Natalie Hunt was carted away, just as Scott Willard's stretcher was being loaded into the ambulance. Not once did her voice die down, through the entire ordeal. She shrieked out her love for him, like a wailing banshee, continuing long after her vocal chords were torn.
Another ambulance peeled away from the house, carrying in it Detective Sergeant Timothy Rawlings. His left lung flooded with blood, he was lucky to be alive. Had help arrived even ten minutes later, he might not have made it.
Inside the house, the police had found the bodies of Alice Goodacre, Helen Raleigh, and Maria and Kevin Hunt. Alice's throat had been slashed, as had Kevin's. The only solace to be held was that their death's were quick. Helen and Maria, however, were another story. Natalie had cut out Helen's tongue and stretched a strip of duct tape over her mouth, leaving her to the slow and torturous agony of drowning on her own blood. Maria was downright mutliated. She had been stabbed so many times, she was almost beyond recognition.
Upon searching her bedroom, David Stafford uncovered a diary of sorts. In it, Natalie detailed the horrific abuse she suffered, at the hands of her parents. As he thumbed through the pages, David was so unsettled he had to fight back the urge to cry.
Finding him reading in the bedroom, his hands trembling, Franko had placed one hand on David's shoulder and ushered him out of the house.
The office, in the middle of Lindum Police Station, was silent save for the dull hum of the computers. David peered down at one of the monitors, watching Natalie from the security cameras as she rocked back and forth, chained to the table in the interrogation room. Beside him, Wilson twisted his mouth into a shocked and sour expression.
"What the hell happened to her face?"
"She stabbed Rawlings in the throat, so he punched her in the face," David explained. "She swallowed six of her teeth."
"How on earth are they still alive?"
"Both." Wilson turned away and grimaced. "It feels like I'm looking at some kind of creature, down there."
David leaned back and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Please don't."
"What, you're telling me you don't feel the same?" He jabbed a finger down at the screen and bared his teeth. "After what she's done... She's not human."
"I said don't."
Wilson persisted, his gaze hardening behind the lenses of his glasses. "She stabbed your partner. You're saying you don't feel anything when you see her?"
David felt something boil up inside him. He stared down the Detective and lowered his voice. "You want to know what I feel when I look at her? I feel pity. Pity because someone took a poor abused kid and manufactured a monster." Not once breaking eye-contact, he maintained a lead tone. "I read her diary. And when I did, I felt... Sad. Because if that little girl had been born to anyone else, she would have stood a chance. If things had been different... Nobody would have had to die."
"That doesn't change the fact that she killed five people," Wilson argued.
"I'm not saying that it changes anything. Those people are still dead; three people are still in hospital... She's done horrible things, and should be punished for that. That's not my argument. My argument is that this could have been prevented. This," he tapped the screen, "could be anyone. And that's terrifying."
As if there was nothing more to be said, David made for the door. Wilson might have called after him, but he was barely aware of the words. Slipping out of the half-open door, he paced down the corridor in an effort to calm himself. Heat seemed to radiate from the top of his head, and he leaned his forehead against the wall. Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply.
"It's not easy, is it?" came a voice from behind him. David turned and stared through blurry eyes at DCI James Franko. "She's not what you expected, I take it?"
David took a second to compose himself. "I... I expected someone more-"
"Evil?" He watched Franko study his expression, as he nodded. "Trust me, it seems difficult now — Christ, I know it does — but give it time and you'll be thankful. This one, we can help. She's done some terrible things, but she's still young. She has time to get better. It's going to take a lot of therapy, but there's still a chance. Real evil, though... Real evil, you don't want to find."
"It's just..." He averted his eyes quickly, before returning his gaze to Franko's own mahogany orbs. "Everything that happened to her; everything in her diary... I feel so sorry for her."
"You do," Franko said, matter-of-factly. "You feel sorry for almost all of them. But that doesn't change what they've done. So the best you can do is put them away, and get them the help they'll need. With any luck, she'll end up in a hospital. Somewhere that can help her."
"You know, most people don't think like that."
"I know," Franko replied, shrugging. "And I'm not saying that what I think is right. I just thought that, if you're anything like me, you'll take solace in that."
Franko patted David on the arm and, for the first time, offered him a smile. The experience was so surreal that David was unsure whether or not it had actually happened, or if he was just imagining it. Either way, it had helped.
"And anyway..." the DCI said. "You should be proud of yourself. You solved this one. If you hadn't noticed the handwriting, we never would have made it in time. I'll be telling Braithwaite as much, too. No one can take that away from you."
Franko turned and nodded his head down the hallway. Fishing his hand out of his jacket pocket, he pulled out a debit card and wagged it in the air.
"Come on," he said. "St. Claire and I are going for a drink, so come and join us. I'm buying."
David hesitated. "What about the paperwork?"
"That'll keep. Something tells me you need this."