Authors: Kathryn Fox
Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense Fiction
For my mother,
whose selflessness, kindness, and love
will always be an inspiration
Doctor Anya Crichton prepared to face the violent offenders.
Detective Inspector Hayden Richards arrived just after Anya broke the news…
After giving formal police statements, Mary dropped Anya a few…
After a few hours of restless dozing, Anya weaved her…
Anya Crichton shuffled down stairs in her Ugg boots and thick…
Anya left the operating theater an hour and a half…
Anya signed over the forensic specimens to Shaun Wheeler who dropped…
Jeff Sales was performing Rachel Goodwin’s post-mortem and invited Anya to attend.
At 8 A.M. Anya cleared security and met Hayden Richards in the…
After a welcome-back morning tea at the sexual assault unit,…
After vacillating over whether or not to go, at the…
The following afternoon Anya removed the wax-paper covering, held her…
Kate Farrer and Hayden Richards were outside the ICU, along with a…
Outside ICU, Kate paced. Liz Gould stood texting on her phone…
Noelene Harbourn opened the door in a pink chenille gown and…
Anya pulled the document from the fax machine. Jeff Sales had…
Anya fumbled for the phone in the dark.
Anya had heard a great deal about the crimes of…
Martin brought Ben over to stay and agreed to have…
Anya glanced at the miniscule back seat and offered to…
“That’s my boy.” Kate laughed. “All over the back seat?”
With Ben and Martin back home, Anya sat down to…
From the images of Savannah Harbourn’s car on the news, the…
With two separate court appearances in the next two weeks…
The following morning, Anya arrived at Saint Stephen’s Private Clinic. The…
Natasha Ryder downed a grape from the plate on the table…
Monday morning, Natasha Ryder strode into court and placed her briefcase…
The morning the trial began, Anya listened from the back…
After opening arguments, Anya took the stand and swore the…
Anya was greeted by a nurse who quickly ushered her…
Natasha Ryder hastily pulled on her clothes and carried her shoes…
Still angry with Dan Brody for defending Gary Harbourn, Anya prepared some…
Kate greeted Anya with a worried expression. “We need to…
Later that afternoon they returned to the Homicide office. Anya…
Anya phoned Martin who sounded relieved that she was all…
The detective had changed into exercise pants and hooded top.
Anya returned Ned Goodwin’s call. As if Natasha’s murder hadn’t been…
Anya left Dan a message telling him she was visiting…
Anya chased Dan to his car, refusing to be left…
Anya’s head hit the floor and it took her a…
Bevan Hart stood in front of them, eyes hollow.
Bevan Hart was on top of her, and would not move.
The following morning Anya stood with Dan Brody in Judge Pascoe’s…
Benito Fiorelli stood in court.
Outside the courtroom. Fiorelli tried to calm Anya down.
That night Anya went home. Following Bevan Hart’s death and confession…
Anya saw Violet Yardley outside the food co-op. Dressed in dark…
At the end of the trial, the packed gallery rose…
Anya stood outside the crematorium, having come from Bevan Hart’s memorial…
Doctor Anya Crichton prepared to face
the violent offenders.
Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars had gone into first the trial and now the retrial of the four whose heinous crimes had horrified even the most jaded police and lawyers. Their young female victims continued to suffer thanks to the drawn-out legal process which seemed to favor the rights of the accused over the rights of the victim.
The Harbourn Four and their legal team were expert at playing the system to their advantage, but today would put a stop to all their legal games and manipulations.
Anya removed the digital thermometer from her ear. Forty-one degrees Celsius. She downed a couple of paracetamol tablets and anti-inflammatories to accompany the first dose of antibiotics, then wiped her forehead with a wet facecloth, lingering on the temples to alleviate the splitting headache. Anything stronger might blur her mind, and she knew how alert she had to be on the stand.
There was time for one final check in the hallway mirror. Hair pulled back, but not too severely. Pale blue blouse and navy skirt declared professional expert. The jury had to care about her testimony, not be distracted by her appearance.
A small amount of eye make-up and lipstick, her version of war paint, complemented the outfit. This had been a damned long battle and one the prosecution had to win. She had never felt so strongly about a case before and a high temperature would not interfere with her job.
While wiping perspiration from the back of her neck with a tissue, she hurriedly checked the locks on the downstairs windows.
Last night had been spent in fitful sleep, violent nightmares brought on by her body’s attempt to fight the chest infection. The bugs might not survive high temperatures, but the fevers made her entire system miserable as well. She coughed and felt the inside of her chest burn. Too late to pull out now.
Besides, it was the price she paid for traveling. Air-conditioned planes and hotel rooms, fatty food and fatigue never failed to beat down the immune system. Once her sleep pattern improved, the infection would clear quickly. It had to.
Anya slipped her stockinged feet into the black court shoes she kept by the door and grabbed her briefcase as the doorbell rang.
“Won’t be a minute,” she called, before checking the downstairs windows just once more.
Mary Singer had a broad smile when Anya opened the door.
“Welcome back.” She embraced her colleague with both arms. “We’ve all missed you.”
Anya kept one arm by her side. “We should probably make a move.”
The sexual assault counselor agreed. “Traffic’s pretty hideous this morning. You’d think that work on major roads could be done at night, but no, that would be far too simple.”
Anya punched the alarm code into the unit inside the doorway. A few seconds of slow beeping and the pair were away.
“Bad flight?” Mary opened the car door she had double-parked and climbed into the driver’s seat. “You look exhausted.”
“I picked something up on the leg home,” Anya said, trying to focus on the day ahead. Private case work across the US and Europe had been physically and emotionally grueling. But the fact that she’d had little sleep for forty-eight hours meant nothing to a judge or jury. This was not about her. The trial was the reason she had rushed back home to Sydney from overseas, leaving her son and ex-husband to enjoy Disneyland without her.
The painkillers had eased the headache but her arms began to shiver. Fighting the effects of the self-prescribed medication, her body was doing everything it could to push her temperature back up. She clutched her ribs and tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress a cough.
Mary Singer shot her a look but resisted commenting.
Anya took a breath and felt the stab in her ribs; pleurisy as well as bronchitis. She fiddled with the car heater, craving warm air. “How is Giverny coping?”
“This last month has been rough. Since the mistrial was declared she’s been more agitated.” Mary was clearly concerned about the young woman due to testify in the Supreme Court at Darlinghurst.
Anya felt for the seventeen-year-old girl who had been abducted while walking home from the bus stop less than a year ago. If it had not been for her beloved weekly ballet lesson, the petite teenager wouldn’t have been out alone. The four Harbourns—Gary, Bruce, Patrick, and Keith—had forced her into their car and raped her multiple times. Not content with assaulting the girl, as a final degrading act her attackers had stripped her naked and hosed her with icy water near an abandoned warehouse. The last thing Giverny remembered about them was their laughter as they drove off.
Anya vividly recalled that night, performing the medical and forensic examinations on the traumatized, injured girl. As a forensic physician, Anya’s role was critical in beginning the long and tortuous healing process for victims. The physical evidence she had collected, along with Giverny’s detailed police statement, had eventually led to the arrests.
“It won’t be easy, facing those four again in court, but I think she’s strong enough,” Mary offered unconvincingly. The counselor had met with Giverny following the attack, then more regularly during the lengthy trial process.
Not having managed to scare Giverny into silence, the four accused Harbourn brothers had tried every legal manipulation to delay the trial and intimidate the only witness. Meanwhile other family members had made veiled threats against the “lying slut,” as they called Giverny. She was the only one who could identify the brothers as her attackers, and her testimony was what threatened them most. Even so, it was difficult for the terrified seventeen-year-old to see it that way.
The attack and ensuing year of legal tribulations had taken their toll. A bright student, Giverny had dropped out of school months before, unable to cope with the stress of exams as well as being the key witness in the retrial. Her friends had long since abandoned her, choosing to get on with their social lives while Giverny stayed home, afraid to go out or trust anyone.
The pair sat in silence as Mary took back streets to avoid congested main roads.
Anya checked her watch. “Let’s hope Giverny’s ready and not having second thoughts. We don’t have a lot of spare time.”
Mary honked her horn at the car ahead for cutting in on her. He responded by raising a finger in his rear-vision mirror and hitting his brakes—hard.
Mary stopped just short of his bumper bar.
Anya’s head jerked forward and she saw the driver open his car door. “Go around him. He’s getting out.”
She leaned forward and punched the central locking button on the dash. Just in case. The last thing they needed now was to be involved in a road rage incident.
“What is it with men? They make a mistake and then abuse you for it.” Mary maneuvered the car into the next lane and darted across lanes. Anya watched in the vanity mirror, but the man got back in his car, turned off and disappeared from sight. She breathed out.
A few minutes later they arrived to pick up Giverny, as arranged. She had requested moral support on the way, aware that Anya would not be able to be seen with her once they were in court. As an expert witness, Anya had to be seen by the jury as independent or her evidence would be discounted as biased.
Even so, Anya understood that Giverny would find being cross-examined lonely enough without feeling abandoned by the very people who had encouraged her to testify.
Mary pulled into the driveway and kept the engine running. “You can listen for traffic reports,” she said, turning up the radio.
Mary walked up to the front door, sunglasses over her unruly mop of gray hair. The counselor waited, hands on her hips. Anya knew they were all edgy about today’s court appearance. She watched Mary knock again. When there was no response the counselor raised her arms to the sky and came back to the car.
“Maybe she’s in the bathroom and can’t hear.” Anya pulled out her mobile and dialed Giverny’s number. “It’s diverting to Message Bank.”
Mary moved around to the back of the house; when she returned to the front she cupped her hand around her eyes and peered in through the windows.
“Curtains are all drawn and I can’t see a thing,” she called.
Anya stepped out of the car, the chills returning to her body. She noticed the garage door slightly ajar. Security obsessed since the attack, it was unlike the young woman to leave anything undone or unlocked. The hairs on the back of Anya’s neck prickled.
Bending down, she yanked on the garage door handle, which clunked in resistance before giving way. The door moved upward and light flooded the area.
Across the doors and rooftop of Giverny’s blue Morris Minor were scrawled
in large red letters. The back wall was covered with
The words were like a punch to Anya’s stomach. After seeing what the Harbourn brothers were capable of, she feared the worst.
“Giverny!” she yelled, her hands trembling as she dialed emergency on her mobile. “It’s Anya and Mary. Can you hear us?”
Mary entered the garage and covered her mouth in shock. “God, no—”
Anya hoped her instincts were wrong but she remained careful. “This could be a crime scene. Wait here for the police and don’t touch anything. I’m going inside.”
Mary stood in silence, staring at the car. Anya stepped around the vehicle, careful not to brush against it. With a cloth from a shelf at the back, she turned the handle of the inside access door and retuned the cloth to its original position.
Moving the door open with her foot, she whispered, “Please be okay.”
In the tiled living area there was enough daylight to see the rolled, unopened newspaper on the table, along with a neat pile of papers. She took a breath. The place hadn’t been trashed so maybe the Harbourns hadn’t made it inside.
“Giverny. Can you hear me?” she shouted. Beads of perspiration covered her neck and forehead. The kitchen was clean and there weren’t any plates left out from breakfast.
A door banged behind Anya and she jumped.
“What the hell’s going on? Where’s our daughter?”
Bevan Hart pushed past Anya into the corridor, presumably toward the bedroom. His wife Val followed.
“I told you we should have stayed with her.”
Turning the corner, Anya stopped, just as someone let out a guttural sound behind her. Val Hart had seen the same thing.
Giverny Hart knelt on the floor with her head slumped forward in a praying position. Attached to the front door handle was a cord. The other end disappeared around the girl’s neck.
Anya rushed forward and felt for a peripheral pulse. The right wrist was limp and cold, but she felt a beat. It bounded—too hard for such a cold limb. Anya timed it with her own carotid. The pulses beat in perfect time. They were both her own. Damn!
“Do something!” the father begged.
With two hands, she lifted the girl’s face. It still had some heat. Encouraged, she felt for any sign of a neck pulse.
Giverny’s left index finger was trapped beneath the cord, as if trying to release the pressure.
“This can’t be happening,” Bevan Hart muttered and stepped back. Mary was quickly at the parents’ side. She must have heard the wife’s howl.
“Mr. Hart, we need you to call an ambulance,” Anya instructed. “Your daughter needs your help right now.”
He responded and disappeared. The counselor moved over to Anya. “What do we do?”
Anya grappled with the cord but it dug too deep into the girl’s flesh.
“She’s still warm. I can’t get the cord off her neck. It’s pulled too tight. Get a knife or scissors as fast as you can.” She tried to sound calm. She needed their help and quickly.
Mary ran off with Val.
Anya tried slipping her hands under the girl to lift her and relieve the pressure caused by the pull from the door handle, but she knew it was useless. The cord had tightened when the head slumped forward. No height needed for this hanging.
“It’s okay, Giverny, we’re here now,” she offered. “You’re going to be all right.”
Something crashed in the kitchen, then Mary appeared with two different sized knives. One could have carved a chicken, the other was a boning knife with a pointed end.
“Cut her from the door first.”
Mary chose the larger knife and handed the other to Anya.
Trying to hold the head upright, Anya used the smaller one to cut where Sophie’s finger held the noose slightly away from her neck.
On the first attempt she nicked the neck and blood trickled out, making the cord slippery.
She felt the body drop. Mary had cut the cord above her head. She laid the girl flat on her back and this time the cord gave way. The left hand did not move. The young woman’s lips were blue and her face a dusky shade.
Anya felt again for the carotid pulse. Nothing.
She lifted the girl’s head up and back, pinched the nose and breathed twice into the mouth.
Come on! This isn’t over.
Moving to the chest, she clenched her fingers, one hand on top of the other and began cardiac massage. Thirty short, sharp pressures then two more breaths. She heard a rib crack but kept going. She had to, for Giverny’s sake. After a few rounds her fingers cramped but she kept going.
She heard a siren in the distance and Mary left to flag it down. She barely noticed Bevan behind her when the paramedics appeared.
“I’m Matt,” one of them announced. “What have we got?” He placed his pack on the floor.
Breathless and exhausted, Anya continued to pump the heart as the second paramedic, a female, pulled out a face mask and oxygen tank.
“Giverny Hart. Seventeen years old. We found her on her knees, with a cord attached from the door knob to her neck.”
Matt shot a look at his partner.
“How long have you been going?”
It felt like hours had passed, but Anya had no idea how many minutes she had been attempting to resuscitate.
“I started the exact time you were phoned.” Anya knew that all calls were logged.
The paramedic checked his watch. “We’ll follow our protocol. Let’s intubate and see if we’ve got a rhythm.”