Ally healed you, said Ryan, feeling her confusion. He was so relieved she’d finally woken that a breath shuddered out of him. She had a vision that you were shot. There was no evidence of it now. Only unmarred velvet-smooth skin. He couldn’t help remembering the warm blood flowing between his fingers and pooling beneath her. Fuck, she’d almost died right in front of him. When he thought about it too much, his chest would tighten and his throat would start to close.
With the next victim being a public – and often controversial – figure, Night Owl had been concerned that the house would be heavily alarmed, but a simple visit on a bright hot day the previous week had been enough – a fake cold call with a mocked-up leaflet for ‘BELL SAFE SECURITY’. It had been a shock, seeing his face up close. It had been difficult to mask the hatred and remain relaxed and informal.Night Owl turned off Lordship Lane and came to a halt beside a high wall. The brakes on the mountain bike gave a small squeal, which seemed loud in the quiet street.
The high wall marked the side of a long row of back gardens. The houses stretching away were smart and elegant. Night Owl tucked the mountain bike behind a postbox, which was positioned close to the wall, then used it to scale the wall. Four of the houses in the row had security alarms. A high back wall ran the length of all six gardens, backing onto a bus depot.The first garden was easy. An old lady lived in the large house and the garden was overgrown; the house windows were dark. Night Owl crossed with a whispering rustle and climbed the low fence into the second garden.Again, no lights activated, but the owner of this house had built a large extension, jutting out and reducing the garden to a thin strip of grass by the high back wall. The first ground-floor window was dark, but the second was open a few inches and emitted a soft multicoloured glow. It was a large nursery, almost completely bare inside save for a large wooden crib close to the window.
A small toddler with large eyes and a messy fuzz of black hair stood in the crib, its chubby hands gripping the side of the rail. The baby could see into the garden in the soft light emitting from the slowly turning night-light. Night Owl moved to the open window, whispering, ‘Hello.’The toddler shifted a little, grasping the edge of the crib. It was a little girl. She wore a pink all-in-one with a pink knitted matinee jacket. The air was close and heat resonated from the brickwork.
‘Are you all hot and bothered?’ whispered Night Owl, smiling. The little girl smiled and jiggled on the spot. She pulled at the matinee jacket and gave a little soft wail.
There were still three more gardens to cross, but Night Owl felt for this little innocent girl, slowly grilling in the hot room. The window pulled open easily, and Night Owl hitched a leg up and inside. The little girl looked up with big round eyes, unsure of the person who had climbed into her room.Edward chuckled. ‘No, lass, you did well. Although it sounds like you’ve got another nutter on the loose. I hope you’re going to be careful?’
‘This one likes men,’ said Erika. ‘No – I don’t mean to be flippant. So far, she’s targeted men.’‘Yes. I saw the programme,’ said Edward. ‘Do you really think a woman’s got it in her, to do all that?’
‘You’d be horrified about the state of the human psyche if you came to work with me for a couple of days…’‘I bet I would. But as I always say, love. Be brave, but don’t be stupid.’