By Melanie Page
“Gimme your money! Now!”
Carly took one look at the dude in the balaclava, some kind of thin, black handled knife in his hand. Sorry boss, my six week, ladies self-defence class isn’t up to it.
Another gust of frigid August misery came through the open door of the petrol station. Outside the rain was pelting down and visibility was stuffed. Quarter to four on a Sunday morning was pretty dead normally and tonight, no one wanted to be out. It was the perfect night for a burglary.
Behind the counter, she quietly pushed the floor alarm. Then she put her hand on the till, rang it open and stepped back, not looking at him.
He thrust a canvas shopping bag over the shelves of chocolate lurking to tempt snackish drivers, slammed it on the counter. “Fill it!”
Her hand shook. Thank God, he was still on the other side. And there was a door. A locked door.
She flicked her eyes up. He looked… normal… not drugged up or anything. Who am I kidding? This is my first robbery.
Fifties, twenties, tens, fives. Thank goodness, most people paid with cards these days. There wasn’t actually that much in the register.
She spoke before she was aware. “It’s time delay, I can’t open it.”
He gestured, pointing the knife towards the access door into her little cubicle. “Open the door.”
She lifted her eyes. Delay, how do I delay him? The police would be here soon. Outside there was the sound of airbrakes. A fourteen wheeler hissed to a halt at the truck bowser. Five minutes max and he would be inside.
“You should go. I’ve called the police.”
“Bitch! Open the damn door.”
Outside the truckie jumped down from his cab. He peered through the heavy rain over at the ute idling right outside the main doors. He stood still for a second. Impatient, or perhaps sensing trouble, the getaway guy blew the horn.
Balaclava grabbed the bag off the counter. The truckie started to run. With a shriek of tires, the Holden ute out front skidded round the last bowser and disappeared into the night.
Her reprieve was only for a moment. His getaway gone, Balaclava turned back for the counter, leapt up and reached her. One hand on her ponytail and the other thrusting the knife towards her chin, he leered in her face. “Lock him out.”
She could probably reach it. But he didn’t know that. She stretched out an arm, fell short.
“I … can’t.”
A black curly head, high-vis duffle coat and workboots entered at a run. She felt Balaclava turn away, swing outwards with the knife. There was an almighty crack. She fell back.
“Are you ok, love?”
Head down, her legs trembled and she sat awkwardly on the floor behind the counter.
“Darl,” the voice was more urgent now, “are you all right?”
“Yeah.” She smiled up at him and then put her hand over her mouth as her stomach reacted to all the stress.
There was a groan from the floor. Truckie looked down, bent over and there was another thump. The moans stopped.
“Love, have you called the cops?”
“Look, I’ve got rope in the truck.”
Carly shuddered violently. Don’t leave me.
“No! Look, I’ve got pantyhose. We can tie him up with those. Police will be here soon.”
She slipped off her practical black flats and rolled down the hose, passing them over the counter. Truckie grabbed them and wound them tightly around Balaclava’s wrists.
Though the intruder was secure, her hand shook so much the knob of the access door rattled.
“Hey, it’s ok. I’ve got you.” Truckie pulled the last knot tight and straightened up in time to catch her as she wobbled out.
“No worries, love.” He drew her against his broad chest; the neon orange high vis duffle hurt her eyes and she closed them. He was built like a rugby league player; massive, solid, his arms knotted with muscle. The warmth radiating off him lured her in and she burrowed closer. He smelled of sweat and engine grease. They should bottle it and call it Eau de Hero.
He ran a hard hand over her hair and lifted her chin. He swore. “Bastard cut you.”
“It’s just a nick.” She smiled up at him, light headed. “Can I ask your name?”
He shrugged. “Sure. Um… Dave.”
She reached down and squeezed the hand that hung at his side. “I’m real pleased to meet you, Dave.”
He grinned and ran a hand through the thick black curls. “Me too. What’s your name?”
He looked down and his eyes were bright. “I can’t keep calling you ‘darl’.”
Sure you can. “I’m Carly.”
Red and blue flashing lights rounded the corner and Carly sighed with relief and … something else.
He took her hand, looked down. “Uh, after the cops are finished with us, I’ve gotta go finish my delivery. But I’ll be back this way tomorrow. Would it be ok if I caught up with you? Just to make sure you’re all right.”
She smiled up at him. Met his eyes long enough that he could read her real message.
“Yeah, Dave. That would be great.”