‘John Harrison was dead. His body and mind were not aware of it yet, but the moment he broke into the church his death became inevitable. Some would say it was the hand of God, many would say it was deserved, few would mourn his passing.
Had he chosen a different path he may have lived, but fate brought him to this place at this precise moment, and John Harrison ceased to be.’
A series of brutal attacks on homeless people takes a sinister turn. On the banks of Limehouse Cut canal in London, a body is found beneath the railway bridge. This time a beating has resulted in the death of an old man.
It is not long before more bodies start to turn up on the streets of Tower Hamlets. Not homeless people this time, but drug dealers, muggers, burglars. It would seem anyone outside the law is no longer safe on the streets.
The Met Police now have parallel investigations on their hands. Can they find those responsible for the attacks on the homeless, and who is responsible for killing those who live outside the law?
In common with most places of its kind, Tower Hamlets’ Cemetery could not be described as fun place to be during the day, but at night it gained an extra creepy edge. The majority of rough sleepers stayed away, the rustling of the trees in the darkness gave them the shivers, but on occasion a lone brave soul would chance their arm for a good night’s kip. Not being the sort to scare easily, Harry belonged to that select group, when the mood suited him.
That wasn’t to say the park would be empty after dark. Some used it as a shortcut, while others lingered a while longer. Harry often stumbled upon lovers, teenagers really, using the place for some illicit fumblings, even going all the way on occasion, on top of a convenient tomb, or in the grass. In other parts of the cemetery small groups of the living dead milled around. Not zombies of course, he didn’t believe such things existed, but the druggies. Dark sunken eyes, pale skin, yellow teeth, scarred arms, one might well believe many of them had recently risen from a grave. Sadly, for some, a journey in the other direction would be more likely to feature in their immediate future.
A muffled scream, cut short, drew his attention. Not an uncommon occurrence here, but this was different. Not a scream of pleasure this time, but one of fear.
He moved rapidly toward the source of the sound. In the autumn these paths would be covered in leaves and fallen twigs, but at this time of year nothing lay to catch underfoot, except maybe the odd discarded aluminium drink can. A different story in the grass; condoms and syringes not an uncommon find. Nobody these days showed any respect for the dead; only to be expected, most of them didn’t have any respect for the living either.
A low voice came from behind the bushes to one side of the path. Whispered threats and muffled sobs entwined in the darkness. Harry knew how to do this; the silent approach. He was good at this. The forces trained him well; it became second nature to him. Moving without a sound, he cautiously peered around the edge of the bush; his eyes now fully accustomed to the dark.
What he saw did not surprise him, but filled him with disgust. This was no lovers’ tryst, or a quickie, not unless they were into some seriously dangerous role play, and the look in the girl’s eyes; one of fear, not longing. A rape was in progress. He read the papers, and chances were that this was the man who featured on the front pages over the past few months; at least, the search for him had. Why did people not heed the warnings, especially the lone young females?
He felt in his pocket and searched the comforting touch of something familiar. His fingers caressed the wooden handles then dallied on the cold steel wire, almost stroking it. An unexplicable sense of calm washed over him; a calmness borne from familiarity. The wire was his friend, it never let him down. The wire belonged in his pack. Not since Kuwait had his friend been used in anger. Though on many occasions he had been tempted, he fought the urge, but now the urge would have its way; unleashed in all its glory. The pent up anger created by the death of Brian would be released. His friend would taste blood again, as would its close ally, the knife. The three of them made a formidable team.
The man pinning the girl to the ground was disadvantaged on three counts. His first – he had only one thing on his mind, his whole being focussed on terrifying this girl and satisfying his own desires. His second – his hands were full; one held a knife to the girl’s throat, with the other he attempted to undo his trousers; the girl’s pants already ripped off and discarded; an inconsequential barrier to his lust. His final disadvantage – his back faced Harry. Even if he had not been so intent on his actions, he would have been unaware of the man in the shadows watching and judging; the last judgement he would have on this earth. There would be another, of that Harry was sure, his belief unshakable, but that was for a higher authority, he merely delivered the means by which that judgement would be made; a tool in the hands of God.
The wire flicked around the attacker’s neck before he realised Harry was there; the first indication of a hell to be suffered. Harry kept the wire tight and gathered the toggles in one hand, keeping the garrotte tensioned but at the same time freeing his other arm so he could lock it around the man’s neck and pull him off the terrified young woman on the ground.
At first the girl didn’t respond, having retreated into the depths of her own fear; her senses diminished. Several seconds passed before she registered the man was no longer a threat. When she realised, she scrabbled away from her attacker.
“Go. Now. While you can.”
She needed no second telling. Scrambling to her feet she staggered into the darkness, sobbing loudly and tugging at her clothing to gain some modesty; her pants remained on the grass, abandoned in her haste to put as much distance as possible between her and this dreadful place.
She hadn’t seen Harry’s face. He kept the rapist between them at all times. She would only know the voice, and in her state she wouldn’t be able to recall anything significant. The only face she would remember would be that of her tormentor. She would remember that for a long time to come.
The man stopped writhing and Harry slackened the garrotte a little to let him breathe again. He didn’t want him to die, not just now.
He brought him to a semi-conscious state, he didn’t fancy trying to drag a dead weight deeper into the bushes, not one this size. The man had more girth than height; Humpty Dumpty in the graveyard. Give him a little hope and he would co-operate, move willingly, and if he didn’t, a little tightening of the garrotte could be very persuasive.
He and Harry were going to get acquainted for a while. Harry suspected he would enjoy it far more than the disgusting creature rubbing his throat and staring up at him in confusion from the ground.
© 2016 Glen R Stansfield