She runs under the cover of night. Until her lungs burn and her legs threaten to give way from the trembling. The pain lives only in the periphery of her consciousness; it’s the urgent need to hide, to protect this precious liberty that takes up the immensity of her thoughts.
Only when she finally reaches her intended destination does she slow her pace, eventually coming to a stop to bend over and gulp in heaving breaths of air. After a few moments rest she extends to her full height, brushing back the tendrils of her dark mane that had come loose in the frenzied journey.
There’s minimal threat of anyone seeing her here, and even less threat of anyone giving a damn if they do. This old and rundown apartment block on the edge of the questionable part of town is full of people looking to hide. A broken and busted Australian Vegas: What happens here, stays here. It’s dwellings for the “dregs of society”, as the fortunate ones would call it.
She finds the right building and is pleased to see it’s tucked away in the back of the complex, nestled against a dense and unruly copse of trees. She begins the slow and steady climb to the third floor, each step causing a surge of pain in her aching legs. It’s welcome pain however, as it reminds her she’s alive.
In front of unit 918, she stops, taking in a deep breath before knocking gently. It’s nearly dawn, so after a few minutes with no response, she tries again, a little harder this time. A minute later, she hears shuffling on the other side of the door. Her heart begins to race as she silently hopes her idea will go as planned. This is damn near her only hope.
There’s a mumble from inside and the sound of the lock releasing causes her to tense with anticipation. Timid eyes lift to meet the stunned gaze that stares from the threshold of the open door.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” He asks in shocked irritation as he stands holding the door.
“Shayne, please. I...I need your help.” She implores with her gravelly voice. He stares at her blankly for a moment, before shaking his head in dissent.
“No way, I’m not gonna fuck up my probation again...sorry.” he replies with a frown and starts to close the door.
She reaches up and stops it, pushing weakly against it as she begins to beg.
“Please Shayne, I don’t have anywhere else to go.” He holds the door in place and stares hard at her, his glance softening slightly as he registers the desperation in her eyes.
“I just need a few days, just a few days to get myself sorted and I promise I’ll be out of your hair. Please Shayne...please.” She clasps her hands in prayer between them.
The stalemate drags on for a prolonged silence; a pause worthy of the great works of Pinter, full of conflict and meaning. She’s locked in hopeless anticipation, he dancing uncertainly between morality and sympathy. Finally he breaks the silence with an exasperated groan.
“Fuck, Franky” he sighs in frustration as he fully opens the door, stepping back, giving silent consent. She releases the breath she’d been holding and steps inside.
“You’ve got three days, that’s it. My mate comes back from Sydney then and you’ve gotta be gone.”
She follows him into the tiny living room, standing awkwardly in the small space as he clears a place for her to sit on the couch. She takes the offered seat with a grateful smile and registers for the first time since her escape just how tired her body actually is. Her mind, however, is a completely different story.
He takes a seat in a chair across the cramped room and watches her silently for a moment before pulling a cigarette from the pack on the table, lighting it and taking a nervous drag.
“What the fuck were you thinking; escaping? You’re mental, you know that?” He asks her, his tone kinder than the words spoken.
“You know I didn’t kill Pinisi. I have to prove I’m innocent.” She sighs and slides further into the couch, collapsing against the worn cushions as she sweeps a nervous hand across her disheveled hair.
“I can’t go back there Shayne….or it might kill me. I have to get proof.” Tears prick the corners of her eyes as she gnaws on her bottom lip, arms crossed protectively across her chest. He watches her with a sad and knowing expression.
“How are you gonna do that?” He asks gently, despite his skepticism. She leans forward on the couch, the long mulled over ideas flowing in a rush from her mouth.
“Iman killed Mike because she was jealous of his obsession with me. She said he had a whole wall full of photos he’d taken of me while I was out. He had been stalking me, that’s how they fucking knew about the gun. But the police didn’t find anything in Mike’s house and I think it’s because she took it all down, to cover it up. If I can get inside her house maybe I can find all those photos and anything that ties her romantically to him, it would prove she had motive to kill him and could force them into further investigation.”
“How do you know she even has the shit and she didn’t burn it or something?” he counters.
“Because she was fucking boonta! She got into prison just to kill me. She was totally obsessed with Mike, so there’s no way she got rid of any memories she had of him.”
He knows the conviction in her voice and if there’s anything he’s learned about Franky Doyle it’s that she always follows through when she’s put her mind to something. He takes another drag from the cigarette and leans forward in the seat, resting his elbows on his knees, looking directly at her as he speaks.
“Look Franky, you do what you gotta do, but other than giving you a place to crash, I can’t help ya. I’m finally getting my shit together and I don’t wanna fuck up again.”
“I know Shayne, I know. And I’m so proud of ya.” She leans forward and squeezes his knee as she offers a kind smile.
“And you gotta make yourself scarce when you’re here. Vics came by asking questions last night. About you and Aun….Joan.” Franky sits up straight at the mention of the name.
“Ferguson? Why are they asking about her?”
“You don’t know? She pulled a runner too.”
Franky’s jaw hits the floor.
“No fucking way.” She blurts in shock.
“Yea. Jacks came by asking if I’d seen her first, then they asked about you. Said you both escaped and could possibly be together, which I knew’d be bull shit...but I didn’t say nothing.”
She sits in a stunned silence, shaking her head in disbelief, until the realization hits her.
“Shit! Oh fuck…it was her that got in the other box!” The recognition sends a nauseating jolt to her stomach and she stands up and begins pacing the small room.
“Someone, a friend, was supposed to come with me but she backed out. I didn’t know until after we had escaped and I found the note she must have slipped into my pocket. I heard someone getting into the other box and just assumed it was her, but when we were dropped at the warehouse another truck came. I didn’t see it, because I was still inside the box, but when I got out, her box...Ferguson’s box, was gone. I found Al...my friend’s note after that, but I was too worried about getting out of there to think about who was in that box.”
“So you’re saying she got out and someone picked her up?” He sits up, placing the half burned cigarette in the overstuffed ashtray on the table. She stops her pacing and stares at him in disbelief.
“Fuck…” he muses with a shake of his head, as he runs a hand through his bed-messy hair.
“Yea,” she collapses back onto the couch, pulling her bottom lip and rolling it between nervous fingers.
“Well, good fucking riddance.” She utters after a long silence. “As long as she doesn’t come looking for me, she can stay running for the rest of her life. But promise me you will turn her in if she ever makes contact with you. She’s a psycho, Shayne.”
“No shit! I want nothing to do with that psycho bitch.” She nods her approval as he finishes his cigarette and stands up with a tired yawn.
“Well, I’ve got work in 5 hours, so I’m gonna go back to bed for a bit. Bathroom’s down the hall, on the left. Ain’t got much to eat right now, but cereal and some two-minute noodles, but you can have whatever you find.”
“Thanks Shayne...I owe ya.” She says with a warm smile. He turns back to her with a smirk of his own.
“Yea, ya do! I big fucking fancy dinner when your arse gets out!” She tosses a pillow his direction with a smile and he catches it, throwing it back to her.
“Hey, you got a computer or tablet? Something to get on the internet?” She asks before he goes.
“Nah, but you can get on with the PS. You know how to use it, right?”
“Alright, password’s ‘big tit Sheila’....just don’t go fucking googling crazy shit that’ll get me in trouble...and don’t mess with the porn settings!” He points a stern finger and raises his eyebrows.
“Oh, get out, ya dipstick!” She calls as he heads down the hall laughing.
She grabs the controller and turns on the console as a nervous energy gives her tired body a second wind.
It’s time to get down to business.