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*****Promises to Keep*****

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Type of story: Long fiction

Rating: T

Main Characters: Kane and Scott Phillips, the Sutherlands.

Genre: Drama/Angst.

Warnings: Some violence.

Is Story being proof read: :P

Summary: Kane Phillips has a dark, terrible secret from his past that only his brother Scott knows about. But they were kids when he made his promise as they buried a blood-stained knife, jacket and rucksack on the edge of the moonlit churchyard. Years have passed by. Scott is in jail. Kane is married to Kirsty, holding down a responsible job and they have a five-year-old son Jamie. The past will stay buried forever. Or will it...?

*****promises to keep*****

But I have promises to keep

and miles to go before I sleep

Robert Frost

(The American poet)

chapter 1

The Beginning...

"Someone's comin', someone's comin'!" the little boy hissed in terror.

"It's the ******* wind, ya drongo," Scott Phillips said impatiently. Jeez, would his kid bro ever stop being a sook?

Kane looked up at the tall dark trees with their leaves shining silver in the moonlight and at the moon watching them intently through the branches. There was a lull in the breeze and for a few moments the only sounds were the sea rushing to the shore and the shrill call of crickets and, loudest of all, his own shuddering breaths.

He didn't know how they'd made it to the churchyard without being stopped. Scott seemed to know instinctively how to vanish into shadows and Kane had followed closely as Scotty instructed.

"We won't get caught 'cos I'm too smart," Scotty said.

But they were kids. Kids, out alone in the night, and in the jacket tucked under Kane's arm was a knife covered in blood. He was sure that at any minute a cop would clamp a hand on his shoulder, but Scotty acted like he hadn't a care in the world, nonchalantly swinging the leather rucksack as they walked. Once two wrinklies had looked at them curiously and Scott had acted quickly to allay suspicion before awkward questions were asked, tugging Kane into following on behind a young couple and their two small kids into a cafe-bar near the beach.

All six trooped into the dining area in search of a table and all six looked unhappily at the only free table, still littered with its previous occupants' dishes. Then one kid knocked over a half filled, cold cup of coffee and, as Dad irritably went to look for a waitress, and Mum, tired and harassed, mopped up the spillage, the little girl who had already been lifted into a chair, and who was the only one of the group to have noticed their uninvited dinner guests, sucked on her dummy and waited patiently for Kane to climb into the seat next to her, while Kane looked at the chair and wondered where to put the knife now that he and Scotty were apparently stopping to eat before they buried the evidence.

"C'mon, they've gone!" Scott whispered urgently, dragging him back outside as the kid to burst into tears at being abandoned again.

Somehow they made it to the old church without any more hassles, where, sick with fear, Kane unceremoniously chucked up on the stone steps that led to the first gravestone, commemorating a Samuel Edmund Coates, one of the co-founders of Summer Bay, then he chucked up again, twice, on the path nearby, shaking with terror, wiping his hot forehead with the back of his hand.

"You ******* animal!" Scott said in disgust, pushing him to where Samuel Edmund Coates hereth layeth sleeping in peace. Or trying to. "Get diggin', we haven't got all night!"

"Here...?" Kane gulped back tears, half expecting Samuel's skeleton to leap out of its coffin.

"Jeez, we haven't come here to take up ******* bodysnatchin' for a hobby, dork! Over there, by the fence."

They dug for an age into the soft muddy earth by the edge of the cemetery, stopping only when Kane's guilty conscience imagined footstep or to catch a breath or straighten stiff knees, scrabbling frantically with their bare hands till they were bloodied and sore.

"Deep enough," Scott declared at last, breathing hard.

The pale moon shone on his face and for the first time he looked afraid though he hesitated for only a second before dropping the bag into the hole and nodding for his younger brother to yield the knife and jacket.

"They can't pin nothin' on us 'cos only me and you know 'bout it," Scotty said, as they kicked over the last of the soil. "And I won't dob ya in s'long's ya keep ya mouth shut. But you gotta swear it's our secret and you gotta swear if I ever need ya help diggin' up the stash ya gotta do it."

"Swear, swear!" Kane promised, shaking his head emphatically.

He'd have agreed to anything as long as the knife was gone. He never wanted to see it again. Scotty could keep the fortune, that didn't matter. Kane looked down at his hands covered in the blood and dirt that Scotty said they could wash off easily in the sea. No matter how clean he got his hands, he didn't think it could ever be washed away.

"Blood brothers," Scotty grinned, as the moon slid behind a black cloud.



Jamie knew he was smart. Heaps smart. He'd been the only kid in kindy who could write his name without a single spelling mistake or back-to-front letter. The kindy teachers said it was a real hard name to write but Jamie could write it all, no worries, you could do things like that when you were smart.

"You know my name's James Daniel Phillips? I can write all my name all by myself."

He'd said it so proudly that day in big school and he waited for Mr Wilson to gasp in admiration (Mum and Dad said Jamie had tickets on himself though they always laughed when they said it).

Mr Wilson looked at him and he even smiled at him. But Jamie wasn't fooled. The guy hadn't liked his Dad. That was the trouble with being smart - you saw too much.




The minutes ticked by sooo slooowwwly. Face down on the desk, forehead resting on the back of his hand (he was meant to be sleeping) Kane Phillips carefully carved his name with a sharp stone while stealing glances at the clock on the classroom wall.

They hadn't begun learning Time yet but he'd seen the pictures in big bro Scott's homework book. Scotty had used "What Time Does It Say?" to block the draught from their broken bedroom window and Kane had curiously pulled the book back out again and spent a pleasant moonlit night, listening to Mum and Dad's latest drunken blue downstairs, shivering in thin pyjamas while a cold wind whistled round outside and Scotty snored, sketching matchstick men who climbed clocks, played footie inside clocks, and fell to their deaths off clocks, earning himself a bashing from Scotty next day for his artistic endeavours.

But, through looking at the pictures while drawing, he'd figured out o’clocks for himself. Big hand on twelve, little hand on ten...okay, okay, had to be...yep, ten o'clock! Jeez, forever and ever yet till both hands hit twelve, when he could stuff himself full of...

"Kane." Miss Murray spoke quietly as she gently slipped the stone out of the little boy's hand, but most of the kids hadn't gone to sleep during "ten minute nap" anyway and welcomed the distraction.

Kathy Murray sighed at the badly scraped desk. She loved kids and she'd always wanted to work with them but the Phillips boys were the toughest kids she'd ever had to teach.

"It's very, very naughty to be cutting your name into the desk and you know you should be sleeping," she said, keeping her voice low.

"I fell 'sleep soon as I got into school yesterday!" Kane said indignantly.

"Yes, and remember what we said then? We don't go to sleep when we come to school. We don't go to sleep when we're working. We only go to sleep when it's nap time."

"Yeh, well, I was workin' 'cos I'm gonna do Time like Scotty when I'm bigger."

The teacher blinked, wondering just what was going on inside his head. Some of the staff privately thought Kane and Scott were headed for a life of crime. It wasn't just the fighting, the stealing or the lying, there was a cold, hard edge to both kids. But Kathy Murray wasn't ready to give up on the youngster just yet. He was, after all, only five years old.

"No, Kane," she explained patiently. "You should have been sleeping."

Jeez, what exactly did these guys want? Kane looked heavenwards and kicked the bag under his desk for dramatic effect á la Scotty. And that was how Murraymints came to notice both the bag and the Easter eggs that toppled out.

"Oh, ******* hell," Kane said in mild resignation.


"I found my Dad's name!" Jamie announced.

Soon as he said it, he knew he should've kept quiet. Well, okay, he was smart enough to know that before he spoke but, hey, when you had a Dad as cool as Jamie’s you WANTED to shout about it. His classmates looked suitably impressed, but Mr Wilson obviously wasn't.

It was tough for teachers, Jamie supposed, they never got to leave school and get a proper job like everyone else. And Mr Wilson was ancient - prob'ly 'bout a hundred - Jamie's Dad had told him he'd been principal here once when he went to school! He wasn't the boss man anymore though. He'd gone to teach in another country for years, and now he was back in Summer Bay, he came in just coupla days a week, being too old to work all the time.

"Yes, James, unfortunately that's your father's handiwork alright," Ron Wilson shook his head disapprovingly at the words kane phillips carved clumsily and indelibly into the old desk.

"Nah, I get called Jamie..."

"But it was a long, long time ago when your Daddy did that...uh...Jamie...and I'm sure you're not as silly."

And Mr Wilson smiled again.

You had to hand it to the dude, he was trying real hard here. He couldn't help it if the smile wasn't in his eyes.


"For diggin'." Kane replied patiently, privately thinking it was a silly question. Wasn’t it obvious? He'd spent the whole of recreation using the small brown comb to dig up slugs, worms and snails that he'd carefully put into a box and poured out into the classroom, hoping for school to be cancelled.

"And the money, Kane," Ron Wilson sighed. "Why did you take the money out of my pocket too?"

Kane shrugged. Was the guy a total dill? "Jeez, why d'ya think? To spend, 'course."

Ron shook his head in despair. The digging had been last week's problem. Today it was the chocolate. The principal had even begun locking his office because of the Phillips boys, but Kane had needed only thirty seconds, thirty seconds while he was in the corridor speaking with a colleague and his secretary was momentarily distracted by a phone call, to locate the Easter eggs purchased for the Easter raffle, pick them up and walk out carrying the whole bagful.

"Kane, we can't go on like this. You know you can't go on being caught stealing, don't you?"

"Yeh," Kane said, gravely nodding agreement, pleasantly surprised that Mr Wilson should understand. "I gotta stop gettin' caught."

"You know I'll have to speak with your Mum and Dad?" And Ron Wilson shivered because the "Hell Houses", where the Phillips lived, was known to be a neighbourhood ruled by terror.

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*****chapter 2*****

"Hey, babe!"Kane Phillips greeted his wife as he always did, with a tender kiss, and Kirsty thought again how lucky they were to know a love so strong.

The round montage of photographs on the wall told their story.

Their wedding days, both the day they eloped and their later, official, wedding after her family had accepted Kane. The celebration meal the day they learnt Kane had finally beaten the cancer. Jamie, red and wrinkled, newly born.

Kirsty, fist raised and clenched in triumph, around her neck the gold Olympic medal she'd won swimming for Australia. Kane, handsome and happy, wearing his sea captain's uniform. The little family of three fooling for the camera the day they set off on the cruise ship Kane was captaining. Oh, for a little while they had been so golden!

And then the shadows had fallen with a bitter, unrelenting cruelty. The final picture was the one that Kirsty's gaze rested on now.

Of herself, pinched and pale, sitting up in the hospital bed, a garland of flowers in her hair, Kane with his arm wrapped protectively around his wife's shoulders, their cheeks touching as they cuddled a grinning Jamie between them. Their recommitment ceremony, when they annually reaffirmed their love, had this year coincided with side effects from the medication essential to prevent her weakened body rejecting the transplanted kidney.

Gone now were Kirsty's Olympic dreams. Gone too were Kane's dreams of captaining ships to far countries. He refused to leave his wife for the long periods he'd need to be away and settled instead for the little cruise ship that took day trippers as far as Yabbie Creek and round Summer Bay.

And, knowing how much that lost dream meant to him, she held him so tight.

"You okay?" Kane asked.

She nodded. "It never gets any easier."

"I know," he whispered.

"But I don't want her to ever be alone. Especially not today."

"Me neither, Kirst." He picked up the flowers, biting back tears.


Jamie tumbled out of school, yelling farewells to assorted mates, clutching a Shrek IV lunchbox and two newly painted pictures. Friday was normally the day Mum and Dad picked him up from school together because it was the day Dad finished work early and Mum didn't have TAFE, but today Anniedani was just arriving at the tree where the thick white blossom was falling like snow.

Last week Dad had suddenly picked up handfuls of the snowy petals and thrown them over Mum, just like they'd done at Anniejade's wedding, and Jamie had quickly joined in, both of them chasing her down the path, with Mum running away from them, laughing, turning unexpectedly at the school gate and firing Jamie's water pistol back at them.

"Suckers!" she'd yelled. "I thought you might try something like this so I came prepared!"

Jamie was used to other kids' parents staring when his Mum and Dad did stuff like that. It was like somewhere along the way they forgot to grow up and they knew they forgot but they still didn't care which made it all the more exciting.

"Sorry I'm late, Jamie. I had to go someplace."

Anniedani sounded out of breath, like she'd been running. She was like most grown ups, never dreaming of chasing round playgrounds, only glancing at the paintings (Mum and Dad spent ages over them) before declaring them cool. She always hesitated before she took his hand so, to save time, he didn't give her his hand right away and her eyes flickered for a moment as if she was wondering.

Yeh, he noticed that too. Funny the things he noticed and nobody thought he did.

After that uneasy second they were okay, with Jamie jabbering away nineteen to the dozen about everything he'd done in school. Especially about sitting again at the old desk where Dad had carved his name.

"Did you go to school with my Dad, Anniedani?" he asked curiously.

"Not till we were much older, J."

"Did ya like him?"

Wow, that must've been some question! Anniedani's fingers suddenly dug into his palm.

Dani looked down at her little nephew, choosing her words carefully. "I didn't really know him back then. Guess I didn't know him at all till him and your Mum fell in love, hey?"

He nodded gravely, feeling somehow like he'd been entrusted with a secret. Maybe one day, bit by bit, he would piece together the mystery. But not today. Anniedani looked somewhere faraway and didn't say anymore.

They had almost reached the old-fashioned sweetshop on the way to Grandad's and Jamie ran on ahead because he loved to hear the door swish and the bell ring before they were plunged from bright sunshine into the store's dim grey light.

It was as though they’d entered another world. The little boy could have spent forever looking round at the shelves of oddly-shaped jars, filled with all kinds of interesting lollies that wrinklies were always saying they hadn't seen in years. But at last he settled on the wine gums.

He watched, fascinated, as Mrs Parker, the stick thin, snow-white-haired old lady who owned the store, and who seemed to move in slow motion, very, very slowly, carefully positioned the stepstool, and climbed up shakily take the jar from the very top shelf. Reminding Jamie of a movie about to freeze frame at any moment, she poured the wine gums into the scales, and weighed the exact amount, then, with agonising slowness, scooped them into the paper bag before screwing the lid back on. Finally, she climbed shakily back on the stool and returned the jar to its rightful place. Then, breathless but extremely pleased with herself, she dusted herself down, put the stool back under the counter and took Jamie's money to ring into the old-fashioned cash register.

"Thank you," he said, taking his change. Mum and Dad would be stoked that he'd remembered to say it and that he was being sooo patient.

"What lovely manners, Jamie!" Mrs Parker remarked, making Anniedani smile.

"And another bag of wine gums. Please." He smiled up at the old lady and his aunt, sure they'd be real proud he'd remembered the magic word, and wondered why they were looking at him like that.

"'Cos I'm gonna give some to my Dad," he added, thinking maybe it was because they thought he couldn't eat so many lollies by himself.


Kirsty tenderly brushed her hand across the small white gravestone. The wind was gathering pace, just like it had done last week when Kane and Jamie had chased her with the white blossom, and the tree that towered over the little patch of ground like a jealous guardian was raining leaves down over the tiny grave.

She traced her fingers across the inscription and whispered gently to her child.

"Guess you're wondering where Jamie is, huh, Lulu? He's gone with your Aunt Dani to Grandad's, and, hey, your grandad's got that new kids' movie on DVD, the one...the one..."

She bit her lip, unable to say any more, and Kane, who'd been arranging fresh flowers on their little girl's grave, turned with silent tears streaming down his own face, and held her to his chest. They had been right not to bring Jamie to visit today. The anniversary of Kirsty losing the baby always hit them especially hard.

They sat on the bench where her name was engraved on the little gold plaque. In Loving Memory of Lily Phillips. A flower name, like they'd wanted, like Kane's late Aunt Rose. But she was Lulu to the family because Jamie hadn’t been able to say Lily when he was younger and had said Lulu instead. The nickname stuck. It was all they could give her to say she was loved.

The young parents wept softly for the daughter they had never known, two forlorn figures holding on to each other for strength, while the wind played in the grass and the church bells sang over the Bay.

And, hidden deep in Kane's heart, was another memory. Across the way, at the other side of the church, lay a dark, terrifying secret. Buried, he hoped, forever.

The tree that guarded Lily shushed and shook its branches fiercely as if daring anyone to intrude on their private grief. But it was too late. Someone unseen, unheard, had already watched and long gone.

And they carried inside them a terrible hate.

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*****chapter 3*****

At the very edge of Summer Bay, in a little town called Summerhill, on top of the hill which in ancient times had been the site of an Aboriginal settlement, stood the Hell Houses, once nicknamed the Hill Houses and the grand homes of the wealthy, but now, having become an area of rundown slums, acquiring a new nickname.

In hot, dry weather, broken drains often made the air smell putrid and the weeks leading up to that Easter had been exceptionally hot with very little rain. So the smell hit their nostrils the moment they stepped out of the car. Little Kane Phillips didn't bat an eyelid.

"Best if ya don't breathe in," he advised, kicking an empty beer can along the path, noticing the teacher had his hand over his mouth, but totally oblivious to the crackle of menace in the air as a small group of men across the road intently studied both Ron Wilson and Ron Wilson's sleek red car.

"G'day, Ron! Long time, no see!"

As if he'd already been watching, Richie "Gus" Phillips appeared suddenly in the doorway, making the principal jump, and the threat of danger from the group relaxed a gear, though Ron sensed he was still being closely monitored.

Kane stopped the kicking game and looked warily at his father and back at the beer can. You never knew if Dad was going to be drunk or not so you tried never to make a noise or draw attention to yourself till you checked it out, but sometimes, though he knew he shouldn't, he forgot and played.

"It's not a social visit, Richie," Ron said uneasily. "I need to speak with you about Kane."

"Yeh? And I thought you was just givin' my kid a lift home 'cos he was crook. You wasn't too peachy at brekkie, was ya, mate?" Richie smiled down at his small son, who remembered the morning and the cereal dish smashing against the wall, and decided maybe now was a good time to get his father on side.

"Dad, ya know the cops never catch ya nickin' stuff? I keep gettin' caught so Mr Wilson's gonna help me stop gettin' caught," he piped up innocently.

Jeez, what the hell'd he said? There was a terrifying look in his Dad's eyes that chilled him to the bone.


It was like old times, like going home, Dani thought nostalgically.

Tasha owned the caravan park now but Flynn and Sally Saunders ran it for her and when they'd had the chance of a round-the-world trip they'd asked Shelley and Rhys, the previous owners, if they would step in. It was an arrangement that suited everyone. Rhys was semi-retired and, apart from occasionally being asked to give talks on his days as a footie star, his main hobbies these days were fishing and walking, while Shelley was able to travel around quite easily in her work as a counsellor.

Things had been a bit strained in the Bay to begin with because most of the Hunter family still lived there, but it was a long time ago since Rhys Sutherland and Beth Hunter had had a relationship and Beth had moved on too. While they were never exactly going to be friends, Beth and Shelley were at least civil enough to one another, and, besides, the Sutherlands had something else on their minds. They were at last close enough to their grandson. At last close enough again to influence Kirsty.

"G'day, mate! How you doing?" Rhys was in the caravan park's private garden, repairing part of the fence that had blown down in the strong winds.

"You want me to build a new fence round the garden for you, Grandad?" Jamie asked, with all the self assurance of five years old, quite confident that he could.

"Ah...no thanks. We'll be right," Rhys said, exchanging an amused look with Dani as he gently punched his little grandson on the arm man-to-man . "Tell you what though, matey, I need someone to get the lemmo out the fridge. This is thirsty work."

"No worries!" Jamie ran off to the kitchen.

But Rhys Sutherland's grandson couldn't help glancing back, wondering. Yup, he was right! There again. Secrets nobody wanted him to know. Anniedani, nodding at something Grandad said, and Grandad, running his fingers through his hair like he was worried about something.

Grandad did that whenever he talked to Jamie's Dad too. There was something about Jamie's Dad that some people, even Gran and Grandad, didn't like, but they never told Jamie why and he had a feeling they didn't want him to ask.

All Jamie knew about the secrets was that his Dad got sad when he talked about when he was a kid and sometimes cried. He wiped his eyes fast if Jamie was around though and he and Mum thought Jamie never once saw. It was nearly Dad's birthday and Jamie had thought of a neat idea of how to make things better for him.


Dad had sent him up to his room (for effect, Kane knew, not because anyone gave a damn what he did) so he was watching from the window as Mr Wilson checked something out on his car. Musta had his mirror broke or door deliberately scratched or something. It was what they usually did in Summerhill to say they didn't like stickybeaks asking their stickybeak questions round here.

Kane chewed together the four sticks of gum that he'd robbed from old Nosey Parker's store (ha, didn't get caught every time!) and blew up the biggest pink bubble to ever burst against his face, watching with great interest as Scotty came round the corner, spotted the principal and dived quickly behind a low wall.

"Kane! You get your butt down here right now!"

Kane sighed, deposited the half-chewed gum on the window pane for later, and took the banister downstairs, a much slower method of transport than walking because the stairwell turning meant he had to alight halfway to catch the next banister.

But he was in no hurry. Mr Wilson coming round was no big deal. Kane and Scott were always getting into strife at school. If Dad'd been drunk and Mum gone out that really would've been something to worry about! But Dad hadn't started drinking yet and Mum was at home. He jumped off the final banister and was ambling leisurely towards the kitchen when a blow like a sledgehammer caught the side of his face.

"That'll teach ya to keep me waitin'!" Richie said as his fist came towards him again.

"Muuum!" Kane yelled urgently, startled and frightened at this unexpected turn of events.

Diane Phillips turned. She looked pale without her make-up but she'd gone back to bed in the arvo and hadn't had time to re-do her face. She was sitting at the kitchen table smoking and she flicked some ash into a cracked saucer.

Kane waited for her to jump up, like she always did, like she'd jumped up that morning when Dad had thrown the cereal dish and Kane had been quicker and ducked. He waited for her to say the usual stuff, the stuff that always got Dad to stop if he wasn't drunk, like she had that morning, when she'd roared, Leave the kids alone, Richie, or I walk!

And he waited for her to make Dad stop.

And he waited in vain...


Jade Miller sang along to the car radio, the usual rush of excitement sweeping over her as she turned left at the road-sign for Summer Bay. She hadn't phoned anyone. It had been a spur of the moment decision.

Seb was away for a week, training with the paraplegic basketball team that he was captain of, and Jade had decided to drive down and see her family. But it was Kirsty she wanted to see first.

Even though Jade wasn't technically a Sutherland, they had sworn they always would be twins to each other. The Bay always would be Jade's home, where she'd argued and laughed and fought and dreamed dreams with Kirsty and Dani, where she'd first met and fallen in love with Seb Miller.

They broke up when they were still teenagers, after Seb had been crippled in a tragic car accident, but a chance meeting years later had resulted in them falling in love all over again, and they had come here to marry last spring.

Her heart skipped a beat as she caught the first picturesque glimpse of Summer Bay: the church spire towering into the sky, the trees shivering in the wind, the sea dotted with water skiiers, surfers and brightly-coloured sailing boats. It never changed.

On an impulse, she drove down to a quiet spot on the coastal road, rolled down the car window and breathed in the freshness of the sea breezes. Much as she loved the pace and excitement of city life, it was good to get back to the timeless magic of the Bay. The church bells were ringing, bringing back memories of her wedding day, making her smile. For over a hundred years now, the old church had been conducting Summer Bay weddings and christening and funerals...

Jade started, stricken with sudden guilt. How could she have forgotten? How could she possibly have forgotten the anniversary of Kirsty losing the baby? But, unbelievably, inexcusably, she had.

She rested her forehead on the steering wheel, her mood suddenly sombre, thinking back to the dark days when nobody knew if her "twin" would live or die after the kidney transplant operation. Until then, nobody truly believed Kane Phillips loved Kirsty, but then, whenever he could be, he was with her. Hurting for her. If he could have breathed for her, he would have done, sitting by her bedside day after day after day. Where her twin should have been, would have been, if Jade hadn't still been reeling from the shock of discovering she'd been swapped at birth and was meant to be Laura de Groot.

It was hard to forgive herself even now for abandoning Kirsty. If Kane hadn't been constantly around, maybe she'd never have left, but he was there, where Jade used to be, taking Jade's place...

A car beeped its horn, shaking her back into the present. Maybe it was a better idea to go see Mum and Dad first (she'd never stop thinking of Rhys and Shelley as Mum and Dad) and catch up with Kirsty later. It was strange. The sun was still bright, the church bells still ringing, the sea still dotted busily with people and boats. Yet the day had changed.

The hill where the Hell Houses had once stood, now demolished and the area turned into a national park, seemed to look down on the Bay with a strange, brooding atmosphere and cloud shadows floated gloomily across the rough waters.

And, as if it knew of the deaths to come, a cold ocean wind began tearing ominously across the waves.

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*****chapter 4*****

They say everyone holds on to happy memories of their childhood. But if you don't have any happy memories then you can always hold on to a dream.

There was a photo in a silver frame...

It stood on top of the television set for years and never got broken, not even when Mum and Dad were fighting. Occasionally it even got dusted, on one of those rare days when Mum was singing as she did housework, when she still had the part-time job in Yabbie Creek before she got caught with a half empty bottle of vodka in her locker. Rare days when he and Scotty got home from school to find a dinner prepared for them and maybe even something bought in for their packed lunches.

Of course they were all still walking on eggshells till Dad got home because nobody ever knew how drunk he’d be and who'd cop it worst if he was totally blotto, but, for a little while, they were the family in the photo.

The sunlight shone in through the window behind this family he never knew, the top of a carefully pruned rosebush was just visible in their beautiful garden, the parents were smiling proudly as they posed with their two small sons, all gazing happily at Uncle Joe, Dad’s brother, who was the photographer.

A moment captured forever in time.

Kane, perched on Mum's hip, was about a year old and had chocolate all round his mouth, Scotty, halfway through eating an ice popsicle, stood in front, freckle-faced and grinning, Dad's hand resting on his head.

Kirsty asked why he wanted to keep it when his childhood had been so sad, because he had told her about the times when Dad was blotto or Mum was behaving strangely or Scott owed him a bashing. But he said they had been a family once. He knew because there was a photo.

And Kirsty didn't say anything, but she kissed him gently.

And now it was gone. Like a dream shattered by morning. While they'd been visiting their daughter’s grave, the wind that had torn down Rhys Sutherland’s fence had done one final act of damage, knocking the frame from the sill of the open window, smashing its glass and leaving the photo muddied and torn beyond repair.


The Sutherlands were preparing dinner when they arrived to pick up Jamie.

"Kirsty, Kane, great to see you,” Shelley greeted them, her smile movie star wide and movie star fake.

"G'day, you're early," Rhys said, running his fingers through his hair.

"Surprise, Kirst!" Jade grinned, flinging her arms round her sister.

Dani was placing a serving dish on the table. "There's plenty of food if you want to stay," she said awkwardly, with the effort she always needed to put into her voice whenever she spoke to Kane.

Jamie jumped off the chair he was kneeling on, knocking over the salt in his haste to tell his folks everything he'd done since he last saw them. But then he noticed that faraway look in his Dad's eyes, though he was laughing when Jamie told him about falling in the flour while helping Anniedani bake a cake, and he noticed Mum lightly place her hand on Dad's arm as she chatted with Anniejade. His folks were both real sad about something.


Melanie inhaled deeply and blew out a long plume of blue smoke.

"I'm tellin' ya, Mels. Stay with me and you'll be rich."

Melanie didn't answer. She didn't want to risk Scott's wrath again. It had been a hell of a shock when he'd lashed out like that. Her mouth was swollen and it hurt every time the cigarette touched her lips, but she desperately needed this nicotine kick. It had started with them laughing and Scott had still been laughing when he flicked the television switch back to what he wanted to watch yet again. And then the back of his hand had suddenly stung her face.

Shocked, she had staggered backwards into the chair with the dark, red blood pouring over her chin and into the palms of her hands. That had been over an hour ago. The blood had long since dried but Scott had been drinking and she didn't trust him not to lash out again.

Melanie had met guys like Scott before and she cursed herself for being so naive when she'd lived on the streets long enough to know. But he had seemed different. Good-looking, the gift of the gab, charismatic. Been straight with her from the start about being in the slammer though he hadn't said what for and she had chosen not to ask. There had been warning signs and she'd ignored them. Thought it was sweet he got angry when he imagined she was looking at other guys and she had to calm him down. Even though the truckie who had paid her a little too much attention had been so badly bashed the papers said his heart stopped beating twice and his own wife hadn't recognised him in the hospital. But Scott had never laid a finger on Melanie. Till now.

She listened to the TV commentator babbling over-excitedly about the footie match and watched a mouse scurry through the half light and under the door. Jeez, she hated the ******* things! And if there was one mouse, there were bound to be more.

The game drew to a close. Scott yawned and stretched.

"How about making a cuppa and some cheese toasties then, Mels, before we hit the sack?" he asked, as if nothing had happened between them.

“Yeh," she said dully, stubbing out the cigarette and picking her to the tiny, cramped kitchen.

Small wonder the sleazy-looking guy renting out the property had let them have it so cheap and hadn't needed references. The room was filthy with ingrained dirt and grease. She rinsed the blood off her hands with cold water and a peculiar-smelling soap that had been left by the previous occupant, filled the battered old copper kettle and set it on the gas ring, wrinkling her nose at the stench of gas as she fired up a match. She pulled out the grill, unable to stop a cry of disgust when she saw the mouse droppings that had been left there.

"What's up?" Scott suddenly appeared in the doorway.

"Nothing, nothing," she said quickly, anxious to avert another blue.

He grinned at the droppings inside the grill. "If you'd growed up where I did you'd'a soon got used to that kinda thing. You wanna forget the toast and we'll have cheese sangers?"

"Sure." Melanie reached for the loaf and froze as he grabbed hold of her wrist.

"Jeez, Mels! Anyone'd think ya was scared of me! I was only gonna say this ain't gonna be for long, y'know. Soon as my bro in Summer Bay pays me what he owes me we'll be set for life. You trust me, babes, don't ya?"

She nodded, forcing herself to return the smile. They had hitch-hiked most of their way down the vast coastline of Australia but Scott had recently acquired a rusty second-hand car. He hadn’t told her how and she'd deemed it wiser not to ask. They were close enough now for him to drive down to the little seaside town but he'd driven there alone, telling her he needed to check things out there first.

After what Scott had told her, she wasn't looking forward to meeting Kane Phillips, but she was looking forward to seeing Scott's hometown. She pictured Summer Bay with wide open countryside and golden sands, with a red evening sun setting on a calm river, where the cares of a city never touched.

Summer Bay. The name sounded so much like home.


Jamie was already awake when he heard his Dad having a nightmare but he didn't get up and go into Mum and Dad's room like he used to. Mum and Dad got so sad when Jamie was upset that now he pretended to be asleep. No one, not even Gran or Grandad, would tell him about why Dad had the nightmares but he'd figured it out for himself.

It must have been because Dad hadn't got any lollies when he was a kid. So Jamie had been saving up lollies for Dad's birthday prezzie. Except he kept eating them.

They were in a cardboard shoebox, rammed into one of drawers in his bed, and every night when he got the box out to look at Jamie couldn't resist sampling one or two. Tonight though he'd got even more carried away than usual. There were few lollies left in the box, melted chocolate all over his hands and the pillow, and as for the jelly babies... he didn't even want to think about the jelly babies!

A tear rolled slowly down Jamie's cheek for the best Dad in the world who was having nightmares because he hadn't got any lollies when he was a kid and who, thanks to Jamie, wasn't going to get any now he was grown up either.

Feeling crook after eating so much, and not wanting to spoil Dad’s surprise by yelling for Mum, Jamie drifted off to sleep still holding on to the box.


"Kane, it's okay, it's okay," Kirsty whispered, as she had whispered so many times before, when the childhood memories came back to haunt him.

He sat bolt upright, beads of sweat on his forehead, blinking back restless sleep, trying to erase the harrowing pictures from his mind.

"I didn't wake Jamie, did I? I don't wanna scare him."

"I listened. There's not a sound from his room." Kirsty said, with a quiet smile. It was so like Kane to always worry about their son. She gently stroked his face with her fingertips. "You want to talk about the dream?"

"Nah. Thanks. I'm alright."

"Okay." She never pushed him but let him choose his own time.

"Babe, you know I love you so much?"

"I know, Kane. I love you too."

The love was in her eyes, in the tears glistening there for his lost childhood, in her quiet, magic smile. How could he tell her? How could he bear to lose her love? She was everything to him. He could never, ever hurt her. He pulled her close and held her tight, pressing his lips against hers, wishing the kiss could take away her every sadness. He could never tell her his darkest secret. It would devastate her.

The knife, buried in the churchyard, would have rusted by now. But the blade would still be stained with blood.

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Many thanks for your lovely reviews, they always make all the time spent writing worthwhile. :D

*****chapter 5****

"What's keepin' ya?" Scott demanded impatiently, leaning against the car.

He couldn't risk staying in Summer Bay for too long. He was wanted for some pretty serious crimes here and, even though it was early morning and few people were about, he was worried somebody just might recognise him and put the cops on his tail.

"Just admiring the view," Melanie shrugged.

"So it's a ******* beach. Life's a ******* beach." Scott guffawed loudly at his own wit.

"You'd never understand," she muttered.

Summer Bay was even more beautiful than she'd dreamed. The coast road took her breath away. It dipped and curved and offered panoramic views of the countryside, of soft golden sand that seemed to stretch forever and of endless blue sea sparkling and rippling in the sunlight. Though it was barely past six o’clock, early morning swimmers were already out on the water and the day's first sunbathers were adjusting sunshades and smoothing sun tan lotion on to their skin.


"Lovely golden sand." She was becoming an expert at twisting words. Anything to avoid triggering his violent temper. There was a new bruise at the top of her arm from where Scott had pushed her yesterday and she was sweltering in cut-off jeans but they hid the deep, ugly gash on her shin where he'd kicked her because she'd angrily pushed him back.

"Don't'cha ever do that again," he'd warned, shoving her roughly against the wall. "You only get off lightly once. Ma tried that with my old man and nearly didn't live to tell the tale. Believe me, babes, neither will you."

Melanie didn't doubt it. Scott relished in tales of the late Richard Augustus Phillips. How he'd killed a man in a fight in a crowded bar and not a single witness dared come forward to give evidence. Time and time again she asked herself why she was still with him. Only an hour ago she'd thought of running, but Scott stirred from his doze when the car door was barely a fraction open to ask what was going on and she'd had to think fast.

"Uh...I need some air, to stretch my legs. The heat's making me feel crook."

Thankfully, he believed her story. "Jeez, why din'cha say so, Mels? We'll drive down the coast road, won't take long. Be heaps cooler there."

She breathed a huge inward sigh of relief that he was in a rare good mood, probably because he was so close now to getting his hands on the fortune the brother had been keeping for him.

"Bayside Diner won't be open yet. Let's go find someplace we can get brekkie," he said now, slipping his arm round her waist.

"Yeh, sounds good." Melanie smiled warily, aware he could snap any time, for the most trivial of reasons.

She wondered if Richie Phillips' wife had been the same with Richie, always trying to keep the peace, always scared of rocking the boat. But Melanie wasn't going to be as stupid. That fortune existed and they were talking megabucks, she could tell by Scott's eyes whenever he bragged about it. Deep down she hadn't wanted to leave him...at least, not yet.

Because there was no way she was ever going back to begging on the streets, to being stared at in disgust, to the rats and cockroaches crawling over her drug-racked body, to leering faces waking her in the dead of the night. She didn't know how or when but she was getting her hands on that fortune. And she didn't care who got hurt along the way.


"J! Coast is clear, he's gone!"

Jamie giggled. Mum was cool. She'd heard him creeping softly about in his room while Dad was in the shower getting ready for work.

"Jamie, this is NOT a good time to practise baby elephant jumps...uh!"

Kirsty took in the scene of carnage. Jelly babies, Smarties and wine gums were scattered around the bed and floor, a chocolate handprint that hadn't been there yesterday stained the wall, four monster eyeballs, the gruesome American candies that Jamie would insist on buying, were rolling towards her in a desperate break for freedom, and a Flake had been crumbled to death on the pillow.

Jamie sat on his bed in the midst of it all, clutching a cardboard shoebox to his chest, his face streaked with tears and chocolate.

"It's Dad's birthday prezzie an' I was being real quiet so's he wouldn't know, but I dropped heaps," he sniffed, a fresh tear rolling down his face to join last night's zig-zag streaks.

"Looks like you ate heaps too, matey," Kirsty said, shaking her head at the mess as she sat on the bed beside him, thankful Jamie's "real quiet" thudding about had alerted her to the crisis before it got any worse, the mystery of why she'd been able to smell chocolate and candy in the room every night finally solved.

She wasn't looking forward to cleaning up but Jamie looked too woebegone and probably felt too crook for a ticking off and his thoughtful gesture brought a lump to her throat. Besides, she felt she couldn't say too much on this one.

She'd lost count of the number of times when as a kid she'd talked poor Jade into sneaking food upstairs for a night-time feast and insisting, so as not to be found out, they had to eat and drink everything they'd snatched, no matter what it was. Their childhood home probably still bore the mark from the squirty bottle on an upstairs ceiling and neither of them had touched Tabasco sauce since.

"I was only lookin' at it!" A second tear trickled down Jamie's face.

"Don't worry, J, we can fix things," Kirsty said, looking down at the box where several jelly babies with their heads bitten off lay with the monster eyeballs that she'd picked up and thrown in out of harm's way. Jamie's birthday gift to his Dad looked more like a death threat.

"An’ I didn't eat any of the black wine gums," Jamie said, with a half sigh, half sob, stricken with guilt now the present was just a pathetic mish-mash of melted chocolate and sticky goo.

His young mother smiled, amused. "Well, that's very, very generous of you, Jamie."

"Yeh,” Jamie said, brightening at the praise. “I don't like black wine gums. Never eat 'em!"

"Mmm, reckon what we'll do, J, is get a new box, packets instead of loose stuff..."

"Kirst! You with Jamie? Is he okay?"

"Ssh!" Kirsty warned him. "Yeh, he's fine, Kane. He's gone back to sleep."

She gently pressed her fingers on Jamie’s mouth to stifle his laugh and whispered something quickly in his ear before she left. Jamie listened at the door. They were playing "last kiss" which always ended with Dad having to run or he'd be late for work.

"I won, I won!" Dad was yelling triumphantly.

"You cheated!" Mum shouted as he ran down the path.

She yelled up to Jamie soon as she closed the door and he crept down the stairs, though he knew Dad couldn't possibly hear him. It was all part of the magic of having parents who didn't care that they forgot to grow up.


Jade felt more relaxed than she had in ages. It had been hard coming to terms with not being a Sutherland. Everyone said it didn't matter, that she'd always be family, but there was always that niggling doubt at the back of her mind.

Down on the beach she and Dani had been reminiscing about when they were kids and remembering a time when she hadn't known the truth had made her feel, if only briefly, like she belonged again. They were still laughing as they entered the Diner and high-fived each other Cool Chicks style.

It was nice to see the old place had hardly changed. The walls had been painted a new colour, more healthy options had been added to the familiar menu and the music pounding out reflected the musical taste of today's kids. But, just as they always remembered, the delicious aroma of fries and doughnuts hung in the air, Colleen Smart and Alf Stewart were huddled in gossipy conversation with a customer, and teenagers were having brekkie and no doubt still falling in and out of love and friendships over burgers and cokes.

"Strike me roun, it's Jade and Dani Sutherland!" Alf exclaimed in delight, causing one or two people to look round in curiosity.

"Jade Miller and Dani Harrison, Mr Stewart," Jade corrected. “We’re both married now, you know.”

"'Course I know that, love! You caught me on the hop and old habits die hard. Seb didn't mention you were paying us a visit."

"Spur of the moment decision," Jade said, grinning back. As Seb's only relative apart from Don Fisher, Alf was almost her father-in-law.

"Though you never were a Sutherland to begin with, were you?" Colleen observed.

"Colleen, that's none of our business!" Alf exclaimed.

Dani squeezed Jade's arm. "Jade and I grew up together, Mrs Smart. We're sisters and we'll always be sisters."

"Pardon me, I'm sure. I wasn't meaning anything by it." Colleen Smart sounded offended and she was genuinely surprised.

She had both a grown-up son and a grown-up daughter but they and their families lived too far away to visit often. Colleen, who was the type of person who always had to have someone to look after, had more or less adopted the Phillips. She had thought, when Kirsty's parents came back to the Bay, they wouldn't want her around anymore and had been touched and flattered when Kane reassured her, with a cheeky grin, that she was almost family and, as such, “part of the furniture round their place”. As "almost family", she'd felt entitled to ask questions.

"Doesn't matter," Jade murmured, though it did, a lot, and it still hurt.

"Sutherland. So you'll know a Kirsty Phillips? I believe she’s related to the Sutherlands who run the caravan park?"

For the first time, Jade and Dani noticed the customer Alf and Colleen had been deep in discussion with. The man gazed back at them with equal interest. Flecks of grey peppered hair that was still almost black, and his face was weatherbeaten but, despite his advanced years, he was ruggedly handsome with an olde world charm and Colleen was flirting unashamedly.

"I'm so sorry, I haven't introduced myself. How d'you do? I'm Ron Wilson."

"Dani, Jade. Kirsty's our sister and it’s our Mum and Dad who run the caravan park," Dani said, catching Jade's eye and fighting back an urge to laugh as they all gravely shook hands, the formality so unlike the easygoing ways of Oz. "Um...you're English?"

"No, Summer Bay born and bred," he said, to their surprise. "But I left these shores for England many years ago and only recently returned. However, I do tend to think of myself as English these days - I've even acquired an English accent!"

"And a fine accent it is too," Colleen giggled affectedly.

"Strewth, woman!" Alf said, amused.

Ron Wilson politely chose to ignore both comments.

"I know Kirsty through her son Jamie and because I understand she's shortly to become a colleague of mine at Summer Bay Primary. And I know her husband because I taught him too, when he was Jamie's age. With his family background, I never imagined Kane Phillips growing up to become a responsible citizen!"

Jade ordered their OJs and the small talk continued but, mindful of Dani's feelings, they all skirted around discussing Kane Phillips further. Though he was married to Kirsty now, they could never forget the time he and his brother had taken Shauna Bradley hostage or that he had raped Dani and torn the Sutherland family apart.

And even after all these years, even after all the counselling, Dani had to do something to make the nightmares stop. She stirred her drink and chatted happily but she was a million miles away. Because she couldn't tell anyone what was in her mind.


Melanie squinted through the splashes of rain that hit the car window. So this was the brother. Like Scott, he was good-looking. The uniform he wore made him even more handsome. Scott had mentioned something about him working on the Yabbie Creek ferries.

She studied Kane Phillips carefully, trying to read how he was taking Scott's proposal. He was shaking his head and making gestures with his hands as if to emphasise something. It even seemed as though he was going to walk away at one point and passers-by on the rain-lashed Yabbie Creek street glanced across as if words had become heated.

She trembled as she rustled through the glove compartment for their last packet of smokes and lit up a cigarette. If they began fighting, Scott might take it out on Melanie afterwards. His brother didn't seem the violent type, but then again neither had her boyfriend. And violence was in their blood. They were the sons of a killer. She looked up again at Scott's brother and shivered. Looks meant nothing. This guy was a sicko. Scott had told her that Kane Phillips had once raped a girl and, even when he was just a little kid, he had pulled a knife. A bloodied carving knife that they'd buried in the grounds of the old church.

Scott finally returned to the car and she wondered if she dared ask the outcome. They had spent their last few dollars on brekkie and he was using any excuse to lash out. Scott himself saved Melanie the trouble of asking.

He grinned in satisfaction as he took a cigarette and crumpled the empty packet.

"It's sweet, Mels. He's gonna do it.” He unrolled a fistful of dollars. "And my kid bro was so pleased to see me he even gave me a hundred bucks."

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*****chapter 6*****


Kane had just finished his shift and was making his way along the wharf when, snatching him abruptly out of his thoughts, the human cannonball tore towards him, Kirsty following behind.

Scott's unexpected return had unnerved him, stirring up a past he wanted to forget. When he saw his wife and kid it was hard to believe any of that past had happened at all. His heart skipped a beat with a rush of love for the two people who were his whole world. He watched in amusement as Kirsty, with devilish humour, caught Jamie by surprise, abruptly breaking into a run and overtaking him.

Jeez, it was so good to see her getting back to her old self! The health problems may have halted Kirsty's Olympic dreams, but her teacher training course was going well, her next placement with a much younger age group, at Jamie's own school and, though the Yabbie Creek ferry didn't go as far as he'd always dreamed of travelling, he got on well with his crew and loved the freedom of the open waters.

And the proof of their love, Jamie, the little guy making people smile now as he happily raced the length of the wharf, stoked to see his Dad.

Like a symbol of hope for their future, a large misty rainbow stretched over the river where the gulls were squawking noisily, spinning and darting around the ships. After all the setbacks, after the tragedy of losing Lily, after Kane's cancer scare, things were finally coming together for him and Kirst. Or had been until today and Scott. He quickened his pace to meet with his wife - and, to his shock, Kirsty blanked him and ran straight on past!

She turned, crying with laughter at his and Jamie's astonished expressions.

"You nut!" Kane smiled, loving her so much.

Kirsty wiped her eyes. "Takes one to know one, Kane," she said, coming back to kiss him and steal his captain's hat to place on her own head.

Jamie grinned. It was cool having parents who were always fooling around. There was a large, deep puddle directly in front of him, just asking to be jumped across, and he took a giant leap - but didn't quite make it and suddenly found himself up to his ankles in icy cold water.

"Ha!" he said, with a casual toss of his head, pretending he'd meant to do that.

"Mate, your trainees!" Kane said, though he couldn't help laughing. "I miss doing that!" he whispered wistfully to Kirsty.

"Count of three," she whispered back. "One, two..."

The anger eating away inside made it too unbearable to watch any longer. At least at the church there had been the satisfaction of knowing he was suffering. Yet look at him now, laughing as if he knew how it mocked, splashing around in puddles like a stupid kid. All those years, all those years of pain, yet he got the girl of his dreams, had a kid who adored him, strolled around Summer Bay as if he owned it. If there were any justice in the world he would be rotting in jail. Yet wasn't there a saying about revenge being a dish best served cold? Perhaps after all it had been worth waiting so long and to wait just a little longer for wheels to be set in motion.

A promise was a promise.


"Oh, I'm so sorry, Mr Wilson!"

Colleen Smart's "accidental" crash into the elderly man was so obvious that the young couple strolling hand-in-hand in the opposite direction burst out laughing. They had watched, concerned that she was ill, as she suddenly put her hand to her forehead and veered sharply left. Then she peered momentarily from under her hand, the ghost of a smile playing on her lips, at the distinguished-looking man who was leaning on the rails, taking in the magnificent sea views, until the storm force collided with him.

"Please, Mrs Smart, call me Ron," Ron Wilson said, gallantly steadying her, recovering his breath with difficulty after Colleen's hard head in his chest had so suddenly winded him.

"If you insist, but you must call me Colleen." Colleen fluttered her eyelashes, struggling to gaze up into his eyes through the stickiness of too many coats of mascara.

"Colleen." Ron Wilson amended, with a quiet smile. "Well, Colleen, the least I can do to make sure you're alright is to buy you a coffee. Would you do me the honour of accepting?"

"Delighted," Colleen said, taking the proffered arm, looking daggers at the young couple nearby who were laughing heartily.


Rhys read the yellow, musty-smelling newspaper again, shaking his head. "It's like I always said, Shell. Bad blood runs in the Phillips family."

For Kirsty's sake, because they didn't want to lose her, they had accepted Kane as their son-in--law. But it left a bitter taste. No matter how much he had changed, he would still be the man who raped their eldest daughter. Violence was in him, inherited from his father. And now that their grandson was growing up with Kane Phillips as his father they lived in dread of history repeating itself, of the day that Kane, like Richie, had one drink too many and beat up his wife and child. And then what of Jamie? What if he too grew up thinking violence was the way to solve problems?

In the very early days, Shelley and Rhys had tried to convince Kirsty and Kane of how much money they could save, how much better off Jamie would be, if his grandparents raised him. But the young parents wouldn't have a bar of it. Jeez, they'd live on ******* bread and water for this rugrat, Kane said, eyes shining as he cradled his baby son.

Jamie uttered his own first swear word when he was two. By three-and-a-half, he had acquired a "cool tough guy swagger", as Jesse MacGregor once laughingly called it. And at kindy, while he didn't exactly start fights and had plenty of mates, there was a very clear understanding that Jamie Phillips was not a kid to be messed with.

While they'd lived away from the Bay, Rhys and Shelley hadn't been able to do much about getting their grandson away from Kane, but now they were back they were pulling out all the stops.

"The old, old story. Nature or nurture," Shelley said, casting her mind back to Uni and heated debates on the subject.

She frowned at the picture of Richie "Gus" Phillips that accompanied the article. The resemblance between father and son was striking. Just as it was with Jamie and Kane. Dani had said yesterday that when Jamie was a bub she'd been able to cope, but as he grew to look more like Kane it was becoming harder and harder. Their eldest daughter and her husband wanted to start a family but the memory of the rape was always there and, like Jade, she'd come back to Summer Bay to think things through.

Jade too had her problems. Seb had been told it was unlikely that he would ever father children. Much as she loved Seb, Jade was devastated. Since discovering the truth about her birth, she felt as if she'd fallen into an abyss and was still falling.

The plan to take Jamie away from Kane united them all. Friendly attempts had failed. They had no choice but to fight dirty.

Rhys looked with grim satisfaction at the article, forgetting he was tired, muddy and thirsty after a long walk in the open countryside. Shelley had handed him the newspaper, smiling.

For some time now, through her social work connections, Shelly had been compiling a dossier on Kane Phillips, to back up their claim when she and Rhys pursued guardianship through the courts. A colleague had chanced upon the newspaper when lifting old carpet and, remembering Shelley's investigations, passed it to her. There it was in black and white. The story of Richard Augustus Phillips being arrested under suspicion of murder.

"We mightn't need to go to court. Even Kirsty might finally see sense when she reads this," Rhys said, echoing Shelley's thoughts.


The old church stood black and silent at the top of the wide stone steps, the ancient graves on the hill tinged by moonlight, the silhouettes of trees shaking gently in the wind.

Black sailing clouds drifted slowly past the moon just as they had done on that long ago night. He could almost hear Scotty's voice telling him to hurry, almost feel again the impatient jab in his back. He shivered at the thought of how close he would be again to the knife.

Every time he visited Lily's grave the memories rushed back, taunting him even in his heartbreak. At least after tonight, once he kept his promise, his brother would be out of his life forever. There was no way Scotty would hang around with all those riches. Kane took a deep breath as he turned to the steps.

A sharp squeal of breaks startled him as a car skidded to a sudden halt beside him.

Its driver rolled down the window. "Mate! I thought it was you! What the hell you doin' here? You alright?"

"'Course I'm ******* alright!"

Jesse MacGregor, unaware he had just ruined everything, glared angrily back. He too could be as hot-headed as the younger man, knew too how hard it was living down a past. No matter what you did, no matter how hard you tried, there were still people who looked down their noses.

Not so long ago, at a residents' meeting Alf was holding at the Surf Club, Kane had tired of the constant jibes one guy kept making about crims and their families, and had picked up one of the jugs of iced water Alf had thoughtfully provided and slowly and carefully poured the entire contents over the man's head. Jesse had laughed as loudly as everyone else, but it was the difference between Kane and himself. Nowadays Jesse controlled his temper albeit with effort. But Kane...there always would be that edge to Kane Phillips, that hidden darkness from his past. Perhaps only Kirsty would ever truly know him.

"Cool it!" Jesse growled now as he got out the car. "I'm on your side, remember?"

"Yeh. I know. Sorry."

"So...what brings you out here?"

Kane shrugged and thrust his hands in his pockets. From the corner of his eye he watched a cop car pull up, its occupants studying them both with great interest. To the cops, Kane Phillips and Jesse MacGregor always would be crims. There was nothing he could do now without arousing further suspicion.

"Ah, I couldn't sleep, ya know? Needed some air."

Jesse's frown deepened. It was one hell of a long, long walk from the Phillips' home to where they now stood.

"Look, you're a good mate, and if you're up to your neck in somethin' dodgy, then I'm not gonna stand back and let you stuff up..." Then he remembered something. He had bumped into Rhys Sutherland recently and Rhys had mentioned it. "Aw, Jeez, mate, I'm sorry! It's Lily, isn't it? The anniversary? Me and my ******* big mouth!"

"It's not Lily. Stay out of it, Jess." Kane spoke through clenched teeth. He couldn't bring himself to use their little girl as an excuse. Their loss was so raw, their hearts so empty.

Jesse MacGregor reckoned his friend was denying his emotion out of embarrassment. And he understood, suddenly embarrassed himself. It was a bloke thing. Chicks had heart-to-hearts, cried on each other's shoulders. Blokes bonded over footie talk and rarely mentioned feelings. He shuffled uncomfortably.

"You wanna lift back?"

Kane nodded dully. There was no chance the cops were ever going to leave now. He had no choice but to face the consequence of Scotty tomorrow. "That'd be good. Thanks."

Jesse didn't want to upset him further over Lily and so they said little as the car swept smoothly through the quiet night streets.

"See ya," Jesse said, clearly still uncomfortable, as he pulled up outside the Phillips' house.

"'Night. Thanks." Kane soundlessly closed the car door behind him.

Scotty had taught him well when he was a kid, when he taught him how to creep silently when they broke into places to steal. Not a sound, not a whisper, broke the stillness of the night as he double-checked locks and alarms, looked in on Jamie, and finally entered their bedroom.

Kirsty still lay fast asleep, eyes shut tight, dreaming quiet, untroubled dreams, hair spread across the pillow, one arm curled over her head, her breath rising and falling in a gentle, steady rhythm.

Kane slipped into the bed beside her and in her deep sleep she flipped to her side, curving her soft, warm body against his, flinging her arm trustingly across his waist. He caught hold of her hand reassuringly though she still didn't wake. He had to watch over Kirsty and Jamie even more protectively now. Scott would carry out his threat to harm them if Kane didn't keep the promise. He stared sleeplessly into the moonlight remembering a scared little kid and a past that had come back to haunt him.

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Thanks for your nice comments. Always appreciated. :D

*****chapter 7*****

G'DAAAAY, ANNIETASHAAA!" Jamie yelled, so loudly that, at the other end of the line, Tasha almost dropped the phone in shock.

Kirsty picked up the receiver again. “Sorry, Tash," she apologised quickly before handing the phone back to Kane, who'd just enjoyed a long birthday chat. Tasha was anxious for him to know she hadn't forgotten his birthday prezzie, but, for reasons he'd find out, Tash said, it had to wait till she got back. She turned to her small son. "J! What's with all the shouting?"

"She's a long way away in France!" Jamie announced helpfully. Obviously Mum had forgotten.

Kirsty grinned and began to explain to Jamie how Tasha could hear them all perfectly well, even in France.

"I...uh...didn't get you guys up real early again, did I...?" Tasha asked anxiously.

She was leaning on the wrought-iron balcony of the hotel, enjoying the refreshing night air on her face and inhaling the heady scents of Paris. Lamplight shimmered on the dark waters of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, where she was doing a photo shoot tomorrow, looked breathtakingly romantic.

This was her first modelling assignment abroad and France had taken La Tash to its heart. But, despite the glamour, she was missing Summer Bay. She'd have given anything to be with Kane, Kirsty and Jamie right now.

"Five fifteen here," Kane said, checking his brand new watch.

When the phone's shrill ringing had snatched them rudely from their slumber, Kirsty, like an excited kid, had plucked the long red box from under her pillow where she'd hidden it last night. It must have taken her ages to save for, he thought, his heart skipping a beat with love for her. They struggled to manage on Kane's salary while Kirsty studied to be a PE teacher, and the hundred bucks blackmail money he'd given Scotty (Kirsty assumed he'd paid a bill) had left them almost broke.

"Rats! I can't get the hang of this time zone thing."

"Aw, Kirst and me would've been up in an hour or so anyway, and J don’t know it yet but he's going back to bed. And don't ever change," Kane said, amused. Tasha was like a sister to him. Maybe if she'd been here in the Bay he might have told her everything. She'd been through enough in her own childhood so maybe, just maybe, she'd be the only one who would understand. But Tasha was in Paris and he couldn't confide in her over the phone a secret that would break Kirsty's heart.

Tasha swung round on hearing a knock on her hotel room door. "Uh-oh! That’ll be someone to let me know my cab’s arrived! Gotta put a wriggle on, dinner date interview thing with a fashion mag."

"Wow! Go, Tash! I'm impressed!"

"Rather be out in the bush eating burnt sausages and drinking stewed tea out of a billy can," Tasha said honestly, in one of her usual disarming statements.

There wasn't time to say much more. Just time for a final 'happy birthday' wish, to Kane from Tasha, and for Jamie to whisper 'See ya, Annietash' so low that nobody could hear.

"Louder," Kirsty advised.

"You said..." Jamie looked puzzled, then decided Mum must have changed her mind and realised he was right all along. The shout came from his stomach. His loudest effort yet. After all, Annietash was at the other side of the world. "SEEEE YAAAAA, ANNIETAAAAAAAASH!!!!!!"

"J, I thought I explained to you..."

"You're gonna make some teacher!" Kane teased, laughing.

Smiling, Kirsty thumped him and slipped a CD into the music centre. Their song, the song Kirsty had sung especially for him at their first recomittment ceremony, filled the room, Kirsty's voice rising haunting and beautiful in the quiet of the early morning.

"I love you, Kane Phillips," she whispered, wrapping her arms around him.

They danced close, faces cheek to cheek, while Jamie danced wildly around them and the slow waking sunlight cast long silhouettes. Then the little family joined hands in a circle and the dance changed to a faster rhythm to meet with Jamie's frantic pace, randomly swinging each other around till they were, all three, breathless with laughter.

At last Jamie rested on the floor, leaning against the wall, looking sleepily up at his parents who were whispering stuff they didn't want him to hear, stoked to see his Dad happy again. He'd cried a bit when he opened the gift-wrapped shoebox and saw the bars of chockie and packets of lollies Mum and Jamie had got for him, but Jamie knew somehow they'd been good tears.

He closed his eyes and drifted into a wonderful dream of chocolate as his father tenderly carried him to his room and tucked him back in bed.


Dani had woken early and gone for a long solitary walk on the beach, only turning back when hunger pangs reminded her it hadn't been a good idea to skip brekkie. Even then she was reluctant to leave, staring unseeingly out at the waves.

When she was in high school, before it all happened, it had been so easy to forget her worries here, strolling on sun-kissed sand under cloudless blue skies, watching the waves roll rhythmically over a blue-green sea.

Sometimes maybe some hunky guy's gaze would follow her and she would pretend not to notice, secretly rapt. It took so little then to make her feel good about herself and the world again. A new guy's smile or the sun's warm touch or the panoramic views of the Bay. But that was a time when all she had to worry about were boyfriends or zits or unwritten homework assignments. A time before Kane Phillips ruined her life. The sea could soothe but it could never wash away the horrific memories.

Her mobile bleeped. I luv u her husband Mark had texted, followed by a heart and three smiley faces. It brought a lump to her throat. She wished so much she could talk to him about all this crazy stuff going on inside her head. She loved him, she should have been able to, yet she couldn't. He'd been so understanding when she said she needed to see her family again.

"We should have a break before we're tied down with kids," he'd said, unaware he hadn't figured in Dani's holiday plans, enthusiastically checking out the map, keen for them to drive out to the Bay's surrounding beauty spots. Until work commitments vetoed his leave.

Dani feigned disappointment, inwardly breathing a huge sigh of relief. Even if he managed the odd day off, Summer Bay was almost a day's drive away. Deciding against a long drive herself, Dani had travelled several hours by train, followed by a final hour on a hot, stifling bus. But it had given her time to think. To try and find a way that would end the pain forever.

She kicked her way through the warm sand, lost in thought. Her walk back to the caravan park would take her past her younger sister's house, if she turned off and took the popular short cut. Dani swung in that direction. She might just make it in time to wish Kirsty good luck on her first day in the new training placement, maybe, if she could bring herself to, even wish Kane a happy birthday.

Until they could afford a place of their own, Kirsty and Kane were renting a small, quaint property that had been built in open countryside many years ago. Civilization had crept very slowly towards the eccentric little building with its uneven windows and crooked chimney pot, and then passed it by. While it was still surrounded by greenery, there was now a huge field where the horses belonging to the Yabbie Creek riding school were able to run freely, and a zig-zag lane that led to the narrow winding cliff-top road and, eventually, the main coastal path itself. The popular short cut that led to the cliff-top walk and the beach was yet to be cleared however and Dani pushed back thick, tangled overgrown weeds as she neared the opening.

Her sister and brother-in-law stood a little distance away, about to get into their ramshackle old car. Kirsty, looking grown up and beautiful in a classy trouser suit, was busily clicking shut a briefcase, Kane, tanned and handsome in his white sea captain uniform, was checking the time on his watch.

The car stereo was blaring out their recommitment song and, in the back seat, Jamie, without knowing what the words were all about, was singing tunelessly along at the top of his voice, bouncing up and down to the beat as much as his seat belt would allow him to. Kane said something to Kirsty that made her smile and she kissed him lightly on the cheek as they climbed in the car.

They looked so happy together, Dani thought, suddenly freezing. As she had done that terrible day. Tears welled up in her eyes as the harrowing memories came flooding back.

"Kane, no."

He doesn't seem to hear her. He thinks she's still playing games. It's not a game anymore but she doesn't know how to tell him. She loves Will, she was only flirting, why can't Kane understand this? Why won't he believe her?

"Kane, no, please don't..."

Tears streamed down her face as though they would never stop. She watched the car nose carefully down the country lane and vanish round the steep bend. All the counselling, all the talking and compromises and mediations, it made no difference. She'd tried and tried, but the pain was still there.

Perhaps there was only one way to make it go away.


Jade suddenly forgot her hangover as she read the newspaper article. She and Dani had met up with some old friends the day before. Of course they’d invited Kirsty along too but Kirsty had taken a rain check, saying she had her teacher training to think about in the morning.

Dani had been strangely quiet all night, steadfastly working her way through soft drinks, while the rest of them became more giggly and loud as they reminisced. They had got home in the early hours and Jade had staggered her way up to bed while Dani had been stone cold sober. She'd got up late and found a note from Dani saying she'd gone for an early morning walk to "clear her head".

"It was years ago," she said now. "And he wasn't charged."

But her heart was beating so fast. Having Kirsty back in her life would be a dream come true. Maybe she could even persuade her "twin" to come to the city to live with her and Seb. Once she knew this about Richie “Gus” Phillips, surely Kirsty would stop being blinded by love and finally see what everybody else saw, that violent streak bubbling just under the surface, that one day Kane would become like his father and brother.

And when she finally left him, it would be just like the old days, Jade and Kirsty sharing girly chats, so close they could often read each other's mind. She could introduce her to some of their unattached mates, Jason was very shy but great company once you got to know him, and Andy was a well-off career guy who loved sport as much as Kirsty did...

"I did lots of ringing round and research to get the full story soon as I read this," Shelley said, interrupting her chain of thought. “The only reason he wasn't charged was because every witness was too terrified of Richie to give evidence. But everyone knew he was the killer."

Jade nodded. She hadn't asked the question because she believed Richie Phillips was innocent, she’d asked it because she wanted to convince herself of his guilt. She pushed away the toast she'd been trying to force down herself in an effort to take away the nauseous effects of too much alcohol, too excited now to eat.

Wait till Dani got back from her walk and heard all this! Soon, with any luck, Kane Phillips would be no more than a bad memory to every single one of them.


Melanie was working hard at keeping Scott sweet. She cooked him his favourite brekkie, didn't complain the flat they were renting in Yabbie Creek was every bit as bad as, if not worse than, the last place, complemented him on everything and anything.

"That haircut I gave you suits you, Scott. Makes you look real handsome."

"Ta, Mels, gotta agree with ya there!" Scott said, pleased, pausing from ranting about Kane to check himself out in the mirror again.

God, she'd never despised anyone so much in her life. Sooner she got her hands on this cash and away from Scott Phillips forever the better.

The brother should have met them last night but he hadn't showed and Scott was ready to kill. Melanie had no intention of getting in the way. The last time she'd seen him this angry was just before he bashed the truckie so bad the guy had been rushed into ICU on the brink of death...

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Is it wrong of me to actually like Melanie? I feel so sorry for her having to live with Scott!

Melanie has a lot of secrets... :wink:

Thanks for your lovely review, Eli. I wish I'd wrtten half as well as you when I was sixteen! :D

*****Chapter 8*****

Kirsty was enjoying teaching the five-year-olds more than she'd anticipated. Her last placement had been with high school students, the age she was hoping to teach when she qualified, and a few had decided exercise was uncool long before Kirsty rocked up. It had been a hard slog convincing them otherwise.

The younger kids however were keen to learn, their little faces lighting up with thoughts of the unlimited dramatic possibilities when they were asked to imagine they were trees who could touch the sky. Though there were some problems with having Jamie in her class.

"No, J, you have to call me Mrs Phillips when we're in school, remember?"

"Okay, Mum."

"Mrs Phillips."

"Jamie," Jamie corrected.

"No, I’m Mrs Phillips."

"Yeh, I know, Mum." Jamie felt he was being very patient. But he had to make allowances. It was Mum's very first day at Summer Bay Primary and he remembered it had all been very strange for him too when he started school. "You wanna come for lunch with me and my mates this arvo?"

"Nooo, I think I'll go for my lunch with the other teachers, J!"

"You didn't bring a packed lunch," Jamie reprimanded chattily, totally forgetting he was in the middle of PE as he sat on the bench to watch his classmates doing their stretching exercise. "Next time you can take my spare lunchbox and we..."

"Jamie, tall as a tree, please, let's see who can reach the highest!" Mrs Carroll said briskly.

Kirsty didn't know whether to be glad or sad at the experienced teacher's interruption as Jamie scrambled happily back out on the floor, and Jayne Carroll gave her a sympathetic smile. Not many trainee teachers had their own child in their class!

"Okay, well done, everyone! Now I'd like you to..." Kirsty was getting into her stride. The whole class looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. And that was what she wanted to do, to make kids realise something that happened to be good for them was also fun.

Kane had told her he hated sport at school, though that had been because he'd been too ashamed to let anyone to see what his father had done to him. She smiled to herself, as she always did when she thought of Kane, of how glad she was she'd come to know the caring, sensitive person underneath that tough-as-nails facade when they'd been shipwrecked together. Jamie always said My Dad so proudly.

Kirsty demonstrated to the kids how to stretch their arms and cast her mind back to the first time Kane held his newborn son and his rapt, gentle expression when he swore to be the best Dad in the world. She loved the way he was so over-protective though she laughed at him for it. Like she had that morning.

"Promise me, Kirst."

"Maybe we will, maybe we won't," she teased.

"Babe, I'm serious..."

"Daaad, you're hurting my hand!"

"Sorry, J!" Kane looked stricken that he'd been holding his small son's hand so tight in his anxiety, and he crouched down. "I want you to make sure your Mum waits for me to give ya both a lift home. Okay?"

"Okay." Jamie gazed back with the same bright blue eyes as his father. There was no need to ask why they had to wait and not make their own way home as usual. Whatever Dad said, he trusted him implicitly.

"Kane, what's wrong?" Kirsty asked, wondering.

"Nothing." He ruffled Jamie's hair, stood up and kissed her tenderly, like he always did when they parted.

"I love you, you worrywart," she said.

"Say what!" He tickled her face with his thumbs, gazing into her eyes, trying to make her laugh, but she could tell he was still stressing and she didn't have the heart to tease him any longer.

"Ah, my Gran used to say it. I promise, promise, promise we'll wait for you by the gates after school lets out. And we'll be fine," she added. "How could we not be with you looking out for us all the time?"

"Anyone ever tell ya you got a cute smile?" Kane said, watching Jamie run to greet a couple of mates.

"Yeh. My husband."

"Your husband's one lucky guy," Kane said, grinning.

"So's his wife," Kirsty grinned back.


Kane took a deep breath before he checked the address Scotty had given him and rang the doorbell to 4A, knowing he had to front up to his brother sooner or later.

He'd found an excuse to finish his shift early and driven home to change out of his uniform. Now he wore jeans and a casual light blue shirt. Unlike Summer Bay, Yabbie Creek was too big a town for people to notice strangers but a uniform would make him look too conspicuous and he couldn't afford to take chances. At least Kirsty and Jamie were safe enough in the school. Scotty wouldn't try anything with so many witnesses around.

Kane gulped another breath. It was like being that scared little kid all over again. The day they buried the knife in the churchyard...he could remember everything about that day. Even how it all began.......

With sunlight sparkling on the sea and a cooling sea breeze blowing through the grass and someone's carelessly discarded potato chips packet sweeping hurriedly past like it had an urgent appointment someplace.

He was clutching a note from Mum and hobbling slightly. Laughing drunkenly, Dad had stood on his foot a couple of days ago. Mum had watched but done and said nothing. Ever since the day when Kane stole the Easter eggs Mum had watched Dad bash him and done nothing to stop it.

Sometimes she snuck back to him when Dad had gone and fixed up his latest injury as best she could. Sometimes she never came back at all and instead disappeared into her room, where she sat for hours staring into space, once even oblivious as Scotty walked in, helped himself to a cigarette from the packet beside her, lit up, and strolled back out again.

Often she had bruises herself but she never hit Dad back or even answered him back anymore like she used to. It was as though a light in her eyes had died, like the only thing she cared about was drinking herself into a stupor. His foot had itched heaps last night, and this morning the bruising had gone down, and when he told Mum she'd said he could get out of her ******* hair now then, and sent him off to school with a note to cover every occasion. One in his hand, two in the pockets of his trousers and one in his shirt pocket. He was trying to remember which was which.

"Ya got it?" Scotty and two mates suddenly stood in front of him, grinning.

He handed over a dollar bill. Jeez, he was gonna get in heaps if Mum realised it was missing from her purse. But he'd had to take it. Scotty and his mates weren't letting any kids through to school unless they paid. If he missed school again he'd get in heaps too and if he didn't pay Scotty would bash him. He couldn’t win.

"What's the face for?" Scott demanded. "You got reduced rates. Other kids haveta pay two dollars."

"I shouldn't haveta pay nothin'. I'm your bro."

"Yeh? Well, that's WHY you pay and why you'll go on payin'."

He hadn't understood Scott's humour then but the words made a crazy kind of sense now. He pressed the doorbell again, harder, and this time footsteps clattered on the stairs. This was the moment he told Scotty that after he kept the promise he was out of his life forever.

But it wasn't Scott who opened the door. It was a chick he'd never seen before though, strangely, she looked vaguely familiar. Maybe it was because that defeated air reminded him of Mum.

"I...uh...I'm looking for my brother," he said.

"I know," the chick replied. She was pale and skinny but pretty beneath dark lank greasy hair and she looked at Kane with undisguised fear in her large brown eyes.


"You okay?" Jayne Carroll asked.

"Yes. Thanks." Kirsty gratefully accepted the steaming mug of coffee from her colleague, forcing herself to return the smile.

"It's always tough on newbies," Jayne whispered sympathetically.

"It's tiring," Kirsty acknowledged. She couldn't tell Jayne the real reason she was feeling so down. It had been such a pleasant surprise to get Mum's phone call earlier, inviting her to lunch.

"All of us are here for once," Shelley said. "It would be a great opportunity for a family get together, if you can spare an hour or so for lunch...?"

Kane's birthday! Kirsty thought, stoked. Normally they did nothing more post him a card. Maybe this year they'd all decided to surprise him with something really special and wanted Kirsty to be in on the secret.

"Sure! I’ll get a cab," she replied happily. The caravan park was only a short drive away.

But it was obvious something was wrong the moment she walked through the door of her old home. The way Dad came to a dead halt on the stairs when he saw her, the uneasy silence, the look Jade shared with Dani before she suddenly became engrossed in guiltily curling her hair round her fingers, the way she’d always done when they were kids, if she'd broken a toy belonging to Kirsty or Dani, or was feigning innocence over missing cookies.

"There was no easy way of telling you," Shelley said.

To Kirsty's bewilderment, she thrust a crumbling yellow newspaper into her hands. In a daze, she looked down at the words that had been circled in thick blue biro Local Man Arrested Under Suspicion of Murder

"I don't understand..."

"This is the family you've married into, Kirst." Rhys had come down the remaining stairs and stood beside her. He spoke gently, sadly even. "Kane's brother was prepared to kill Flynn, Sally and Colleen in cold blood the time he held up the surgery. And we knew Kane's father was dangerous and violent too. What we didn't know was that he was a murderer."

"You and Jamie are the most important people in all this, sweetie," Shelley said, hugging her. "Kane will still be able to see his son after you've left him of course. But supervised. We'll come to some arrangement."

"Mum, why would I leave Kane?" Kirsty pulled away from the hug, feeling like the ground was swaying beneath her.

"Look what he did to Dan! What if Kane started being violent to you and Jamie? What if he killed you both?" Jade burst out emotionally.

It was then that the tears stung Kirsty's eyes. Kane had turned his whole life around, passed his exams to become a sea captain, been a great husband and a great Dad, yet still they despised him. She was surprised to hear herself speaking almost calmly though her voice wavered.

"You know Kane's really sorry for that and he wishes so much he could change what happened and I know...I know that doesn't make it alright, nothing can ever make it alright, but after all he's done for us, saving Mum's life, getting us out of the mine, how can you all... how can you...?"

"Because we love you," Dani said simply. "We're scared of you and Jamie getting hurt and we want what's best for you."

Kirsty shook her head, looking round at her family through a mist of tears. "It's Kane's birthday today. I thought...I thought you'd got him a birthday present and that's why you called me here. But nothing's changed, has it? Nothing at all. You'll never believe Kane would never hurt us. You'll never forgive him for that one terrible thing he did."

She half ran, half stumbled, blindly down the path past the caravans, ignoring the holidaymakers' curious stares and Jade's footsteps echoing behind her. There was a regular bus service to Yabbie Creek that picked up just outside the caravan park and its first stop on the way was Summer Bay Primary School. In the distance the final passenger was boarding, and Kirsty ran like the wind.

The last glimpse she had was of Dani catching up with a wheezing Jade and putting her arm round her waist. The last glimpse of a family who would never understand. How could she even begin to tell Jayne Carroll, sympathetic though she was, what was really wrong? She sniffled, trying to stop the tears, and Jayne looked surprised.

"Hay fever." Ron Wilson suddenly appeared by her side proffering a box of tissues and she took one gratefully and blew her nose.

"I believe the pollen count's very high today," Ron said, smiling gently.

Kirsty felt suddenly that he understood. As if he knew all about how a family could tear you apart. Gran used to say age gave you great insight. She blew her nose again, glad Ron's white lie meant she didn't have to explain the tears to anyone. It was good to have a friend.


The house was filthy and smelled of damp. Its two downstairs flats had been boarded up, the walls covered in paint-sprayed graffiti, most of it obscene. Half the lobby still bore the black, tell-tale signs of a fire. Obviously the hundred bucks hadn't gotten them much. Scotty was not going to be in a good mood.

"Should have brought a note, hey?" Kane joked to break the tension.

The chick had no idea what he was talking about and clearly didn't trust him either. She indicated the steep, carpetless stairs and waited till he was half a dozen steps up before she followed behind.

He walked with heavy dread, thinking back to the day that had bound him and Scott together forever.

"Kane Phillips, I hope you have a note to explain your latest absence!"

Mrs Reid, the new principal, was no pushover, unlike the young and enthusiastic but naive principal who'd replaced Ron Wilson when he'd gone overseas to teach soon after the Easter term when Kane had stolen the Easter eggs. For over two years, Kane and Scott had pretty much gotten away with every scam, but Mrs Reid had been promoted from within and knew the Phillips kids well. Scott was starting Summer Bay High in a few weeks and would no longer be her problem but wild little Kane Phillips had a few years to go yet and she was determined to bring him into line.

A note for his absence! Kane couldn't remember which was which. He handed over the one that was in his hand.

Kane cant do swiming. Saw foot.

Singed Diane Phillips

Mrs Reid's face told him it wasn't the right one. He took the one out of his left trouser pocket.

Kane cant do PE tomrow. Saw foot.

Singed Diane Phillips

Nope, didn't look like that was the correct note either! He tried the right trouser pocket.

Kane cant play footie. Saw foot.

Singed Diane Phillips

Had to be the shirt pocket then!

Sorry Kane couldnt come in school yester day. He fell down sum stars and done his foot in and he cant do PE and stuff for a bit nither.

Singed Diane Phillips.

"You must tell your Mum to stop burning herself," Mrs Reid said sarcastically.

"What?" Kane said blankly.

"I said it's the room at the top of the stairs," the chick repeated.

He shook himself out of the memories and entered the dimly lit room. Something ice cold and metallic touched his forehead.

"Bang, bang, you're dead," Scott grinned as his fingers curled round the trigger of the gun.

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*****chapter 9*****

Scott unexpectedly lowered the gun and roared with drunken laughter. "Jeez, once a ******* drongo, always a ******* drongo! It's a toy, ya gutless wonder!"

Melanie heaved a huge sigh of relief. Each of the other three flats in the converted house was unoccupied. When Scott had suddenly produced the gun and told her to let his brother in without saying anything else she’d cop it too, she'd been petrified by fear, cursing herself for going back. She had intended to walk when Scott had given her the last of the cash to buy groceries, but she had stupidly, stupidly returned for sentimental reasons. Reasons Scott would never understand.

While she’d been gone, he'd managed to sell off some of the flat's shabby furniture, bought a crate of tinnies and a bottle of whiskey with the proceeds, and been steadily drinking all arvo. There had been little thought of running when she’d opened the door to the brother, still believing the gun to be real. Scott could fire at her back or Kane Phillips, who was even more dangerous than Scott himself and wouldn't know about the gun, block her way. Besides, there was something important she couldn't leave behind now.

Okay, the gun had turned out to be a fake but it had been nerve-racking all the same. Scott’s girlfriend ripped open one of the tinnies and took a long gulp of beer. Sooner she got away from him the better, but she had to bide her time.

Scott grinned and exaggeratedly blew on the barrel of the replica gun. Kane watched him warily. Ever since he was a kid, Scotty had stalked his prey like a tiger, savouring the moment, waiting to pounce.

"Realistic lookin' thing though, ain't it? I found it in the glove compartment of the car I nicked. Maybe they had a kid, maybe the guy wanted to scare somebody. See, I can't afford to buy a real gun, can't even afford a decent place to rent. Hundred bucks don't go far when you gotta buy food and smokes and beer, does it, Mels? Hey, throw a tinnie over here for my little bro, will ya, babes?"

"Forget it, Scott, I don't drink this early..."

Melanie, who was in the middle of lighting up a cigarette, pulled a face at the interruption and chucked a can of beer to him. Scott caught it neatly and shook it up some more.

"Like I was sayin' (he opened the can) hundred bucks don't go far, 'specially when someone was meant to rock up here last night with a fortune..."

Kane ducked as his brother suddenly aimed the fizzed-up beer at his face, and angrily threw a punch back in return. Scott wiped his bloodied mouth with the back of his hand, satisfied he'd got the reaction he wanted, though the punch had surprisingly carried some weight.

He hadn't enjoyed a good fight since the truckie and his fists were aching for a good fight. He'd worked out daily at the gym in the slammer, pumping iron, building up muscles. His once scrawny younger brother had obviously been keeping fit too. Should make it an interesting match. Kane was strong enough now to actually be in with a chance, but Scott knew he'd never win.

Even in the days when they'd had the run of the school, Kane would foolishly give an opponent a fair go. Weak stuff, the stuff that meant he'd never amount to nothin' more than he had, a nobody in a dead-end town. The only time the killer instinct had ever kicked in, he'd stood there afterwards clutching the knife, white-faced, trembling uncontrollably, unable to even think straight until Scotty took charge. He owed his big bro for covering for him that night, and he should've paid up when the promise was due. Scotty was going to enjoy making him pay now.


Kirsty looked up and down the road, biting her lip. Still no sign of Kane. She took out her mobile and punched in their home phone number and, like it had done five minutes ago, it rang and rang unanswered.

Most of the school had gone home quite a while back and the silence, after listening to kids all day, was almost eerie. Jamie was jumping on and off the low wall that separated the path from the school grounds, yelling for her to watch, and she watched absently for a while before trying Kane's mobile and getting voice mail for the umpteenth time. Maybe the weather out at sea was too bad for it to pick up calls. Maybe bad weather had delayed the ship too. He'd been so adamant about Kirsty and Jamie waiting for him to pick them up. She left yet another message, trying to sound jokey, trying not to worry.

"Hey, babe, it's me, still waiting! You know the birthday meal I'm cooking for you tonight? Well, it isn't gonna be that bad! Love you!"

Kirsty closed the mobile, frowning. Her heart was aching for Kane. She didn't know if she would ever bring herself to tell him of her family wanting to take Kirsty and Jamie away from him when they were all he had in the world.


"Is he okay?" Melanie whispered, looking down at the motionless figure. A trickle of blood ran down Kane's face and his head rested at a strange angle.

"He's breathin', ain't he?" Scott snapped guiltily. It was Kane's own fault. What kind of sook backed off like that anyway?

The fight hadn't gone how he had anticipated and it had shaken Scott up. Years of heavy smoking, heavy drinking and drugs had finally taken their toll. He might have been able to put the truckie in hospital, but Kane was no drunken, overweight truckie. Scott even got the distinct impression his kid brother was deliberately pulling his punches as if scared of going too far. But, though Scotty was taking a hammering, he was never going to admit defeat. It was Kane himself who called a halt.

"Quits?" he said breathlessly, holding out his hand. "Leave my wife and kid outta this and I'll help ya all ya want."

"Deal." Scott made to return the handshake.

Jeez, Kane never would learn! Scotty Phillips always had to win and wasn't particular how. He suddenly swung his fist heavily into his brother’s stomach and, caught off guard, Kane doubled up in pain.

Several years ago, when a more respectable class of tenants had inhabited the once sought-after apartments, a middle-aged couple had left behind a badly chipped, brightly patterned elephant ornament, placing it back on the mantelshelf for someone else's use. But, apart from a brief fling as a temporary doorstop, the flat’s later occupants over the years had found no use whatsoever for the gaudy object until that moment. In one swift movement, Scott grabbed the heavy ornament with both hands and brought it crashing down on Kane's skull. His brother crumpled like a rag doll, lying deathly white and still, a line of rich, dark blood streaking across his right cheek.

"He'll be okay, Mels," Scott said, after a pause.

Melanie nodded. Scott sounded subdued, like he'd suddenly sobered up, and she didn't want to break this quieter mood. She was anxious to keep him on side.

"What we gonna do?" she asked shakily. The brother looked all but dead.

Scott pulled himself together. Thanks to Kane, things were totally stuffed up. He had to think. Fast. He'd come here to collect a fortune and he had no intention of leaving without it.

"Look, babes, we can't hang around here much longer. I'm gonna have to get the stash on my own, tonight, and he ain't gonna be no help now."

Scott had never bothered to tell Melanie he'd originally intended avoiding Summer Bay altogether. Among other things, there was the little matter of holding the doc and a couple of other residents at gunpoint. He'd visited the Bay only twice so far, the first time gathering information from people who didn't know him, the second time when very few people were around, but each time he knew he'd been taking enormous risks.

"So I wan'cha to wait here with him,” Scott added. “We can't leave him on his own in case he carks it and I get years in the ******* slammer. Just like...I dunno, throw a blanket or some water over him, give him a beer or a smoke, whatever ya supposed to do to keep someone alive. I’ll deal with the drongo later."

Melanie nodded. "Don't be long, Scott. You know how much I hate it when you're gone."

"I won't, Mels." He brushed back her hair. "I get the stash, deal with Kane, then we're outta here."

Jeez, he was the easiest person in the world to fool, Melanie thought, returning the kiss though it made her want to throw up. Did he really imagine she loved someone who kept beating up on her? Still, it had all worked out perfectly. She'd be long gone by the time Scott got back. Long, long gone, whether the brother was dead or not.


"Wowww!" Jamie said.

A heavy rain had begun to splash down and Kirsty and Jamie had retreated from outside the gates to take shelter in the school doorway. A thick coating of mud and brown water was forming in the soil and Jamie was eyeing it with great interest from his vantage point at the top of the school steps.

"J, you better not, you'll ruin your shoes!" Kirsty said warningly. School shoes cost a packet. At least they'd been able to put the trainers in the washing machine after the puddle splashing.

"Just one jump...?" Jamie suggested hopefully.


"A very, very little jump...this big?" Jamie made a sign with his thumb and forefinger with a gap that an ant would barely have fitted through.


"What about if I jump on one foot?"

"Jamie, not negotiable!" Kirsty said, laughing in spite of herself.

"Still here, Mrs Phillips?" The door behind them swung open and Ron Wilson came out, carrying an old, bulging briefcase and an umbrella with a broken spoke.

Ron Wilson didn’t talk much about his personal life but rumour had it that his wife had left him many years ago and that he had since divorced but never met anyone else. His hair had grown too long, there was a white iron mark on the crease of his trousers and chalk dust on the shoulder of his jacket. Colleen, who held the strange notion that men couldn't do anything for themselves, would have enjoyed looking after him if only their romance would blossom.

"Kane's meant to be here, but he's very late." Kirsty couldn't keep the catch out of her voice.

"It will be a simple misunderstanding. If anything had happened, you'd know. Bad news travels fast," Ron said sympathetically. He pulled up the collar of his jacket, gazing out at the pouring rain, lost in some faraway thought.

"Perhaps I could give you a lift?” He asked suddenly, turning to her.

Kirsty hesitated. She'd promised Kane she'd wait. But that was before they knew the ferry was going to be held up or the rain would lash down like it had done.

"Okay," she nodded at last. "Thanks."

"No worries." He said, and laughed. "I appear to be picking up the old language again!"

"Jamie, come on!" Kirsty shouted.

Jamie scowled. "Dad said to wait! We promised."

"I know, but there must be a problem with the ferry and he wouldn't want us waiting around in the rain for hours, would he?"

Jamie sighed and unhappily trudged with them to the car. Ron Wilson was a sweet man, Kirsty thought, as he chivalrously helped her into her seat, despite her laughing protests she wasn't made of glass. She really hoped he and Colleen would become an item, but so far all the effort was coming from Colleen, with Ron totally unaware of his devastating effect on women.

Maybe she and Kane could put their heads together to move things along; Kane had become quite fond of Colleen ever since she'd helped him through the cancer scare. Half a dozen ideas had begun forming in her mind as they approached the coast road and the car took the bend too sharply...

...For some unfathomable reason, Colleen Smart was sitting in the bus shelter directly ahead of them and she jumped up from the bench, a bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates tucked under one arm, waving and smiling. But her happy expression slowly turned to horror as she realised the car was heading straight towards her. The collision was inevitable. Kirsty closed her eyes, dreading the terrifying moment of impact...

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Thanks for your nice reviews. :D Aida, I don't know if you've read this before (when it was last up here) but my characters are always very deep... :ph34r:

*****chapter 10*****

But the moment of impact never came.

Somehow Ron Wilson managed to regain control and at the last moment the car miraculously swerved, then braked with unexpected ease, tilting them ever so slightly forward and settling them gently back down again, like some genteel fairground ride for the exceptionally frail.

Kirsty turned, overwhelming relief washing over her when she saw Jamie was still strapped securely in his seat-belt, even grinning at her. Colleen Smart gave a small whimper of fear, dropping the flowers and chocolates. Confused by shock, she tried to remember the speech she'd rehearsed, her plan to make Ron jealous.

"I...I...I got the flowers and choccies from a...from a secret advertiser...I...I mean, admirer..."

Kirsty recognised the handwriting on the gift tag that lay on the rain-sodden ground together with dozens of scattered chocolates and flower petals. She'd read "today's specials" often enough in the Diner to know. Colleen always did a large C with an extra flourish and always curved a small 'n' in on itself.

"I'm sorry. I don't know how it happened," Ron Wilson whispered. He was white-faced and shaking.

Kirsty's heart went out to him. She touched his arm. "It's not your fault. The main thing is we're all safe."

They were all silent, realising how terrifyingly close to death they'd been.

"That was sooo cooooool!” an impressed little voice suddenly piped up from the back. "Can we do it again?"


"I thought she had a right to know about Richie," Shelley said in a tight, choked voice.

"We were were only trying to help," Rhys replied.

"Were we though?" Jade was still wheezy and coughing after the asthma attack.

Mulling over the family meeting, Dani left the Summer Bay surgery without seeing the doctor, unable to face dredging up the bitter memories.

She’d heard the locum was easy to talk to and she’d thought, she’d really thought, she could do this, but in the end she couldn’t. The locum wasn't an old friend who'd helped her through the mediation and counselling like Flynn had. He’d never understand. No matter how hard they tried, unless they’d been through it themselves, no one could ever understand. Oh, Flynn could help, he could listen, but...

Through hazy, half hidden tears she gazed up at the leaden sky, feeling suddenly very cold. Maybe the decision she’d made on the long journey back to Summer Bay was the right one after all. This was where it began and where it should end. This was where the pain first cut deep into her soul and still bled like an open wound. This was where she promised Kirsty she’d forgiven him and moved on.

Dani shook herself and returned to thinking about the events of the afternoon. Maybe Jade was right. Maybe they were trying to fix something that wasn't broken because of their own problems. Rhys and Shelley trying to fill a gap in their lives; Jade, so desperate to belong; Dani herself, a successful freelance journalist commissioned to write a book about successful women, and a total mess inside her own head.

She still didn't know what she was going to do. Sometimes it seemed right, sometimes it seemed wrong, sometimes it felt like she was losing her mind. Shivering, she wrapped her arms around herself and breathed in a lungful of fresh sea air in a deep sigh. And that was when she first noticed the girl.

There was a lull in the rain now, but she had obviously been standing there for some time. She was drenched, her long, dark hair bedraggled, and she was swaying unsteadily against the rail that overlooked the sea. Glad to have something else to focus on, Dani crossed the road.

"Hey. You okay?" she asked gently.

Melanie swung round. "What the ******* hell d'you want?" she snapped, pausing from raising a can of beer to her lips, her grip tightening defensively on the half full garbo bag of belongings that she carried.

The alcohol-fuelled breath hadn't been what Dani was expecting and she took a step back, but, like Shelley would have done, she kept her voice firm and level . "You look crook."

"**** off, you nosey cow!" the girl spat back.

Shelley often complained that years and years of training never quite prepared you for everything, that some people just didn't want to be helped. Yet Dani had a feeling that something other than drink had unsettled the girl. And for some reason, she found herself wondering how Kirsty would handle things. People connected with Kirsty. It had always been that way.

Like the time the Sutherlands had taken in Hannah Clegg, struck dumb by the trauma of seeing a speeding car mow down and seriously injure her mother and toss her father high into the air, killing him outright. Shelley was fostering Hannah while her mother was in hospital and everyone had gone out of their way to make a fuss of the little girl and smother her with expensive gifts. Everyone except Kirsty.

Instead, Kirsty had done heaps of little things, drawing pictures with Hannah or making up bedtime stories or just sitting quietly next to her when she sat staring unseeingly at the TV screen. And after a while the three-year-old took to following her everywhere. Kirsty was the first word she'd spoken in two weeks.

Dani ditched Shelley's professional training. Kirsty would have been herself. She shrugged. "I just stuffed up big time. I guess I'm trying to take my mind off my own problems."

"You stuffed up?" Melanie's tone was slightly less aggressive.

"Yeh. Why not me?"

"You seem like Little Miss Perfect. Like nothing ever goes wrong for you."

"I wish."

Melanie took another swig of beer. She wished she'd brought more but she couldn't chance not having her wits about her. Not now. Pity. Drink blotted out all the painful memories.

"I nearly stuffed up. I nearly got the doc out for him. Been here ages thinking about it long and hard, you know? Because I thought...I thought...well, he didn’t seem evil. He seemed like...like he might have cared. But he was evil. I knew what he’d done. And now he’s badly hurt and he's dying. So why should I care? Let him die."

Dani was stunned. "You...you can’t just leave someone to die..." She stammered.

Melanie laughed mockingly. "No, you wouldn't in your perfect little world, would you? But let me tell you something, Little Miss Perfect. If you'd ever been raped, you would."

"Kane, no."

He doesn't seem to hear her. He thinks she's still playing games. It's not a game anymore but she doesn't know how to tell him. She loves Will, she was only flirting, why can't Kane understand this? Why won’t he believe her?

"Kane, no, please don’t...?

"This...this guy raped you?"

"No, not me. But he raped some other poor bitch." Melanie finished the beer and squeezed the empty can so hard her knuckles turned white. "But it’s happened to me too. I know the hell that chick went through. When you've been a victim of rape you don’t ever forget."

"I was," Dani whispered.

Melanie stared at her, taken aback. It was the last thing she expected of this sophisticated, slightly snobby, slim chick, with her perfect make-up, glossy hair and designer gear looking like she'd just stepped off the catwalk. For a crazy moment, she even wondered if she was joking. But rape wasn't something you joked about and the truth was in her eyes.

One of the Bay's notorious sudden storms was about to hit. Large rainclouds were sweeping across the angry sea towards the Bay, the sky grew darker and darker and a strong wind began swirling the waves. They watched together in silence. In sisterhood.

"Then you'll understand," Melanie said at last. "It's one less sicko in the world if this b****** carks it."

From a distance the bells of the old church chimed and Melanie turned abruptly without saying anything more, making her way unsteadily towards the bus station. Dani didn't try to stop her.


The bells of the old church were chiming furiously, as if to remind Scotty of how little time was left, of how much time had been wasted already. He dug frantically over and over and over. It was here they'd buried it. He knew it was here. It had to be here! But it wasn't.

The rucksack had been buried with the knife and jacket, near the slope on the perimeter of the graveyard and field, and he'd found the filthy, bloodied jacket, ragged now with age, and the knife, caked now with dried blood and dirt.

But there was no bag full of riches.

And he thought of the years and the nights he'd lain awake in the slammer, when he’d grinned into the darkness, picturing himself finally digging up the fortune. Jeez, he'd been such a ******* drongo! He gave a cry of rage, drowned out by the bells and the howling wind.

Only one other person had known exactly where the bag was buried. Burning with anger, he crumpled the jacket and threw it back into its old burial site, stamping it viciously into the ground, and wiped the mud from the knife before placing it carefully inside his coat. Kane would pay for this.


"Thanks!" Kirsty called, as she and Jamie jumped out of the car.

"You're very welcome - I mean, no worries," Ron Wilson smiled back.

Ron was going to drop Colleen off at her home in the caravan park and, looking like the cat that got the cream, she moved into the front seat vacated by Kirsty, totally recovered now from the near miss and relieved no one had asked her why she'd been pretending to wait for a bus to Yabbie Creek in the first place. It had been worth waiting and waiting for Ron’s car to pass its usual way after all.

Kirsty pushed the key into the door and turned the lock, relieved to be home. The sky had turned black and the wind was growing strong, always a prelude to one of Summer Bay's infamous sudden storms, and indoors was the only safe place to be. She reached for the light switch and there was a brief flash of light before the blackness.

"Mum, it's very dark!" Jamie, as usual, stated the obvious.

“Thanks for letting me know, Jamie!” Kirsty laughed.

She stumbled through the dark to the phone, desperate to hear Kane's voice again. But the phone was dead, the lines brought down by the strong winds that were wailing round the isolated little house. She clicked her mobile and cursed inwardly when she saw the battery had gone flat. A growing sense of unease was sweeping over Kirsty, but Jamie was relying on her so she spoke calmly, confidently, as if nothing was wrong.

"We'd best get the box then, J."

Like most people who lived in the little seaside towns that dotted the coast, the Phillips were familiar with the freak storms and kept an "emergency box". Kirsty took theirs from the shelf of the walk-in cupboard and set two candle-holders on the table, her heart beating fast as she lit two long candles.

"SHADOWS!" Jamie yelled suddenly.

Kirsty swallowed in fear before looking cautiously round.

"Look - there's our shadows on the wall!" Jamie waved both arms at the smaller shadow, blissfully unaware he had just scared his mother half to death.

He turned to Kirsty, his face glowing happily in the flickering candlelight, his eyes a sparkling blue. "Are we lighting these for my Dad's birthday?"

"I suppose we are," Kirsty said, smiling, thinking how much he resembled Kane.

The colour of his eyes, that mischievous grin, his tousled hair. For her son's sake, she kept the smile and choked back the tears as Jamie was busy checking out the cold snacks, soft drinks and games that were in the emergency box while singing to himself Happy birthday dear Dad.

Ice cold shivers were running down her spine.


The last thing he remembered before blacking out was doing a deal with Scotty. They shook hands on it.

Down on the beach where the sand was hot and the sea rippled in the breeze. Scotty warned "You better not stuff up" and then they shook hands and split because there were hours yet before they could do the job and Scott didn't want him hanging round with him and his mates.

Scott's class had been given the arvo off school because of some older students needing to use their classroom to take an exam and Kane hadn't realised Scotty, Lew and Paul had followed him down to the secluded spot until it was too late. Normally they pelted him with stones or bashed him or threw him in the water, but today, to his enormous relief because he felt real crook, all that happened was Scotty coming down alone to tell him he'd dob him in for wagging school unless he did what he said, and then they'd shot through.

The heat was relentless. Kane longed to cool down in the sea but he couldn't go swimming in case anyone saw the scars on his back. That was why he'd wagged school soon as he'd got his arvo attendance mark. Mum had provided him with all those notes including one excusing him from the swimming lesson but he wasn't sure that would cut it with Dragon Face Reid and if anyone ever saw what Dad had done to him he there'd be hell to pay. Dad would beat him worse than ever.

Jeez, though, he was hungry! He hadn't eaten anything since yesterday morning because there was nothing in the house to eat.

'Course, he'd searched the kitchen bin but all he'd found were empty bottles and cans and the wrappings from Dad's Chinese takeaway and, just when he'd been thinking of putting the remains from the foil container into a pan, Dad had come along and rammed the silver container on his head like a hat to teach him a lesson for rummaging in the garbo, which made Scotty laugh till he cried.

But it was okay for Scotty. He could afford to buy food with his nice little scam of taking cash off kids on their way into school. Kane had debated whether to take more than a dollar from Mum's welfare money but the other notes were for far too large amounts for her not to notice. But he wished he had now. He wished he didn't feel so crook with hunger and that his ears weren’t popping and the world wasn’t spinning crazily.

And as he left the world behind an overwhelming sadness filled his heart because he knew he would never, ever see again the girl with the magic smile.*

*AUTHOR’S NOTE: In Always and Forever, an earlier story in this series, Kane and Kirsty meet as children.

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