Part B to No Chance for Retribution. Click here to read.
Clambering out the water, I make it to a highway and wave down the first truck that passes by. It stops and I climb aboard.
‘Where ya off to luv?’ the driver asks.
‘Um, Cairns, I guess.’ My sister lives there, she’ll take me in. ‘How far are you going?’
He glances at me, notices my knuckles, and the rips in my damp clothing. No doubt he’s caught a whiff of my body odour as well. ‘I can getchya to Brizzy, luv. Then ya on ya own.’
‘That’s great, thanks.
‘Sharn. Thanks for picking me up.’
‘Y’alright?’ The truck pulls back onto the highway and he stares straight ahead.
‘Yes, thanks.’ A tsunami of fatigue crashes over me. ‘Tired though. Mind if I drift off?’
‘Nah, corz not. Bed behind ya if ya want. Or juz sleep where ya are.’
‘I’ll be fine here.’ I curl up my legs and rest my head on the head rest. Kev passes me a jumper. I roll it up and place it at the back of my neck. My mind instantly snaps to life, and rewinds back to more than twenty years.
Larry was one of the training officers at Puckapunyal. I worked part-time in the IGA supermarket in Seymour. We flirted for months before tentatively going on our first date. He was thirty; I was nineteen. He was rugged; I was prissy—well as prissy as anyone can get in that town. But I had dreams for the big city. We soon became the consummate odd couple, but the locals got used to us.
After a few idyllic months where I questioned my Melbourne dreams, Larry became too insistent, too overbearing, too close and the illusion of happily-ever-after snapped apart. I broke it off, naively thought that would be the end of it. He started stalking me. I eventually made a formal complaint to his superior officer at the training base and he was put on suspension for a few months. As he was leaving Seymour, he stopped into the supermarket. The sound of groceries crashing from shelves was the first sign that this would so south; the second was throwing his basket at the checkout.
‘Don’t speak to me,’ he said. Leaning over the conveyor belt, his face was inches from mine. His breath smelled of alcohol. I gulped, slowly moved a step backwards to give some distance between us. ‘You’re a bitch. Don’t think this is the last you’ll hear of this. I’ll get you for what you’ve done.’
He stormed out, leaving his groceries at the checkout for me to place back on the shelves. Trembling, I tidied up, grateful that he’d left when he did, before the situation got really ugly.
‘Sharn!’ Kev’s voice makes me jump in the passenger seat; the belt snapping into my shoulder. I’m breathless. Hot, yet shivering. I wrap my arms around my waist.
‘Sorry, luv. Out like a light. Just stoppin’ ere for a bite and a piss. You hoppin’ out too?’
I stretch my arms up to the roof of the cabin. Kev is already out and walking to my side to help me out. He opens the door and offers his hand.
I laugh. He’s an enormous bloke with a beer gut that is bigger than a pregnant woman’s. He’s wearing blue shorts, so short that his todger’s at risk of slipping out at the inner thigh. His legs are so skinny I wonder how they hold him and his gut upright.
‘Thanks Kev.’ I feel good. ‘How long was I asleep for?’
‘Coupla hours, I reckon.’ He walks beside me as we go into the restaurant section of the roadside highway truck stop. There’s at least fifteen trucks parked behind the building, and cars pull in for petrol on their road trip. The diner’s full, so after waiting in the queue for at least ten minutes, Kev and I sit at the window bench with our food.
We eat in silence. There’s a television mounted to the wall in the corner, to my right. In my peripheral vision, Kev, who’s on my left, is staring past me. I glance up at the telly and see my face plastered across it, with the words MISSING – SHARN McMILLAN in a flowing ribbon underneath.
Kev clears his throat and takes a swig of his Coke. ‘I reckon we have ta make a phone call, donchya?’
‘Yeah, of course.’ I hadn’t been thinking straight. I thought I could just run away and leave the kidnapping, the entrapment behind. I hadn’t factored that the other guy, the one who let me escape, might dob Larry in. It hadn’t even occurred to me to involve the police.
‘Gonna ask ya again.’ Kev’s voice is matter-of-fact, calm. If he’s suspicious of me it’s not showing in his manner. ‘Are ya alright?’
I nod. After a minute, I shake my head. ‘Not really Kev.’
‘Alright. I’ll get ya sorted here. Know a mate round these parts. He can sit wiv ya at the cop shop.’
‘Can’t you? I’d like to finish the trip to Brisbane with you.’
‘Nah. Can’t stop, sorry. Gotta get this freight north by Tuesday.’ He dials the number that is next to my name on the screen and tells the person on the other end that he knows where Sharn McMillan is.
He hands the phone over to me. I tell my story. Kev sits next to me, rubbing my back the whole time.