Running from the hangman
A free sample read from the crime thriller, A Twist of Fate, by Peter Blakeborough and available as an eBook from Smashwords:
Reluctantly, as the workload increased, Bob Asker had to give up hauling the semi-trailers at the weekends and Fransham agreed to another salary increase to compensate for the loss of the driving income. Meanwhile his share portfolio continued to grow and prosper. Already he was a moderately wealthy man and he was able to pay cash for the difference between the trade-in price for the Vauxhall and the purchase price of a brand new Holden.
On New Year’s Eve he packed a small bag and headed for Sydney in his new car. All the way he worried that Janet would not be there to meet him as planned a year earlier. He could not expect her to reserve the rest of her life for him, an alias without a future. He could not reasonably expect her to make a thirteen hundred-mile journey every New Year. She had her own life to live and no doubt her circumstances and commitments would change with time. If she didn’t show he would understand.
|A TWIST OF FATE|
He drove slowly passed the post office in Martin Place. It was eleven forty-five and Janet was there already, looking nervously along the street. He continued to the end of the short street and did a U-turn. He had to be sure that she had not been followed. It looked safe so he double-parked and wound down the passenger side window.
‘Welcome to Sydney, Janet,’ he called.
She ran towards him, her face beaming.
‘Bob! I’m so pleased to see you. You’ve changed your car. I was sure something had happened to you,’ she said with nervous excitement as she bounded into the front seat. ‘I really thought you wouldn’t be here.’
‘It’s only eleven forty-five. You look lovely, Janet.’
They embraced, kissed, drew apart and looked at each other and hugged and kissed again.
‘It’s really wonderful to see you again.’
‘Tell me about my mother and sisters and brother. Have you seen them again?’
‘Yes, they’re all fine and I’ve got another letter and more photos for you.’
‘You’re amazing, Janet. I’m so grateful.’ He put the Holden into gear. ‘Let’s get away from here.’
‘I’ve got a room in King’s Cross this time. I thought you would like to stay somewhere different.’
‘Good idea, Janet. Show me the way. Are you still working for the travel agent?’
‘I finished at Christmas… There’s something I want to tell you…’
He looked at her quickly as he drove.
‘Are you sure everything is alright?’
‘Oh yes. It’s just that this time I want to stay in Australia. I like it here. Don’t be alarmed. I can still keep in touch with them.’
Bob’s worried expression was replaced by a shrewd smile.
‘I know where there’s a vacancy in a travel agency.’
‘How do you know about that?’
‘Because I work there.’
‘Really? You’re a travel consultant?’
‘I’m a travel club manager and tour guide too and we have a vacancy for someone with exactly your qualifications. With my recommendation the job will be yours.’
‘You never cease to amaze me, Bob Asker…’
He drew in a sharp breath.
‘Don’t ever use that name again. Not even when we’re alone,’ he said harshly.
‘Oh, my God! I’m sorry. It just slipped out. It won’t happen again.’
‘I understand, Janet,’ he said sympathetically as he reached for her hand. ‘There’s just one problem with the job, if you want to take it.’
‘What’s that, Mr. Doyle?’
‘It’s a long way from the bright lights of Sydney.’
‘I don’t need to live right in town.’
‘It’s worse than that. The job is in Griffith, six hundred miles from Sydney on the edge of the outback. Still interested?’
‘It couldn’t be further from nowhere than Thames.’
‘Thames is almost a suburb of Auckland. You can’t compare them. The nearest city to Griffith is two hundred miles east. West it’s two hundred and fifty miles to Mildura. If you go north you won’t find anything for at least a thousand miles. Are you sure it’s the kind of place you want to live?’
They drove passed the guesthouse and stopped at Rushcutters Bay to have lunch overlooking an assortment of yachts riding peacefully at anchor. Further out on the harbour a multitude of white sails drifted by on the breeze.
‘It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?’
‘It’s lovely. By the way,’ Janet started to explain. ‘I’ve told the people at the guesthouse that we are brother and sister so there won’t be any raised eyebrows when we share the room.’
For a moment he was at a loss for words. Was she serious? He was in no doubt that the innocent girl in the school uniform of two years earlier was now a mature and attractive young woman. Did she want to sleep with him in spite of his pledge to himself and assurance to her that there would be no romantic commitment to anyone while he was a fugitive from the hangman?
‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do? Or are we really going to be like brother and sister until I’m cleared?’
‘It has two beds, brother.’
‘Suits me, sister.’
They drove to Bondi Beach for a swim and chatted some more as they sat in the Holden looking out over the Tasman Sea. He felt homesick.
‘You know, I could easily go aboard one of those yachts at Rushcutters Bay and sail right home to New Zealand.’
Janet looked at him seriously.
‘Don’t say that. You’d never get away with it.’
‘You mean I’d get caught stealing it and go to prison? I can afford to buy a yacht now.’
‘No. I mean you’d be caught and sent to the hangman. Don’t ever think about going back. You’d be letting down all the good people who have helped you.’
‘I know, Janet. But I can’t help wanting to do it.’
‘Promise me you won’t try to go back until you’re exonerated.’