“Stay in the car please, Miss Trench,” said Amity. He approached fast and grabbed the car door, blocking her escape.
No way, thought Trilby. At this point, whatever James Amity said was exactly what Trilby would not do. A lightning assessment told her there was no point in trying to slam the door and break his fingers. The dynamics were against her. Time wasn’t her friend either. If she tried to start the car again, Amity would just grab the keys. Her own agility, however, was a point in her favour. She slid over to the passenger seat, opened the glove compartment, grabbed her spare USB stick, and jumped out of the car. Straight into the arms of Amity’s companion.
“Got her, bro,” he exclaimed. Not for long. Trilby straightened to her full height. The top of her head crashed into the underside of his jaw, bringing his teeth together with an audible clack. He let her go. The USB stick dropped unnoticed to the ground. Trilby turned to run, but Amity was right there in front of her, a knife in his hand.
“Not so fast, Miss Trench. Stay still, and no harm will come to you.” He held the point of the knife to her throat. “Buddy, grab her arms. Not too hard. She’ll need them to drive.”
To drive, thought Trilby? Interesting. She relaxed, allowing Buddy to hold her arms behind her, mindful of the knife edge at her throat, and ready for whatever happened next.
“Now, everyone into the car. Miss Trench, get back in the driver’s seat, if you please.” The trio shuffled awkwardly around the car so that Amity could hold the door and Buddy shoved her into the seat. “Buddy, take the seat behind her.”
Once Buddy was settled, Amity handed him the knife, which Buddy now held to the back of Trilby’s neck. “Make a wrong move and you get what’s coming to you, bitch.”
“That’s enough, Buddy. A little courtesy is in order. We have a long drive ahead of us.” Amity closed Trilby’s door and walked round the car. He seated himself beside her and closed the passenger door too. “Start the car please, Miss Trench. Head towards Sydney Olympic Park.”
Trilby fastened her seatbelt and put the key in the ignition. Slow deliberate moves. Nothing to alarm her abductors. Amity watched her. He did not fasten his own seat belt. Mistake number two, thought Trilby. Mistake number one was putting her in charge of a vehicle she knew better than he did. For example, she knew that the front passenger door was wonky. If you didn’t close it properly, it could fly open at any time while you were driving. James Amity had not closed it properly.
Trilby drove a 2014 Holden Barina 5-door hatch back, with a 1.6 litre engine. Nothing fancy. It got her from A to B with minimum fuss. Her friend Bonnie kept telling her that she needed an upgrade. Bonnie Plum was a trucker, hauling freight for various companies on contract. Her pride and joy was a Kenworth truck, all cream and chrome. Cream paintwork, chrome intake pipes and fittings. Bonnie also drove a purple Lotus Elise. When Bonnie said Trilby’s wheels needed an upgrade, she meant a big change. Trilby was keeping the decision on ice.
Despite the early hour, the roads were already busy. Sydney’s inner west was full of early risers. People needed to get their children up in time for school, feed them, and ferry them to various child care and educational facilities, before heading off to work in the city. Trilby drove with care. She was mindful of the knife at her back. Besides, she was curious where this was going. She’d known James Amity for a couple of weeks, since her interview for the job at Amity Loans. During that time he hadn’t made an impression as a smart man. Buddy was an unknown factor, but he didn’t seem the brightest either. Trilby felt she could handle them both, given the right circumstances.
The drive took them towards Parramatta Road, a busy east-west connector from Sydney city to the Blue Mountains and beyond.
“Keep going north,” Amity instructed. “Past Olympic Park, all the way to Pymble.”
“I don’t know the way to Pymble,” Trilby said. “Let’s use the map on my phone to give us directions.” She started to reach into her pocket for her phone.
“No phones,” snapped Buddy from behind. The knife pressed deeper into her neck. “She’s tricky, bro. Don’t let her use the phone.”
“We’ll use my mobile,” said Amity. “Then I don’t have to keep an eye on the road as well as on you, Miss Trench.” The Google Maps Australian voice was soon issuing directions at regular intervals, its reassuring tone relieving the strained silence.
One point to me, thought Trilby. She’d asserted her opinion, made them see her as a thinking member of the mismatched group of three. She was not just a captive, not a fearful victim, not someone to be discounted when decisions were made.
In addition, she’d learned something about Buddy. He wasn’t too comfortable with the knife. She’d noticed how Amity handled it with ease and familiarity. It was a lightweight KA-BAR with a skeletonised handle. Pretty to look at, for sure, when no-one was threatening you with it. James Amity had passed the knife easily to Buddy when they got into the car. Buddy had accepted it with rather less aplomb. Now, as he pressed it close against her neck, she could feel that it was the blunt edge of the knife making contact with her skin. Buddy wasn’t sure that he could avoid cutting her by mistake. A good thing for her, but not so good for her attackers. Mistake number three.
Twenty minutes passed, interspersed with calm instructions from the Google Maps voice. Time to get to know each other better, decided Trilby.
“James,” she said, “who’s your companion? We met briefly last night. It didn’t go too well.”
A small silence followed. Then Buddy exploded. “None of your business, bitch! Bro, tell her to shut up!”
At the same time, Amity chuckled in appreciation. “You’ve got guts, Trilby Trench, I’ll give you that.” He turned to the back seat. “John, calm down. We’ve nothing to lose. You know the plan, and she’ll learn the truth soon anyway.”
“Don’t call me John. I’ve told you never to use that name. I go by Buddy. Just Buddy.” There was fury the man’s tone, as well as a barely-hidden desperation. Trilby noted this too.
“I know, sorry mate. It’s just that ‘Buddy Amity’ sounds a little affected. I want to introduce you two properly, so that Miss Trench knows exactly who she’s dealing with. Once she knows us, and what we’re doing, she’ll behave sensibly, I’m sure.” Amity smiled coolly at his volatile partner in the back seat, waiting for his response.
“OK, bro. Gotcha. Go for it.”
Amity turned back to Trilby. “Miss Trench, may I introduce John Amity, my brother. As you’ll have gathered, he prefers to be known as Buddy. Buddy, this is Trilby Trench. She’s a technical writer on a short-term contract to improve the company’s website.”
“Please to meet you, Mz Trench,” came the surprisingly polite response from the back seat. A response learned by rote, from a person whose social skills were minimal.
“Good to meet you too, Buddy.” With plenty to think about, Trilby was happy to let silence fall in the confines of the small car. Now she knew they were brothers, she could see the similarity in looks, if not in manner. Buddy was a tougher, less charming version of James.
Both brothers were on the short side, both stocky in build. James Amity looked good in a business suit. Well put together. He moved with a the grace of a huntsman spider. His light brown hair was thinning on top, a number 3 cut all over. Buddy was less well coordinated, sartorially as well as physically. His clothing of choice was scuffed denim pants and a worn polo shirt. He could move fast and decisively, however, as Trilby had discovered during their contretemps last night. In short, Buddy was rough on the outside as well as on the inside, whereas James had managed to hide his ruthlessness from her until today.
They’d been travelling for nearly an hour. The thickly-forested hills of Sydney’s northern suburbs surrounded them. Pymble, Turramurra, Wahroonga. Trilby knew these parts well. She was a keen bushwalker and nature conservationist, and had taken part in a few bush conservation exercises in the area.
Time for a little more fishing. “Tell me, James,” said Trilby, “what made you decide to let me drive?”
“That was my idea.” Buddy’s tone showed a trace of defiance. “Like I told my bro, it’s easier to control you if you’re driving. We don’t need to keep checking your hands and stuff.”
“I agreed,” confirmed Amity. “ Besides, if something does go wrong, it’ll be your car that’s involved. My beemer is safe in the garage.”
Buddy chimed in. “My ute’s safe too!”
Yep, they’re really not that bright, mused Trilby. I don’t know how Amity has managed to run a successful home loans brokerage all this time. Perhaps he hasn’t. Perhaps that’s the problem.
They’d passed through Hornsby and were approaching Hornsby Heights. If they continued along this route, they’d soon be on Galston Road. An interesting road that was. A very interesting road, given Trilby’s current situation. She took care to drive smoothly and calmly for the next twenty minutes. It was still early in the morning for some, and so it seemed for Buddy. The knife he was holding at her neck drooped sporadically. It took longer and longer for him to restore it to its position. In the front seat, Amity gazed out through the side window. Sunlight flashed between the trees.
Trilby kept the speed high but not too high. Now they were on Galston Road, a beautiful route that descended sharply into Berowra Valley via a zig-zag road edged with steep tree-filled gullies. First came the hairpin bends. She drove carefully, doing nothing to disturb the soporific atmosphere in the car. No sudden movements. Building trust and keeping everyone’s innate animal alertness at a minimum.
Then they came to a bend Trilby knew well. A right-bending loop, taking them through 270 degrees of a circle, dropping in height at the same time. Tight enough, for sure. Even then, she did nothing to alarm her captors. She kept up the same even speed, where she should have slowed down.
Click. There it was. The telltale sound of the wonky passenger door disengaging from its catch. Trilby jammed her foot on the accelerator, and at the same time leaned over and gave Amity a good hard shove. He turned his head to look at her, the sleepiness gone from his eyes in an instant, the mouth open in a large O of surprise. Too late. He was out of the car and grasping at thin air.
The car surged ahead. Buddy came alert too, and snapped his arm around Trilby’s throat. The knife was back in action, and the right way up. “Stop the car. Now!” The sharp pain of the knife drawing blood accentuated the urgency of his demand. Trilby pulled over.
“Get out, bitch.” Buddy had jumped out before the vehicle came to a full halt, and was already at the driver’s door, knife in hand. He yanked the door open. “You’re coming with me.” He grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the car, and round the front of the car to the edge of the road. They ran back towards the spot where Amity had disappeared. Trilby didn’t put up too much resistance. She wanted to know how Amity had fared. And there was the knife. She didn’t think Buddy would hesitate to use it, in his current frame of mind.
“Bro, where are you?” Buddy yelled as they ran.
Trilby and Buddy stopped running. Both had heard a faint noise that could be a groan. The edge of the road sloped steeply down into the valley far below. At many points the angle was close to vertical. Thick ferns covered the ground and tall gum trees blocked off much of the light. The tree trunks were dappled in grey and beige. It was hard to make out details. Human eyes looked for symmetrical shapes and clear contrast rather than this ghostly vista.
“Bro?” Buddy shouted again.
“Here,” came the reply. Trilby breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn’t wanted to kill anyone, though if push came to shove she’d do what was necessary to protect herself. She used Amity’s voice to pinpoint his location. He’d fallen thirty feet at least, into a rocky ravine. They couldn’t see him, because of an overhanging platform of rock. He’d have a broken limb, maybe two, and concussion, most likely. One down, one to go.
“I think my arm is broken,” continued Amity. “I can’t move.”
“I’ve got the girl. We’re good up here,” said Buddy. He moved behind Trilby and pulled her close to him, both his arms around her. The knife was wrapped in his fist, pointed at the soft spot in the middle of her chest immediately below her rib cage. It would do her diaphragm some damage if he stabbed her there. Not worth moving at this point.
“What should I do, Bro?” Buddy stood, immobile, waiting for a command from his brother.
“We need some gear to get me out of here.” Amity spoke slowly, pausing between phrases. He was in pain. He also had to make sure Buddy was clear on his instructions. “Go to the shed and get ropes.”
“What about the girl?” Buddy held her tightly as he spoke.
“Follow the plan. Remember what I said. There’s no statute of limitations on a murder charge.” Amity’s voice was noticeably weaker. “Go now, Buddy. I’ll wait for you here.”
“Things just got serious, bitch.” Those were the last words Trilby heard before her world went black.
END OF CHAPTER 2