The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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“Hello?” An impatient voice seeped into Madison’s daydream as she blinked, her eyes stinging from lack of sleep, and focused on the disgruntled customer in front of her. The clock was just ticking over to half two. She was on her last night shift, the previous weeks’ events still fresh in her disordered mind.

“Sorry, it’s been a long night,” she mumbled. The man was more annoyed than he was sympathetic, grunting in response and handing over the money for his cigarettes and a small bottle of vodka. She should have called in sick or something. Every time she closed her eyes; she pictured him, staring back at her.

The shop remained empty until she finished at three, bringing the horror of working until the early hours of the morning to an end. Marking the start to a long, three-day weekend.

“Did you want me to drop you home?” Peter asked, as he routinely did, coming out on to the shop floor from the staff room and clearing his throat with a phlegmy cough.

“Yes,” Madison replied, sounding more eager than she had wanted to and sinking back into herself behind the till as she withdrew her key from the cash drawer, “please. Yes please.”

Peter looked surprised; he’d clearly been expecting her normal rejection. He licked his chapped lips, nodding and patting himself down for his car keys. Madison’s stomach churned. She wished she had just taken out a sub to pay for the taxis she’d been getting all week but it felt rude to back out now. So, she bit her tongue and grabbed her jacket as he fussed around behind her on his phone.

Peter engaged in idle small talk, asking what she did in her spare time if she had a friendship group, who she lived with and so on. A little too personal for Madison’s liking but she kept her answers vague. Refraining from opening herself up to him before he came to a stop at the bottom of her road.

“Here’s fine, thank you for the lift. I’ll see you next week,” Madison said politely as she opened the passenger door, not wanting to lead him all the way to her house.

“No worries,” He replied, pulling away the second she got out, leaving her to make the thirty-second walk to her house alone.

She watched until he had disappeared completely out of sight and she was plunged into darkness. There were no sounds at all, no cars, no animals, no wind or trees or birds. A deep silence held her, placing a leaden weight in her chest. The weight of discomfort, Madison nervously clutched her bag strap and hurried to her front door.

She had barely managed to slide the key in the lock seconds before her body was slammed up against the cold wood. A filthy hand clapped over her mouth, holding a cloth to her nose and mouth, taking away any capability she had to scream. She desperately tried to wrestle free from the vice-like grip that had her arms pinned behind her but they wouldn’t let up. The last thing she took note of was a penetrating chemical scent that burnt at her nostrils before everything faded to black, her legs flaking from beneath her.

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