Prologue & Chapter 1 - Out Of The Dark

I self-published my novel last year, and after much reflection, I have re-edited the book for the third time. Written in the first person present/first person past, the main character (Jayden Edward Scott) is also the narrator, inviting the reader into the life and mind of a serial killer.

The book is available on Kindle.

PROLOGUE

Seven years ago

The time had come.

He had no idea what was about to happen. I lurked in the recess of a dilapidated building in a lane that led towards the New Town. I had been stalking him for the last year. He would come soon, returning home after a night of debauchery with his mistress. It was just one of many extramarital affairs. The fog lingered in the night air, visibility low, apart from the flicker of light emanating from a solitary street lamp. I heard footsteps as a silhouette appeared from the shadows, his distinguishable overcoat flapping in the wind. I had no time left to change my mind and only one chance to get it right.

He passed, oblivious to his fate.

I crept up behind him, reaching for the knife concealed in the sheath around my waist. I put one hand on his shoulder as the other swept across his neck, the blade slitting his throat with precision. I caught hold of his body as he staggered back into my arms, the sudden loss of blood instantaneous, spilling from the gash in his neck and then, it petered out, sputtering like a dying flame.

Dragging his body away from the pavement, I heaved it into the vehicle parked at the side of the road, the boot prepared with a plastic sheet. His eyes rolled to the back of his head as he moved in and out of consciousness — desperately trying to cling onto life. As a last feeble attempt, his claw-like hand reached out for help. I looked at him in disgust. Turning away, I slammed the door shut.

I left him there to bleed to death.

I felt a deep sense of sadness, just as much as the burning desire to kill my victim. At that moment, all the emotions that I felt for this man escaped from the depths of my very soul, evaporating into the night. Looking up at the dense blanket of clouds in the sky, droplets of rain brushed across my face. I saw the blood dilute, then disperse into the water, and watched as it disappeared down a drain at the side of the road.

Composing myself, I took off the overalls, leather gloves and shoes and put them in a plastic bag. I climbed into the car, driving off into the night. There was only one thing left to do: dispose of the body. No corpse, no evidence, no crime scene and no remorse for the termination of a life and my first kill. It was my first, but certainly not my last.

Chapter1: KILLER INSTINCT

Present day

Come. Come here. Come closer.

Let me whisper in your ear. Let me tell you my secrets and take you on a journey that will chill your very soul. I want to invite you into the life and mind of a serial killer. My story may fascinate you, or it might disgust you, but only you can decide. My name is Jayden Edward Scott, a killer with no remorse, no guilt and no fear of retribution. I am too clever to be caught, too meticulous in my method of killing and too smart to care. At thirty years old, I am a self-made millionaire: businessman, entrepreneur and venture capitalist with copious amounts of money to spend on a lavish lifestyle. I observe the London skyline from my apartment, contemplating how an innocent child can turn into a premeditated serial killer. The riverside property overlooks the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the River Thames. The lights from the gothic buildings ripple eerily on the soft currents of the water as the clock in the tower bellows out eleven resounding strikes. The noise startles me from my reverie of whom and what I have become. My life started in a sleepy coastal town on the east coast of Scotland, to the cosmopolitan city of Edinburgh and then, towards the capital city of London and beyond.

As a young boy, I lived in a picturesque village built around a functional harbour and fishing port, nestled into the rugged coastline overlooking the vast expanse of the North Sea. The winding streets, cobbled pavements, ancient buildings and Presbyterian Church were all part of village life. The local minister, Reverend Charles McIntyre, conducted my christening on the 3rd November 1986; one and only son to Edward and Carolyn Scott. My mother taught English at the state school in the village. She became an influential member of the small community, organising the annual summer fair situated in the sprawling grounds of the church. Many local dealers came together to sell their arts and crafts; sculpture, glass, jewellery, watercolours, flowers, pottery, and furniture. There was also face painting, raffles, and cake stalls as well other delicious treats, especially for the children.

On the other hand, my father worked in the city of Edinburgh. I never saw him much in the early years of my life as he was always away on business. My mother explained that he worked hard to pay for our house in the village as well as his properties in Edinburgh, Argyll, and London. He was a violent man with an unpredictable temper. When he did return home, there always seemed to be a lot of shouting late at night. Curled up in bed, I listened to the arguments, frightened by her cries of pain, not knowing how to help. Worse still, dark bruises — with angry looking purple blotches — appeared on my mother’s arms and legs, but she never complained. He also lashed out with his belt, and somehow, I managed to detach myself from the reality of the situation, living my twisted childhood with some degree of normality. Despite these dark memories, I remember most of my earliest years with fondness and adventure.

It really was the epitome of village life. I liked exploring the small caves buried into the side of the precipitous cliffs with my childhood friend. I had known Kristina Cooper since nursery school. We became inseparable by the time we were ten years old. She turned out to be my best friend and confidante as well as my crab-hunting soulmate. At school, I looked forward to the end of the day, escaping the confines of the small classroom so we could make our way to the beach.

One particular summer, after returning to school after the holidays, I stopped writing. I peered over at the clock. A smile passed across my face. Just then, the shrill of the bell echoed around the school. The quiet class erupted into chaos. Kristina glanced in my direction, gathered up her books and dashed towards the door.

“Stop running children,” shouted Miss Allen. “Remember to do your homework.” Nobody listened. We barged into each other as everyone tried to squeeze through the narrow door of the classroom. Raising her hands in the air, she said, “I give up. See you all tomorrow.”

Kristina was one of the first to reach the other side. “Hurry up, Jayden,” she said with a playful look. “I’ll race you to the beach.”

“Have you brought the crab container with you?” I cried.

“I’ve got it in my bag. You’ll lose the race if you don’t hurry up.”

I climbed over the school gate, closing in from behind. She ran past the pottery shop, disappearing between the whitewashed cottages near the harbour, clambered down the grassy bank and headed towards the beach. We were both out of breath by the time we reached the shoreline. I stared up at the sky, noticing the reflection of the sun shimmering on the sea. It stretched all the way to the horizon where they both met in perfect unison.

Throwing her arms up in the air in triumph, Kristina interrupted my thoughts. “At last, I’ve won a race,” she said. “Did you let me win? I bet you did. You did, didn’t you?”

I shrugged. “Of course not!”

“You’re a liar. I know you too well, Jayden Scott.”

“I suppose you do!”

“Can we go to our special place? I want to search for animals in the rock pools.”

“Good idea.”

I stretched out my arm, offering her my hand.

She rejected the proposition. “I’m fine. I’ll manage on my own.”

I felt a bit deflated. “Watch you don’t slip on the seaweed.”

The tide was out as we clambered over the rocks and made our way towards the secluded bay. I looked at Kristina with affection, a warm fuzzy feeling developing in the pit of my stomach. The gentle breeze had forced a stray lock of hair onto her face. She twirled it around her thumb and middle finger, tucking it behind her ear. As I searched for crabs under the rocks, my friend started rummaging about in the school bag, took out the crab container then burrowed it into the seaweed. She glanced over in my direction and was about to say something, but changed her mind.

“What is it?” I asked.

She turned her head away. “It’s just something my mother mentioned. It’s nothing. Forget it.”

“Tell me. We tell each other everything.”

Just then, her hand touched mine as she leaned forward and whispered in my ear. “We must always be the best of friends and never be apart. Promise!”

My mind went blank, my face flush with embarrassment. I felt hot, sweating but not sweating, paralysed with fear, not knowing what to say. I know she likes my company, I thought. We spend all of our spare time together. Tell her! “Always… forever,” I said at last.

The awkwardness of the moment passed as we spotted a movement under the seaweed. She lifted the wrack of kelp clinging to the surface of the rock. The speckled brown shell was almost invisible against the colour of the rockweed. It scurried sideways, searching for a new hiding place in a hole in the rock. Its eyes were perched on two thin stalks, twitching at the sudden exposure to daylight. She stretched out her hand to pick it up; placing a thumb on top of the hard shell as her forefinger moved to the underside of its body, the oversized claws snapping in the air, ready to confront its attacker.

I admired her bravery. “Watch out for the pincers. You’ve made it angry.”

“Pass the container. QUICK!” she ordered. “What are you laughing at anyway?”

“You’re fearless!”

“I’m not scared of anything.”

I watched as Kristina handled the enormous crab.

“Ouch!” she cried, as it took hold of a finger.

Droplets of red liquid splashed onto the rock. Drip, drip, drip.

Staring down at the blood-spattered stone, the anger I felt at that moment consumed my every thought, my eyes flashing with rage at her assailant, wanting to kill the predator for hurting my friend. Lunging forward, I was just about to snatch the crab from her hand, smash it on the ground and crush its stupid body to pieces with my foot.

She looked at my reaction. “Don’t touch it, Jayden.”

I stopped dead in my tracks, those few words saving it from a gruesome fate.

With a look of triumph on her face, she placed the crab in the container and closed the lid. Kristina put the wounded finger into her mouth, sucking the blood from the gash, spitting out red saliva onto the seaweed. I wrapped my handkerchief around the wound, tying a small knot to keep it in place. Sitting down on the sand, we huddled closer together, safe in the knowledge that the sea creature was no longer a threat. I studied the crab in more detail. Its pincers frantically clawed at the sides of the container, desperate to escape the enclosure and then, started to calm down, realising the hopelessness of the situation.

“What a beauty, Jayden.”

My anger subsided. “I suppose so. I did tell you to watch out.”

“I’m fine. Let’s put it back. The poor thing looks frightened.”

She decided to return the crab back to the rock pool rather than imprison the beast in the container. We watched it scuttle back under the seaweed. Looking up towards the sky, I noticed the setting sun radiated a yellowish-red glow against the fading daylight. In the distance, the volcanic colours of the clouds moulded together like a flow of lava as wisps of black clouds merged into the fiery furnace in the atmosphere. There was an eerie silence just before I felt the warmth of the sea air brushing against my face, the swirling wind increasing in strength with each passing moment. A storm was coming. I watched it approaching as the threatening presence crept over the village.

“It’s getting late,” I said. “We need to go.”

As we climbed over the rocks, claps of thunder rumbled overhead, the noise moving closer and closer. Forked lightning flashed across the molten sky, before meeting the ocean’s surface for a few seconds — the outline of the waves rippling in the afterglow of the magnetic current.

“WOW! Look at that,” she shouted. “That’s spectacular.”

At that moment, I grabbed her hand. This time, she had no time to refuse. “It’s getting closer. Hurry up!” I cried.

We sprinted along the beach, leaping up the stairs of the stone path — two at a time. High up in the clammy atmosphere, another deafening roar of thunder rumbled overhead. BBBOOOMMM… BBOOMM… BOOM. Catching our breath for a moment, we ran towards her house.

She rushed up the path to the front door. “See you tomorrow. Hurry home before it starts to pour with rain!”

I waved. “I don’t think I’m going to make it!”

The heavens opened up, the storm raging through the small town. I ran through the centre of the village, afraid of the electric currents flickering above, lighting up the village for a split second before turning a deadly shade of black. The rain pelted across my face as the lights from our house came into focus. I dashed through the front door, slamming it shut. I’m safe now, I thought to myself, safe from harm.

As I changed out of my wet clothes, the comforting smell of food lingered in the air. After dinner, I settled into bed to complete my homework for the following day. My mother snuggled closer, listening to the story. As she stroked my hair with her tender fingers, tiredness overpowered my weary limbs. She tucked in the covers, shut the book, turned off the light and closed the door. I drifted in and out of sleep, but somewhere in a conscious part of my mind, I heard the waves crashing against the rocks below our house and the wind battering on the shutters. I wrapped the covers tighter around my body. Kristina’s words brought some comfort, despite the chaos that engulfed the village. Jayden, we must always be best friends and never be apart.

The next morning, my eyes slowly began to open, blinded by the spears of light radiating through the slits in the shutters. I rubbed the back of my hands across my eyes, listening. The storm had passed. Dragging myself out of bed, I made my way down the stairs to the welcome of my mother making breakfast. The bowl she was holding stood at an angle on the wooden surface as she beat the eggs with a whisk.

“Hi there,” she said, “did you sleep well?”

“Not really. The weather was pretty bad during the night. What’s for breakfast? I’m starving!”

She poured the flour over the eggs. “Pancakes and bacon. It’s your favourite.”

“Great!”

The tone of her voice changed. “Sit down. I’ve got something to tell you.”

I looked at my mother with suspicion. “What?”

She sat down, placing a reassuring hand over mine. “Your father is coming home this weekend. We’ve got some news that might upset you.”

“What news?”

“We’re going to be moving to Edinburgh by the end of the year.”

“Why?”

“We just have to.”

At that moment, I felt my whole world falling apart. Soon, my life here would be over; my friends, our school, the beach, and hunting for crabs with Kristina. I had to fight back the tears welling up in my eyes. “I want to stay here.”

“We can’t.”

My fingers curled up into a ball, nails biting into my flesh as my fists came crashing down on the surface of the table. “This is our home. I don’t want to go to a city I’ve never been to before.”

“I understand… but...”

“And, I promised Kristina Cooper that we’d never be apart.”

She raised an eyebrow as a faint smile flickered across her face.

What’s so funny about that? I thought. I pushed my chair back from the table then ran towards the kitchen door. “I’m not going. You can’t make me!”

“COME BACK!” she shouted.

I ran up the stairs, crumpling into a heap on the bed, unable to control the gut-wrenching sobs from deep within my body. I felt the tears rolling down my cheeks, trickling onto my lips, tasting the salty tears in my mouth. “I hate him!” I cried. “He’s the one forcing us to leave. I’m not going. I’ll tell him that. I’m staying here in the village. Nobody is taking it away. I’m NOT leaving my best friend.”

Gaining some composure, I looked at the disturbing pictures I had drawn of my father in my sketch book. Those expressionless eyes were like the vacant look of a corpse. I threw the book onto the bed, stood up and started pacing around the room. I grabbed hold of a rock from the shelf, hurling it at the mirror, cracking the surface — the fractured lines distorting my image as I stared into the shattered glass.

“I HATE HIM!”

Just then, I saw my mother’s broken reflection.

“Jayden, please calm down. It’s…”

“Get out of my room,” I shouted. “OUT!”

She retreated without a word of protest at my disruptive manner, but all I wanted her to do was take me in her arms when I needed it the most. I left the house without having any breakfast. The rest of the day passed by in a haze. I avoided Kristina Cooper at school. When the bell rang, I walked home along the clifftop on my own.

Looking out across the sea, a solitary bird hovered in the sky before it dived headfirst into the water. It emerged from the sea clutching a fish in its beak, returning to its nest on a ledge on the rock face, greeted by the excitable squawking of the young birds. In contrast, I dreaded the return of my father and the decisions that would change my life forever.

As I entered the house, I saw my mother approaching the hallway. I had no left time to bolt up the stairs to my bedroom. “Don’t look so sad,” she said, looking in my direction with pity in her eyes. “We have to sell the house as your father needs the money for a business investment.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want to leave the village. Please, can we stay here?” I begged.

She took hold of my hand and shook her head. “We can’t stay here any longer. We can talk about this later. Your father will be home soon. I need to go and prepare the dinner.”

I waited.

He was late.

Crouching against the bannister at the top of the stairs, I heard the key turning in the lock at seven forty-five. Craning my neck to get a better look, I peered at him through the railings. He walked through the front door, dressed in a tailored business suit hanging effortlessly against a tall frame. My father’s striking yet most terrifying features were his menacing brown eyes — sinister and dark like his temper. Looking flustered, he paused for a moment, loosened the dimple on his tie and then, unfastened the top button of his shirt before throwing his briefcase against the coat stand.

He made his way towards the kitchen.

I listened to the dull tone of voices drifting up the stairs. Suddenly, I heard footsteps on the wooden floor in the hallway. They came to an abrupt halt. “Come down for your dinner,” shouted my father.

“I’ll be there in a minute.”

I ran down the stairs, stopping at the bottom, waiting for him to move out of the way. Our eyes met only for a brief moment. He stepped aside. As we walked towards the dining room, I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck, scared of his threatening presence.

“Sit down. Eat your dinner.”

I nibbled away at the meal that my mother had taken so much time to prepare. Giving up, I started to slide the pasta around on the plate.

“Stop doing that,” he warned.

“What?”

“Stop playing with your food.”

I shuffled about on my chair. “Sorry.”

“What’s wrong? Do you not like it?”

“I do. I’m just not hungry, that’s all.”

“EAT,” he repeated.

“Edward, leave him alone. He’s upset that we have to leave the village.”

“You’ve told him?”

“I have.”

With a trite look on his face — devoid of any real emotion — my father explained the situation through what he thought was a meaningful speech. He started his conversation full of confidence and ended it full of anger. “It’s for the best. You’ll see. It’s time that we all lived together as a proper family. I miss you both very much. We need to sell the house for a business investment. It is guaranteed to make us a lot of money. Your new house is just as beautiful as this one in a lovely part of Edinburgh. You’ll have your own room. We’ve already found you a local school. You’ll make new friends and move on from this small village. Living in Edinburgh will bring more opportunities for you in later life. It has excellent universities if you choose to study there.”

“I don’t care. I’m staying here. I want to be with my friends,” I declared.

His icy cold stare lingered in my direction for what seemed like an eternity. Out of desperation, I pointed at my mother in need of her support. “She doesn’t want to go either.” My voice began to get louder and louder. “I’m not going. I hate you! I’m not going,” I yelled.

He clenched his fists, banging them on the table just as I had done earlier in the day to my mother. “NEVER speak like that again, you spoiled little brat. I know what’s best for our family.” He leaned forward, staring. All of his anger appeared focused in that one glare, and if it were a weapon, that devastating look could easily win an entire world war.

My words tailed off as I looked at him, then at my mother, then back towards my father. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I don’t… I didn’t… mean to… upset… you.”

Now I’m in trouble, I thought. What have I done? I knew from experience his behaviour was unpredictable. Glancing at the belt around his waist, I dreaded the consequences of my actions. He stood up, staring over in my direction, his lips pursing together and those brown eyes flashing with rage.

I froze.

She grabbed his arm.

My mother’s calm demeanour quickly changed as a look of terror passed across her face, trembling at the possible consequences of my outburst. “Don’t you bloody touch him, Edward.”

This is bad. She never swears, I thought.

He turned, striking her across the face. She fell to the ground, crying on the floor, curled up like a frightened animal as his foot kicked her in the stomach. “Stop interfering, you stupid bitch.”

“Don’t Edward,” she gasped, trying to catch a breath. “Our baby.”

He bent down, pressing his forehead against her brow. “How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t want another child. Why do you always undermine my authority? You and that boy, you’re a pair of fucking idiots.”

I looked at him in disbelief. “LEAVE HER ALONE!”

He stood up. “Shut the fuck up.”

Striding towards the table, he swept his arm over the top of it, the plates and glasses smashing to pieces on the hard tiles.

“I’m sorry,” I said, shaking uncontrollably.

In a flash, he seized my arm. I tried to resist — kicking and screaming — as he dragged my writhing body up the stairs to the bedroom. I stood there in the middle of the room, paralysed by fear, hearing only the erratic beating of my heart banging against my chest. He reached out with a powerful grip and then, started to shake my tiny frame.

“You disrespectful little bastard,” I heard him saying under his breath. “We’re all leaving by the end of the year whether you like it or not. Do you understand? Answer!”

I whimpered. “I understand. I do. I’m sorry, Daddy.”

He unfastened his belt, never taking his gaze away from my eyes. It glided from around his waist with one swipe of his arm. He let it fall to his side, the pin on the buckle at the end of the strap hissing at me like a venomous snake, ready to attack. I watched him as he threaded the end of the belt through the clasp, tightening it around his knuckles to get a firmer grip. He folded it in half to shorten the length before pulling it apart and snapping it shut… CRACK!

I felt petrified.

In anticipation, I curled up into a ball on the bed, my arms protecting my head, my knees hugging into my chest. I’m like that frightened crab hiding in the hole of the rock, but for me, there is no escape, I thought. Breathing heavily, he raised the belt above his head and brought it down with such a force, focusing on exposed areas of skin, lashing out at my arms, legs, and back, stinging my body, striking like lightning hitting the surface of the ocean. I winced in pain, shouting at him to stop, but he ignored my plea for mercy. Unable to bear it anymore, I begged him.

“DON’T HURT ME ANYMORE. STOP, DADDY,” I shouted. “HELP, MUMMY. PLEASE HELP.”

Despite my desperate outburst, the brutal attack was relentless. I caught sight of my mother standing at the door, watching in the shadows. Her motionless silhouette appeared as a ghostly white figure through my tear-stained eyes, almost like an apparition. I received the worst beating of my life, beaten into submission into leaving the village by the time I was eleven years old.

********

I mentally return to the recognisable setting of the apartment overlooking the River Thames. Unable to relax, my body refuses to find comfort as I stare out into the murky night...

********

Copyright: Marshall Hughes

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