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Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 8. 1961.

Wanted: A Woman

page 12

Wanted: A Woman

The concert had ended a little after ten, and as the night was clear and still I decided to economize on bus fares and walk back to the hostel. It was a dark night but smelt very fresh and clean after the day's rain. A few puddles, formed in the uneven paving and the potholes, reflected the dull yellow glint of the street lights.

There was little movement in that part of the city except for the quiet, steady buzz of "Good-byes" from the emptying concert hall. The spire of First Church towered above me on one side and the thick-set buildings closed in on the other.

I made my way down to Stuart Street, and saw the station clock reading 10.12 p.m. Cumberland Street was dark and the pavement uneven—I could not see the puddles clearly and walked carefully, anxious not to spoil my "best" shoes. But is was a long, monotonous walk, and I soon quickened my pace, regardless of shoes, splashes, puddles or wet feet, and my eyes sought the dark landmarks ahead of me.

I could just make out the trees surrounding Students' Walk, when a car passed me—the only movement, apart from my own body, since I had left the concert hall. Its speed dropped suddenly, as it passed, then slunk slowly on. As it drew beneath a distant street light I saw that it was a once-jaunty red sports-car.

I was about to cross Albany Street when I saw the car make a U-turn in the road and come purring back towards me. Though slightly apprehensive, I didn't quicken my step—just imagination, of course—I wouldn't think about it. So, now consciously thinking about "something else," I was merging with the shadows of the tall pines at Students' Walk, when I started, suddenly aware of the ominously low sound of the car's motor keeping time with my footsteps and dangerously close to the kerb. I was walking mechanically now, my whole body pounding insistently to the mad rhythm of my heart beats.

"Want a rough time?" It was a man's voice from inside the car—I didn't turn my head. I was terrified lest I discover how many people I was up against.

I could feel my feet lifting and falling on to the pavement. Then the pavement seemed to be coming up to hit my feet. But I kept moving.

The car drew even with me again. Then somehow I quickened my step suddenly and crossed the road in front of the stationary vehicle. I reached the opposite footpath—I was now in the open, and the driveway to the Students' Union Building was on my right. I turned, now almost running, and I heard a car door slam.

The big brick building with its gleaming rows of dark windows gave me, in that instant, a sense of protection, of encouragement. Footsteps crunched the gravel and echoed and re-echoed from wall to wall.

Then at last I broke into a run. I reached Castle Street, and stopped for a second to remove my shoes—then, without a glance behind or on either side, I raced in stockinged-feet across the road. At Carr's Corner as I turned up Union Street (only one block from the hostel) I saw two figures in the middle of the road behind me.

Gasping in sheer panic, I drove my feet faster and harder into the road, but my pursuers drew ever nearer, with deliberate, almost unhurried paces.

Wild panic seized me as the 'Varsity clock grated out the chimes for 10.30. Oh, my God, why haven't I got wings? Now I was on Leith Street and the wet grass chilled my feet, but the slush hindered my progress. I drove myself on to the road and ran down the middle bf it.

A car suddenly swerved and screeched to a halt behind me, just lightly touching my side—I fell, and crumpled on the road. The car door slammed and I felt gentle hands raising me up.

"You all right?" asked an elderly voice.

"Oh dear, is she hurt?" said a woman anxiously from inside.

Then I slowly stood up, shaking with fright and trembling with cold. I nodded; I think I said. "Thank you—all right." Then I walked unsteadily to the footpath, then up the front drive of St. Margaret's.

Only when I had my hand on the front door did I stop to look back. The footsteps were dying away—still audible—but the car was gone. . . . And as I went inside and mounted the stairs, I heard a voice inside my head, rhythmically in time with ominous footsteps, saying:

"The car was red . . . the car was red . . . the car was red . . ."