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Authors: Gabrielle Lord

January (5 page)

BOOK: January
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8 JANUARY

358 days to go

My nightmare receded as I realised that the howling wasn’t coming from that dark and
desolate
place that had haunted me for years, but was just a passing siren.

In the past week, most of my bruises had faded, and the gash on my hand was starting to heal. My mind was reeling with unanswered questions. I wanted to know why my life jacket failed, and who had deliberately damaged our boat. Had the danger Dad talked about in his letter followed me to the peace of Treachery Bay? The crazy guy’s warnings were haunting me, too. But I had survived the first week of the first month. 358 days to go.

After my shower I went to the kitchen to get something to eat. I heard Rafe coming down the hallway and wondered what he was doing back at our place. He walked into our kitchen with a bulging canvas grocery bag and some mail under his arm. He pulled out a loaf of bread and some wholegrain rolls, and put them on the bench.

Rafe passed Mum some mail as she came in through the laundry door. ‘These are for you, Win,’ he said. ‘They’ve been in the letterbox all night. But this one …’ He paused, looking up at me. ‘I’ll keep this. It’s for me. It’s from the hospice.’

He was holding a large envelope that was thick and looked like it was filled with papers. As he slipped it into his bag I caught a glimpse of the address on the front. The envelope was addressed to me!

‘Hey, that package is mine,’ I said. It must have been Dad’s drawings, from Dr Edmundson.

‘Nonsense. It’s official business. You know I’m handling the estate for your mother.’

‘But it’s addressed to me. Look at it!’

Rafe’s eyes, stern and steady, penetrated
mine. ‘You’re imagining things, Cal,’ he snarled.

I stared right back at him. He had intimidated me as a kid, but that was a long time ago. ‘It’s addressed to me!’ I repeated and lunged at the bag. Rafe violently snatched it away from my reach, then lost his balance on his bad foot and fell back hard onto the floor. Oranges spilled everywhere.

‘Cal!’ my mum screamed at me, rushing over to help him back up. ‘What in the world is wrong with you?’

They both looked up at me in disgust. I didn’t mean to hurt him—the idiot fell over himself. I was just about to say so, but I knew it was no use. Rafe shot me a filthy scowl as he steadied himself, then he turned to my mother. ‘You don’t have to rush, Win,’ he said, ignoring me. ‘We’re meeting the solicitor at three. I need to run some quick errands and drop the rest of these groceries off at my place. I’ll catch up with you a bit later.’

Rafe gathered up his oranges, tossed them back in the bag with the envelope, and left, letting the door slam on his way out.

‘Cal!’ Mum shouted at me again. ‘What is wrong with you? Why are you giving your uncle such a hard time? Do you know how difficult this
mess would be for me if he wasn’t around to help?’

‘Mum, that envelope had
my
name on it.’

She rolled her eyes. ‘And why would the hospice be writing to you, Cal? All the bills and other communications come to either me or Rafe!’

She paused and took a couple of deep breaths. ‘Look, I’m sorry Cal,’ she continued. ‘I know it’s hard for you, with Rafe doing all the things Dad used to do. But we can’t change what’s happened. No matter how much we don’t want it to be true. This is the way it is now. You can’t take your anger out on Rafe. We’re lucky we have someone looking out for us.’

I didn’t feel like breakfast anymore, so I got up and left the kitchen.

I knew Mum’d be standing there by the bench feeling helpless, watching me walk away from her. I couldn’t expect her to understand, but I knew what I had seen. Rafe was going to drop his grocery bag, with
my
package inside, back at his place. Somehow I had to get my hands on what was mine.

‘So Uncle Rafe and I are meeting the solicitor at
three o’clock this afternoon,’ said Mum, who’d quietly crept up to my door. ‘But I’ll be leaving shortly because I have other business in town. I should be home by six, Cal, but just in case I’m late, there’s some lasagne in the fridge. Can you please hold the fort here till I get home?’

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘We’ll be fine.’

‘Mum, I hate it when you’re home late,’ said Gabbi, having walked in on the last part of our conversation. She dragged her feet along the floor, arms out and head back like a zombie. ‘It’s so boooring here. Can I go to Ashley’s house?’

‘OK, but you’d better check with her mum first.’

‘I already have!’ said Gab with a flick of her hair.

Great, I thought. Mum out of the way. No little sister asking questions. Perfect conditions for a couple of investigators.

I phoned Boges.

‘I need your help.’

Ashley and her mum had just picked Gabbi up when my mobile rang. I pulled it out and headed
back to my room.

‘Is that Callum Ormond?’ a woman asked. I didn’t recognise her voice at all.

‘Yes. Who’s this?’

‘You don’t know me but I nursed your father at the hospice … He was a lovely man.’

‘You knew my dad?’ My stomach lurched. ‘You’re a nurse?’

‘No, I’m not anymore. Look, I know this might sound a little mysterious, but I really need to meet up with you. Your father gave me something to give to you.’

Dad couldn’t even talk by the time he came home to the hospice. How could he have asked her to give me something? I hesitated. Who was this woman?

‘My father couldn’t speak by then,’ I said.

‘That’s true,’ she agreed, ‘but words aren’t the only way a person can tell you what they want.’

What sort of language was she talking about?

‘What did he give you?’

‘Well, I don’t want to say too much—especially over the phone. Can you meet me tomorrow at the cenotaph in Memorial Park? Do you know it?’

I knew Memorial Park. It was on the outskirts
of the city, just over the bridge. I’d driven past it with Dad a few times and noticed the arched building at one end of it.

‘Yeah, I know it.’

‘Could you be there at nine tomorrow night? I have to work the late shift and can’t get away till then. I won’t keep you long.’

‘Can’t we meet earlier? Another day?’

‘I’m sorry, but that’s not possible. And I can’t risk my job. I’ll give you my mobile number in case something happens.’

‘What do you mean, “in case something happens”?’

‘I just mean, if you need to contact me.’

There was something odd in her voice, but I didn’t know exactly what. I took down her number.

‘What’s your name? How will I know you?’

‘My name’s Jennifer—Jennifer Smith. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

Before I could say anything else, she’d hung up. I wasn’t happy about the idea of meeting a stranger in a park at night but if I wanted to get hold of whatever it was that Dad had given her, I
had
to meet her. I needed every possible clue to Dad’s secret.

BOOK: January
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