She looked like the spunky young professional woman as she admired her zesty, pearl blonde crop in the shared rest room mirror, and that is exactly what she was: Sophie Callow, twenty-four years old, five-feet-four and a spry nine stone. Sophie replaced the lid of her lip-gloss and tucked it away in her black leather tote bag that she had treated herself to when she learned her interview had been a success.
Behind her, Alec Preston stooped gingerly atop a toilet bowl spying his impending quarry. The monster was awake and could taste her grapefruit fragrance. Mutely he stepped down onto the Victorian tiled floor and unlocked the cubicle door. Sophie saw his reflection but could not react before he was against her. As his sinewy arms controlled her, Sophie released an impotent howl, extensively unheard. Preston’s manic hands roamed her frightened body, digging at her clothes. As the buttons on her blouse surrendered, flying across the cold expanse like a rush of startled birds, the heavy bathroom door opened.
Duke Radley was a man of truth. He worked with principles all day every day, although their correctness was not always reliable. That being said Radley refused to follow the unwritten Blue Code of Silence. Despite pressure from some colleagues, Radley knew that he would be displaying grossly displaced loyalty if he protected Alec Preston. Had Radley not entered the wrong bathroom in what was his first week in this department, Sophie Callow would have been victim to more than attempted rape.
Duke Radley was a man of standard size as well as consummate ethics. At fifty-nine Radley remained handsome. Despite the furrows of his forehead and hoary Caesar cut, he was athletic, particularly stylish and embarrassingly for him, a dead ringer for Hugh Grant. Crow’s feet bordered his engaging brown eyes; they were certainly not born of laughter. Merriment was not in the DCI’s composition, his slim mouth rarely opened in amusement; but it is true to say that Duke was far from depressed. He had merely witnessed too much suffering.
In the corridors of the Merseyside Police, Centre of Operations, Duke Radley cut a lonely figure while awaiting his call to provide testimony over the actions of Alec Preston. Despite the generous seating arrangements, Radley chose to stand and intently contemplate George Stubbs’ pastoral series “Haymakers and Reapers” that lined the walls. He very much wanted to be done here. There was an eighth missing child, and this was disrupting his involvement in the case. Radley was frightened for the young girl; Olivia Christie had disappeared on her way home from Florence Melly Community Primary School two days previously. His fear was a result of a lack of leads for the seven previous disappearances of primary school children in Liverpool over the last trimester. Olivia’s parents were adorning the front page of the local newspaper appealing desperately to her abductor. He removed the newspaper from under his left arm and looked into the eyes of the eight missing children whose photographs were too, emblazoned across the front page. Radley never felt anger rise up into his throat as many of his contemporaries experienced, but a solemn injustice. He made his way to the water cooler were he poured himself a refreshing drink. Taking a sip Radley heard his name called out and looked up to see a court usher striding out of the hearing room. He finished his drink with one long sip and placed his paper cup in the bin provided and taking a deep intake of conditioned air he raised his right arm motioning to his suitor.
Olivia slowly awoke from a deep sleep to see her captor stood over her. Her legs were cold against the powdery stone floor. Although she was naked, Olivia did not seem to notice. Her wrists and shoulders throbbed like a mouthful of infected teeth from their handcuffing behind her back. She watched through stinging tears as it backed out of the dark room and only then did she see, as the nightmare no longer eclipsed the languid light attempting to pour into her cell that it was wearing a long nosed Venetian Highwayman mask. She screamed for her life as the door closed.
The radio was still blaring when he floundered into his studio flat, carrying a meal for one and a disposable glass of merlot. He flicked on the under cabinet lighting in the kitchen, mood lighting, and set his oven to preheat. He was back in time for the final instalment of the dramatized serial on Radio 4, telling the story of a battening relationship between a family liaison officer and a man whose wife has been abducted. It was a further thirty minutes before Radley slipped into his lounge, and took to the seat at his workstation. Upon opening, his personal email account one message stood out from the spam he was sifting. A personal address that he did not recognise. He demurred with his right index finger hovering over his left mouse button, as there was no subject, before opening the message in spite of his solicitude. The content would mark a heavy change in his being from that day forward.