In a knot of my own limbs, I woke in his bed. One of my shoulders was dislocated and loose. How was it even still attached? There were puncture wounds in my legs, throbbing serous fluid and blood, while opposite me Gary Ridgway, serial killer was manspreading.
His room was what you’d expect: subterranean psycho chic. The décor alone could finish me off. A black chandelier of tree roots hung oppressively low. It clawed at my face and hooked in my hair. Gary snorted, surprised I was moving. One eye opened. He shifted off his muddy mattress, blocking the path to the green water door that swilled, luminous in the floor.
He had swum me in through that hell hole, a dead weight, the life shaken from me in the river. He’d proven that my options were none. I should have given in and just died as we swam. But I held my breath, I let him think that I’d drowned. Now in the air-locked chamber of his bedroom, I wondered if I’d been cruel to myself by surviving.
How would they find me there? The air was rank with fish, buffalo meat and roo. Unexpectedly there was a note of Eucalyptus, like the lollies, the type that cleared your head. The sharp botanical scent flowed through the tree root chandelier into my sinus. It frustrated me with its impossibility, that scent, so I thrashed at the blackness, fighting rising insanity. A wad of ceiling dropped away. When I reached to find its origin, there was a hole. I hooked my fingers in deeper, chasing what? A phantom scent?
More clumps fell away. Then more. Then a wet fart and the atmosphere above me stirred. Suddenly there was sunlight, suddenly air rushing out of the chamber, and river water flooding up through the floor.
“Call the plumber, Gary,” I screamed.
Then I kicked at him and exploded up through the muddy hole. Slick with machismo, he tried to follow, lunging clumsily but falling back. Dumbstruck, log stupid, he watched his unbroken run of kills break.
I caught my breath. There were walls of Eucalypts blocking every dry route to safety. Forced to walk the water’s edge I wondered if Gary had got out through the rising current. I felt he was still with me, stealthy and vengeful, seething in the water.
On the boat ramp eight hundred metres upstream, a cop was filing a report of a missing angler. Witnesses had seen a big alpha male lurking with intent nearby, likely to be Gary Ridgeway who the locals named after the Green River Killer from that other Green River in Washington, USA. But this was the Green River in Katherine, NT and so wildlife rangers were unloading a gate trap from a ute. They were baiting it with a fly-blown roo. And they were hoping like hell that their Gary Ridgeway hadn’t yet had his breakfast.