Little Boy Blue

By: M. J. Arlidge

DI Helen Grace 5 (A DI Helen Grace Thriller)


LITTLE BOY BLUE


M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last fifteen years, specializing in high-end drama production, including prime-time crime serials Torn, The Little House and Silent Witness. Arlidge is also piloting original crime series for both UK and US networks. In 2015 his audiobook exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a number one bestseller.

His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House and Liar Liar.

@MJArlidge





1


He looked like a falling angel. His muscular body, naked save for a pair of silver wings, was suspended in mid-air, turning back and forth on the heavy chain that bound him to the ceiling. His fingers groped downwards, straining for the key that would effect his release, but it remained tantalizingly out of reach. He was at the mercy of his captor and she circled him now, debating where to strike next. His chest? His genitals? The soles of his feet?

A crowd had gathered to watch, but he didn’t linger. He was bored by the spectacle – had seen it countless times before – and moved on quickly, hoping to find something else to distract him. He always came to the Annual Ball – it was the highlight of the S&M calendar on the South Coast – but he suspected this year would be his last. It wasn’t simply that he kept running into exes that he’d rather avoid, it was more that the scene had become so familiar. What had once seemed outrageous and thrilling now felt empty and contrived. The same people doing the same old things and wallowing in the attention.

Perhaps he just wasn’t in the right mood tonight. Since he’d split up with David, he’d been in such a deep funk that nothing seemed to give him any pleasure. He’d come here more in hope than expectation and already he could feel the disappointment and self-disgust welling up inside him. Everybody else seemed to be having a good time – and there was certainly no shortage of offers from fellow revellers – so what was wrong with him? Why was he incapable of dealing with the fact that he was alone?

He pushed his way to the bar and ordered a double Jameson’s. As the barman obliged, he ran his eye over the scene. Men, women and others who were somewhere in between paraded themselves on the dance floors and podiums – a seething mass of humanity crammed into the basement club’s crumbling walls. This was their night and they were all in their Sunday best – rubber-spiked dominators, padlocked virgins, sluts-who-blossom-into-swans and, of course, the obligatory gimps. All trying so hard.

As he turned back to the bar in disgust, he saw him. Framed by the frenzied crowds, he appeared as a fixed point – an image of utter stillness amid the chaos, coolly surveying the clubbers in front of him. Was it a ‘him’? It was hard to say. The dark leather mask covered everything but the eyes and the matching suit revealed only a sleek, androgynous figure. Running his eyes over the concealed body in search of clues, he suddenly realized that the object of his attention was looking straight at him. Embarrassed, he turned away. Seconds later, however, curiosity got the better of him and he stole another glance.

He was still staring at him. This time he didn’t turn away. Their eyes remained glued to each other for ten seconds or more, before the figure suddenly turned and walked away, heading towards the darker, more discreet areas of the club.

Now he didn’t hesitate, following him past the bar, past the dance floor, past the chained angel and on towards the back rooms – heavily in demand tonight as private spaces for brief, fevered liaisons. He could feel his excitement growing and as he picked up the pace, his eyes took in the contours of the person ahead of him. Was it his imagination or was there something familiar about the shape of the body? Was this someone known to him, someone he’d met in the course of work or play? Or was this a total stranger, who’d singled him out for special attention? It was an intriguing question.

The figure had come to a halt now, standing alone in a small, dingy room ahead. In any other situation, caution would have made him hesitate. But not tonight. Not now. So, entering the room, he marched directly towards the expectant figure, pushing the door firmly shut behind him.

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