On the Bus
‘What are you going to do?’ Walter asked Nathan.
‘Track ‘em,’ Nathan said. ‘We’ll get in the truck and drive around lookin’ for them lost ones.’
Nathan and Walter circled Dan’s patrol car. The dog sniffed at the rear tyre and lifted his hind leg.
Friedrich watched at a distance. A smile flickered over his face as the dog marked his territory. Same as der hund at home, he mused.
Meanwhile, the men lapped the police car like sharks.
‘How are you going to get in?’ Walter asked.
Nathan peered in a window. ‘Where’s the keys?’
‘You need keys or the siren goes off. You’ll wake half the town.’
‘They won’t care. Sirens go off all the time.’
Walter nodded and laughed. ‘Probably. Where’s the keys? How are we going to find them anyway?’
‘Keys must be inside. Dan must’a left keys in the house.’
‘Or in his pocket,’ Walter said. ‘That’ll look good you breaking into his patrol van if you can’t find them.’
‘Wouldn’t be the first time.’ Nathan chuckled and then turned. His grin vanished and with eyes widened like saucers. He stared beyond Walter, into the night.
‘What’s up?’ Walter followed his gaze.
A man, about Walter’s height and build emerged through the precinct gates. He drifted towards them.
‘Boris!’ the boy whispered.
The dog cowered beside Friedrich and whimpered.
‘Oh, the bad Walter.’ Nathan ducked behind the patrol car.
Walter stood at the side of the car facing his double. Barely moving his mouth, he said, ‘Can’t do us that much harm—if he’s my dopple—dopple—whatever. He can’t be so fit. I’m not…’
‘He’s the cockroach man,’ Friedrich said in German.
‘His hand’s a gun,’ Nathan whispered.
‘He has a hand gun?’
‘No, a gun—hand.’
Walter’s hands trembled. ‘Whatever. He’s armed, we’re not.’
The figure trod toward them. His footsteps crunched on gravel. Slow deliberate crunches.
‘He’s seen us,’ Nathan said. ‘Hide.’
Walter remained frozen to the spot. So this was the man who knocked him out. This was the man who pumped stuff into his stomach and made him sick. He willed his legs to move. But his legs were not taking orders. His stomach hurt. He whimpered like a dying kitten. ‘Too late now.’
The figure loomed larger, closer.
‘What are we going to do?’ Walter’s throat tightened.
‘Run!’ Nathan pulled Walter. He dragged him up the street.
Walter’s feet woke up and connected with his mind and the dirt on the road. Walter and Nathan scampered up the street. They darted from bush to fence. They tried to stick to the shadows. Friedrich and the dog stuck close behind them.
They rounded the block and then climbed through the fence. The trio landed on the soft sand of the dry river bed. Moonbeams cast silvery ribbons through the forest of eucalypts. Brumbies otherwise known as wild horses grazed on the grassy banks and dozed in the fragile blue of dawn.
Walter leant against a trunk of a tree. He gulped air like a goldfish out of water and then gasped, ‘Have we lost him?’
Nathan sidled up to him. ‘I think so.’
They stood there panting, catching their breath.
Walter looked around the river bed. ‘You haven’t seen where the lad went, have you?’
‘He was behind us with the dog.’
‘Not anymore.’ A cold chill, as if someone had dropped ice down Walter’s back, trickled through him. He glanced around hoping to see Friedrich crouching by a bush, or under a log. But the creek was still and silent, except for the horses neighing in the distance.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Feature Photo: The Finke © C.D. Trudinger circa 1955