The Girl In The Ice (DCI Erika Foster #1) - Robert Bryndza Page 0,1

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.

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