THE DATE

Sophie watched interestedly as the girl on TV sat down in front of her computer and logged onto a website for singles. Giggling kittenishly, she and her friend, who was sitting next to her, cruised through the pictures of various young men. Thoroughly impressed with this electronic catalogue of handsome men, they took turns in eagerly clicking the mouse-button. Seductive six-pack stomachs beckoned to them from some of the photographs; gelled hair gleamed sexily; eyes of all colours and flashy smiles displaying clinically white teeth glittered on the screen.

"Ooooh, isn't that guy sweet?"

"Why don't you try arranging a date with him?"

"I simply have to type in my phone number…Well…Here we go!"

There was more giggling.

Sophie noted the girls' perfect make-up and flawlessly straight and glossy hair. Well, it was important nowadays to be perfectly styled even when going to bed in one's own home.

A commercial break at this point made her yawn; still, she made a mental note of the brand-new mascara.

Five minutes later, the program was resumed. The gigglier of the two girls was talking (and naturally, giggling) on the phone. The boy from the internet had phoned her.

Fascinated, Sophie followed the establishment of a relationship between the two of them; a date was arranged at a café; giggling and chatting went on; a flirting expert revealed secret but simple tips about how to flirt; and at the end of the show, the couple was shown snogging passionately. The image faded away into a pink heart, and a voice-over chanted out the e-mail address and phone-number of a flirting school.

With a sigh, Sophie turned off the TV.

Everyone had boyfriends and girlfriends, except for herself. Being a twenty-three-year-old single woman was bad enough, and being a virgin was even worse. It was shameful, what with people of her age walking around hand in hand, kissing happily in public and naughtily squeezing each other's backsides.

Something had to be wrong with her, obviously. Maybe she had to pay more attention to her hair and make-up. Anyway, the TV-program would definitely help her; thanks to it, she had got a few ideas.

She sat down in front of her computer, turned it on and searched for a local dating service website. She managed to find one.

"Are you single? Are you lonely? You will find someone who will save you from drowning in boredom!" she read aloud. Animated photographs of beaming couples danced in front of her eyes, skittering across the screen.

She browsed around on the website. The cursor of the mouse hovered above a menu which enabled one to search for a man or a woman of this or that age living in this or that region. Sophie entered the appropriate information and her computer purred contentedly as a webpage stuffed with photographs of likely candidates popped up.

Licking her lips, Sophie enlarged a couple of the photographs, read the information underneath them and finally decided on David Chance, a twenty-five-year-old law student with immaculately gelled hair and Hollywood-actoresque features. To contact the desired candidate, one had to type in one's phone-number and name. She did so, typing in her mobile number. She bookmarked the page and turned off her computer. Who knows, maybe it would work.

David Chance's voice was as attractive as his looks when he phoned up Sophie. Sophie, simpering and giggling, was delighted when he proposed a meeting in a disco which she knew by sight.

She told her parents that she was going to meet a student who went to the same university as she did, but she didn't tell them how they had met until they asked her.

"Oh, I met him in the library," she lied, knowing that her parents would not approve of "internet-dating".

"Enjoy yourself, dear," they said on the evening of her rendezvous, "and be careful."

Rolling her eyes at the last words, Sophie jauntily skipped out of the house and locked the door. Her face was carefully and painstakingly made up, and her hair was carefully and painstakingly pinned up.

Spring had just started, and it was still dark at seven o'clock in the evening, and the air had yet to turn warm. Sophie stooped to adjust her shoe. A cat darted out of a cluster of bushes and froze in mid-step, glaring at her with green eyes, fur bristling, one paw quivering just above the ground. Then it streaked across the road and disappeared underneath a car parked at the curb. Sophie curled her lip contemptuously and straightened up. She rode on the bus to the meeting place and stepped down nervously.

She walked briskly for three minutes, nearly tripping once in her excitement.

She saw him first before she saw the disco, whereas, due to his early arrival, he had obviously seen the disco first before he had seen her. But they saw each other

"You're David, aren't you?" she said breathlessly, flashing him a cinema-smile.

"And you must be Sophie," he replied. To her surprise, he took her hand and bowed over it in the most gentlemanly fashion. She – naturally – giggled.

"I am pleased to meet you," he said charmingly, his blue eyes twinkling. His abundant hair was slicked into an impeccable side parting. His eau de cologne was delightful.

"Pleased to meet you too," she said.

"Let's go inside; it's rather cool out here," he suggested. She giggled in consent and they went inside.

She enjoyed herself very much. David showered her with attention, listening to her intently, talking little about himself. He was completely at ease with her and she with him. Her voice dropped to a flirtatious whisper, like all the people on TV did, and he seemed to like it. Then she had to go to the bathroom and when she came back, he had generously ordered a fresh drink for her.

"Oh, thank you so much!" she squealed and gulped it down thirstily.

"Slowly, slowly," her murmured, smiling at her eagerness.

She began to feel drowsy after a few minutes and could not suppress a yawn.

"Sleepy?" he asked, and he glanced at his sleek silver watch.

"Yes," she giggled.

"It is rather late," he remarked. "You came here riding on the bus, didn't you?"

She nodded.

"Look, I'll drive you home. My car is just outside," he said.

"Really? Won't that be trouble for you?" she asked, her eyes widening.

"Not at all! I'll drop you right in front of your door, if you tell me where you live."

She yawned again and swiped her knuckles across her mouth as if to cut off the yawn, but she only succeeded in smearing up her lipgloss.

She told him her address.

"Let's go, then," he said. She stood up groggily. Her head was swimming pleasantly. She felt him slide his arm around her shoulders, to support her.

She was dimly aware of being gently stowed away into a small black car.

"Where are we going?" she yawned.

"Home," he said gently, turning on the engine. Sophie giggled and fell asleep.

She was unconscious when he raped her and finally strangled her with his belt, so as not to leave any fingerprints. A nearby forest was always an advantage. He frowned with disgust as he stuffed the bloody condom into a small plastic bag. He could not risk leaving it in the forest, especially not near her body. He wiped her handbag with a clean handkerchief, for he had handed it to her on leaving the disco.

He made sure that he had erased all suspicious traces. He even took her mobile phone with him in case it was checked for calls. He chuckled as he stared at the still body.

"Artificial slut," he said in a tone as if he was complimenting her. She had been so easy to drug. Still, she had giggled even before she had gone to sleep. Now she would sleep forever and never bother anyone with that annoying giggle of hers.

He climbed into his car, put his blue contact lenses and dark-brown wig into a bag and dumped this last onto the backseat. He drove away.

Later, when the police looked for clues in Sophie's room, they also had a good look at her computer. They came across the page she had bookmarked, but it returned an erroneous answer. Her murderer had deleted his profile. Her browser cache didn't reveal anything helpful. Her bereaved parents could only repeat the vague information Sophie had given them before her date.

There was no David Chance studying law at the university, either.

And in Sophie's blood they found GHB - Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate – a well-known date rape drug.

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