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A Word If You Please – Chapter 11

“Buddy will come for us tonight,” said Trilby. “I’m sure of that, from the way he spoke to us in the cabin. Especially when he kept saying he wasn’t going to kill us. He was kowtowing to his brother, but he didn’t like it. Not one little bit.”

“You may be right,” said Luka. She usually was.

“Serge, you take the guest room.” Trilby led the visibly exhausted young engineer to the bed. He lay down and fell asleep immediately.

“I’ll take the couch,” said Luka. His tone brooked no argument. He’d be on guard, near the front door. Trilby didn’t argue. No point. She left her bedroom door open. She’d be on guard too.

Within half an hour, all three occupants of the apartment were fast asleep. Two of them were instantly awake when the door crashed in.

Buddy was a strong man in a violent temper. With him was Elliott McDonald, receptionist at Amity Loans, and gym buff. Elliott was not angry. Just cold and purposeful.

Luka rose from the couch. Buddy ignored him, leaving him for Elliott to deal with. Buddy had one goal in mind: Trilby. He saw the open bedroom door, saw her sit up in bed, and propelled himself at her. He landed on the bed, squarely on top of her. He tried to grab her arms, but in his hurry he had not positioned himself well. Trilby’s arms and hands were free. She stiffened her hands as if to do a karate chop, but then cupped each hand to form a hollow. From a distance of six inches on either side of Buddy’s head, she smacked her cupped hands against his ears. Thunderclap. The resulting pressure was bad news for Buddy’s auditory system. Ruptured ear drums for sure. Perhaps dislocated ossicles.

Buddy was in pain and momentarily disorientated. He reared up, cursing. Trilby wriggled out from under him. Sounds from the living room indicated some action there too. Best to bring it all together. She left the bedroom. Buddy followed fast, ears dark red, angry as a Tasmanian Devil.

Luka had dodged Elliott and was on his way to Trilby’s room. He stepped into Buddy’s path and gave him a solid right punch. Buddy went down. Down but not out.

Serge emerged from the guest room and assessed the situation. Noise. Door borked. Two attackers. One of them Buddy, the other an unknown dude. Time for action. Again.

Serge felt in his pocket for the screwdriver that Trilby had given him earlier that evening. Or was that yesterday? Was now tomorrow already? Anyway, that screwdriver had been disturbing his sleep all night, but luckily he hadn’t woken up enough to take it out of his pocket.

The unknown dude was planning to hit Luka from behind. That was obvious from the dude’s demeanour and the evil look on his face as he slunk past Serge, attention fixed on Luka. Serge jabbed him in the back with the screwdriver. That did some harm. Got the dude’s attention, anyway. The dude turned and punched Serge in the gut, then again on the chin. Serge went down, dropping the screwdriver. Elliott loomed over him.

Trilby leapt over Buddy and cannoned into Elliott, shoulder first. Elliott, already off balance after delivering his best punch to Serge, dropped to the ground, smacking the side of his head on the edge of Trilby’s glass coffee table. Out cold. Sixty-five kilograms of technical writer can do a lot of damage. All that chocolate was good for something after all.

Buddy was momentarily dazed by Luka’s punch, but in three seconds he was up again, roaring in fury and frustration, his course still locked on Trilby. Luka picked up the screwdriver and lunged at Buddy. At the same time, Trilby dodged Buddy’s ungainly charge and stuck her foot in his path. Buddy tripped over the foot and fell onto the screwdriver, which entered his abdomen just below his ribcage. Buddy’s momentum kept him falling to the floor, trapping Luka’s hand and the screwdriver underneath his body. Buddy gave a short, surprised gasp then said no more. Luka pulled his hand free of Buddy’s bulk. It was covered in blood.

Serge staggered to his feet, gingerly touching his jaw and his torso in turn. Man, that dude’s double punch combo had hurt! Trilby and Luka were OK, though. And so was he. The two intruders were down. Mission accomplished.

Luka spoke for the first time since the fight had started. “Trilby, Serge, are you both OK?”

“I’m fine,” said Trilby.

“Yep, all good here,” said Serge. “But Buddy and this other dude don’t look too good.”

“That’s Elliot McDonald,” said Trilby. “He’s the receptionist at Amity Loans.”

At the mention of his name, Elliott groaned and moved his head. “He’s coming round,” said Luka. He moved closer to Elliot, watching him carefully. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t cause any more trouble.”

Meanwhile, Trilby and Serge approached Buddy cautiously. Buddy still had not moved. “Let’s turn him over,” said Trilby. She grabbed Buddy’s right shoulder, motioning to Serge to grab Buddy’s hip. Together they eased Buddy onto his back. Buddy’s face was slack. A large pool of blood had accumulated around the entry wound, where the screwdriver handle still protruded. The angle of Buddy’s fall had pushed the sharp-edged tool up under his rib cage.

Trilby placed her index and middle finger on Buddy’s neck, feeling for a pulse. Nothing. There was no indication that he was breathing. Trilby dialled the emergency services.

“Ambulance and police,” she answered in response to the operator’s question. She gave her address, explained that there were two people in need of urgent medical attention, one of whom was likely deceased, and that the two were intruders who had broken into her apartment. By the end of Trilby’s concise account, the shock was beginning to have its effect on her. She stopped talking.

“Are you injured yourself, Ms Trench?” asked the operator.

“No, I’m fine. My friend Serge took a couple of punches. He could do with some medical attention. My other friend and I have some bumps and bruises.”

“Ambulance and police are on their way. They should arrive within 5 minutes. Ms Trench, please stay on the line, to keep us informed.

“Also, please sit down. You sound a little shaky.”

Trilby sat down. Serge plonked himself next to her. Luka stayed with Elliott, who was now conscious but showed no signs of wanting to get up from his position on the floor.

Sirens announced the arrival of the ambulance.

“Ms Trench, please go to the street entrance of your property and show the paramedics where to go.” Trilby jerked out of her shock-induced trance. The apartment was on the ground floor of a small block, which made it easy for her to attract the paramedics’ attention and lead them into her home. A police vehicle wailed to a stop outside and followed the paramedics into the apartment.

Two hours later, the police were satisfied with the second batch of reports from Trilby and her friends. Elliott was in hospital. Buddy had been pronounced dead, probably cause internal bleeding due to a stab wound, and had been taken to the city morgue for the coroner’s attention. Serge decided to head off to his place. “It’s quieter there,” he stated. Trilby and Luka opted for Luka’s place in Rozelle. Quieter there too.

***

Four days later, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, Trilby called her friends and Serge together for coffee. They met in a café in Marrickville, an up and coming suburb in Sydney’s inner west. Good coffee, good food, and, best of all, people milling around looking happy and content. No-one was trying to chain anyone up, knock them on the head, or similarly silence them. Trilby appreciated that.

“The police have discovered there’s another person involved in the Amity Loans scams,” Trilby told the group. “A contact at the bank. She’s been pushing the paperwork through for the customers’ home loan requests, without enforcing the proper checks.”

Serge immediately looked apprehensive. “Is she under lock and key?” he asked.

“No. They took her in for questioning then released her on bail, pending further investigations. But she’s not likely to turn violent. They say she has a young family, and was helping James Amity as a way of eking out her salary.”

“Good,” commented Serge. “Because, I mean, the action scene isn’t my thing. I did OK when things got gnarly. The adrenaline rush was awesome. Good to know what that’s about. But now, you know, been there done that, got the T-shirt.”

“I know what you mean,” agreed Trilby.

“Nah, Trilby,” said Hamish with a smile. “This sort of thing happens when you’re around. Just another day in the life of a technical writer.”

Laughter, coffee, friends new and old. They talked for hours, reliving their experiences, taking the sting out of the memories. As the sun went down, they rose to leave the café.

“Hey Trilby,” said Bonnie, “The cops found your car, abandoned in a hospital car park. It’s had a few knocks and bumps. Time for that upgrade?”

“Maybe. But that’s another story.”

Trilby donned her trademark hat and stepped out onto the street, arm in arm with Luka.

THE END