Edward adjusted a sleeve, then stood back to admire the effect. ‘Perfect’ he said to himself. The four mannequins in the group stared silently back at him. ‘Goodnight girls’ he said, as he stepped from the window back into the Department Store, where he was the window dresser.
When the store closed he locked his workshop door, and left the store by the staff entrance. He looked across the road – yes, she was there. He licked his lips in anticipation, and crossed the road. ‘Hello Julie’ he said to the girl sitting in the shop doorway. ‘Ready for a cuppa?’
She smiled and got to her feet, and they went to the café a few doors away, where he ordered tea and sandwiches. She ate hers hungrily, and his too, when he offered them. ‘Had a good day today?’ he enquired. ‘It’s been damned cold; I don’t envy you sitting in the open.’
‘It’s OK if you stay out of the wind’ she said ‘. An old lady gave me a fiver though, said she’d had a win at Bingo, and I reminded her of her granddaughter.’
‘I still can’t understand why a pretty intelligent girl like you is on the street’ Edward said. ‘I’ve only known you a few weeks, but I know you could get a job easily, if you cleaned up a bit and had some decent clothes.’ She looked down ashamedly at her ragged parka and dirty fingernails. ‘If I had anything decent it would get nicked at the hostel’ she said. ‘Some of them there would steal their granny’s apron for the price of a can of lager’.
‘Look’ said Edward ‘You know where I work; I could get you some nice bits I have finished with in the windows. Why don’t I sort a few out tomorrow, and when I meet you after work, you could come to my house for a bath, and try them on. I have a spare room, you could even stay overnight, then the next day you can go job hunting, you often see signs in shops or café’s that they are looking for staff.’
‘I don’t think so’ Julie said. ‘I hardly know you’.
‘Oh come on, you can trust me’ he smiled ‘I’m old enough to be your granddad. I promise you’ he said ‘I just want to see you living a proper life instead of begging on the streets. If it works out I’ll be happy to lend you the deposit for a little flat. If it doesn’t, you can go back to the hostel. No strings, I like to think I can help reduce the number of homeless’.
Julie drank her tea as she thought about his offer. She really didn’t enjoy being out in all weathers. Edward had been very nice to her over the past few weeks, firstly giving her his small change, then stopping to talk, and for the past week or so, buying her tea and sandwiches each evening. The thought of a little flat of her own, rather than dossing in a stinking doorway or that filthy hostel, was especially tempting.
Edward watched her deliberating. ‘Meet me in the castle car park after work tomorrow’ he said, it could be a start to a whole new life for you’.
‘You promise no strings attached?’ she queried?
‘I promise’ he confirmed, his fingers crossed under the table.
The next evening Julie was waiting at the car park. ‘I’m still not sure about this’ she said, apprehensively.
‘At least come home for a bath and a meal’ Edward said soothingly ‘and to have a look at these clothes’. She climbed unsurely into his van..
Soon they were at his house, and he told Julie to stay put while he drove into the garage. He closed the doors and they entered the house through an adjoining door.
‘I’ll show you the bathroom,’he said ‘and I’ll cook some supper while you are in the bath.’
He picked up the holdall , and led the way upstairs. He directed her into a small bedroom, where towels and a bathrobe were laid on the bed.
‘ Bathroom’s next door’ he said, ‘Just come down when you are ready . I hope the clothes fit.’
As Julie luxuriated in the hot bath she could smell delicious cooking smells from downstairs. She eventually reluctantly climbed out and dried herself, then dressed in some of the clothes from the holdall, which fitted her small body perfectly. She went down to the kitchen, where Edward was ladling soup into bowls. ‘My word,’ he said ‘You look a different person. Anyone who turns you down for a job needs their brains testing. Vegetable soup and chicken to follow, OK?’
Julie ate hungrily, the soup was delicious, and she ate the chicken with relish even though it was a little spicy. There was fruit and cheese to follow, but she declined. As she watched Edward peel an orange, she began to feel very drowsy, and within a few moments she had collapsed onto the floor. Once Edward was certain she was unconscious, he went upstairs for a pillow, which he pressed tightly over her face Unable to resist, she was soon quite dead.
Showing no emotions whatever, Edward quickly set to work. He was well practised. He firstly stripped her, and put the clothes back into the holdall, to take back to the store tomorrow. Then he made up some plaster of Paris ,and smoothed Vaseline over her face, before surrounded it with a frame which he filled with the plaster, to make a mask. While it was drying, he calmly washed the dishes, and cleared the bedroom and bathroom of all trace of their visitor. Once the mask was dry, he took it carefully off, and placed it in a box. He wrapped her naked body in an old curtain, and carried it to the garage, with her clothes. He would have to be at his allotment early at the weekend to uncover the hole he had dug the previous week, drop in her body, and fill the hole in again before the other allotment users arrived. He would have a bonfire at the same time to dispose of her clothes.
The following day Edward returned the clothes to the cupboard in the store room, and placed the mask carefully on his work table, where he proceeded to make a fibreglass head, using the mask as a mould.
A few weeks later, Edward carried a fifth beautifully dressed mannequin into the shop window, and positioned her amongst the others. He stood back for an overall impression of his display. ‘Pam, Sheila, Jane, Laura and now Julie’ he whispered to himself, ‘No longer homeless’. There was still room for another, here and at the allotment. He glanced across the road and smiled when he saw a figure hunched in a shop doorway, wearing a bright pink scarf. The five expressionless faces watched him silently as he checked that he had some change in his pocket.