для читателей старше 18 лет
Chapter One. “Welcome Shoppers!”
She would have changed things if she’d had any idea of what was going to happen… done it differently in an attempt to change her fate, her future. Or maybe she wouldn’t have altered anything — she didn’t know, was confused. It had started only a day ago but felt like a year or two even. So much water under the bridge, so much pain and suffering, so much change and so little time for all those things to have occurred. Yet they had. The sound of the loud hailer assaulted her ears again.
“Mrs Curtis, Vivienne, please! This is your last warning. If you do not come out in the next sixty seconds we will be forcibly entering the building. Please come out with your hands above your head and lay face down on the footpath. Vivienne? Your minute starts now Vivienne.”
Why do they tell you the exact time they’re gonna be busting through the front door, she thought to herself? She lay behind substantial open top freezers in the cold food section of Franklins (the soon to go bust Franklins chain, this particular store replaced by a Woolworths). There were six freezers in all and she had rearranged them so to have any chance of getting to her, they would have to blow them out of the way, or spend considerable time getting forklifts to move them. And while the dumb overly considerate constabulary stuffed around with that, she was simply going to slip out through the fridge section behind her. What they obviously didn’t know was that in the capacious area behind the fridges, the bulk cold stock was stored. There was also a vent opening large enough for a horse to slip into. From there it led to the ceiling space. The ceiling space gave access to the entire western side of the shopping centre, not just the supermarket — she’d be swanning out of the front door of some little boutique safely out of sight while they still thought she was behind those freezers.
They wouldn’t have time to check engineering plans and the like to discover this little escape route, nor the time to find out that she had worked part time in this very supermarket right up until last Christmas. Dumb barstards! Because they were up against a woman they were being nice. Nice! Does a person, a woman, have to kill and maim to get serious attention out there? But it wasn’t the attention she was seeking. It wasn’t anything like that at all. She just wanted her life back. Anonymity. Her husband. Her daughter. Her home.
But oh, the strength, the power she felt. It was addictive, and she loved it. If only it had started differently. Tricia. My dear sweet beautiful daughter Tricia, she thought.
Chapter Two. “Blind Faith”
Two days had passed since the supermarket confrontation and it was just as she had imagined it would be, as easy as that. They had fired their gas pellets or stun grenades or whatever it was the Police used under those circumstances, but only after giving her all the warnings in the world. About the only gentlemanly thing they hadn’t done was to provide a police escort away from the damn place!
Vivienne figured that if she had been a man, armed or unarmed, they would have come in through every entry point possible, and they would not have been as nice about it as they had been with her. Sure, a man or any armed person would have been more risky for them, or at least that’s the way they were still thinking. They knew she was smart, intelligent that is, but street smart she wasn’t. They continually failed to comprehend that she was dangerous, more so than any man with or without a weapon. Until they realise that, she understood it simply wasn’t possible to be taken seriously. They saw her as just an unarmed woman, an unarmed married woman with a little girl, a husband and a home in the suburbs. She was an unarmed woman that the entire State Police Force in South East Queensland had, so far, been unable to catch.
“I bet they are still standing around in Franklins scratching their heads, and their balls, trying to work out how I piled those freezers up together so quickly,” she whispered to herself, and giggled.
Vivienne Elizabeth Curtis, nee Barnes, twenty-eight years of age. She turned twenty-nine in about a month. She sat on the floor of a little caravan not even one kilometre from that very same Franklins supermarket. She was on the floor so that nobody in the van park could walk past and spy her, inside what should have been a vacant van. And because it was cool. Since this had all begun, she was always hot. Not sweating, goodness no, women don’t sweat! She didn’t feel sick like when she’d been running a fever or anything either, but she knew her body temperature was as high, if not higher than those very periods of illness. It was early May, almost winter, and even though the day time temps were still warm, at night it was beginning to get decidedly chilly. Not that Viv felt it, the cold that is. It was like she was impervious to any temperature change. She even thought about how pleasant the temperature of the Franklins cold rooms had been.
She stood about five foot four inches tall in the old scale, and weighed about fifty-two kilograms ringing wet in the new. Her husband Brett was in his forties and he still used imperial measurements for a persons’ height, metric for just about anything else. Go figure! She wondered how he would measure her body temperature at the moment? Taken orally, he would probably measure it in Fahrenheit, just so that she’d request a reading in the centigrade scale she could understand. Then he would make veiled suggestions that he would have to take a reading from ‘elsewhere’ if she wanted it in metric. She knew they didn’t own a rectal thermometer, that’s for sure!
His sexual innuendo was constant and that’s what he would be suggesting, the dirty old bugger! She would tease him about it for another year or so but she knew if he persisted she would give in eventually. Besides, the thought of some taboo little sex act excited her but it was the anticipation more than the actual act itself that kept her going. This was one anticipatory event that she was going to string him along for as long as she could.
“Who am I kidding?” she whispered to herself. “When they finally catch me I’ll be dead or locked away for the next twenty years anyway. Only sex I can look forward to will be as one of the girls in striped prison issues,” she laughed softly.
She stretched out her legs and thought of her daughter Tricia, the beautiful little tyke. Just over a week ago she was taking Tricia shopping, and that’s when it had started. Viv closed her eyes and pulled out her mental photo album, her mind flipping the pages as she revelled in the discovery of some new frames that had developed since the last time.
Maybe she could eventually work out just what was happening to her, and if she couldn’t fix it herself, then at least convince the very pissed off authorities that she was worth saving. She saw that bright May morning again, Tricia in the stroller near the front door as her Mom, she, Vivienne, went through the garage to back out the car.
It was much easier getting Tricia into her car seat outside of the narrow single garage, and then a simple matter of sliding the stroller along the back floor, or into the boot. Their house was slightly elevated from the road and Viv recalled her shock at seeing the stroller and its precious cargo, rolling slowly down across the lawn toward the street. She remembered leaping from the car and charging down the drive, sobbing hysterically but knowing she was going to catch it in time as long as she didn’t slip or fall. She thanked God there were no cars coming. She slapped her hands around the stroller handles and swivelled it around, grabbing out her beautiful baby and crushing her to Mommy’s heaving bosom.
The stroller began to roll again, and Vivienne heard and saw its movement from the corner of her tear filled eyes. She put her foot under the rear wheel and it propped. She didn’t know how long she stood there in the sun soaked front driveway, but when she next looked up she saw the stroller resting against the gutter on the other side of the road.
She looked down to her foot and nearly swooned — the rear bumper of her little hatch back was resting against her leg. The outside of her foot lay against the rear tyre, her leg bowed like a string of spaghetti, yet she felt no pain. But she was so hot! She concentrated but could not even feel the car against her leg.
Tricia slept soundly against her chest as Vivienne looked around wildly but as usual for a weekday, saw none of her neighbours. She let one arm drop to the back of the car, paranoid that at any second its weight would become all too much and complete the order of gravity by rolling back, crushing her and her baby.
Viv wouldn’t let that happen, she would lob Tricia onto the lawn hopefully out of harms way, or twist so that the car could continue its journey by just running over her legs, Tricia safely in her arms. No, too risky, it would have to be the lob onto the lawn she knew.
The car moved. She looked at it. Her hand was resting against the boot and she gave it another imperceptible push. Maybe the boot had not been closed properly she thought. But when she pushed, the car moved off her leg, the bow decreased and the tyre no longer rested against her foot. She pushed more and her car moved a little further. Uphill. She continued to push until the car was on the level floor of the garage.
She ducked her head through the open drivers’ window, careful not to nudge her precious sleeping bundle, pulled on the hand brake and nudged the gear stick forward into first. Viv walked out to the front of the garage and looked down the driveway. She walked as if in a trance, down the driveway and across the road, retrieving the runaway stroller and dragged it slowly back to the house. She lay her beautiful sleeping Tricia back into her cot, before again, zombie like, she returned to the top of the driveway.
Turning, she looked at her car. She shook her head, it hadn’t happened — she’d just dreamed it all. She walked along the side of the car and saw the drivers’ window down, hand brake on, the car in first gear. Yes, she had done that. Returning to the rear of the car, she rested both hands against the boot lid, her head drooped between her arms and saw the unmistakable rubber mark on the outside of her left shoe and a crease in the skin across her upper calf where the bumper must have rested. She pushed against the boot with her hands and saw the panel indenting, felt the car resisting. No, not feeling, knowing the car was resisting now that it was in gear and the brake was engaged — knowing that if she pushed harder, her hands would either dent or go through the panel. Or the car would move.
She walked around to the driver’s door and retrieved the keys from the ignition. The hand brake was on, the car in gear she noted again. She opened the rear hatch. She could feel the heat emanating from her body again but it wasn’t uncomfortable. She grasped the lower lip of the boot with her hands, aware it was infinitely stronger than the hatch door she had been pushing on. And push she did. She waited to feel the resistance again, any resistance, but when she didn’t feel any at all she pushed harder. All four tyres squealed quickly and at the sound of a crash she stopped, leaned back, eyes wide open, heart pounding, and the heat, the heat. Startled, she saw the cracks in the rear brick wall of the garage — another foot and the car would have gone through the wall and into the back yard. She stepped to the side and saw the two skid marks ending where the tyres currently rested. They were three feet long. She couldn’t recall taking even one step but would have taken at least three or four to push the car that far.
“What the hell am I thinking?” she flashed loudly around the garage. “I shouldn’t be able to push the car at all!”
At that moment she felt the heat around her, in her, dissipating, and she slumped to the floor gasping. Not from exhaustion, but from fear and desolation. She knew it wouldn’t work anymore. She struggled up and pushed against the B pillar of the car. It didn’t budge an inch, and she wasn’t surprised.
Chapter Three. “Dr Chung”
“I’m not sure I understand Doc?”
“It very easy Mista Curtis. Vivienne very ill. She need treatment very soon.”
“But what is it Doc? That’s what I’m not clear about. YOU didn’t see her break the door, YOU didn’t see her…”
“Yes Mista Curtis, yes. Your wife she do things that amaze you, that scare you. Take very much strength no for her to do those things? Make you very scared of her.”
“No, no, I not, I mean I’m not scared of her, of what she did. She’s my wife, I know her better than anybody else in the world and she wouldn’t hurt a fly. She certainly wouldn’t hurt me or Tricia.”
“Maybe true Mista Curtis, very true, but already she kill one person and already she injure ten other person, and yesterday, you think your wife do those very things yesterday?”
Brett Curtis thought about that. What he had witnessed and what he heard reported, seen on the TV news even, were astounding things. They were things you would have talked about at work the next day with your colleagues, and then forgotten about. But these were things his wife had done, he had seen her do them, some of them, and still he could not believe it was possible. He would never forget them for the rest of his life.
This Dr Chung had been the first to make some sense but now he was becoming more annoying than helpful. Every time Chung called him by name, Brett would cringe. It was if Chung was proud that he could say ‘very’ in correct English, instead of pronouncing it ‘velly’, because he would make sure he said it in almost every sentence that came out his mouth. Brett Curtis was getting tired of it.
His wife Vivienne was in trouble and he needed to help her. So far the Police, the media, his neighbours, and even Dr Chung were frustrating him. But most of all, most of all he was frustrated by Vivienne herself. Vivienne, who had stormed out of the house after calling him to come home from work yesterday. Vivienne, who had regaled him with this incredible, unbelievable story after driving the car through the garage and into the back wall. Vivienne, who got upset and snapped off the front door, as a demonstration that her story was the truth.
Brett now understood what she’d told him WAS the truth but this realisation hadn’t happened when she’d ripped off the front door, oh no, he of the logical mind still thought she had set that up as well, to go with her story of pushing the damn car through the garage wall and saving Tricia from being run over. But then he saw her storm out of the house, stomping across the front lawn to the house over the road and she, she pushed a car over, yes, push a car over she did. Right in front of a velly, velly surplised neighbour as well, who was standing at his front window no doubt listening to their late morning argument over the road.
He could imagine the insurance claim form now …“Domestic dispute. Upset housewife lifted my car and turned it over onto its roof while it was parked in my driveway. Brett shook his head. This was getting ridiculous.
He needed to find Vivienne and help her as quickly as he could. She hadn’t meant to hurt anybody. It was unfortunate about that guy, the cop being killed. He could see how impossible it must be for her, knowing what she could do yet not knowing. Or the actual effects of what she did to herself or anybody else. It had been the old domino affect that had got the guy killed. It wasn’t as if Vivienne had gone up and knocked his block off or anything. Brett no longer doubted that she could have if she’d wanted but they were holding her responsible they were. The Police, and even Dr Chung said she had killed him.
“She didn’t kill anybody Doc, and you know it.”
“Maybe so Mista Curtis, she didn’t kill him but she responsible for killing him, you understand?”
“No, no I don’t. If the Police had been doing their job properly and taken the situation seriously from the first, then the guy would still be alive. Do YOU understand THAT? And another thing, Vivienne wouldn’t have known that anybody got killed until it was being reported all over the radio and TV pinning the guys’ death directly onto her. Do YOU understand how she would feel hearing it like THAT Mista Chung? I’ve heard enough, I’m outta here. I’ve got a daughter to look after and a wife to find.”
Chapter Four. “Zoom Zoom”
The digital speedometer read 108. He would never get used to kilometres per hour he thought to himself. 108. That was more than the ton from where he came from. In an era where highway travel faster than about sixty miles an hour was becoming increasingly frowned upon by the great majority of law abiding citizens, 108 just seemed, well, flagrant. He almost wished he could lower the window and stick his finger up at the world and yell at the top of his voice ‘hey look at me doin’ a hunnard and eight’! Phil, his old buddy from the academy would appreciate it, even if nobody else did, Phil would.
The sadness swept across him like a huge tsunami, no, hang on, what did they call them here in ‘down under’? Yeah, right, tidal waves. What a joke! Tsunami sounded impressive, but tidal wave? Tidal wave sounded like a tired scientist had run out of intelligent ways to describe a particularly violent act of nature. Something akin to reporting a mass murder as a minor domestic dispute.
“You okay boss?”
The voice came from the driver of the big rig who was looking at him with those immense bushy eyes and the craggiest face he’d ever set eyes on outside of a morgue. He hadn’t laughed when someone had told him in Sydney that Peter Gallagher had a face you could only describe as a chocolate cake somebody had put a fist into, but now he could see the similarity was uncanny.
“Yeah I’m fine Pete. Why do you call me that?”
“What’s that boss?”
“I call everybody boss. Besides, that’s who you are.”
“I’m not your boss.”
“Not really. I’ve only been seconded here for this investigation and if you asked me at this very minute what to do or even where we were, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. What sort of a boss does that make me?”
“Ah, an honest one.”
“That I am Pete, that I am. Anyway, you’re in charge of this here ginormous high tech piece of equipment and as far as I’m concerned, that makes you the boss.”
“Okay then,” Pete grinned. “In that case, I say we stop at Macksville for lunch.”
“You like Australia so far boss?”
“The 200 miles of it I’ve seen? Yeah, yeah I do. And I’m not your boss.”
Chapter Five. “Let Down”
Vivienne cast her eyes to the lounge room carpet. The words had hurt her and she was desperately trying to control the rising heat again. She tried to block her ears as he continued.
“… not possible Viv and all you have to do is be honest with me instead of coming up with this cock and bull story…”
She swished around and strode two paces to the front door, which he’d closed as soon as he realised they were arguing loudly. She grasped the doorknob and with seemingly no effort, crushed it in her hand and yanked the locks inner workings through the thin timber veneer. The bolt ripped through the doorframe as well and she let the whole mechanism clatter to the floor. Her body had concealed what she’d had done from him but as soon as the metal lockset crashed against the tiles, he stopped talking. Viv reached her fingers through the hole created by the vacant lock and with a small twist of her petite body, all three hinge sets were torn from the frame. She held the door in one hand and turned slightly to place it carefully, and dramatically, against the wall.
She glimpsed his wide eye stare and wished she could think of something, anything that would convince her husband that what was happening to her was real. Very, very real, and utterly astounding. Her own brain was still coming to terms with her ability. But it was the warmth, the heat, and the overall feeling of invulnerability that made her all the more excited, and terrified.
Another glance at his eyes and she could still see his doubt. Through the recently vacated entryway she spied the nosy old farts’ car in the driveway over the road. Viv strode purposefully out the door, down her front lawn again, crossed the road without looking, secretly hoping a car would come along which she would push out of the way like she knew could.
The nosy old fart himself was standing just inside the shadows of his open front door and had obviously been listening to their arguments only moments before. She was gonna really give him something to listen too now, and perhaps kill two birds with the one stone by convincing Brett that every thing she had told him was the truth — the complete and total truth.
Vivienne was not an experienced car lifter per se, but knew she could do it. One more glance back to make sure Brett was looking, she deliberately placed one hand under the sill of the car (granted an old Toyota Corolla and not a heavy beast of a thing but still a car) at about what she determined would be the centre line. She bent her knees slightly and held her right hand above her head so that Brett, and the old fart, could see she was only using the one hand. She straightened her legs and lifted at the same time and even Vivienne was surprised at the ease with which that Corolla flipped onto its side. A small push just as dramatically with one finger as it teetered and it went over gently onto its roof.
Vivienne put her hands on her hips and faced Brett, who stood in the middle of the road. His countenance was truly one to behold. Vivienne thought his jaw was about to drop and hit the roadway, and his eyes bulged so much she thought they might pop out of his head, like the Mask character Jim Carey plays in the movie she giggled to herself.
Heaving a huge sigh, Vivienne flashed her husband an “I told you so’ look, then as much as she disliked the nosy old fart, went around to the other side of the Corolla. Within seconds, it was back on its wheels in the driveway with only a few small dents and scratches to show for its short off road foray. “What’s his name, Mister Nosy Old Fart Wallace, that’s it! Come out now and complain you old barstard’ she thought.”
Chapter Six. “They Want You — Down Under”
The Buick was a nice enough car but being pushed the way it was, screeching tyres, screaming engine and smoking brakes was far beyond its design brief. He sawed at the wheel as an oncoming car appeared around the tight bend, missing by inches and testimony to luck not skill on the part of both drivers. He rounded the bend, ignoring the screeching tyres, more concerned about the temperature gauge. The little white needle had been stuck in the red zone for some minutes now, telltale wisps of steam whipped out around the edges of the bonnet.
“Stop you son of a bitch” he gritted out, and when the Buick began to hesitate, then slow, he pumped the accelerator and smacked the steering wheel with his open hands at the same time. “No, no, not you you bitch of a thing… Goddammit.”
He nursed the now stalled vehicle into a lay-by and off the winding mountain road. Steam and smoke poured out from around the bonnet, the front wheel wells, and even through the grill. He smashed his fists into the steering wheel and jerked on the handbrake, hoping the sound of it snapping might alleviate some frustration. No luck there as it held solidly and condensation began to steam up the windscreen. He wrenched open the door, leapt out and slammed it shut, kicking at the dirt. As a final gesture, he slapped the suction mounted flashing strobe from its position on the roof, where he’d managed to plant it only ten minutes earlier. It dangled down and swung lazily on its cord, the red light flashing along the side of the Buick. He placed his head slowly down onto his arms on the roof and rested as he heard the sound of sirens coming up the road behind him.
He went to the side of the road and waved past the first couple of black and whites, then a matching Buick to his own came screeching around the corner, only just managing a screeching halt when the driver saw him. His immediate thought was the cornering composure and speed of even a lowly black and white was far better than their ‘environmentally friendly’ Buicks. Somebody saved a few Government dollars by purchasing compact sedans but just pushed this investigation into a financial loss amounting to a sum that would have bought ten bloody Buicks, he thought scornfully.
“How far?” the driver enquired.
“Too far, unless we can get a chopper over him in the next minute or two. I reckon he’d have disappeared down some little by road and lay low under some cover after that. Damn, damn it to hell, I could have had him, I was right on his tail,” and he slapped the roof of the newly arrived Buick.
“C’mon, we’ll go for a cruise, see if we can catch the local yokels. You never know, one of them might have some brains and radioed ahead for a roadblock or something.”
“Yeah, yeah, alright, hang on.”
He dawdled back to his now slowly steaming Buick, grabbed his bag from the back seat and popped it into the boot. He switched off the strobe and dropped it onto the dash and closed all the windows before finally using the key to activate the central locking. He kicked some more dirt at it, then went back to its twin and jumped into the passenger seat. The driver floored the accelerator that slammed his new passengers’ door closed and his back into the seat. He reached for his seatbelt as the driver activated the siren again.
“Don’t think we need to hurry. Told you, he’s long gone. A regular Houdini this one.”
“How long you been chasing him now?”
“Off and on, about four years. Trouble is that he’s smart, real smart. He only surfaces just before budget time. He knows we won’t have the cash to make a serious effort at catching him. As soon as the budget is approved and the money comes in, he disappears.”
“This is close as you got?”
“Yeah, yeah it is. I saw him, I saw him face to face. I’d dreamed of that day but in my dream I was slapping cuffs on him.”
“Witnesses back there say he drew a gun on you. They said you had every right to shoot. Why didn’t you?”
“He knows, he knows I don’t want to kill him, he knows that. And now I know too, I know he doesn’t want to kill me. He likes me chasing him, that’s his game. It’s a new game now that we’ve been face to face.”
“You, you ever shot anyone, you know, had to shoot someone before?”
He looked at the driver. He saw a young man, maybe mid-twenties, dark suit, black tie, light coloured shirt. A small bulge under his right armpit showed he was wearing a shoulder holster, and was left handed. He’d bet good money the kid also had a back up in an ankle holster. He didn’t look down — didn’t need to. He was good with people. No, that was totally inaccurate. He was good about people, he wasn’t good at all with them.
“Son, even if I had, I wouldn’t go bragging about it to anybody. Killing is not a trophy, it’s a travesty. I don’t expect you to understand that but there is better ways than shooting someone.”
The kid sneered. “Yeah right, that’s good coming from you.”
He glanced again at the kid, okay, so he knew about Waco Texas, that didn’t matter — the whole world knew what a disaster Waco had been.
“Well they probably taught you about that one at the Academy didn’t they son? But I’ll bet they taught you during the lessons about What Not To Do. And I never shot anyone there at Waco either, didn’t have to.”
“Ain’t you Foster Barnes, the biggest baddest dude to come out of the FBI since the gangland days of the thirties? Ain’t you the active Agent with the most kills ever recorded since then? Ain’t you the one that shot all them..?”
“That’s enough kid.”
He used the voice of authority, the one with a little tremor of menace he knew would get through. It worked perfectly, the kids mouth plopped closed as if he’d reached over and whacked him under the chin. The kid even looked surprised at his own impulsive reaction, and was a little sheepish at letting his boyish enthusiasm override professional courtesy.
“Son, let’s try this again and I don’t mind you tellin’ anybody that I told you this. It’s in the official reports — I never shot no one, what you heard was wrong. Ah, told you he’d get away.”
They’d rounded another tight bend and were confronted with the black and whites parked diagonally across the road, one behind and one in front of the carefully parked Camaro in the centre of the road.
“They got him, they got him!” The kid yelled exuberantly as he braked to a halt but Barnes knew better as soon as he saw the scene.
“There’s no damage kid. He’s gone, long gone.”
Foster Barnes followed eventually. He watched from the passenger seat, first as the kid almost sprinted to where the uniforms were peering over the cliff face. He could almost hear the explanations before they told him, rounding the corner to find their quarry had disappeared, but not before leaving his vehicle in a precarious position for traffic coming in both directions. Foster Barnes slid across to the drivers’ seat and shut down the siren. He backed the Bureau Buick up about forty yards so that oncoming traffic would have some warning of the blocked road. The red strobe would earn its keep here for a little while until he could get a black and white to replace it. He strode up to the expectant kid and two uniformed cops. One of the other two was inspecting the Camaro, the other remained in his black and white on the radio.
“He’s gone. They think he jumped over in a hang glider or something.”
Foster nodded. He already knew. He turned at the sound of his name.
“Special Agent Barnes? Special Agent Barnes? You? You’re Foster Barnes?”
“There’s a patch through, on the radio. DC wants to talk to you. They said you should get into the present and carry one of them there mobile phones. I told “em they don’t work up here never how, even ifs ya do have one.”
He proffered the microphone from his vehicle and Barnes walked over. The cop seemed like he wanted to hang around, so Barnes narrowed his gaze and stared at the officer until he took the obvious hint and returned to his buddies standing with the kid at the cliff edge.
“He’s a mite touchy. He’s THE Foster Barnes huh boy? Don’t look like much to me. Uhuh, here he comes, that was quick.”
They watched as the small man in the dark suit strode toward them from the Police Car. Even allowing for parallax, Barnes appeared to grow as he approached them, though he only had to move some twenty yards. His slight frame and average height no longer seemed so obvious as he strode purposefully toward them. When he stopped, legs slightly apart, arms swinging restlessly at his side like a gunslinger from the old west, he didn’t appear surprised as they gawped up at him.
“Kid, we gotta go now. Looks like I’ve gotta catch a flight to Australia.”
Chapter Seven. “Feeding Time”
It had been almost three days since she’d eaten. Out of sheer habit she was hungry. There had been no hunger pangs, no desire for food but she knew she had to supply herself with sustenance and not depend on this newfound euphoria encompassing her, the heat she felt had been her buddy and her only companion. She knew instinctively it was wrong to rely on something so heavily when she had little or no cognisance of its limits or abilities. She also knew she couldn’t stay in this little caravan forever, completely silent and unmoving lest she be discovered. But mostly she was frightened at what her actions might be should some innocent party stumble across her. She had no desire to hurt anybody. In fact she abhorred violence and the events of the last few days had sorely tested her moral values. The continuing internal battle she fought with herself would be sorely tested again as her days of freedom mounted.
She got up from the floor of the van. Her body clock told her it was around 1a.m., about the same time every night when Tricia would call for her. Without the slightest doubt, she knew Brett would be at Tricias’ cot right at this very moment. Brett was a great Dad and was slowly growing to become a fabulous one. Like most new fathers he had started off slow, if only because he didn’t know what to do. But as the months went by, she realised he had accepted more and more responsibility for his daughter — and for his wife. For his family. He began to take over some of the night time feeding schedules, using the expressed milk and warming it like she’d shown him, and he was much readier to take Tricia with him when he disappeared down the shops to grab a paper or some milk. A mother knows how important those precious few moments of peace are. Very few fathers do.
She desperately wanted to go home and see them both.
Vivienne walked out of the van park and wandered in the direction of the beach, almost three kilometres away she knew. About half way was a small shopping centre, much smaller than the one over the road where she’d been cornered in Franklins. There were a number of small takeaway cafes, and a convenience store. She was certain she could access them without risk. She walked in the shadow of buildings and tree lines where available, and straight along the footpath under the streetlights as quickly as possible when there was no cover. There was little to no traffic, she had already recognised that from previous evenings listening from the floor in the little van. Tonight proved no different.
She prised off the back door from a small Asian restaurant after first screening the café through the front shop window. There was no evidence of motion detectors or wiring to door contact switches so she opined straight away that there was no burglar alarm installed. This was no liquor shop or newsagent, and a twenty-four hour convenience store was just around the corner so she thought the risk was minimal. The door swung open quietly and Viv jumped inside and closed it immediately, jamming it at the bottom with the handle of a conveniently placed wok. Anybody, a security patrol or police driving or walking past would see only the closed door, normal as they would see it on any other night. They would get a surprise if they tested their weight against this particular door.
She found several left over dishes, a surprising amount of fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of raw, cooked and steamed meats in the fridges. To keep noise to a minimum, she ate everything cold as it came from the fridge. Once she began she was insatiable, even consuming a large tureen of some kind of curry, something she’d avoided since impending motherhood and Tricia’s subsequent birth.
She sat on the cool vinyl over concrete flooring, her back against the coolness of the stainless steel fridges. She munched on the last remaining item, a stick of celery. She looked at the leafy stem and spied some canned goods piled along a shelf above the workbenches opposite. She absently tossed the stem over her shoulder. There was a large bench mounted can opener, and it was so easy to use Viv thought she had to get one for her own kitchen. The assorted cans of fruit lay scattered and empty across the workbench, and she realised she had eaten absolutely everything there was to eat. Except the raw meat — she’d spared herself that exercise. She put her hands on her tummy, and apart from the unnatural warmth she was now used to, her belly felt normal. She wasn’t full to bursting as she felt she ought to be. She glanced around the kitchen. A now empty twenty kilogram carrot bag became her garbage bag, and she piled the crushed and empty cans on top of the orange and lemon rinds, carrot tops, lettuce, cabbage and celery leaves, and the single onion she had accidentally bitten into during her haste at the smorgasbord. She munched absently on some prawn crackers as she wandered from the kitchen to the restaurant, dragging her garbage bag with her. She spied the glass front fridge and drank two of the 1 litre cartons of milk, the crushed containers also placed into the bag before heading back to the kitchen.
On the little table immediately beside the kitchen door, was the local newspaper. Yesterdays’ headlines leapt out and knocked her squarely between the eyes.
Killer Mum Remains at Large
Vivienne sunk into the chair staring at the paper. She finally snatched it up and took it with her before realising she couldn’t read the smaller type in the almost darkness. She abandoned the carrot bag of rubbish in a large dumpster at the rear of the shops, and clutching the newspaper and almost empty bag of prawn crackers, stole under the streetlight at the corner of the building. She began to read.
“This is bullshit,” she muttered.
Chapter Eight. “Welcome to the Gold Coast”
Foster Barnes was frustrated. He hated frustration. He hated bureaucracy, his most common cause of frustration. He sat in the sleeper section of the huge black rig, wondering why he had even bothered coming to this wretched place.
Forty-eight hours ago he had been in the sunny warm climate of an Hawaiian winter, albeit chasing one of his career challengers, the one that had escaped him in the Camaro. Now he wished he were back there again. The promise of what awaited him in Australia seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.
A bank of radios to his left squawked and fluttered continuously. Their flashing LEDs’ advised him of the constant radio traffic from airport, marine and police, as well as all forms of public access frequencies. Computers monitored the chatter, continually searching bands of the spectrum and zeroing in on conversations, eliciting single words that may indicate his prey had been located. Positive responses were recorded on computer to be replayed and analysed at his leisure. Identification of multiple words of interest from a single conversation would automatically and immediately be amplified through his headset, until he manually rejected them. There had been nothing for almost two days. Not a single word except lazy conversations between patrolmen commenting on the case, or users of citizen band radios across the country gossiping about his quarry — and the astonishing things she had done.
Foster Barnes was frustrated. Frustrated and excited too, as this was the one thing, the one person he had waited his career, his life, to discover. He heard the tap of the security code, and the hum as the retina scanner operated before the pedestrian door shooshed open, and the craggy faced features of Peter entered the truck. Barnes eyed him off, knowing that even though Pete had come from the night outside, his vision inside the giant pantech would be limited by the fact that apart from a squillion tiny, flashing LEDs, it was in pitch black darkness.
“You here Boss?”
Foster thought he may stay silent — he could already tell Pete had nothing good to pass onto him. But he liked this man, really had enjoyed their ten hour jaunt up the highway with him. It was certainly not Petes’ fault the investigation had gone nowhere.
“I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Which would you like first.”
Pete walked unerringly toward him, even though Barnes remained invisible in the darkness. He stopped about a metre away and looked him squarely in the eyes.
“You knew I was here.”
“Wasn’t hard boss. You ain’t moved in near twenty-four hours. Get any sleep at all?”
“Nope. Tell me the bad news.”
“After piss fartin’ around with the state cops yesterday, it looks like we’ll finally get cooperation from them.”
“That’s the bad news? That’s good.”
“Not really. The cooperation will be limited to passing on any reports. And if they pass on reports near as efficiently as they found us a parking bay, I reckon we’ll hear about anything of interest, oh, about New Year if ya get my drift.”