Rachel Thompson just stood there – paralysed with fear. It took less than an instant to realise what was about to happen: she was about to be murdered.
The young undergraduate could have been spared. But her mistake was to open her eyes – as she frantically gasped for breath – and glimpse the face of the sadistic monster who was raping her.
She was now a witness. And had to go.
He was forensically aware. And determined not to leave any trace.
It all happened so quickly. Just thirty minutes earlier, it had all been so different….
The green sheet of paper on the doormat had caught her eye. Written in block lettering it read:
“WOULD MISS R. THOMPSON IN FLAT 1
PLEASE COME ACROSS TO NUMBER 21
TO PICK UP A PARCEL THAT ARRIVED TODAY.”
It had been dropped through the letterbox in the early hours of that morning.
Mmm … I wonder who that’s from? Rachel pondered the possibilities as she stood in front of the full-length mirror combing her long blonde hair. She was one of the new intake and – being tall, curvaceous and beautiful – many men were already vying for her attention. By the time she had changed into a pair of black leggings and cream Lycra top she smiled – content that just one man would have sent it. Has to be another ‘food parcel’ from Dad, she thought.
Rachel had been at York University for less than a month. But packages were being delivered at a rate of at least twice a week.
She was the youngest child and the first of the Thompson family to study at college. Her heart had become set on her chosen career at the tender age of six. At primary school where boys opted to become policemen or pilots when they grew up and girls chose mostly traditional female roles such as being a nanny or a nurse, Rachel forthrightly told her teachers, “I’m going to be a doctor and save lives.” And now she was eighteen and studying medicine.
The occasional driving rain and dark clouds of that bitterly cold November morning made the street on which Rachel lived appear even more desolate than normal. Some of the Victorian style terraced houses had boarded up windows. Some had graffiti daubed on walls. All should have been demolished years ago. But Walpole Street, like many other cobbled streets in the rundown Blakehurst district of York, had escaped the city council’s attention for regeneration. It seemed that most of the properties were only fit for student- or welfare funded DSS-accommodation.
As Rachel stepped outside she struggled to prevent her umbrella being blown away by a gust. Mini whirlwinds were swirling round autumn leaves ten feet from the ground. And although she never noticed, the awful weather had deserted Walpole Street of virtually all its residents.
Judging by the dilapidated exterior of number 21, Rachel wondered whether the occupants, like her, were students. She rang the bell and stood patiently on the step still excited about what might be waiting for her behind the front door.
She waited for what seemed like a minute. As the rain began seeping through her coat Rachel decided to head off to lectures and return later. As she turned to leave, the door was suddenly opened by a man who spoke in a distinctive Northern Irish accent, “Hello there. What can I do for ya’?”
He was in his early to mid-twenties and his charming smile suggested nothing more platonic than Rachel expected from an area noted for its ‘Northern neighbourly friendliness’.”Hi. I’m Rachel Thompson from Flat 1 in number 10. You have a package for me?”
“Ah yes,” turning to his right and reaching for the parcel that was on a small table inside the hallway he said, “It came by recorded delivery. I had to sign for it. Would you be so good as to acknowledge receipt from me?”
It was an odd request. May be this is the sort of thing Northern people do? Oh what the hell. “Of course. I’m only grateful to you for taking the trouble. Where would you like me to sign?”
The man turned to his right and pointed to the table.
Rachel took a step inside and began signing her name on a delivery chit that was on top of the parcel. As she began to write she heard a click, a locking sound, and felt a cold metal band on her left wrist. The sense of danger approached like a speeding express train that can’t be heard but completely overwhelms the moment it comes into view.
The danger would not go. She tried to scream but the words never came out. She tried to turn but only her head would move. By the time she looked round, the front door had been kicked shut and the other handcuff locked onto her right wrist. When the knife was placed at Rachel’s throat she thought she was going to die.
There was worse to come. A gag to prevent the screams. An implement she dared not imagine being used.
Rachel was taken next door and stood against a wall. She was there for less than a minute, though it felt like hours.
Then a man entered the room. Rachel was convinced he was different to the one who had answered the door. He seemed to be bigger with chillingly cold blue eyes that stared through a black balaclava.
A court would eventually hear how Rachel had been bound, gagged, subjected to a series of sadistic and brutal acts before being repeatedly raped and left for dead. It would be a case that threatened careers and ruined lives. It would also leave Defence Lawyer, James Pennington, suffering the most profound regret for ever having defended an alleged serial rapist.
But now, for Rachel, it was terror on an unimaginable scale. As she lost consciousness a tear could be seen rolling down her cheek.