Fresh starts never quite delivering the promises they hold; DCI Priest is met with two elements from his past - one very much welcome, the other tragic and long forgotten. Has he got what it takes to lead and inspire a new team? Can he keep his personal challenges separate to his work life? Can he catch a killer before he strikes again, and again, and.....
2nd October 2009
William Dunn-Harper was still buzzing from the strobe lights, the intense and euphoric music, and the numerous bottles of beer that the girls had kept bringing him. He had just finished a five hour DJ set at the Meridian nightclub and now his bladder was screaming for release.
The bathrooms were situated at the opposite end of the room, and he lumbered across the now deserted dance floor towards the Gents. His legs felt heavy after five hours of continuous standing, jumping and overall crowd pleasing had taking its toll tonight. As he weaved his way through a number of tables and overturned stools, he could hear a small number of the remaining bar staff sharing a joke in the distant corner; he couldn’t see who it was as his vision was obscured by a large mirrored structural pillar.
He always found this late time of the evening to be somewhat eerie. Not thirty minutes ago, one thousand revellers had been dancing, enjoying themselves and filling the space that he now occupied. But now a solemn silence fell around him.
Perhaps it was the empty space that freaked him out, or the fact that he was slowly coming down from the higher plain of conscious that he had occupied for the last few hours. Either way, to the toilet and I’m out of here.
The Gents toilets were fairly typical of those found in most nightclubs; and especially at around 3:00AM on a Saturday morning. The pungent smell of stale urine hung in the air, empty beer bottles thrown into the stained urinals, and shards of broken glass were swilling around the water and urine mix on the tiled floor. He didn’t go near the cubicles, but could imagine them splattered with vomit. I don’t envy the cleaners tomorrow morning.
He stood over the urinal and got down to business.
He heard a faint shuffling from behind him, coming from one of the cubicles. He lifted his head and looked over his shoulder. There shouldn’t be anyone in there; the boys always bounce everyone at 2:30AM sharp. He finished his business and continued to watch the cubicle doors whilst he washed his hands.
There were only three cubicles, one had the door wide open, and another had its door askew, hanging on by the top hinge alone. No doubt the result of some adolescent power drinker trying to show off to his mates.
The third door was closed and appeared locked.
‘Are you ok mate?’ William followed up. No reply. ‘Listen mate, it has gone 3:00AM. Time to go home.’ Still no reply.
William moved forward towards the closed door, outstretched his hand and pushed. Nothing. It was locked. He turned around and started to walk towards the exit.
‘I’ve got better things to do’ he mumbled. He would let one of the security staff know on his way out. They could have the pleasure of removing the drunken moron from the cubicle, carrying him to the front door and no doubt pouring him into a taxi head first. Although he did stop for a second and wonder where would the taxi driver take him? The Police Station? The Hospital? How would he know where to go? He assumed that the passenger, the drunken moron, would be too paralytic to communicate with the driver. Anyway, not my problem.
William didn’t hear the cubicle lock slide open, nor did the creaking of the door being pushed ajar really register with him either. What he did sense was the last two or three steps. Someone was behind him.
He had just sufficient time to turn on his heels to see a man rushing towards him, upon him, arms outstretched. He had something in his hands. What was he doing?
The two met in an aggressive grapple; William’s facial expression displaying his total astonishment at what was happening. His attacker appeared quite expressionless, aside from the strangely pursed lips that appeared to portray his determination and anger.
‘Who are you?’
William found himself falling to the floor. His attacker had deftly side swiped his legs from underneath him. He landed square on his back and an instant later his head cracked on to the wet tiled floor. He knew he was in trouble. He had been in a few fights during his teenage years and the one thing he had learnt was that you had to stay on your feet if you were to come out on top. Too late now.
William had barely a moment to gather himself when he felt something being slipped over his head. The attacker had placed a long white cable tie over William’s head. It had already been threaded through the returner and now formed a perfect noose.
His attacker pulled tightly and swiftly and the cable tie closed around William’s neck. William raised his hands and tried to squeeze his fingers between it and his neck, to no avail. The sharp edges of the cable tie were cutting into his skin as he thrashed his head from side to side, trying, gasping for air. William didn’t think to reach for the attacker; his natural instincts were to deal with the object that was restricting his breathing. He clawed away at his neck frantically, only succeeding in breaking the skin and drawing more and more blood. His finger nails were awash with his own skin and blood. He was fighting a losing battle; and he knew it.
His attacker, firm and steadfast; his arms locked as he knew he must only be seconds away from his victim’s death. His gaze remained transfixed on William’s eyes as they slowly turned from white to red; the asphyxiation causing a loss of oxygen to the brain and resulting in severe haemorrhaging in the eyes.
William gasped one last time. His legs stopped kicking and his arms fell limp to the floor beside him. He had fought with every ounce of being, and summoned up more inner strength than he believed possible; but he succumbed to a stronger, more determined adversary. The killer stood up and took several long deep breaths trying to fill his lungs as quickly as the adrenaline was forcing the exhalation.
‘For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.’