Thursday, 15 January 2009

Attack on a Dark Night - Episode 14 of 'Paternity' my Australian mystery novel

Red soil and spinifex of the Australian Outback - Kimberley Region WA

This is Episode Fourteen of 'Paternity' in which an Australian outback town is the scene of an attack on a dark night, and Pip gets closer to her goal.


And please leave feedback in a comment at the end of this instalment.

The hour’s sleep had stretched into two before Pip’s feet hit the floor again and wandered down the hall to the ladies’. On the way she met the bar manager who said that Frank was still not back from the District Court.

It was creeping towards dinner time and she didn’t feel like risking any chance meeting with Robson at the pub so decided on a meal at the Greek cafĂ© – the third of the day. Cosmos would be pleased with her patronage …

Daylight saving time meant the sun was still hot in the sky, but she decided on exercise and walked down the main street, past the sad petrol pump and the leaning houses caressed with tall weeds, and almost to the end of the town …

She didn’t want much to eat but made an order anyway and opened her book to read it then and there on the sticky table top.

Pip had left the John Le Carre spy thriller in her room when she’d gone back to the city, and decided to have another go at it now. An hour later Pip was savouring the last of the apple pie and cream and her second cup of coffee sat lukewarm beside her elbow.

She had been completely entangled in the story and was disappointed to get to the last page: ‘The gun, Bill Roach had finally convinced himself, was after all a dream.’ Good stuff.

Pip realised it was all but dark outside, paid the bill and stepped onto the footpath and into the gloom. Clouds blotted out the moon, and a skittish wind sent a scurry of dust into her eyes. She could taste the grit between her teeth.

She quickened her pace.

Pip’s footsteps seemed to echo against a teetering wall of bricks sitting very close by on a vacant lot to the right – the surviving remainder of a one-time substantial home. The ruins looked ghostly against the black-blue sky.

Abreast of the wall, she heard a slight movement. The skin on her neck tingled and her frame stiffened.

From the piles of bricks and rubbish two dark figures loomed – one short and nuggetty and the other a mountain of a man who lumbered towards her, surprisingly speedy, and breathed a stink of rotten eggs into her face.

For a split moment she froze and she knew that Robson and Gazza were so close that the three of them were almost touching, with Pip herself wedged in the small space against the crumbling brick wall.

The stink intensified and Gazza’s breath became tangible as he let out an almost inaudible chuckle. Robson made no sound.

The three of them stood there as though fixed. Then, galvanised, Pip did move and felt her arm scrape against the jagged wall as she squeezed past the two men and into the open on the other side.

The young woman quickly gathered speed, running along the interminable footpath towards the pub. She shot glances over her shoulder to see that the men were not following, and fancied she heard laughter wafting towards her on the wind.

Pip got to the front door of the hotel and here, lungs bursting, she paused and gathered herself for a slow long walk down the corridor and past the bar.

She reached the carved staircase and mounted them two at a time, tripped over the carpet runner in the hall and finally made it to the door of Room 22.

It was an eternity before the key did its job, and Pip shot through the opening, slammed the door and collapsed against the old timber, breathless, on the other side.

Pip's heart had only just slowed to its normal pace when she heard Frank’s voice at the door. At that moment there couldn’t have been anything more welcome.

The foregoing is excerpted from Paternity by June Saville. All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be used or reproduced without written permission from the author.

Have you ever had a scare on a dark night?