Realising that in any life or death situation, Rex Carter would be as useful as a bar of soap in a lumberjack's shower cubicle, Erica slammed the phone down on him and jumped into action. She grabbed her coat from the back of the door, mumbled something incoherent to Mikka and fled the apartment.
The cab ride to the ACP headquarters in Park Street blurred as Erica's mind raced, trying to put together the latest developments in a line of mysteries that stretched deeper and deeper into unknown territory.
The cabbie, after swerving a bus and almost inhaling a cycle courier, pulled up just outside the entrance and rang up the meter. Erica flung some money in the cabbie's general direction and launched herself out of the cab and rushed into the building's foyer.
A cursory nod and a sweet smile persuaded the half-comatose security guard not to ask her for ID. He did manage a surprised glance at Erica, due to the fact that the garment she had bought with her and donned in the cab was Bubba's old Australian Army standard issue jacket.
Looking like a war correspondent, Erica jumped into the nearest closing elevator to find herself surrounded by the seedy men from one of graphically-intensive, editorially-challenged men's titles that reside in the building. Luckily they seemed to be more interested in planning Norg-Fest 98 than wondering about Erica's impatient and agitated state. As the lift doors opened on level 5, Erica edged past the pack, out of the lift and headed for Trudee's office.
Trudee's editorial assistant gave Erica a snooty raised eyebrow and then returned to her copy of the special naked issue of Mens Health as Erica ran past. Barrelling through the door, Erica was greeted with what seemed to be an empty office. A soft snivelling sound was emanating from under Trudee's desk. Erica cautiously circled around to find Trudee lying on the floor in the foetal position. In a fit of compassion, Erica knelt down and gave Trudee a reviving hug.
"Hmmmmaahuuu," Trudee burbled.
She had been crying heavily, as was evident from the soft carpet of man-size Kleenex that littered the floor.
"Oh, I was so worried Trudee. Are you OK? Has anything suspicious happened to you recently?"
"Only this," Trudee exclaimed, holding up a Barbie doll with a large stake poked through it, the right leg sawed off and both arms melted up to the elbows.
"What the hell?" Erica gasped.
"Some sicko sent this to me with a note saying that I was next," Trudee managed to blub before breaking in a new symphony of tears.
"Trudee, this is going to be hard on you dear, but I think that someone is trying to kill you. I am going to get you out of here and take you somewhere safe."
Trudee, in an advanced state of shock and bewilderment, could only nod dumbly and then go back to sobbing uncontrollably. Erica picked Trudee up, and escorted her from her office.
In the lift, Erica relieved Trudee of her car keys and they walked out of the building and climbed into Trudee's brand new BMW convertible.
Erica placed Trudee in the passenger seat and then seated herself. Gunning the engine, they pulled out into the traffic and Erica headed them north over the bridge.
"Trudee, we're going to take a road trip. I'm taking you to my Uncle Len's place up in Byron Bay. We can stay there for a while."
"But I need some clothes, and my makeup, and I need to get my shampoo, I can't use any old shit . . . "
Trudee's voice trailed off as she realised how silly she sounded. They couldn't go back to her house in case the killer was waiting.