by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 29


Monsoon clouds blanketed the city the following morning, threatening a deluge and fraying tempers. Violet's body was discovered by a cleaner, the cops were called, her documents examined and the suicide note studied. The police in her home town were relieved—at least they'd been correct about one of their suspects in the drowning of Bindi. Her companion, Irma, had to be tracked down immediately. As the death occurred on their turf, the City police put two officers onto it, but were having trouble locating Ms Medlar, so a picture of her taken from a school staff photo was displayed on television with a request for anyone who knew her whereabouts, to contact the police.

Chloe saw the item, but had no idea who Irma was, so forgot it.

Sebastian didn't have a television and subscribed to no newspapers, so Jarek, who was equally uninterested in what passes for news, remained ignorant of both Bindi's murder and Violet's suicide.

Time was of the essence for Irma and Amanda who also had not seen the News bulletin. Heavy monsoonal rains and winds would ruin their plans so they spent the day exploring the area surrounding Chloe's house in search of a suitable place to trap their prey. It was much easier without Violet puffing along constantly complaining. She would have argued endlessly about concentrating on Jarek and Zeno as the targets of their vengeance instead of her husband. Without realising it, their survey of the house and area included parts of Sebastian's land and at one stage Jarek had been only a few hundred metres from them. On their disconsolate way back to the Land Cruiser a slight sound sent them scurrying for the trees bordering the private road. Relief flooded their senses as, unaware of the watchers, Zeno jogged down to the gate to collect the mail. If he did that every day, they had him.

The following afternoon, after another night of loveless lust and still blissfully unaware of Violet's demise and the police hunt for Irma, they used bolt cutters on the gate lock and drove to a partially concealed clearing they'd noticed about a quarter of a kilometre along the dusty road. After draping a rough camouflage of leafy branches over the vehicle, they stretched a wire across the track, concealed it in the dust, then hid in bushes on each side. Their plan was simple - lift it suddenly as Zeno jogged past, trip him, hit him on the head with the sand-filled socks they both carried, tie him up, take him home, get Jarek's phone number from him by whatever means it took, then demand that Jarek come and rescue him.

Such a pathetic plan should never have worked, especially on someone as fit, fast and observant as Zeno. But he was wearing headphones, listening to music, thinking about Cador, and dreaming about how good life was. He tripped to order, fell, was hit on the back of his skull as planned, and woke lying across the back seat of a moving vehicle with his hands firmly tied behind his back, ankles equally well shackled, blindfolded, and gagged.

Amanda drove straight into the garage under the house, closed the doors and with much difficulty they pushed, punched and dragged Zeno through a doorway into the rumpus room where they cut off his shorts, the only article of clothing he was wearing, with a pair of sharp scissors, and checked the pockets.

'Eureka,' Irma laughed producing a mobile phone. She checked the addresses, found 'Jarek' and pressed the button.

In the past Jarek had resisted buying a mobile phone because he knew no one he wanted to contact urgently, and because the idea of being available to anyone day and night was anathema. But Sebastian had insisted. It was a first for him too. Having at last found someone to love he wasn't going to risk losing him because they couldn't contact each other in an emergency, as had happened with Reggie.

Jarek answered immediately.

'We found your friend,' a pleasant, sympathetic female voice announced. 'He was lying unconscious and, I suspect, concussed on the footpath outside our place. It looks as if he's been beaten up and dumped. We brought him inside. He seems to have lost his memory so I checked his phone and tried the buttons. You're the first person to answer. If you want to pick him up, I'll be parked outside the Hardware Supermarket on the corner of Daley and Nooranbah in twenty minutes.'

'Can't I come direct to your place?'

'It's too difficult to explain directions. This'll sound weird, but I've had several unfortunate experiences with strangers, so don't bring anyone else. I'm a privacy freak and panic when confronted by more than one person. If I see you're with someone I'll just drive away and dump the kid back on the street.' She disconnected.

Almost immediately Zeno's phone rang.

'Zeno? Is that you?'

'How wise of you to check. Yes, this is the young lad's phone but he's in no condition to speak to you. I'm not strong enough to carry him to my car and this is wasting time. You might have to take him to a hospital. I'm leaving now.' Amanda switched off and grinned. 'Yes!' she whispered. 'Irma baby, we've got them both!'

'Already the world wants to phone you,' Sebastian laughed, then realised something was wrong. 'What's the problem?'

'That was a woman using Zeno's phone. She said he'd been beaten up and dumped outside her place. I've got to go and pick him up.'


Jarek explained, but Sebastian insisted he come too. 'You've no idea where the Hardware Supermarket is, and I'm not letting you out of my sight. You drive, and when we get near I'll lie down so she thinks you're alone. Then I'll keep an eye on you in case it's a trick.'

'Why on earth would anyone play a trick like that?

'Goodness knows. The world's full of nut cases, especially when the monsoons are approaching.'

'Twenty minutes later Jarek pulled up just beyond the Hardware, looked around but couldn't see anyone waving at him.

I'll get out and look lost so whoever it is realises it's me.'

'Don't do anything stupid.'

'You'll be watching.'

Jarek trotted down the footpath to the front of the store and looked around. A hand waved at him from a beat up old Land Cruiser. He went across and peered at an attractive but dowdily dressed woman, in a modest print dress.



'Hop in and I'll take you.'

'No, I'll follow in my car.'

'No, I don't like being followed. Get in and when you've carried Zeno to the car, I'll drive you both back here. I'm sorry, but that's the way I am.'

Worried beyond rational thinking, Jarek glanced in the back of the vehicle, saw no one, climbed into the front seat and Amanda sped away. They had barely turned the first corner when Irma slithered from under the concealing blanket and smashed a sand-filled sock into the side of his head.

By the time Sebastian had scrambled across to the driver's seat, started the vehicle and taken off in pursuit, he'd lost them. Heartsick he fought down panic. He hadn't even noted the numberplate! What to do? Should he phone Stephen and Chloe? No. There was no point in worrying them unnecessarily. Surely Jarek wouldn't have got in the car if he hadn't been certain it was safe. He wasn't a fool. Deciding to wait, Sebastian drove back to the meeting place, parked where he could see every car that came and went, and sat in an agony of worry. Surely it wasn't going to happen all over again?

The world spun, Jarek's head ached and he felt sick. Women talking. Zeno's voice. 'If you've killed him I'll…'

'You'll what, pretty boy? He isn't hurt yet, but he will be and you'll have the pleasure of watching.'

'Pretending to be still unconscious, Jarek opened his eyes slightly. He was lying on a sheet of black plastic. It was dim. High windows. Probably a basement. He was naked. Wrists tied tightly behind his back, ankles securely bound. No wriggle room there. A bare foot just beyond his feet. Must be Zeno. He groaned to let Zeno know he was alive, then struggled to sit up.

'Welcome, Mr. Schwartz.'

He knew that voice. Turning his head he saw Irma grinning evilly. For some reason it didn't surprise him. She'd always hated him. But why was she wearing a stupid black leather harness thing with her tits hanging out? And those high heels! She looked ridiculous in a short skirt, hadn't the legs for it. A movement caught his eye. Who was the other woman in nothing but black leather hot pants and nipple rings? Then he saw the whips, knuckle-dusters, handcuffs, knife. The black plastic suddenly made sense and his blood ran cold. But why Zeno? Then he remembered it was Zeno who'd told Stephen that Irma had been shoplifting. Controlling an urge to curse he said politely, 'Ms Medlar, we meet again.'

'It's going to be hello, goodbye,' she sneered. 'For you and your catamite.'

'Are you going to tell us what we've done to annoy you?'

Irma walked up to him and slammed him across the face with his mobile phone, smashing it. 'You're a smarmy, stuck up, arse-licking creep. Crawling up to that stupid old fart, Noble to get your way. Then dumping poor Bindi so she went completely off the rails and began screwing everyone on the football team! Your contemptible behaviour turned her into such a psychological mess that Violet Noble and I had to put her out of her misery. Her death is on your hands you arrogant, male chauvinist pig!'

'Bindi's dead? How?'

'In the bath. We drowned her after Violet and I saw her being raped unmercifully by dozens of men she'd invited into her house to stop the pain of being deserted on her wedding night.'

'We weren't even engaged!'

'Exactly! You backed out of that commitment!'

The woman was clearly mad, but Jarek needed to know more. 'Where's Mrs. Noble?'

'Chickened out. As usual I have to do the dirty work of cleaning up the world to make it safe for women. Even Annie just took off after we'd paid her five hundred bucks to shoot you four weeks ago!' her voice had risen to a scream.

Amanda was becoming anxious. The neighbours were away but a passer by might get curious at the shouting and call the cops. She was seriously regretting asking Irma to join her. A trouble shared might be a trouble halved, but unfortunately that seemed to apply to pleasure too! Belatedly, she realised Irma had been far too personally involved with these two, so could never be trusted. She placed a calming hand on her partner's arm to remind her this was a very dangerous amusement; real life S&M with two living but dispensable guys.

A slow smile pulled at her lips. Irma would be joining the men directly after they'd had their fun. The smile widened in anticipation. She'd never cut up a woman.

Irma spat at Jarek, who remained silent. The woman was insane and he had no intention of making her madder by saying anything stupid.

'Right,' she snarled, turning to Zeno who cringed in fear. Irma's admission of at least one murder meant he was going to die, and he didn't want to.

'Stay away from me!' he rasped through a throat sore from the gag that had been stuffed deep then roughly pulled out. Even breathing was difficult.

With a slow smile, Amanda slammed the sand-filled cosh into his ribs and Zeno's eyes widened in pain.

'Let's get him in position to watch the show,' she said, tossing the long end of the rope round his wrists over a hook. Together the two women dragged his arms up behind until his weight was supported on his toes, then secured the rope.

Sitting was not the position Jarek wanted to be in—he needed to squat, so while Zeno was being hauled up he managed to stand and lean against the wall, head throbbing, eyes watering, cold anger stirring his guts. He caught Zeno's eye and winked. Zeno closed his eyes and moaned from the agony that had already begun—his arms felt as if they were being torn from their sockets every time his toes refused to support his weight.

Back at the hardware store Sebastian finally accepted that something was seriously wrong. Jarek's mobile was turned off. It was over an hour since he had got into that car. His phone rang.

'Chloe! Hi. What can I do for you?'

'Is Zeno with you?'

'He's with Jarek.'

'Oh, that's all right then. We were getting worried. Cador is convinced something bad has happened. Zeno isn't answering his phone and its so unlike him. Will you tell him to ring us? It really is too bad. He went down to collect the mail and disappeared.'

Sebastian could hear the panic but saw no purpose in increasing it until he knew what had happened. 'OK Chloe, I'll tell Zeno to wear a crash helmet when he sees you. Apologise to Cador, and I'll get back to you the second I catch up with them.'

Now he really was worried!

Irma approached Jarek with a sneer, grabbed his balls and twisted. He cringed in pain but said nothing. She stood back, raised her foot and aimed the spike heel at his groin. He dropped to a squat and rolled sideways. The heel smashed into the wall. By the time she'd regained her balance Jarek had his dagger in his hands.

Amanda had watched Irma's outburst with increasing annoyance. This was not how to do it! There should be a sense of ritual! She'd explained that to Irma at the Club. A Mistress of ceremonies remained cool and calm while slowly turning her victim into a blubbering heap of agony as she sliced and cut little bits off here and there until it was all over. Grasping her kris in one hand she angrily pushed Irma out of the way, granting Jarek a few more precious seconds to prepare, then grabbed him by an ear and attempted to pull him upright.

He pretended to lose his balance, remained squatting and squirmed to conceal the contortions required to slice through the ropes—a manoeuvre he had practised for fun many times as a teenager. 'Just in case,' he had told himself, never imagining he would ever find himself in such a situation. The knife was extremely sharp, the ropes thin, and the relief when they fell from his ankles and wrists sent a pulse of energy surging. As if still tied, he allowed himself to be pulled to his feet; hands still behind his back, knife ready.

Amanda too was ready to stab. She stood back, smiled and began a swing with her knife that would have driven it into his upper arm if he hadn't stepped aside, grabbed her shoulder with his free right arm and swung her body around. The kris gained momentum and when it hit Irma just under her left breast, it penetrated to the hilt. Furious, Amanda dragged the knife out, leaving a gaping ragged hole from which blood gushed. Irma was too shocked to scream. Her face blanched. She pressed her hands to the torn flesh and sagged to her knees.

Before Amanda could lash out at Jarek he had his right arm round her neck and was pressing the point of his dagger up under her rib cage. She tried to kick backwards with her spike heels, but Jarek deflected her foot and with all her weight on the other, her ankle twisted and she sagged onto his weapon.

'No! No!' she whispered hoarsely. 'Please no.'

'What were you going to do when Zeno or I begged you to stop?'

Silence. Amanda seemed frozen in fear.

'This is what you were going to do,' he whispered, thrusting his stiletto up, deep under her ribcage. Her mouth opened in a silent scream as life left her. Jarek lowered her carefully to the floor, removed his knife and placed it aside, then took her hand that was still clutching the kris, and inserted the knife carefully into the smaller hole left by his own weapon. Then he grabbed his knife and cut the ropes suspending Zeno whose agony had been momentarily eclipsed by the carnage. The young man dropped to his knees and began rubbing his shoulders.

'No time for that,' Jarek ordered. 'Go round the room and find every last thing that belongs to us, every shred of clothing, my mobile and yours. We must leave no trace whatever. With a bit of luck the cops will think it's a murder suicide.'

'But Ms Medlar's not dead.'

'She soon will be.'

'But shouldn't we…'

'Shut the fuck up and do as you're told!' Jarek snapped. 'And be quick unless you want to be framed for murder. Come upstairs as soon as you've got everything. Hurry!' He ran out the door, up a flight of stairs and searched for the sort of place Amanda might keep electricity or water bills. He was still searching when Zeno appeared and joined in.

'Why are we looking?'

'Do you know where we are?'

'No. Oh, I get it, we need the address.'


'Jarek! Over here.'

In the bottom of a wardrobe in a cardboard carton were the papers they were looking for.

'Your mobile still working?'


'Call Sebastian, give him this address, tell him it's extremely urgent. He mustn't stop on the street, he must back the car into the driveway as if he's just using it to make a U-turn. When we get in he mustn't look round, and the instant we've closed the doors he has to drive off so if anyone's looking they'll never suspect he's picked someone up. Got that?'

While Zeno made the call, Jarek went back to the cellar to check on Irma. She was very weak and could scarcely lift her head.

'Jarek,' she whispered. 'I'm sorry. Please get me to a hospital. I'm dying.'

'Yes, Irma, you are, and I'm very pleased about it. This is the second time you've tried to murder me. Annie didn't cheat you. She arrived at the camp but luckily I saw her and she ended up like your friend over there. You had no qualms about murdering Bindi, Zeno or me and I am delighted that soon you will be dead.'

Jarek made a quick check of the room, found nothing that could possibly incriminate him or Zeno, then returned to Irma. She was choking on blood that trickled between her lips. The pain was obviously severe. Suddenly she gave several prolonged shudders and lay still. He felt for a pulse. There was none so he raced back upstairs where an alarmingly pale Zeno was nervously waiting. He patted the lad on the shoulder, grinned, picked up the landline, dialled triple O, asked for the police, gave them the address and said in a nervous voice, 'I was passing on the street and from the sound of the shouts there's been an accident or something.' He gave the address and hung up.

'OK, Zeno, you've been great. Now we conceal ourselves down by the gate ready to get in the instant Sebastian backs in.'

He made a tight bundle of their torn clothes and phones and led the way around the house to the entrance to avoid being seen by anyone who happened to look in the driveway. Sebastian must have driven like the wind as they had less than a minute of squatting behind the hedge before the vehicle backed up, they scrambled in, closed the doors and lay on the floor as Sebastian drove out again.

'Your phone call was just in time, Zeno. Another minute and Chloe was going to call the cops. She was very worried. So was I. Are you OK?'

'I think so. My ribs and shoulders ache a bit and she cut me on the thigh in several places. Nothing serious, but it stings. What did you tell Nana?'

'I said you'd tripped on your way to the mailbox and hit your head, felt a bit woozy, wandered into the forest looking for a shortcut back to the house and got lost. Feeling foolish, you phoned me. Jarek, being an expert woodsman, kept in contact with you by phone and went searching while I waited in the car. After your last phone call I risked the anger of the gods and told her you were safe and we'd be bringing you home shortly.'

'That's excellent, Sebastian,' Jarek said seriously. 'The fewer people who know about this the safer I'll feel.'

'Why? You mean you…'

'He had to!' Zeno whispered before shuddering with sobs of fear, relief and horror.

Jarek wrapped his arms around him. He was very cold. 'Got a blanket, Sebastian? Our clothes are cut to shreds and Zeno's in shock. It was gruesome. Worse for Zeno. After cutting him a bit they trussed him up painfully and he thought he was going to have to watch my execution. You held up bravely, Zeno. Anyone else would have been useless. I'm proud to know you—seriously.'

Sebastian stopped, ran round to the rear door, fetched a blanket and tossed it to Jarek who wrapped them both in it, their combined warmth soon having a positive effect.

'Is Ms. Medlar also dead?' Zeno asked nervously.

'Yes, so there are no witnesses. As long as no one but we three know what happened, we are safe. It seems Bindi was murdered by Irma and Stephen's wife. She also admitted sending the young woman out to kill us in the second week of the camps.'

'So there was gunfire that night? I thought there was.'


'What happened?'

'I was scouting round to make sure you and Cador were OK when I saw her with her rifle levelled at the mattress you and Cador had dragged out onto the balcony. I gave her a chance to explain, but she took a shot at me instead.'

'Why didn't you tell us?'

'And spoil your first sexy weekend with Cador? Why would I do that? One careless word from either of you and the camps would have been cancelled and I'd be in prison till I was sixty. That's why I'm relying on you never to speak of this to anyone except Sebastian or me.'

'I'll never tell a soul. Not even Cador.'


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