day 24

24

Luc and Manfred stopped for a moment in the foyer at Courier Central.
“Ok, We’ve sent messages to Dale at his place – “
“Will he even be home? He’s hardly ever there.”.
“If he’s still at Scoutpost he should be pretty safe for the time being – any strangers would be easy to spot and security’s fairly tight.”
“What about Jax?”
“Same deal. Checkpoint crawling with ex-military and Jax-wannabes – no two bit dopenik’s got a chance in a place like that.”

“The voice mail courier went to Jas’ place. He’ll swing in a reply at the east channel station – I’ll catch him on my way.”
“You’re assuming she got the message. What if she was working or went out?”
“She might have nipped out to the market at some stage but I told the boy to keep trying till he was able to make contact.”
”How do you even know?”
“Know what?”
“That she went to the market.”
“It’s her day off. She mentioned it.”
“Man, you remember that stuff?”
“What can I tell you? I’m a good listener. Can you go to the hospital and check on the girl, bring her –“
“Why me? Last time she took a look at me it flipped her completely out. Why don’t you go?”
“I’m going to get Jas.”
“I can get Jas.”
“No. You need to get the girl. Put on your harmless face.”

Lu rolled his eyes, then, with a sudden realisation that they didn’t have any kind of plan, asked “Where to then?”
“Good point. What are our options?”
“Not your place, they probably know where you live. And not mine, because”
“Because it’s a complete dump.”
“Hey!”
“Dale’s. We can go to Dale’s. It has good views of the street so you can see if anyone’s coming and there are no alleys and dives around for lowlifes to lurk in.”
“What if he’s not there?”
“We borrow his spare key.”
“It’s on you if he cracks it”
“He won’t. Trust me. See you there.”
“Be careful.”
“Same goes.”

From Courier Central to Benteri is only 5 kilometres as the crow flies, but there are channels to cross and sunken-space to circumvent, and the road quality is, to say the least, inconsistent. Luc jogged to the nearest bike-day-hire, filled in the hire card and set off, weaving through the pedestrian traffic, keeping an eye out for potholes, looking over his shoulder now and then to see if anyone might be following him. It was a typical hot, November day. There was still some green in the weeds and the samphires that grew along the canals. It had been a good winter, with some rainfall, but by September, the cool weather was past and now the temperatures were up in the high thirties. By February and March it would be in the mid forties most days, spiking up to 55 when easterly winds blew in hot from the salt and the deserts beyond. They were killer months. Old people, sick or weak people often did not survive them. Those without homes or shade-shelter went ranting mad in the heat.

By the time he reached the front gates of the psych-hospital, Luc was sweat drenched. The pale fringe of hair that escaped his hat was plastered to his forehead. He parked and locked the bike, drank deeply from the waterpack in the bike basket and headed inside. It occurred to him that he had no idea how he was going to extricate a terrified girl from a medical facility when he did not know her name and had no credentials whatsoever. But somehow, between the iron front doors and wherever she was, he’d think of something.

day 24

Evelyn Bach

Booragoon, Australia

Artist's Description

Luc and Manfred are in rescue mode.

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