In the dark, all he could hear was the flow of the water. The ground underfoot was a mix of scrub and barren soil; he made no sound as he moved. They were now in a place without shadows.


Her breathing had been deep, her chest moving in and out, her body trembling.


Let's play a game, he had said, and in his mind he had heard the old clock ticking – tick tock, tick, tock – followed by its familiar elongated pause: everything in perfect rhythm.


He had left the duct tape across her mouth to keep her silent. The skin on her lovely face now, blotchy, bruised and wet from tears. Her arms and legs tied securely.


He wanted it to be quick.


Tick tock, tick tock.


He pulled the electric cable tight around her neck, closing off her oxygen, trapping the blood vessels. This time, expediency was all that mattered, although he did not want her to suffer.


He prepared her body properly – brushing her hair and tying both plaits neatly with the ribbons. Her lips had reminded him of a painting by Vermeer, the deep shades of cherries over-ripening on the canvas. He laid out her body, as if she were a young girl sleeping, before gently kissing her forehead. She hadn’t understood, but then, why should she?


She was never good enough.