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The Next Girl: A gripping thriller with a heart-stopping twist
Author:Carla Kovach

The Next Girl: A gripping thriller with a heart-stopping twist

Carla Kovach



Prologue





Saturday, 14 December 2013





Same height, same hair colour. She could almost pass for Deborah from behind. But as the woman turned, he could tell she was no more than a cheap imitation. Her leggings were riding up between her butt cheeks, and she was wearing a short puffy jacket and spiky heels, further going to prove she was no Debbie. His Debbie wouldn’t be seen out looking this trashy. She looked up and down the main hill through the town centre before walking over to his car. He pointed to the right and pulled over beside the chip shop, past the busy bar. Redditch was certainly alive with people, all partying the night away in the run-up to Christmas. She dutifully followed, as if in a money-induced trance – or was it drugs?

He’d only ever come looking for company once before, but it had been a disaster and long before Debbie had entered his life. He’d only wanted to talk, but that woman had been corruptive, trying to encourage him to do things his mother would never approve of. He’d been willing up to a point and that point was his release. She couldn’t have it.

The woman tapped on the window and winked as she spoke in an Eastern European accent. Where was she from, he wondered – Romania, maybe, or Bulgaria? Now she was close, he could see her dark roots and the slight wonkiness of a nose that he guessed had once been broken. She wasn’t his Debbie, but he could pretend.

The woman smiled. ‘Looking for something special to end the evening?’ she asked. He glanced in the wing mirror and noticed a group of drunken revellers jokingly pushing and shoving at the entrance to the bar, not one of them taking any notice of what was going on just down the road. As they shivered in their short-sleeved shirts and Santa hats, he turned his attention back to the woman. ‘Well? I haven’t got all night, mister. It’s cold out here.’ She exhaled a stream of white mist into the icy air and began shuffling on the spot to keep warm.

‘Get in.’


‘You know how to treat women. Is good job I know how to treat a man.’ She licked her teeth and stared into his eyes. He looked away. ‘First you show me the cash, and after, I get in.’ The woman stumbled alongside the car, banging into it as she made her way around. She opened the passenger door and leaned in. ‘Cash first, mister.’

He took his wallet from the centre console and held up two ten-pound notes.

‘Cheap, but I can work with. Don’t expect brilliant.’ She filled his airways with the smell of cheap perfume as she fell into the car, snatching the cash as she landed on the seat. ‘Okay, not too far.’

‘I need to go somewhere quiet. Can we go for a walk – like a date?’

‘Quiet is good. You didn’t expect me to see to you here, did you?’

‘Of course not.’ He placed the car into gear and began to drive. See to him, that’s all she was going to do. He wanted so much more. He needed to talk, to think, to feel something – anything.

His mind was a whirr with what his mother would say. ‘Going with dirty girls makes you a dirty boy. My boy is better than that.’

‘Take a left, just down there. There’s quiet car park, by the chemist. Pull in there.’

He began to tremble as he passed the illuminated fountain and took a left as instructed. The road was still too public. Three women wearing reindeer antlers staggered past. It wasn’t right. He needed to be somewhere else, somewhere peaceful where they wouldn’t be disturbed. Maybe where he walked their dog, Rosie, along the river, up by the locks of Marcliff, just past Bidford. His heart quickened as he passed the chemist and put his foot down to reach the ring road.

‘Stop. Pull over,’ the woman said. ‘Where the hell you taking me? Stop.’

He did an emergency stop at the side of the road, trembling as the car jerked. ‘Have I done wrong?’

‘You drive too far. I say the chemist and you do this.’ The woman opened the door.

‘Wait. I just want some company, that’s all. I’ve had a bad day. You see, my mother died today and I don’t want to be alone. I have no one else.’ In his mind at least, his mother was dead. Since her diagnosis, she’d been walking around like a carbon copy of her former self. He shivered. He’d just told this woman that his mother had died today. What kind of person did that make him? ‘Sorry, Ma,’ he whispered.

‘I’m sorry. Must be hard for you.’

He stared into the lamplight ahead without blinking – just a little longer and there might be a tear. As predicted, his eyes watered. He sniffed and wiped his eye on his sleeve. ‘I miss her. Please don’t leave me alone.’ He was too good, tears were now falling, one after another. Even his nose began to fill up as he inhaled the frosty air.

‘Look. I will come for drive but you must pay me now and I want to be back here in a couple of hours. I know you’re upset but I am not head doctor. Two hundred and I am yours. I give you distraction or you can talk. I listen, whatever you want.’

‘Thank you.’ He took her cold, bony hand and kissed it. ‘Thank you for being so kind.’

‘Money?’ She held her shaky hand out as he opened his wallet.

‘Half now, half after.’ She nodded as he passed one hundred pounds to her. She folded the notes up and zipped them into her pocket.

‘Deal. Two hours.’ She reached into her other pocket and pulled out a pill. ‘Do you want one? Ten pounds and we both have good time?’

‘No, but you go ahead.’ The woman tossed the pill to the back of her throat, head twitching as she leaned her neck back and swallowed it whole. Closing the passenger door, she rested back into the seat and closed her eyes as he drove out of the town, heading along the Alcester Highway towards Warwickshire. A few miles past the small industrial town of Cleevesford was his destination – Marcliff, to be exact. It was one in the morning; he had until three. They would walk, he could talk, and then he would drop her back.

You could drop her back now. Do the right thing, he thought.

His heart fluttered as he glanced over at her. There was only him and the sleeping whore in the car.

‘Are we there yet?’ The woman stirred as she wiped a trail of saliva from the corner of her mouth.

‘Nearly,’ he said as he put his foot down, weaving through the country lanes.



* * *



As he pulled up alongside the river, he watched her sleeping. Maybe it was the warmth of the car, the hum of the engine or whatever was in the pill she had taken. The fields stretched ahead for miles, and except for the light of the moon, there was nothing but darkness. He opened the door and the woman stirred. She smiled and leaned closer to him, massaging his groin over his corduroys. He leaned back, allowing her to unzip and stroke him. He felt himself harden as she released him from his clothing and expertly placed a condom over his penis. She leaned down to take him in her mouth. He wrenched her hair.

‘Ouch, tosser.’

‘Not that. Don’t do that.’ He paused, listening to the blood coursing through his temples. ‘Bitch.’

‘Take me back now. Call me bitch, grab me like that. Weirdo, that’s what you are, you bloody weirdo.’

He gasped for breath, wanting to shout, to scream, to smash the dashboard up into hundreds of tiny pieces. He wasn’t a weirdo, he was just confused. Why couldn’t he be here with Debbie instead of this cheap whore?

‘Take me back. What are you? Deaf?’

‘Sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you, you just caught me wrong and made me jump. You hurt me.’ He forced a smile. ‘Please, can we start again?’ She looked at him and sighed. ‘Could you just touch me with your hands?’ He removed the condom and dropped it by his feet.

‘Whatever, but don’t grab me again.’

‘Sorry. I’m truly sorry.’

As she continued to caress him with her warm hands, he closed his eyes and thought of Debbie. In his fantasy, the candles always glistened in the background.



* * *