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Authors: Rose Foster

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BOOK: The Industry
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Milo's expression changed; he seemed embarrassed, almost disgusted with himself, and angry too. A vein pulsated amongst the bunched muscles in his neck.

‘I tried to get Latham to stop the recruits before they messed with you,' he said, his voice far less controlled than before. ‘Latham said it was out of his hands. I couldn't ensure it wouldn't happen, and he wouldn't do anything, so …

‘It was easy to hate you,' he said suddenly. ‘Like I've always hated everyone. You dismissed me so quickly, but it didn't bother me. You were just another person who had no time for me. I expected that to be the case, and it's why I was shocked when Latham chose me for the assignment. Someone who'd never formed a bond with anyone before in his life? I told him I was the wrong choice, but he wouldn't listen to me. And at the start, you proved me right. You turned away from me, brushed me
off like I was dirt on your shoes. It was so easy to hate you … Then you started to change. It was exactly what we wanted, but that didn't make it any less surprising to me. You seemed to warm to me more and more every day, and we started getting close during the nights. It was astonishing; I kept waiting for you to realise that you really didn't like me at all.

‘Then the recruits started hanging around outside the door — you remember? Once Lena was gone, there wasn't a woman around, and they turned their attention to you. They were discussing how best to separate us so they could get you on your own. That wasn't a necessary part of the plan. During my three weeks out, I warned them off and they listened. But once I was back in the cell, there was no guarantee they'd remember my threats. I knew they wouldn't hold off for much longer, and that they'd decided to risk it. They came in, remember? We had to get away …

‘I'm glad we didn't succeed, though,' he said after clearing his throat. His face was less intense now, his expression returning to the slightly removed stare of earlier. ‘I'm glad Desmond intervened. I blamed the whole thing on him, actually — the dead recruit and the unconscious one we left in the cell. Latham believed me in the end or else I'd be dead too.'

Kirra felt a tear reach her top lip. When had she started crying?

Milo tilted his head to the side. ‘I have to take you back,' he told her, his voice businesslike. ‘That's just how it is.'

Kirra knew that if she went with him it would mean the end of her life. Latham would take what he needed
from her before avenging the damage she'd done to his daughter, and Kirra didn't imagine his vengeance would be merciful or quick. She wondered if Milo knew this. Of course he does, she thought dejectedly.

She turned away from him and moved towards the naked window. Desmond's voice nagged somewhere in the back of her mind, but she didn't care. She needed to put some space between herself and the man she'd thought her friend. The room was silent for a while.

‘Do you hate me?' Milo asked.

It seemed an odd question, but one Kirra answered truthfully. ‘Yes.'

He said nothing for a moment, before: ‘That's fine.'

Was it? Kirra supposed it was. It certainly wouldn't change anything.

She felt him take several steps towards her, saw him looming over her in the reflection in the window. ‘Latham expects me to take you back,' he said. Kirra didn't face him. She knew it was unwise to have her back to him. Still, she couldn't move.

It was then that a distant
ping
reached her ears. It came from out in the corridor, floating merrily into the room. She felt Milo tense behind her as he heard it too. The elevator! Now she could make out the sound of Desmond's footsteps coming towards the room, his phone call over and done with, and she felt terror wash over her. Milo knew Desmond wouldn't back off, wouldn't hand Kirra over without a fight. Would Milo kill him then? Would he shoot Desmond and then drag Kirra away? She needed to call out, to say something! She needed to warn Desmond before he walked in on them and got himself killed.

But when she turned away from the window, she found there was no need. The room was empty; she was quite alone. Milo had calculated his chances and decided to leave it for another day.

‘I told you to lock this!' Desmond blew in, slammed the door behind him and bolted it. ‘You just left it open? What the hell's wrong with you? And get away from the window!'

He grabbed her wrist and twisted her away before pulling the curtains shut. Then he caught sight of her face. ‘Kirra! What happened?'

Shakily, she pressed the photo into his hand. ‘He was here,' she whispered.

‘What?' Desmond looked around wildly. ‘Milo was here?'

‘I know,' she breathed, ignoring him. ‘I know now. I know he's a recruit.'

Desmond's hands shot out to take her arms. He obviously thought she might crumble. Instead, Kirra stood very straight, and pulled away from him.

Later, Desmond placed a cup of tea on the table by
the couch. Kirra ignored it. He watched her closely for a long time.

‘You might not be sure of many people now, Kirra. In fact, you might never really trust anyone again,' he said softly. ‘But I think it's important you know that you can always be sure of me.'

Kirra didn't sleep at all in the apartment, and Desmond seemed to understand her need to get away from it as quickly as possible. They left first thing the next morning, and returned to Southampton Airport. They were silent for the entire flight back to Paris, and Kirra was glad Desmond didn't try to speak with her. She spent the time wondering what she was going to do now. For the first time, she was completely without a plan. She had no money and nowhere to go. She knew no one outside of Australia, no overseas relatives or family friends, and even if she did, it wouldn't be safe to go to them.

She cast a sidelong look at Desmond. He didn't seem intent on leaving her. Perhaps she would stay with him, work with him, and give him the sequences for his extracting business. It wasn't an ideal future, but at least she wouldn't be cast off to fend for herself. She wouldn't be left completely alone.

They disembarked in Paris, and took a taxi to a hotel where they met up again with Anton and Mai. Mai retreated to her room shortly after their arrival, leaving Anton to hurriedly recount the tale of Milo's disappearance between nibbles of a French pastry.

‘I parked the car, turned around and he was just gone,' he said. ‘We thought someone had snatched him
up, went crazy looking for him, but no sign. Tried to call you,' he said to Desmond, ‘but you'd flushed your phone. Remember? Down the toilet.'

They wasted no time in returning to the silver van. Mai took the front seat with Desmond, seeming unable to look anyone in the eye, and Kirra was left to ride in the back with Anton.

She didn't ask them where they were going, and slumped down in her seat, curling up in Lena's red jacket and drifting off to sleep.

 

Hours later, she awoke to find they were passing through city streets. It was late afternoon, and people were leaving work, hurrying to their cars or bicycles. She scanned the passing buildings, and blinked whenever they passed monuments, opera houses or great sweeping structures that looked like palaces. Desmond was resting in the passenger seat. At some point Anton had taken his place at the wheel. Mai's still form suggested she too was asleep.

‘Where are we?' Kirra asked Anton quietly.

‘Vienna,' he told her. ‘Pretty, isn't it?'

The van left the city, zipping past orchards and green fields before slowing as they approached a solid four-metre hedge that seemed to stand quite alone in the countryside.

Kirra sat upright as Anton pulled off the quiet country road and halted alongside the hedge. Now she could see a pair of imposing gates amid the barrier of leaves, a security pad on one of the gateposts.

Anton leaned out of the driver's window and punched a series of numbers into the pad, then flung a stray
dreadlock behind his ear as he waited. The little light at the bottom of the security pad flashed red. He cursed loudly and tried another code. The red light flashed once more. He cursed again before stabbing the intercom button with his thumb.

‘Oi!' he bellowed. ‘Open the gate! It's just us!'

There were several surveillance cameras perched atop the gates. They swivelled to eye the van for a moment and Kirra thought she heard a resigned sigh float faintly through the intercom. A buzz sounded and the iron gates opened.

Anton drove the van up a snaking gravel path. Kirra frowned as they passed several trenches dug deep into the earth between the trees, shovels lying idly beside them. They looked almost like open graves. Then she pressed her fingertips to the window, her mouth agape. Before, the hedge had hidden the place from view, but now, through the trees and out-of-control undergrowth, she caught glimpses of what looked like an abandoned sandstone mansion. Anton had clearly brought them to an old museum, or maybe a strange, secluded library shut down for renovation. Kirra counted four storeys, as well as smaller wings that branched left and right off the main structure. Spilling out on either side were wide sandstone terraces lined with potted plants: ferns, oleanders and marigolds toppling out over their ceramic edges.

‘Anton, where are we?'

He ignored her and brought the van to a skidding halt in a circular driveway. Desmond climbed out and reviewed his poor effort at parking.

‘It was hired, right?' he clarified. ‘Back in Madrid?'

‘Yeah.'

‘You might want to be more careful.'

Anton dropped out of the driver's seat and slung his rucksack on his back. ‘Why? It's not like they're ever getting it back,' he said with a shrug.

With the topic apparently laid to rest, he set off for the wide sandstone steps leading up to the front door: a huge wooden slab with a brass handle.

Desmond slid the passenger door open for Mai and Kirra. When Mai reached for her bag, he snatched it away from her and hauled it onto his own back before she could protest. She gave a small shrug and followed Anton towards the door. Desmond looked at Kirra, who remained in her seat, feeling out of place and extraordinarily confused.

‘Well?' he said tiredly. ‘Coming?'

She slid out into the evening air, the setting sun warming her face, and took a long look up at the mansion. ‘What is this?'

‘The Estate.'

But it wasn't Desmond who answered her. Having just limped out of the front door, a man stood on the steps, staring down at her. He was short and broad, and was leaning on a cane.

Kirra froze where she was.

‘You,' she said quietly. It was the man from the hospital after the Bachmeier bomb. The man who'd said he was on her side, who'd said that he was going to help her. Over time Kirra had begun to believe he was a figment of her imagination, but there he stood in the sunset, real as could be.

He staggered down the stairs, past Mai and Anton, and extended his hand.

‘Vaclav Falk,' he introduced himself for the second time. ‘Come in, Miss Hayward. There's a lot we have to discuss.'

 

The story continues in …

 

THE ESTATE

 

Kirra Hayward has many questions. What is the Estate? Will she be safe from Latham there? Will her code-cracking skills be used for good or evil? Will she ever make it home?

As she reluctantly joins the ranks of criminals, Kirra begins to realise the Estate isn't quite the place of refuge she hoped it would be. There's a bully to avoid, rumours of a second code-cracker on the run, and the feeling that someone at the Estate wants Kirra gone. For good.

About the Author

Rose Foster grew up in Melbourne, Australia. Once she finished high school Rose began her tertiary studies at Swinburne University, where she reconsidered pursuing her ambition of writing for young adults. She soon dropped out of her course, travelled briefly overseas and then set to work on
The Industry
. She now studies creative writing at RMIT University.

Angus&Robertson
An imprint of HarperCollins
Publishers
, Australia
First published in Australia in 2012
This edition published in 2012
by HarperCollins
Publishers
Australia Pty Limited
ABN 36 009 913 517
harpercollins.com.au

Copyright © Rose Foster 2012

The right of Rose Foster to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the
Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
.

This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the
Copyright Act 1968
, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

HarperCollins
Publishers
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31 View Road, Glenfield, Auckland 0627, New Zealand
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77–85 Fulham Palace Road, London W6 8JB, United Kingdom
2 Bloor Street East, 20th floor, Toronto, Ontario M4W 1A8, Canada
10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022, USA

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

Foster, Rose.

The industry / Rose Foster.

ISBN: 978 0 7322 9330 7 (pbk.)

ISBN: 978 0 7304 9715 8 (epub)

For young adults.

A823.4

Cover design by Matt Stanton, HarperCollins Design Studio
Cover images: Face © 2011 Jaydee Artsen; hands by
shutterstock.com

BOOK: The Industry
11.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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