Caro, a disillusioned corporate lawyer, and her daughter, are relocating from Brisbane to Sydney. They arrive at a pleasant seaside town in northern NSW, and Caro realises that being happy is more important than her career. She finds herself a job as a cook, working for Rose, the publican. Rose’s connections within the town include the prostitutes who work the trucking stop. One of the prostitutes goes missing. Rose believes that she might be dead, but getting no help from the police, she asks Caro to investigate. Reluctantly, she agrees but finds the lack of interest goes further than the police.
The car was warm and the woman let out a sigh, ‘It’s nice being in a car, it is so cold out there.’ The man nodded. ‘If you go just down the next street, we can do it there. As for price, if you pay me upfront, then . . .’ the woman said.
The man did not look at her and said, ‘No, we’ll go out of town.’
The woman was hesitant, and this change to the standard plan made her feel tense. She was thinking, if he abandoned her outside of town, how would she get back? But she answered, ‘Okay, that’d be fine, just a bit out of town.’ They kept driving.
As they passed the last house and they were heading north the woman said, ‘What about here?’
‘No, not here. I’ve a place.’ They kept driving.
The woman’s anxiety was rising, so she began to talk. ‘What’s your name, sorry, what name do you go by?’
‘Well, sometimes it helps, you know if I can call you something.’
The man looked at her, and she felt something go cold inside her. She thought, I need to remember this man and tell the others. She looked at him and started a conversation, it was meaningless but it helped her to take mental notes, over six foot, mullet, a tattoo on his left arm that looked like a ship, and he looked strong. Outside the world rushed by, tree after tree, rock after rock. Inside the car the woman was telling herself to stay calm, don’t panic and don’t let him see you are panicking. She wondered if she should jump out, but where would she go? More importantly, he had a car. She told herself it would be okay.
About three kilometres out of town, he swung the car to the right and drove into a camping spot beside the river. The man pulled up and said, ‘Get out.’ His voice was sharp and angry. The woman got out of the car. Two other men appeared from behind a tent. The woman knew that they had been drinking, but there was something else about them. They were menacing, like dogs wanting to snap and growl, but at the same time barking with excitement.
‘Yeah, she’s nice,’ said one of the men. ‘I don’t like them fat.’ He moved towards the woman. The woman, with forced laughter, said, ‘I said forty for one, but for more, I’ll do one hundred for all of you.’
The wind had picked up and was blowing hard across the camping ground. The woman shuddered with the cold. Her denim jacket did not keep her warm, but her hands were starting to sweat with fear. ‘What do you say?’ she asked.
The men laughed. The tall man who drove the car, said, ‘We’re not paying for anything, sweetheart.’ He turned to the other men and said, ‘You know, let’s see how she goes giving me a blow job.’ Again, the men laughed, and one of them said ‘yeah, let’s see how she goes with that.’ The tall man knocked her to the ground, he dropped his pants and grabbing her by the hair, said, ‘Come on, suck me dick.’ The woman was numb, she was on her knees and the ground was uneven, making her unsteady, but she fumbled for his penis and began.
The other men shouted and whooped as she brought the first man to climax, she was gagging on his semen when he said to the next man, ‘Your turn.’ Again, the woman had to take the next one and then the third, the ground was hard and she could feel the sticks digging into her frozen knees.
After she gave the third man a blow job, the tall man grabbed her by the hair and swung her down to the ground. He smacked her in the face, lifted up her skirt, ripped off her underwear and punched her between her legs, and leaning into her face said, ‘Right, you fucken’ whore, now we start.’
She felt him inside her, then it was next one and the next one. Again and again, vaginally and anally. She had lost count of the number of times she was kicked and shouted at. They were laughing at her, calling her ‘a whore’, telling her she liked it, that was why she did it, wasn’t it? She just wanted their cocks in her and they would help. With the men laughing and snickering, she was passed from one man to the next, and each time she was beaten. Her hair was matted and full of semen.
Eventually it stopped.
Shaking and disorientated she grabbed her jacket and what was left of her underwear, groping blindly for her bag, but it was gone. Giving up she stumbled to her feet, almost falling. She moved slowly, she was in pain, but she had to go. She kept saying to herself, get out—go. They’re crazy, just go. She started to walk towards the town.
The men watched her, laughing each time she stumbled. The woman just kept walking, slowly. She wanted to get away and she was thinking, come on girl, just keep walking, please, just keep walking. She didn’t know who they were, but she knew what they looked like—the tall one, the thin one and the slightly fatter one with acne scars—and she would tell the other girls.
‘It’s a long way back to town, darlin’,’ said the tall man. Again the men laughed.
‘The way you’re going it might take years,’ said the scarred man.
‘That’d be good, we will be long gone,’ said the tall man.
‘Should we let her go, she might tell someone,’ said the thin man.
‘Who’d believe her?’ said the scarred man.
‘Well, she is pretty beaten up, they might . . .’ said the thin man.
‘Mate, she’s a hooker, no one is going to believe her,’ said the scarred man.
Turning to the tall man, the thin man said, ‘You know, maybe somebody saw you . . .’
‘No one saw me, I made sure of that. We could kill her,’ said the tall man.
The men laughed and the woman heard the sounds of metal being taken off the roof of one of the cars. She attempted to run. She could feel the men behind her. They were jeering as they started to take shots all around her. The shots were bouncing off the ground. She was crying as she ran, ‘Please, please,’ she shouted, ‘I won’t tell anyone, please.’ Her boots were slipping on the leaves covering the road. She was sobbing. She slipped, got up, slipped again. Struggling to stay on her feet, she was begging the men, ‘Please, I won’t tell, I won’t tell.’
The tall man took a shot directly at her. The woman felt the bullet, but all she could say was ‘I’m so sorry . . .’
The woman lay on the ground. The men stopped firing and two of the men, the thin one and the scarred one, ran towards her. ‘Fuck, she’s dead,’ said the thin man.
‘Fuck, no, no, no,’ said the scarred man.
‘Jesus, what are we going to do?’ said the thin man.
‘Are you sure she’s dead?’ said the scarred man.
‘Yes, yes look at her, fuck, fuck, fuck,’ said the thin man.
The men turned to look at the tall one. He stood staring at the woman. The thin one said, ‘You’re a fucking lunatic, you can’t just kill her, shit, she’s dead.’
The tall man walked over, looked down and said, ‘Well, she won’t be telling anyone anything.’
The other two men stared at him and the thin one said, ‘Mate, I was looking for a free root, but not killing, fucken’ no way.’
The tall man said, ‘You wanted her dead, she is.’
‘Jesus, we’d better get going, now, before anyone notices,’ said the thin man.
The tall man said, ‘No, we aren’t. We will wait until the morning to clean up the bullets. In the meantime, pick her up and we’ll dispose of her.’
‘Where?’ said the scarred one.
‘Fuck. There are caves or something. We can put her in there. Come on, let’s get going,’ the tall man said.
All of the men were sober now and two were frightened. They worked together, getting a blanket to wrap the body. Then they started to look for a cave. What they found was a deep hole in the ground—it looked like a leftover mining shaft. The tall man said, ‘Good, that’ll do. We will dump her in there, no one will look.’ The men went back to the campsite and together the three men lifted the body and took it to the shaft and dropped it in.
‘Fuck, her bag,’ said the thin man.
The scarred man went back to get the bag and then dropped it into the shaft.
The three men lay down, but none slept. Two were still frightened and one was amazed at how easy it had been. To rape, yes, but to murder, that was a thrill.
In the early light as the sun was waking up, the three men, without saying anything, got up and started to look for the bullets. No one could remember how many bullets they had fired, but after an hour they felt they had them all. Plus, they had cleaned up the area where the woman had fallen.
The men returned to the camping ground and started to pack their gear. No one said anything. When it was all packed up, the tall man said, ‘Well, that’s it. We should get going now, but I wouldn’t tell anyone about what happened here. If we are all quiet, then we are all safe. All of us would be responsible for the death,’ pointing to the thin man, ‘You, for thinking that she might tell, and you,’ as he motioned to the scarred man, ‘For being the first to grab your rifle to shoot at her. We are all responsible, yeah?’
‘Fuck you, I didn’t kill her, you did,’ said the thin man.
The tall man looked at him, ‘I said we are all responsible.’
The thin man looked around him and began to waver. Putting his hands in his pocket he turned away.
‘Do we have a problem with that? Or are you going to the police?’ said the tall man. He went closer, so that he was standing over the thin man, ‘Do I have to take care of you?’
‘No, no we’re okay, and we know that we are all in this together,’ said the scarred man.
They both looked at the thin man and he nodded.
The tall man said, ‘Well, I’ll get going now. See you around.’
‘Yeah, sure see you,’ said the scarred man.
The man drove away and the two left behind looked at each other. The scarred man said, ‘You be quiet, mate, no point in getting us into trouble, I mean she’s a hooker, no one will notice. Yeah. Yeah?’
‘Yeah. That’s fine. I need to get going now. I mean, fuck, what a fucken disaster.’
‘Keep quiet and forget it.’
‘Yeah, forget it.’
F. V. Murphy grew up in Brisbane, but has been living in Sydney, working as a consultant and academic. This is her first manuscript and it has been inspired by observing how women, especially those who work in the sex trade, are often overlooked and ignored.
* If you are interested in contacting the author please email firstname.lastname@example.org