About the Author
Joe Caygill has spent most of his life living in the South East Suburbs of Melbourne. After graduating from Monash University he has spent most of his adult life working in his own manufacturing business.
He currently resides on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula with his wife, Vicki, and two children Laura and Jason.
An avid reader who always harboured the desire to write, he finally found the time to pursue this passion and Deadline is the end result.
mber stepped from her apartment building into the deserted lane, carefully avoiding the broken glass and refuse that littered her path. It was late morning, and the overcast skies above threatened rain. Amber wore her old Adidas tracksuit, well-worn Ugg boots and a large flannelette jacket. Her medium length blonde hair was tucked under an old baseball cap, giving her a boyish look. She exited the laneway, turned left into King Street, and headed for the casino complex.
Crossing over the Yarra River, she left the protection of the cityís high rises, exposing herself to the cold August wind. Her normally pale complexion became flushed with the chill and her dark sunken eyes began to water.
Pedestrian traffic was light along the Southbank promenadeĖ unusual this late on a Sunday morning. Most of the restaurants and coffee shops along this strip were well patronised by now, with the brunch set sipping on cappuccinos and reading the Sunday papers. Perhaps the particularly bitter cold snap Melbourne was experiencing had kept people away.
The lack of people used to be a worry for Amber, but over the months she had perfected a routine that made detection almost impossible.
With rising anticipation she entered the food court, easily finding a seat at the rear that gave her a clear view of the entrance. As on the promenade itself, people were scarce in here, a stark contrast to the summer months when the food court was full, seats impossible to find; then Amber had to conduct her business outside in the open. This was risky, as the precinct had a strong police presence and security cameras were always in operation.
Amber could not afford to be arrested again. The last magistrate had guaranteed that any further misdemeanours would go on official record, despite her fatherís prominence. She knew the shame that she would bring on her family would have dire consequences.
She ordered a strong black coffee, her body gradually began to warm, the chronic shakes, Amber knew, would not subside for at least another hour. She removed her mobile phone from the pocket of her coat and made the call; it would not be long now, she thought. Anticipation caused adrenaline to flow, offering temporary respite from the anxiety and nausea that seemed to be the norm.
How she wished her life was different. No matter how hard Amber tried to free herself of this life she hated, the comfort and solace she found in drugs always prevailed. With drugs, she was able to cope with the chronic depression caused by the constant pressures of high expectations and the dark thoughts of suicide that accompanied them.
Amber realised most people would judge her to be just another junkie, hopelessly addicted and weak willed, but deep down she knew this was her only chance of survival.
Amber smiled to herself as she watched the two male cyclists by the Boost Juice bar, dressed in their colourful lycra riding suits. The tallest one reminded Amber of a giraffe, with his long skinny legs and elongated neck. The second guy was the opposite: short, and squat, with a midriff developed by far too many calories. Both men were well on the wrong side of forty. Her eyes slid down to their groin region. There wasnít much left to the imagination. Why do men bother wearing lycra shorts or speedos? she thought.
As Amberís mind wandered over the couple arguing over which muffins they wanted to share with their short blacks, an Asian youth entered through the large automatic doors and scanned the food court. He was typically dressed in baggy black parachute pants, Nike T-shirt and sport shoes and designer bomber jacket.
Amber noticed his arrival immediately and prepared for the transaction by removing a $100 dollar bill from her pocket, neatly folding it and placing it into the palm of her right hand. Slowly she stood, her eyes met those of the youth, and he responded with a slight nod of recognition. Amber was immediately overcome with paranoia. All eyes in the food court seemed centred on her and what she was about to do. No matter how many times she carried out this ritual, her reaction was always the same and cloaked her with a feeling of extreme shame.
She approached the youth. They held hands and a quick kiss was exchanged. It appeared like a greeting between two close friends, and no one would have noticed the bill change hands or the transfer of the small silver foil package during the kiss.
Although the foil touching her teeth was unpleasant, Amber dared not remove the package until she was alone. The Asian youth headed for the exit with Amber following quickly behind.
Outside, rain was beginning to fall, but this did not deter her from heading out and returning home.
Retracing her earlier journey, Amber was soon climbing the steps to the entrance of her apartment building. The building was an old concrete office complex, one of the earliest converted to apartments in the early 1990s. At that time, most of the apartments were purchased by local and overseas investors, and were mostly tenanted by young professionals working in the CBD. However, because of the boom in apartment developments during the 1990s, the complex became outdated and lapsed into a state of disrepair. It was now just a semi slum offering cheap rental to the many country, interstate and overseas students enrolled in tertiary-educational facilities located around the city.
Amber pushed her way through the heavy front doors and proceeded across the drab grey tiled foyer to the lifts opposite. Pushing the Ďupí button, she waited for the lift to return to the ground level, but after a few minutes she knew that it was out of order once again. Amber turned to her left and scaled the stairs to the third level.
Originally the corridors between apartments had been covered with plush blue carpet and the walls adorned by attractive designer prints. Amber now walked on the same drab grey tiles of the foyer area past walls bare except for the stained and cracked plasterboard.
She unlocked the deadbolt to her apartment and entered. Crossing to the living room window, she opened the blinds, allowing what little light penetrated the small space between her apartment building and the one opposite, to filter in. Patches, her cat, was stretched out on the beanbag and gave Amber a momentary glance before resuming his nap. Patches was a stray that Amber had adopted several months earlier, and although she really couldnít afford the extra mouth to feed, he was low maintenance and good company.
The apartment consisted of a small living room containing a kitchenette, a main bedroom, a tiny bathroom housing a shower, basin and toilet, and a smaller bedroom which Amber used as a study. The study contained a small wooden desk, covered in textbooks and lecture notes, and a lava reading lamp designed more for decoration than practical use. The study had had little use over the last several months.
After changing out of her damp clothes Amber lit the gas stove, removed a spoon lying in the dish rack and carefully unfolded the silver foil package, revealing a small quantity of white powder. She removed a new syringe from its packet and placed it on the bench in preparation. She carefully placed half of the powder onto the spoon and resealed the foil package. She added a few drops of water to the spoon and began gently heating it over the stove. The liquid began to bubble and the white powder dissolved.
Amber slowly pulled back the plunger of the syringe, drawing the liquid from the spoon into the chamber, and carefully removed any air bubbles that had been trapped. She wrapped a large piece of elastic cord around her left biceps and pulled tightly, causing the veins on her inner forearm to dilate and bulge. Selecting a suitable vein, Amber slowly inserted the needle of the syringe and administered the liquid into her blood stream.
The effects were almost instant, causing Amber to stumble as she made her way to the worn-out sofa against the far wall of her living room. She lay down, propped a large orange cushion behind her head and was transported to another world. A world of distorted realities. For Amber it was a world offering temporary respite from the nightmares and mental conflicts, which lately had been her constant companions.
A rush of warmth enveloped her body, and her outer skin tingled with a numbness that deadened the senses. The shakes finally subsided along with the feelings of anxiety and nausea. Her breathing became shallow as she entered her world of paradox.
Suddenly, severe pain spread from her forehead to the rear of her skull, as though she was trapped in the jaws of a giant vice. Amber was immediately catapulted from her trance-like euphoria to extreme terror and fear.
She tried to reach her mobile phone that was sitting on the kitchen bench, but severe stomach cramps had her doubled over on the floor unable to move. Bile rose in the back of her throat and vomit suddenly gushed from her mouth like a great eruption from an extinct volcano.
Her chest began to tighten and breathing became difficult. Amberís screams of panic were muted because her lungs no longer had the capacity to respond.
Her trembling lips slowly turned blue and the skin on her face and hands became translucent like fine china. Finally, Amberís bowels released as she took her final breath.
Death was violent and swift.
It seemed ironic that the drugs Amber needed as a crutch to live life would become her executioner.Amberís body lay in her apartment for four days before the stench of death permeated the building and someone came to investigate.
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