So of course I let her stay. We shared the same bed, but there was no sex, somehow the thought of making love to a girl who'd recently been flogged and penetrated by her father and brother wasn't very appealing. Instead I just held her tortured body close as she slept, wondering what the hell I'd got myself into.

A few days later she left to go back to her own place. As she was leaving, she put her hand up and gently stroked my cheek.

"Poor John," she said "poor sweet normal John. It was stupid of me to think that I could ever make you into someone like me. I'm stupid and selfish. Thanks for putting up with me." She gave me a swift kiss, and then she was gone. It was the last time that I ever saw her in the flesh. I heard through friends that she'd moved out of her shared apartment, after that she dropped off my radar completely, but it wasn't the last I ever heard about her.

A year went by,and then one day a face leaped out at me from the front of a newspaper. Cindy's face. She was dead. She'd been murdered. A cold fist reached into my heart and closed over it.

The police never revealed details about how she died, but I had a friend or two in the right places, and I had them find out for me. She'd last been seen leaving a bar with a man she'd met there. She was found a few hours later. It wasn't pleasant hearing. She'd been beaten to a pulp, there were cigarette burns to her breasts and genitals, she'd been raped and sodomised and finally her throat had been slashed open with a piece of broken glass. She'd bled to death on a piece of filthy waste ground surrounded by dog shit and condoms and used needles. The post mortem showed that she had alcohol and heroin in her blood.

They never got anyone for it. I doubt if they looked very hard. To the police, she was just another dead junkie; they had more important things to do. She'd picked up the wrong guy this time, one whose limits were far beyond her own, and she'd paid the price.

I didn't go to the funeral. It wasn't that I didn't want to, it was just that I knew that if I did I'd take a baseball bat and her father, or her brother, or both, would end up on life support and I'd be in jail, and what would be the point, it wouldn't bring Cindy back. She had gone on to a place where there was no more pain, where nobody would ever use or abuse her again. I hoped that she was at peace.

I'm not a religious man, but if there is a God, which I very much doubt, then I hope that he has a special place for people like her, the ones who have been twisted and distorted by others who were supposed to love them and care for them.

Cindy left me with a legacy. One that I would rather not have. For a few moments in time she shone a ray of light into a dark room inside me, and I didn't like what I saw writhing and crawling in there. She awoke something that won't go back to sleep. There are times when I see a pretty girl and before I can check myself I imagine her tied to a post, naked and screaming, lash marks crossing her body and the whip heavy in my hand.

We all have that dark side, it only need awakening. There are times when we look in a mirror and a stranger gazes back at us. We think that we know ourselves, that we are creatures of sanity and logic, but in reality we are full of smoke and dreams. Because we cannot see our demons does not mean that they don't stand behind our shoulder. I know that mine do. They cannot control me, make me give in to them, because as I said at the beginning, I was brought up to have an abhorrence for hurting a woman, yet even inside me the blackness lurks, awaiting it's chance.

Cindy would have understood this. She touched me, and that touch changed me forever. I pray for her soul to a God that I don't even believe in. May he answer for the sake of us all.

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