Investigative journalist, Susan ‘Stripe’ McLachlan, is constantly hounded by eager documentarians for interview requests about the Night Scrawler murders. One of the victims of the mysterious serial killer was a member of her own family, her father.
At the peak of her career, her services are sought by Isaac Payne who commissions her to write an article for his website. Usually, her projects delve into more uncomfortable, questionable topics, but there’s a deep, almost hauntingly familiar pull about her new client that intrigues her.
As she learns more about Isaac, Stripe digs up fresh secrets about the murders, arousing her suspicions. After an awkward confrontation, she wakes up in Isaac’s bed — with a chain around her ankle.
Isaac shows her harrowing footage on an old VHS tape. The contents hits close to home…closer than Stripe ever imagined. Now, she has to wrestle with her own moral compass and unpick the truth from the web of lies that turn into a crescendo where memories created from misery and suffering cannot be silenced.
Will Isaac ever lay the past to rest? And how will Stripe cope with the revelations that challenge everything she has ever known?
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I see the click and switch when you turn off the television. I hear your heartbeat when you climb up the stairs. I can feel your soft bare feet on the carpet as you walk into your bedroom.
The night is peculiarly tranquil when I come to visit you. I try to keep my tread light as I step across the arms of the branches. The closer you are to me, the more I want to see you. I should know better. I shouldn’t be here, but I guess I’m just like any hot-blooded man. I’m weak. I’m drawn to you. I can’t stay away.
I hold on to the branches, easing my way across so I can see you. I smell the perfume you wore today, the wine you drank lingers on your lips. My heart pounds in my chest. One single snag and I’m done for. You’d know I was here, creeping around, spying on you.
I wouldn’t visit during the day because you of all people should know that I was made to be hidden, to pounce when the moment is right. I’m not here tonight to track and trace. Remember, I wouldn’t ever… ever harm you.
You waft out from the darkness, staring from your bedroom window. You tap your finger against your chest, you’re worried about something and I know why.
The authorities are hunting for me.
I know you’ve been tracking my every move. You’ve been searching and reading and ringing people. You’ve kept a keen eye on the news. The stories are rife. I know what they call me. But they don’t know the true tale or what my makers did.
I know about the urban legend. Some say I’m as tall as a tree, others say I wear a gas mask when I mutilate my victims. Some of the details make me laugh and frankly, some of them make me sad.
If I were to rewind the clock and undo the past, then I wouldn’t have met you.
You wouldn’t know what you know and we wouldn’t have…
I tremble as I think about it. That kiss…
Your words, your skin…
Do you remember it? Do you ever think about it?
Hang on, forget what I said. Look, I took something precious from you many years ago. I stole it, ripped it from your heart. If things were different, I’d be inside this house, beside you, loving you – but you probably hate me. I don’t blame you at all if you do – and if you don’t, you should. I wish I could leave this alone, but I have something to do and I can’t ignore it, not this time. Neglecting the wounds will just make the infection worse.
Something screams from inside the house and you move from the window, disappearing into the darkness. Worry bubbles up from my core. I hope it’s not anything insidious or I’ll slash it to shreds.
Minutes trickle by and you haven’t returned. Where have you gone?
Scream or make a gesture and I’ll help you. If something bad is there, tell me and I’ll get rid of it. Where are you?
My heart slows when I feel your presence. Your heartbeat echoes in my ears. You’re calm, but there’s another beat. You emerge from the darkness again and I can’t breathe as I see it.
Kateri Stanley graduated from The Open University with a degree in Arts and Humanities and worked for the National Health Service for 8 years. When she’s not writing stories, you can find her binge-watching films, creating playlists for her projects and dabbling in the occasional video game. She currently resides in the West Midlands, United Kingdom with her partner. They are hoping to be cat parents soon.