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The People Make the Place

Guest LauraPhilly!!

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Chapter 2

Sergeant Watson sighed loudly, placed her elbows on the desk and laid her head in her hands in frustration.

The past few days had been probably the worst in her career. Never had she dealt with such a catastrophe where she knew most of the victims.

The list of casualties was still waiting to be sent from the hospital but already things did not look good. An estimate seventy-five per cent had perished in the attack that the police could not positively identify as arson.

Georgina had already enlisted some of her best officers to begin the search for the culprits, and the station in Mangrove River had already offered to send over several of their officers to help if it was necessary.

But still there was no sign of them.

It was almost as if they had disappeared in the darkness and never emerged again.

There was a gentle knock on the door and Constable Smith walked through the door with a file in his hand. Placing the file on the table, he looked at her gravely.

"The casualty list has finally arrived."

Sergeant Watson nodded in acknowledgement and waited for the Constable to leave before gathering herself, taking in a deep breath and opening the file.

Her hands were shaking as she read through the list, the most familiar names screaming out to her.

Those dead on arrival, who she knew were Alfred Stewart, Sasha Bezmel, Casey Braxton, Heath Braxton , Marilyn Chambers, Gina Palmer, John Palmer, Leah Patterson-Baker, Irene Roberts, Colleen Smart, Romeo Smith, Roo Stewart, Sid Walker.

Those who died in hospital were Darryl Braxton, Ruby Buckton, Bianca Murphy, Liam Murphy, April Scott, and Dexter Walker.

A small paragraph next to each of their names informed Watson that the majority of them had died due to smoke inhalation, with Gina Palmer being the only one who had been shot.

Her breath shaking, Georgina laid the piece of paper on the table, unable to read anymore. The rest of the dead were others members of the town who had attended in support of the charity, but Georgina couldn't read their names.

She instead moved onto the list with the names of those who had survived. She gasped as she opened the file for there were only two names on the list. Only two of one hundred guests had survived…


The town had come to a standstill.

From miles away, people had turned up to say goodbye to Summer Bay.

Watson shook her head in sadness at this remark. Of course the mourners were not really saying goodbye to Summer Bay, but as the people of town said, the people make the place, and now over half the people of Summer Bay were dead.

So in a way, the mourners had really come to say goodbye to the town, for what was it now without the people in it.

The community, as a whole, had decided on a joint funeral. After the various families had been told, it was all arranged. They would say goodbye to them all, together.

The sun was shining in an almost mocking way. Watson wanted to just lay her head back and look into the glorious sun but today was not the day for relishing in its God-like warmth.

Today was a day of great sadness.

The dead would receive an official goodbye from New South Wales. Even the Prime Minister was attending the funeral. Not so many people had died on such a grand scale in the country's modern history. All the eyes were descending town on Summer Bay today, as a result of local and even international media.

As the procession began, Watson and her fellow officers walked silently with the hearses. The streets were lined with people, those who were unable to attend the funeral and those who just happened to be walking the streets that day. Many were strangers, some didn't even know those who had died, but they stopped nevertheless, stopped to pay respect to the people who once walked the same streets as them.

As senior commanding officer on the day, Watson stepped out from the procession to observe the crowd and her fellow officers, to ensure that everything was going on as calmly as possible. She watched as the Prime Minister and his wife passed in their black car, smiling in acknowledgement to the people who lined the streets.

And then, behind the procession of police officers, immerged one of the two survivors of the catastrophe, surrounded by her extended family, for they were the only family she had left.

Watson felt her heart twinge as she saw young Indigo Smith being pushed in a wheelchair by a tall man. Watson had heard from doctors that she was lucky to be alive, that the smoke had affected her lungs so badly she would have to bring an emergency supply of oxygen with her wherever she went. Georgina also noticed the large casts that were on both her legs; a result of the beam that had fallen on her legs, cutting off the blood supply for hours.

But it was not her physical impediments that shocked Georgina so much, it was the look Indigo's face. She might as well have been dead herself, for there was no light, no life in her eyes as she followed the procession of cars. Her face looked tired and gaunt, and she had deep, black circles beneath her eyes.

But Watson knew that she would not sleep. She would not sleep properly for many nights as the attack had wiped out her entire family, not only her father or her brother or her sister, it had even taken the life of her husband, Romeo Smith. They had barely been together a year and he had already been taken away from her.

As she and her family moved on, Georgina also saw the family of Leah Patterson-Baker, with her son VJ, confidently yet shakily, leading his extended family. The poor boy never even had a chance to say goodbye to his mother, as Leah has been pronounced DOA almost immediately after the ambulance brought her to hospital. It had been decided by her family and the doctors that, due to the severity of her injuries, Leah would be placed in a closed casket. All VJ had left was the memory of his mother the last time he saw her. But at least that memory of her would be when she is alive and well, happy and beautiful.

As the procession of people grew small, there was one last face that Georgina recognised, and that was the face of Xavier Austin. He too was in a wheelchair and was being pushed along by his older brother Hugo, accompanied by his wife, Martha. As Hugo pushed Xavier's wheelchair, Martha followed behind them, holding the hand of Gina's other son, Brendan. The poor boy did not really understand what was going on. With one hand in Martha's, he waved happily to the crowds of people who lined the streets, with a big gummy smile on his face.

Carefully, Georgina crossed the street and approached the Austin family. Bending down in front of Xavier, who had his face dipped, she put her hand on his arm, and squeezed it gently.

"Hello Xavier."

Slowly he lifted his head and looked into the eyes of his, what-was-soon-to-be, superior.

"Hello Sergeant Watson."

"How are you?" She asked softly.

Xavier dipped his head again and as she followed his eyes, Georgina saw that, in his hand, he held a picture of him with his girlfriend Sasha Bezmel. As he ran his finger over her smiling face, a tear fell onto the photo.

"Xavier, I'm sorry."

"I wanted to see her… I wanted to see her so badly… when I woke up. But they," he said, in-between tears. "..They told me she was already dead."

In an attempt to sympathise with him, Georgina reached out her hand and rubbed his back supportively. Looking up at his brother, she smiled politely.

"I'm Sergeant Watson, I have been working closely with Xavier over the past few months," she said, as Hugo shook her hand.

Seeing his brothers tears, Hugo placed his hand on his shoulder and shook it supportively

"You have to be strong now, Xav, and just take each day as it comes," said Hugo, rubbing his back and smiling back at Sergeant Watson. "It won't be easy at first, but eventually the pain will ease. Sasha wouldn't want you to be upset like this."

Looking to Hugo and Martha, she smiled at them both sympathetically.

"I really am so sorry for your loss."

"Please find out who did this," said Hugo, determinedly, looking down to his brother whose tears were now running fluidly. "Please!"

Looking Hugo determinedly in the eye, Georgina nodded. "I promise you that we will."

Hugo smiled slightly and then turned back, pushing Xavier's wheelchair again behind the quiet crowd of mourners.

Watson stood and watched the remaining crowd gather behind the Austin family and walk with them to the church.

Find who did this they would, but would even justice ever do right the wrong that was committed here…

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