A HAND TOUCHED DONNA’S ARM AS SHE WALKED PAST. She shuddered slightly, then heard a familiar posh almost public school voice calling her name. David Wallace, her boss. Her eyes closed for a second, and she muttered, oh no, under her breath.
‘Got a minute?’ he asked, raising his eyebrows expectantly.
‘Sure David – is there a problem?’ Her heart sank as she glanced up at the clock behind him. It was already ten past five. Why did he always do this just as she was about to leave?
‘Yeah - it’s this customer report of yours. We need to have a chat about the analysis you’ve made. One or two of the trends you’ve shown seem a little unusual, to say the least.’
‘OK, let me get my notes,’ she said with a frown.
‘Bring them to my office, would you?’
Gritting her teeth, she realized what this would mean. A dissection of her whole analysis, bit by bit; which knowing David, would probably tear two weeks’ work to shreds.
She went back to her desk to fetch the necessary paperwork, cursing him for doing this to her yet again. The realisation of how meticulous he was made her fear the chances of leaving before six o’clock were virtually nil. Just what she didn’t need when she was supposed to be going out with Blake at seven-thirty to celebrate their forthcoming engagement.
David gave a little smile on her return, making her cringe.
‘Pull up a chair, Donna.’
She sat down, paperwork in front of her, and proceeded to try to clarify her analysis.
Every minute detail had to be explained, so determined was he to find out exactly what she’d done. All the figures had been checked and rechecked, so there couldn’t be a mistake in the analysis – could there? As time passed her nerves began to fray.
Her fingers drummed on his desk, and she almost felt like crying, as David droned on and on, with no apparent conception of how late it was. The clock on the wall struck six-fifteen. The man wouldn’t shut up. It seemed like he didn’t want to go home. Which wasn’t surprising, considering he lived on his own and appeared to live and breathe work, expecting everyone else to do the same.
Ever since he’d interviewed her for the Statistical Analyst job, two years ago, she’d noticed his keen interest in her work. Obviously having seen something beyond her supposed beauty. But now she suspected this interest was more than just work orientated.
To his credit, he knew his subject inside out, but when he found a couple of little errors that changed her analysis completely, she almost died with shock. How stupid must she have looked right in front of him? God knows what he thought.
Finally he stood up and smiled faintly, much to her relief. ‘All right Donna, let’s call it a day, shall we? Thanks for staying behind, I really appreciate it.’
‘Sorry I messed up.’ She gathered up her papers as she rose.
‘Think nothing of it. We all make mistakes, don’t we? Even me, believe it or not. Have a good night.’ He gave her a warm smile, then hesitated as if he was about to say something else. But he didn’t. Nevertheless, she felt slightly uncomfortable, as on occasions she’d caught him gazing at her. If ever he’d asked her out – heaven forbid - she’d die! Thank goodness he didn’t, she thought as she made to leave.
‘Donna!’ His voice was loud and made her jump and turn round. ‘Can I give you a lift?’
The colour on her face began to change to red again. ‘Er... well...’
‘It’s on my way home – honestly.’ He stared at her with a slight grin on his face.
‘No, it’s all right, but thanks anyway.’ She quickened her pace, almost running towards the main office door.
‘Oh come on, Donna - ’ he shouted after her, but she didn’t stop. Didn’t dare. Or was she overreacting to his friendly gesture?
Making her way hurriedly down the corridor, she reached the lift, pressed the button, and waited for it to arrive. It seemed to take forever – her heart thumped against her chest, fearing she’d miss her train. At last the lift arrived. Once she was inside, she drummed her nails on the chrome handrail as the floors ticked away, took out her phone and tried to get in touch with Blake, but couldn’t get through to him. Damn.
Finally the doors slid open, Donna rushed through, still annoyed at herself for being late.
When she got out of the building she was surprised to see how dark it was. Then she heard the sound of someone’s footsteps clattering behind her. Oh my God, was somebody following her? But when she glanced round there was no one there. Then walking on, she heard it again. She closed her eyes for a second, and sighed, thinking she was getting paranoid, then quickened her step, intent on getting to the station as quickly as possible.
This was all David’s fault – for not being willing to accept the fact she didn’t want a lift and making her feel on edge. When people got overfriendly, she felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. Why they thought her attractive, she found it hard to work out, even though she’d been told this from an early age. There’d always been remarks about her slender figure and turquoise eyes.
As she walked at a brisk pace, she looked at her watch, wondering if it might be possible to make the six forty-five train back to their flat. That would leave her half an hour to get ready, but it’d be a close run thing.
She crossed the main road, hurrying towards the subway, glad the sound of footsteps seemed to have gone. Hopefully, whoever it was had given up, or maybe she’d imagined it.
Dusk was fast approaching, the streets were deserted and grey. A spot of rain pricked her forehead. She pulled her jacket together and hurried to the mouth of the subway where the muffled words to `Let it Be` rang out. The entrance looked empty and dim apart from the busker sitting cross-legged on the pavement. His out of tune guitar sounded so bad it made his voice sound good. Donna smiled to herself as her heels clicked on the concrete.
Although walking through this subway made her a little nervous, she was in a hurry. No way did she want to be late for the meal. Blake would think... she didn’t know what he’d think. Sometimes he had problems dealing with other men liking her, no matter how many times she reassured him. But the idea he might consider David Wallace a rival was too ridiculous for words.
If only she could contact Blake, it wouldn’t matter. She pressed the keypad on her mobile again, intending to let him know she was running late, but his phone still seemed to be switched off. Shit.
At the end of the subway, she saw a figure standing there, his head covered by a hood. As he coughed, a hand appeared in front of his face. The lights above him were bright, but Donna didn’t look his way until he suddenly spoke.
‘Got the time darling?’ His muffled words made her jump.
He sounded young. There was a strange sweet smell close by, that made her want to puke and quickly get by.
It was six-forty, leaving her five minutes to get to the station.
‘Nearly quarter to seven,’ she mumbled, scurrying past.
As she hurried on out of the subway towards Dexford train station, suddenly, out of nowhere, an arm bent and tightened round her neck, and she was dragged into a long narrow alley, that stank of stale pee and uncollected garbage. She started gurgling at once, finding it almost impossible to scream or breathe, when a gloved hand closed around her nose and mouth. Terror spread through her body as she panicked and struggled to get free. Was this a mugging or something much worse? Oh my God, don’t hit me, she prayed. Best give him whatever she had, and hope he’d let her go.
He pulled her to one side and into one of the nearby derelict buildings, then yanked her up by her long blond hair. A fist thumped into her stomach, causing her to crumple and gasp in pain.
Wild large eyes glared at her through a balaclava helmet.
He snarled and gave out a high-pitched chuckle as if he enjoyed frightening her like this.
‘Oh no... please leave me … alone. Take whatever you want… but please don’t hurt me,’ she begged, pushing her handbag towards him. She tried to get up but was still in his grasp, his hand gripping her arm so tightly she winced in pain.
‘Stuff your bloody money – pretty lady,’ he hissed in a strange gruff voice.
All a tremble, she pleaded for mercy. Ignoring this, the man smashed his fist into her face. Warm blood trickled down her nose. She whimpered, before striking her again several times in the ribs, and on the chin. The pain was so excruciating, she could hardly draw breath.
She battled desperately to get up from the filthy debris filled floor to run. But he was too quick, and caught her by her coat, forcing her back onto the ground. Soon he was on top of her, kissing her roughly about the face as she tried to avoid his horrible greasy lips. His gloved hands clutched her breasts hard, making her clench her teeth and whine in agony. He ripped her blouse open. Buttons flew off in all directions.
Donna sobbed, shockwaves of hysteria surged through her. Oh God, if only someone would help her. This was unbearable, unreal - was he really going to do this to her. Surely not? How she wished Blake were here. Please... oh sweet Jesus... help me, she thought. She’d rather die than have this happen. How could this monster violate her like this?
In her desperation, she raked his arm with her fingernails, and went to gouge his eyes, but his hand grasped hers, wrenching it back with such force that she wept in agony. The man laughed hideously at her futile efforts to stop him. He was so strong, and well able do whatever he wanted to her. She was simply too weak to prevent it. Please God, make him stop.
Suddenly he moved his hand away, towards his own body, and fumbled with the zip of his trousers. She tried desperately to wriggle free, but he caught hold of her ripped blouse, and slapped her on the face with the back of his hand. Her nose went numb, and she tasted her own coppery blood. She tried to raise her head, but he pressed his body down hard almost suffocating her.
As he continued, she closed her eyes, trying to shut out the horror of what was happening to her. Unable to defend herself in any way, she lay there passively, wanting it over as quickly as possible. But it seemed to go on forever. And the pain deep inside was torture, like some hot blunt instrument splitting her in two. She felt his balaclava clad face close to her own, spit from his mouth trickled onto her cheek. There remained a foul pungent sickly smell about him that repulsed her.
Finally, he uttered a great groan of exquisite pleasure, stopped, and giggled. Donna shuddered, lying prostrate on the ground.
He got to his feet, breathing in deeply, and stared down at her. ‘How does it feel? Bitch! Not so pretty now, are you, eh?’ He growled.
Cold eyes stared at her; and widened with desire again making Donna’s heart flutter with dread. Her mouth flooded with sour saliva and bile come up through her throat. He began to kick her in the stomach, her legs, face, just about anywhere – and when he’d finished, he looked down at her and gave out a high-pitched laugh that almost sounded like a hyena. That same vile odour remained on him, and then he was gone.
She remained on the ground, hardly able to move, relief at being alive passed quickly. She needed to cover herself up. Her whole face began to swell up like a balloon - in fact she hurt all over and found it difficult to breathe. Her private area was deadened by what he’d done. Dear God – she felt so sick and unclean. Why had this happened to her? If only she could wake up from this horrible dream.
It took some time, but at last she staggered to her feet, wrapping what was left of her clothing tightly around her. Leaning against the wall, unsteadily she stumbled forward out of the building.
When she heard what sounded like a gang of youths approaching, her heart lifted, in the hope they might assist her. They looked across at her, some of them giggling, while others preferred to look the other way.
‘Please... help me,’ she begged, but in reply they made lewd remarks, before walking past. Weeping, she found their behaviour incredible.
Donna didn’t see the man whose arms she fell into. She glimpsed a grey beard, and a woman with her mouth gaping open.
‘Oh my God!’ the man exclaimed. ‘What on earth...?’
‘I…I…’ she whispered, tears streaming down her blood soaked face.
‘Harold – she’s been attacked. Look at her face and clothes. Oh you poor thing. Quickly - call the police and an ambulance!’ the woman shouted, covering Donna with her coat. She placed an arm round her and guided her out to a nearby bench. Donna heard Harold mumble something into his mobile phone.
She shook with ague, her body aching all over. As she glanced up, a crowd of people had gathered, talking, staring as if she was some kind of freak show. Why did they have to gawp at her in that way? She just wanted them to go away and leave her in peace.
Soon after hearing the sirens, Donna saw the flashing lights. The ambulance stopped close to where she was sitting. Two figures dressed in green uniforms emerged and rushed through the crowd to her. One, bent down and put an arm round her, and introducing herself as Anne, a paramedic, began to talk to her, but Donna couldn’t take in what was being said. Finally Anne helped Donna up and guided her towards the ambulance, then assisted her to climb inside.
Lying down, Donna was relieved when the doors closed and the vehicle left the scene of the attack. After what only seemed a few minutes, they arrived at Dexford General Hospital.
From there she was taken to her own room, where she was undressed and examined by a female doctor.
After they’d patched her up, they allowed her to wash herself in a shower, which she did over and over again in a valiant attempt to rid herself of the filth all over her.
Once she was in bed and had taken the sedative the doctor had prescribed to relax her, she drifted in and out of sleep, waking intermittently with vivid visions of the man’s evil eyes and the wicked laugh behind his balaclava helmet.
Sometime later she got up and went to the en-suite bathroom, and staring at herself in the mirror, she sobbed at her swollen face and bandaged nose. This brought it all back to her, and again terror swept over her. That horrible man had made her feel cheap and used. She’d never be the same again, and wanted to die.
Back in her room, resting on top of the bed, she kept her eyes closed, wishing the pain would go away. The sound of someone entering the room caused her to open her puffed up eyes, to see a plump policewoman with a round face, rosy cheeks and an easy smile, standing before her.
‘Hallo Donna.’ Her voice was soft, her large grey eyes widening with concern and compassion. ‘I’m Jill Meadows, Dexford police. Sorry to disturb you, at a time like this. I know you need to get some rest and it’s late, but I just wondered if you felt up to answering a few questions, about what happened to you.’
Donna didn’t answer, she just wanted to be left alone.
‘So how are you?’ Jill asked.
She burst into tears.
The police woman reached out to touch her hand, but Donna pulled back in a flash.
‘Look, I can see you’re upset. You have every right to be. But you’ll be fine, no one can hurt you now. And I promise we’ll be working day and night to find the man who did this to you. But to do that we need your help. I realise how difficult this is, but important to know exactly what happened while it’s still fresh in your mind - I believe it could make a huge difference. Could you try do that for me?’
She didn’t respond.
‘Please, Donna. I appreciate you’ve been through a terrifying ordeal, but it’s vital you tell us whatever you can. Come on try - for me and all the other girls out there, who are at risk until he’s caught.’
‘I... I can’t talk about it.’ She shook her head rigorously, breathing in and out deeply.
‘I know you don’t want to, my dear, but if you try really hard you can – believe me. There’s no point in bottling this up inside. Tell me about what he did. Or his next victim might not live to tell the tale. Is that what you want?’
She began to shake violently, biting down hard on her bottom lip. Jill Meadows was right. She had to talk about this, but it was so horrific, so humiliating; she felt too ashamed to say anything.
‘How about a drink?’ Jill asked finally. After a few seconds silence Donna nodded.
‘What do you fancy?’
Jill poured her a glass of water from the jug on her bedside table. Donna took a small sip, then gave it to Jill to put back on the table.
‘You will get over this – but of course it will take time. You’re young and strong, so your injuries will heal quickly. But what you’ve experienced can have devastating effects, mentally as well as physically - you’ll need counselling from someone specially trained in rape trauma.’
Donna pulled a face and shook her head.
‘I bet a girl like you must have lots of admirers.’ Jill seemed to be trying a different approach.
She didn’t even want to think about that.
‘You have a boyfriend?’
She nodded timidly.
‘Thought so. His name’s Blake, isn’t it?’
‘Hey, that’s a nice name. He’s a bit of a hunk, I noticed.’
‘You think so?’ Donna mumbled, unable to look Jill directly in the eye.
‘Really good looking – shame I’m not ten years younger.’
She gave a slight smile, but this small talk did nothing to calm her down, instead it made her nervous. She felt herself going hot.
‘Been going together long?’
‘Five years,’ she sighed still without looking at the police woman.
‘That’s a long time for someone so young. What - were you childhood sweethearts?’
She shrugged her shoulders.
‘That’s sweet. You’ll be glad to know he’s waiting outside with your mum and dad.’
She creased up, suddenly afraid again. ‘I don’t want them to know... everything.’
‘I realise that, but remember they love you dearly, so they’ll be very sympathetic and understanding. And can give you all the love and support you need right now.’
‘But it was degrading and I feel so dirty.’
‘There’s no reason for you to feel like that - honestly. You couldn’t have done any more than you did, and in the circumstances, I think you were very brave - ’
‘We were going out… to celebrate our engagement. Blake must have thought I’d stood him up,’ she blurted out, biting down on a fingernail.
‘Oh dear – that’s a shame! Well, he knows you didn’t stand him up now. He’s been worried sick – I can’t tell you how relieved he is that you’re still alive, and out of danger.’
‘He’ll go spare if he finds out the truth.’ She turned away to bury her face in her hands. ‘Oh God, what have I done to deserve this?’ She wept softly.
‘Nothing, love. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Listen, I don’t like to keep on at you, but I have to ask you again about what happened. Come on now - just take your time – I’ve got all night if need be. Let’s start with when you finished work tonight, shall we?’ Jill said, a notebook in her hand ready.
Donna closed her eyes and started to tremble; she didn’t want to do this, but it seemed she had no choice. It was so demeaning having to reveal all the intimate details, but Jill was so patient and supportive, Donna got through the ordeal. And once she began to open up, she was able to tell Jill everything she could remember.
It came tumbling out. All the unthinkable disgusting things that vile man had done to her. She was distraught at times, but could describe everything in great detail except for his appearance.
‘Thank you Donna, it takes a lot of guts to speak about this. I’m very proud of you.’ She smiled at her when it was all over. ‘Forensics are going through your clothes right now, and we’ve taken samples of what’s under your fingernails and from your vagina. Hopefully, if they can get his DNA, it’ll be on file. I’ll arrange for a police artist to come and sit with you in the morning, so we can get an idea of what he looks like. Is that all right, love?’
‘I... I didn’t get a good look at him. He wore some sort of mask, a balaclava I think it was; I only saw his piercing eyes. But I… I can’t even tell you what colour they were, because it was dark, and I was so frightened.’
‘Doesn’t matter – like I said, any of these tiny details might come to you in time. Remember even without a description, it’s possible we might find evidence from the samples we’ve taken. It may not be as difficult as you imagine.’
The very thought of having something of his in her body, something that might grow into... Oh sweet Jesus, hoping to God the morning after pill she’d taken earlier had worked. The alternative didn’t bear thinking about.
‘Right then – maybe it’s time I left you in peace. You’ve got more than enough to cope with right now. In the morning I’ll get all this typed up, you can read through it and sign it if you’re happy. I’ll speak to you later then, love. I expect you’d like to see your family now. They’ve been waiting for quite a while.’
‘What – yes.’ She twitched nervously.
How could she face them? They’d want her to tell them about it. And what about Blake? If only she could let him take her in his arms and make all the pain go away. But she didn’t think that was possible. And neither did she want him or anyone else seeing her smashed up face and body. Yet it seemed she had to.
‘OK. Now, if you need me any time, night or day, call this number. It’s my direct line.’ Jill gave her a card. Then just before leaving, she hugged Donna, who wanted to cry again.
As she lay there, she began to breathe erratically, panicking over having to face her family. She couldn’t prevent herself from shaking. Oh God, would she ever stop being afraid?