'Are you coming to this beach party, Amy?' shouted Claire.
'If you don't hurry up we'll miss the bus. There isn't another one for an hour after that,' said Lisa.
'I'm coming,' said Amy, finally coming out of the bathroom. 'Well, how do I look?' she asked her two best friends with a big smile.
Claire and Lisa looked at each other and started to laugh.
'What is it?' asked Amy, worried.
'Amy, we're going to the Christmas party on Bondi Beach, not to a nightclub,' said Lisa.
'You can't stand up now in those shoes. How are you going to dance all night?' laughed Claire.
'You never know who we might meet,' replied Amy. 'Just because you two don't understand anything about fashion! Come on, let's go.'
There were a lot of people already at the beach when they arrived. The music was loud and even though the sun was starting to go down, it was still warm.
This was where the three best friends wanted to be.
For two years they planned this holiday. And finally, after hours of studying for exams, on Claire's 18th birthday, their plane took off from London's Heathrow Airport. Destination: Australia.
Amy cuddled koala bears, Lisa bungee-jumped off a bridge in Cairns and Claire made them wake up really early so that she could take photos of Ayers Rock at dawn. But they all agreed snorkelling in the clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef was the best bit. And now they were in Sydney, where they planned to celebrate New Year.
Next September, after this year of travelling, Claire was going to study art and photography at university. Claire wanted to become a photographer; it was the only job she wanted to do. Lisa was thinking about joining the police, although her Dad didn't know it yet. He wanted her to study law and become a lawyer. And Amy wanted to marry someone who was rich so that she could go shopping all day, every day!
But now, they still had another six months left of parties and fun.
'Mmm. Look at all that delicious food. Barbecued sausages, burgers and steaks. Let's have something to eat,' said Claire.
'Amy? Claire?' interrupted Lisa. They looked at her. It was obvious that she wanted something. 'I've forgotten my purse. Can I borrow ten dollars? I've only got a few coins on me.'
'Again? You always forget to bring enough money!' said Claire.
'Yes, and you haven't given me back the five dollars you owe me for dinner the other night,' said Amy.
Lisa looked upset. She didn't plan to forget her money.
'It doesn't matter!' she said. Angry, she went over to another group of friends. 'Don't ask me for anything in future!'
'Lisa!' shouted Amy and Claire. But she just ignored them.
Later, as the party was finishing, Amy and Claire waited for Lisa so they could go back to the youth hostel together.
There was a cool wind.
'I think there might be a storm later on. I've got a headache and I always get a headache before a storm,' said Amy. 'Oh, where's Lisa?'
'Maybe she went back to the youth hostel. The last time I saw her was when we argued,' said Claire.
'What time is it?' asked Amy.
'Two o'clock,' answered Claire. 'Perhaps she's at the hostel, in bed.'
'Yes, come on. Everyone else has gone… And my feet are really hurting!'
'I told you not to wear those shoes!' laughed Claire.
When they got back, Amy opened the door to their room with a nervous smile and said, 'You missed a great party...' but then she realised that Lisa wasn't in bed.
She wasn't in the bathroom either.
'Maybe she's met someone?' said Claire, hopefully.
'Maybe...' said Amy.
'Let's go to bed. In the morning she'll tell us all about some gorgeous Australian that she met at the party,' said Claire, but she didn't seem sure.
'Maybe...' said Amy. And as she heard the first sound of thunder she realised that her feet didn't hurt anymore.
'The girls' youth hostel was in the centre of Sydney, opposite Hyde Park.
When Amy woke up early the next morning, she was happy they had their own room. In some hostels the rooms were bigger, you had to share with a lot of other people. Today she didn't feel like being polite or nice to anyone.
Their room was very small for three people, but there was a nice view of the park below. Lisa liked sitting in the park when she wanted to write in her diary.
But this morning, when Amy looked out towards the park she could only see their friend, Jack. He was sitting alone, near the fountain, reading a book. It was a beautiful sunny day now. The storm of the night before was over, just like a bad dream.
'Claire, wake up,' said Amy, touching Claire on the shoulder.
'Another five minutes,' said Claire, pulling the sheet over her head.
'No, you've got to wake up now. Lisa's still not here. She didn't come back last night.'
Claire immediately threw the sheets off her and sat up. 'Let's get dressed and we'll go downstairs and have some breakfast,' said Claire. 'Perhaps Lisa got up early and is already there.'
Five minutes later, while they were going downstairs they met Jack.
Jack was travelling as well. He arrived in Sydney on the same day as the girls and they met as they were checking into the hostel. The four of them soon became friends and they often spent evenings together, talking until late, sharing pizza and beer in the hostel's garden. Now it seemed like he was in a hurry.
'Hello, Jack. Have you seen Lisa this morning?' asked Claire.
'No I haven't. She's not in the dining hall… Why?'
'Oh, it's probably nothing. If you see her, tell her that we're looking for her,' said Amy.
'I'm leaving today, so I probably won't. But if I see her… Sorry, I'm in a hurry and I must go and pack my things.'
Before they could say goodbye, he ran by them and into his room.
Jack was right. There was nobody in the dining hall.
'It's 7.15. It's still early. If we sit over there by the window, we'll see her when she comes back. Do you want something to eat?' asked Claire.
'No, I'm not hungry. I think I'll just have some orange juice,' said Amy.
In silence, Amy and Claire waited. Every time the door opened they both looked up, hoping that it was Lisa.
At eight o'clock, the dining hall was starting to get busy and their glasses of orange juice were still full.
'Come on. I can't just sit here anymore. Let's go back upstairs to the room and try to call her on her mobile,' said Claire.
Back in the room, Amy dialled 387 452 9113. She walked up and down the room, waiting for the number to start ringing.
'OK, it's ringing...' she said to Claire with a nervous smile. 'Sssshhh!' said Claire, suddenly.
'What is it?' said Amy. She watched Claire go over to the bedside table and open the drawer. As she opened it, the ring tone of Lisa's phone filled the room.
Amy hung up the phone, disappointed.
'Amy, look! Lisa's purse is in here, too.'
'So, Lisa hasn't got her mobile or any money with her!' said Amy. 'Oh Claire, where could she be? This isn't like her at all. What are we going to do?'
Searching for Lisa
For the next four hours, Amy and Claire walked around Sydney. They even walked the ten-kilometre 'Manly Scenic Walkway' because they knew that Lisa liked the views from there.
They asked everybody they knew, 'Have you seen Lisa?' and they showed her photo to strangers.
'This is useless,' said Amy, looking at the view of Sydney Harbour. 'Nobody has seen her.'
'Why don't we go back to Bondi Beach? Maybe somebody will remember her from the party last night,' said Claire.
'OK,' agreed Amy. 'But if nobody there knows where she is, I think we should go to the police.'
Amy and Claire walked up and down the beach, showing everyone Lisa's photo.
It was two o'clock. The sun was hot.
'I need to put some sun cream on,' Amy said, looking at her red arms.
'Do you want to go to that bar over there and have some lunch? Then we can go to the police station,' said Claire. 'Do you think something has happened to her?'
Before Amy could answer, a blonde Australian girl came over to take their order.
'Can we have one tuna salad, one chicken salad and a large bottle of water, please?' asked Claire.
'Were you here yesterday at the party?' asked Amy, hopefully. The waitress was very small and Amy thought she recognised her.
'Yes, but I was working.'
'Did you see our friend?' asked Claire, showing her the photo.
The waitress took the photo from Claire and looked at it carefully. Amy and Claire expected her to say no, but then she smiled. 'Ah, yes! I remember her. I remember thinking how pretty and tall she was.'
Amy and Claire became very interested.
'You don't remember if she was with anyone?' asked Claire.
'What time was it when you saw her?' interrupted Amy.
'It was about eleven, and yes, she was talking to a man. He had black hair...'
Amy opened her mouth to ask another question, but the waitress stopped her.
'I'm sorry, but that's all I can remember. I didn't see his face. It was dark.' With a kind smile she went to get their food.
'Who's got black hair?' said Amy excitedly. But before she thought of anyone her mobile started ringing.
Her hand was shaking when she answered, 'Hello?'
Lisa Makes a Phone Call
Breathless, Lisa ran as fast as she could towards the telephone box. Her ankle hurt from when he pulled her into the house, but there was no time to think of that now… Only a few more steps...
'Oh why did I have that stupid argument with Amy and Claire? Why did I forget my purse? Why did I trust him?' she thought, with tears in her eyes.
Looking constantly over her shoulder she lifted the receiver. The inside of the telephone box was dirty and covered in graffiti, but luckily the phone was working. She put her only money, a one dollar coin, into the phone and dialled Amy's number.
'Please pick up the phone… Please...,' she thought.
On the second ring Amy answered and Lisa started crying. 'Amy! Oh, I'm so glad you're there!'
'Lisa?.. Is that you? Where are you?'
'I don't know… I need your help.' The line was bad and, because Lisa was crying, it was difficult to understand what she was saying. 'I'm sorry… There are things you don't know… Things I have never told you about my Dad.'
'Lisa, that's not important. Calm down. Tell us where you are and we'll come and get you.'
'Please hurry… He's coming after me… He...'
'Lisa, what are you trying to say? Did someone hurt you at the party?'
'He wants money from my Dad… To make him pay...'
'Who? Lisa you're scaring me! Tell me where you are and then phone the police,' Amy said.
'I don't know the number… I don't know where I am...' Suddenly, Lisa went cold. Somebody was standing behind her! He was there; she could feel him.
'Lisa, are you still there? Lisa!' shouted Amy.
Lisa stood terrified as she watched him take the phone from her and hang up.
He was smiling at her, but it wasn't a nice smile. It was an evil, mad smile.
'Why didn't you stay at the house, Lisa? But it doesn't matter. Nobody will ever find you.'
Putting a baseball cap over his black hair, he pulled her out of the telephone box.
At the Police Station
'We need to talk to somebody urgently,' Amy told the policeman in the front office before he could even say 'hello'. 'Something has happened to our friend Lisa and we need your help.'
'She went missing last night. You must help us find her,' said Claire.
'We got a phone call from her five minutes ago...' interrupted Amy.
'She's in trouble...' said Claire.
'Somebody has kidnapped her!' shouted Amy.
The officer looked confused and went inside. When he came back there was another policeman with him.
'G'day. My name is Inspector Swanson. Would you like to come through here please,' he said, taking them into an untidy office. 'Please, take a seat. I understand that your friend is missing. What's her name?'
'Lisa. Her name is Lisa Macintosh,' said Claire.
He sat down at his desk and started writing down the details. 'How old is she?'
'Eighteen… She'll be nineteen next month,' Amy said, trying not to cry.
Inspector Swanson smiled kindly at Amy. He could see that both the girls were very worried.
'What was she wearing when she went missing?'
'She was wearing blue jeans and a pink T-shirt,' said Claire. 'Can you describe her to me?'
'She has long, curly blonde hair and blue eyes.'
'This is a photo of Lisa,' Amy said, and gave him one of their photos. 'She's very pretty and tall. About 1.75 metres,' Amy said, remembering what the waitress said earlier.
'When was the last time you saw her?'
'It was about eight thirty last night,' said Claire.
'Are you sure she isn't with anyone she met at the party? A friend perhaps?' Inspector Swanson looked at them very seriously.
'No… Not without telling us first,' said Amy, shaking her head. 'We made a rule before we left England. If you want to stay out all night then you have to tell the others where you're going, who with and when you'll be back,' explained Claire. 'Lisa knows that rule. She knows we'll be worried.'
Inspector Swanson listened carefully. He thought that they were telling him the truth.
'You told the other officer that somebody has kidnapped her,' he said, cautiously.
'Yes,' the two girls said at the same time.
'That's a very serious thing to say,' Swanson searched their eyes for any sign that they were lying, but they both looked back honestly.
'Lisa told us that, on the phone.'
'So, you have spoken to Lisa?' he asked, raising an eyebrow.
'Yes, about a quarter of an hour ago,' said Claire, looking at her watch.
'Why don't you send some people to look for her?' asked Amy, starting to get angry. They were wasting time, sitting here, filling in stupid forms when they could be looking for Lisa.
'Amy...' said Claire, trying to calm her down. She turned to Swanson, 'I'm sorry. But we're really worried about Lisa. She said that a man was after her.'
A policeman knocked on the door. 'Sorry to interrupt you, sir, but could I talk with you in private, please?' he asked.
'I'm busy. Can't it wait?' said Swanson.
'It's very important, sir,' said the policeman and Swanson stood up.
'I won't be long. Can you finish filling in that form about Lisa, please,' he told them and went into another office.
When he came back his friendly eyes were dark with worry.
'Was that about Lisa?' asked Claire.
Swanson sat down and took a deep breath before speaking.
'That phone call was from Scotland Yard in England. Judge Macintosh — the famous judge — has received a phone call. A man from Australia has told Judge Macintosh that he has kidnapped his daughter. The kidnapper wants his father to be released from prison and 200,000 dollars or...'
'Or what?' asked Claire and Amy at the same time.
'Or… Or he will kill Lisa.'
Swanson ordered Amy and Claire to stay in his office while he organised his officers. Judge Macintosh, Lisa's father, was already on a plane with the money. Everybody seemed to be busy, doing something to help Lisa.
Amy and Claire felt like they were the only ones doing nothing.
'We've got to do something, Claire,' said Amy. 'Lisa's our best friend.'
'You're right,' replied Claire.
Before Inspector Swanson came back, they walked out of the police station and into the late afternoon.
'Which way do you think we should go, left or right?' asked Claire, looking down the busy street.
Amy wasn't listening. She was looking at the photographs.
They looked so happy, it was hard to believe that some of the photos were taken only a few days ago.
'Why do you think she didn't tell us?' Claire turned around and realised that she was talking to herself. 'Amy, you're not listening to me at all!' she complained.
'Mmm...?' said Amy, still distracted by the photos. There was something wrong but she couldn't work out what it was.
'I said, why do you think Lisa didn't tell us that she has a famous Dad?'
'That's it!' shouted Amy, making Claire jump. 'Look!' she said, showing the photos to Claire.
'What? It's just us three having fun.'
'No. Look again!' insisted Amy.
Claire took the photos from her and looked at them closely. But she couldn't see anything unusual.
'He's on this photo we took in Cairns and this one at Ayers Rock. He's even on photos that were taken before we came to Australia! Look! This one was taken at Heathrow Airport!'
'Who?' said Claire. She was starting to get impatient how. Amy wasn't making any sense and they didn't have time to waste like this.
'See… Here in the background. That's more than a coincidence.'
Amy was pointing at the figure of a man with black hair in the background of the photos.
'He's followed us. He's the monster who has kidnapped Lisa!' she said angrily.
'Amy...' said Claire putting a hand on Amy's arm to calm her. 'I know that face.'
'Jack!' interrupted Amy. But she wasn't looking at the photo. She was waving to a man across the street.
Jack didn't see Amy. He walked quickly into a newsagent's.
'I thought he was leaving Sydney?' she asked, turning to Claire. But Claire's face was white.
'You look like you've seen a ghost!' smiled Amy.
'Amy… The man in these photos… It's him. It's Jack!'
The Kidnapper's Shadow
'Don't be ridiculous, Claire. Jack's our friend!' laughed Amy, nervously. But before she looked at the photo again she knew that Claire was right. Amy felt sick. Lisa liked Jack. She trusted him.
They all thought he was nice.
'Look, he's coming out of the newsagent's now,' said Claire. 'I'm going to kill him!' said Amy. She wanted to run over to him. But Claire stopped her.
'No, don't be stupid. If you do that, we'll never find out where Lisa is. Let's follow him instead.'
'We should phone the police, though,' said Amy, taking her mobile phone out of her bag.
'There's no time,' said Claire. 'Come on.'
They started to follow him south, through Hyde Park and then east, down Oxford Street. He was walking fast and it was difficult not to lose sight of him in the busy street. It was still a public holiday and a lot of people were out, enjoying the early evening sun and eating ice creams in the many bars of this lively neighborhood.
'Oh no...' said Claire.
'What's the matter?' asked Amy. She was staring at the back of Jack's head as he crossed the road a few steps in front of them.
'The traffic lights.'
'What traffic lights?' said Amy, confused. A tall woman with long, brown hair stopped suddenly in front of her, obstructing her view. Amy wanted to push her out of the way.
'They're red. He's going to get away,' said Amy.
Forced to stand still and wait, they watched Jack disappear into the crowd.
It felt like an hour before the cars stopped and they could walk across the road.
'It's useless!' shouted Amy. 'We'll never find Lisa!'
'We can't give up now,' said Claire.
'I'm going to the police station,' said Amy, refusing to go any further.
But then, as she turned to go, she saw him again.
The house was on a pretty street in Paddington, a residential district south of Sydney Harbour, not far from the youth hostel. It was a Victorian house and was identical to all the other houses on that street.
Claire and Amy watched as Jack went through the gate and into the house.
Once they were certain that nobody was watching them, they walked to the rear of the house and looked through a window.
It was very dirty but they could still see inside.
The outside of the house was beautiful but the inside was horrible. The furniture was ripped and empty tins of food, pizza boxes and cans were on the floor.
Lisa was sitting on an old chair in the living room. Her hands were tied and she looked frightened as she watched Jack. He was shouting and his face was red with anger.
'For ten years I lived here, alone with my aunt. I couldn't even visit my Dad because he was in prison, in England.'
'I'm sorry. I...' said Lisa, trying to calm him down.
'No you're not. You're not sorry!'
'No! You're sorry that you're not out with your friends, laughing and having fun as usual. Well, what about me?' he screamed, out of control.
'If you let me go, I won't tell anyone about this,' said Lisa desperately. 'Not Claire, not Amy. Nobody will ever know. It will be our secret.'
'You're a liar! Just like your Dad!' he screamed, so loud it made Amy and Claire jump. 'Do you think I could let you go now? After all this time? After all that he's done? My father was innocent. He told me he never did it. He was set up.'
Claire and Amy listened in silence, too scared to breathe. He looked so different from the kind, funny guy they shared pizza with. This was the real Jack.
'I have planned this for a long time… I followed you and your stupid friends around Australia. And then you came to Sydney. When you argued with your friends on Bondi Beach I was there. You knew me from the youth hostel and trusted me and I could finally put my plan into action. Now your Dad is going to pay! I hope he's got the money ready, otherwise...'
He laughed a mad laugh in Lisa's face before rushing out of the house, locking the door behind him.
Amy didn't wait one minute more. She took her mobile phone and dialled the number of the police station.
'Hello, can I speak with Inspector Swanson please… It's Amy Dixon...'
While Amy waited for Swanson to answer, Claire knocked on the window.
'Lisa!' shouted Claire. 'Everything's going to be OK. You're safe now.'
Happy New Year!
'I still don't understand why you didn't tell us about your Dad,' said Claire.
It was New Year's Eve and Lisa's Dad was paying for them to have dinner in an expensive restaurant. From their table there was a fantastic view of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House. The night sky was full of stars. The nightmare of the past few days was finally over.
'I wanted you to like me for who I am, not because my Dad was a famous judge,' said Lisa.
'Well, I don't care if your Dad is a judge or if he cleans the streets! What are you going to order? I can't decide. I'm so hungry I could eat two of everything!' said Amy.
'We'll order some champagne first,' said Lisa's Dad. 'I'm a lucky man. I always worried that something like this was going to happen.'
'It's over now, Dad. Because of Amy and Claire, Jack's in prison and he'll stay there for a long time. I want to get on with my life,' said Lisa and she kissed him on the cheek.
'What are your New Year's resolutions?' asked Amy.
'I'm going to give up chocolate… After I've tried that delicious-looking chocolate cake,' said Claire.
'I'm going to retire,' said Lisa's Dad.
'Why? You can't do that, your job means everything to you,' said Lisa, surprised.
'I've thought about it for a long time. Even before all of this happened. I want to spend more time with my family,' he said, smiling at Lisa.
'My New Year's resolution is to remember my money and mobile phone when I go out,' laughed Lisa.
'Cheers!' laughed Amy, raising her glass.
Dinner was delicious and they all ate too much.
'Have you thought about what you are going to study at university?' he asked.
'Oh Dad. Don't be boring. It's New Year's Eve. There's lots of time to think about that,' said Lisa, suddenly nervous.
'Your future is very important,' he said, seriously.
'I know. But...' Lisa knew that joining the police was what she definitely wanted. She also knew that sooner or later, she needed to tell her Dad about her decision. But she didn't want to ruin this evening. She was having such a good time.
'Dad...' she started. Taking a deep breath she said the words she knew were going to disappoint him. 'I don't want to go to university.' She avoided his eyes and waited for him to shout that she was making a big mistake.
But when he spoke his voice was warm. 'I know...' he said.
'What do you mean, «I know»?' Lisa looked at him confused, but he was smiling.
'I'm your Dad. I could see that whenever I talked about university you looked unhappy. And what's important to me,' he said, taking her hand gently in his, 'is that you're happy.'
'So can I join the police?'
'If that's what you want,' he smiled.
'Do you mean that?' asked Lisa, excitedly. She threw her arms around him.
'Well, if Lisa is going to join the police, then you two could always become private investigators,' he said and Claire laughed. 'I'm serious. You found Lisa before the police did.' But the girls were laughing too much to take him seriously.
'Here's to us, Charlie's Angels!' laughed Lisa making another toast. 'It'll soon be midnight. Shall we go outside with everyone else?'
At last the countdown began, '10, 9, 8, 7,' everyone shouted, '6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Happy New Year!'
Fireworks filled the sky with loud bangs and a beautiful rainbow of colour.
Sydney was impressive at any time of year, but the harbour at New Year was unforgettable.
Any plans for the future could wait until tomorrow. It was too good, here and now.