All is not as it seems.
Sherylee shook her hair and brushed the curls into order. She huffed. She had been dumped by her boyfriend when he accused her of flirting with his best mate. She felt indignant and mistreated. It would not be the first time he had two timed her, the freaking hypocrite. It was one rule for him and another for her.
After he had belted his friend and had to be dragged out she was left on her own. None of the men in the club wanted to have anything to do with her. Rod her boyfriend, no make that ex-boyfriend, was built like a brick shed and had frightened the men there. They wanted no trouble in case he came back looking for her. She would make her own way back and look for a better guy tomorrow. One who stayed faithful and didn’t knock her around when he was drunk.
She stood at the bus stop and then realised she had missed the last bus. She would have walked home but she had felt queasy lately and needed a lift tonight. She rang a cab firm. She was told she would have to wait an hour. She started to walk home feeling rotten; a lousy end to a lousy evening. The cab driver had warned her to stay there under cover to be safe but what could happen to her? She had walked this way dozens of times before.
It started to drizzle, and she grimaced. Perfect! Two cars stopped and offered her lifts, but she thought she would be better walking safely to her home. She missed her footing on the rough sidewalk where a slab had lifted and wrenched her ankle. It was pouring down, and she was soaked through. Now she would have to accept a lift, damn it. She waited by the edge of the kerb and a car slowed down.
There were two women and a man. The older woman sat in the driver’s seat. Safe.
‘‘May I offer you a lift my dear?’’ said the woman driver in a cultured accent. She looks classy. Modern but sophisticated. Dressed out of Macey’s, not Walmart like herself. Her car was rather ordinary given her clothes and jewellery and her hair which had been lightened and coloured by a master.
This woman smacked of money. Would she take her as far as her house in the shabby district where Ma lived? Dad had beaten it when she was born, saying he already had too many kids to support and welfare could provide for them instead. They had lived a hand to mouth existence and her ma had worked the streets to provide for them. She herself had a secretarial qualification and intended getting out as soon as she could find a decent man or even a girl to share a place with. Anything to avoid the grinding poverty her ma and siblings lived in.
‘’I live in Sherborne Street, Ma’am, near the hospital.’’
‘‘Get in, I know it, I lodged near there once,’’ said the woman, not turning a hair when she recognised the street name.
She must not have minded slumming it. She saw her friends gesturing from a cab. They wanted her to share it but where were they when Rod turned funny? They had ignored her and him. She would ignore them tonight and give them a piece of mind when she next met up with them.
The woman seemed to be a quiet one. She waited for Sherylee to sit herself comfortably next to her and then turned on the radio to a modern rock station. She stated to her companions after driving five minutes, ‘‘I’ll let you out now.’’
‘‘Thanks,’’ said the younger woman. ‘‘We can cut though that alley.’’ She looked at Sherylee as if assessing her. Sherylee was glad she was getting out. She seemed to be cold and unfriendly.
‘‘Goodbye Miss, I hope you get home quickly in this awful weather,’’ she said tersely. Her male friend had said nothing, his burning eyes just staring at Sherylee. He gave her the creeps. She was pleased when the lady drove the car away quickly after saying her goodbyes. The woman didn’t talk to her but concentrated on the road in the driving rain. It was almost impossible to see the road through the steel like rods pelting the car.
Sherylee liked to chat. She didn’t find the woman’s silence comforting. ‘’Do you know the area around the hospital well, Ma’‘am?’’
‘Yes, I went there regularly for a while. You shouldn’t walk around there at night. It isn’t particularly safe.’’
‘‘Oh, I have been walking around there since I was small. I was born there you know.’’
’’Well be careful. I wouldn’t take too many lifts. Not at night. You don’t know who could pick you up.
Sherylee saw the direction they were driving and was pleased to see it was near where she lived. ‘‘You could stop here if you want Ma’am. I can walk the next block.’’
‘‘Of course not! I would be remiss not taking you to your door. Why are you alone at night?’’
‘’I argued with my boyfriend and we left separately. I’‘ve finished with him.’’
‘‘There are other men waiting for you. I have a friend Michael you would like to meet. He likes nice girls like you.’’
‘‘You mean a blind date Ma’am,’’ asked Sherylee, a little shocked that a man as sophisticated as her friend might want to date a girl like her from the wrong side of the tracks.
‘‘Something like that. I would like to introduce you to him one day.’’
‘‘That might be nice Ma’am. We could go for coffee or something,’ she said. Like in the movies, meeting someone nice who would take care of you. She then admitted shyly, ‘‘I don’t know your name Ma’am.’’
‘‘Sherylee Dixon, Ma’am.’’
‘‘A pretty name. Please could you hand me that notebook that has fallen on the floor. I would like to take your details for Michael.’’ She had slowed down at a quiet junction.
Sherylee bent to pick up the notebook but couldn’t see it. She felt a hand on her neck. It pushed her down and she felt a prick on her neck. She reacted violently, pulling her head up and pushing the woman away. The woman responded by slapping her, but she couldn’t fight back. Her head was foggy, and the world was blackening around her until she felt she had to sleep.
She woke up later, cuffed to a bed in a warehouse type place. She heard a scurry and saw the rats running across the floor. One jumped on to the bed and climbed on to her leg. She felt sick and terrified as it watched her deathly, silently, with beady eyes. She screamed at it and kicked it off the bed. It moved quickly off into the corner watching her, as if it was waiting for its next meal
Ms Dryland Stone stood by a large plastic covered table. Sherylee cringed when she saw the scalpel lying there. Her throat felt dry and she could barely speak.
‘‘Where is this Michael you wanted me to meet?’’ she managed to ask. Perhaps this was a joke to stop her running away from him. He might be as ugly as sin and woman were frightened of meeting him. The woman’s eyes ran stonily across her. She shrugged and said, ‘‘He is coming to talk with you soon to see if you are what he wants; if you fit his needs.’’
’’Please can you take these cuffs off? I won’t run away. Is he ugly? I’ll be nice to him if he is. I don’t want to hurt him or him to hurt me.
‘‘Of course, he is not ugly, you stupid girl! He is as handsome as a man can be. He is just busy that is all.’’ She looked at Sherylee with contempt.
‘‘Just stay there and do as you are told.’’
Sherylee heard a sound behind her. The other woman in the car had come in. She put on some plastic gloves and covered her hair and body with plastics. She looked like a doctor off ER. Then she made a brief internal examination of Sherylee. When she had finished, she whispered something to Mrs Dryland Stone. The older woman’s brown eyes looked like hard marbles. She appeared livid.
‘‘You will be no good. Michael won’t want you after all.’’
‘‘Can I go then?’’ asked Sherylee petrified.
‘‘No, you know us now. I cannot let you go. Our friends will deal with you,’’ she said pointing to the rats. ‘‘They will make sure no-one recognises you.’’ She put some scraps of bloody meat on Sherylee’s chest and walked away.
The rats seeing their chance jumped on Sherylee. She shook them off but not before one had bitten her neck. She screamed. The others crouched ready to jump her again but were scared away by people coming close. She heard another voice and footsteps coming near. The girl from the car injected her. The man loomed over her. Then the injection began to work, and she couldn’t move.
Mrs Dryland Stone, or Madeline, her real name, was tearful, she would anger him. She had bungled, stopping to pick up the girl. She thought she would please him, surprise him with the girl; a prize for him, the man she adored. She had been duped. The girl’s body was what he wanted but she was not what she seemed. She was a little whore and pregnant A lovely shell hid an impure soul. They had to get rid of her; let him take the part he needed and put the police off his trail. He had friends who helped him now; saw in him what she saw; the master artist and wanted to help him in his quest. She had to make sure she was needed by him, necessary to him or he might rid himself of her and use them instead.