Sydney - January 14th, 1997

In a lay-by on busy Botany Road, a black Ford Falcon waited, its engine a quiet, expectant throb. Tinted windows screened its occupants from the constant passing traffic. Three grey-suited men jammed together on the back seat made desultory conversation and glanced occasionally at their watches. On the front passenger seat a young woman pensively watched the unending traffic flow, her green cats-eyes sombre, dark-shadowed with fatigue.

          The driver, a burly man in dark slacks and a conservative blue shirt glanced down at her slim figure. Her black jacket and short black dress emphasised the paleness of her taut face and the contrasting brightness of her copper curls.

          A massive container rig thundered past, pushing a hard barrier of air against the Falcon, rocking it gently. Shaken from her reverie, the woman shivered and pulled her jacket closer, against the chill of the car’s air-conditioning.

          The driver said, ‘Won’t be long now.’ Then, ‘Are you okay?’ Privately he wondered if she was up to this, if she’d crack at the last moment and cause them all grief.

          Carol Monk gave a silent nod then turned her head, her candid eyes appraising him. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t let you down.’

          ‘No, of course not,’ he said hastily, then fell silent, annoyed that she’d picked up his unspoken worry.

          Carol smiled slightly, aware of his discomfort, and turned back to her absorbed contemplation of the traffic. In the back, a man coughed and grinned into the rearview mirror. The driver grimaced back.

          The two-way radio crackled and said, ‘All units, stand by.’ The tension in the car increased.

          Carol thought, He’s right; I don’t need to be here. But I want to see it through to the end. It’s down to me, after all. Her mind spun back over the past four months. October, she thought, the nineteenth. Babs’ party. That’s where it all started ...



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