Emma was sitting on a vast expanse of hot golden sand awkwardly trying to rub a little oil onto her back, before the shimmering June sun in a cloudless deep blue sky turned her into the archetypal English tourist. Lobster red. As it was her first day she still had her complete bikini on despite numerous topless females in the vicinity. There is something about a beach that brings out the exhibitionist in many people, undoubtedly more than just the desire for an even tan. It is a difficult topic to analyse with any confidence, whether the intent behind revealing an expanse of flesh usually well covered has anything to do with luring males closer or simply a pride in the player's body. Anyway, with her contours, if there was any amount of passing foot traffic even partially dressed she would probably rapidly attract an ever expanding annoying male audience, in a swimsuit almost anything was likely to ensue. As the beach stretched out for miles in both directions there was plenty of room, especially as the seriously

noisy visitors, families, were closer to the water's edge to allow their children to play in the gentle surf. Overall what could possibly be described as a light splattering of supine humans intent on relaxation. Obviously there were a few people walking around, some were no doubt predators scanning the tourists for a possible mark, others just content to entertain their eyes, maybe a few were simply exercising. The majority were northern European, pale skinned and likely to burn. The odd seriously dark skinned figures were what could be described as Moorish, rather mobile Moroccans struggling to sell cheap sunglasses, fake watches and pirate DVDs. Then there was the odd female of dubious race offering a simple massage, maybe something more energetic if you were prepared to wander away from the beach. Desmond Morris would have been in his element, people watching, just so long as he wasn't arrested for voyeurism. I'm not quite sure just how many people are familiar with that name, everyone has heard of Freud, not nearly so many are even aware of the book 'The Naked Ape'. The Mediterranean is an attractive lure for everyone from sun worshippers to lager louts and unfortunately a wide assortment of more than dubious characters in between. There is something about the place that attracts the dregs of British society, holiday makers aside a brief scan of the ex-pat community would frighten the socks of an axe murderer, let alone a pleasant couple thinking of retiring to sunnier climes. Still, we were talking beach, the soft hiss of the surf on sloping sand even if the air seemed rather still. Maybe all the seagulls had been shot by the starving Spanish peasants. Starving? There were a couple of locals jabbering vigorously above her than would have caused an electronic weighing machine to have a seizure. It wasn't exactly a holiday even though it had taken a lot of planning. Surrounded by so many tourists maybe she would chill out for a few days, once she had everything else sorted out, even though it could be a little risky. No doubt the subconscious notion, sunbathing in a foreign land was trying to influence her, addle her mind. After a moment of pensive cerebration she came to her senses. Keep to the plan as the whole of the Iberian peninsula was bathed in sunshine anyway. Having driven the best part of a thousand kilometres she was glad to be stretched out in the open air. Only falling asleep in the sun too soon wasn't part of her itinerary, there would be plenty of time to unwind later. If she had been a conventional holidaymaker she would have flown from the UK, a mere two and a half hours in cattle class. However it would have been insane to attempt to get through airport security so she had taken the ferry from Plymouth to Santander, eighteen somewhat tedious hours, especially as across the Bay of Biscay the sea was inexplicably more than a little uneven, an unwanted heavy Atlantic swell driven by strong winds far across the horizon and fanned by local conditions. That is maritime talk for conditions likely to make any passengers unaccustomed to the rough and scurry of a force six blow go green around the gills and decorate the deck. There is something about that part of the Atlantic that attracts closely packed isobars, the numerous circles on the weather charts that dictate the unwanted characteristics of the British summer. At least on a crossing of that duration she had a cabin, a place to unwind after running up and down the decks as the ferry pitched sluggishly into a deep trough then heaved lethargically out of the sea. Luckily her brain was treating the experience as entertainment so she didn't spend the entire trip on her knees in the bathroom speaking to god on the great white phone. Actually the toilet was stainless steel. It hadn't taken long to sort out a hire car then get to the hotel and settle in, she even slipped in a decent siesta before getting moving once again. Only to complete her marathon she had driven the length of the country in one almost gruelling stint, broken only by a rewarding long nap in a decent layby between the capital and Toledo. Just as well the rental vehicle had decent reclining seats and air conditioning. Luckily she hadn't hit Madrid in the rush hour, but it had wound her up a little, tensioned the muscles in her back and neck. Driving on the wrong side of the road was confusing enough without having to cope with hundreds of cars on an eight lane carriageway, then there were the seemingly all but useless Spanish road signs. There was a tendency to tell you once before you reached a junction and assume everyone knew where to go anyway. That was in addition to the confusion when noticing your exit is across six carriageways and a concrete barrier. Mild panic would ensue until logic cut in, there was a slip road on your section too. Still, a little suffering, mild hardship came with the territory, and she was within a stone's throw of the Mediterranean. If she could be bothered to look around for something suitable and get to her feet to launch it into the sky. The fact that she was sitting on a beach on the Mijas Costa west of Malaga had a lot to do with a nine year old girl called Poppy. As she glanced at her watch she smiled then once again gave the impression of struggling with sun tan oil.
"Are you having trouble?" questioned a passing figure a few minutes later.
Emma glanced up, there was a young man shielding her from the invisible slightly harmful rays. Maybe early twenties, rather tight swimsuit and a reasonable amount of solar bronzing. Clearly he had been darkening his skin beneath a cloudless azure sky for a couple of weeks, which could have been a serious regime designed to impress. That or mere vanity. Clarity of speech and facial features suggested he was English, not that it was a surprise. "Somewhat. I'm not double jointed. Only I didn't expect the sun to be this fierce so early," she replied almost curtly.
"Would you like me to rub some lotion onto your back?" There was almost a warble of desperation in his voice, it was unlikely he would be satisfied with such brief physical contact. No doubt a portion of his brain was performing cartwheels, at least spinning images to create the illusion of frantic movement as it wasn't often such rewarding opportunities became available. Not having a body to gag over or the personality and appeal of someone like George Clooney had seriously limited his range of encounters. After all scoring with a local bike or a twenty year old who had come on holiday to have sex with an endless stream of Spanish waiters and any male with the ability to remove his trousers was not going to improve his social circle. Still, there were always the fifty year old long term married Brits who came in search of variety, some of those were probably gullible enough to believe any lie he could concoct and pay for an improvement in his lifestyle, if only for a few weeks.
"Without wanting to offend you, yes. As long as that is all you do."
"I understand, I could be married." No, too young, too self important, too eager. Still, if he was merely after weeks of one night stands and meaningless conquests he should have gone somewhere totally lacking in class. A resort where there were only two priorities to life, intermingled alcohol and frequent unremembered sex, and not in any particular order, which is what I was hinting at mere seconds ago. Do they still run Club 16-32 holidays? Maybe that is being a little to frank, an unsubstantiated biassed opinion. Apart from the fact that the ranks of the frantic immoral youth, the insane revellers that degrade the world's opinion of English tourists were likely to be asleep or too drunk to stand unaided until well into the afternoon he looked as though he had moved on. Though from his facial expression it may have been to even more depraved antics, just not in a public arena.
"You could be anything," she said in a rather monotonous way, trying to remain a little aloof.
"I'm Lucas," he said, taking the sun block from her and squeezing some onto his hands.
"Emma," she snapped rather sharply. It sounded as though she wanted to be alone, despite the problem with the sun protection. Still, beggars as they say. After a couple of minutes she spoke again. "It only needs to be smeared on, not massaged in."
"Sorry. I was getting carried away. Would you like a drink? There is a bar just above the beach." No point in wasting time, getting a feel for things early on may just mean a rewarding end to the day.
Emma shook her head slowly, scarcely amused by the typical chat up line. No doubt the man already had a scenario in his head, alcohol would only be an initial lubricant. "No thank you. I've only just arrived and never accept drinks unless they come directly from a barman. There are perverts around that slip date rape drugs to small children so they can seriously abuse them."
Lucas went a little quiet, he even appeared a tad flushed despite the slightly increased density of melanin. Understandable perhaps, hearing how depraved some men could be. Unless... But to any passing stranger that was uncalled for to say the least. Moving to one side he dropped the yellow and brown bottle onto the sand by Emma's sizeable bag then flicked out his towel and settled down. "How long are you here for?"
"It depends," she said casually. "A week maybe, after all I never know who I might meet." Briefly she made eye contact. "You?"
Lucas smiled at the possible innuendo. "A month or so I expect. I'm having a break between jobs."
Emma flattened out on her towel and turned her face away. It was obvious that she just wanted to sunbathe. Not that her intentions were likely to affect his behaviour in any way. The young man sat quietly, spending most of the time looking at her body, occasionally leaning back onto his elbows or briefly rotating onto his stomach. An understandable reaction, in many ways Emma expected it. Beauty rarely goes unnoticed, even though excessive attention tends to become boring in the extreme, occasionally even offensive. There was a little olive in her skin as though she had Mediterranean ancestry but her hair was a rich brown, copious and curly. A lot of the local girls Lucas had smiled at or attempted to chat up had jet black rather straight locks. It was a shame she didn't turn onto her back because even after a casual glance it was obvious that her breasts warranted serious scrutiny, apart from the fact that little more than seconds were likely to raise his blood pressure and cause a serious tightening in what little fabric was covering the necessary area of his body. Content she was on track, unlikely to sear the top layer of skin cells or lose sight of her goal Emma relaxed, occasionally closing her eyes and slipping away from reality as sleep snatched minutes from the morning. Understandable after having changed coastlines so swiftly. Twice Emma rose and went for a brief swim completely aware that his eyes followed every move she made. Despite being the Mediterranean the water was something of a shock to the system, something to do with cold Atlantic water flooding in through the Straight of Gibralter I believe. Especially after roasting in the sun. Each time, on her return she lay back down on her stomach. That prevented accidental eye contact and the need for even casual speech. Not to mention keeping her chest hidden. By one o clock it was getting too hot to remain in the open. Scanning the beach from the horizontal Emma had flicked her eyes from the cool blue of the sea to the uneven expanse of cratered dry sand and decided that the smart sector of the population had realised it was time for a little shade. If that included food and a siesta it would make even more sense.
"Lunch?" asked Lucas as Emma began to pack up.
"Is that a question or an offer?" asked Emma rather warily.
"I'll treat you if you like. What do you fancy?"
"This is Spain. Fish or paella."
"There is a good chiringuito a couple of miles away that does fantastic fish dishes." The words fell from his mouth as though they were well rehearsed, perhaps they were.
"A what?" Emma replied, feigning ignorance. As she had been well briefed she knew enough about the area to have not only a simple map in her head but a few words of Spanish.
"Beach front restaurant." Lucas replied with a gentle sigh, almost as though he had judged her response from the tone of her voice.
"It's too hot to walk far."
"I have a hire car," he replied quickly.
"Lunch. Nothing else and if I have a drink you don't even breathe on the glass."
"You sound as though you have had a bad experience."
"Too many to count," she sighed.
Clearly Lucas had been exploring, rather that park with the masses and walk along the promenade he had found the back way in. The slip road from the dual carriageway didn't even suggest beach access. There was a small car park at the end of a tree lined road, excuse for a road, frequent potholes courtesy of Lunar Landscapes R us. There were five other cars in the space, a barely level gravel area surrounded by unrendered concrete block walls buttressed by wind blown sand. Adjacent to the well worn steps leading down to the beach was a wooden walkway wrapped around a rather weathered timber building. Next to the door was cage containing two mainly green cockateels, which started whistling the moment Emma approached them. The tune was easily recognisable, La Cucharacha. Nice melody, shame about the translation. Who in their right mind sings about cockroaches?
Inside the portion of the room set aside for eating was L shaped, one side was almost completely glazed and looked out over the sea. The furniture was white plastic, the flimsy tables decorated with paper coverings held in place with shiny metal clips, on the whole rather cheap and tacky. It took seconds to make a serious assessment, there were only four other people dining. In Emma's mind if the food was that good the place should have been half full. That meant he was after a quiet meal, probably close enough to his accommodation to get horizontal within minutes of paying the bill. When the young bearded waiter approached he spoke in English. Clearly there were enough holiday apartments and hotels around to warrant learning an additional language, maybe two. After brief deliberation Emma had a plate of barbequed sardines which she ate with her fingers and a couple of long cool glasses of sangria. Throughout the meal Lucas seemed to be mesmerised by her breasts. The way she had frequently sucked traces of Olive oil and crumbs from her fingers should have had him gagging to touch her, only she wasn't quite sure that he either noticed, he did seem to have tunnel vision after all, or realised that the movements were intentionally rather sensual. It was a game she enjoyed playing. Emma wasn't ashamed of her body, it proved very useful in her line of work. To avoid appearing interested in him Emma studied her surroundings, almost as though she was naive, unaware that sliding a digit slowly from her lips had a less than subtle double entendre. Still it was unlikely he would be eager to leave her alone for more than a moment despite her apparent interest in the variety of alcoholic beverages behind the bar, even the waiter. If she wanted to be truthful, the guy who had brought the food from the kitchen had a lot more going for him than Lucas. Without sounding crass his designer stubble was perfectly trimmed and he had a casual air of confidence that only a woman would notice. Judging from visual areas of skin he spent a lot of time barely clothed, and from the way his shirt was partially open his visible chest hinted at a serious exercise regime. Clearly it wasn't only the women who were eager to climb the social ladder by way of the horizontal. Only Emma wasn't looking for anything, casual or long term. As she drained the last of her drink and visibly relaxed her companion spoke, his voice sounded tense, eager.
"Spain shuts down now for at least two hours. Siesta. Can I drop you at your hotel?"
"No thanks. I'll need to sit in the shade somewhere until I remember where it is. The sun and the food seem to have removed my ability to think logically."
"If you want to crash out until you get your head together I have a place overlooking the shore."
Emma looked him up and down carefully almost as though she was reassessing him, judging suitability for an afternoon of light frolics. Clean shaven, not bad looking but it was hard to judge anything by external appearances. "Well you haven't pounced on me yet." No that wasn't his style as she knew all too well. In fact she knew one hell of a lot more about him that he realised. Even to the point of having someone watch him for over a week so she had his likely movements down to a tee, had a reasonable idea just where and when to expect his arrival on the beach. Plan the work then work the plan. Clearly the relaxed response was taken as a yes.
Lucas was almost stumbling as they made their way back to the car, overeager and reluctant to look away from sensuous curves for more than five seconds. Graciously opening the car door for her enabled him to get even closer, Emma heard him breathe in deeply, almost in rapture. No doubt he imagined his casual actions had worked in his favour, the ability not to make a fool of himself with less than subtle innuendo had won a way into Emma's underwear. As they headed off towards the main road, bumping over numerous craters and ruts Emma prepared to study the route. It wasn't a problem, simply a case of tacking the additional tarmac stretch on to what she had already memorised. It was mainly in case she needed additional markers when she had to navigate her way back in order to find her own car. It didn't prove difficult, there were plenty of distinctive way points. A long deep stand of tall pine trees, a massive, virtually scarlet Bougainvillea bush that was smothering thirty feet of boundary wall and a strange, almost prehistoric looking tree in front of a castellated yellow house on a distinct junction. The initial section would be easy, all downhill. If things became confusing all she had to do was refer to her original map. They walked into the small apartment after maybe eight or ten minutes. Lucas tossed his towel into a corner and walked across the room to close the blinds.
"There's only one bed," sighed Emma. Not that it was a surprise.
"We can talk for a while if you are nervous." Lucas sounded confident, the door had sealed them away from the outside world, he could take his time. Seduction or a serious physical assault, either way he was going to enjoy the rest of the day, hopefully even the week.
"I need to use the bathroom," she said, slipping the heavy beach bag off her shoulder and casually rummaging inside its loose folds as she walked. After the customary sounds she emerged apparently drying her hands in a small towel. Lucas was naked on the bed displaying an erection. "You don't waste any time do you."
"Come on, we both know you came up here for sex," he said rather eagerly.
"Actually I came up here because of Poppy. I dare say you remember her."
All colour drained from his face. Understandable as the name was intimately bound to usually rewarding memories. Only Emma was a stranger who should have been oblivious to any of his previous actions. Oblivious to the fact that he had snatched a child in full view of the public, drugged and raped her at least once, shielded only by copious dense vegetation surrounding a large group of trees. Briefly he saw the girl's round face staring up at him, eyes begging to understand, tears streaming down her cheeks as he rested on his hands and pumped against her frail body. The recollection tended to bring a smile to his face. Just not then.
It wasn't necessary to allow her victim time to either analyse his predicament or compose his thoughts. There was a sound like a bull breaking wind and tiny fragments of towel sprayed into the air. A bullet ripped into Lucas's stomach bouncing him up the bed slightly and he screamed loudly. "The apartments either side are empty, I already knew that," laughed the woman. "Now I'm going to sit and watch you die. What was that about talking?" Unwrapping her weapon, a dark semi automatic Glock 17 she placed it well out of reach on the cheap pine coffee table and stripped naked to tease him. As she sat on his legs and prodded rather limp anatomy she smiled. "This doesn't seem much good for anything now. Is something distracting you?"
"What the fuck have I ever done to you?" he managed, almost sobbing. It isn't that often than someone from the calm flow of English life gets to experience a gunshot wound, Lucas seemed to be having trouble coming to terms with his new reality.
"Destroyed a child's youth," she spat back fiercely. "Anyone would take offence to that. It doesn't matter who she was. You may have escaped conventional treatment by the law by targeting a naive minor, asshole. Nobody can escape from my form of justice. An especially adapted 9mm jacketed hollow point with a home made drug cocktail in the tip. I imagine your stomach is already a little numb. Paralysis will spread out gradually as the dose is quite weak, not enough volume. If I had put it into your lungs the massive blood flow would have killed you far too quickly. As it is the chemicals will diffuse slowly. Mobility decreases systematically. Eventually none of your muscles will work. Firing from the waist is always something of a gamble. If I hit a major blood vessel or ruptured the liver you would be dead in five or ten minutes. Hopefully it will take about an hour. If you are still alive then I will just slice off your genitals and leave you bleeding out. What do want to talk about?"
"Bitch!" he spat, struggling onto one elbow and running his hand across his stomach in an attempt to assess the injury. It didn't help at all, there was a puncture wound that stung like shit with blood pooling around it, only he hadn't the courage to probe beneath the surface. Even the thought of an open gateway to his internal organs made him want to retch. Emma's weight across his thighs was preventing him moving much. Then there was the physical shock to consider, it felt as though he had been hit with a red hot sledgehammer, that had removed any desire to attempt some form of retaliation. The initial burning pain had faded, fear of imminent death was causing more stress than imagining what actual physical trauma had been done.
Emma was grinning profusely. "If I had used a standard round it could have been a simple through and through, popped out at the back without doing a lot of damage. The intestines are slippery enough to be pushed aside by a handgun bullet occasionally. Only there wouldn't be much point in that. I needed a makeshift silencer otherwise I would have aimed. I imagine you've seen someone being kneecapped in a film. Using a soft nosed flat headed bullet the bone virtually explodes. Am I making you feel ill?"
"You'll never get away with this," he offered rather feebly as his eyes flashed around the room searching for some means of escape, reprieve even.
"Why not, I have numerous times before. There is no evidence to place me within five hundred miles. I'm booked into a hotel on the North coast."
"What proof have you that I have ever broken the law?" Not that she seemed concerned over any legal or even moral issues.
"Your face you prick. Above all you cannot lie to yourself and guilt is written in latent neon. Anyway you have something of a reputation."
"Two cases, both unproven," he snapped as if his nemesis actually cared or the situation would improve because of a couple of words.
"So. I have numerous contacts, Poppy identified you from a photograph some days after the event to confirm her ability to remember events before the drug took hold of her mind. The poor child is too young to understand the concept of an identity parade and events after initially meeting you were increasingly unclear. Not that there is any doubt you were the one who raped her, even if she couldn't recall that part of the assault. Thankfully. Only it was obvious that it could never go to court. Juries are so stupid they can't see how easily a defence counsel can tear a witness apart until they seem unsure of the facts rather than traumatised by what no doubt seems like a barbaric interrogation." Emma punched him in the stomach and he didn't scream. "The digitalis mix is kicking in nicely." It would have been rewarding to flay him a little, only that may have sprayed blood around too much making movement awkward and even drawn attention to his plight. It is amazing just how far continual high pitched screaming can travel. As it was if she decided to make a serious amputation she could shower before dressing. "Would you like to confess to all your crimes?"
"Fuck off." Lucas's tongue was feeling a little woolly so the words sounded a little odd.
Emma slid off and pulled her bag close to the bed. Lucas couldn't see what she removed, only that she plugged it into the bedside socket. "I want to make sure there is no doubt as to why you died."
Lucas was having trouble thinking clearly. Nothing obvious sprang to mind and he wasn't going to sign a confession. At that moment his hands felt so numb it was unlikely that he could hold a pen. Watching his nemesis wander casually around the room while the poison spread through his body was torture in itself. As each minute passed his senses dulled, gradually he became less and less aware of his surroundings. To be fair if they were always sending out signals your brain would become confused, we sequentially switch off unimportant information. The problem was that movement reawakens nerves, Lucas was feeling strange as however much he fidgeted he was no longer aware of the bed beneath him. If fear was causing sweat to form on his forehead he wasn't conscious of any sensation, especially any beads of moisture cascading down his face though every time Emma came close he swallowed nervously. Logic was trying to suggest that he should try to get up, even make a lunge for the handgun but there appeared to be a total lack of communication with his limbs. It was hard enough lifting an arm from the mattress, his legs seemed to be encased in lead. By the time she reached out to the bedside cabinet he hadn't been able to make sense of her threat. When the object in Emma's hand registered he screamed, rather feebly. "No, you bitch. No."
Emma branded a single word on his groin. A six inch hand made metal iron burned ‘rapist' deep into his flesh. There was no pain, by then most of his nervous system had shut down, but the stench was overpowering and the smoke distressing. When she repeated the technique over his sternum he squealed and struggled. Logical, because when the chest was totally paralysed the heart would stop. Clearly the poison was continually being pumped around the body by the heart, only it was necessary for it to permeate into the cardiac muscle itself to complete its task, it wasn't ever going to be like flicking a switch. It wasn't necessary to perform surgery, the glazed expression as she unplugged the branding iron suggested he would be dead in minutes. Leaning over his head she gave him a word to linger in his thoughts until his last breath hissed from his lungs. "Poppy."
After the final movement of air had ceased, squeezed feebly from between slack lips she placed the small damaged towel on his body and rolled him a little, moving his back off the mattress. There was an unusual lump just below the ribs, obvious under the circumstances and not difficult to remove. Not wanting to leave any incriminating evidence Emma sliced the skin with a surgical scalpel she had bought in a craft shop back home and prised out the bullet. It was a little awkward because it had flattened out so much the initial cut needed enlarging. It was a little surprising but rewarding that it hadn't gone straight through and ended up deep in the mattress, no doubt the peculiar modifications had caused it to bloom immediately and slow down rapidly. It would have felt more than a little weird ripping material apart in search of the projectile. As he had been lying down the angle of entry was rather steep, causing the lead to burrow upwards. It may also have hit the base of a rib close to the spine and been deflected slightly so that once through the bony enclosure it was tumbling back down through the dermis, incapable of reaching escape velocity through what was in effect a rather elastic barrier. Once it was free and confident there wasn't so much as a single fingerprint or stray hair she left the room, briefly wondering whether the place was cleaned every morning or that the stench of decay would eventually draw attention to the rapist's demise.