(trigger warning: gore )

Solveig came back to pick me up from Granny’s. I told her I was fine on the bus, but she said she wanted to talk to me. Granny sent us both away with armfuls of basically pure sugar, and I promised her I’d come back the next day to talk more about the going into a home thing.

So Solveig drove me home, but when she pulled up outside the flat she turned the engine off. She was obviously worried, and my first thought was that the hospital had phoned her to say that my brain was fried or something, but instead she told me she’d had to go into work after she dropped me off. She had been called in for an emergency briefing meeting on the West Highlands murders she has been working on.

When she said that, I felt a total rush of relief. She’s worried about work. Not that I’m pleased she’s having a tough time at work, it was just a relief to focus on something other than my mad problems, to listen and sympathise and give my wise (official) advice.

No such luck.

She told me that there had been some debate about whether to fill me in on all this, and it had been decided to hold back for now, but she couldn’t. She informed the team she’s my friend, and she’s been told she can stay on the case for now, but that might change if it starts to appear there’s a conflict of interest.

“Hold on a minute,” I interrupted her. “What has any of this got to do with me?”

I wish I hadn’t asked.

These West Highlands Murders, as they’re calling them, are some of the worst that the special investigative team Solveig consults for has ever seen. There’s been two bodies so far, and in both cases the hikers that found them thought that some animal had escaped from a zoo. Full on horror film shit, entrails strung about surrounding trees, bite marks all over the flesh, one of them had had their rib cage turned inside out so it looked like wings of bone sticking out his back. Couldn’t be any more gross.

Luckily I’m not squeamish. Hope you’re not, sorry if you are.

On the plus side – from the investigators’ point of view at least – is that the bodies are covered in DNA. Dripping with it. Solveig explained that these days, these sorts of killers tend to have some awareness of forensic investigative techniques from watching TV (weird to imagine coming home after a hard day of murdering and marathoning the latest Scandi-noir), so they make some effort to cover their tracks (“like Dexter,” I interjected helpfully at that point, she agreed). But this guy – or possibly these guys, they’re still doing some tests – left skin cells and saliva and even some blood in pretty much every nook and cranny of their victims.

Unfortunately, there’s no match in the system, which would have been handy. Solveig says that as the crimes are so particularly disturbing it’s super duper red alert urgent to catch them, so they’ve decided to do some further DNA profiling to see if they can come up with anything that might identify possible suspects. However, they have had one kind of match.

Me.

All that prodding and scraping and swiping at the hospital also produced plenty of DNA from my attacker – and it’s the same.

Okay squeamish or not, I don’t mind admitting that gave me the heebie jeebies.

My common-or-garden mugger turns out to be giving Hannibal Lecter a run for his money.

I stared at Solveig a while, totally expecting the pins and needles to come flying at me, but weirdly enough I felt quite calm. A bit numb, perhaps; I definitely wouldn’t say I was thrilled by the news, but I didn’t go flying off into a hairy canary as you might have thought. Maybe I’ve hit my terror limit for the time being?

What nobody can work out – what the police have spent most of the day debating – is how i survived. “I’m the girl that survived,” I blurted out when Solveig told me that. “Just call me Harry.”

“I told them about your fight training,” Solveig said, “but they’re still amazed. The medical examiner who did the autopsies kept going on about the strength of this guy. He tore them limb from limb, it’s practically superhuman.”

“So what you’re saying is we could use him on Team GB?”

“If he wasn’t a homicidal maniac, sure.”

“Shit – I missed Rio, how did we do?”

“Linley.”

Right, focus. I don’t know how I escaped. I mean, I’m good at what I do, and I’ve trained specifically in using my opponent’s weight against him (or her, I suppose). I actually designed a whole women’s self defence technique a few years ago, but at the end of the day if someone massively outweighs you and is determined to have you, there’s only so much you can do. Quite often, the best weapon a woman has is the element of surprise – he grabs her, she fights back, he’s thrown off because he wasn’t expecting it – and she scarpers.

But that didn’t happen with this guy. He wasn’t thrown off at all. Did he know me? Did he know fine I could and would fight back? And as he managed to knock me out, why are my entrails in my ribcage where they belong and not decorating the trees of Ben Lomond like macabre tinsel?

It was with these cheery thoughts that I left Solveig, and quickly fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

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