obsessedWhen Kirsty is attacked on her doorstep after returning from a party, she is left to wonder who is responsible, and why.

A short story of approximately 8,000 words.

“Are you sure you don’t want Nick to give you a lift home?”

“You must be kidding, the house is only a couple of streets away,” Kirsty told her friend, unnecessarily since they were housemates. “Even if I did want a lift off someone, I sure as hell wouldn’t take one off Nick. Anytime he does me a favour, he thinks he deserves a reward, and he only ever has one reward in mind.”

“You should be glad he’s interested; Nick’s picky about who he sleeps with, and it’s not like it hasn’t been a while for you,” Julia said with a knowing look. “Just because you don’t want to date right now, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, and you’d have a lot of fun with Nick, trust me. Besides, I sort of hinted that if he made sure you got home alright, you’d make it worth his time.”

“If Nick’s such a stud, why don’t you shag him,” Kirsty suggested.

“I have, that’s how I know he’s a stud,” Julia told her friend. “I can’t shag him tonight, though, I’ve already lined someone else up, and I doubt he’d be happy if I tried to bring someone else into the bed. Not another bloke anyway, he probably wouldn’t mind if it was another woman.”

“No chance, Jules.” Kirsty recognised the look on her friend’s face. “I’m going home, alone. I’ll see you tomorrow, assuming you make it home by then.”

“I’m sure I will, one way or another. Don’t forget to wash to my dress before you return it.” Julia called out as Kirsty walked down the path to the gate.


The walk home only took a quarter of an hour, even at a slow pace; nonetheless, Kirsty was glad of the fresh air. It helped to clear her head, which was a little fuzzy from the alcohol she had had at the party.

Out of habit, her eyes darted all around her as she walked down the street. She didn’t really expect to be attacked, but it was late at night, and she was sensible enough to be cautious. The street was empty but for herself and one other person. The figure, which she could just make out was male, was walking towards her on the same side of the road, which made her very nervous; it was too late by then, but she wished she had taken the lift, even if it would have meant fending off Nick.

Kirsty felt a little better when the dark figure turned down the path to the house next to hers, and disappeared from sight. She realised it must have been her neighbour, whom she had never seen outside, despite living at the house for four months; her housemate, Holly, had told her he was an old pervert who kept to himself and liked looking at the young women who walked past. That news hadn’t made her feel very good about moving in, and didn’t make her feel too good just then, though it wasn’t as bad as the figure being a stranger – better the devil you know, as the saying went.

By the time the figure disappeared, Kirsty was only a short distance from home. She took her purse from her shoulder and rummaged in it for her keys as she covered the remaining few metres and swung the gate open.

Kirsty didn’t see the figure standing in the shadow of the bush that separated the front garden from the pavement. She had no idea he was there until she was grabbed from behind.

After freezing momentarily in fright, she came to her senses and struggled to free herself; she was weaker than the person who had hold of her, that was readily obvious, but she didn’t allow her lack of strength to stop her. She tugged and wrenched at the arm around her in a futile effort to pull it away, and writhed and twisted against the grip that held her against the stomach of her assailant; nothing worked until she managed to hook a foot around the heel of her attacker.

Throwing her weight backwards, she sent them both tumbling to the ground. She landed heavily on top of her assailant and heard the air explode from his lungs, at the same time, she felt his grip loosen; she immediately took advantage of the opportunity afforded her and pulled free so she could scramble away and to her feet.

She had lost her handbag when she was grabbed, having dropped it out of fright, but still had a firm grip on her keys. Without looking she flipped through them, searching blindly for the right one, as she darted for the front door.

“HELP!” she called out loudly as she was tackled before she could go even half a dozen paces.

Hitting the ground heavily, she kicked her heel backwards, eliciting a satisfying grunt of pain when she hit her attacker.

“HELP!” she screamed a second time. Twisting about, she lashed out again with her feet. This time the blow hit her attacker in the stomach, doubling him up. She scrambled to her feet when He let go.

Kirsty was fumbling to get the key in the lock when she was grabbed and slammed into the door. She was slammed into the door a second time immediately after, and was left dizzy and disorientated, with blood running down her face. When she was let go, she fell to the ground, where she hit her head on the concrete of the path.

The last thing she heard, before blackness overcame her and she succumbed to unconsciousness, was a man’s voice, though she couldn’t make out whose voice it was, or what he said.



A bright, white light stabbed into her eyes as Kirsty struggled back to consciousness, making her blink repeatedly. The light didn’t diminish, despite the blinking, and she twisted her head, first one way and then the other, to try and avoid it, which she quickly discovered was impossible so long as her eyes were open.

Even when her eyes became accustomed to the light, and the pain diminished, Kirsty found she couldn’t see much. Indistinct outlines were all that were visible to her, including the indistinct outline of at least one person a few feet from her.

Her vision wasn’t the only one of her senses that was affected; a ringing sound in her ears made it difficult for her to hear. Above the ringing she could dimly hear noises that suggested she was in a vehicle of some sort, and then a voice. “She’s coming round.” It was female and familiar, but her diminished hearing prevented her identifying it.

“Stay down, Miss.” A second voice, this time male, and completely unfamiliar, said when she tried to sit up. A gentle pressure on her shoulder forced her to remain on her back. “You’ve had a bad knock on the head, you might have a concussion.”

“Where am I? How did I get here?” Kirsty wanted to know as she continued to try and make sense of the imperfect images she was seeing.

“It’s alright, Kirsty, it’s Holly, you’re in an ambulance, you were attacked.”

“I remember, someone grabbed me from behind.” Kirsty groaned then. “My head hurts.”

“I’m not surprised, you have a couple of very large bumps on your head, both front and back. Does it hurt anywhere other than your head?” the paramedic asked.

“My throat’s sore,” Kirsty answered, reaching a hand up to touch it. She was stopped by her friend, who caught her hand. “And my face hurts.”

“Well your face is quite badly bruised, as is your throat. I think it would be best if you don’t do or say anything more for the time being, just lay still until we get to the hospital. They’ll want to x-ray you when we get there, and after that the police will want to talk to you.”

“I think I’m going to be…” Before she could finish, Kirsty twisted her head sharply to one side and threw up.

“Thanks, Hon,” Holly said disgustedly. “That was all over my feet.”

“Sorry.” Kirsty apologised in a weak voice as her stomach heaved. After a few moments, the urge to be sick subsided, and she rolled back so she was staring up at the roof of the ambulance.

“This has not been a good night for me.”

Although she could not see her friend clearly, Kirsty could tell from her voice that Holly was not happy.

“First I had to miss out on the party because I was working late, then you woke me up just when I was getting to the good part of my dream about Liam Hemsworth, and now you go and throw up all over my feet. Can this night get any worse?”

“I hope not. I’m sorry, Holly; next time I’m attacked, I’ll ask the guy to hold on while we wait for your dream to finish.”

“There’s no need for that, I’m just grumpy. You know I hate having my sleep disturbed. Why don’t you just lay back and think about all those hunky doctors who are going to be queuing up to look after you when we get to the hospital.”



“Hello, Miss Newsome. I’m Sergeant Leroy, and this is my partner, Constable Habib. The doctor tells me you’re up to answering a few questions, do you mind if we ask you about the attack on you?”

“There isn’t much I can tell you,” Kirsty told him. “I was walking up the path to my front door when someone grabbed me from behind.”

“Do you know who it was?”

Kirsty shook her head, slowly, because moving her head quickly hurt and made her dizzy. “I didn’t see him, he was behind me, and it was dark.”

Leroy looked disappointed. “What happened after you were grabbed?”

“I struggled with the guy who grabbed me and we fell over. He lost his grip on me when I landed on top of him, and I scrambled away, calling for help. He tackled me before I got very far and I hit my face on the ground. I kicked out at him and he let me go again. When I got to my feet I ran for the door.

“I remember getting to the door, and I remember my hands shaking as I tried to get the key in the lock. Before I could, he had me again. He hit my head against the door, twice.” She sounded more shocked by that, than by the fact that she had been attacked. “I don’t remember much after that. I think I heard someone calling out, but I might have imagined it.”

“You didn’t imagine it,” Holly assured her friend. “Someone did call out.”

“You seem to know something about this, Miss.” Leroy turned to Holly, who was yawning in the chair she had positioned near the head of Kirsty’s bed. “Would you mind telling us what you know?”

“I think I need a coffee first, I’m not awake enough to concentrate. I’ll be back in a minute.” Holly got to her feet and tiredly wandered off in search of a vending machine. It didn’t take her long to find one and then she was back, sipping from a gently steaming polystyrene cup. “Okay, now I feel a little more awake, what is it you want to know?”

“Whatever you’re able to tell us about the attack on your friend,” Constable Habib replied.

“Not much,” Holly admitted. “I got woken up when I heard Kirsty call for help. My room’s at the back of the house, and I’m a heavy sleeper, so I don’t know how long she was calling for before it penetrated. When I finally did hear Kirsty, I crawled out of bed and went to the front of the house to find out what was going on. Looking out of Julia’s window, she’s our other housemate, I saw someone in the front garden. I couldn’t really see much, but I could tell it wasn’t Kirsty.

“Since I couldn’t see any sign of Kirsty, when I was positive I’d heard her, and I didn’t like what I could see of the figure outside, I ran back to my bedroom to grab my phone. I was just calling you guys on my way down the stairs when I heard someone calling out – a guy, it was definitely a guy’s voice; I’m not positive what he said but it sounded something like ‘get the fuck off’. When I got downstairs and out the front door, Kirsty was on the ground, and there was two guys fighting a few feet away.

“One of them looked over when I opened the front door, but I couldn’t see his face, it was too dark. The other guy hit him while he wasn’t looking. The one who got hit stumbled back, then turned and ran out of the garden; the second guy ran after him, and that was the last I saw of them. If I’m honest, I didn’t even think about them after that, I was too worried about Kirsty. When I checked on her she was still breathing, but I was worried about the blood on her face.

“It wasn’t long after that when you guys arrived, and so did the ambulance. And now we’re here. I don’t suppose any of that is very helpful to you, is it.”

“That’s hard to say, Miss. We’ll file a report and pass everything on. I imagine a detective will visit you tomorrow, or I should say later today, to take a more detailed statement,” Leroy told her. “Don’t worry, we’ll catch the person who attacked you,” he assured Kirsty.



Looking around furtively, the darkly-dressed figure left the street. His eyes darted everywhere as he walked up the path to a house that was virtually identical to the more than two dozen others on either side of the street. Instead of ringing the bell when he reached the front door, he turned away and followed the path around to the side gate.

He was not a tall man, so he had to stand on tiptoe to reach over the gate and lift the catch. The hinges creaked as he swung the gate open and he cringed at the noise, though he didn’t stop, nor did he turn back.

Walking quickly down the path at the side of the house he made his way to the back, where he did stop when he reached the kitchen door. Despite his concern for the noise made by the creaking hinges on the gate, he didn’t react at all as he took out a large kitchen knife from his jacket pocket and smashed it noisily through the window in the door. Knocking out the remainder of the glass with the point of the knife blade, He reached through and groped around for a moment until he found the catch, then he swung the door open so he could walk into the kitchen.

Even with the moon out, there was little light for him to see by, and after just three paces he bumped into the table. Since his eyesight wasn’t the best, even in daylight, he groped his way around the table, knocking over one of the chairs in the process. The chair fell to the floor with a loud clatter he was sure would have disturbed everyone in the house, not that he expected there was all that many people home, and as he walked along the passage he heard hurried footsteps as someone came to investigate.

Tightening his grip on the knife, he stopped before he could be seen by whoever was approaching, and with the knife at the ready He waited, and waited.

It seemed like he was waiting forever, though it was really no more than thirty seconds, before the footsteps reached the bottom of the stairs. When they did, He moved. His victim had no time to react, or to make any move to defend himself, as he was pushed against the wall.

He saw his victim’s eyes widen in pain as he stabbed him in the stomach, but the hand he had over his mouth kept his cry from being audible. Pulling the knife out, He stabbed again and again.

By the time he stopped, he had stabbed the man more than half a dozen times and there was blood on the wall, and the carpet, and all over his clothes.

Breathing heavily, He stepped away from his victim and let him fall to the floor, where he continued to bleed. He made no attempt to check that his victim was dead, he didn’t care, he just stepped away and started up the stairs to the bedrooms. As he ascended, his pace unhurried, he held the knife at his side, the blood that coated its blade dripping to the carpet to form a trail that revealed where he had been and where he was going.

He had been to the house before so he knew where to go, and when he reached the top of the stairs he turned to his left. In just a few steps he reached the main bedroom; the door was ajar and he pushed it wide before stepping through and into the bedroom. The young woman he was after was cowering naked on the bed, her mobile phone in one hand and the quilt clutched to her chest with the other to cover herself as she stared fearfully at the doorway. She gave a little scream when he came through the door.

“What are you doing here?” Julia demanded when He moved further into the room and his face became visible in the light from the lamp. He was someone she had not expected to see ever again, let alone in a bedroom. “Where’s Gary?” He moved slowly closer and she saw the bloodstained knife in his hand. “What have you done?” she asked, a note of panic in her voice.

He didn’t say anything as he stalked across the room, he just enjoyed the fear that was written on her face. As Julia tried to scramble off the bed and escape, he raised the bloody knife and darted to his left to block her; when she reversed direction, he did the same so he could cut her off again.

While Julia, the bedclothes abandoned and her nakedness forgotten, looked all around for a way to escape, He took the initiative. Jumping onto the bed, He ignored her screams as he stabbed the knife down viciously; the blade caught in the arm she raised instinctively to protect herself and he had to wrench it free so he could attack her again. The knife penetrated Julia’s chest that time, but he didn’t stop there. In a frenzy that contrasted with the expressionless mask on his face, He stabbed her again and again, paying no heed to the blood that spurted and then fell to soak through the quilt to the mattress.

He didn’t stop his attack until his arm began to ache and it was almost too much of an effort for him to lift the knife.

Looking down at the body at his feet, He saw that he had stabbed Julia so many times it was almost impossible to count the number of individual wounds. He felt no remorse over what he had done as he stared down at what had, only a short time before, been an attractive young woman. As far as he was concerned, she deserved it.



“Are you sure the police haven’t found out anything about my attack, and Julia’s murder?” Kirsty asked.

“I’ve told you everything the police told me,” Holly said. Unlike her friend, who was looking all around her as if she expected to be attacked again at any moment, she walked straight up to the front door. She didn’t spare the shadowed front garden even a single glance. “Don’t worry; whoever attacked you isn’t going to come back. It was probably just a random thing; he grabbed the first girl that came along, and you were just unlucky enough to be the first girl.”

“He didn’t attack me at random,” Kirsty said insistently. “Even the police agree with me. He was waiting behind the hedge; he was waiting for someone who lives at this house. That could only be you, me, or Jules. He might be back to attack me again.”

“If you’re right, and he was after someone from this house, then doesn’t it seem likely he was after Jules, especially now she’s been murdered,” Holly remarked. She didn’t mean to sound heartless, though she realised from the look on her friend’s face that that was how she came across, she was just trying to be as practical as she could. “If that is the case, I don’t think you need to worry about anything, he won’t be back.”

“Can’t you at least try and sound like you’re sorry Jules is dead?” Kirsty wanted to know. She had been horrified when told her best friend, and Gary, had been murdered barely twenty-four hours after she was attacked. “She was my best friend.”

“I know she was your best friend, she was mine as well. Of course I’m sorry she’s dead, I’d never have wanted her to die, especially the way she did.” Unlike Kirsty, Holly had heard the news on the radio, which included a report on the murders. The report had given more information than had been provided by the police when they questioned her about the murders of Julia and Ben, so she knew how brutal the murders had been, while Kirsty remained ignorant of just how her friends had died.

Both friends had been shocked when they heard about the murders, but they had different methods of dealing with bad things. “We have to get on with our lives, though, and we can’t go jumping at shadows,” Holly remarked as Kirsty continued to nervously search the small garden for anyone who might be hiding there. “The police will find the person who attacked you and murdered Jules.”

“What if he comes back for me?”

“You’re worrying about nothing,” Holly said comfortingly. “Why would he come back for you? He was after Jules. No-one would ever want to hurt you? You’re the nicest person I know.”

“But you think someone would want to hurt Jules?” Kirsty fiddled with her keys till she found the right one and unlocked the door.

“Obviously someone wanted to hurt Jules, they killed her.” Holly stepped past her friend and moved into the house. Despite her unworried attitude, she felt a small shiver run up her spine as she entered the dark house, though it was quickly dispelled when she turned the lights on in the passage and the living room. “You know I loved Jules as much as you, but let’s face it, she never treated guys very well. How often have we heard guys swearing at her and threatening her?”

“I’ve had guys swear at me, and threaten me, that doesn’t mean they’re really going to do anything. Besides, it doesn’t matter how Jules treated guys, that’s no excuse for someone to murder her.”

“I know that. We might never know why she was killed, but it isn’t going to help us to dwell on it. It’s depressing enough, without thinking about it more than we have to. Do you want some wine?” Holly asked as she made for the kitchen. “I need something to help me relax, how about you?”

“Maybe one glass. I need to get changed before I do anything else though,” Kirsty called back as she headed up the stairs to her room. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

Kirsty was standing in the bathroom, examining the bruises on her throat in the mirror above the sink, when she heard the doorbell ring. She immediately looked around fearfully, though there was no-one for her to see. “Who is it?” she called out to Holly.

“How would I know? I haven’t made it to the door yet,” Holly yelled up to her friend. “Stop worrying, do you really think someone who wants to attack you is going to ring the doorbell?” As she walked down the passage towards the front door, she sipped from the glass in her hand. Though she hadn’t wanted to admit it, her nerves were a little frayed, with the result that her first drink had been finished almost as quickly as she had poured it out. Her second drink was almost finished as well, and she had every intention of pouring herself a third when the glass was empty again.

There was no reply from upstairs, but Holly didn’t expect one.

While she opened the front door with her free hand, she raised the glass to her lips with the other. She was going to be pissed in no time at all, given the speed she was drinking, but she didn’t care.

“What the hell are you doing here, Patrick?” she wanted to know when she saw who was at the door.

Patrick didn’t answer, instead he brought his hand out from behind his leg, revealing the knife he was holding. Without saying a word, he thrust the knife into the stomach of his ex-girlfriend’s best friend, who barely had a chance to realise he was holding a weapon before she was stabbed.

When Holly folded over the knife in his hand, he grabbed her by the shoulder and shoved her backwards off the blade. His face showed no more emotion as he kicked her feet out of the way and stepped into the house, slamming the door shut behind him, than it had the previous night when he murdered his ex-girlfriend and her lover.

“Who’s at the door?” Kirsty called the question as she walked down the passage from the bathroom. She came to an abrupt stop when she reached the head of the stairs and saw Holly on the floor, and Patrick standing over her.

She came to her senses and screamed when Patrick started up the stairs and she saw the bloody knife he was holding. Sprinting back down the passage to her bedroom, she grabbed the door handle to slow herself and almost ended up falling over as she skidded. She just managed to keep her balance, though she did trap her hand between the handle and the door; swallowing a yelp of pain she untangled herself and slammed the door behind her before turning the key in the lock.

Even with the door shut, she could hear Patrick making his way up the stairs. The noise sent her to the bed, where she had dropped her phone when she got changed. She tried not to listen to the sound of approaching feet as she frantically dialled the emergency operator, but couldn’t block them out.

“Please, I need the police,” she told the operator in a terrified voice when her call was answered. “There’s someone in my house, and I think he killed my friend.” She almost dropped her phone when a heavy crash made the door shudder alarmingly. She knew the house was old, and well-built, and the door was solid, nonetheless she doubted the door would hold forever.

Fearfully, Kirsty watched the door shudder twice more as she gave her address to the police officer she was put through to. Finally, she tore her eyes from the door so she could look around for something she could use as a weapon; there weren’t many possibilities, but she did see her tennis racquet leaning against the wardrobe, that, and the balls on the floor next to it, were the best she could come up with.

Dropping the phone, she clambered off the bed and darted over to the tennis equipment. She was just grabbing it when the door burst open. The noise of the door exploding inwards and slamming against the wall made her jump in fright and drop the racquet. Kirsty kept her eyes on the doorway, and the figure that appeared in it, as she bent and fumbled blindly for her makeshift weapon; she found a tennis ball before she found the racquet, and of their own volition her fingers closed around it.

Patrick’s momentum carried him halfway across the room after the door flew open. He stopped himself with an effort before he collided with the bed and spun around to search the room for Kirsty. He spotted her as the first of the tennis balls flew from her hand to strike him, with deadly accuracy, in the stomach, causing him to double up with a grunt of pain.

The second ball that Kirsty threw hit Patrick in the side of the head, dazing him. He recovered in time to dodge out of the way of the third ball, and it sailed past him to smash through the bedroom window and disappear into the early evening darkness.

A second or so after the ball vanished, Kirsty thought she heard the sound of more glass breaking. Without being conscious of what she was doing, she dismissed the noise as her imagination, certain that there was nothing close enough to be broken; the ball should have landed in either the garden of the house she shared with Holly and Julia, or the garden of the house next door.

Seeing that Patrick had ducked out of the way, in case she had more balls to throw, Kirsty abandoned her fumbling search for more weapons and raced for the door.

Once she reached the passage she sprinted along it to the stairs, moving as fast as she could. She wasn’t fast enough. She was about to descend the stairs, in one giant leap if necessary, when she felt a sharp pain in her lower back. Instinctively, she arched her back away from the pain and the weapon, and in doing so she lost her balance; unsuccessfully, she grabbed at the banister to try and keep herself from tumbling down the stairs.

Kirsty heard a sharp crack and felt an explosion of pain when she landed at the bottom of the stairs. She was sure she had broken her arm, but had little time to think about the injury as both the pain from her arm and that from her back were smothered by the darkness that crept into the edge of her vision. It was a repeat of the other night that she would have quite happily lived without.

As her vision faded, and everything slowly disappeared into the fog that was engulfing her mind, she dimly heard footsteps on the stairs above her. Patrick was coming to finish what he had started, and there was nothing she could do to stop him.

Before unconsciousness overtook her completely, she heard a crashing sound, and out the corner of her eye she saw someone burst through the front door. The man, whose identity she couldn’t even guess at, though she was certain the figure was male, barely avoided falling over her and Holly as his momentum carried him almost to the foot of the stairs. He recovered quickly and jumped over them both to run up the stairs.

From her position on the floor, which she couldn’t change without so much pain it was almost unbearable, Kirsty had very little idea of what was going on. All she could do was strain her ears, and fight against unconsciousness, which was a losing battle, to listen to the struggle on the stairs above her.

The struggle didn’t last long, at least not as far as she could tell, her sense of time was far from certain. After a few moments, she heard someone tumble down the stairs; she had no idea if it was Patrick, or the man who had burst through the front door, but they landed heavily on top of her. That was the last she knew as an unidentified body part collided with her head.



Kirsty woke to darkness, with no idea where she was. All she could tell, from the little she could make out through the darkness, was that she wasn’t at home. She tried, briefly, to push herself up into a sitting position, so she could look around better and figure out her location; she quickly decided that moving was not a good idea, however. The attempt only increased the pain, which was radiating through her body from three distinct locations, to an almost unbearable level, and led to her discovering that her left arm was encased in plaster and secured to the side of the bed.

“Good morning, Miss Newsome,” a voice said from somewhere above her as Kirsty tentatively opened her eyes, some hours after she first woke, and saw a strange woman standing over her. “How are you feeling?”

“Like crap,” Kirsty managed to reply. “Where am I?”

“Thank God she’s awake.” Another voice spoke up from the other side of the room. “That snoring was driving me round the bend.”

“Holly,” Kirsty said the name in surprise, smiling automatically at her friend’s comment. “Where are we?”

“Where do you think we are, dummy?” Holly wanted to know. “We’re in hospital, just where you’d expect to be after surviving a knife attack. Unless you think we’re both dead, and this is Heaven, in which case I really have to question your choice of nurse. I know if it was me, I’d have picked someone a bit hotter to look after me.”

Kirsty was used to the way her friend spoke, and so didn’t let her comment bother her. “So what happened? The last thing I remember is someone landing on me.”

“I know about as much as you. I answered the door and found Patrick there. I never expected to see him on our doorstep after he and Julia broke up. When I asked him what he was doing there, he pulled a knife. He stabbed me and then shoved me back into the house so he could close the door.

“The police didn’t say anything when they told us Julia and Ben had been murdered, but I heard on the news they were both stabbed repeatedly…”

“We were hoping that wouldn’t be reported.” The comment, coming so unexpectedly, made both girls turn quickly, and painfully, to see the speaker in the doorway. “But you can always rely on the media to report the lurid details of any crime.

“Good morning, ladies, I’m Detective Sergeant Fuller.” The middle-aged man in the much-wrinkled suit introduced himself as he moved further into the room. “I apologise for interrupting, you were telling your friend what you know of last night’s events, please, continue.” He helped himself to a seat from the side of the room, which he positioned squarely between the two beds.

A little nonplussed by the detective’s arrival, and the break in her train of thought, it took Holly a few moments to get back to what she had been saying. “The news said both Julia and Ben were stabbed repeatedly,” she continued finally, “and I thought for sure he was going to do the same to me. I just lay there on the floor, hoping he’d either kill me quickly or go away, and I’m not sure which I was hoping for the most. I’ve never felt pain like it, I could barely think, but I remember being relieved when you called out, and he forgot about me to go after you. I’m sorry.” She felt terrible over the relief she had felt when Patrick left her to chase her friend. “I wanted to call out and warn you, I started to, but I was scared. I thought if I called out, he’d realise I wasn’t dead, and he’d stab me again.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.

“It’s okay,” Kirsty forgave her friend; had she been able, she would have gone to her, just the thought of moving ramped up the pain she was feeling, however. “I’d probably have been the same if it was me. I wouldn’t have wanted him to know I was still alive either.

“I guess I know what happened after that,” she said after a few moments, when they had themselves under control. “I ran back to my room and called the police, and when Patrick broke through the door I threw tennis balls at him. After that I ran back out of the room and tried to get away. He caught me at the top of the stairs and stabbed me.

“Everything’s a bit fuzzy from then on. Was it the police who fought with Patrick on the stairs? I know someone burst through the front door and fought with him, and one of them fell and landed on my head. That’s the last thing I know.”

“No, it wasn’t a police officer who tackled your attacker,” Fuller answered Kirsty’s question, though it had been directed at her friend, not him. “It was your neighbour, Jason Greendale.”

“The old pervert who lives next door?”

“I think he might object to that description,” Fuller remarked to Holly, “since he’s only twenty-eight.”

“So he’s a young pervert, not an old one, he’s still a pervert. I’ve lived there for six months, and never once seen him outside. He’s always at the window, watching whenever one of us walks past, though.”

“As I understand it, Mr Greendale has a rare skin condition that makes it painful for him to be out in sunlight, consequently he spends most of his time indoors. As for his always being at the window when one of you goes past; he apparently works from home as a software developer, you’ve probably seen him working at his desk.”

“So he rescued us?” Kirsty asked, ignoring the disbelief on her friend’s face. “How did he know we needed rescuing?”

Fuller answered the question by taking a tennis ball from his pocket and tossing it onto Kirsty’s bed. “That smashed through Mr Greendale’s conservatory. When he investigated the sound of breaking glass, he found that tennis ball and saw your broken bedroom window. Since he rescued you the other night, and had heard about the murder of your housemate on the news, he realised you were in trouble again, and this time your attacker was in the house. He raced round to your house and kicked in the door in time to find Patrick O’Herlihy descending the stairs, bloody knife in hand.”

“He’s the one who rescued me the other night?”

“He admitted as much when we took his statement during the night.”

“Then why did he disappear after he chased off Patrick? I assume it was Patrick who attacked me the other night.” A nod answered the question. “Did he kill Jules?” Another nod. “Oh God! Why? I know he wasn’t unhappy when Julia finished with him, but that was months ago.”

“Unhappy, he was pissed off,” Holly remarked to her friend. “He threw a glass at her in the pub, and had to be dragged away by David.”

“If you ladies will permit me to continue, I’ll answer your questions shortly, Miss Newsome. Mr Greendale entered your house in time to see Mr O’Herlihy descending the stairs, holding the knife he stabbed you both with.” Fuller took up his narrative again. “Jumping over you both, he raced up the stairs and tackled Mr O’Herlihy without hesitation. A very brave act, if you ask me. They fought for a short while, until Mr O’Herlihy fell down the stairs, landing on you, Miss Newsome. Despite receiving a rather nasty cut to his arm, Mr Greendale didn’t hesitate to chase after Mr O’Herlihy when he ran from the house. He caught up with him in the street, where they fought again.

“I’m afraid to say your car suffered during the fight, Miss Newsome. It now has a rather large dent in the passenger door. Mr Greendale hit Mr O’Herlihy against it until he was unconscious. I shouldn’t condone such violence, but given the confession Mr O’Herlihy made when I spoke to him after he woke up, I can’t say I’m inclined to make an issue of it. And that brings me to your questions. I’ll start with the easiest, the reason Mr Greendale didn’t stick around the other night; because of his skin condition, Mr Greendale has spent the greater portion of his life indoors, and generally away from anyone other than family and doctors, with the result that he has never learned how to deal with people. He’s uncomfortable with strangers, and when he heard you, Miss Cutler, looking after your friend when he returned from chasing off Mr O’Herlihy, he decided there was no need for him to stick around, so he returned to his own home, out of the way.”

Kirsty found it hard to imagine being uncomfortable around people, meeting and getting along with people, even strangers, was second nature to her.

“Why did Patrick kill Jules?” Holly asked, she was far more interested in knowing the answer to that question than in understanding her mysterious neighbour.

“Because he’s a nut-job.” Fuller gave a succinct answer, which explained nothing.

Holly looked at the detective as though he was a nut-job for a moment. “Is that an official description?” she couldn’t help asking.

“Well it certainly isn’t a medical one, but it should be, based on the conversation I had with him during the night,” he remarked. “When he woke up, he was quite eager to tell me why he killed your friend Julia. In his words, she was a lying, cheating, whore, who got what she deserved.” Fuller paused for a moment. “I apologise, but as I said, those were his words. When I was able to get him to clarify, Mr O’Herlihy revealed that he recently discovered Miss Lincoln cheated on him while the two of them were involved.”

“That’s hardly news. Jules is, was, a lovely girl, my best friend, but she couldn’t stay faithful to save her life,” Holly remarked. “We all knew it,” she said a little defensively, responding to the look her friend threw her. “Patrick was the only one who didn’t, and I don’t know how he didn’t, she wasn’t exactly discreet.”

“Miss Lincoln’s lack of discretion aside, Mr O’Herlihy only recently found out about her infidelities, when his brother let slip that he had slept with her. Upon hearing that his brother had slept with his girlfriend, Mr O’Herlihy lost the plot and attacked him; we found the body of David O’Herlihy in his flat in the early hours of this morning, as his brother told us we would. He had been dead for several days.”

Kirsty was so shocked that almost ten seconds passed before she was able to speak. “So, Patrick murdered Jules and his brother because they cheated on him together? That’s crazy.”

“You’ll get no argument from me on that score,” Fuller remarked as he shifted himself on the uncomfortable chair. “I’ve investigated several murders during my time as a detective, but these were the worst.”

“I take it Gary was murdered because he had the misfortune of being with Jules when Patrick came for her.”

“Regrettably, yes. If he had not been there, Mr Turner would still be alive.”

“Okay, so I get why Patrick killed his brother, and Jules, and even Gary, even if his reasons are crazy. But why did he attack me?” Kirsty wanted to know. “I had nothing to do with Jules cheating on him with David.”

“That was a case of mistaken identity as far as I could gather. At this point in his story, Mr O’Herlihy became less coherent, mumbling something about the right dress, but the wrong girl.”

“He must have been talking about the dress I was wearing the night he attacked me, Jules lent it to me, and if I remember right, Patrick bought it for her. He bought her lots of things. I suppose it would have been easy for him to mistake me for Jules in that dress, people do say we look alike, from the back.”

“Well that explains that.” Fuller seemed relieved to have that cleared up. “And it brings us all up to date. The two of you now know everything that happened, not to mention why it happened, and I have the answer to the one thing Mr O’Herlihy didn’t clear up for me.”

“What happens now?” Holly asked. “You said Patrick confessed, does that mean he’ll go straight to jail? Or will there still need to be a trial?”

“Given the nature of the murders he has committed, Mr O’Herlihy will be examined by a psychiatrist, who will decide whether he is fit to stand trial. I think it likely he will be found unfit and sent to a secure facility; most probably he’ll spend a significant amount of time there. I’ll keep you both informed, as and when I know anything.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Kirsty shook her head. “No, thank you, detective. I think we need to be alone for a bit.”

Detective Sergeant Fuller nodded his understanding and got to his feet, quietly closing the door behind him as he left.

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