Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Sorry!! I've had writer's block so I've not been updating..... Hope this one is ok....

A little less conversation, a little more action please

All this aggravation aint satisfactioning me

A little more bite and a little less bark

A little less fight and a little more spark

(A Little Less Conversation – Elvis)

Charlie looked over the office and saw Angelo pacing. She slowly pushed open the door and stepped inside handing him a cup of coffee she had bought in the diner earlier.

“Angelo.” She murmured his name. “You’ve been up all night.”

“I know.” He snapped out and then sighed before easing down on to a nearby chair. “Sorry.” He muttered under his breath.

“How far have we got?” Charlie risked another question.

“No one has seen Roma. It’s like she disappeared into thin air. We’ve canvassed the area, spoken to all of Geoff and Nic’s neighbours. No-one knows anything.” He reached for the coffee and took the lid off blowing on the brew to cool it before risking a sip.

“And alibis?” she asked preying that she wouldn’t give herself away.

She moved over to her desk and sat behind it placing her cup of coffee on the desk in front of her. She’d been drinking herbal tea for the past few months, cutting out caffeine ahead of what she hoped would be a successful pregnancy but so far nothing had happened and today she needed the caffeine boost.

“Roman was home alone apparently.” Angelo began. “And Miles was also on his own, walking on the beach near the surfclub.” He added.

Charlie gasped and squeezed hold of the cup in her hand nearly losing her grip of it. What if he saw her and Roman? She pinned a neutral look on her face.

“I searched all the caravans and Miles house, oh and Roman’s place.” He continued not even noticing her distress. “He had a woman there the night before. Refused to name her. My gut says we can rule that out but you never know.”

Charlie nodded feeling a strange jealousy for this other woman.

“We need something.” Angelo muttered standing up and pacing the room again.

“Angelo.” Charlie said after a moment.

“What?” he barked out. “Sorry.” He added a moment later.

“We’ve got a timeline. You’ve gone over the statements of their neighbours and the people in Roma’s life.” She began.

“But its not enough Charlie. That little girl is missing and we need to bring her home. How would you feel if she was ours?” he asked her watching her face and sighing.

“I would feel like death. I can’t imagine how Nic and Geoff are coping with all this, but we can’t let our personal feelings take over. We have to maintain our discipline and keep going through the evidence. “ she told him gently.

He stopped pacing and looked at her sighing before sitting back down. He looked through the paperwork on his desk.

“Ok we need to get an incident board going. Get pictures of Roma out there. Maybe we can trigger someone’s memory.” He said softly.

Charlie nodded and moved out of the office to start gathering together what they needed leaving Angelo sitting at his desk re-reading the statements.

“Ok, coffee break.” Charlie told him after a time.

“What?” Angelo snapped looking up from the file he was reading.

“I said coffee.” Charlie gave him a megawatt smile.

He looked at her and then back down at the paperwork.

“Angelo you need to take a break.” Charlie said softly.

“I can’t right now.” He muttered.

“Ok.” she murmured and stood collecting her purse and phone. She walked out past the large board that contained a photo of the little girl and copious notes giving a sigh as she passed it. Walking over to her car she climbed inside and drove to the diner ignoring the little flutter inside at the thought she may be seeing Roman again.

Angelo looked up and gathered his keys before storming through the door and out. There was something he’d missed. It was a nagging detail that wouldn’t go away and he needed to clear his head for a few minutes before looking back over the witness statements.

Miles pulled out the things in the washer and deposited them into the wicker laundry basket. He reached up onto the shelf that contained the box with the pegs in catching the shadow of someone moving behind him. Spinning around he looked around.

“Hello?” he called out.

Moving from the small utility room into the dinning room he found his gaze drawn around the room thinking that something wasn’t right.

“Anybody there?” he murmured. “Aside from my overactive imagination of course.”

He listened for a fraction of a second and heard nothing except the noise of the caravan sight outside and sighed. Walking back into the laundry her scooped up the basket and carried it along with the pegs out to the clothesline. Dragging out a sheet he lifted it over the line and snapped it in place with a number of pegs. It fluttered in the wind and blew up revealing someone standing in front of him.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

He didn’t see the shovel until the metal edge caught him round the side of his head.

“You!” he gasped out as the strength seeped out of his body and he sank to his knees. “But why?” he managed two more words before blackness washed over him and he began to sink into oblivion. He didn’t feel the second or the third blow from the shovel, the forth one connected with the ground as a noise disturbed the assailant. They dropped the improvised weapon and spun around scanning to make sure they hadn’t been seen this time before heading away from where Miles’ limp body lay.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
  • Replies 31
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me, oh now now stand by me

Oh stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

(Stand by me – Ben E King)

Charlie looked over at Roman as he sat next to Miles’ unconscious body. The other man had been brought in yesterday afternoon after being found beaten with a serious head injury.

“How is he?” she asked softly.

Roman looked up and moved slowly away from the bed and over to her side. He took hold of her arm and guided her out of Miles’ room.

“No change.” Roman muttered eventually.

“I’m sorry.” Charlie told him understanding the link the two men had.

“I’m sure you are but what are you doing about it?” Roman asked looking over at the broken body of his friend. “You haven’t found my granddaughter and now Miles has been bashed are you going to tell me there is no connection?”

“You think there is?” Charlie asked suddenly sounding indignant. She’d come her on her break hoping to be some comfort for the other man. She may have been in uniform but this wasn’t an official visit, surely he knew how she felt? It felt like it was written all over her face every time his name was mentioned.

“Tell me Charlie what exactly was in Miles’ statement?” Roman asked the question that had been burning in his head.

“I can’t tell you that its part of an ongoing case.” Charlie gasped.

“The ongoing case being the kidnap of my granddaughter. Nicole’s little girl.” He bit out.

“Exactly. Roman you are too close to this. And well there is…” she stopped and looked over at Angelo walking towards them.

“Charlie.” Angelo greeted her.

“Hello I came to find out how Miles was.” She said to him quickly.

“Great minds and all that.” Angelo said softly looking only slightly puzzled.

“I want to know what Miles said to you in his statement.” Roman said to Angelo folding his arms across his chest.

“I’m sure Charlie told you that is part of an ongoing investigation and we can’t divulge that information.”

“Sounds very nice and simplistic. But Miles is lying in a hospital bed with his head caved in. They don’t’ know if he is going to wake up and if he does wake up there are no guarantees that he won’t be brain damaged.” Roman said his voice rising. “And you honestly want me to believe that this isn’t connected.”

“Roman.” Charlie said quickly.

“No.” he muttered running a hand over his face. “He’s my friend Charlie.”

“So what was so important the you got me down here?” Miles asked Roman looking over at the other man.

“Is he looking?” Roman asked.

“You mean Aden Jefferies?” Miles asked looking over at the boy walking out of the surf and up towards them. He was due to start teaching at Summer Bay High and had confessed to Roman that he was nervous. His time on the streets would be thrown at him and he had no idea how to deal with it.

“Yeah that’s who I mean.” Roman muttered back.

He took in the floppy curls falling over Miles forehead and grinned before assuming a calm neutral expression.

“If by interested you mean he’s heading over here and looking at me a bit like a cat looks at a mouse before he kills it.”

“Miles you exaggerate.” Roman told him. “Now carry on with your tun and leave this to me.” Roman chuckled watching as Miles sprinted off along the beach.

“Do you know him?” Aden called out before running over to where Roman was standing on the beach.

Roman spun around looking at the younger man before looking at where Miles had gone.

“Yeah.” He said simply offering no more information.

“He’s a hobo. “ Aden said with a sneer. “Just wait until Monday at school.”

“If I were you I’d give him a bit of respect.” Roman said softly.

“him?” Aden scoffed. “I saw him take stuff out of bins.”

Roman nodded slowly.

“Still mate, a man like that.” He said giving Aden a look. “Been living on the streets for a long time knows how to take care of himself. I wouldn’t mess with him.”

Roman delivered the last line, gave Miles departing figure a last look before grabbing his towel from the sand and standing up straight again. He risked a glance at Aden and saw that his words had sunk in and smiled slowly.

“I appreciate that Roman but we still can’t divulge any information about an ongoing investigation.”

It was Angelo who spoke.

“But is it ongoing because we don’t seem to see much progress. My granddaughter is still missing and now Miles is lying here in hospital more dead than alive.” Roman snapped out looking at the other man. He could see a slight expression of puzzlement that Charlie was at the hospital and not wherever she had told him she was going to be. He cast a glance at Charlie and saw a slight anxious look cross her beautiful face.

“I can assure you that we are doing everything we can Roman.”

“Somehow Angelo that doesn’t seem enough.” Roman bit out and after giving them both a last look he went and sat in the room next to his friend.

“Charlie.” Angelo murmured.

He stepped towards Miles’ room and stopped turning his back he looked at his wife.

“I couldn’t not come and see how he was.” Charlie said truthfully although she was thinking about Roman as she said it.

“I understand. I just wish you’d told me you were coming.” Angelo murmured.

He glanced around before taking Charlie into his arms and holding her in an embrace. Charlie looked up feeling Roman’s ice blue gaze burning into her. She felt a wash of guilt and shame going over her and pulled away from the comfort of Angelo’s arms.

“We should get back to the station.” She told him quickly.

“I need to speak to Rachel first. I have to find out if Miles managed to say anything.” Angelo said softly.

Charlie nodded and they moved towards the station at the end of the corridor. Roman watched them go before he looked back at Miles.

“You gonna lie there all day?” he spoke softly to his friend reaching out to take hold of the other man’s cool hand. He was shocked by the absence of life in him, no warmth, no colour to his features even his hair seemed to lose it vibrancy as he lay still on the cool white sheets. Roman looked at the bandages that were wrapped around the other man’s head and the rainbow bruising the only indication that anything was wrong with him.

“Come on mate. You have kids waiting to get their homework.” He said to him wondering what magic words he could say that would bring Miles back to them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Pretty woman, stop a while

Pretty woman, talk a while

Pretty woman, give your smile to me

Pretty woman, yeah, yeah, yeah

Pretty woman, look my way

Pretty woman, say you'll stay with me

(Oh Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison)

Nicole woke up easing up on the sofa. She looked over into the kitchen and saw Geoff wearing her apron trying to cook quietly so he didn’t disturb her. He had a smear of flour on his cheek and his hair was sticking up in several places where he’d obviously put his hands through it.

“Hey,” he called looking over at her. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

She gave him a brief smile.

“It’s ok.” she told him softly. “I needed to wake up or I never would have slept tonight.”

He grimaced and turned quickly back to the pan.

“What are we having?” she asked climbing off the sofa and walking over to him,

“Pasta and I think it might be cheese sauce.” He replied.

Nicole looked at his profile as he frowned over the cooker. She sucked in a deep breath and placed her hand on the small of his back.

“I love you, you know.” He told her. “That’s partly why I did it.”

Nic sighed.

“But I love you that’s why I’m never do that.” She told him honestly.

“I know now.” He confessed tilting his head and giving her that look he always did. She was struck by how Roma did the same think and a pang of grief washed over her as she thought of her daughter. “But I’m just this simple guy Nic, you are beautiful and classy and amazing and for a moment I let my doubt and insecurity take over. You have my permission that if it ever happens again you can set your Dad on me.”

Nic gave him a small grin.

“So we aren’t getting a divorce?” she asked him her tone light.

“Depends.” He replied.

“On?” she asked him all frivolity leaving her voice.

“On whether you are going to give me another chance.” He said seriously.

It was Nic’s turn to tilt her head to one side and look at him.

“Well.” She said pausing in her speech as though she was considering it.

Geoff gave a groan and pulled her into his arms kissing her softly on the lips.

“Well?” he asked.

“I can’t kick out the father of my children.” She said slowly and deliberately.

Geoff kissed her again before her words sank in.

“Wait.” He said.

Nic smiled at him.

“Really?” he asked.

She nodded her tousled hair bouncing with the head movement.

He placed a nervous hand on her slightly curved belly and sighed.

“I need our baby girl back.” He told her his eyes blurring with unshed tears.

“Me too.” Nic said softly. “I think about her out there in the dark, afraid and lonely and missing Foxy and I can’t….” her voice broke as she spoke the words and she sank into his arms clinging to him.

“I guess I need to be strong and tell you that it will be ok.” he said his voice breaking with emotion.

“Oh Geoff, I nearly lost everything yesterday.” Nic cried clinging tighter.

“Not the baby?” he gasped out.

She shook her head.

“No we are fine.” She murmured. “You.” She added.

He looked at her before his lips pressed softly on hers.

“I’m your everything huh?” he asked.

Nic nodded.

“Always.” She told him.

He turned around and switched off the cooker before guiding her over to the sofa. Sitting down he pulled her gently onto his lap noting her grin at the way he was already wrapping her in cotton wool because of her pregnancy.

“I love you.” He said slowly. “I promise that from this day on I will always be your beloved devoted husband.”

Nic giggled suddenly.

“Hey I’m trying to be romantic here and you are laughing.” He muttered leaning forward and kissing her.

“I don’t need romance. I just need you.” Nic said after a while.

Geoff smiled.

“I need you too.” He told her. “I want our family back too.”

Nic nodded and leaned against him.

“I miss her laughing.” Nic said suddenly. “Tell me we’ll have her laughter back with us soon.”

Geoff sighed and kissed her again.

“She’ll be back.” He said to her. “She’ll be making us run around after her again. Princess Roma.”

Nic laughed and then sighed.

“The look on Aden’s face when we called her a Princess.”

Geoff looked at his wife’s beautiful face.

“The way she calls him Uncle Aden and gets him to play dollies with her.” he murmured.

Nic grinned then thinking of Aden sitting on the floor next to their beautiful daughter and playing with her Barbie dolls.

“You don’t think…” Geoff said and then shook his head.

“No.” Nic replied. “How could you even think that Aden would have something to do with it.”

Geoff sighed and looked into her blue eyes.

“I needed to say the words to hear how stupid they were. Of course Aden would never do anything to hurt Roma.” He murmured.

She gave another sigh and lent into him feeling his arms tighten automatically.

“I suppose we’ll be driving ourselves crazy thinking about who could have done this.”

“They’ve ruled out Elliot and Gardy.” Geoff said after a long moment.

Nic gave a little hiccuping sob at the mention of the two men who had hurt her knowing that the next name would be his, the one who. She stopped breathing as she thought of him.

“And Hugo.” Geoff said finally feeling her shake against him.

She sucking in a breath followed by another one.

“What about Xavier?” she asked knowing that the man was upset about her giving evidence against his brother.

“I don’t know.” He admitted. “And then there is..” he stopped.

“Trey?” she said.

Geoff nodded.

Nic eased back and looked at him.

“I don’t suppose there is anyone in your past that could have done this?” she said bitterly.

“Only Claudia.” He said. “And I don’t think she would have.”

Nic gave another sigh and closed her eyes. She opened them to see him smiling at her.

“What?” she asked quickly.

“I love you, you know.” He said echoing his earlier words.

Nic smiled again and leaned against him feeling the strength in his embrace and letting his heart heal her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

A boyish notion of false emotion

These words are spoken, despite my love

A fool's devotion was set in motion

My eyes are open now

(Looking Glass by The Birthday Massacre)

Charlie looked up from her desk her eyes on him as he shuffled papers in front of him. Her eyes went to the skyline outside the window and she saw the darkening sky indicating the passing of another day.

“So what have we got? It’s been three days now Angelo?” she asked finally the words bursting out of her.

“Charlie.” He snapped at her. “I’m aware of how long it has been.”

“I’m sorry.” She told her husband biting her lip as she moved around the desk and put her hand on his arm. He had dark circles under his eyes and look haggard and drained.

“We have nothing.” He said. “Nothing.”

“What about them?” she asked pointing to the board behind him. Angelo turned slowly and looked at it with narrowed eyes.

“Hugo is in prison. Elliot was released three years ago. Trey Palmer was let out of the secure facility last summer. And no one has heard from Gardy.” Angelo said again softly.

“Ok, so Elliot Gillen.” Charlie said.

“Interstate. His parole officer vouches for him.” Angelo told her lying back in his chair his eyes closed.

“One down.” Charlie muttered. “Gardy? Why hasn’t anyone heard from him?”

“It’s thought that his underworld contacts caught up with him after the warehouse incident.” Angelo told her. “That they disposed of him.” he added and saw her shudder in response.

“Then that leaves Trey Palmer.” She said. “We need to find him.”

“We should pay a visit to Gina Austin.” He said slowly. “She used to be married to his stepdad.”

“I doubt she’ll talk to you.”

“I know that. I arrested her son and was responsible for Xavier leaving the Bay.”


“Charlie are you trying to take over the investigation?” he asked after a minute.

“No of course not.” She exclaimed shocked.

“It’s beginning to feel like that. I’m doing everything I can here. It’s not my fault that nothing is coming out of the investigation.” He said in a slightly petulant voice.

“Angelo.” Charlie said swallowing. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”

He shook his head and stood up moving to stand looking out the window.

“The number for the unit is on my desk.” He said softly. “I think I need a break. Why don’t you give them a ring?”

She moved to him and put her hand on his arm.

“Angelo. We’re both tired.” She began.

He looked at her before shaking his head.

“I’m exhausted Charlie. I keep thinking how you would be if that was our son out there.”

“Oh Angelo. I can only Thank God that it isn’t. I couldn’t bear it if it were our boy.” She said tears filling her chocolate eyes.

He took her in his arms a strange expression on his face for a fraction of a moment before he eased back and looked at her.

“I need that break. I’m going to stretch my legs for a bit.”

She nodded leaning up and kissing him.

“Ok. I’ll make those calls about Trey and then we’ll go speak to Gina.”

Angelo nodded and eased out of the room he paused in the doorway.

“I’m sorry Charlie.” He said after a minute.

“It’s ok. I understand.” She responded giving him a smile.

He nodded.

“I know you do but I needed to say the words anyway.”

“We’ll get her back Angelo. We have to.” She murmured rubbing that spot on the bridge of her nose she always did when she got stressed.

“I can’t imagine what they are going through. Nic and Geoff and of course, Roman.” Angelo murmured with a shake of his head.

“No.” Charlie said. “You are right it could have been our little boy. And Nic has lost so much.”

“Not just Nic, Charlie.” Angelo bit out reminding her that he had fathered Nic’s first baby, Faith.

“I’m sorry Angelo. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“No.” he said. “I’m sure you didn’t.”

“Angelo.” She cried out.

He turned and looked at her.

“It’s brought all of that back Charlie, finding out that I was a dad but then the baby died.” He said quietly.

“I didn’t think Angelo. You know I would never hurt you.”

He nodded.

“I better take this break.” He said slowly looking at her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

You know you love me,I know you care

Just shout whenever, And I'll be there

You want my love, You want my heart

And we will never ever ever be apart

Justin Beber - Baby

Roma gave a little cry when she heard the tread of footsteps on the floorboards outside the room where she was. She waited starring at the door handle crying out as it began to move downwards and the door opened, the white wood moving towards her, seeming bigger than a normal door.

“Shut up.” A voice growled out.

“Please.” She lisped out.

“I said be quiet.” The voice muttered.

A tray was placed on the bed beside her and she looked to see a carton of juice and a sandwich.

“I want to go home.” Roma cried out.

“I’ve told you why you can’t go.” She was told in response.

“I don’t understand. Is my Mummy alright?” Roma asked again.

“If you don’t follow the rules I’ll have to punish you.”

“Please don’t hurt me.” She cried out. “I’ll be good.” She promised.

“Eat your food.” He instructed her.

“Can I go to the bathroom please?” she asked using her politest voice.

He gave a glance over to the bucket he’d provided for that purpose and then back at her.

“Please.” She said again.

He gave her a look before nodded.

“Hands out in front.” He instructed.

She looked at him for a long moment her blue eyes huge in her pale face before scrambling off the bed and standing in front of him stretching out her hands in front of her slim body. He pulled a rope out of his pocket and tied her hands together before leading her out of the room like he would a pet dog depositing her in the bathroom.

“Don’t be long.” He instructed.

She nodded understanding and pushed the door closed.

“No.” he called out.

“Please, oh please.” She cried out. “I can’t not with you watching.”

“Not closed.” He told her angrily as though he was losing patience with her.

He stepped away leaving the door ajar.

Roma looked around the room before lifting the toilet seat. The room was tiled from floor to ceiling with white tiles and there was single window with frosted glass. Turning back to the toilet she pulled down her underwear fiddling with rope tied around her wrists. Eventually she sat down. Turning around she reached for the toilet roll and wadded up a bundle putting it down her sleeve before using some. Again she struggled to pull up her underwear with the rope around her hands. Closing the lid of the toilet she climbed up on it using the sound of the flush to mask any noise she made as she reached up to look out of the window. She saw the darkening sky and wondered how long she’d been there.

Stepping down she almost slipped grabbing on to the cupboard door. It swung open nearly knocking her off balance once more. She saw a bottle of the cough medicine that she hated and hoped that he wouldn’t be giving her any of that and then noticed the scissors. Taking them out carefully she wrapped a bit more tissue paper around them and hooked them into her underpants pulling her dress modestly down

“Hurry up.” He called out impatiently.

She gave a gasp and moved off the toilet after carefully closing the door of the cupboard trying to be as quiet as possible. Stepping out of the bathroom she moved very carefully trying not to let him know about the scissors she had stashed away.

“Back to your room.” he called out. “I haven’t got all day.”

“S..s..sorry.” she stuttered.

“Move.” He said harshly.

“I want to go home.” She said trying to make sure that he was distracted from looking at her too closely.

“I said move.” He ground out pushing her into the room where she was earlier.

“I want my mummy.” She called.

He gave her a look seeing big tears fall from her eyes

“I’ve told you before.” He snapped out “You are here because your family need to be punished.”

She gave a hiccuping sob holding out her hands to him.

“P…p…please.” She lisped.

He looked down at her ropes and slowly undid the knot putting the robe back into his pocket.

“I won’t be back until the morning. Don’t bother calling out because no one will come for you.” He muttered stepping away from her. She watched as the door closed and heard the key turn in the lock. A second metal scrapping sound filled the room reminding her of the old lock on the bathroom door back home. She moved to the door and pressed her ear to it hearing the footsteps receding before running over to the bed and falling on it sobbing. She felt the cool metal of the scissors press into her leg and moved to take them out and hide them under her pillow. She had no idea what she was going to do with them, except she wasn’t going to run with them her mum had told her that one many times. Never run with scissors.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me, oh now now stand by me

Oh stand by me, stand by me, stand by me

Ben E King - Stand by Me.

Roman eased the kinks out of his back and stood up out of the black leather chair. He walked over to the window and opened the blinds letting in the light.

“You gonna wake up mate it’s a beautiful day outside.” He told his best friend.

Miles lay unmoving in the narrow hospital bed, looking pale and still. Roman turned and looked at him seeing the faint hint of stubble on his face and the multi coloured bruises before he focused on the swath of white bandages around his head.

“Roman.” Rachel called from the doorway. “Have you been here all night?”

Roman nodded before he yawned.

He caught Rachel smiling at him.

“Perhaps you should go. We’ll let you know when there is any change.” She said kindly.

“I need to take care of him.” Roman mumbled feeling himself grow more tired as the conversation went on.

Rachel moved over to the bed and checked the machines before making some notes on the clipboard at the end of the bed.

“His stats are good.” She told him.

“Really.” Roman murmured. “You aren’t just saying that to get me to go home.”

“Well you could do with a shower.” She said giving a look as she pinned her long titian hair behind her ears.

Roman chuckled before looking back at Miles.

“See what you are missing mate, your doctor is kicking my butt outta here.” Roman told him.

A part of him expected Miles to wake up at any moment and look at him with those puppy dog eyes before coming out with a sarcastic comment and seeing him lying there looking so pale and washed out. So still. Well it ripped his guts out thinking about it. Thinking about Miles maybe not waking up at all.

“Come on Roman. I’ll shout you a cup of coffee in the canteen before you go home and get some rest.” Rachel said moving to his side.

Roman finally nodded after a moment and walked out with her.

Roman looked across the blue formica table at his friend and sighed.

“Look I think Nic really needs you to appeal Roman.” Miles said softly.

“I can’t.” Roman muttered before looking at his hands and seeing the almost invisible tremor in them. “She’s better off with you.”

Miles shook his head.

“No. She needs her Dad. I’m just…”

“Just Miles.” Roman interrupted. “Do you think I would have left my daughter with anyone else? I can’t be the man she needs to guide her right now. First there was Elliot and then there was Gardy before the Mark stuff came to light. I’m not a hero and she needs that.”

Miles shook his head before he looked around the prison seeing blank walls and the starring guards.

“So are you saying I am?” Miles scoffed. “That I’m some kind of hero.”

Roman nodded.

“You’re my hero Miles. I trust you with my life and something way more important, my daughter. Please take care of her.”

Miles shook his head again.

“No. Roman you have to appeal. You have to get out of this place. How can we see you in here?”

Roman looked up and caught the eye of the guard who started walking over to them.

“Then don’t.” Roman said quietly. “Don’t come again. I’ll speak to Nicole then I don’t expect to see you in here again. Look after yourself.”

Roman stood smoothing down the baggy prison overalls and walked away from the table with the guard forcing himself not to look back. He knew he would see a hurt expression on the other mans face and he was scared that he would crumple and give in to the other man but Nicole was better off with him. Miles would make a better father than he ever could.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Rachel asked looking across the table at Roman.

“Just thinking of Miles.” Roman said quietly.

“He’s a good man.” Rachel said.

“I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else to look after Nic.” Roman said. “I just.. “ he stopped and took a long drink from his cup. “I need him to wake up. If anyone can help me see straight so I can find out who has take Roma its Miles.”

“He has a way of making things clearer.” She commented.

Roman sighed.

“I wish…” he stopped once more this time when a yawn took over and he put his hand over his mouth.

“Roman, while you were away Harry was kidnapped. He was only a baby and we didn’t think that we would get him back for a while.” She confessed. “I do know what Nic and Geoff are going through so I wish that I could do anything to help.”

“Thank you Rachel that means a lot.” Roman said easing back in his seat tiredly.

“Come on time for you to go home. I’ll be here all day.” Rachel prompted. “I’ll take care of him for you.”

Roman nodded and stood up. He gave her a smile and walked out of the canteen and through the door. Rachel cleared the cups and moved out of the canteen and back to her ward. She spoke to the nurse before heading to her day job.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Well I'm tired of being down, I got no fight

You're wonderful

And it's beautiful

But I'm already somebody's baby

And if I went with you

I'd disappoint you too

Well I'm already somebody's baby

Already somebody's baby

Twilight - Elliot Smith

“Can you repeat that?” Charlie murmured into the phone. She lifted her free hand to rub the spot between her eyes where the headache was starting before picking up the pen and writing down the information.

“Trey Palmer was released three months ago.” She murmured into the phone. “And you have no idea of his whereabouts?”

She looked up and saw one of her constables walked into the office and she held up her hand to them as she continued to listen to the speaker on the phone.

“Well surely there must be some why of tracking them once they leave?” Charlie murmured an anger growing inside her that she was struggling to control. ”No I’m sure it isn’t your problem, just as I’m sure the fact that the four year old daughter of the woman he used to date has been kidnapped.”

“Charlie!” the constable gasped.

“You think you might be able to find an address? That’s good, call me back when you find something.” Charlie recited the number of the station before she hung up. She rubbed the bridge of her nose before glancing at her constable.

“Yeah I know I shouldn’t have snapped.” Charlie murmured standing up. She felt herself go dizzy and had to grab the edge of the desk to stop herself falling back in her seat.

“My god Charlie are you alright?” she heard her constable gasp.

“Yeah I’m fine. Just need to eat something.” Charlie said slowly.

“Why don’t you take a break?”

“I know what you mean” Charlie said with a slow smile. “But I need to keep working. I just keep thinking what if it were my little boy, you know. I’d want everybody to do their bit to help find him.”

“Well I came to tell you that hospital just called.” the constable told her.

“Miles?” Charlie gasped. “Is it …”

“He woke up briefly.” The constable said quickly putting her hand out to the other woman.

“Well I’m going to go visit him.” Charlie decided. “This is the list of calls I was planning to make this afternoon.”

“I can take over them.”

“Thanks.” Charlie told her. “I’ll stop off at the diner. Has Angelo been in touch?”

“I believe he said he was following a lead.” The constable murmured. “I was planning to ring him.”

“Why?” Charlie asked as she grabbed her hat and made sure she had her mobile phone.

“He asked to be informed the moment that we heard any news from the hospital.”

“That makes sense.” Charlie smiled thinking of her dedicated husband. “I’m on my phone if you need me.” She added before walking out of the station. She sucked in the fresh air before walking slowly over to her car. Within a minute she was on her way to the diner. Her mind drifted back to the day before her wedding to Angelo.

“Didn’t expect to see you here.” Miles called out in his laid back voice. "Isn't today your wedding day?

“I needed to have five minutes alone.” Charlie said sinking on the beach sitting next to the other man.

“Alone?” Miles questioned. “Does that mean I should go?”

“Please don’t.” Charlie murmured her hand touching one of the rollers in her hair. She moved it carefully wrapping her hair back around it and putting the pin in more securely. “I just needed to get away for a moment. It always makes me feel better coming here.”

Miles looked over at her and grinned.

“What?” she asked him.

“This was Roman’s favourite spot.” He commented.

Charlie forced herself to meet his gaze and not look away. She felt her cheeks grow hot as the blush spread from her chest upwards.

“It was?” she asked.

Miles nodded.

“Don’t expect you to know that. He always came here on his run. Would swim from down there.” Miles told her pointing.

Charlie nodded feeling the pressure of the rollers in her hair.

“I miss him.” Charlie thought she had spoken for a minute before she realised the words had come from Miles.

“Me too.” She commented.

“Have you thought about visiting him?” Miles asked her.

“No.” she shook her head. “Somehow the thought of seeing him caged up.” She said. “Missing out on all this.”

Miles nodded.

“Know what you mean. But he’s doing ok.” Miles said quietly.

“You know you think your life is going in one direction and then it just all changes. I remember him coming for me when I got stuck in that storm drain and I just rejected him. Why did I do that Miles?” Charlie asked. “I made so many mistakes.”

She looked over at the blue sea splashing on to the pale golden sand and pulled her cardigan tighter around her feeling suddenly cold.

“It’s never too late.” Miles said after a moment.

Charlie looked at him.

“I’m getting married in two hours.” Charlie said springing up from the sand. She brushed it off her trousers and spun around walking along the beach.

“It’s never too late to change your mind.” Miles murmured seeing her pause in her flight from the beach. She seemed to stand up straighter at his words but carried on walking.

“It is.” She said the words drifting along the breeze to him. “This is one trap he can’t rescue me from.”

“You ok Darl?” Irene asked as soon as she walked into the diner.

Charlie nodded.

“I’m fine. I need something to eat though, takeaway.”

“You look pale as a ghost, ” Irene said quickly. “Here you better sit yourself down.”

“No I’m fine. Just trying to get a lead on who’s taken Roma.” Charlie told her. “Could I get a coffee and a sandwich.”

“Of course you can.” Irene said. “But you ain’t taking it away. You can sit here for a few minutes and catch your breath. The last thing we need is for you to wear yourself out.”

Charlie smiled and nodded sinking down into a seat on a free table. She closed her eyes for a minute opening them next when Irene brought over the drink and food.

“See.” Irene told her. “You were asleep.”

“I know.” Charlie said softly. “I haven’t felt this tired for ages.”

“Well eat up you need to get your strength back.”

“Thank you Irene.” Charlie told the other woman before picking up the sandwich and taking a bite.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

First thing you see.

A vast radiant beach in a cool jeweled moon

Couples naked race down by it's quiet side

And we laugh like soft, mad children

Smug in the wooly cotton brains of infancy

(Awake – The Doors)

Miles stirred in the bed moving restlessly. He tried to speak but his mouth felt like it was full of cotton wool and his tongue felt like it was three sizes too big for his mouth. He waved his hand around coming into contact with the metal bar at the side of the bed.

“Ow.” He muttered before coughing.

He closed and opened his eyes a few times trying to focus and frowning because he couldn’t recognise where he was. His head hurt, not just hurt he amended it pounded. Like a throb but with a hammer drill doing the throbbing bit. He was good with words, he teached English, god, taught English, he amended but the pain, the sensation inside his head was beyond description. He tried to lift his hand to his head and noticed the tubing that seemed to be coming out of his arm. He knew the word he was looking for but the pounding inside his head made it evade, escape, disappear thingy.

“Miles.” Rachel called softly. “Are you with us again?”

“Erm….. worms funny.” Miles whispered hoarsely. “Brain hurting.”

Rachel moved over to the bed and checked his vitals making sure his blood pressure was normal as she spoke again.

“Ok Miles, you’ve had a bad knock to the head. I imagine that you have quite a headache.”

“Worms on tongue. Slip off.” Miles told her, his voice becoming stronger.

“That’s ok Miles.” Rachel soothed him. “I don’t want you to stress yourself trying to speak.”

She reached for the jug of water on his bedside table and poured out some into a beaker. She held this to his lips and guided the straw so he could take a drink.

“Sip slowly.” She instructed.

“Hurt.” He said.

“Do you want some pain relief?” Rachel asked him.

“Is pope thingy?” Miles said frowning as he tried to think of the word he needed.

“Miles did I mention the part where I said you had a bad knock to the head? I need you to relax."” Rachel said to him looking at the monitors seeing that his heart rate and blood pressure had gone up.

Miles looked at her and tried to grin then frowned as his face didn’t seem to want to work. He could feel the tautness in his muscles, like they were contracted but his mouth felt funny, like it didn’t belong to him. Lifting his hand he tried to put it to his face unaware that it barely moved.

“What’s work with me?” he asked Rachel.

“Miles you’ve hurt your head.” she told him calmly. “Can you squeeze my fingers?” she asked taking hold of the hand he’d just tried to move.

His brown eyes shot to hers in panic.

“Cheesing now.” He told her.

“That’s good.” She said with a smile before patting his arm and tucking it under the covers. “I’m going to get you something for the pain and then we need to let Roman know that you are awake. He’s been here all the time.”

“How line me here?” Miles asked her.

“Just a couple of days.” Rachel said.

Miles shot up from the bed and looked at her.

“Hit me.” He cried out.

“Miles?” Rachel said slowly.

“Hit me.” He said again waving his hand.

“Who hit you?” she said knowing that it was important.

“don’t know.” Miles groaned. “Gone.”

“That’s ok.” she said to him.

She gave him a look before checking the readout again before she moved out of the room and over to the nurses station. She told Julie to take through pain relief for Miles as she called for a neurological consult. Her next call was to the police station.

Charlie moved out of the diner feeling tired and aching. The sandwich and coffee had refreshed her and even though she wanted to go home and grab some sleep, just half an hour she knew she needed to get to the hospital. Miles was awake and they needed answers. She couldn’t think that Romeo had done this although the man was back in the Bay. Then there was Trey. Miles had been one of his teachers before he went crazy and tried to blow up everybody. His revenge had been personal towards Nicole, first the sex tape and then she had been on the bus he’d tried to bomb. Was he out now plotted even more destruction? He was definitely on the list of suspects but would he kidnap a child?

She unconsciously placed a hand over her flat stomach thinking about the little girl that was missing. Poor Roman, she thought and pulled herself up with a start, Roma, the little girl, not her grandfather who she seemed to be focused on. Cursing herself for letting Roman enter her thoughts again she remembered him being at the hospital with Miles. Being a good friend. How many times had he put himself out there for others?

Climbing behind the wheel of her car she set off driving the thirty minutes it took to get to the hospital.

He moved through the corridors unnoticed slowing down he waited until the nurses station emptied of people before he walked across to Miles’ room. Taking a look around he saw that no one seemed interested in him as he closed the door softly and walked over to the bed. Picking up the pillow from the empty bed beside Miles’ he turned and looked at the man in the bed.

“Sorry Mate.” He whispered lifting the pillow into position. “But I can’t let you tell anyone what you saw the other day.”

Slowly with careful precision he began lowering the pillow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You may find yourself

Out on a limb for me

Could you accept it as

A part of your destiny

(The Time is Now – Moloko)

He moved through the corridors unnoticed slowing down he waited until the nurses station emptied of people before he walked across to Miles’ room. Taking a look around he saw that no one seemed interested in him as he closed the door softly and walked over to the bed. Picking up the pillow from the empty bed beside Miles’ he turned and looked at the man in the bed.

“Sorry Mate.” He whispered lifting the pillow into position. “But I can’t let you tell anyone what you saw the other day.”

Slowly with careful precision he began lowering the pillow.

Roman ditched the coffee and moved up out of the canteen. He made it over to the elevators and waited patiently for one to come before he got on it and started the journey back to Miles room. He felt like there was something he was missing. He’d been trained to take notice of little things. Small details made the difference. Spotting a certain look in some ones eyes gave you a clue whether they were going to reach for the gun or not. Watching the way they moved and see if there was a certain tenseness to their muscles. It gave clues as to what they did, their behaviour and how they would react to certain situations. He went through the last few days thinking of all the conversations he’d had with people looking for any clues he could. The elevator reached the floor he wanted and he climbed off it moving along the corridor to Miles room. He saw the nurses station was empty and he frowned without knowing why.

“Oh Roman.” Rachel called out walking up behind him.

“Rachel.” He greeted her.

“Miles woke up. He was quite disorientated and there were some problems with his speech centre.” She advised him.

“Rachel?” Roman murmured. “You aren’t thinking that there is Brain Damage are you?” he asked quickly thinking of how his friend would take that.

“I won’t lie to you Roman it is a possibility with head trauma but we’ll know more in a few days.” She said placing a soothing hand on his arm.

Roman swore under his breath thinking of how far his friend had come in his life already and what he’d had to face. What he’d already lost. He sighed thinking of it.

“Ok this is what is going to happen.” Roman called out over the sound of the chopper’s blades rotating above them. They had just set off from the aircraft carrier sent as part of the relief mission. “Derek and Mike are on cleaning duty. We need to clear space so we can set up the kitchen and start boiling water for drinking and getting ready for the cooking and preparing food.”

Derek nodded looking at his mate.

“The Red Cross is already in place for medical.” Roman continued looking round the faces of his men. "We’ll help them with moving things and people as necessary. Set up a triage centre. Plus they will be taking the names of people in order to contact families.”

“What about ….” Garret began.

“There are tourists from all over the world there. Many won’t speak English. Remember that most will be in shock. Some may become violent as they try to come to terms with the Tsunami and the after effects. Treat them with respect guys, imagine if this were you or someone you know.”

“You going to be doing any cooking Roman?” Mike called out.

Roman grinned at him wondering if anyone would notice if he dropped him out of the chopper.

“Hope not.” Derek responded. “Haven’t’ they been through enough?”

“Thanks.” Roman muttered.

The helicopter began it’s descent to the landing zone and Roman could see all the men preparing themselves for what lay ahead both physically in looking at the equipment they had with them and mentally. It was going to be daunting in both dealing with the aftermath of the Tsunami and the victims.

“Ok guys, let’s get this done, show ‘em what the SAS can achieve.” Roman called out as the helicopter set down.

He was second getting off and scrambling away from the still rotating blades. He could see people carrying stretchers with medical cases on waiting to load them on to the chopper to go out to the ship where part of it had been transferred into a floating hospital.

Roman moved out and after reporting to the people in charge he and his men got to work. They cleared an area to work in before setting up a kitchen and organising the supplies. He grinned as his men began scavenging from a local hotel getting chairs and tables organised so people would be able to sit and eat.

“What else?” Derek asked him.

“Start working on getting the rest of the floors cleared in the hotel. People are going to need places to sleep.” Roman said pointing to what had formally been a four-star resort hotel. “Find any personal belongings box them up.”

Derek nodded his understanding.

“Roman the Red Cross workers have said they are going to start sending people here for food.” Mike called out.

“Ok we’ll get set up. “ Roman nodded and looked over to one side. He saw a long table set up with plates and cutlery, next to bottles of water.

“Guess this means you are cooking.” Derek called out as he moved inside the hotel.

Roman gave a groan before he went over to the large pots near the makeshift cooking range.

“We got this.” A couple of his men began walking towards him carrying a large gas operated BBQ.

“Great.” Roman said. “Now all we need are a few thousand steaks and we’re set.”

Mike laughed.

“Hey, you told us to improvise.” He murmured. “We can use that to boil up water.”

Roman nodded.

“That will do until we get a general running and get going properly.” He said thinking about it.

He moved over to the stack of supplies and began opening a few cans sorting through them until he had some soup on the go.

“Any rice there?” he asked Mike.

The other man started going through the boxes until he came up with a large bag of white rice. Roman took it from him and threw it into another large pan. He added chicken stock to it and began making a kind of risotto dish. Tossing in a large can of mixed vegetables he added seasoning to it before taking a spoon and tasting it to make sure it was ok.

“He’s cooking.” Mike murmured to his colleague watching Roman.

“Good job here comes our first customers.”

“Ok get them seated and we get them fed. Bottle of water each.” Roman called out. “Break out the good will.”

Mike grinned at him before he walked over and began getting people into a seat. The next couple of hours went past in a blur as they fed people and got them registered with the Red Cross before then got them assigned to shelters.

Roman rubbed a hand over his face, he felt grimy and hot after cooking for the past few hours. He looked and saw a guy standing on the beach, her had a grey utilitarian blanket wrapped around his shoulders and was barefoot. Roman reacted instinctively and grabbed a couple bottles of the water and headed over to him.

“Hey there.” he called out quietly.

“They’ve gone.” Miles said looking at the blue ocean. “Just like that.”

“Australian.” Roman asked.

Miles shook and turned to look at him, his gaze off the ocean for the first time in a day.

“Yeah.” He answered. “You?”

Roman nodded and moved to stand next to him.

“Here.” He said handing over the bottle of water. “Take a drink.”

Miles shook his head looking back at the sea. The calm betraying sea. It lapped gently on to the soft pale golden sand unlike a few days ago when it rose up and took his whole life away.

“I didn’t hold on to her.” Miles said guiltily.

“I’ve got no answers mate. I don’t know why some people don’t make it when other do. I leave those sort of things to other people I just want to take you over there and get you fed.” Roman said quietly.

Miles turned and looked at him before looking past him to the temporary food station set up.

“Will my eating change anything?” Miles asked him.

“Not a thing.” Roman said quietly. “It won’t take away your pain or make the past few days not happen. And there isn’t a reason I can give you to come with me apart from I made a pretty good tasting risotto with tin veg and chicken stock on a camp fire.”

Miles sighed before beginning to walk with Roman over to where the tables were set up. He sank down on to one as Roman moved over and got him a plate of food. He placed it in front of him.

“Thank you.” Miles said quietly.

“No worries.” Roman shot back.

He wanted to say more but one of his men called him and he moved away sorting out the food for the next meal.

Roman walked over to Miles’ room frowning when he saw the door closed. He turned the handle and looking at the man standing over Miles bed.

“Hello.” He murmured. “They had to give him some pain killers so he might be out of it again.”

“That is what I thought.” Angelo said.

“Listen about yesterday.” Roman began.

“I know.” Angelo said holding up his hand. “It’s been a rough couple of days for you.”

Roman nodded moving to sink into the chair by Miles bed.

“It has.” He agreed. “Still there was no need for me to say those things. I don’t know how Nicole and Geoff are going to get through this. I don’t think Nicole can take losing another baby.”

Angelo lifted his head and fixed his stare on to the other man.

“You don’t have to say that to me. I was Faith’s father you know.” He pointed out. “She didn’t even tell me she was pregnant.”

Roman nodded.

“I’m sure she would have let you be a part of her life.” He said quietly thinking of the baby that Nicole had lost before she had come back to Summer Bay.

Angelo stepped back and nodded not making another comment. He began walking towards the door before he turned and looked at Roman.

“I’ll be seeing you.” He said and eased out of the room.

Roman nodded before turning and looking at Miles He reached out and took hold of his hand.

“Not gay yet.” Miles muttered after a few minutes moving his fingers to loosen Roman’s hold.

“Yet?” Roman asked. “Is there something you want to confess?”

“Was going to ask same.” Miles murmured. “Saw.”

“Sore?” Roman asked misunderstanding the other man. “Well you have a killer black eye.”

Miles waved his free hand.

“No.” he muttered. “Worms difficult. Saw. Saw. Looked.”

“What did you see Miles?” Roman asked slowly feeling the hairs on back of his neck standing up.

“Charlie.” Miles said . “You.”

“You saw me and Charlie? When?” Roman asked urgently feeling that this was important.

“Muzzled in head.” Miles said opening his eyes and looking at Roman. “Kissy kissy.”

“Ok. You saw us.” Roman said quickly trying to stop the other man from stressing.

“Blur. Pieces no fit.” Miles muttered.

“That’s ok mate.” Roman stood and moved over to the bedside cabinet. He picked up the beaker and held it so Miles could take a drink before helping him sit up a bit more in the bed. He adjusted his pillows before sitting back down.

“Do you know who bashed you?” Roman asked. “Don’t try and force it Mate.”

Miles shook his head groaning.

“Easy.” Roman said standing up and putting his hand out to stop the other man moving.

“Man.” Miles said. “Turned. Blue.”

“Ok.” Roman told him. “That’s a good start. Now rest up ok.”

Miles looked at him and gave a partial nod but he had the feeling that something important was inside his head and he had to tell Roman. He sighed closing his eyes and leaning back on the pillows.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

Angelo looked down at his hands before he walked into the abandoned house. He’d come close to, no, his brain couldn’t cope with what he’d come close to doing and it shut down on him. Three days of lying to people and pretending to do his job. He knew better than to do what he’d done. His life here was over. No-one would accept what he’d done no matter what the reason for it.

“Did you do it?” A voice asked him.

Angelo looked at them and shook his head.

“I knew it, you are weak and pathetic.”

“Shut up,” Angelo groaned and shook his head. Looking at the other person he sucked in a sharp breath at how he could have missed the signs of their breakdown and now he was stuck covering up for them. Lying for them. He couldn’t do it anymore. He had to come clean. Get them help. Before they hurt someone else.

“I knew that you couldn’t do it,” they continued before turning away from him.

For some reason Angelo found that a bigger insult that the earlier taunts, like he was somehow not even worth this person’s time. He felt anger coursing through his veins and reacted, reaching out his hands he made to grab the other person and instead got nothing but air as they swung back around and faced him.

“What are you trying to do?”

Angelo glared at his hands for a moment, outstretched, almost yearning for a second and yet at the same time reminding him of claws, his fingers bent like talons.

“You need help,” Angelo cried out.

The familiar expression on the other person’s face changed slowly as deeper darker emotions took them over leaving Angelo feeling repulsed. He tried to step back reacting too late as he felt the first blow from the torch they were holding in their hand. It bounced off his skull leaving him with thudding sensation that dulled his reactions even more leaving him unable to resist as the second and third blows rained down. Each one made it harder and harder to focus and the sparkling dancing lights behind his eyes dimmed into blackness as he slumped to the floor.

Before he lost the last remaining shred of consciousness he felt his gun being removed from the holster on his belt.

“Have you heard from Angelo?”

Charlie looked up from her phone at Roman’s question as they were standing just outside Miles’s hospital room. The other man was resting with no idea that Angelo had even been in to see him, let alone had any clue why a pillow had been on the floor. Doctors were uncertain just how much Miles would remember or even be able to communicate.

“No,” she stated slowly, “And he hasn’t reported in at the station. I can’t believe that he could be responsible in any way.”

“He was there after Miles,” Roman muttered looking at her.

She met his blue gaze with difficulty before sighing loudly, “I’m sure that Angelo is following a lead.”

“Are there any leads?”

He asked the one question she didn’t have an answer to. Miles had seen something that got him bashed and they couldn’t ask him what it was because he was too injured. Angelo looked as though he had been involved somehow and still that little girl was out there, alone, frightened and missing her parents. She should have had her birthday party and been adored but instead she was … Charlie could only imagine.

“We are doing the best we can,” Charlie told him before stepping away and out of the room. She pulled out her phone again and made another call and again, it went to his voicemail, “Angelo, call me the minute you get this message.”

Pacing out to her car she used the radio to call into the station getting the same report as per twenty minutes earlier. No word from Angelo. They had no idea where he was.

“Put a trace on his phone, let’s see if we can get a GPS location on it,” she said over the airways.

“Are you sure you want to do that? Over.”

“Yes,” Charlie said definitely starting the car up and setting off. The sooner she got back to the evidence the sooner she could look at it and try and find some direction to go in. There had to be something they were missing in all of this. The longer they left it the more likely it was they wouldn’t find Roma alive and she couldn’t face having to tell Geoff and Nic that they had lost their daughter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.