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The Scarlet Web, Chapter One (standard:action, 2288 words)
Author: Brian CrossAdded: Jul 17 2002Views/Reads: 2510/1482Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A vicious assault in a subway leaves a fifteen year old schoolgirl more emotionally scarred than physically. Years later, as a successful journalist she has to equate her distrust of the male species, with a growing fondness for a senior detective who is


Acle, Norfolk Shelley Summers stared as the gardener swept the autumn
foliage from her rear lawn, leaving it looking neat and tidy. She 
should be grateful for his efforts, indeed she was, but her mind was in 
a vacuum, her eyes saw only an innocent girl at the mercy of a callous 
man, a scene vividly, tortuously playing itself out, in her mind. 

Turning away with a shudder she walked to the kitchen table, where a
copy the ‘Norfolk Informer' lay open on page five: 

Norwich man was today acquitted at Norwich Crown Court of sexually 
molesting a teenage girl from the city, who cannot be named. 
Irregularities in the pocket book of the arresting officer, (it is 
believed that some of the notes were overwritten) have lead to the case 
being dismissed by the judge, Justice Barrington - Willson Q.C.” 

Case dismissed because of an irrelevancy. Another bastard off the hook.
It made her blood boil. 

The phone rang and she reached for it, ‘Shelley Summers -' ‘Oh Shelley
dear -' She sighed at the sound of her editor's voice, fingering her 
long blonde hair in irritation, she knew what was coming. ‘I hate to 
spring this on you love, but unless you've arranged anything I'd rather 
like your attention at this afternoon's meeting.' ‘What time?' she 
asked, drumming her fingers impatiently on the newspaper. ‘Two thirty 
dear, on the dot.' ‘I'll be there,' she said, replacing the receiver. 
Shelley had been features writer for ‘Saffron', a leading women's 
magazine for the past three years and was used to such incursions into 
her free time. These meetings weren't obligatory, tending to be 
informal, but nonetheless were well attended; the staff knew that 
management appreciated full participation. 

She took a cursory glance at the clock, despite that, the journey from
her eighteenth century cottage in Acle, Norfolk, to Canning Town in 
London's East End wasn't exactly welcome at short notice. There were 
things she'd intended to get to grips with, now they'd have to be put 
on hold. That was frustrating. She glanced again at the newspaper 
article, her attention magnetically drawn to it, then taking a pair of 
scissors from the kitchen drawer she snipped carefully around it, 
placing the cutting in a lower drawer. She closed the patio doors, 
giving the gardener a brief nod of acknowledgement, before preparing 
for the journey. 

Shelley knew it seemed strange to some, that she should choose to live
so far from civilisation, the hub of the newspaper world, but at this 
point her career and her personal interests parted company. 
Notwithstanding the demands of her profession, she didn't like the city 
streets, they were dirty and not unlike a lot of people who inhabited 
them. They were claustrophobic and filled her with disgust. She'd come 
increasingly to find, during her thirty years, she needed as much 
distance as she could reasonably get from the filth, and Acle fitted 
the bill just fine. 

The journey to Canning Town took marginally less than two hours,
(Shelley never one to show reluctance when it came to pressing down on 
the accelerator), during which time she reflected on the characters 
likely to be attending Saffron's hastily convened meeting. For the most 
part they were a nondescript lot, though she'd formed a close 
association with Carly Simpson, crime reporter to Saffron's sister 
magazine, “Standpoint,” and it was not inconceivable Carly would attend 
given half a chance. Shelley found it difficult to adjust in company 
for any length of time, she was not a social animal, circumstances had 
pre-determined this, but Carly's lively, easy going manner had soon won 
her over. Thus, Carly was one of the few people she felt comfortable 

Then came the thin end of the wedge. Ted Foreman. She found him
loathsome, he'd go for anything in a skirt: He'd tried it on with her 
once, she'd felt his hand up her dress but had snatched his fingers and 
using the strength that several years circuit training had given her 
she'd brought him to his knees. She hadn't said a word, there was too 
much loathing, too much contempt locked inside, to enable her to do 
that. Still, she'd contented herself with the knowledge that he was 

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