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Thanks again to all my readers for all your support, and I hope you enjoy the extract!
The protective glass separating her from the reception area was covered in grubby fingerprints. She tutted. Damn that Clive Cooper, he never tidies up after his shift.
The file on top of the bundle was paperclipped neatly together to prevent clumsy detectives from mixing it up. It happened often enough, and the worse thing was they never apologised. The fucking big shots.
She broke out of her reverie to see a man in blue overalls walking towards her.
“Can I help you?” she asked politely, although her first thought was, He’s very pale.
The man leaned in close to the glass panel and she grimaced as his smell filtered through the gaps around the glass.
“Can I help you?” she asked again.
The man stared at her in silence, until at last he gave a hollow grunt.
“Are you OK, sir?” she asked. Is he ill? Is he mental?
The figure stared blankly through the glass, his breathing hoarse and shallow.
She tried again. “Take a seat, please, sir. I will call an officer for assistance.”
The man moved his head around slowly, apparently taking in the whole reception.
He’s definitely a mental. She edged back from the glass panel slightly in her chair. The man moved a little to his right and reached out a hand. Is he leaning against the wall? Is he about to collapse?
Deborah was about to stand up to see if he needed help, but stopped as the figure stared at her and seemed to smile. There was a series of clicks as he flicked the light switches.
She gasped as the reception area was plunged into darkness. Her own little room was still fully illuminated, and she could just about make out the outline of the figure, arm still extended towards the wall.
“I’m calling for assistance,” she said, aware of the waver in her voice. As she stepped back to reach for the phone, the shape ducked down behind the counter. There were sounds of movement in the darkness.
Dialling the extension number, she waited for a response. Come on, pick up. The call rang through with no answer. Damn.
She replaced the receiver and peered out through the glass, but could see nothing. I can’t go out there until I know the weirdo has gone, and my eyes won’t adjust if I’m in the light, she reasoned. Cautiously, Deborah reached behind her and turned off the light in her room.
Nothing. The silhouette was gone. Moving closer to the glass she noticed the shuffling had also stopped, and all was still. She breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God for that.
She turned back towards the light switch and froze. On her neck she could feel hot, heavy breath. Hands balled into fists, she spun around.
The man faced her, staring, still wearing the faint smile. Then she felt herself being pushed, her face slamming into the desk. She gasped for breath, and then tried to scream. The hands around her neck tightened and she fell backwards. Her insides felt as if steel cables were wrapped around her organs, tightening like a python suffocating its prey.
Inside her throat, something rose up like vomit, but she knew it was not. She felt paralysed. Confused. Out of the corner of her eye she could make out the shape of the figure who had been holding her, crumpled in a heap on the floor, yet for some reason she was still unable to raise her head.
Listening to the thump of her heart, panic danced in her mind. Apart from her eyes, her body was out of her control.
She felt her hands reach forward and tried to resist, but the more she fought, the tighter the grip around every inch of her. Her body seemed to drift, detached. She closed her eyes and began to pray.
The prayer went unanswered.