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‘Ah,’ she said as she found the street, turning into it. She pulled to a stop across from the Deepthi driveway. The Mana suburban quietness was calming.

‘What are you planning?’ Fay asked.

‘Knock on the door, first. Then whatever is the next step. She patted the pouch on her hip, then her shirt pocket. ‘First aid, and cops on speed-dial.’

‘Okay,’ Fay returned. ‘Are we driving in or what?’


‘I don’t think so,’ answered Ruth. ‘If he is there, our car being on his property could be a spark. I’ll just park on the verge, but over there,’ she said, accelerating to swing the car across the road. Wheeling easily, the car straightened into a space just past the Deepthi letterbox. ‘Close, if we need it,’ she added tersely as she opened her door.

They walked up the driveway, the long grass between the tyre-paths flicking at their calves. As they knocked and waited and knocked again, Fay looked at the array of plants in pots clustered near the door. Marigolds of several kinds, a lemon tree and a lime tree, green chillies mingling with red.

‘Madhu?’ Ruth called quietly, her head close to the door. “Madhu, it’s Ruth from the clinic. Are you there? Are you okay?’  She knocked and called for several more moments. Then, ‘Something’s wrong, I’m sure of it,’ she told Fay in a low tone.

‘She could be out shopping, or at a neighbour’s?’

Ruth frowned. ‘Possible, I guess, but she doesn’t drive and I gather her husband does the shopping.  As for neighbours –‘.  She spread her hands, looking around.  A stand of trees fringed the road across from the driveway; a patch of bush bordered the far side of the house. In the next section was an electrical substation, its windows shuttered from curious eyes.

‘Let’s go round the back then,’ suggested Fay, ‘maybe she’s in the kitchen, or the laundry.’

At the back of the house, where the door was also locked, Ruth spotted a slightly-open second-storey window near the thick ceramic downpipe from the upstairs bathroom. She went to the downpipe, put her hands behind it and pulled.  The pipe held firm. She put one foot on the pipe’s base, testing her lift.
‘No!’ hissed Fay in a half-whisper. ‘It’s too dangerous, Ruth.’

“I have to,’ Ruth told her quietly. ‘If I get in, I’ll come down and open the back door..’

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