‘Hello.’ Odd how light and pleasant his voice could sound; no wonder everyone thought he was so lovely. Michelle wasn’t fooled though: she stood her ground and folded her arms.
‘Thought I might find you here.’ Still pleasant, just two friends passing the time of day. A couple went by with their dog, didn’t even glance over.
Anna stood rooted to the pavement, willing one of the staff to come out of the shelter. She reached for her phone and he took a step nearer.
‘Don’t come any closer.’ Anna’s voice was husky but defiant; Michelle took her arm in solidarity.
‘Or what?’ He was still smiling pleasantly but the menace was creeping into his voice.
‘I’m going to phone someone,’ she warned.
‘I really wouldn’t.’ He took another step forward, pulled a cricket bat from behind and held it in both hands like a batsman taking a full toss.
Now or never. She screamed at the top of her voice and ran out into the road, causing a car to stand on the brakes – then she grabbed Michelle’s arm and charged past him to the shelter, hammering on the door as if her life depended on it.
Eve came, took in the situation and ushered them inside, saying to him calmly, ‘I’m calling the police. Right now. We’ve got you on CCTV: don’t come back.’
‘Well done hen!’ Michelle was full of admiration but all Anna could do was collapse into a chair, her breath going like a steam train. ‘Is he gone?’ She could barely get the words out.
Phone to her ear, Eve scanned the screen. ‘He’s getting into his car.’
‘He could just wait round the corner.’
‘You need to be careful when you go out. Take your alarm.’
‘I can’t believe how easily he found me.’
‘You’d be amazed, we’ve had guys from all over – Scotland, Cornwall, even France and Spain. They come to get their property back.’
‘Tha’s wha’ we are tae them.’ Michelle laughed mirthlessly. ‘Property. Like a wee purse tha’s been stolen.’
Anna started laughing, she hardly knew why. Eve put down the phone and they ended up falling about like idiots, all three of them in the office. But the decision was made now, in the chambers of her heart, in the corpuscles of her blood, in the silent cells of the bone. No going back. End of story.
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