Location: Hackney, London
Date: 12 October 2016
I thought about it all the way home. I got off my bus a few stops early—a child was screaming its head off and I couldn’t think—and walked the rest of the way, still dwelling on the symbol and where I’d seen it before.
It had to be recently; it didn’t feel like something I’d seen years ago. But what? I came across so many different things—I was going to have to go back over everything I’d done the last few months and work out what this was all connected to.
Was it connected to my most recent job? It seemed like Bishop should know if it was, since he’d sent me on it, but I couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was something further back; maybe something to do with that kid—
I took a shortcut down an alley and let out a small noise of frustration. If I could find out what it was, then I’d know what the men were doing there. If I knew who they were, I could work out where Lucy was. It was all coming together, so much more straightforward—
I passed a dumpster, only noticing the man on the other side when I walked past him. My heart skipped a beat, but he was facing the wall, not me, so I kept going. Weird though; he wasn’t talking, was barely moving. Still, I didn’t stop.
Weird shit happened, in this city.
It wasn’t far to my flat now; I was only five minutes away when I heard the weird shuffle behind me. I risked a subtle look back, ducking my head like I was looking at my phone. Yeah, it was the guy from the alley, but he was moving… strangely. I frowned, upping my pace. It wasn’t the first time I’d been followed—though usually it involved a few more catcalls and I felt a lot better about using my fists if it came to it.
I rounded the corner; I could see my building up ahead. It was quiet, but mid-afternoon, so not uncalled for.
The shuffling had increased in pace, too. I pulled out my keys, arranged them in my fist. If he thought he was going to—
I frowned. Was he hurt? Was that what had been strange about it?
I turned—and he lunged.
He was a heavy guy, so he knocked me back a few feet, and there was something wrong with him; he was almost grey. He grabbed me by the shoulders and leaned in, aiming to—bite? I didn’t care. I twisted out of his grip, though, God, he was strong.
I punched him once, catching him on the cheek and pain shot through my hand, up my wrist, but he didn’t so much as flinch. He was staring, almost uncomprehending, and he reached out again, so I turned and ran.
It wasn’t far to my flat and I was sprinting, but I could hear him close behind me even then. I turned my keys over in my hand, risking one look back—would I be able to get the door open? There was no one around and I knew shouting for help wouldn’t do any good.
I almost crashed into the door, hands shaking as I tried to push the key into the lock. I could hear him nearing—he hadn’t run like I had, but his pace was relentless, steps a drag on the tarmac. I wrinkled my nose at the smell of him as he got closer; it had been almost unbearable when he’d tugged me close.
He smelt like death.
I shoved the right key in the lock—finally!—and yanked the door open, pulling it firmly closed behind me.
He didn’t care.
He stared at me through the glass as he walked straight into it, with enough force that his nose broke with a crack, leaving a smear of blood on the surface. I stood, panting, staring at him as he walked into it again and again, his gaze never leaving mine.
What the actual fuck?
I got out my phone, pressing nine-nine-nine, but I didn’t start the call. Not at first. What would I do if the police showed up here? If they even managed to.
My finger hovered over the symbol, however; what if he hurt someone else?
Like he could read my thoughts, he suddenly seemed to lose interest. Some spark dropped behind his eyes and he turned and shambled away like he’d never chased me in the first place.
I gripped my phone in my hand and slowly slid to the floor until I was sitting there, staring out at an empty street.
It was a while before I turned my phone over in my hands, dialling Bishop’s number.
He answered on the second ring.
“Did something happen?” I asked. No time for preamble. “Did we do something?”
He hesitated. “Rachel…”
“I don’t want to know, do I?”
“I don’t think so.” His voice was quiet, resigned. I glanced up. There was a camera in the tiny lobby of my building. I wondered if he’d seen what had just happened.
“Did you see what happened to Lucy?”
“Honestly, no. I would tell you about that, if I knew.”
I sighed, pushing my hair back from my face. It was all too weird—I’d done something in that facility, sure, but I didn’t know what. And whatever it was, it seemed to be affecting everything else.
“Alright. Thank you. For your help earlier.”
“You found something?”
“I think so.” I thought of the paper, still safely in the pocket of my jeans. Bishop couldn’t have seen that and I suddenly had the fierce urge to keep it hidden. “I’ll let you know if it pans out to anything.”
“Get some rest.”
I hung up and got to my feet again, slowly. I had no idea what I’d just seen, who—or what—had just attacked me. But I was beginning to get the sinking feeling that something terrible was happening and maybe, just maybe, I’d played a role in starting it