Prologue

It was an autumn evening in London. On Thames Embankment, the lines of plane trees were already shedding their furry seed balls and the first strong winds of the season were picking off the early leaf fall.

In the hall of a house in Clerkenwell, a man stood quietly. His clothes were less than fashionable and made him look older than his years. Even so, they were of a quality that suggested that he could afford to dress well. His face was serious. An observant person would have noticed the way in which he was passing the brim of his hat nervously through his fingers as he waited. As the chiming clock on the wall began to strike the quarter hour he looked up at it, startled by the sudden noise. “Ah, you’re here.” A woman’s voice drew his attention away from the clock and towards the top of the flight of stairs in front of him. Her voice seemed to communicate a level of indifference. Her bored expression suggested that she found his arrival an irritation. “I suppose you had better come up, hadn’t you?”

“Yes, Mistress.” The man answered, quietly, stealing a glance upward and seeing the woman that was waiting for him. He put his hat on the hall table together with two hundred pounds from his wallet. Hanging his coat on the hall stand, he straightened his tie in a fastidious way and turned towards the stairs.

“Hurry up,” the woman snapped impatiently, “I have better things to do than wait for you.”

At the same moment, a few miles away in a flat just off the Holloway Road, a young woman slid the door of her wardrobe shut. The naked, bound and gagged man that knelt within was plunged into darkness. “Now, think about why you’re in there,” the young woman said, “and then perhaps we can have a more constructive talk about your behaviour in this relationship.” Her words were greeted with a muffled whimper of response as she headed to the lounge in search of a drink.

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