It had been a busy night for Melissa Wilks at the Griffon Public House; she had worked there for the past several years and had settled into an easy routine. Her 21st birthday had been celebrated there just recently and her easy smile and warm personality made her a popular figure at the Public House. Sliding the last latch in place on the main doors she almost slumped against them as Karl the Duty Manager came through to check on her. “Looks Like we are all done here for the night; why don’t you head off and I’ll finish up.” “Are you sure?” replied Melissa pushing herself from the door. “Yeah go ahead its fine. Carol is working late tonight so I said I would pick her up on the way home” with a quick glance at his watch and a smile to Melissa Karl finished his sentence with a wistful note “and that; oh gives me another hour yet” Tossing the bar cloth she had been using to wipe the tables down with to Karl she smiled and called back to him “Night then! See you tomorrow” “Night” was all of his reply Melissa heard as she saw his head disappeared down the cellar steps. Gathering up her things and wrapping up for what she knew would be a chilly night this time of year she stepped out into the brisk autumn evening. Breathing in the cold air and looking around at the now empty car park she walked towards her car almost wrapping her arms around herself and trying to keep the cold from penetrating her warm winter coat as she took her first few steps away from the pub. A wind picked up and started the leaves rustling in the trees that surrounded the parking area. Melissa liked the Griffon as it was a lovely country pub, or as much as one as you were to find here in London, and she always felt safe with the quiet peaceful sounds of the country all around her; she had grown up in the country and the still in the air tonight gave her a sense of peace. It was that familiarity with the sounds of the country at night that made her pause as she walked across the car park; so familiar was the rustle of the leaves that at first she didn’t notice the difference between the leaves being moved by the wind high above in the branches of the trees to the fallen leaves upon the ground being slowly pushed aside by the movement of someone in the woods at the edge of the car park. Glancing back she could see the door to the pub only a very short walk away and considered going inside to wait for Karl as she peered into the gloomy darkness of the tree line. Straining her eyes to see into the trees she pushed her hands deeper into her pockets and wrapped her hand tightly around her car keys. Looking up she could see the moon peaking in and out between the drifting clouds illuminating the woods as it did so. Melissa smiled, while shaking her head, wondering to herself what she was expecting to come bounding out of the trees as she continued on her way to her car. With her thoughts now firmly fixed on a nice long warm bath in the comfort of her home she pulled her keys from her pocket and traced her fingers around the button for the central locking to the car. The sound of her heels resounding upon the surface of the car park suddenly became so apparent to her; they were almost like the thudding rhythmic beat of a heart and perhaps this is why she had at first missed the faint echo hidden within her own footsteps. The rational side of her mind was telling her that it was simply the echo that accompanies all sound at night but she could hear it now; she was so sure. Slowing her walk now almost measuring each step she listened intently for that sound that was just on the edge of her own footsteps, then she could hear it with every foot step she took, the familiar metallic sound of the heel upon the ground was accompanied by a softer padded footfall. Melissa could feel her heart quicken and her mouth begin to dry, the panic that began to flood her mind almost threatened to steal her sanity but fighting it back she stopped walking and gasped for air and gripped her keys tightly then pointed them at her car as she hit the release button on the fob. The car flashed in response and she heard the locks click open. She was only ten feet from her car now and felt reassured simply by knowing that she could open the door and dive into her car for safety. There was no one around and she could get to her car now long before anyone could get to her. Walking ever closer to her car she realized the other sound had stopped; she almost convinced herself that she had imagined it all when Melissa suddenly realized that the slight incline that her car was parked upon obscured her vision of the woods beyond. Her mind began to race again and her stomach convulsed as she felt a wave of fear and sickness grip her with the sudden realization that she hadn’t been followed by anyone. Melissa had in fact been walking towards them all along and now every step took her closer to whoever may be hiding behind her car. She could feel herself shaking as her mind tried franticly to remain calm and figure out what to do; should she decide to turn and run back to the pub whoever it was if they were now so close could easily catch her she reasoned. She thought of screaming but her throat felt so dry and deep down something told her that this was all in her imagination and screaming for help in an empty car park would make her seem so silly to Karl. Her car seemed so close now and she took the final few steps toward it and reached out to the handle of the car door, her fingers clasping it and pulling it towards her, it yielded to her grip and she heard the door click open. Sighing with relief she pulled the door open and turned as she was about to lower herself into the car when she froze at what sounded like metal being scraped along the side of her car. As the sound stopped she could almost feel someone close behind her. Melissa was now almost paralyzed by fear, fighting the panic in her mind and willing her legs to move, trying to make her dry throat make any sound. She could now hear the heavy breathing of someone much larger than her close behind. Her eyes glanced down to the reflection in the side window and widened in terror at what she saw. This finally gave her the voice to scream but by now it was too late and as the first sounds of her scream began to leave her throat they were silenced as a strong vice like hand closed around her throat and lifted her from the ground. Melissa could feel the grip around her throat tightening as she was being pulled towards her attacker. The pressure in her head felt immense like it would explode and her breathing was now gasps for air; she realized her hands were pulling at her assailant but they were too strong and she was growing weaker with every breath she tried to take the lack of oxygen making her head pound even more. As the pain grew and her breathing became shallower Melissa’s arms were sapped of their strength. She desperately fought against her assailant with her mind dancing between feelings of anger, outrage and confusion. As tears rolled down her cheeks from frustration and fear she found the rational part of herself trying to formulate something to say to her attacker all the while fighting the rising panic that threatened to engulf her. If she could speak to her assailant she thought maybe she could reason with them but her mouth was so dry and she could barely breathe let alone form a word to speak. Suddenly her mind was filled with images of her friends and family and the thought that she may never see them again angered her so desperately that she found the strength to lash out with her legs and reaching up with her hand she clawed at her attackers arm feeling her nails dig into her assailants flesh causing her assailant to let out a low guttural moan but it was too little too late. An intense sharp pain in the back of her head was followed by a feeling of numbness as Melissa felt her own warm blood wash down across her face and neck; pain wracked through her body of like she had never experienced and she tried to scream again but still the strong hand held her firmly. Melissa fought to keep her eyes open but it hurt to breathe and she was so tired and confused now that the sleep that beckoned her seemed almost comforting in comparison to the pain she felt. Her attacker squeezed her throat one final time with incredible force and Melissa involuntarily spat up blood as the sound of cartilage being crushed in her throat echoed through the horrific scene that was being played out between the two. Finally her eyes flickered then closed for the last time and she was gone.