Chapter 1 - Icky Thump

Sunday March 18th 2012
11.30am
Melbourne, Australia

She hadn't thought the situation through.

Usually she slept in on Sundays, but with all the planning for the following weekend she found herself getting up earlier as she counted down the days. She had been getting ready to meet 'The Witch' for lunch and endure two hours of criticism and pointless suggestions when her phone began to vibrate on her bedside table.

A lot can change in five seconds.

As soon as she hung up the phone she had raced into the bathroom and threw up in the bathtub. Turning the shower on to clean it away she filled her mouth with water and rinsed the sour taste out.

When he didn't answer, she called 'The Witch' and cancelled without explanation. Her third call had been to the travel agent who, for an obscene fortune, had booked her on the next flight. She had to go. She had to.

The cab was stuck in traffic on the way to the airport and she checked her watch. Her flight, which she had only booked 50 minutes ago, left in exactly three hours. She was going to cut it close.

She had left three messages with him, but he hadn't replied. He never did when he was mad. Usually he was fine if she left him for a day, but now she couldn't wait around for him to calm down.

Fuck the plans for the weekend, they could wait. And if he didn't understand that then he could get fucked too. All she could think of was seeing her again.

The cab made a break for it and pulled into the bus lane, bypassing the car accident and earning himself several angry beeps from motorists who wished they'd thought of it. She threw several notes at him when they arrived and raced for the check in desk, making it just before the cut off time. Getting through customs and security took another two hours and by the time she got to the gate the hostess was announcing that the flight was about to board.

She sat in her aisle seat at the back of the plane beside a chubby gamer and his equally chubby mother. His gut spilled over her armrest, but she didn't notice, instead staring at her phone. There were still no messages.

'Hi. Just letting you know I'm on the plane now, so just leave me a message and I'll call you when I land-'

'Ma'am I need you to turn off your mobile,' said the stewardess, shooting her a stern look.

'Ok... Anyway I'll talk to you later. Bye'

She held the phone in her lap for a few more minutes whilst the plane taxied through the maze of runways, willing it to ring. But there was nothing.

'The woman said to turn it off!' snapped the nerd's mother. 'Do you want to kill us all?'

She reluctantly held down the power button until the screen turned black and waved the phone in the woman's face before stuffing it into her handbag.

Flying never made her sick, but her stomach churned as the plane rattled down the runway and jerked into the air. She gripped the sides of her seat and bit the insides of her lips to keep her mouth closed. The boy beside her shot a worried look at his mother, scared his favourite t-shirt might become the recipient of the contents of this strange woman's stomach.

Hoping to distract herself, she leant forward and pulled the one thing she had stopped and bought at the airport bookstores – a tourist phrasebook. There was a post-it note on which she had scribbled down the details she had requested from the woman who had phoned stuck on the inside cover and she scanned them again.

Kommissar Richard Moser
Kriminalpolizei
Marrokanergasse 18, Wien-Landstraße
Vienna, Austria

Memorising the address, she ordered three tequilas from the stewardess and began to read. She had 26 hours to learn German.