Jon and Vikki fell in love the day before Vikki returned to her home in Australia – leaving Jon behind. Her abusive former partner, Guy, is tracking her. Her childhood sweetheart, Dan, has proposed marriage to her. Jon flies to Melbourne and learns that Vikki has disappeared. The police are dismissive, but Dan hacks computer records and discovers Guy’s whereabouts.
“Are you nearly finished with that – what did you call it? – that witness statement? Because we’re about five minutes away from the campsite.”
Jon pressed ‘Send’ on his tablet.
“All done. Can we pull off for a minute, to work out what we’re going to do?”
There was a halt half a mile ahead, and Dan pulled in.
“I’m worried that confronting Guy may cause him to harm Vikki. The last thing we want is for him to use Vikki as a hostage,” said Jon.
“Yeah. What do you suggest?”
“Do you know the registration number of his camper van?”
“C-A-M-P-3-7. He shouldn’t be difficult to spot in any case. It’s the low season. There won’t be many campers.”
“I guess we go in and see if the van’s there, and see whether he comes out?”
“I can’t think of anything better. I’ll park just inside the entrance. We might need to block his way out.”
Jon touched his nose gently; it was still slightly swollen and sore. “He’s quite a handy brawler. Better than me. What are you like?”
“I reckon the two of us can take him, don’t you?”
“I think so. Only be careful; he fights dirty”
Dan nodded, and put the car into gear.
The campsite was two miles down the road. As they pulled into the entrance, a man came over.
“You got a booking?”
“No. You got any vacancies?”
“No. Cabins are all shut for the winter. Unless you got a tent in the boot?”
“Yeah, that’s it”
“How many nights?”
“Just the one.”
“That’ll be twenty-five”.
Dan pulled the notes out of his wallet.
“You can pitch up through there, straight ahead, ‘bout three hundred yards.”
“You got somewhere we can freshen up before we settle in?”
The man jerked his thumb in the direction of the wash-house, a low, block-built structure.
“Happy camping, fellers”. He disappeared behind the building.
Dan pointed. A camper van stood barely one hundred yards away facing the exit.
“I guess this is it.” Dan leaned across and removed the automatic from the glovebox.
They had barely started moving towards the van when Guy emerged from the wash-house. He glanced casually in their direction, and his eyes opened wide. He sprinted towards the camper van, pulling keys out of his pocket as he ran.
“Block him with the car, Dan!”
Jon raced after Guy. He hoped Guy would fumble the keys in the door, but he didn’t. As Jon arrived, Guy was sliding the keys into the ignition. The van’s engine roared. Jon grabbed the door handle but he was too late. The van shot forward, dragging him off his feet. He let go, toppled sideways, and rolled on the ground, winded.
There was a crash and the van lurched sideways as Dan rammed it with his car. The van’s wheel caught Jon on the head, stunning him. He fought to stay conscious, forced his eyes to stay open, saw Guy leap from the camper van swinging a baseball bat. Jon saw the blow coming, tried desperately to dodge, heard a sharp crack, and then an overwhelming pain that plunged him into blackness.
Dan rushed around the van and saw Guy lying, a large red stain spreading through his shirt, a pool of blood on the floor. Beside him lay Jon, face white, still as death, a bloody dent in his skull. Dan pulled out his mobile phone, called for an ambulance and the police. Then he removed the keys from the ignition, and ran to the back of the van. His chest was hurting where he’d hit the steering wheel in the crash.
He flung open the doors. Vikki, bound and gagged, lay on the floor of the van, struggling to breathe. Swiftly, Dan tore the tape off her mouth, and she took great gulps of fresh air. He pulled out his knife and cut her bonds. Sobbing, Vikki clutched him.
“Oh, Dan, thank goodness you’ve come. I knew you’d find me.”
“Jon’s outside,” he said, grimly. “Badly hurt, I’m afraid. Ambulance is on its way.” Blood welled up into his mouth. He turned and spat it out of the back door.
“Dan, you’re hurt!”
“Hit the steering wheel when I rammed the van. No airbags in my old wreck. Cracked rib or two, I reckon.” He brought up some more blood. “Sorry,” he said, and toppled forward.
“Help! Get an ambulance! Somebody help!”
She scrambled to her feet, pushed past Dan’s unconscious form and jumped clear of the van. The campsite owner was some twenty yards away, too frightened to approach closer.
“Please,” called Vikki, “they’re all out cold. Please help me.”
“This one first,” panted Vikki, leading him to Dan, who was choking. Bloody froth streaked his chin. “Help me get him into the recovery position.”
Together they lifted him out of the van, and laid him on his side. A trickle of blood ran out of his mouth. He groaned, but breathed more easily.
They moved around to Jon. He lay perfectly still and silent, the blood from his head wound already coagulating. Vikki let out a howl of despair. “No!”
She knelt down and leaned over him, feeling for the pulse in his neck. It was faint, but regular. She clutched his hand.
“Stay with me, Jon. Stay with me!”
There were flashing blue lights, and sirens. Vikki hardly noticed, until a policewoman laid a hand on her shoulder.
“Come on, madam. You’re obstructing the paramedics. Let them look after the casualty. Come with me now.” Gently, talking, cajoling, guiding, she led Vikki away from Jon.
The senior paramedic shook his head at the severity of the injuries, even as he busied himself with the task of stabilising the patient’s condition.
“Can you spare a minute to look at this feller? He looks bad.”
Dan was wheezing, and his legs were jerking.
“Get him on oxygen right away. He’s got a perforated lung. Let’s get him into the wagon; we might need to insert a drain.”
Police had cordoned off the scene. Guy lay still, his corpse already cooling, while the pathologist did her job. Not that there was any doubt about the cause of death; a bullet through the heart is unambiguous.
Dan and Jon were loaded into the ambulance, which set off, sirens blaring, for the hospital.
“Please, can I go with them?” Vikki begged.
“We’ll take you in a few minutes. The officer in charge needs to talk to you first. Both your friends will be getting the best possible care.” The policewoman handed Vikki some tissues. “Here. Dry your eyes. Everything will be okay, I’m sure.”