Tethered to the Dead(The DS Lasser Series Book 3)

By: Rob Roughley

TETHERED TO THE DEAD. ROB ROUGHLEY





1


She has no idea that he watches her, no inkling he’s so near.

He stands wreathed in shadow beneath the trees, relishing the thrill of concealment, the inherent beauty of illicit observation.

Closer and he will be able to see the comb glide through her hair, watch the sparks fly as she gathers the tresses, teasing and untangling the waves and curls, bringing order to chaos. The thought leaves him feeling drunk with wonderment.

Her home backs onto dense woodland, part of an exclusive gated community. Gleaming four by fours stand like inert sentinels on block-paved drives, alongside jet-skis and quads – playthings of the rich. This is a haven for the professional elite arriving home to their fragile ecosystems, pointing key fobs at the iron gates that keep out the undesirables. Barricaded behind high walls, protected by CCTV cameras, safe and secure in their high-tech enclosure.

Not for them the empty house with damp crawling up the walls like a filthy black cancer.

As the light begins to fade he creeps slowly down the embankment, crouched low, moving furtively between the shadows, his worn shoes dislodge earth and leaves forming a mini cascade that whispers down the steep incline.

Her bedroom light is on, the blinds open wide.

When you live in a house like this – an area like this – you become complacent, cocooned from reality because daddy earns a six-figure salary. You live in a protective bubble of private schools and state-of-the-art intruder alarms. Eventually, you begin to see yourself as untouchable, somehow separate from the rest of the sprawling human race, moving unscathed through a life mapped out for inevitable success.

His grin appears more like a snarl in the fragmented half-light; he knows the truth of the matter, the fragility of her existence, the ease at which he can pry unseen into her rarefied world.

He melds himself against the trunk of a gnarled oak and watches as she flits back and forth in front of the window. Lifting up the camera he focuses and begins to add to his collection. She appears, wrapped in a white bath towel, her glorious hair cascading across her narrow shoulders. The man shivers in anticipation, this is going to be life affirming, he can feel it with a certainty that thrums through his body. The camera whirrs and clicks – a small mechanised sound at odds with the twilight birdsong. Though all he can hear is the hiss and sigh of blood rushing through his head, a sound reminiscent of a wave rushing up a pebbled beach before retreating to the sea. Pressing the button again, he captures her image for eternity. Applying lipstick, she pouts, lips drawn together as she studies her reflection in the full-length mirror.

It never fails to amaze him how ‘knowing’ young girls seem today. She holds herself in a way that hints at knowledge way beyond her sixteen summers, knowledge and understanding of the mesmeric hold she has over others.

He has passed her in the street, followed her surreptitiously on shopping trips around town – her and her friends with their designer handbags and Ugg boots – unaware of the heads that turn to watch as they saunter past.

Pulling out credit cards like a card sharp deals the deck, confident in the knowledge that they will never be confronted with the words ‘insufficient funds ’.

She appears again, he raises the lens and frowns, and just for a moment he feels swamped with confusion, as if time is unravelling in the still evening air. The girl is wearing a dress that he has not seen before, tie-dyed cheesecloth, multi coloured and hitched tight at the waist. She dips her head and puts on a pair of long feathered earrings that follow perfectly the curve of her slender neck. When she slips a vibrant daffodil into her mane of dark hair, he pulls the third eye away and blinks in bewilderment. By the time he gathers himself she has vanished from view.

When he hears the steady clatter of the approaching van the illusion of time warped out of shape is complete. An old VW camper draws to a halt in front of the huge iron gates. Painted in shocking pinks and purples, a multitude of gaudy flowers stencilled along the side, pale blue smoke seeps lazily from the exhaust. Through the lens, he sees the side door slide open; a blond-haired girl leaps out dressed in low-slung bell-bottom jeans sporting a caftan and sunglasses. He begins to snap off one image after another, his finger stabbing at the button in mounting frustration. Her laughter rings aloud as she approaches the intercom, a moment later the gates glide open and she clambers back inside as the van putt-putts out of sight.

The man can feel the shake in his hands; sweat oozes from his stale pores making his skin crawl. He can sense his plans fragmenting and drifting away, the blood in his head now a constant roar. Hidden in the gloom a magpie laughs, a harsh clacking sound that scythes through his brain. Unscrewing the lid from a small bottle he takes a long gulp of tepid tap water, trying to calm his senses, trying to regain control of his bewildered mind. Looking forlornly at the closed window he sighs, inevitably the light has been extinguished leaving nothing but a black mirror that reflects perfectly the sepia image of the ancient trees.





2


DS Lasser peered around the packed incident room; absently scratching at the nicotine patch on his forearm, his jaw clenched as he stifles a yawn.

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