Home > The Girl In The Ice (DCI Erika Foster #1)

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


The pavement glittered in the moonlight as Andrea Douglas-Brown hurried up the deserted high street. Her high heels click-clacked in the quiet, frequently breaking rhythm – a result of all the vodka she’d consumed. The January air was sharp, and her bare legs stung from the cold. Christmas and New Year had been and gone, leaving a cold aseptic void. Shop windows slid past, bathed in darkness, broken only by a grimy off-licence under a flickering street light. An Indian man sat inside, hunched in the glow of his laptop, but didn’t notice as she stalked past.

Andrea was so fuelled by anger, so intent on leaving the pub behind, that she only questioned where she was going when the shop windows were replaced by large houses set back from the pavement. A skeleton of elm tree branches stretched above, vanishing into the starless sky. She stopped and leant against a wall to catch her breath. Blood roared through her body, and the icy air burned as she pulled it into her lungs. Turning back, she saw she’d come quite far, and was halfway up the hill. The road stretched away behind, a slick of treacle bathed in sodium orange with the train station at its base, which was shuttered in darkness. The silence and the cold pressed down on her. The only movement was the stream of vapour as her breath hit the freezing air. She tucked her pink clutch bag under her arm, and, satisfied no one was around, lifted the front of her tiny dress and retrieved an iPhone from her underwear. The Swarovski crystals on the cover glittered lazily under the orange street lights. The screen showed there was no signal. She cursed, tucked it back into her underwear and unzipped the tiny pink clutch. Nestling inside was an older iPhone, it too had Swarovski bling, but several of its crystals were missing. It too showed no signal.

Panic climbed in Andrea’s chest as she looked around. The houses were set back from the road, tucked behind tall hedges and iron gates. If she could reach the crest of the hill, she’d probably get reception. And screw it, she thought, she would call her father’s driver. She’d think of an explanation why she was south of the river. She buttoned up her tiny leather jacket, wrapped her arms over her chest and set off up the hill, the old iPhone still cradled in her hand like a talisman.

The sound of a car engine rumbled behind and she turned her head, squinting into the headlights, feeling even more exposed as the bright light played over her bare legs. Her hopes that it was a taxi were dashed when she saw the roof of the car was low and there was no ‘for hire’ sign. She turned away and carried on walking. The sound of the car engine grew louder, and then the headlights were on top of her, casting a large circle of light on the pavement in front. A few more seconds passed, but the lights were still on her; she could almost feel their heat. She glanced back into the glare. The car slowed, and crawled along a few feet behind.

She felt furious when she realised whose car it was. With a flick of her long hair, she turned back and carried on walking. The car accelerated a little, drawing level. The windows were tinted black. A sound system boomed and fizzed, tickling her throat, making her ears itch. She stopped abruptly. The car came to a halt seconds later, then reversed the few feet back so the driver’s window was now level with her. The sound system fell silent. The engine hummed.

Andrea leaned over and peered at the inky glass of the tinted window, but only her face reflected back. She leant down and tried the door, but it was locked. She banged on the window with the flat of her pink clutch bag and tried the door again.

‘I’m not playing games, I meant what I said back there!’ she shouted. ‘Either open the door or . . . or . . .’

The car remained motionless, its engine humming.

Or what? it seemed to say.

Andrea tucked her bag under her arm, gave the tinted glass the finger, and stalked away, climbing the last of the hill to its crest. A huge tree straddled the edge of the pavement and, putting its thick trunk between her and the car’s headlights, she checked the phone again, holding it out above her head for a signal. The sky was starless, and the browny-orange cloud seemed so low that her outstretched arm might brush against it. The car slowly inched forward and came to a halt beside the tree.

Fear began to trickle through Andrea’s body. Staying in the shadow of the tree, she scanned her surroundings. Thick hedges lined the pavements on both sides of the road, which stretched away up ahead into a blur of suburban gloom. Then she spied something opposite: an alleyway running between two large houses. She could just make out a small sign, which read: dulwich 1¼.

‘Catch me if you can,’ she murmured. She took a breath, and made to run across the road – but caught her foot on one of the thick tree roots bulging up under the pavement. Pain shot through her ankle as it folded under her. She lost balance, her clutch bag and phone skidding away as her hip hit the corner of the kerb and she tumbled into the road, her head hitting the tarmac with a hollow thud. She lay dazed in the glare of the car headlights.

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