There, where darkening...
“Don’t let anyone get into your head... you’re the one carrying its weight!” hissed Lion to Snake.
Melanie opened her eyes. Deep dark, suffocative dark, loomed round her. The torrential rain woke her up. She was unconscious for too long. Every sound, every thunder that was heard from the heavy rain pounding against a window, even her own breath felt as if the Grim Reaper were shouting to her.
Am I dead? She wondered. Her heart started to palpitate wildly, in fear. Her eyes expanded; she tried to distinguish shapes amidst chaotic blackness. The same deep dark was there, dreadful as before. Her throat sore, her mouth, stretched by tape that kept her silenced. It was difficult for her to breathe; every inhalation was scratching her throat. She felt nude. She was nude!
Something harsh, a rope perhaps, was coiled tightly around her body, grazing her aged skin. She realised that she couldn’t move her arms and legs, and that she was tied up in a chair. She then recalled...
It was after past 8 in the evening. She was reading a book, when someone knocked at the main door. The gentle voice of a man, asked for help. When she opened it, he dashed furiously inside and bashed her face, hurling her on the floor. She bumped heavily, sprawling on the wooden surface of the doorway. Her vision became fogy and she saw little stars sparkling round her. The dark shadow of a tall man closed the door, hiding the showering rain out the street... then dark again.
Melanie wasn’t usually so naive as to open the door to strangers. But Oaklime is a peaceful, small village outside Cambridge, and few strangers pass by here. She felt secure, helping any stranger, never imagining that she would awake to find herself gagged, naked, fastened in a chair; her hands and legs bound together. She made and attempt to move and escape, but the thick rope deprived any movement.
She shivered, trembled, fear charred her skin and tears started to flow down her cheeks.
Who could want to hurt me? –she strived with that thought.
The door creaked open. The sound made her body to writhe in panic. Dim light emitted through the door and Melanie realised that she was in her cellar. She heard a click. The light switched on and the cellar became suddenly bright, blinding her vision. She quickly blinked, trying to adjust her vision at the unexpected illumination. Heavy, slow steps at the stairs worsened the trepidation. The rope tightened sharper around her waist and limbs, cutting into her wrinkled skin.
“You’re awake,” the cadence of a man echoed gently. He stood in front of her now, looking at her with sneer.
He was a man round age fifty but not older than sixty. His clothes implied a well-paid profession, but the garments seemed well-worn. She tried to remember if she’d ever broken a man’s heart and now, that one, had come back for vengeance. But she was seventy-one years old and had never had any preference for younger men, so that was not likely.
Is he a former pupil?... she wondered, while studying his face, hoping to help her memory.
“You don’t remember me, Miss Cox” his low voice asked, but the look in his grey eyes, put contrast to the softly spoken words. He held a large kitchen knife, threateningly, in his left hand, gazing at her with contempt. She did not understand any of it but, the leather gloves he wore made her conclude that he had carefully planned this. And now that she had seen his face, he wouldn’t let her live to tell any of this.
Her heart felt a sting and more tears filled her eyes, blurring her vision. Her wounded body hurt less than the shadow of death.
Why should I die this way, Lord?... her contemplation, was much of a prayer than a question. Terror brought a shiver down her spine, lacerating her skin, as the rope that squeezed roughly her aching bones.
The man snatched the tape away, freeing her mouth, but his harsh move left her under-lip bleeding.
“Why are you doing this? What do you want?” she said, hearing her own voice to sound strange to her ears. She had never used this sharp tone before.
The strict timbres of her voice, struck a cordon on Leonard. His jaw clenched in anger. This austerity reminded him of his mother’s and the need to punish the woman in front of him, augmented.
“Why you took off my clothes, you freak,” she went on, harshly as before but when she tried to add more, the words stuck in her throat. His fist pummelled her face, spurting blood in the air, bedaubing his black glove. Her moans of pain, made Leonard to groan in satisfaction. He then stooped down in her level, smirking in front of her battered face.
“When people are naked,” he said, slowly, fiendishly “They feel vulnerable, as if their soul is exposed in front of the whole world, no matter if only a pair of eyes is watching them. Shame demoralises them, daunts them, thence is easier for me to control them... to control you, Miss Cox,” he said the last patting with the edge of the knife the intimate part in between her thighs.
Melanie gave a yelp, feeling repulsion to overwhelm her. “You’re mental!” she whimpered with trembling, bleeding lips, watching at her satyr to smirk “I’ve done nothing to you. Who are you? Why are you doing this to me? Don’t you see how old I am! I’m of none use to you,” her voice came out imploringly, against her will. This was absurd to her.
The thought of being abused by a man, had crossed her mind when she was younger. But now, that aged that she was, what kind of soul could ever want something from her. Everything seemed so surreal. She even hoped that all this was just a nightmare, and she’d soon wake up. But her injured body, burning here and there, made her hope to perish.
“A rose is a rose,” he sang, with low voice “And a rose can’t be more than a rose.”
“L-L-Leonard!” muffled Melanie. Her eyes widened in terror. She reminisced about a past, when the snaky voice of this man ingeminated habitually this phrase. Painful memories started to strike her heart. And yes, now she knew exactly who he was; the hideous deeds he’d done when he was younger, twenty years ago. She was wrong; the man wasn’t fifty-years-old, she knew his exact age. Leonard was fifty-seven but time had favoured him. His empty eyes had many wrinkles around and his hair was grey, but his tall body seemed well kept.
Leonard snickered, feeling the pleasure of being recognised. Her view, being tied up in his total control, delighted his heinous soul. But what brought tingles through his groins was her pitiful, battered face. He would appreciate it more if she pleaded for her life. He would enjoy it more, humiliating her but midnight was approaching, and he was short of time for what he had planned.
“Why are you here? What you want from me?” Melanie said with broken voice. It was preposterous to her but a peculiar sparkle of hope warmed her heart. It made no sense, that knowing her aggressor would calm a bit her terror. Leonard was a monster with humanly flesh but he hadn’t had any preference in aged women.
“Oh,” Leonard sighed, feigning wearied “You know why I’m here, Melanie.” he said, putting the blade against her collarbone. He trailed the knife around her neck, as he added “I want to see my old friends.”
She grunted, feeling the cold blade, scratching the skin of her neck. A rivulet of blood ran down to her chest, smearing the knife.
“Please, untie me,” she said, and gulped before trying to convince him with a lie “Let me get dressed and we can talk. You don’t have to do this. We could just have a tea and talk about everything you want, and-”
“Like old friends that we are?” he sneered “Whom are you trying to befool, stupid woman?” he growled the last, veering over her. Melanie startled in fear, tearing a mockery chuckle by him. Approaching her neck, alike a venomous snake; pungent odour of sweat came to his nostrils. He recognised the stink of fear, mingled with smell of blood. He felt pleasure again. He felt omnipotent when he caused torturing fear.
“You don’t have any friends left here,” snapped Melanie, not being able to hide hater anymore. The same immense hater that she felt in the past, watching at this malicious man.
“I know, Melanie.” Leonard said, tired to be patient with her “I passed by Michael’s house. Another family was living there. What cutie children they have!” he laughed, enjoying her eyes to turn stunned.
Melanie felt as if a rock crushed her heart “Did you hurt them?” she uttered, not feeling any air in her lungs. Leonard smiled and a malign gaze came across his face.
“No,” he sang, softly, spitefully “But not that I didn’t want to.”
“Why are you out?” she asked, but feared at the idea that crossed her mind. Just this morning, Michael had called and passed the message that Leonard finished his sentence and would be free. But Melanie never imagined that Leonard would come straight to her. She underestimated this situation. She knew well how malicious Leonard was, but never had she thought that he’d be able to abduct and torture her this way. He was freed from that correctional facility, but only to return more abhorrent than he once was.
Alas! Now, all hell has broken loose!... she struggled with that ominous thought.
“Why am I out?!” repeated Leonard, feigning surprise “First of all, I was unjustly convicted in that place and you know-”
“Yeah, right,” mocked Melanie “They should chain you in hell after what you did.”
“You think Whitemoor isn’t hell?” he blared and gave a smack against her bruised cheek, having the whim to want to tear her off with his bare hands, to feel her bones crushing under his foot.
Her head shifted. Melanie felt a sharp pain in her neck, as if something slashed her spine. “Michael took his family and moved away,” she said, dazed by the growing pain. Feeling the taste of her own blood into her mouth, she swallowed and went on “It’s been two decades now that they haven’t showed up here. After what you did, it was difficult for Michael to-”
“After what I did?” shouted Leonard “How about what HE and that bitch of gypsy woman that he has for wife, did to me, eh?” he approached, and grasping her chin growled “I want you to tell me where they are, Melanie.”
The old woman felt her jawbones crackling and screeched in pain. “I don’t know,” she made it to sob “I swear it; I don’t know where they went.”
“You’re a liar,” he barked, feeling the bones into his fist to grind more. But he released her. He didn’t want to break her jaw before taking what he came for. “Tell me where they are, and I’ll let you live,” he said with phony courtesy “You were Margaret’s best friend, Melanie. You want me to believe that that bitch hasn’t kept contact with you? I know she has. I know how her brain works. So tell me where they are, or I’ll suffocate you in your own blood,” he grumbled the last, grabbing her throat.
He squeezed it, making the woman’s eyes to widen in horror. Out of pleasure he clamped more her neck but then seeing her blue eyes to roll and become white, he released her. “Tell me,” Leonard barked panting, gusting his sharp breathing over her face.
Melanie erupted in uncontrollable coughing. Leonard fisted her white long hair and snarled over her face “You must understand, Melanie. They put me in that hellhole Whitemoor. I didn’t deserve that. That bitch framed me, and you know it. The evidence that police found against me, were constructed by her.” he growled, feeling hate and bloodlust to overwhelm him “SHE, that gipsy bitch framed me. I need an apology from her. I need to hear Michael to plead me for forgiveness. Tell me where they are, or I’ll break every bone in your body.”
“I don’t...” Melanie tried to utter when his fist bashed her jaw again, launching her on the floor. Her head hit the ground and she felt numbness by pain and fear. Leonard rushed to free her from the chair but only to tie up her hands at the wooden beam of the ceiling. Hanging her from her hands he heard her whines, pleading him to stop. But he wouldn’t stop. He enjoyed her imploring whines, gaining the satisfaction he craved when was young. Grabbing the kitchen knife, he placed it against her stomach and pinned, enough to bring her pain but not to cut her.
“Tell me where they are, or I’ll butcher you piece by piece until your last breath. You have no idea what ways of killing you I’ve imagined. If I could keep you alive and kill you over and over again, eviscerate you, rip off your skin, inch by inch. That’s what I’d do, only to see you die in different ways.” he grunted in gratification by his own atrocious imaginations. Dug the knife in her hip and skilfully, amputated a piece of muscle.
He knew very well how to cut her out without making her to bleed uncontrollably. At the first scream the woman gave, he shut her mouth with his palm, trying to overpower her convulsing body. “Don’t scream,” he growled the absurd demand.
“In Esher,” Melanie sobbed in despair “In... Esher town... Elmbridge... Surrey...” she whimpered, praying inside her that Margaret would forgive the treachery. “I don’t... know the address... I don’t...” she panted and felt a sharp strike into her stomach, taking her breath away. Leonard thumped deeper the knife into her guts then twisted it out.
The last thing that Melanie saw before letting out her last breath was the devious smirk of Leonard. Her eyes stood opened but lifeless, with terror mirroring in there, only Leonard’s face. He cut the rope and the dead body sprawled on the floor with a sharp thudding noise. He searched round and finding some plastic sheets, folded the body, not to let it to imbue the ground with blood.
It was past midnight, none soul would walk out the streets of this village at this hour. Pounding rain was showering the streets and the sound of thunderstorms secured him by any eyewitness. The weather made difficult his movements but it would help him to finish his monstrous deed. And even more, this wild nature and weather would destroy any evidence which could lead to him. Leonard carried his victim out in her car. He kept the lights off, not to provoke sleepless, curious neighbours to look out the streets.
He drove round, taking his time, having the dead woman in the vehicle’s boot. He scouted for long every cornfield that he aye was familiar with. He chose a field, far away from the village but with connection to a main road. There were enough trees around giving him the privacy he needed. He threw her to a ditch, under a tree, and tethered her hands and legs with strings, to make her seem as a puppet.
He stood there for few minutes and admired his abhorrent job. The naked body of the woman, bleeding out here and there, around her hips and arms, her eyes still expanded in horror. Leonard gave a chuckle and felt arousal in his groins. But satisfying his sexual need with this old woman would leave more evidence to police. He dropped the idea and stooped down to finish his deed. Skilfully, he mutilated her breasts and slashed open her belly to place in there a red handkerchief he had previously found in her house. With his neat and precise cuts on her body, he not only satisfied the narcissistic part of himself but he also wanted to boast to police, that this was a crime committed by a professional.
The forensic stuff would easily recognise his skills in human anatomy, but they would be led to the wrong field. Leonard had excessive knowledge in surgery but he had studied psychiatry, and this was something that none criminal profiler would figure out.
He stuffed into her pelvis area a toy doll, and whoever would find the body, would spread the details to the press, sending Leonard’s message to those people that he mostly wished to terrorise. He wanted to plant fear and dread to Margaret’s and Michael’s soul, and Melanie was the perfect lamb to be sacrificed for his cause. There was nothing left for Leonard anymore; nothing but revenge harboured his soul. Twenty years ago, he had lost everything he once had on this world; none family was ever there for him, neither friends nor relatives remembered him anymore. He had nothing to lose by making his enemies to pay for what they’ve done.
Smiling at the atrocious view of Melanie’s mutilated body, he turned and went to clean her car and house, to make sure he hadn’t left anything to the forensics.
Getting back to Melanie’s house, Leonard rushed to find chlorine and clean the cellar. He washed meticulously the pool of blood on the concrete floor. Took his time to scrub and mop. Scouted carefully round every corner in the cellar to assure none blood spot was left. Washed his hands and put new gloves before taking a piece of cloth. He rubbed with that rag every surface he touched, to ensure that hadn’t left his fingerprints behind. He then rummaged through Melanie’s house and found some money in her bedroom. Before sun to rise, Leonard left Oaklime village with destination London. Commuting with trains, gave him enough time to reflect on his next plans.
Leonard had no money and the amount he found at Melanie’s, wouldn’t last for long. He needed a place to stay and a car to move freely round London and Surrey. When he studied at University of Cambridge he had made some friendships. In the past he had many mates who appreciated him, respected him and even loved him, but now there was no one.
Michael used to be a very good colleague and mate, but now he’ll pay for what he’s done! -swore Leonard with this thought.
Leonard was twenty years incarcerated in Whitemoor prison, Cambridgeshire. He had enough time to prepare every detail of his return. He had time to keep kindled his grudge against Michael.
After three hours of trip, Leonard arrived in London. The lively city, the sounds and aromas round the streets made him feel astounded.
Oh, how many things have changed through these years -he thought, dazzled. He wandered off round Vauxhall Station. Gently as always, he asked commuters for directions, and headed to Southwark area.
Andy Bailey lived in Southwark. He would host him in his house, either by will or force –Leonard would decide this as soon as he’d be there.
Andy was a weak soul. As soon as Leonard osmoses weaklings on peoples’ skin he’d do anything to keep them close and mould them. He’d use them as puppets for whatever he needed. But back in University, Andy was the one who needed at Leonard, or so he felt after Leonard offered his friendship. It was always give and take –Leonard offered a skilfully written paperwork to Andy, who always had trouble in putting his thoughts down to a paper. And Andy, always appreciating helpful people, would do anything for Leonard –money or a bed to sleep.
“What are you doing here, Leo?” Andy said, closing the main door and feeling a chill of fear around his shoulder, fear which was old as his memories with Leonard.
“Your parents?” said Leonard, taking a seat on the sofa and looking at the photo frame; Andy’s parents.
“They passed away some years ago,” replied Andy, feeling more comfortable into his own house. Andy knew that Leonard was twenty years imprisoned in Whitemoor. Andy knew for what was Leonard sentenced, but what Andy didn’t know was that his old mate was capable of murder.
“Aren’t you glad for seeing me, Andy?” said Leonard, with a wide simile across his face “Come on, mate, relax. You’re acting like you saw a ghost. I know that what I did then was wrong. Guilt shall never leave my conscience in peace. But I paid for my crimes with twenty years of my life. I’ll forever regret what I did but isn’t fair to continue suffering. I want to make it right now, Andy. Is time for me to make a new start, but I have no one left, buddy. You’re the only one I have,” he said the last feigning nostalgia, to warm up Andy’s heart.
Leonard was pleased that Andy’s parents had passed away. Andy would be more vulnerable and for Leonard easier to wield him. This perspective offered to Leonard a home to stay, at least for couple of days, until to track down Michael and Margaret Andreou.
Andy welcomed at Leonard but reluctantly let him stay and lend him his car and everything Leonard needed. Andy felt good doing favours to an old mate but as in the past, felt scowls in his guts, as if alarming him that something wasn’t right. There was always something wrong with Leonard but Andy never could figure out what.
Leonard had it easy to convince Andy that would stay only as long as was needed to find a job and a flat of his own. Andy wasn’t pleased of this. He didn’t want Leonard in his life but if he helped then the sooner would get rid of his old mate.
With this hope, Andy helped Leonard to emancipate in contemporary London, telling him the basic things of living in this multicultural city. When Andy was at work, teaching maths in a primary school, Leonard took his car and drove to Esher, staying there until late in the evening.
He hiked round playgrounds and cafeterias, hoping to hear anyone talking Greek. Michael was from Greece and it wouldn’t be difficult to locate him in a small town as Esher.
Every time that Leonard searched round Esher town, he was disguised. He wore a flat cape and a fake moustache, not to be recognised, in case that would run to Michael. It took him two weeks, but he tracked down Michael’s house, and was stunned by the view of the double mansion and huge garden. There were two houses joined to one another, each with two floors. Both residences had wide blue windows and at the front porch doors was a huge terrace with colourful pebbles and bushy flowers, endless jasmines. The main entrances of the house were apart from one another, offering privacy to the owners.
Leonard was curious to find out who lived in each mansion. Michael had only a daughter, Alexandra. These houses were two big for three people to inhabit there.
Opposite from the house, across the street was a cafeteria and it would be the perfect place for him to stalk and hide.
The following day, he came early morning and saw Michael’s daughter, Alexandra, to hop in her car and drive away. She was already in her thirties, but seemed a rare beauty, as she aye was. He trailed her car and found out that she was a doctor; the best Pathologist at a private Clinique in Greenwich. Leonard was even tempted to pretend injured just so to have her in front of his sight and relish her shocked face. But he had other things to do. He needed much more information about his targets. He needed to know every detail of Michael’s life and went back in Esher to continue his stalking.
The old-man has done it very well for himself -thought Leonard, admiring the white house. The eternal envy that boiled in Leonard’s guts, scowled his insides.
It was midday. A sweltering Augusts’ day; he was at the cafeteria across the street, drinking cold tea and observing. Michael got out from the left house and walked languidly through the garden. He smiled slightly and with his hand teased the bloomed jasmine flowers around him. The old man had gained much more weight. His hairs were white and rare but joy and happiness reflected brightly across his face.
“Grandpa,” a joyful exclamation was heard from the house at the right side, the same house that Alexandra came out. A young lady, not older than age twenty, rushed out and running through the jasmine trees bounced into Michael’s arms, embracing him. The view left Leonard stunned! Alexandra had a daughter! Michael had a granddaughter! Now he understood the meaning of the double-house!
The view of the young and beautiful gal, resembling at Margaret when was she was younger, filled Leonard with creepy delight.
All these days he had seen this creature from close enough and was confused at the view. This girl assembled the woman who had locked him in a living hell, twenty years ago.
The young lady bought customarily tea at the cafeteria, there where Leonard hid and stalked. When she walked in, he had smelled her Jasmine perfume, filling the space round him. He gawked at her as summer wind blew through her brown, long, wavy hair. He had ogled closely her soft, bronzy skin and curvaceous shape. He was tempted to lay his hand and touch her hips, as he longed to touch at her grandmother in the past. He wished to grab and squeeze her throat, to have total control over her. And never let her go, even if death warmed over her delicate body.
There she was; a younger version of Margaret that he could grasp.
A few days later, Leonard would see Michael and Margaret, singing happy birthday to the young lady!
Yes, the bonny lass looked much like Margaret, but this younger version was prettier. The hazel, piercing, gold eyes that once upon a time used to look at Leonard with contempt, now had another aura; more sensual, more tempting, more mysterious!