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Frank's eyes would not focus properly. He did not know where he was, except that he was on a bed. In a bedroom he did not recognise. And he was tied up. Tied to the bed. Covered with a blanket and tied to the bed.

            His head hurt.

            The back of his head hurt like hell.

            He closed his eyes then opened them again, more slowly this time.

            That was better. Now he could see. Sitting on a chair in the corner of the room was the blonde woman he had raped earlier. Now she was wearing a pink shirt and bright white jeans. She looked like a life-sized Barbie doll. She was holding his gun.

            'Try to escape, I'll shoot you,' she said, coolly.

            Frank scowled.

            'You raped me!'

            'That isn't the way I remember it!' 

Joanna's teeth nibbled at her lower lip. 


It was not the way she remembered it, either. She had revelled in it, if she cared to admit it to herself.  After the initial hurt and the shock and the cold realisation of what was going to happen to her, and who was doing it, she had gone along with it. Enjoyed it. No, it had been more than just enjoyment. Better than anything she had experienced with the group. She supposed that in that respect it hardly constituted rape, but then she had not agreed to it, had she? It had been sheer, filthy, unadulterated pleasure. She wanted him again. In spite of the fact that he did not recognise her, in spite of the fact that he had come into her house and taken her by force, she wanted him again. In any case, he wouldn't be going anywhere just yet. Not until she had finished with him.

            She was already moistening into the soft cotton of her briefs, all thoughts of violation and rape slipping slowly from her conscious mind. The old Joanna was taking over. Rapidly—

            'Have you called the police?'

She shook her head.

            'The telephone is on the blink.' He would never be able to tell she was lying. She was too clever for that.

            'That so?'

            'I have a friend who is on his way here.'


            'He will know what to do. Maybe we'll take you into town. And hand you over to the police.'

                 Maybe she would get the chance to have him fuck her again.      

'You don't think he'll flip, me tied naked to your bed?'

                 Joanna sighed, biting her lip. She had been thinking exactly the same thing. In any case, it was pretty obvious that Jack was not coming. Sooner or later the phone would ring and he would tell her he was not coming. Which meant that she was going to have to deal with Frank Hartford herself.

            'Look, I can't stay tied to the bed all day.  I need a pee, I'm starving and my head is bursting. So what are we going to do?'

            'You'll live. I didn't hit you that hard.'

'I don't know your name.'


'I'd like to know who you are.'


'No reason.'

'Joanna Robertson. Are you going to tell me your name?'

'I don't think that would be a very sensible thing to do, do you?' he sneered.

'You're not going anywhere,' she said coolly. 'One way or another, your little game is over. Your goose is cooked. You might as well tell me who you are. Just give me a name I can call you by. Doesn't have to be your real name.'

'Frank Hartford,' he said, with barely a moment's hesitation. Already he was assessing the situation as something out the ordinary. Ordinarily he left his victims battered, shattered, and sometimes dead. That this superbitch had turned the tables on him so easily was surprising enough. That she was sitting here discussing it with him was even more surprising. And not a little unnerving. 'Do you know how to use that?'  He nodded his head toward the gun.

            'Yes,' she lied. Her eyes went to the wound on the back of his head. It had stopped bleeding but the bright blonde hair was stained a dark red. His face was pale. There was a large pool of drying blood on the pillow.

            'You'll need to bathe your head.'

            'I need to pee!'

            'All right. But I'm not untying you.'


Frank nodded. He was beginning to get angry. Mad.

            Really mad.

                 Fucking mad.

            Killing mad.

                 Maiming mad.

            Jack the Ripper mad. This fucking bitch had knocked him out and tied him up. Tied him up! Trussed up like a frozen chicken. She would pay for that. He would get her to release him and then he would start to teach her who called the tune.

He continued to scowl at her, his eyebrows meeting in the middle of his forehead. There was something vaguely familiar about her, nothing he could put his finger on, but just familiar enough to set alarm bells ringing.

Someone he had run into before? A previous victim? Unlikely. He had only been in Norfolk for a year. And before that, the last tour of duty that had brought him to England had been well over ten years ago.

Joanna Robertson.

Not a name he recognised.

But there was something about her eyes, something about her that was altogether unnerving.

Maybe the blow to his head had unscrambled the nerves and connections that caused him to indulge in the psychopathic lifestyle that surfaced every so often. He wanted her to bathe his wound, take him to the john, make him comfortable. But why should she, after what he had done to her?

But now, looky here, folks, look what this dumb blonde bitch has done to me! Trussed me up like a chicken, made me look a complete fool. She is gonna pay for that, sure as eggs is eggs, she is gonna pay.

Joanna had made an extraordinarily good job of tying him to the bed. Even when she undid the belts that tied his wrists and ankles they were still tied together with more belts. She had tightened them just enough to restrain him but not to hurt. He swung his legs over onto the floor and stood up. The duvet slid down, caught on his penis and stayed there. He grinned, expecting her to be embarrassed. She was not. She held the duvet around him and led him to the bathroom holding the gun against his ribs and standing just to one side of him as he faced the pan.

            'The duvet?'

Joanna pulled it off him. She watched as he forced it downwards and peed unashamedly into the water. She flushed the toilet.       

'Perhaps you'd better get dressed.'

            'Listen, as long as you're pointing that thing at me you're safe. I'm not looking to get my balls blown off!'

            'And as long as you're pointing that thing at me I'm not safe!'

            So that was it!

            She had enjoyed it.

            Dirty, dirty bitch!

            Frank smiled.

            'Just untie this belt, give me my clothes and I'll make myself decent.'

                 'Maybe not,' Joanna said, 'maybe I'll keep you like this and rape you. It's what you deserve.' Besides, I have something else in mind for you, Mr Frank Fucking Hartford! What an appropriate name that is for you!

            'But I'd enjoy it.'         

They went back to the bedroom. He was beginning to feel uneasy. Sooner or later he would have to make a break for it. Somehow he had to get her to untie him so that he could once again get the upper hand, take the initiative.     

'The way I see it, you either have to hand me over to the cops or let me go.  And if the phone don't work you're gonna have to drive me to the nearest cop station. Now I don't think you want to let me go just yet. Am I right? So you might as well let me get my pants on, we'll have something to eat, you're still calling the tune, 'cos you've got the gun.'

                 Joanna still did not reply.

                 Instead she sat next to him and undid the belt that secured his wrists. Then she laid the gun on the bed and stood up.         

'I couldn't shoot anyone,' she said quietly, and walked to the door. 'Come down when you're ready. I'll cook breakfast.'

Then she was gone.


- Sixteen -

At the crossroads by Hoxham parish church Thompson saw a car, a Discovery, dark blue, latest model, new registration. It was parked away from the other vehicles, which were evidently part of a funeral cortège. The hearse was on the opposite side of the road, at the entrance to the cemetery, which had been cut in two by the road linking the village with the bypass. He pulled off the road and observed the vehicle for a time, satisfying himself that there was no one in it. He got out of the car and walked slowly down the road. There was no other traffic. Ahead of him, beyond the crossroads, the village was shrouded in mist. It was still raining, but now it was gentle, fine rain, the sort of rain that made you extremely wet in a very short space of time, almost without you realising it. He could just see the tip of the tower of the ruined church in Sharringford. He approached the Discovery quietly, cautiously, knowing that he should have radioed in to the station for back-up.

But the Discovery was empty, and the passenger door was unlocked. On the seat was a handbag, and lying next to it two cassettes, one of Barbara Dickson and the other Barbra Streisand. Women's music, he thought quietly to himself. He stared hard at the handbag.

Karen Carter's? There had been no mention whatever of a handbag. Many young girls didn't bother with handbags nowadays. He knew that from experience.

Knowing he shouldn't be doing it, he opened the handbag carefully. There was a purse, a comb, a mirror, a collection of cards, bank card, library card, supermarket cards, donor card. Some tissues and a driver's licence. He was on the point of looking at the licence when he heard movement behind him and turned quickly to see the petite, graceful form of Alison Farmer walking out of the churchyard, a beaming smile on her face.


'Hello, Mike. You look guilty. What are you up to in my car?'

'Your car.'

'I bought it a month ago.'

He stared down at her pale, beautiful face. Big, oval eyes, the whites dazzling. A large bosom, narrow waist, slim hips. Top-heavy, in some ways, but very attractive. Her short, bobbed chestnut hair was covered by a black felt hat. She was still in mourning. Richard Farmer's insurance pay-out. He cursed himself for being so stupid. But then, how could he have known Alison Farmer would buy a Discovery, of all vehicles?

'It is your car, then?'

Alison smiled, somewhat taken aback by his question.

'Of course! Do you want me to recite the registration mark? Mike, is there something wrong?'

'There's a man on the loose. An American. He was driving a Discovery. He may be dangerous, Alison. Sorry. I saw your car and thought I would take a look, just in case.'

She laid a gloved hand on his arm, gently. Just enough pressure from her fingertips to make his blood tingle with anticipation.

'I hope you catch him, Mike. What did he do?'

'We're not sure. But there has been a murder, a young girl, and it is quite possible that he did it. We need to catch him. I'm sorry I was poking about in your car.' And in your handbag, Alison. No need for her to know that, of course.

'Doing your duty. How's Shirley?'

'She's fine. A bit peeved because I was supposed to have today and tomorrow off. But this murder has cropped up — bit of a coincidence there being an armed man on the run.'

'He's armed? Gracious! Who is he, in case I should run into him?'

'Some American airman.'

For a brief millisecond he saw her pale eyes narrow, as though remembering something, but as quickly it was gone.

'And don't joke about running into him, Alison, this is serious!'

'I should be safe enough in the village, surely?'

'I hope so. Lock your doors and shut the windows.'

'Once I'm inside, of course.' Her pretty eyes sparkled merrily.

'Of course,' he grinned. 'Just be careful, that's all I meant. Don't answer the door to strangers.'

'Mike, I'm not stupid!' she chided him, but her eyes were still smiling. He continued to gaze at her, aware that her hand was still on his arm. There had been a time when he really fancied her, still did to a certain extent. She was a beautiful young woman, and something had passed between them at the summer fete two years ago, and every time they had met from then on, her eyes had spoken volumes. Under different circumstances it would not have taken much to throw them together. Only the potentially insurmountable barriers of his marriage to Shirley, beyond the bounds of which he had never strayed, and her marriage to Richard, the mysterious young man who had worked with Thompson until his untimely death earlier in the year.

But she was fanciable, God! she was! He had not thought about her since Richard's death, but the same old feelings were surfacing again. His eyes settled on the curve of her breasts, and he found himself wondering, not for the first time, what it would be like to make love to someone other than Shirley. To the best of his knowledge, neither he nor Shirley had ever slept with anyone else, before or during their marriage, a fact of which he was fiercely proud. Even so, there had been a time when he really fancied her, and if he was ever going to make love to anyone apart from Shirley, then he would be happy if it was Alison Farmer, knowing full well that she would not be Shirley's first choice for him. She came from a different background to Shirley. He was pretty sure she had attended some public school or other, and her accent was refined, almost aristocratic. A plum in her mouth. That was how Shirley described her, and they had never become as close as she and Thompson. Hypnotic eyes, she had hypnotic eyes, but he supposed they only worked on him.

He smiled back, and for a brief moment there was the merest hint that she would not pull away from his kiss, had he tried to kiss her. But instead he straightened up and pulled back so that her hand dropped from his arm.

'Take care, Alison. Take care.'

'I will. You too. You're at the sharp end, remember?' She turned to get into the Discovery, and he came round to the driver's door and helped her up, his hand gently pushing against her waist, not quite touching her buttock, almost, but not quite.

'I was sorry about Richard,' he told her. It was the first time they had spoken since her husband's death. He and Shirley had attended the funeral. What a bizarre affair that had been! Thompson had investigated Richard's death, which had been considered slightly suspicious, (Alison had insisted that it was more than suspicious), and that enquiry was still open, with a number of loose ends still to be taken care of. But it was a month, now, since he had last seen her to speak to alone. Again he found himself wanting to kiss her, but it would not do, it would not do to put her in that position. It was too soon, and he shouldn't be doing it anyway.

'Yes.' Her eyes took on a dreamy, faraway look and he knew she was thinking about her dead husband. 'This American, Mike. Do you know his name?'

'Yes, why do you ask?'

'Oh, it's nothing. It's just that Richard was investigating an American.'


'Yes. Didn't I tell you? After he died I went through all his papers. It seems he had files on all sorts of strange people. There was an American, but I don't remember the name.'

Thompson's eyes narrowed.

'Frank Hartford. His name was Frank Hartford.'

'Doesn't ring a bell,' she said, but he had seen the way her eyes reacted when he said the name. It rang a bell, all right. But, after all she had been through, he didn't have it in him to call her a liar. Not right now. He remembered how Richard had kept his work closely-guarded, often working late into the night when everyone else had gone off duty.

'You're sure?'


'Well, mind how you go. He's armed and dangerous, and he's in this area. He was in Muncaster yesterday evening, and it's quite likely he killed this girl.'

'I'll be perfectly safe in the village, Mike. Stop worrying! Give my love to Shirley and the kids.'

'I will. Take care now. We must meet for lunch or something.'

'I'd like that. I can tell you all about Richard's work.'

'Yes, I'd be interested to hear about that. 'Bye now. Be careful in that mist. Looks like it's cloaked the village. I don't like the look of it much.'

She stared ahead of her, unable to see anything except the hundred yards of long, straight road that led to the village. Now the ruined church had disappeared from view, also.

'It's nothing, Mike, just mist. 'Cause of the rain. Bye, Mike.'

He watched her start the engine and put the car into gear. Within a couple of minutes the Discovery had disappeared into the mist. Something else for him to worry about. Alison Farmer. More than anything he had wanted to crush her to him, feel her ample breasts squashed against his chest. Trouble was, he thought she fancied him, too. What a time to start thinking about extra-marital sex! All those years of blissful marriage, and here he was, thinking of bedding a friend of the family, well, not quite a friend, but an acquaintance. That was the way it usually happened. He would have to suppress those thoughts double-quick, put them right out of his mind.  Hopefully that would not be too difficult. God knew there were plenty more things going on to occupy his mind without thinking about sex!

As he got back into his own car and started the engine he wondered what she might have been doing in the church. Richard Farmer had been cremated in Kings Lynn. The short service had been held in the Methodist Church in Oak Street, Muncaster. Alison Farmer was not an Anglican. Never had been. None of his business. Strange about Richard Farmer having a file on an American, though. He would have to make some enquiries. When he had more time. He decided that she must have been attending the funeral. As he sat in the car, waiting, deciding what to do next, he saw the funeral procession coming out of the church. It was a small coffin. A child, then. Thompson swallowed hard.

At the head of the procession was Alastair Ball, the Liverpudlian who presided over the diocese of Muncaster, Hoxham, Sharringford and one or two other small villages in the vicinity. Ball was tall, thickset, with a neat black beard and moustache. It had been Shirley who had pointed out Ball's article in the parish magazine on the proliferation of ruined churches in the area and how some of them had been used for Satanic purposes. Well, if Karen Carter's had been a ritual killing, Ball would be the one to ask. He switched off the engine and walked slowly into the cemetery behind the procession, keeping well back.

The rain lashed against his face, and the wind howled, making it look for all the world as though the trees were angry at the loss of the infant. Overhead, the clouds rolled together darkly, and he could see the lightning pulses running through them. Over the sea, nine miles away, there was a spectacular show of sheet lightning.

He waited patiently while the vicar read through the burial service, and watched impassively while the little coffin was lowered gently into the ground. The mourners, of whom there were only nine in all, thanked the vicar for performing a task they would have preferred he did not do, then thanked the undertaker for a dignified and moving funeral.

He approached the vicar cautiously, seeing the younger man staring down at the grave, his head inclined. Moved, Thompson thought, he's obviously moved, and how could he not be? This was just a child, for God's sake! It was always much worse when a child was involved.

'Alastair,' he said, softly, and the vicar turned slowly. His eyes were moist with tears he had not tried to conceal. Thompson had noticed that. This was a good man, a God-fearing man, who genuinely cared for his parishioners, and for the people in his care, whether or not they attended his church.

'Mr Thompson, Michael. What brings you here?' He always addressed Thompson as 'Michael'. Annoying as it was, Thompson couldn't find it in him to complain, to set him right.

'A question. What do you know about devil worship here in North Norfolk?'

'How long have you got?'

'Not long.'

Ball nodded his head. 'Presumably there is a reason for your asking such a question?'

'There is. It's not pleasant, I'm afraid. You'll have to perform another of these ceremonies in a few days, unless Karen Carter was a Catholic, of course.'

The vicar's eyes went wide with astonishment. 'Karen! Not Karen! No, she's one of mine, Michael. What happened to her?'

'Murdered, I'm afraid. Down by the river, behind the old printing works.'

'No!' Ball groaned. He took out a handkerchief, crisp and white, dried his eyes. 'I'm not ashamed to cry for them, you know. God knows I should have prayed for Karen a lot earlier than this!'

'Why should you be ashamed?'

'People think it's a sign of weakness. I never understood that. So, tell me about poor Karen.'

'Nothing much to tell, yet. I'm just asking questions.'

'You don't have any suspects yet, then?'

'I do, but nothing to speak of, nothing definite.'

'Why the question about Satanists, then?'

'I wondered if you knew — '

'If any of my parishioners were Satanists? Michael, I won't ask if this has anything to do with poor Karen Carter. I don't really want to know at this stage. Besides, I shall read about it in the local rag, I expect, and that will be distressing enough. Yes, there are Satanists in North Norfolk, yes, they do beastly things with cats and chickens and so on. What more can I tell you? Oh, they desecrate graves, of course. Open up tombs, that sort of thing.'

'They still do those things?'

'Let's walk to your car, I'm getting soaked.'


'They still do those things, yes, I'm sorry to say.'


'Sacrifices, yes. Aren't you ever called about missing pets?'

'Of course! We never find them, though.'

'About two years ago, the last one that I can remember. Doesn't mean to say they've stopped. I reported it to you at the time, but you were very busy, as I recall.'

'I don't remember.'

'Why should you? Not that important, is it, the body of a cat in a graveyard.'

'I'd like to think that it was. It depends what was going on at the time.'

They reached the car. Thompson held open the passenger door for the vicar.

'I can't be too long, Michael. The funeral director is giving me a lift back to town.'

'This won't take long. Karen Carter was laid out as though she had been sacrificed. She wasn't, though. She was raped, strangled. But she was laid out like — like one of those Egyptian queens.' He raised his arms across his chest to indicate what he meant. Ball nodded.

'I know what you mean. It's possible, of course. More likely the murderer was just tidying up. I mean, I'm no psychologist, not in the professional sense, that is, but I'd say it was unlikely to have been a sacrifice or any kind of ritual killing unless her throat was cut and her lifeblood collected. Drained out of her.'

Thompson shuddered. 'That's more or less what I thought. But I had to ask. I'm sorry. And you do think it's still going on.'

'Yes, I know it is. The ruined church in Sharringford — they used that only a month ago.'

'Sharringford? Up by the Manor House?'

'That's it.'

'What went on there?'

'No sacrifices, nothing like that. Just desecration of one of the larger tombs. God, did I say 'just desecration'? What is the world coming to, Michael?'

'I'm beginning to wonder. I assume you didn't report this incident?'

'There seemed little point. I mean, what would you do, station one of your bobbies in the churchyard night after night? Not practical. The church is ruined, the graveyard overgrown. Why anyone would want to go there at all beats me. I know what they did is wrong, against the law, even, but what can you do?'

'The funeral. Whose was it?'

'A baby. The family lives in Hoxham.'

'What happened?'

'Starved of oxygen at birth. Lived a few days, that's all.'

'Not — '

The vicar peered at Thompson, suddenly understanding why he was interested in the death of the infant.'

'Not what? Sacrificed? Throat slit, that sort of thing? No. Well, not as far as I know. Dr Cartwright attended the death. He would have said, surely. He would have called you in, surely?'

Thompson nodded. There had been no suspicious infant deaths reported in the recent past. There again, the chances were the baby had died in hospital. Norwich and Norfolk or QE2 in Kings Lynn. But news would have filtered through from either station had there been a suspicious death. He would have got to hear about it. That sort of thing didn't go unnoticed in the force. 'I might need to ask you more questions.'

'Any time, Michael, any time. Now I really must be going.'

'Thanks for your time.' Thompson watched thoughtfully as the vicar hurried to the waiting car, watched it drive off towards the bypass, then he once again got into his own car and started his own engine and drove off. Time to concentrate on detective work. There was no connection with devil worshippers where Karen Carter was concerned, he was certain. The fact that she had been laid out like a sacrifice, that was pure coincidence. All the same it wouldn't hurt to keep it in mind. Even if it had nothing to do with Karen, it could lead somewhere. Afterwards —

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