MV15 comp

Woolloongabba Antiques Centre

You and Street run hard, desperately seeking a place to take cover and radio the police. Beside you, Alice keeps pace, the heavy leather tote thumping against her legs. Behind you, a handful of thugs give chase.

“How many of them are there?” you ask.

“Too many. You think I could pull off a heist like that on my own?” Alice is pale with terror. “And one of them has a gun!”

You reach the corner of Wellington and Nile Streets. Shots ring out, bullet holes peppering the brick-and-tile façade. Your heart jumps in fright. Street lets out a harsh grunt. He grips his arm, blood seeping between his fingers. “I’m hit!”

You duck down and cast your gaze around, frantic. Across Nile Street, you spy a strange old Antique shop, display windows jam-packed with theatrical supplies, mismatched furniture, and vintage wares. “In there!”

You grab Street’s hand and lead him and Alice across the road, taking the short flight of steps two at a time, tumbling through the front door.

A bell tinkles, catching the attention of a well-muscled man with a perfectly polished scalp. He peers through the dim of the cluttered shop. “Can I help you?”

“You have to hide us!” Alice pleads. “Please, they’ll kill me!”

“Is that a gunshot wound?” He looks at Street with disdain. “No—I don’t want any trouble with you gangsters.”

“I’m fine.” Street wiped a hand across his cheek, leaving a smear of blood. “It’s just a scratch.”

“I’m not a gangster!” cries Alice. “There’s a new gang around, trying to force young locals to join them. I’m trying to shut them down!”

“I’m sorry, I can’t risk it.” He points to the door. “Get out!”

You grab the bag off Alice and plonk it on the counter top. “We can pay you!” You pull the bag open to reveal dozens of tidy rolls of money, held by rubber bands and packed tight. Shimmering among it is the famed statue.

“Is that the Opal Firebird? It was stolen from my shop ten years ago—my greatest treasure!”

“We’re private investigators, assisting the police.” You hold up the radio. “If you can get us somewhere safe, I’ll call for help.”

“Come through, come through.” He grips the leather tote bag and beckons you to follow. “My name is Atlas.”

You follow him deeper into the shop, stepping past delicate tea sets and dusty paintings. The walls are stacked with books, records, jewellery cases, figurines, vases and masks.

At the front door, the bell jangles violently.

Atlas whispers, “Hurry!” He presses on a hidden lever, and a bookshelf swigs away from the wall, revealing a brick alleyway beyond.

“You call for help,” Street says to Alice, deathly pale beneath the bloodstain. “We’ll stay out here and help buy you some time.”

Alice nods, her eyes huge with fear. Atlas dumps the bag at her feet and pushes the hidden door closed. He walks back to the counter, “Yes, yes, hold you horses. How can I help you?”

You and Street dive behind an antique dresser. A loud crash at the front counter makes the floor shake. “Tell us where she is, old man, or we’ll break more than your ugly vase!” They get closer and closer, pushing Atlas deeper into the shop, yelling threats.

You catch Street’s eye and point to the teetering tower of books between you. He nods in understanding.

Three thugs come charging past. Without a second’s hesitation, you shove the pile of books into their faces. One thug cops a first edition hardcover straight in the eye, and doubles over in agony. The other two trip and stumble over the debris.

Street is on them in an instant, grabbing the leader’s gun. “Stay down, all of you. Hands where I can see them!”

An engine roars around the corner, police siren blaring.

A crammed bookshelf begins to creak, and the thugs flinch, expecting another avalanche. Alice nervously steps out from the secret passageway, bag in hand.

“Traitor!” The thugs curse as she passes you the bag of loot.

You turn to Street. “So, did I get the job?”

“You betcha!” Street answers without taking his eyes off the thugs.

“Then, my first act as Assistant P.I. will be to hire another assistant. Interested, Alice?”

The grin on the young girl’s face, as the Police charge into the shop, is all the answer you need.