The factory floor was cold beneath her naked back. Hard on the shoulder blades, crusty against her splayed buttocks.
Naomi Allen, her arms and legs strung out to her sides, strapped down to stubby poles she could not see, lay shuddering. The only light - a breath of radiance shooting through a distant keyhole - spangled across the thousand pin heads that pierced her trembling flesh. A bed of nails, she was. Only more so.
He watched her. Studied her. Inclining his head in the vast dark room he caught the outline of the starshine he had made of her. His snort of amusement had her jumping in her shackles, which made him laugh some more. He wondered who she really was, what she did for a living – whether she was married, had kids. He didn’t think so. He didn’t care. Despite the time he had spent on her, she wasn’t a project. Naomi Allen was a whim.
He let her murmur and mumble a while longer. She was hungry – no matter. She was thirsty – he had splattered drops of water over her face these last couple of days, making her beg for it, licking as far as her tongue could reach around her lips, her chin; below her cheeks.
Outside the winter traffic thronged. Lorries air-braking, buses carrying mindless workers and wasters, cars distributing selfish lone drivers about the capital. Naomi heard none of it. Plugs of cotton wool, poked roughly into her ears, creaked painfully with every move she attempted to make.
She peed. Then she cried, the thick fabric binding her eyes darkened with the tears that fell more profusely than the pathetic spray of urine warming her thighs.
Crouching, near-naked himself except for the daggers, he took to his feet. Nothing could threaten the verve that prickled his skin, full as it was, with exaltation.
"I love you." It was a lie.
Naomi screamed at the muffled voice. So close. In her face.
"You’re twisted, you sick bastard. Let me go."
"You twist, Naomi." The voice came from behind her head. His hands joined his words and began to stroke her hair. He pulled at it, gently at first, then with harder, sharper tugs until clumps came away from her scalp. Naomi shook her head frantically as he tore at her, her sobbing drowned out as he sang, a high-pitched wailing that echoed her cries.
"Twist. Twist. Twist."
He smiled affectionately at the girl in his hands. She shuddered as he slowed his caress, released his touch and sat back, totally still. One minute. Five minutes, completely enjoying the fear mounting in her body.
"Where are you, you piece of shit?"
Without warning, he fell forward across her face and drove his tongue into her open, complaining mouth, forcing it deeper into her throat, sucking at her own tongue until she choked, and gagged, and it was time for more pins.
Eleven hundred and twenty two. Glinting. Glistening. All stuck in to the same depth. All protruding half-an-inch. They covered her torso. They were a masterpiece of precision, a work of art.
He lay on top of her. She spasmed as the pins pressed in further with his weight, but it wasn’t enough. He ran his fingers up the sides of her rib cage and pushed his chest against hers.
"Pretty holes" he said. "They make me want to… kiss you."
He moved, roiled around on top of her, not fucking, not even hard, just pressing the pins deeper and deeper into her body with every pulse until she was no longer moving.
He took off her blind. Unplugged her ears.
When she opened her eyes, he was gone. Tiny pricks of agony spilled like rabid mosquito stings where the pressure from his bulk had been released. Naomi took one… two, deep, unsatisfying breaths.
Sergeant Miles rolled his eyes as the young Property Manager, Realtor, Development Company bum-boy - or whatever you want to call the parasites - puked on the factory floor. Evidently it wasn’t the first time. Spatters of it ran across the concrete, some of it had been skidded in.
"You alright? Ready to answer some questions?"
The young man nodded, grimacing at the vomit and dribble that rubbished his slimline silk suit.
"When was the last time this building was opened; the last time you were here?"
"About three weeks ago.
"And why were you…"
"Monthly check. No-one’s buying these places at the moment, but we still have to keep an eye on ‘em."
Sergeant Miles studied the annoying little runt. He was arrogant - he was a real estate agent after all. But he wasn’t a murderer.
"Go and see that officer over there." He pointed to a wide-hipped blond woman writing notes. "Give her your statement and your contact details. Then you can go."
Police and forensic teams fell on the place. They already knew the identity of the victim – someone had scrawled her name on a huge placard and left it beside the decaying body. Scabbed wounds peppered Naomi Allen’s corpse; little drops of blackened blood darkened where the pins had penetrated, before being removed and scattered on the ground around her. A deeper red had been smudged downwards and around her cheeks in a burlesque blush. Naomi might even have witnessed this, had her eyeballs not been savagely, yet clinically removed.
He enjoyed the spectacle of activity as everyone examined his handiwork. He’d called the cops himself, wanting to showcase his skills after the frustration of his recent work going unnoticed. So he was angry, hurt even, that the police already knew. Someone had got to them first, and he knew who it was.
"PC Walker. What can I do for you?"
"That bloke you sent over, the property guy…"
"Twat. What about him? You think he did it?"
"No. No I don’t. He was quiet, gentle." She looked away, distracted. "But there was something about him. Maybe he’s just in the wrong job."
PC Walker turned her back and walked towards the cordoned-off murder scene. Miles frowned as she stepped into the bloody bullring, and promptly fell onto her side. What was the woman thinking? He hurried towards her, hand outstretched. She crawled to her feet, red-faced, furiously embarrassed.
"Are you OK?"
Walker nodded stupidly, slapping sticky blood away from her trousers.
"Go home" her sergeant said. "It’s been a long day. Where do you live?"
"Bishop’s Mill, Islington."
Miles stared at her. Not a good place for anyone to live, especially a woman, even a police woman.
"I’ll take you home" he said.
Calvin Miles followed Kate Walker up the stairs to her flat, appreciating the view. He wondered if he’d have to go home himself that night.
He did, but not without a promise.
Across the street, a young man watched from his car window. Miles was in and out of the building within ten minutes, juggling tongues with PC Walker at the front door before setting off along the street, a stupid grin on his old man’s face.
The car returned the next night. And the next, its driver just waiting. The visits from the older policeman became less frequent over the weeks; he had obviously taken what he needed and his interest had waned.
The cell vibrated on the passenger seat with a two-word text. "All set." It was the signal.
Excited by two weeks away in the sun, Kate Walker had packed her last pair of knickers and was squeezing the suitcase shut when the doorbell rang. She frowned. The only other flat in the house was empty at the moment. Someone had got into the house without being buzzed in. She stood up, defensive.
"Who is that? Are you alright?"
What? Kate was confused. The voice carried on.
"Your front door was wide open. I walked past and thought it was a bit strange, thought I’d better come in and check. Doesn’t seem to be anyone in downstairs."
Worried, Kate pulled her door open wide. As the chloroform rushed into her lungs she just managed to recognise her assailant before collapsing to the floor.
He shut the door, kicking the woman’s feet out of the way first, leaving her sprawled across the carpet while he took a good look around. The apartment was beautiful. High Edwardian ceilings and open fireplaces, warm blue and golden-yellows glowed from original stained glass in the doors and windows. He evaluated its sale price in a moment. He wandered about, picking up her possessions in gloved hands, replacing some, deliberately smashing others. He helped himself to a large brandy then sat on her sofa to contemplate for a while before dragging PC Walker’s body into the centre of her living-room. Despite the cold weather the flat was warm - she was indulgent with her heating. It meant she wasn’t wearing much, so it only took a moment to cut off her clothes before tying the straps around her ankles and wrists. Attaching the other ends of the bindings to the castors of the heavy sofas at either side of the room was fiddly, but he managed it without too much exertion. He allowed himself a smile and another sip of cognac – he was pleased with the preparations so far.
Kate came to, her head pounding. She couldn’t remember what she’d been doing or where she’d been, but it felt as though she’d been out on a bender. Flat on her back, she tried to roll over onto her side. She couldn’t. Through burning eyes her focus began to clear. Bile rose in her gut as the vision of herself lying naked, prostrate and bound slammed fear into every one of her senses. All she could move was her head. She stared about, frantic. Then found her voice.
"Who are you? What are you doing?"
She already knew the answer to both questions. The face of the young property manager at her door flooded into her memory. The bindings too, were the same as in the Allen case.
"You shit" she cried. "We’ll get you for this."
Behind her, his laughing breath fell warm across her forehead. She looked up as far as she could but he was out of range.
"Get me?" he said. "But I haven’t done anything".
Before she could speak again he slapped a wide strip of silver insulating tape across her mouth.
"Shut up and watch."
He stepped over her. At her feet he sat down in a lotus position and Kate noticed he had a box in his hands. He flicked a switch. Wooden legs dropped from the side of the box, allowing him to place it, raised, onto the floor.
"Want to see what’s inside?"
Kate turned her head away, but she knew, knew without any doubt that the box would be full of shiny, inch-long pins.
Angry, terrified tears fell down the sides of her face as he started to count. One, two, three…
Eleven hundred and nineteen counts later, she was nearly insane with fear. And cold. He had turned off the heating and opened a window. Thick flakes of snow flirted with the open curtains, threatening to enter the room. The man stood up.
Carefully stepping around the lines of precisely placed pins, he walked over her shivering body. He stopped, bending down to grin in her face.
Kate muffled a scream behind the gag. What was going on? Drawing a cell phone from his pocket the man punched in a text.
"Don’t worry." He said to Kate without looking at her. "The police will be here soon."
Kate sighed in relief. He was playing with her. This was a threat, not a murder. She’d been right when she’d interviewed him back at the factory; this man wasn’t a killer. He was just playing copycat.
Within ten minutes Sergeant Miles hammered on Kate’s front door. The property manager tilted his head. Kate’s eyes flared.
"Shall I let him in?"
She nodded, desperate.
She heard the buzzer go, followed by Miles’ heavy footsteps bounding up the stairs. Thank God, she thought. Thank God.
Fresh terror sparked in her soul as the young man beside her produced two long, thin stiletto daggers and moved off down the hallway. She was wrong. It was a set up. She grunted as loudly, as hard as she could. She had to warn Calvin.
Before her sergeant could kick the door in, the other man gently released the lock.
"Where is she?"
The door clicked shut behind him. Miles stormed into the room. He stood there, taking in the scene, panting. Just as he reached down to rip the tape from her mouth, Kate saw the reflection of the knives flashing behind Calvin’s head.
Free to speak, she screamed. Cold air rushed into her throat.
"He’s there – Calvin. I was wrong. It was him all the time."
Calvin Miles said nothing. He stroked her hair affectionately, then saw the pins laid out at her feet. He turned to the other man who stood waiting, as if in rapture, by the door.
"Thanks." Miles said to him. "You’ve done well. You can go now." He replaced the tape over PC Walker’s mouth, then plugged her ears with ragged scraps of cotton wool. The last thing she saw was Sergeant Miles removing his clothes before he bound her eyes with cloth.
He sat at her feet, the design all ready in his mind, enjoying the thrill of choosing where to place the first pin of his artwork. It took three hours – his technique was improving. When the work was complete he lay on top of her, feeling the spread of her wide hips beneath his groin, loving the tremble of her shuddering body. Slowly, and gently, he pulled the tape and cloth away from her mouth and eyes. She didn’t speak.
Finally he removed the plugs from her ears, wanting her to hear his voice. He whispered, just moments before driving the daggers into her skull…
The pins quivered in the light.
"My beautiful voodoo doll."
A version of Pretty Pinholes appeared previously on
Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers
Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers