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A Word If You Please – Chapter 9

The calls of a Powerful Owl, a drawn-out “uh ooh”, had replaced the kookaburras’ mad cackling. Trilby and Serge walked slowly along the edge of the track. There was no moon. The stars were bright and clear but gave very little light. Jupiter hung low in the eastern sky, winking on and off amongst the trees.

Trilby figured the track would take them somewhere sensible. If her trusty Holden had managed the route, that must mean it led to a major road, and to safety. A car, however, travelled a good deal faster than she and Serge. And a car had headlights. Trilby winced for the three hundred and sixty-ninth time as a stone found its way around her sandals and scraped her heel.

Serge plodded along stoically beside her. “Long track,” he remarked. “I guesstimate we’ve walked five kilometres so far.”

“Sounds right. We’ve been going almost an hour. My normal walking speed is seven kilometres per hour, but these sandals aren’t doing me any favours. Plus, it’s dark.”

“I’m using step count as input,” said Serge. “I’ve taken 6,000 steps since we left the shed. My step length is 85 centimetres. Drop 100 metres to compensate for terrain and lighting.”

Bright lights appeared in the distance. “Headlights!” said Trilby. “Could be James Amity, or Buddy. Let’s get off the track.”

No hurry. The driver could not have seen them yet. The track wound round trees and rocks, and the vehicle was still some way away. Its headlights had not yet picked Trilby and Serge out of the darkness. Trilby closed her eyes to banish the night blindness caused by the bright light, then examined the bush at their side. Plenty of undergrowth to conceal them. She stepped off the track and over a runoff ditch. The rainwater had extended the ditch beyond its original width. Serge fell into it.

“OK?”

“Yep. No worries.”

They pushed five metres into the bush, then crouched behind a twisted, low-branched Old Man Banksia. Trilby turned her attention back to the approaching vehicle. It was travelling at a good speed. The driver wasn’t being too careful either. This was not the style of a BMW or Holden driver on a dirt track in the dark. More like… could it be?

A grey Ford Ranger XLT double-cab pickup roared past, spitting stones and dust, blazing through the dark. Luka!

Trilby leapt to her feet, vaulted the runoff ditch, stopped in the middle of the track and waved her arms. To no avail. The ute had already reached the next curve in the track, the driver focused on the terrain ahead.

“Know him?” There was a tremor of hope in Serge’s voice.

“Yep. Luka. He’ll be back. The road ends at the shed.”

“Cool.” Serge sat down in the middle of the track. “I’m not into this bushwhacking scene. Put me behind a computer and I’m your​ man. I can do anything with bits and bytes.”

Trilby sat next to him. They waited for Luka to reappear, as he surely would. Probably still in a hurry.

This time, he couldn’t miss them. He had his work cut out to avoid hitting them.

END OF CHAPTER 9