She’s done this before, although never for a killer. And while Kasey Bates is hardly a girl, as she stands alone and wet under a leaky railway bridge on a dark, isolated stretch of road she feels a girl’s vulnerability. She tells herself that the bouts of trembling are normal. So long as she maintains control the nerves shouldn’t impede her judgment. Stay in control at all times—that, more than anything else, had been drilled into her.
A passing car blows spray over her already soaked body. Damn! Any normal woman would be snuggled up in bed with a good book or DVD and some chocolate. But Kasey loves the rush of her work. Maybe tomorrow night she’d treat herself, she thinks, if tonight works out.
A few moments later, another driver in a smart blue BMW slows briefly, then accelerates away. Why did he change his mind, she wonders? Was he afraid that a young female backpacker alone at a bus stop might be a ruse for robbery or a carjacking? Or had he just been tempted by fantasy as he drove home to his mundane existence? The hairs on her arms prickle and she checks the tattoos that extend from wrist to shoulder on both arms. Did they turn him off? The tattooist has assured her they’d last a week or so if she doesn’t take a bath in acid. It’s been worrying her that the rain might cause them to wash off but no, it seems they’ll last the distance. The same couldn’t be said for her eye makeup. She probably looks like a half-drowned clown.
Above, the sky is black. Moonlight can’t penetrate the heavy layer of cloud, so it’s creepy dark under the bridge, apart from the occasional flash of lightning and vehicle headlights. Brisbane is copping the tail end of Cyclone Darrell, which passed over north Queensland four days ago. Only good thing to be said is that the rain keeps the mozzies away.
She checks her watch. One thirty five. Come on! She presses the talk button and the tiny radio inside her ear canal crackles. The battery’s already shorted once this evening from the rain. “Any luck, Wayne? I’m catching a death here.”
Detective Wayne Dern, one of her two backup guys, replies:”Hahaha, catching a death. Good one, Kase. We’re about four clicks away. Mallard’s just turned onto the main road out of town. Heading your way, but don’t get your knickers wet just yet. I’ll get back to you.”
This is the third location they’ve tried tonight. The backup team would drop her well ahead of where Lenny Mallard was cruising, then circle round to follow him at a distance. They’ve put a GPS on his van, so they’re able to track him from a distance. And they have a helicopter on standby. But all the technology in the world can’t force Mallard to drive a route that will take him past where she’s waiting. He’s an unpredictable bastard, and street smart, which is why he isn’t behind bars, although Police in three states suspect him of involvement in at least five missing girls.
Another car stops beside her. She shakes her head and takes a photo of the plate with her phone as the guy drives off. There’s been no shortage of offers; in the past hour alone, five drivers had slowed or stopped. She knows that in her flat heels and five-foot-six height, with her small face, bottle blonde hair and long ponytail she looks considerably younger than her twenty-nine years. According to Wayne, self-proclaimed expert in such matters, she has “slurry appeal”, which he explained once means she is easy on the eye and has a flirty smile, sleepy eyes, and a way of standing that tilts her head suggestively as she flaunts her boobs and booty. Wayne recently transferred to Serious Crimes from Vice so he’s a graduate in Slut Studies.
Most of the guys who’ve stopped for her so far are probably harmless. Lonely guys, maybe good samaritans even. But you can never be certain. After a few minutes of innocent conversation driving along, you might suddenly be confronted by the lurking demon. At best, propositioned for sex. At worst, raped and murdered. All of the vehicles she photographs will be followed up later for priors, and whether they’re on the sex offenders' register.
A few more minutes pass, seems like hours. Then finally, her earpiece tingles again. Mallard’s about a minute away, Wayne tells her. About bloody time, she thinks, as the adrenalin kicks in. Headlights appear in the distance. Kasey moves to the verge and stretches, deliberately exposing her navel, then steps onto the roadway and thinks naughty thoughts, smiles, and sticks out her thumb. The slurry routine. This is it, sweets. You’re on stage.
Mallard’s van drives straight past her without slowing.
Fuck! She drops her arm. Rejected! Her shoulders slump with the burden of failure. Did he even see her in the rain? Has she been too forward?
Then, moments later, the van slows and comes to a stop down the road. He starts backing up. Thank God. Must have changed his mind after checking her out. She grabs her pack and lugs it a hundred metres or so through the rain to meet the van. Leans down by the passenger window.
He's got the window open just a fraction. Not committed yet. The door will be locked, she knows, and she doesn’t even try the handle. He could easily be spooked and drive off. Strange, she thinks, he’s playing Enya. She spots a crucifix and a rosary hanging from the rearview. Despite the blurry glass, she recognises his face from the mugshots. He’s actually quite good looking, which somehow makes things worse. The wedge of jaw accentuates his strong neck, and prominent cheekbones and droopy eyelids give him a laid-back appearance that's obviously deceiving. His ears have no lobes like they’ve seen too much rugby. It's definitely Lenny Mallard.