Enter the bleak existence of a call girl haunted by the atrocities of her childhood. In the spring of 1997, Shelley Hansard is a drug addict with a heroin habit and crack psychosis. Her desirability as a top London call girl is waning.
When her client dies in a suite at The Lanesborough Hotel, Shelley’s complex double-life is blasted deeper into chaos. In her psychotic state, the skills required to keep up her multiple personas are weakening. Amidst her few friends, and what remains of her broken family, she struggles to maintain her wall of lies.
During this tumultuous time, she is presented with an opportunity to take revenge on a client who raped her and her friends. But in her unbalanced state of mind, can she stop a serial rapist?
About the Author
Inspired by her maternal grandmother, Clara Ellis, who was also a writer, Ruth had been writing since the age of thirteen. However, during the years that she wrote sporadically, Ruth had never completed a novel.
Since studying prostitution in the late 1990s, Ruth had an idea for a novel in her mind. At the age of thirty-six, in 2010, she began writing and a little under a year later, Soul Destruction, the first novel in a series, was complete.
In July 2012, Ruth published In Her Own Words... Interview with a London Call Girl, which is the transcription of a video interview she undertook in 1998 with a woman who worked as a London call girl. All the royalties from this short publication are being donated to Beyond the Streets, a charity that helps women exit prostitution. Between the UK and US Amazon websites, In Her Own Words... Interview with a London Call Girl has received numerous five star reviews.
Maintaining contact with women who have exited prostitution is essential to Ruth as a writer and campaigner. On her Soul Destruction website www.soul-destruction.com, she has collated a number of their stories on a page named Voices of Prostitution Survivors.
As well as drawing on her research, Ruth has firsthand experience of many of the topics she writes about such as posttraumatic stress disorder, rape, and drug and alcohol addiction.
Ruth also has an author website at www.ruthjacobs.co.uk.
Read an Excerpt
1. The Dead John
“There’s only one kind of dead, the not moving and the not breathing kind, and that’s the kind of dead he is.” Despite her hysteria, Shelley Hansard tried to whisper on the phone from The Lanesborough.
“Not necessarily.” Marianne’s voice squeaked down the line. “Just because things seem a certain way, it doesn’t mean they are.”
“Sometimes it does. Sometimes things are exactly as they seem – and right now, this is one of those fucking times.” Shelley sat rocking on the edge of the bed in the Regency-styled suite. “I’m telling you, he fucking died on me.”
“You’re not a doctor. You can’t go around pronouncing people dead.”
“If you don’t believe me, get off the line and I’ll call someone else.”
“Don’t you dare. You don’t tell anyone. Do you understand? You come straight here.” Marianne grunted. “Have you got the money?”
“What the fuck does that matter now?” A hot tear landed on Shelley’s thigh.
“Get a grip, Kiki. Start acting like a professional.”
Fighting the urge to look at the motionless body spread-eagled next to her, Shelley pushed herself up from the bed. Her neatly folded suit lay by her feet. She stood, staring down, burrowing her toes into the plush carpet. She knew she should get dressed, but clean clothes didn’t belong on skin that felt unclean.
Taking a step towards the bathroom, she felt unbalanced. Her legs shuddered and her backside hit the floor. Reunited with her brown, pinstripe suit, she reached for her skirt. With trembling hands, she dragged it towards her. Shuffling on her back, she shimmied into it. Her fingers grappled with the hook and eye. Making a hasty exit was important, but making an exception to her rule was impossible. She couldn’t do it.
She managed to stand but, stepping out of her skirt, she collapsed again. Pressing down on the carpet with her palms, she tried to lever herself back up. Her jolting arms gave way. The last limbs to surrender to the convulsionary rhythm that had overtaken the rest of her.
She didn’t have control over her body. Instead, she had a helpless feeling of being completely powerless. The rush to leave the hotel and the corpse was over. As a periodic convulsionist, she knew the beat could monopolise her for hours. She just had to wait. She knew what to expect. Soon she’d be gone.
On regaining consciousness, her shaking had reduced. She staggered to the walnut bureau where earlier she’d left her handbag, took out her mobile and checked the time: nearly midnight. Two hours lost to another world.
Slipping the mobile back inside her cream handbag, she shut her eyes, realising what she’d done. She’d called Marianne from the phone in the hotel suite. Under the circumstances, that wasn’t the phone she should have used.
After a shower, with hair wet, she dripped a track back to the bed. She dressed, trying not to look to her right but as she buttoned her jacket, she couldn’t help it. She breathed in deeply, as if inhalation through her nose would draw the tears back through her ducts from whence they’d sprung.
Quietly, she said aloud, “God bless you.”
What was his name? She tried to remember. She couldn’t. She didn’t know him, not in a real sense, only biblically. The last few hours they’d spent fornicating, high on a combination of crack and GHB. In the midst of proceedings, he’d complained of a chest pain. So, when he asked her to make him another pipe, she refused. On gently reminding her who was paying for the evening, and whose desires were to be met, he took the crack pipe from her hands and on the ash-covered foil, prepared himself a rock. The rock that would emerge to be the last ever smoked by the late, greying-blond john.
“Come to me, you...you...you nymph,” he said, beckoning to her as he exhaled his final pipe. “Come over here and pleasure me my penis. I mean, pleasure my penis. Would you, with your mouth, please?” The client reclined on the bed, unaware that his last words had just been spent on a bungled request for fellation. And from a young woman whose name he didn’t know – at least, not her real name.
Some time in, Shelley became aware that the penis in her mouth was lifeless. She stopped to look up and saw the fixed expression on his face. It wasn’t changing. He wasn’t moving. He looked like a waxwork from Madame Tussauds.
“What are you doing?” she asked, prodding his chest. “Stop fucking around,” she shouted through the hairs in his ear.
After a vigorous shaking failed to extract even the slightest reaction, she put her fingers under his nostrils. He wasn’t breathing. That was when she called Marianne.
From the console table, Shelley removed the remaining rocks. She wrapped them inside clingfilm then stashed them in her cigarette box. She dismantled the crack pipe. The smaller parts – elastic band, tin foil, broken biro – she put in her handbag. The abused mini Evian bottle, she put in her small suitcase.
Crouched down by the side of the mahogany bed, she methodically repacked her work paraphernalia. Two vibrators, one black strap-on dildo, handcuffs and another set of underwear were all she’d taken out her case.
Inside a crystal jar on the bathroom shelf, she found cotton wool. She wetted half a dozen pieces and, in the absence of eye makeup remover, added hand lotion. She scrubbed at the black around her eyes and the dark-grey lines that streaked her face. To stop her bloodshot eyeballs burning, she splashed them repeatedly with cold water.
Her face clean and dry, she evened the tone with powder foundation. On the blank canvas, she swirled pink blush on the cheeks, brushed black mascara through the blonde lashes and drew a line of black on the upper eyelids. To finish, she painted red on the lips, perfectly matching this week’s manicure.
After drying her hair, she was ready to leave. She scanned the room, checking she hadn’t left anything behind. Suddenly, she thought of fingerprints. She ran into the bathroom and grabbed a towel.
Keeping her head turned away from the dead john, she wiped down the telephone on the bedside table. Next to the phone stood a champagne flute – red lip prints on the rim – the one from which she’d drunk a Buck’s Fizz. She picked it up inside the towel and polished it.
Flitting around the suite, she cleaned the bedside tables, the console table, the bureau, and everything else from the headboard to the ornaments in case she’d touched something unknowingly. In the bathroom, she wiped down the marble surfaces and glass shelves. Remembering the cotton wool in the bin, she fished out the blackened, wet balls and dropped them down the toilet. She flushed, watching them disappear. Then she flushed again to make certain they were gone. She wiped the cistern handle before throwing the towel in the bath.
Turning to leave, she looked in the mirror. The feeling that someone had put a stitch in her upper lip and was tugging at the thread looked as strange in her reflection as it felt on her face. This delayed after-effect didn’t always occur but when it did, it always outlasted the shakes – sometimes by a day or a few, other times by months. However, on judging the catalytic incident – and considering the tsunami convulsion was already a weak breaker – there was a chance she’d be restored to an untwitching state in time for tomorrow night’s dinner.
Shelley stood in the hallway, closing the hotel room door behind her. Waiting for the lift, she brushed her fingers through her thick, blonde hair. Though freshly washed and dried, that didn’t stop its tendency to knot. Also knotted was her stomach. She pulled it in with a deep breath and raised her shoulders, standing straight, and taller than her natural five-foot and six-inches in her high stilettos.
Chameleon-like, she was adept at entering and exiting hotels at all times of the day and night without drawing attention. To blend in, she gave the impression of a guest, wearing business attire and carrying a case. She appeared to know the way to the lifts, and when she didn’t, she could feign it.
Indelibly stamped in her memory was the floor plan of her exit, even though this was only her third visit to The Lanesborough. She hadn’t had to rely on it as often as The Hilton, The Dorchester or The Four Seasons – the Park Lane hotels to which she was most often called – but The Lanesborough was stored with The Ritz, The Savoy, Claridges and numerous other London hotels she worked in less frequently.
With the air of confidence she’d mastered in faking, she strutted across the main hall. Tunnel vision for the grand exit. Her heart pounding so hard in her chest, as if preparing for its own escape, was disregarded.
She’d just made it into the drizzle outside when a low voice called out from behind her, “Good night, madam.”
The uniformed porter startled her, but her calm exterior remained intact and she replied, “Good night,” without a backward glance.
Approaching her Mercedes on Grosvnor Crescent, Shelley muddled through her handbag to find the key. She heard a banging noise. In fright, she looked up and down the street. It was devoid of people.
She opened the driver side door of her vintage 350SL. Keeping both feet on the pavement, she sat down sideways on the low seat. Then, with knees together, she lifted her legs, rotated her body ninety degrees and slipped her feet into the footwell. She believed this was the proper way for a lady to enter a sports car. Although she didn’t feel like a lady, she maintained an outward appearance that was contrary to her internal turmoil.
Locked in, with her case and handbag on the passenger seat, she leant across to open the glove box. She took out a tatty, pink sponge meant for cleaning the windscreen. From a cavity inside the sponge, she drew out a white envelope. Sliding her hand underneath her skirt, she reached for her earnings tucked safely under the elasticated rim of her hold-ups. She counted out two-hundred pounds and put that in her purse. The remainder, she put in the white envelope, shoved the envelope back inside the sponge, and returned the sponge to its home in the glove box.
She looked out of her window. No one was there. She checked her rear view mirror. There was no one behind. Where were the voices coming from? Sometimes she heard voices in her head, but not these ones. There was one low and one higher pitched voice. The conversation was unintelligible, but something was funny. They were laughing. Now the voices were getting louder, getting closer. A screech pierced through her. Her head twisted brusquely to the side. Her neck felt whiplashed.
In the middle of a terrace, a young couple were kissing. The man was positioning the woman against the white-stuccoed wall of a townhouse. They didn’t seem to notice Shelley in her car. Their Friday night was happening somewhere else. Another world. A world that Shelley no longer lived in, nor did she want to. Her experience of that world had propelled her into the one she inhabited now, and though she didn’t care for her new world, she’d acclimatised to it. The emotional shutdown she’d acquired had brought her there and it left her stranded.
Robotically, she turned the key in the ignition, switched on the headlights, put the car into drive, checked her mirrors and pulled out of the tight space. She drove towards Chelsea, where Marianne lived off the King’s Road, not far from The Lanesborough at Hyde Park Corner.
At the first set of red traffic lights, she dipped her hand into the side pocket of the door and blindly selected a CD. The Hue and Cry - Bitter Suite album calmed her for a moment, until she began worrying about her earlier mistake. What would Marianne say if she found out Shelley called her from the hotel phone and not her mobile? At twenty-one years of age, and after nearly three years of working, she should have known better.