I received the final proof of the manuscript yesterday and I am reading though it, but as promised, here is the first chapter so you may get a feel for the novel.
The Kult by Shaun Jeffrey
People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.
At least that’s what the Oracle hoped. He had studied and plotted Jane Numan’s routine over the weeks. Watched without her seeing, making note of every nuance, every step of her schedule until he had a complete diary of her movements, probably knowing more about her than she did about herself.
He crouched in the recessed doorway of the kebab shop opposite where she lived and gripped the handle of the knife in the sheath inside his jacket. His weapon of choice, he hoped the mere sight of the blade would instil terror in his prey, making it more personal, and putting him close enough that he could smell his quarry and see the fear in her eyes.
He looked at his watch; 6:29 a.m. and counting.
Any second now…
Like clockwork, the front door of what to anyone else would be a nondescript house opened and Jane walked out. The Oracle sank back into the shadows as he stared at the facial disfigurement that made it appear half her face was melting. Although only 23 years of age, she probably hadn’t had the easiest of lives, which made her all the more desirable as a victim as the more public sympathy his kill received, the more publicity he would generate, and as people were fond of saying, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, especially not for what he had planned.
The Oracle watched her check that the door was locked, pushing once, twice, then a third time, as she always did when she left the house. His pulse increased, a volcano waiting to erupt within his chest. He rubbed the sweat coated fingers of his free hand down his trousers. Everything was going according to schedule.
He knew that if he had broken into her flat to stage the attack, there was the potential to leave too much evidence that might be used to track him down, and he couldn’t have that. His motto was ‘leave no trace,’ which is why he planned to snatch her off the street.
Like many neighbourhoods clinging to the hub of British cities, the area Jane lived in was rundown, with discarded trash bags spewing their contents across the pavement—fodder for the rats and feral cats that prowled the streets once the sun went down. McDonald’s packaging and the remains of half eaten kebabs discarded by late night drunks littered the gutters, and the tang of rotten produce and sour piss permeated the air. Dirt and grime coated the walls of the buildings, many of which were boarded up and covered with graffiti, the culprits marking their territory like dogs.
No one took much notice of him in areas like these, and the distinct lack of community spirit associated with the modern generation meant that people ignored most of what they saw, just trying to make it through each day as best they could.
The Oracle watched the girl walk across Hope Street, dressed for the heat of another day in a yellow t-shirt and a black knee length skirt. She clutched a brown shoulder bag to her side, and kept her head bowed, eyes focused on her white Nike trainers.
It would take Jane ten minutes to reach the main road. There she would wait for the number seven bus, which arrived at 6:45. Today, she was blissfully unaware her journey would terminate early. As usual, she would take the shortcut down an alley between two buildings, which saved her five minutes of extra walking. It was a simple routine to follow. Too simple, and his reconnaissance had revealed that the dingy alleyway between the buildings was the perfect spot to stage the abduction—it wasn’t overlooked by any windows, there was only ambient light so much of it was in darkness, and the towering buildings would muffle her screams.
The Oracle followed Jane at a discreet distance of about forty feet, which he gauged to be far enough back so as not to appear threatening if she should discern his presence. He had parked his car near to the shortcut—not too close that she would notice the vehicle, because anything out of the ordinary might make her change something about her routine, but close enough that he wouldn’t have to carry her too far.
She reached the corner of the road and turned left. When she disappeared out of sight, the Oracle hurried to close the gap. His body throbbed with anticipation, all of his senses highly aware of everything around him. It had been a while since he felt like this, and truth be told, he had missed the feeling.
Pursuing someone always gave him a buzz. The thrill of the chase. But it didn’t come close to the euphoria he felt during the actual act of killing. That was something else. The biggest thrill ride in the world. Thinking about it made him smile; his balls tightened and goose bumps mottled his arms. Although the circumstances surrounding his choice of target were completely different now to those he had killed before, it didn’t lessen the feeling—it actually enhanced it.
Jane walked with her arms folded across her ample chest, a subconscious form of protection and the barrier of the weak. Not that it would help her today.
Her footsteps echoed along the road, the Oracle’s almost silent as he followed in her wake, well versed in covert manoeuvres as he matched her step for step, becoming as one with his victim. The anticipation was almost too much to bear and he took deep breaths to control the beat of his heart. His fingers tingled and he licked his dry lips.
As soon as she turned into the alley between houses, he would strike.
With mere seconds to go, he withdrew a pair of disposable latex gloves and tugged them onto his hands, then pulled the chloroform soaked cloth from a bag in his pocket, the sodden material feeling cold and spongy through the gloves.
Jane turned the corner to take the short cut.
The Oracle followed, cloth held tightly in his fist, senses attuned to the task at hand. Jane was about eight feet ahead, her footfalls echoing between the walls. The aroma of Chinese food filled the air, a pile of discarded boxes piled up outside the back door to the restaurant. Stalactites of grease hung from an extractor fan on the wall.
It was time to make his move.
The Oracle readied himself to strike, one hand on the cloth, the other about to withdraw the knife when a young lad with a pockmarked face walked into the alley from the opposite end, a Staffordshire bull terrier tugging at the leash in his hand. The Oracle clenched his teeth, released the knife, rammed the cloth back into his pocket and watched as Jane exited the short cut.
The dog strained at the leash as it approached the Oracle, its small, muscular body set to pounce, teeth bared as it looked up at him. The owner struggled to pull it away, using both hands to yank at the lead.
“He’s not usually like this,” the lad said.
The Oracle guessed that the dog could sense the bloodlust on his mind. He could easily take them both out, but they weren’t his target. If he killed randomly, then he’d be just a savage, and they weren’t part of his plan so he kept his gloved hands out of sight in his pockets so as not to arouse suspicion.
He wasn’t happy about it, but he had considered this scenario, like he considered everything.
There would be another opportunity to grab Jane Numan.
People are predictable. That’s what makes them easy to kill.