The Girl In The Ice (DCI Erika Foster #1)(2) by Robert Bryndza

They blinked off, plunging her into darkness.

She heard a door open and tried to get up, but the road under her lurched and spun. Legs came into view, blue jeans . . . A pair of expensive trainers blurred and became four. She put out her arm, expecting the familiar figure to help her up, but instead, in a swift move, a leather-gloved hand clamped over her nose and mouth. The other arm encircled her upper arms, pinning them against her body. The glove’s leather was soft and warm against her skin, but the power and strength of the fingers inside shocked her. She was yanked up, dragged swiftly to the rear door and slung inside the car, landing lengthways on the back seat. The cold behind her extinguished as the door slammed shut. Andrea lay in shock, not quite comprehending what had just happened.

The car shifted as the figure climbed into the front passenger seat and closed the door. The central locking clicked and whirred. Andrea heard the glove compartment open, a rustle, and then it was snapped shut. The car swayed as the figure clambered through the gap in the front seats and sat down hard on her back, pushing the air from her lungs. Moments later, a thin plastic strip encircled her wrists, pulling them tight behind her back, biting into her skin. The figure shifted down her body, quick and lithe, muscular thighs now pressing on her tied wrists. The pain in her twisted ankle intensified as thick tape was unfurled with a juddering sound and her ankles were bound together. An overpowering smell of a pine tree air freshener mixed with a coppery tang, and she realised her nose was bleeding.

A flash of anger gave Andrea a surge of adrenalin, sharpening her mind.

‘What the fuck are you doing?’ she started. ‘I’ll scream. You know how loud I can scream!’

But the figure shifted round, knees now on her back, forcing the air out of her. A shadow moved in the corner of her eye, and something hard and heavy came down on the back of her head. Fresh pain and stars burst in front of her eyes. The arm rose and again came crashing down, and then everything went black.

The road remained silent and empty as the first specks of snow began to fall, twirling lazily to meet the ground. The car, sleek with its tinted windows, pulled away almost soundlessly and slid off into the night.

1

Lee Kinney emerged from the small end-terrace house where he still lived with his mother, and stared up the high street at the blanket of white. He pulled a packet of cigarettes from his trackies, and lit up. It had snowed all weekend, and was still falling, purifying the churn of footprints and tyre tracks already on the ground. Forest Hill train station was silent at the foot of the hill; the Monday morning commuters who usually surged past him, bound for offices in Central London, were probably still tucked up in the warm, enjoying an unexpected morning in bed with their other halves.

Lucky bastards.

Lee had been unemployed since leaving school six years ago, but the good old days of languishing on the dole were over. The new Tory government was cracking down on the long-term unemployed, and Lee now had to work full-time for his dole. He’d been given a fairly cushy work placement as a council gardener at the Horniman Museum, just a ten-minute walk from his house. He’d wanted to stop home this morning like everyone else, but he’d heard nothing from Jobcentre Plus to say that work was cancelled. In the blazing row that had followed, his mother had said if he didn’t show up, his dole would be stopped, and he’d have to find somewhere else to live.

There was a bang on the front window and his mother’s pinched face appeared, shooing him away. He gave her the finger and set off up the hill.

Four pretty teenage girls were coming towards him. They wore the red blazers, short skirts and knee-high socks of Dulwich School for Girls. They chatted away excitedly in their plummy accents about how they’d been turned away from school, whilst simultaneously swiping at their iPhones, the signature white headphone wires swinging against blazer pockets. They crowded the pavement en masse, and didn’t part when Lee reached them, so he was forced to step down off the kerb into a murky slush left by the road gritter. He felt icy water seep into his new trainers and shot them a dirty look, but they were too absorbed in their tribal gossip, screaming with laughter.

Stuck up rich bitches, he thought. As he reached the brow of the hill, the clock tower of the Horniman Museum appeared through the bare branches of the elm trees. Snow had spattered against its smooth yellow sandstone bricks, sticking like clumps of wet toilet tissue.

Lee turned right onto a residential street which ran parallel to the iron railings of the museum grounds. The road climbed sharply, the houses becoming grander. As he reached its summit, he stopped for a moment to catch his breath. Snow flew into his eyes, scratchy and cold. On a good day you could see London spread out from here, stretching away for miles down to the London Eye by the Thames, but today thick white cloud had descended, and Lee could only just make out the imposing sprawl of the Overhill housing estate on the hill opposite.