorway.
“There you are,” he said in a low voice. He bent down, wrapped his hand around her arm and hauled out of the cell.
“No!” she screamed. She whipped her body about, but the man flicked her arm so that it hurt with a sharp pain and she was forced to surrender to his will.
The man took her away into the darker depths of the building.
Gin Sodan watched as Jack Vincent, a friend of the family, was being interviewed beyond the glass of the two way mirror. He looked at relative ease, either through a lack of guilt or cunning. Time will tell, he thought to himself. He had a nervous tick, though, tapping his foot on the floor. He took constant sips of coffee as the questions came at him. It was only a routine questioning, part of the department's process of elimination.
Gin sipped at his coffee and turned up the sound of the speaker.
"I've known that girl for years," said Jack. "That's why I felt so bad when she was taken, why I'm heading up the volunteer search parties."
Detective Saunders nodded his head. "Of course." He sipped at a plastic cup of water. "We need to check every avenue, so can you please explain your whereabouts on the 25th?"
"It feels uncomfortable, you know, being questioned about the abduction of a little girl."
Tom gave a polite smile. "If you're story adds up, you'll have nothing to worry about."
"Yeah," said Jack with a hint of discomfort.
"So, can you tell me where you were?"
"I was away on work, staying up in Manchester. I'm a regional salesman, so I'm regularly away on work."
"I suppose there will be clients we can confirm this with?"
"Yes, of course," Jack replied. "I can give you the details."
"I'll give you a form for that at the end. How did you come to know the family?"
Jack smiled nervously. "I moved to the area about seven years ago, been in the same house ever since. We're neighbours and we hit it off from the start. Always been very close to the family since that first meeting."
"Ever had any grievances with the family?"
Jack smiled a little. "Only over unreturned garden tools, mostly on my part - nothing a beer couldn't sort." He laughed and Tom couldn't help but join in.
"Detective, I want to find this girl. I'm the wrong guy. Please, let me get back to the search. I want to help my friend find his little girl."
We shall see, Gin thought to himself. Everything will come out in the end.
Outside, a thin drizzle of rain hung in the air, feeling like tiny ice crystals in the cold, almost wintery air.
Jack Vincent zipped up his leather coat, its material cracking with his movements. He removed his keys from his pocket and unlocked his old Land Rover Defender.
Inside he let out a breath and brought the 4x4 to life. Its diesel engine sputtered a little but then became steady.
He switched on the lights and drove out of the car park.
It was late, around eleven o'clock when Leanne was walking down the dark streets, keeping to the sporadic illumination of the street lamps.
The birthday party had ended at ten. She had told her mother it would be a sleep over. She had told her friends her mum would pick her up at the end of the road. Instead, she was making her way to her boyfriend's house, his parents were away for the weekend.
He lived on the other side of town and the weather had been getting worse the longer she walked. The wind whipped around her bare legs and up her skirt freezing her from the inside out. Her small coat did little to keep her top half any warmer. She pulled her overnight bag closer, trying to use it to block some of the wind.
She was also ignoring the advice her mum had given her about not going out at night, not since that little girl had disappeared. But, those sort of things only happened to other people, right? That's what she had told herself as she closed the door to her friend's house and started down their short drive.
She turned right along a short path that led to an alley between houses. She stopped. The street lamp was out and thirty metres of darkness faced her.
Leanne bit her lip. Should she keep going? She could take the long route, maybe another half a mile out of her way. But it was freezing! A shiver shuddered through her and that seemed to make up her mind for her. She entered the darkness and felt a little comfort that she was out of the bitter wind.
It wasn't far now, the light of the next street lamp and the end of the alley was only another twenty metres. She thought of Rob and his blue eyes and smiled. Not long, baby, she thought.
A rough hand clamped over her mouth. A scream tried to escape her, but it could not get past the large fingers of the man that had grabbed her.
"Shh," he cooed into her ear. "That's it, good girl." He slid another rough hand up her leg. "Come with me."
She was led away and shoved into the back of a car. Her hands were tied with a cable tie behind her back. The engine started up and she was thrown backward as they accelerated away. She sobbed with a gut wrenching cry, but the man took no heed.
"Not long, honey," he said, driving them through the night away from the town and into the country side.
"Second Girl Confirmed Missing," the headline of the newspaper said. Gin threw it to the desk. "Shit," he muttered to himself and took a sip of his coffee.
It should never have gotten this bad, he thought to himself. We should have found something by now. He chewed at the corner of his mouth and tapped a pen against the desktop with a constant rhythm. His hand crept up to his open collar and caressed the crystal rose necklace that laid beneath his shirt. He felt soothed by it.
"The press are having a field day. It wont be long until they announce our incompetence," said Tom, entering the office.
"They always do," he said. "Everything looks better with hindsight." He covered the necklace up and turned round.
"Yeah," Tom laughed. "I sure wish I'd had that a few times in my life."
"This has only gotten from bad to worse." He sighed and took another sip of his coffee.
The phone on Gin's desk rung and he picked it up. "Yeah, we can be there in a minute," Gin said and put the receiver down. "Prints have been analysed, lets take a look at what they've found.
Beyond perspex glass, forensic scientists were looking through microscopes and hunching over numerous equipment.
"Okay, Nihal. What do you have?" Gin asked.
Nihal tapped at his iPad. "We analysed the prints we got from the car. I'm afraid you're not going to like the results."
He made a final tap at the tablet and then turned it around to reveal a list of crime scenes the prints had been involved in. Gin recognised them all.
"The Spindle," said Gin in a low voice.
"Jesus," Tom said to himself and leant against a desk.
"I'm afraid so. The vast majority of the prints were from the same source, just like we found at the other crime scenes."
"Signing his masterpieces..." said Gin. He closed his eyes. It's been a long time since we've heard from this one.
"There's more. His prints match with those of one of your interviewees." Nihal flicked through the iPad for a moment. "Here we go. Jack Vincent."
"Holy shit," said Tom. "I was in a room with the Spindle? Fuck me. We could have had him, Gin."
Gin closed his eyes. He knows, Gin thought. That cunning bastard. "I want to know everything there is to know about Jack Vincent. Inform the uniforms to track down where he is and to arrest him on site. He has to still be out there leading the search parties. Jesus Christ, leading them right where he wants them."
Tom ran from the room, his phone to his ear.
"Fuck!" Gin shouted and slapped his hands down on top of a desk.
Kim's father, Paul, looked around at the party of volunteers. They had stopped for lunch, hunching to the ground with their sandwiches and flasks of tea and coffee. "Where's Jack?" he asked a passing volunteer.
"Well, now you mention it, I haven't seen him for a while."
"Thanks," Paul replied. He tried to get Jack on his mobile, but there was only voicemail. "What's going on?" he asked himself. Jack wouldn't miss being out here for the world. Maybe he fell behind?
One of the uniform officers came up to him. "Do you know the whereabouts of Jack Vincent?" The officer asked.
"I was just thinking that myself. Why are you looking for him?"
"We just got message from dispatch to bring him in."
"What?" asked Paul.
"One sec, sir," the officer replied. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said to the crowd of volunteers. "We are looking for Jack Vincent. If anyone has information about his whereabouts, please come forward. This is an urgent request. If he is spotted, do not approach him. He is considered to be extremely dangerous."
Paul's heart hammered in his chest and he felt sick. Oh Christ, he thought to himself. Oh not Jack!
It was five years ago when Gin first came across the Spindle. The murders had come fast, leaving a bloody trail of crime scenes across the county.
It was the spring when Gin and Tom had to investigate the murder of the Patel family. Their house had been situated in a rural, but upper-class housing estate. An ornate iron gate had enclosed the light gravel semicircular drive in front. The house, itself, was peaceful, the windows dark, hiding the horrors that lay within.
That was before the police arrived. The blue lights of the vehicles illuminated the house, road and trees. A crowd had formed before the house, being the most dramatic thing to occur in the village for ten years.
Gin and Tom arrived late morning, weaving their car between the other emergency vehicles. The faces of men and women in the crowd were ashen, their imaginations likely full of the dark images that may lay within.
The two detectives made their way through the house, passing the faux-period furniture and gold leafed decoration.
Blood had been sprayed against the walls in the hallway, coating family portraits in a fine mist of crimson. Tracks of dried blood led into the master bedroom.
On the bed, the husband and wife were naked, tied down with industrial plastic wrapping - the type used to seal up pallets and roll-cages. Their two faces were contorted in frozen agony.
But that was not the worst. Their chests had been sliced open, not with surgical precision, but with the hacking rip of a crude blade. The organs within, which should have been a dark red, pink, purple and brown mass inside were missing. All that remained was a hollow cavity, like seeing inside an animal about to be butchered into pieces.
The organs lay in a pile, like a squatting, giant squid on the floor, a halo of blood surrounding them.
"My god," said Tom. "He did it again."
Gin held a hand to his mouth, trying to block out the sickly, sweet scent of decay. "I'm sensing a trend is building." Gin looked over at the mirror, hanging above the wall opposite the bed. The light from the window caught the mirror at just the right angle for Gin to see the orgy of fingerprints coating the glass. Every part of the mirror had been touched - just as the window and computer screen at the two previous murders had been coated. "It's certainly him, it's his signature."
They moved through the house, finding the seven year old son, naked, his belly sliced open, organs in a pile on the floor. The sight had turned Tom grey, his thoughts turning to his own son.
But the daughter, she had been missing. Search parties had been organised and after two weeks nothing turned up until a child's body had floated passed two men fishing in the Torrin River.
They turned her over, finding her belly cut open and only a cavity where her organs should have been. One man had thrown up and collapsed into the water, almost drowning himself. The other had pulled the little girl to the shore, helped his friend to the bank and then ran back to their bags to grab his phone and call the police.
There had been more murders, all as gruesome. At every crime scene the Spindle had left his signature. And then, as suddenly as the killer had appeared, he disappeared without a trace.
Gin looked at the photo in his hand. The face of Jack Vincent, slightly blurred with movement, filled the frame of the image - the face of the Spindle.
It was almost an anti-climax, seeing the innocent looking face of the killer he had chased for years. Perhaps, he should have had a demon's ghoulish mask. Instead, the monster wore the face of a kind, can't do enough for you, guy. The sort of person you would happily invite in for tea. And then he would kill you, and take your daughter.
Gin put down the photo. He had brought him in, watched him being interviewed, and then let him loose to strike again.
I could not have known.
But maybe he should. He rubbed at the rose necklace beneath his shirt. Maybe he should have felt it, and the fact that he didn't worried him.
Kim sat in the cold darkness. She felt numb, like a used battery that has been exhausted beyond its lifespan. When he came for her, as he had done many times since the first assault, she didn't care. She stopped trying to fight, only whimpered and then let him throw her back into the cell.
She had heard a commotion the previous night, the opening of another metallic door, the shuffle of something being dragged. In the inky black of the early morning she had heard the cries of an older girl. Another one? she thought. How many will he take?
But there had been no further sound today. Not even the man had come to drag her from her cell. She shuffled up and peered through the crack of the door against the doorframe. She could just barely make out the concrete floor beyond.
"Hello?" she asked in a hoarse whisper.
"Is anyone there?" Kim tried again.
There was a distant sniff and a shuffle against the concrete floor. "Hello... Who is that?" the older girl replied.
"My name's Kim."
"Oh my God, how long have you been here?"
Kim scrunched up her face. "I dunno. I'm not very good at days."
"Jesus. I don't like this. We have to do something. What can we do?"
"If I had my phone, I could call the police," said the older girl.
"Have you got it?"
The older girl was quiet for a second. "No."
Kim sat back against the wall of her cell and tears fell down her face.
"Maybe I can force the door open." There were sounds of more shuffling, the thumping warble of metal bending against strain and then silence. A few seconds later there was a deep boom as the older girl must have been trying to kick the door. Boom. Boom. Boom.
"You're making so much noise!" Kim half screamed, half whispered.
Boom. Boom. Boom. BOOM.
Amongst the thudding of feet against the metal door, Kim heard the heavy clomp of the man's feet. He did not rush, instead he moved with a purpose.
Kim looked through the gap of the door and watched as the man walked through the space beyond the door. She saw his face for the first time. It was Uncle Jack, the man who had driven her here. It was Uncle Jack who had done terrible things to her.
Jack opened the door of the older girl's cell, pulled her out by her hair and threw her to the cool, concrete floor.
"I don't like girls who can't behave," he said. He sat on her stomach and began to punch the older girl with a constant rhythm. For a time, the girl had screamed with pain, then she had gargled with her harsh breathing, and then there was only the metronomic beat of his fists against the older girl's head.
"We're searching through CCTV footage for the Land Rover, and a high alert has been posted with all traffic police," said Tom.
Gin nodded. "Good. We don't have much time. He's just getting started on another spree - that must be why he's poked his head above the surface. If those girls are alive, they wont be for long."
"We're doing what we can," said Tom.
"I hope it's going to be enough."
"What if he ditches the car?"
Gin thought for a while. "Let's hope he doesn't."
Jack dragged a long black bag across the damp gravel. Inside was the older girl's body. He had left her intact, but he intended to gut her and leave his sign 10 miles away. The thought made him smile as he reached the Land Rover.
He dropped the girl's legs he had been gripping through the bag and they thudded against the ground. He opened the Land Rover's large rear door, dragged the body closer and then propped her legs against the lip of the doorframe. He squatted down and with a heave, he managed to shove her inside. He shut the door and rubbed his hands which had been pained with a chill.
He sniffed the air, scenting the moisture of rain to come. He walked over to the barn where he had locked up both girls and picked up a shotgun that had been propped against the wall. He stepped inside the door. "Kim, honey? You be a good girl now, I don't want to have to punish you when I get back."
There was a pause before Kim replied. "Okay."
Jack sniffed at the door, as though deciding that was satisfactory, before returning to the Land Rover, placing the gun in the passenger footwell, climbing in, and setting off down the dirt road.
Two police officers rolled their way down the arterial road leading from the town. They cruised at fifty, taking in some of the scenery, but also studying the car's that passed them. Their onboard numberplate recognition cameras bleeping as it confirmed no known problems with the passing cars.
"It's a quiet one, Sam," said Michael.
Sam was driving. He adjusted his position and changed up a gear as they crested a hill. "Yeah... but I'm not going to complain."
Michael laughed. "Coffee at Sally's?" he asked, referring to the burger van a couple of miles ahead.
Sam looked at his watch. "Shit it's that time already."
The two of them laughed as an old Land Rover Defender passed them by.
The numberplate recognition system bleated in complaint. Michael checked the screen.
WARRANT FOR ARREST. MR JACK VINCENT. CONSIDERED HIGHLY DANGEROUS.
"Oh shit, it's that fucking killer. Turn us around," said Sam.
"My day just got fucked," said Sam as he pulled the car into a turning, chucked it into a hurried u-turn and raced off back up the road, siren searing through the air.
It didn't take long for them to catch up. The Land Rover was not built for speed. The driver made no reaction to them, only continued plodding along.
Michael called it in, speaking with dispatch. "They want us to stay back, we're not to approach. They're sending back up."
Sam nodded, his face tort with concentration, his mind clear and focussed, relying on his years of training. "Got it."
The Land Rover pulled off the road and along a dirt road. The police car followed, see-sawing over the lumps and pot-holes.
"Shit, what if he stops?" asked Michael.
"We'll be fine, we're wearing stab vests."
The road entered a clearing. The Land Rover drove into the open space and stopped. Michael stopped some distance back and cut the sirens, letting out a nervous breath.
Gin and Tom had raced to a car as soon as the call came through. They stormed out of the depot in a dark cloud of diesel exhaust fumes. Their siren blared and crackled as they thundered along the tarmac, through junctions and roundabouts.
"Tell them to stay back," said Gin on the radio. “He is extremely dangerous. I want armed police there as soon as possible.”
Tom threw the car onto the dual carriage-way and floored it.
The two officers opened their doors, each stepping out cautiously. "Do not get out of the car! Switch off the engine and place your hands on the wheel," Michael called out.
"That backup better hurry the fuck up," Sam said under his breath. They both stepped forward cautiously.
The driver door opened with a heavy clunk.
"Do not move!" the two officers cried.
Jack Vincent stood before them - the Spindle - and their eyes fell upon the long metal barrels of the shotgun. "Bye-bye," was all he said.
Two deafening gunshots thundered through the trees and a flock of birds burst from the trees as the sound crackled and dissipated.
Jack looked at the two dead policemen, sniffed the air, and tossed the gun to the ground. "Here then," he said and walked off into the woods.
Gin and Tom saw the two bodies on the ground and a cold shiver ran up both of their spines. Tom brought the car to a slow stop. The two of them surveyed their surroundings. There was no sign of Jack Vincent.
They got out and rushed to the downed officers. Gin checked their pulses. “Both dead.”
“How long till back-up?” asked Tom.
“Maybe twenty minutes. But, every second counts. I’m not letting him get away.”
“You’re going after him? Wait till the armed units arrive!”
Gin ground his teeth, the muscles by his ears knotted in a frantic pulse. “There’s his gun,” said Gin, pointing to the shotgun. “I’ll take my chances that he doesn’t have a spare.” He started off at a jog toward the woods.
“You’re crazy!” Tom shouted after him.
Gin made no reaction, only continued to jog away. Soon he was inside the tree line and he came to a stop. A hushed silence enveloped him, yet every so often there would be the snap of a twig, or branch from above, or the sound of a bird clapping its wings. “Where are you?” Gin asked the woods and began jogging again.
Tens of minutes passed as he went deeper and deeper into the woods. The trees became denser and wider in girth, towering above him. The light became darker and the atmosphere had filled with a light mist.
His senses were on edge, his body flinched at every slight sound - his eyes scanned about him, pouncing on any hint of movement. He found no sign of Jack Vincent. I’m not giving up, he thought and carried on.
In the clearing, Tom Saunders briefed the armed officers that arrived on the scene. He sent them into the trees, their semi-automatic rifles seeming dark and lethal in their trained hands.
Dog handlers arrived and they too entered the woods, sending barks and voices trailing away into the distance. Overhead, a helicopter shot passed and then began hovering slowly over the trees.
Gin’s breath wheezed and he had to stop. He put an arm against the trunk of a tree and closed his eyes to concentrate on getting his breath back. When he had calmed down, he looked about him.
In the distance, perhaps thirty metres away, he saw the silhouette of a man moving from one tree to another.
Gin’s heart thundered and a shot of adrenaline warmed him. He moved slower now, trying to get himself to a better vantage point.
The man moved into the open and darted for a felled tree. Before the man reached cover, he looked back, allowing Gin to see the face of Jack Vincent.
“Stay where you are!” Gin shouted, his voice carrying away into the woods.
Jack stopped and turned slowly, giving up the chase in a you have me now manner.
Gin continued to walk closer, careful to study every move the Spindle made.
“Did you see what I did to those pigs?” said Jack.
“They should not have gotten in my way.”
“You could have chosen… not to kill them,” said Gin clambering up an incline.
Jack held out his hands and shrugged his shoulders. “I’m a man of poor judgement - always doing before I think things through.”
“Oh I don’t know,” said Gin. “I think you’re a scheming son of a bitch.”
Jack laughed. “I sure gave you the run around for long enough.”
The two men were now mere metres from each other. Detective Gin Sodan on one side of a tree, the Spindle on the other. They stared at each other for a time, like two predators sizing each other up.
“I’m going to take you in,” said Gin. “I suggest you make it easy on yourself.”
Jack nodded slowly. “I really don’t think that’s how it’s going to happen.”
Gin raised an eyebrow. “I don’t mind doing it the hard way. It will be more painful for you.”
Gin moved forward, Jack backed up with slow, but certain movements. “Oh, detective, you are so sure of yourself.”
“Because I have the advantage of being right all the time.” He darted forward, bringing in a right hook that would have slammed into Jack’s jaw.
Jack parried the blow and pushed the detective back. They paced around each other for a handful of steps before the two of them were locked into a horrific fight of fast, fluid moves. Many of the blows were parried, but some slipped through and hammered home with a tremendous force.
Gin buried a fist into Jack’s stomach, causing the man to bow forward and let out a cry of pain and anger. Jack Vincent then returned with a series of punches to Gin’s head and a kick to his right leg. Gin cried out in pain, used a tree to push himself back into the action and launched himself at Jack.
The two of them had backed toward the edge of a steep hill and Gin’s jump sent the two of them hurtling down. They hit the dirt of the slope and the two of them tumbled down the hill.
Gin rolled wildly down the hillside and into a stream, covering his face with ice cold water. He spat out water and launched himself out of the stream. He cleared the water from his eyes and scanned the small valley.
He saw the Spindle collapsed on the ground. His back was arched up as his body was laying on top of a tree stump. The man’s breathing was slow, but his limbs made no movement. Subconsciously, Gin knew that something was wrong with the man’s body.
He reached Jack and knelt down. The man’s eyes locked on Gin, but he made no move to get up - to get at him, but Gin could see the intent in his eyes. Jack’s breathing was hoarse and croaking with the deathly rasp of a man moments from death.
“Game… over,” said Jack.
“Tell me where the girl is,” said Gin.
“N...never. You… can go… fuck yourself… I will… never tell… y...you.”
Gin looked about the valley. There was silence apart from Jack’s croaking breath. No other police officers, no dogs, not a soul around them.
He looked back at Jack, at the Spindle. “Perhaps, you wont have to.” He reached into his shirt and pulled out the rose necklace around his neck. He closed a hand over the crystal rose and placed the other hand on Jack’s face.
Gin’s face contorted with concentration and a crimson glow escaped from between Gin’s fingers. Jack cried out in pain and took in a deep, guttural breath.
Gin dived into the dark depths of Jack’s mind, beyond the horrific images of the man’s imagination, beyond the torturous memories of the killings already committed and toward the memories in the deepest recesses of that terrible mind.
He saw the barn, the concrete floor, the metal door and the dirty girl inside. Then he saw the place, the place where terrible acts had been carried out on that poor girl. Anger broiled up in Gin, but he needed more. He saw the dirt road that let up to the barn, the trees surrounding the place. He saw the main road and he remembered the junction from his memories. It had been part of his daily commute for years.
He pulled back, leaving the depths of Jack Vincent’s mind and returned to the cold valley. He removed his hand and saw that the Spindle was dead.
Kim listened as cars approached, their tyres crunched against the gravel outside the building and then it came to a stop.
Two doors slammed shut and two people walked toward the building. More doors opened and shut and more footsteps approached.
The footsteps came toward her across the concrete floor. The bolt to her door opened with a sudden SNAP! and then the door was opened with a metallic whine.
She feared it would be Uncle Jack with more people to hurt her, but instead she saw a tall man with dark hair and policemen and women behind him.
“I’m Detective Gin Sodan,” the tall man said. “I’m here to set you free. Come on.” He held out a hand and Kim took it, feeling a surprising warmth from his palm. It reassured her and she smiled for the first time in longer than she could remember.