Chapter 2

Written by: Linda Alley

“What do you want?” I sobbed.

“Don’t kid around. You know exactly what we want.” It was a man’s voice, low and gravelly.

“I don’t,” “I really don’t. Simon sells…sold robotic vacuum cleaners.”

“Just as well. No cops will want to clean up your carpets by the time we’re done with you…and with Viola, if you continue to lie to us.”

Viola! I sunk into a chair, thrusting my head between my knees and swallowing bile.

“White Creek Motor Camp,” he continued. “It’s the red and yellow house truck. Its name is stencilled in Gothic copperplate across one side: Unforgotten.”

My hands were shaking so badly that I stamped on them

 “I trust you’ll be ready to talk by the time we’ve made it up the last few stairs.”

I dropped the phone and rushed to the front window. Through the metal palings on the landing below, I glimpsed a chequered shirt and heavy work boots moving upwards. I ran to the other side of the flat and flung open the bedroom window.

Sister Iglesias had been wrong. Becoming a P.E. teacher hadn’t made me rich, but just maybe it could get me out of trouble now. Though this morning we’d had safety harnesses on when we’d abseiled down the wall.

Grabbing the drain pipe firmly with both hands, I half-slid, half-scrambled to the ground. There was a shout from behind. I jumped the low fence into the playground.

Two young teens sat on the swings smoking, BMXs sprawled on the grass. I didn’t hesitate. Seconds later I was peddling down Western Road as if it was a velodrome.

Brakes screamed behind me. The tang of burnt rubber spewed into the air. My handlebars reflected a van window sliding open. I ducked. Nails pelted down all around me. My front tire hissed. I skidded into the gutter.

I plunged into the bushes on the roadside, puncturing my skin as I squeezed through to the river path. With any luck, they would think I was headed to White Creek Motor Camp. Only they didn’t know Viola was never at home on a Tuesday night.

I sprinted down the path, past the jetty, across the footbridge and up into the square. Although the sun was still up, the Night Market was already filling up with tourists and office workers, stopping by on the way home. Most of the vendors had already set out their wares. Not Viola. Her stall was empty. The beams looked skeletal without their usual colourful beads.

“Huang Fu!” I ran up to the young Chinese man at the next stall. “Have you seen my sister?”

Huang Fu looked up from where he was laying out leather belts.

“Isn’t she supposed to be with you? She sent me a text saying she was going to your birthday dinner tonight.”

“My birthday?” I clutched a beam, gasping for air. “My birthday was two months ago.”