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THE DS ALBIE EDWARDS SERIES 

ISLA'S GAME.jpg

Isla's Game

Book two

How far would you go to prove a loved one innocent of murder?

 

Isla likes to play games and she is up against DS Edwards who insists on winning.

 

When women start to go missing, under unusual circumstances, DS Albie Edwards and his team dive into the investigation in an attempt to solve the case before others suffer.

 

The deeper they delve into the investigation, the more evidence they uncover to link the kidnappings with old murder cases in the area.

 

To thread the cases together as quickly as possible, Albie has to call a truce with DS Rachel Fawn and work in tandem with her to get results before the kidnappers push forward with a game that can end in

murder.

 

Chapter 1

Esther MacDonald had no complaints. If questioned, she would say that she loved her life. She knew she hadn’t been dealt the best hand, but she was alive and was responsible for the life of her most precious possession, her son. 

A gush of cool air spluttered and spewed from the car’s heater and hit her smack in the face when she turned the key—a simultaneous wake up call for herself and the car. Esther’s frantic fingers fiddled with dials until air swept upwards to smother the frost curtain that covered the windscreen like intricate webs constructed from spider’s silk threads. As the frost blotches cleared, she leaned across the dashboard and switched on the radio. Mellow tunes filled the car. Classics that played on repeat at this ungodly hour each morning. Esther pulled away from the curb knowing that most sane people were tucked up in bed and that from the following Monday, she would join the millions of people who worked regular hours. 

 Cleaning had not been her first employment choice. However, as a cleaner in a school, other doors had opened for her. Ambition was a dirty word to Esther. She denied the desire to better herself and laughed at the thought of having a life plan. In fact, she believed life was something that happened to her, and until she saw otherwise, nothing would change her mind. Everything she did involved hard work and commitment. She feared neither, and as a result knew she would succeed—if not for herself, then for Dillon. Dillon, just the thought of his chubby hand gripped around her finger and his cute giggle when she picked him up, brought a smile to her face. Yes, she would succeed for Dillon.

 Not one to notice her surroundings, especially before sunrise, Esther began her daily journey on auto pilot, passing a few cars on the way. She passed a sign on her left, Kent: ‘The Garden of England’, a quote she questioned often. Kent covered an extensive area, and not all parts were as idyllic as the quote made them sound. She indicated left and took the next slip road to leave the A2. Esther approached the roundabout with care, but kept her foot on the accelerator, knowing that vehicles were scarce at that time of the morning. She turned the corner at speed, slammed her foot on the brake, and swerved to avoid a stationary car. At the last moment, she slowed the car as it spun towards the central reservation. Her hands gripped the steering wheel, her arms outstretched, but her elbows locked. Esther’s entire body braced and her back pressed into the shape of the driver’s seat. The screech of the brakes and the scream that left her mouth drowned out the mellow tunes and whir of the heater until she ground to a halt. Then her heart slowed while the whir from the heater worked to soothe her hysteria.

 Through the partial haze of the misted rear-view mirror, a metallic-grey car sat squat at least two feet out from the side of the curb. The doors were spread like elephants’ ears. The driver’s side hung from its hinges. Esther smoothed her hair back from her face with shaking fingers. A screech of car wheels and the extended beep of a horn brought her to her senses. She turned the key in the ignition and manoeuvred her VW Beetle to the curb-side in front of the stationary car she’d hit. 

Esther sat and waited until her pulse mimicked the melody that escaped from the radio and filled the silence. Decision made, after a slight hesitation, she opened the door. She placed her feet on the road, then at the last minute leaned backwards into the car to retrieve her large leather handbag from the footwell.

She turned and faced the car she’d collided with, then scanned the surroundings for the owner. To her right was an overgrown wooded area, to her left tarmac. It seemed absurd to Esther that although she was only seconds away from a major road, the dominant noise came from morning birdsong rather than traffic, which she knew would intensify over the next few hours. Since pulling over, she’d seen only two cars. Neither had slowed nor shown any inclination to stop. So much for human kindness, she thought. Perhaps that doesn’t kick in until later in the day. The hint of a smile slipped from her pale face as quickly as it had appeared. She took several tentative steps towards the grey car and wrapped her black cardigan around her midriff to counteract the chill that ran down her spine from feeling open and exposed. With each step she took, Esther’s senses heightened, and the icy air brushed her delicate skin. The cool metal of the car door frame numbed her palm on contact. She bent forward and peered inside. The interior was spotless. There were no personal items in immediate sight. She struggled to release the glove compartment, to no avail. The storage area in her car that was crammed with maps, CDs, and rubbish was empty.

A rustle from behind startled Esther.

“Ow.” She rubbed the top of her head and cursed where it had hit the door frame. Another rustle had her spinning around on her heels in time to see a figure stumble from the trees and head straight towards her. Startled, Esther attempted to assess the situation. The woman’s arms flapped, her face distorted, her eyes wide, frantic. Esther’s instant reaction was reflected terror as the woman lunged at her like a rabid animal, her arms flayed, and she grabbed out at Esther with fingers bent like claws. Esther took in her mud caked primrose dress, gouged scratches seeped thick. Crimson blood, clotted brown as it mixed with dirt and grime, meshed in her arms and legs. Her bulbous eyes protruded from a dirt smeared ghostly face. They brought terror to her heart long before a piercing cry left the girl’s mouth. 

“He’s coming.” 

Esther froze. 

“Help me. He’s coming,” 

 Esther hesitated for just a moment before she grasped the girl’s clammy hand and dragged her to the VW. They both jumped inside. The girl turned her upper torso and leaned one arm on the top of the passenger’s seat, eyes wide and body shaking. Tension seeped from every pore of this woman. It was contagious. Esther fumbled with her keys, and with the third attempt, the engine turned over. Esther panicked as she realised the shock had taken away her ability to remember how to drive.

As quick as the routine had disappeared, so it came back within reaching distance once she put the car into gear without stalling. The further they drove, the more aware she was of the tension in her muscles and urged herself to relax. She looked at her passenger, now slumped in the front seat with her eyes closed. Her face resembled a pale mask left out in the elements. She sighed, turned on the heater and switched on the radio, until she felt comfortable again. 

What next? It was too early to take her to the police station, she decided, although she had no idea if this was true. What she was sure about was that reaching her work place meant safety for them both.

Esther wriggled her bottom into the apex of the car seat and forced her shoulders back, giving her five-foot body an inch more height. Movement from the backseat was so swift, although she caught a flicker in the rear-view mirror. Not quick enough to dodge a cool gloved hand wrap around her neck before her brain registered. She smelt leather and aniseed as she struggled to breathe. Her hands gripped the steering wheel, and her rigid body bucked. Cool metal imprinted the side of her neck.

 “I wouldn’t struggle,” a deep velvet voice whispered in her ear. The type that could put you to sleep with a bedtime story. He forced her body further back, the springs in the chair uncomfortable against her skin. 

“Our aim is to keep you alive, but obviously that depends on how good you are at following instructions. Keep driving straight ahead. I’ll tell you when to turn.” 

The voice was soothing, which contradicted the scenario that played out now, with her as a major character. Something he’d said petrified her more than anything else. He’d said ‘our’. Esther turned her head to the left, and in an instant she realised her worst fears. Her ally, the petrified youthful girl, was no longer feigning sleep. Instead, her gaze penetrated Esther, and she wore a smile like a trophy on her grubby face.  

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