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Pain you know you can't ignore

I don't remember

(Remember by Disturbed.)

Miles opened his eyes again; he blinked up at the ceiling blinded by the ceiling lights momentarily. He could tell it was night because there was quiet outside his room and the blinds were drawn at the windows. No scurry from nurses or visitors, no children’s voices. The quiet was suddenly eerie considering that someone had tried to kill him. He had never hurt anyone so it was something that he’d seen.

What was it, he asked himself. Forcing his thoughts past the pounding headache behind his eyes he tried to remember. Blue. There was the colour blue. He couldn’t remember why that was important. Was it before? Or when someone hit him?

Cursing silently he scrambled up in the bed pulling at the tube of his intravenous drip sticking in his arm. Roma. The little girl. Something he’d seen was about the girl and he had to find out what it was because time was running out.

Roman and Charlie, yes that was it, he’d seen them on the beach kissing. Then they’d walked off but wait something else. Dammit, he cursed as the fog descended and he couldn’t focus.

What was it?

Pulling at the IV he climbed out of the bed feeling weakness in his legs. They felt like they were made of rubber but he still forced himself over to the window and fumbling with the catch, he managed to open the window. The late night gentle breeze was blowing in just the right direction as he caught the scent of the ocean on it. A slight salty tang to the air. Closing his eyes he focused on the beach. The sun beaming down on his head, the crumbs of sand sinking between his toes as he listened to the crash of waves on to the shore. Voices.

Someone had been shouting. Behind him. Then they’d stopped and what, he cursed at his head and lifted his hand to smack himself, like he could ‘smack’ away the fog over his memories and just think about that day. It was important he knew because someone had taken a shovel and hit him until he’d nearly died. He didn’t think that he’d pissed off anyone else that much that they were out to kill him.

Closing his eyes and reflecting that even that hurt, Miles focused once more on the scene he’d witnessed. Roman and Charlie getting it on, and then what was it, what was it? The raised voices.

‘why did you do it….’ One of them shouted.

‘because’ A woman’s voice. Harsh, angry.

Then a disturbance had taken his attention away, Charlie pushing at Roman as though to escape him and then, she stepped forward and kissed him again. They’d continued walking to the car and….. The woman’s voice was so familiar. Like he knew them. And the man. He knew them both. But why couldn’t he think of their names? Why?

There had been many times in his life when he felt like he let people down, Amber and Louise for a start but now he was letting Nic and Geoff down, he was letting Roma down and Roman and just about everyone who loved that little girl.

Gazing out of the window into the blackness of the night Miles struggled to remember. The pain of his injury forced its way into his consciousness and as it returned he collapsed to the cold tiled floor clutching at his head. Swirling thoughts coalesced inside his head and he gasped out a name before falling unconscious.


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  • 1 month later...
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Rachel reached for the telephone her hand shaking as she dialled the number for the police station. She heard the tones come through the receiver as the call connected and then the voice of one of the desk constables.

“I’d like to speak to Charlie Buckton please,” Rachel murmured, “It’s Dr Armstrong from Yabbie Creek Hospital.”

“One moment please,” she was told.

There were a couple of clicks as the call was transferred and then Charlie came on the line, “Constable Buckton,” she murmured formally.

“Charlie it’s Rachel,” she rolled her eyes as she spoke because no doubt Charlie would have been told who was on the phone, before focusing on the information she had to pass on, “Miles suffered a severe bleed on the brain as a result of his injuries. He is currently in surgery to relieve the pressure caused by the haematoma.”

“Rachel, how… when….” Rachel heard Charlie suck in a breath before she continued, “What are his chances Rachel?”

“Slim,” Rachel answered hating that she had to say the words about their friend. She hadn’t had that many dealings with Miles herself but that didn’t stop her liking the other man. Looking down at her free hand she noticed that she’d curled her fingers around the cord on the telephone receiver and was clutching it tightly.

“When will we know anything?”

Rachel closed her eyes briefly, “Within the next couple of hours. The other reason I’m calling..” she trailed off not wanting to make things worse but she had to pass on the message.


“Miles was saying that Angelo…” Rachel coughed trying to clear her throat, “that Angelo was there on the beach. Does that mean anything to you?”

“It does,” Charlie stuttered, “Please keep me advised on his condition.”

Rachel murmured assent before hanging up the phone. She pushed a shaky hand through her hair as she tried to work out what all this meant. It had something to do with Roma’s disappearance and she couldn’t help but be fearful for the little girl, especially as she knew the longer she was out there the more likelihood that she wouldn’t be found.

Standing up from her desk she moved out of her office and went to find something to keep her occupied until she got some news on Miles.

Charlie lowered the receiver slowly and placed her head in her hands. This was all her fault. She should never have married Angelo when she had feelings for someone else and certainly never given into those feelings.

Miles had just confirmed that Angelo had seen them on the beach so he what? Get a grip Buckton, she told herself scathingly, would Angelo throw his whole life and career away because he was mad at her? No, he’d confront her.

The thought made her head lift up. He hadn’t confronted her. Even though he knew about her and Roman.

She stood and paced over to the evidence board, looking at the timeline of Roma’s disappearance and with a shaky hand she wrote the word beach on it next to the approximate time she had been with Roman. A glance across confirmed that if Angelo had been there at the same time he couldn’t have been the one to take Roma. There was no way he could have been in two places at the same time.

“That meant what,” she found herself saying aloud, “he’s covering for someone,” she added just as a knock sounded at her door.

Lifting the pen once more she wrote down in the corner under a picture of Miles his current condition before calling out for whoever it was to come in.

“Still no trace of Angelo,” Watson murmured, “but this was turned into the station and I thought you’d want to see it.”

Charlie turned toward the door and looked at what the other officer was holding, a large shovel already covered by an evidence bag.

“Is that the weapon used on Miles?”

“We think so, there’s blood and…”

“And?” Charlie prompted.

“What looks like woman’s hair on it.”

Charlie looked at it and then the board. A woman could be their kidnapper but what would be the motive? She moved over to collect the shovel, taking it over to a table underneath the window they used when they needed extra room to compile paperwork. Pulling on a pair of gloves she opened the evidence bag and carefully looked at the handle, her gaze directed from the rusty colour of the blood on the blade of the shovel to the place where four very long hairs where snagged onto the roughened wooden handle. Possibly pulled out when the shovel was lifted up to shoulder height when it was used to bash Miles.

“Definitely long hair,” Charlie began, “but then I’ve known male suspects to have equally long hair.”

“Do they colour it?” Watson said slowly.

Charlie looked at her and then paid more attention to the evidence in front of her. The hair had had a red colour tint applied to it at some stage, more likely to be a woman’s hair than a man’s if that were the case.

“Let’s get this to the lab, maybe they can get some DNA off it,” she murmured.

“It has to be connected doesn’t it?”

“To Roma’s disappearance? It still doesn’t explain why Miles was bashed. What did he see that they were scared he’d remember?”

Watson shrugged her eyes sliding to look at the incident board, “I’ll take it straight to the lab.”

Charlie nodded and allowed the other officer to collect the shovel. It had to give them something to go on, had to. She couldn’t think of what would happen if they couldn’t find Roma. Her eyes moved to her desk where pictures of her children were, Ruby and her son. Ruby.

Her mouth dropped open and she paced over to her desk to snatch up the picture. Ruby had red dyed hair in the picture. How could she have forgotten that? She found her heart pounding inside her chest in panic. Angelo would do anything to protect their family, even lie for their daughter? Even kill for her?

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  • 3 months later...

Charlie climbed out of her car and moved quickly into her and Angelo’s house where Ruby was babysitting their son. She smiled sadly at the two of them as she watched them playing a board game, the pieces of which were scattered all over the coffee table, a few spilling on the cream carpeted floor below. Her son had inherited her eyes and dark hair colour but the rest of him was Angelo. She grimaced as she thought of her husband and how he was still missing. She knew that he’d do anything to protect them, and that included Ruby and whilst she was planning to speak to her daughter about his disappearance she knew that she couldn’t tell their son that his Daddy was missing or let alone everything else that was going on. No five-year-old should have to deal with this news she thought as her heart grew even heavier at the prospect that Angelo was gone in some way from them.
Certainly his actions at the hospital with Miles made him a suspect and she wasn’t doing her job if she didn’t acknowledge that, even if she wasn’t ready to say the words out loud.
“Mummy!” her son cried finally spotting her standing there, “You’s been gone r’eva!”
“Have I? Forever really?”
Charlie moved over to them and picked up her son and hugged him to her. She glanced at Ruby and then focused once more on her boy.
“Ruby cheated,” he grumbled gesturing to the game in play between them.
“I so didn’t scamp,” Ruby laughed as she too stood up and moved over to the kitchen, “You want a drink Mum? How are things going?”
“Not for me,” Charlie said quietly, “Listen, I need to have a grown up chat with your sister, will you go sit and play in your room for me?” She asked her young son placing a kiss on to the top of his head as she reluctantly released him as she lowered him to the floor.
He nodded at her and ran off with a giggle before she heard the sound of the door closing as he went into his room.
“What’s wrong Charles?”
“Ruby, I need you to sit down and answer some questions for me,” Charlie began knowing she was using the same tone of voice that she would use if she were questioning a suspect and grimaced again at the way her thoughts were going.
“You’re starting to scare me now, what’s wrong? Oh no, is it Roma?”
Charlie flinched at the mention of the little girl before she stared at her daughter with narrowed eyes barely glancing around the immaculate kitchen that they’d had installed just mere months ago. Even so her eyes caught the picture placed on the fridge door painted by their son. She frowned for a second before realising it wasn’t the picture that caught her attention but the invitation next to it that invited him to Roma’s birthday party. She felt a sob rise in her throat thinking about the little girl missing out on her birthday and slowly turned to Ruby.
“Do you know where she is Ruby?” The question burst out of her.
“Wait? What? No, no!” Ruby gasped, “How could you even ask me that? I know I had problems with Nic coming back at first but…”
“Sit down,” Charlie pointed to a chair and waited until her daughter sat on it before continuing, “Someone bashed Miles. Angelo has gone missing after seeming to cover up the identity of whoever it was. There is evidence to suggest that the attacker was a woman with long hair. Who would Angelo break the law to help Ruby? Tell me, who would he risk prison for?”
“Not me Charles, god no, I didn’t do anything to Miles!” Ruby moaned and shook her head repeatedly, “Wait, Angelo is missing? Shouldn’t you be out looking for him? Isn’t there a way of tracking him?”
“My station is doing everything they can,” Charlie began.
“Yeah, just like you are and Angelo,” Ruby scoffed standing up abruptly, “chasing your tails looking at the wrong people. How are you going to get Roma back when you don’t have a clue who has taken her? What if they come for your son next? Eh, Charlie? What if they come for him?”
“Is that a threat Ruby?”
“Oh my god, no!” Ruby shouted and in her agitation she knocked over the chair she’d been sitting on. Both of them ignored the loud clatter sound it made as it clumped to the tiled floor.
“When did you dye your hair back from red?”
“What has that got anything to do with it?”
“When, dammit, when?”
“Months ago, I can’t even remember,” Ruby shouted.
“Where were you at …” Charlie named the date and time that Miles had been bashed and watched her daughter’s face carefully as she answered.
Charlie continued to stare at her daughter, a daughter she had loved since birth but had treated as a sister for much of her life until the secret of her conception and true parentage had come out in the open. Now she had to face that in the space of five minutes she had potentially wrecked their relationship beyond repair and instead of it making her sad inside that she could be so distrusting of her own daughter she just felt a weight of relief that she could cross her off the suspect list.
“I had to ask,” Charlie said slowly.
“I should be grateful you didn’t haul me down to the station then,” Ruby shot back all trace of emotion gone from her voice, “Whilst you are still searching for Roma I’ll stay here but as soon as she is home with her parents I’m moving out.”
Charlie nodded before she stepped out of the back door and headed back to her car. Roma was still out there, and Angelo was missing. Miles was in hospital undergoing another operation. It was all she could do not to pull over to the side of the road and just bawl her eyes out.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Roma listened carefully at the door. There was no one the other side, she couldn’t even hear fairy footsteps. Looking around the room her eyes focused on one of the paint cans and she moved over to it. The handle was sticky but she made herself pick it up and move it. Not all at once, no she had to stop a couple of times because it was so heavy. Finally in place near the door, not to stop it opening but so it would make a noise when the door opened and hit against the side of the can.
Nodding to herself she rubbed her grubby hands on her dress, hating that she had gotten so dirty. Her mum would be upset with her like she always was before she’d sigh and call her Daddy’s mud wrestler. Although she wasn’t quite sure what one of them was.
She could feel her bottom lip trembling as she thought of her mummy and daddy. She hoped they were missing her as much as she was missing them. Walking back over to where she’d hidden the scissors the day before she took them out and over to the boarded up window. If she could just get one of the boards loose she could get out and go home.

Ruby looked at the door Charlie had gone out of for the hundredth time before leaving her little brother playing and heading into her bedroom. As she looked around she spotted the photograph of them on her windowsill. It was the same one that Charlie had a copy of at the station where her hair had red streaks in. Sighing she moved over to her dresser drawer and after opening it she rummaged around until she found the clip in hair extensions. They had been a present from Nic when they had been shopping one day, to cheer her up when her boyfriend dumped her. Looking down at the incriminating coloured strands she balled them up in her fist and raced into the bathroom before dumping them in the toilet and flushing. The water came up to the edge of the toilet bowl and she took a step back looking on it in horror before it receded and took away the potential evidence. Washing her hands as though that could remove the guilt she felt she dried them before returning to take care of her brother and put him to bed. Charlie must never know, she thought guiltily.

Rachel walked out of the operating theatre feeling that her feet were made of lead. She heard her soft footfalls sounding as loud as cannon fire as each step took her closer to where Roman was waiting, the other man having been here pretty much all the time that Miles had been in hospital. She never would have guessed that their friendship was this deep.
His voice shocked her, she’d thought he was asleep, his eyes had been closed and his head down, chin resting on his chest.
“Roman,” she began unable to control the quiver in her voice.
He stood up from his seat and met her gaze. “Just tell me,” he instructed, “Did Miles make it out of surgery?”
“We removed a large blood clot from his brain. There was some bleeding.”
“Is he…”
“We did what we could but we won’t know if there is brain damage until he wakes up. It is going to be a long road for him.”
“At least he’s still with us,” Roman said quietly.
“But if he…” she didn’t finish the sentence as her eyes met Roman’s. Miles was a teacher. How would he manage with a permanent brain injury? She pressed her lips together and nodded. At least he’d made it this far, they had to hold on to that.
“Did he say anything else about his attacker?”
“No Roman and even if he did it would be my duty to tell Charlie.”
“I’m more than aware of that,” Roman shot back, “but from my perspective they don’t seem to be doing much. Miles is here fighting for his life and my granddaughter is still missing. Nic of all people doesn’t deserve this.”
“I know Roman, and …” again she pressed her lips together to stop herself from disclosing Nic’s pregnancy. Tiredness was making her say things she thought with a sigh.
“Angelo…” Roman began.
“We don’t know for certain what he was doing in Miles’s room.”
“We do know that he is now missing too and can’t answer our questions,” Roman muttered rubbing a hand across his face before folding his arms again.
“I don’t know what to tell you Roman, you know if Miles did indeed say anything we have to go to the police first.”
“I know, but then again Rachel, you know that a four year little girl is missing and everything that can be done to find her strangely isn’t being done. We don’t know what Angelo was doing. We don’t know who bashed Miles. We don’t know anything and you think that the police are doing all they can? Because I sure as hell don’t.”
Rachel gave a little gasp before she leaned forward. In a quiet voice she told him everything she knew because if it had been her little girl out there she would have been just as angry and frustrated as Roman.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Charlie hung back as her officers approached the scene. The last known location of Angelo’s car. She heard the crackle of static over the radio before a disjointed voice announced they’d found the vehicle. She longed to run towards it but the possibility of contaminating a crime scene held her back. That and the fear that the only reason Angelo wouldn’t have been in contact with them was because something had happened to him. She sucked in a sharp breath and tried to clamp down on the fear that was pounding inside of her louder than her own heartbeat. The crackle again.
“I think we need SOCO here,” came the voice and that fear turned to dread.
“Say again?” she murmured into the radio.
“Constable Buckton,” the voice murmured over the radio, “We need SOCO on scene. We’ve located a body.”
“Roger that,” Charlie said slowly as tears began to fall from her eyes. She could feel them gliding over her cheeks in hot trails and she lifted a hand to dash them away before she moved back to her car and began to make the necessary arrangements. First there would be a call to the police doctor to get them out to confirm that there was a death and then well the forensics team would be called to investigate the crime scene and collect the evidence. When she’d joined the police force she never expected to be at the murder scene of her husband, and despite the lack of initial evidence reports she knew he’d been murdered. Angelo knew who had Roma. He knew who had bashed Miles and had tried to protect the person, or get them to release the little girl. She also had no evidence of that but she’d been married to the man and there was no way she’d believe that he’d been anything other than the man he was.
Stepping away from the car she faced the opposite way to the crime scene and sucked in careful breaths trying not to let this overwhelm her. She’d have to call in officers from the city and excuse herself from the investigation. They would want to interview her and track her movements. The one night stand she’d had with Roman would come out; there was no hiding it anymore. Her career was all but ruined, not even a transfer would salvage it.
Sighing she rubbed at the fresh tears that had fallen down on to her face before turning to look at the two officers coming to stand near their vehicle.
“It’s him,” one of them said gently as though to ward off her question.
Charlie nodded and returned to her car taking out the crime scene tape from the back.
“You’ll need to mark off the area, record anything you may have touched. I’ve called in for officers from the night shift to come in and take over. They didn’t work with Angelo so this will be easier for them. The doctor and forensics have been notified.” She listed all the routine things they did when there was a body knowing that they knew it too but still needing to say it. To say something. To fill the void where there was silence. Her husband was dead. She’d cheated on him and mistrusted him and if she gave into that she knew that those feelings would cripple her. She was still a cop and she owed it to Angelo to figure this out.

Roman paced slowly up and down the same line in the hospital corridor. The air was oppressive. Not just the heat of the day but the cloying smell of the antiseptic was making his nostrils twitch with each breath he took. He’d spent days here, waiting for news. Praying. Hoping. Distracting himself with Miles so he didn’t tear the Bay apart searching for his granddaughter. She was four. She was small and helpless and if anything happened to her god help the person responsible because he wouldn’t rest until he’d extracted his own form of vengeance. Not that Nic or Geoff would approve.
Just inside the room on his left Miles was being tested to see if there was any permanent brain damage. As anxious as he was to hear if his friend was going to be okay there was another matter he urgently needed to talk to him about. Something that Rachel had confided in him gave him an idea of where to start looking for Roma but first he needed to speak to Miles. To tap into those memories he had to see if he was right. Miles held the key to getting her back and the poor guy didn’t even know it.

Nic looked at Geoff as he sat at the table opposite her. He’d been quiet for the past day, lost in his thoughts for most of it. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking and that scared her as much as not knowing where Roma was. Her precious girl was still out there, someone had her. She felt tears pooling in her eyes at the thought of Roma and blinked them away.
“I think …” Geoff began.
“I think it’s someone we know. I think they’ve done this to get back at us.”
“For what?” Nic asked slowly remembering Hugo and the horror she’d endured at his hands.
“You know.”
“Geoff!” She gasped out placing her hand unconsciously on her stomach.
“I’m sorry Nic but it has to be connected. Kidnapping is personal. We haven’t had a ransom demand.”
“I know,” she whispered.
Geoff stood and moved to sit nearer to her. He reached out and took hold of her free hand before he spoke again.
“I’m not blaming you in anyway, I need you to know that and…” he trailed off.
“I’m going to say stuff to you that is hurtful and I’m sorry but my mind has been going round in circles for the past day and I need to say this stuff.”
She nodded slowly wondering how she was going to cope but then sucking in a sharp breath she nodded again indicating that he should continue. “Go ahead.”
“Hugo is in prison. There have to be records of his visitors if we can see that we’ll know for certain,” he said quietly.
“It can’t be Xavier.”
“It can be anyone with a connection to him,” Geoff said after a moment.
“Why didn’t they come after me? Why didn’t they …” she stopped, “You know…”
He looked startled at her words before his expression changed.
“Because we’re looking for a woman. A woman has Roma.”

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  • 2 months later...

Roma sat very still, her hands clasped in her lap. She looked over at the window her eyes drawn to the spot where she’d loosened one of the boards. She knew where she was now, the house near the lighthouse. No-one would hear her if she called for help she knew that because she’d tried it and when her throat started hurting she’d stopped. Not long after she’d heard footsteps outside and looked down to see the person coming for her. She’d hidden her scissors then and made sure she was sitting on the bed. Not that the mattress and scratchy blanket was much of a bed. She couldn’t wait until she got home and was in her own room With foxy.

She gave a hiccupping sob at the thought of Foxy her special bear. Her Mummy and Daddy knew that she didn’t sleep without him so they must be really sad right now. Before she could stop it tears crept into her eyes and she began to cry noisily.

“Shut up!” the woman crashed through the door and called out.

“I…want …”

“Wah wah wah, you want to go home, you want your mummy…. I want justice!”

“I want… hic…. Foxy!”

“What is Foxy?”

Roma looked up at the woman, her tears stopping in an instance. She had her grandfather’s temper her mum told her and suddenly she thought that this woman was really really stupid head. Although she had been told not to call adults names. But she was a big fat stupid head.

“Foxy is the bestest bear,” she asserted narrowing her eyes and glaring at the other woman, “and if you don’t gets me my foxy I’m gonna scream,” she added standing up from the mattress and stamping her foot on the wooden floor.

Motes of dust scampered up from the floorboards and caught the small sunbeams that were slipping in through the narrow gaps in the boarded up windows. She watched as they danced like fairies in the air before opening her mouth and sucking in a big breath. With every ounce of her small frame put into the action she screamed loudly.

“Shut up!” the woman hissed.

“I ….” Roma muttered fiercely “Want Foxy!”

“Shut the hell up! No wonder I don’t like kids…” the woman gave her a look before throwing a brown paper bag on the bed and leaving the room.

Roma heard the door slam and the heavy sounding lock turning before the clomp clomp of her footsteps going away. She listened carefully before looking in the brown paper bag and seeing a packet of crisps and a drink. Feeling her tummy growling like a bear she opened the crisp packet carefully and began slowly munching on them.


“Constable Buckton,” Watson called out.

“What is it?” Charlie said tiredly. “I was just about to go home.”

“Sorry but the lab just called. They’ve analysed the red hair and whilst there is no DNA match in the system they’ve concluded that it comes from a woman.”

“I think that much we already knew,” Charlie responded in a scathing voice.

“I know, and the longer…”

“Watson, I’ve got to get home. I need to tell my son that…” her voice broke on the thought of Angelo not coming home with her again and she felt tears burning unshed in her brown eyes.

“I understand, we’ll keep working on it and if we hear anything we’ll call you.” Watson promised.

Charlie gave a slow nod and moved out of the station. She was still wracking her brains about who exactly Angelo would cover for. Obviously this unidentified woman had some kind of hold over her husband. She couldn’t think what. Maybe resting for a few hours would help her think. Maybe if she looked through his stuff at home she might find something.

But first before all that she had to see their son. She had to hold him tight because she couldn’t bear it if anything happened to him and there wasn’t a guarantee that whoever had taken Roma and killed her husband wouldn’t come after him next.


“Dad,” Nic murmured slowly into the phone.

“I’m here,” Roman said rubbing a hand over his face as he looked into the room where Miles was. He was severely weakened by the second surgery and in intensive care. A machine breathing for him.

“Miles is…”

“He’s doing as well as can be expected Nic, but…” Roman’s voice broke.

“Dad, we…. Well we’ve done nothing but thinking about this. Roma wouldn’t go off with a stranger not easily and well we think it makes sense that a woman is behind this.”

“Nic,” Roman stood and paced the hospital corridor.

“I know Dad but we can’t think of who would have a …”

“Anyone from Geoff’s past?”

“Hardly,” Nic scoffed at the thought and Roman heard her laugh briefly through the phone.

“I.. well there have been a few in my past but …”

“Oh Dad,” more laughter, “That would be an incredibly long suspect list if we were investigating all the women you’ve had in your life.”

“Are you about to tell me you’ve been having …”

“I am not a lesbian!” Nic said cutting off his question and this time Roman heard Geoff laughing in the background.

It was good to hear them both laughing despite the serious situation. It meant that they were coping and he needed to know that.

“So it has to do with Hugo,” Roman said finally when they’d all lapsed into silence.

“Yes Dad, but we don’t know who would do this?”

“Nic, I need to hang up now. I’ve got to make some calls. I’ll speak to you soon okay?”

“Dad… dad…” he heard Nic say as he disconnected the call.

He had a few calls to make and he needed to speak to some people. Hugo Austin was one of those people. Walking into Miles’s room he approached the bed with the same trepidation that had held him outside in the corridor for ages. He took hold of Miles’s hand feeling the coolness of his skin against his own.

“Mate, I have to go do hero stuff. I need you to hang on, no doing something stupid like giving up on me okay?”

He would swear later that he felt Miles squeeze his hand in response but for now his mind was on other things. He had an idea who had Roma and he was going to go get his granddaughter back.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Roma looked at the door as though expecting Cruella to come back through it and catch her any second. She sighed as she looked at the empty bag of crisps she’d put down just a minute ago still feeling her belly rumble. She was still hungry and thought about the cake that had been made for her birthday. She’d seen it in the fridge although both her Mum and Dad had kept trying to hide it in the back.

When she got home she was gonna get the peanut butter out and eat it with a spoon like she caught her mum doing once. And then she was going to have chocolate and ice cream. She’d do the big sad eyes and they wouldn’t be able to say no.

Grinning because of her plan she slowly paced to the door, it was white with four squares on it. The handle was big and shiny, a gold colour and she kept watching it to see if it moved. Putting her eye to the key hole she peered out as far as she could see. The wooden floors had no carpet on and were so dusty she could see people’s footsteps.

Moving slowly away from the door she took out the scissors she’d hidden and went back to work on the window. The board she’d already loosened came away and she started on the next one below it. If she could get the board looser she could get through it.

Before Cruella came back.

Roman sat in a room with a table and three chairs. He looked up seeing the security camera in the corner of the room taping every second of his visit. The light blue walls were closing in on him and he hated the smell. The smell clung to everything, his hair, his clothes, even his skin.

When he’d been released from prison he’d spent ages trying to get away from that smell. It seemed to be burned into his nose so that with every breath he took he would smell it. Some days he thought he could even taste it. Chemical acid smells, ammonia and disinfectant. He’d scrubbed at his skin with a brush trying to get it away from him. He’d replaced his clothes as soon as he could. It still took months to get away from it.

And here he was now, sitting in a prison. In a visiting room this time around though and even though it was a different prison to the one he was in, it still smelled the same.

The door opened with a scraping sound and then he saw the person he had come for. He felt anger leaping through his system and he frowned as his hands formed into fists.

“They let you out?” Hugo Austin asked him with a sneer.

“Sit down!” A guard instructed him, pressing a large hand on Hugo’s shoulder as they guided him to a chair the other side of the table.

Hugo glared at him before he sat down and faced Roman.

“I suppose you are here to talk about …”

“About?” Roman prompted when Hugo trailed off.

“Your daughter,” Hugo sneered.


He could tell from the look on Hugo’s face that he’d surprised the other man.

“Then what?”

“Who visits you?”

“Who what?”

“Who feels sorry enough to visit you here in this stinkhole?”

“What the hell? Just go… Get out… visit over…” Hugo made a half move to get up and then stopped sinking back down on the chair. “What’s happened?”

Roman debated what to tell him before he nodded, “Nic’s daughter has been kidnapped.”

“What? She had a kid? Well…” Hugo smiled, “You want something from me…”

“Not particularly. We just want to rule out you as a suspect.”

“Me, come on now I’ve been behind bars. Can’t pin that one on me…”

“Accessory to kidnapping. Attempted Murder.”

“Wait what? No way, I’m in here, I didn’t do nothing…”

“Prove it.”

Roman folded his arms and looked at the other man. No way was he going to let on that he’d done that to stop himself pummelling the other man senseless until he talked.

“The only person who visits me is….. “ he named them looking in shock at Roman as the other man nodded.

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  • 3 months later...

Roman made it back to the Bay in record time, in fact he knew he’d probably have a few speeding tickets heading his way but he didn’t care about that because now he had a name, he had focus, and above all else he had a way to trap them.
Heading to Nic’s first he knew he needed to tell them what he’d learnt, give them some hope. Those moments when Elliot had grabbed Nic had aged him ten years and given him a clue as to how Nic and Geoff were doing. He knocked once on the door before opening it and stepping inside. Nic was sitting at the kitchen table, a laptop open in front of her.
“Dad,” she called out.
“Hey, I have some news,” he murmured and cursed at his choice of words when she began to stand up looking hopeful.
“Roman,” Geoff muttered coming down the stairs obvious after hearing him talking.
“I have a name, we need to do some research,” he said improvising and gesturing to the laptop in front of Nic.
She gave a short nod; her expression resumed that careful blank one that tried not to give away just how much pain she was feeling. He’d seen it so many times on her face and one day he was going to have to tell his daughter that it fooled no one but now he strode over to her side and leaning down he typed a name into the search box. Both Nic and Geoff gasped out their shock at reading it.
“Are you sure?”
“They were the only person to visit him.”
“We thought maybe that it could have been Martha,” Geoff said quietly.
“She stopped having anything to do with Hugo when he was charged,” Roman pointed out, “She’s at a small holding in the country now.”
“You’d already ruled her out?” Geoff muttered the question his hands moving restlessly.
“I had to do something,” Roman murmured.
“My Dad the hero,” Nic said with a sad smile.
“Let’s get a look at this, maybe we can figure out a few things.”
“Have you told the police?”
“I messaged Charlie.”
Geoff nodded before he pulled up a chair next to his wife and sat down. Reaching out he took hold of her hand and together all of them started looking at the information revealing itself on the screen.

Charlie looked over at Ruby. Her elder daughter was acting suspicious and she couldn’t put her finger on why. They hadn’t spoken since she’d had to tackle her regarding the red hair, not really aside from platitudes when she’d told her daughter about Angelo.
“Can you please have a conversation with me?”
“What do you want me to say mother? Are you going to treat me as a suspect again?”
Charlie flinched from the tone of her daughter’s voice before she peered at her with narrowed eyes. “Do I need to treat you as suspect just to get conversation out of you?”
“Maybe you need to stop treating me as a suspect, maybe you need to stop….” Ruby ran out of steam and looked over at her mother.
“I’ve lost my husband Ruby, I’ve just got you and my son left.”
“You don’t have me; we’ve not spoken properly for months. Angelo was the only person to see me and he’s gone. I’m going to move out. Go to Uni or something,” tears seeped into Ruby’s eyes before they seeped down her face. With angry movements she dashed them away before facing her once more.
“Ruby, is this really what you feel? I know that I should have been there when you and Geoff split up but there was so much going on,” Charlie muttered.
“There was always something going on,” Ruby sniffed.
“I’m here now, can’t we get past this?”
Charlie reached for her daughter and pulled her resisting form into her arms. She held her for the briefest time before Ruby tugged away from her and gave her a hateful look.
“Don’t bother. I had nothing to do with Roma’s disappearance mother, and as soon as I can I’m going as far away as I can.”
Charlie stood there in shock as her elder child strode purposely from the room and into her bedroom. Everything was so messed up, so confusing. What was she going to tell her son? First he’d lost his father and now this, his sister was leaving. Why did Angelo have to get mixed up in this? What did he owe the person that he was capable of bashing Miles? That he was capable of covering up a little girl’s disappearance?
She sucked in a breath and fought for control of her raging emotions, anger, guilt, loss. They were clouding her judgement, making it hard for her to see what was real and what wasn’t. Roma was out there, spending another night away from her parents and it was her fault, because she should have done her job and found her already.

Roma got the board off, struggling with the weight of it as she tugged it away from the window. She saw stars in the sky and yawned because when the stars were out she was usually in bed. Thinking of bedtime she felt a wave of homesickness wash over her, foxy would be tucked under her pink covers and her mum and dad would come and kiss her goodnight and even after her mum told her no more stories her dad would tell her just one more.
Staggering over to the makeshift bed she tucked herself in, making sure the cover went all the way down to the end of the bed. That way the bogey man couldn’t get her in the night, that’s what her mummy told her.
Yawning again she closed her eyes and drifted slowly to sleep.

Nic looked over at Geoff and then at the clock. Her dad had just left after telling them he thought he knew where Roma was being kept and although she needed to hold her daughter the possibility that anything could happen to the child she was carrying kept her in place. She caught Geoff looking at her and she sighed.
“We can go, park nearby and wait there?”
“No, we need to … oh Geoff, I can’t stand it. Roma. She must be so scared I just want to hold her!” Nic gave in to the emotional tears she’d bottled up for days.
“I know,” he moved over to hold her in his arms and she clung to him.
“He needs to find her; he has to find her doesn’t he?”
“This is your Dad remember, he tracked us down to that island didn’t he?”
She gave a sniff before giving him a half smile.
“I think that had more to do with me being stranded with you…” she joked feebly.
“I definitely was more scared of your dad than Elliot,” he murmured.
“Ha, as if,” she shot back.
The two shared a kiss before Nic snuggled back in his arms, she couldn’t help sneaking another glance at the clock though. Just five minutes had passed since the last time.

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  • 2 months later...

As Roman approached the derelict building he turned off his engine and allowed the car to coast the last stretch of road, aiming for a silent approach and in addition he’d also flicked the headlights off, so not to warn anyone of his arrival. If he were right with his hunch then the person who had taken Roma was inside the now creepy looking building. Not that there hadn’t been other occasions when he’d been checking out similar looking properties in his time in the military but this was somehow different. The thought that he could very well be bringing Roma home to her parents within the next couple of hours had his heart pounding and drying out his mouth until he could barely even raise a spit.

The one who’d kidnapped Roma had taken her to inflict pain on Nic and Geoff. There was no ransom note, no sign that the motive was anything other than revenge. He shuddered in response to the thought of what could happen to children when they were taken before dragging his attention back to the scene in front of him. Silence greeted him as he stepped out of the car. His rubber soled shoes made no sound as he began the slow cautious walk towards his target.

Keeping his eyes peeled he made sure that his phone was switched to silent and his hand touched upon the knife he’d taken from Nic’s kitchen purely for self-defence, although with a phone call and half an hour he could have got himself a gun or any number of other weapons despite the criminal record that hung over him.

Testing the door, he checked it over for booby traps, for anything that would warn of his presence before trying the handle. It turned in his grip indicating that it was unlocked but before he opened it he pulled out a can of oil spray from his bag and oiled up the hinges ensuring that they wouldn’t squeak before he finally opened it. Narrowing his eyes against the yawning darkness he eased into the building, casting looks left and right before he risked getting out the small penlight torch he’d brought with him.

The small but powerful beam of the Maglite torch allowed him to see everything as he swept the light left to right and back again. The dust on the floor had been disturbed indicated that people had recently walked in it. Two different sets of footprints, one set larger than the other and possibly resulting from police issue boots given that Angelo was somehow involved with this mess.

Moving as silently as possible he entered the lighthouse and began to search it room by room.

Moving away from the group of people she was with she discreetly answered the phone.
“I accept the charges,” she murmured to the monotone voice on the other end of the phone.
“Hello,” Hugo muttered from inside the prison, his voice sounding slightly distorted over the airwaves.
“What’s the problem? I thought I told you not to contact me?”
“Had a visitor, thought I should let you know,” he said.
“Who was it?”
“Now you’re interested? What have you done?”
“Just tell me,” she said slowly and calmly despite feeling anything like calm.
“Roman Harris. Thought you could get away with it didn’t you? But they are coming for you.”
“I had to…” she stopped herself from giving into the familiar rant and sucked in a deep calm breath, “There’s nothing to tie you to this so just keep your mouth shut. Let me deal with it.”
“Too late, I told him what he wanted to know…”
“What have you done?” She hissed the question at him before catching sight of Marilyn giving her a curious look from her stand across the diner and she forced herself to calm down. Nothing was going to be gained from losing it here. No, she’d already made too many mistakes like when she’d been spotted on the beach by Miles. She’d declared to Angelo that she was nowhere near the Bay on the day Roma was kidnapped but then Miles had started to ask questions. Getting rid of him was easy and then blackmailing the cop into helping her. Her free hand moved down to her handbag where she had Angleo’s gun stashed. Not that she liked guns let alone carrying them around but she hadn’t had time to find a decent hiding place for it. Besides, it just might come in handy.
“He asked who visited me in this hole. I told him your name. Won’t be long before you are sharing a cell with me now will it?”
She heard the mockery in Hugo’s voice and hung up the connection without replying. He was ungrateful after all she’d done for him. After all she’d sacrificed. Walking away slowly she waited until she was out of sight before running to her car and climbing behind the steering wheel. Putting her hand inside her bag she pulled out Angelo’s gun and put it in her lap. Time to end this.
Time that Nicole had to pay for what she did.

Roman looked at the last door. All the other rooms had been checked and this one remained. The room had been used recently he noted from the lack of dust on the floor directly in front of it. Scanning around the edges of the door frame he was relieved to see that there were no booby traps. No visible wires, grease spots or other indicators and slowly cautiously his hand reached for the handle.

Of course it was locked and without a key. Kneeling down on one knee he searched through his backpack until his hand encountered the small wallet that contained his lock picks. He drew it out and opened it up balancing that on his upright knee whilst he searched for the tools he needed out of it.

Placing the small Maglite torch into his mouth and holding it there he freed up both hands so he could concentrate on the door. The handle was one of those antique brass ones, either Victorian or Edwardian rim lock. He’d never worked on one of these before and felt a drip of sweat running down his face as he inserted the picks and began moving them around getting a feel for the internal workings of the lock. He heard clicking as things moved inside the lock and then felt something spring inside it before hearing the distinctive sound of the door unlocking. Putting his tools away he eased up and slowly opened the door.


Feeling his heart thumping in his chest he nodded at the little girl and moved quickly over to her.

“Hello Moppet, I’ve come to take you home to Mummy,” he murmured crouching down in front of her.

“She’s not very mad at me is she?” Roma asked slowly rubbing her hand down her dress.

“She’s not mad at all,” he answered her before lifting her up and balancing her on one hip keeping his other hand free.

“I want foxy,” Roma sobbed snuffling into him.

“Let’s get you home.”

Moving quickly out of the place he got her secured in his car before climbing round the other side and getting behind the wheel.


“It’s okay Roma,” he assured her, “We need to get you to Mummy and then sort everything out.”

“Cruella not gonna get me again?”

“No Moppet Cruella is not going to get you again. Promise.”

Driving faster than he normally would with his granddaughter in the car he sped towards Nic and Geoff’s place knowing only that his daughter needed her daughter home.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Roman grinned as he watched Geoff and Nic fuss over their daughter. There had been hostage situations he’d dealt with in the past where he’d seen relatives reunited but nothing was as heart-warming as this. Roma had apologised for getting her dress dirty and if that was all she was worrying about he’d be happy. Moving out of earshot he placed a call to Charlie letting her know via her voicemail that he’d got his granddaughter home, knowing within hours perhaps that the information would leak around the Bay.

“We should tell everyone,” Geoff murmured.

“No,” Roman interjected quickly overhearing him.

He could have cursed after he saw his son-in-law pale.

“Where… was she?”

“I think its best that I wait until Charlie gets here before I say anything,” Roman told them.

“Oh… well I bet this one needs a bath…” Nic lifted her daughter up and then stopped dead as she saw his face.

“Sorry Nic,” he murmured quietly, “We need to think about forensics,” he added in a quieter voice.

“So er…”

“Let’s get you foxy,” Geoff decided giving his daughter a smile.

“I’s missed my’s foxy,” Roma declared nodding tiredly.

Nic gave a hiccupping sob before pinning a smile on her face, “We bet you have.”

Geoff nodded and eased out of the room to fetch the small teddy bear. He returned moments later and gave it to his daughter.
Roman could tell they were all affected by the way that Roma clutched at her bear.



Roman missed what they said about the small kitten that had been a birthday present for the little girl as his phone rang. From the display he saw it was Charlie and he slipped out of the front door to answer it.

The uncomfortable conversation he had with her was over in minutes and was followed by both her, Constable Watson and Rachel turning up. He gave his official statement to Watson as Charlie and Rachel ‘interviewed’ Roma. He half listened to the little girl’s answers as she told them about the naughty lady who had ‘took’ her away.

“It was Cruella,” she announced again shaking her head as the grown-ups looked puzzled.

Sliding off the sofa Roma ran over to her toybox and routed around in it until she found her storybook. There on the cover of ‘101 Dalmatians’ was a picture of the villainess ‘Cruella’, with her trademark fur coat and red and blonde hair.

“Red,” Charlie muttered.

Rachel picked up on that and touched her own red hair, “Does that mean something?”

“I don’t know,” Charlie shook her head.

“Roma,” he called out.


“Can you draw her for us?”

Roma yawned even as she nodded.

“Here you go,” Nic hastily tipped out a packet of crayons on to the coffee table as Geoff searched for and found some paper.

“I don’t think…” Charlie began easing back.

Roma pinned her with her bright blue gaze and spoke quietly. “Angelo was there,” she said.

“Sarge?” Watson exclaimed.

“Yes, he was involved,” Charlie said her voice wavering.

“I think perhaps we should talk outside,” her constable suggested.

“I can’t, not until we…” Charlie shook her head.

Roman watched the byplay wanted to ease things for the woman he had feelings for but couldn’t. He could tell from her expression how hard this was, and something about the red hair had meant something to her.

“Are you hungry Roma? Do you want a drink?” Nic announced in a too loud voice cutting through what was being said.

Roma bit her lip and shook her head as she focused on her drawing. She picked up the red crayon and began drawing hair on the head of stick figure drawing she’d made before grabbing the yellow and adding a wide yellow streak in the middle of the red.

“There,” she held up the paper.

“That’s really good,” Roman moved over to his granddaughter’s side and knelt down so he could look at the drawing. “Did this lady wear glasses?”

“No,” Roma muttered pouting.

“Did she walk funny?”

“No,” she answered again.

A glance behind him caught Watson scribbling down the answers the little girl came up with.

“Did she give you sweeties?”

“No, she not nice,” Roma murmured shaking her head.

“I think that is enough,” Geoff muttered his arms folded across himself. “We want to get our daughter settled and…” his voice broke and Nic moved quickly over to her husband’s side. Both of them showing signs of stress and Roman knew in the circumstances that he couldn’t blame them.

“We still need…” Watson began.

“Actually,” Rachel cut off the woman, “I think that we have enough for now, this family need to rest. If you need more information perhaps they can bring Roma down to the station in the morning?”

Charlie nodded before giving Watson a look forcing her to back down.

“Come on then let’s get you into the bath and put your nightdress on,” Nic announced collecting her daughter

There was a scramble of activity. Watson collected Roma’s clothes for forensics, Rachel checked her over for injuries and finally both Geoff and Nic put their daughter to bed for the first time in days and watched over her until she fell asleep. Even then they stayed looking over her until they themselves grew sleepy unaware that downstairs Roman watched. And waited.

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