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[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][size="2"]


Detective Senior Constable Thane Stoke sat comfortably at the small rectangle IKEA table in the small kitchen-cum-living room of his dear friend, Kei Nalren. He was ignoring how uncomfortable budget plastic chairs can be, how disgusting his suit was after a full work day in the hot summer sun, and most of all how much Kei’s new boyfriend looked like a man easily picked out of a witness report.

Thane measured Todd out the corner of his eye. [i]Just over six foot, well built, shaved head. Had far too much sun, stank of cigarettes, sweat and cheap beer. Facial features matched a number of identikit pictures that had been mocked up for a number of active cases. Kei is head over heels for him.[/i]

Thane put down the mental case summary as protective jealousy and far too much time spent in the office. He had spent the past few weeks trying to confirm, with witness and police reports from a number of cases, that there was a rather effective gang behind a number of violent armed robberies. They’d so far moved their way from the suburbs and even struck a 7-11 in the heart of the central business district.

Kei said something and Thane forced a laugh, eating another forkful of roast lemon chicken and fidgeting yet again on the hard plastic chair. He really had to leave work behind.

“Todd and I have some wonderful news, and we have something important we need to ask you, Thane.” Kei said, reaching for her boyfriend’s hand.

Thane was only half listening, too busy trying to negotiate a piece of stray potato onto his fork while trying to avoid looking at Todd’s incredibly tanned face. He really wished he hadn’t worn his work suit. Between Kei’s baggy slacks and Todd’s blue Singlet, he felt like he was on official business.

Kei frowned and reached over the table, slapping his forehead.

“Oi, are you listening?” Kei demanded, before settling back into her seat. “Todd and I have a very important announcement and we’d like you to be involved, if you’d stop zoning out and thinking about work every two seconds.”

Todd laughed and Thane gave a sheepish grin, “sorry, a lot on my mind these past few weeks.” [i]Life could never have been this complicated. Ever since my birthday, this past month has been sheer madness…[/i]he noted to himself.

Kei smacked him in the head again.

“Ow! Alright, I’m listening!” Thane growled, sitting up yet again. “You have my rapt attention.”

Kei smiled. “Well you know how Todd and I have been going out for a while now?”

[i]Only two months,[/i] Thane thought, [i]I guess that’s a while.[/i]

“Well with me moving in and everything…we decided to invite you over to celebrate for another reason, other than the housewarming I mean…uh. Well..” Kei blushed and looked uncharacteristically bashful.

Todd broke in with his gravely tones and finished for her, putting his hand on top of Kei’s. “I proposed to her. We’re getting married!”

Thane blinked. His heart stopped, his eyes widened and his jaw slackened. He wasn’t surprised at the announcement; he’d been expecting that to happen for a while now. Kei was a beautiful young girl and a dedicated psychology graduate with a promising career ahead of her as a Team Leader in Child Protection. She was, in his humble opinion, a good catch. She had a bubbly, cheerful, personality that caused many people mistakenly classify her under the stigma of “blonde,” despite her jet-black hair. Those that assumed she was a pushover or a slouch when it came to work were often surprised by her steel core and no-nonsense attitude.

Todd was the third guy that had summoned the courage to propose to her. Admittedly he was the first person to show interest in her that wasn’t from a studious background. Being a construction labourer he couldn’t be further from Kei in worlds, but Thane had mused that it was the sheer “blokey” package that had attracted Kei in the first place. All of her previous boyfriends had been university shut-ins that didn’t get out in the light that much.

Todd wasn’t an issue right now, apart from the fact that Thane couldn’t remember the guy’s last name.

Thane had frozen up in shock because he was having an episode.

Ever since his twenty-eighth birthday he had moments where he froze and noticed things. He had thought he’d been having a few too many late nights, too much caffeine and too little square meals, but these episodes had continued to become clear and real. What had been put down originally as instinct and imagination could now no longer be ignored. Despite quitting Red Bull and V, he found his episodes becoming more lucid, and harder to forget.

Detective Senior Constable Thane Stoke was staring into the middle distance in a private view of a tiny hell.

[i]Kei was standing in the flat’s tiny bedroom, now tidy with everything cleaned away and organised. She was moving the bed again to make room for more furniture. Thane could see the wedding ring with a bizarre clarity on her finger while the rest of the room seemed grey and lifeless, like old security footage.

Kei hefted the headboard of the bed again, making enough room for her to stand between it and the wall. From there, she pushed it to the far side of the room. She turned around in time to see a perfect white, flat, rectangle of gyprock wall fall to the floor. Puzzled, she stepped closer and looked inside the hole.

Thane watched things become fuzzy as the room jumped, his vision now complete with a cliché timestamp and red recording dot.

Todd and Kei were close quarters now, struggling with something. Kei was clearly upset, hair spilling out of its usually neat pony-tail. Todd’s expression was frozen with grim determination as he wrenched whatever they were fighting over.

Kei slumped forward and slid down to the floor, her lower back a shocking mess.
Kei was dead.[/i]

“Thane you stupid idiot” Kei smacked him the head again. “I’m not going to tell you another bloody time, okay?”

Thane closed his mouth and shook his head, looking from the still laughing Todd to the seething Kei. [i]Todd killed Kei with a sawn-off shotgun! I need to stop this! I need to do something![/i]

“You’re listening? Good.” Kei settled herself. “Todd and I, we want you to marry us. I know you’re a Justice of the Peace, and you have the power to do it. You’ve been my best friend for more than ten years, and I would be honoured-no, [i]we[/i] would be honoured if you would be the celebrant that marries us in the official ceremony.”

Kei smiled encouragingly at Thane and asked again, “will you?”

Thane smiled, still trying silently not to freak out, “of course, I would love to. I mean, yeah. Anything!”

Kei burst into tears, and hugged him, laughing with joy. Todd chuckled and got up; announcing he had celebratory drinks stashed somewhere.

[i]I need to tell her, now while Todd is out of the room![/i] Thane opened his mouth to whisper, and blinked.

[i]Todd overheard the conversation in the hallway, Kei’s furious cry and protestation, when she realised Thane wasn’t joking. Todd wasn’t going to jail. He had a few mates that’d cover for him and get him a new life out west. Maybe Roma, there was construction happening there. Or even a stint in the mines with a new name.

Carefully he put down the bottle of red and went back into the bedroom he’d come out of and shifted the bed, reaching into the hole in the wall for the sawn-off shotgun he’d hidden there. He came back into the kitchen-[/i]

Thane broke into a sweat as he felt the sear of the shot rush through him and Kei.

Kei broke the hug and sat back in her chair, hands clasped in her lap. “I’m so happy, I could scream!” She laughed and wiped the back of her hand under her wet eyes. “Now tell me what’s been distracting you tonight. You’ve been completely out of it.”

Thane was acutely aware of Todd’s gaze as he politely declined the offered glass of red.

“I’ve just had a series of hard cases to go through, crazy workload. And I’ve just realised that I have a court case Monday that I need to have paperwork submitted for. I’m going to have to call Mayank now and get him to put it through for me tomorrow because I’m not in.
“It’s my long weekend this week and there’s no way I’m showing my head in there on a Friday, otherwise I’ll never get out of there.”

“Mate, I know how that feels.” Todd said, leaning back in his chair. “You get in on site to drop off a tool or something as a favour, and the next thing you know you’re laying mortar for a brickie that’s behind schedule and you’ve spent ten hours on site, unpaid.”

Thane laughed, “yeah. Can’t say that’s happened to me, but I’ve been snowed under by someone else’s paperwork.” He turned to Kei, “mind if I make a call? It’s got to be private I’m afraid.”

Kei rolled her eyes. “You’re still switched on after hours, aren’t you? No wonder you never left the library at uni. You can use our bedroom, it’s the only room with a door apart from the bathroom and I don’t think you’ll get reception in there.”

“Cheers.” Thane got up and shook Todd’s offered hand, trying to ignore his reassuringly firm grip and his words of gratitude.

“Sorry again guys, I’ll be right back. I’ll be expecting dessert.” Thane said cheekily, poking his head back into the kitchen.

“There might be ice-cream in the fridge if you’re gone for less than ten minutes,” Kei called back. “Silly boy.” She sighed and shook her head, smiling at her beloved.

Detective Senior Constable Thane Stoke cradled his phone on his shoulder while putting on disposable gloves that he always kept inside his suit jacket pocket. While he had silently grumbled about his work clothes before, the Detective in him was triumphant that he was always prepared.

Careful to not make a sound, he shifted the bed carefully across the carpet, noting the now obvious “hidden” panel in the wall. His phone was ringing, trying to get in touch with his partner, Detective Senior Constable Mayank Ahimsa. Thane made a point to never lie; it made court appearances less embarrassing and the paperwork easier to manage.

Also he had morals and wanted to uphold the law. But he liked justifying himself with almost amoral reasons so he didn’t feel like he was coming over to self-righteous or a bit of a wanker.

Possibly this reveals more about DSC Stoke than what he would like people to know.

“Gotcha.” Thane muttered, pulling the ugly looking double-barrelled shotgun out of the hole.

[i]“Got who, Stokey?”[/i] Mayank sounded as though he’d just been woken up, which he had.

“You’ll know soon enough. It’s nothing good, either.”

Mayank yawned. [i]“Why are you whispering?”[/i]

“Thin walls and I’ve confirmed evidence of illegal firearms in Kei’s fiancé’s flat”

Silence. [i]“Kei’s getting married? You told me she was open to the idea for a little Indian brown rice.”[/i]

“First of all, there’s something wrong with you. You’re married with kids. Second of all, your Indian brown rice, as you put it, is outclassed by her current steak and two veg. Thirdly, you’re ignoring the issue.” Thane hissed while delicately removing the two shells from the shotgun and the other six he had found in the hole.

[i]“Why are you telling me? Arrest the guy already. You’ve still got your ID if I know you well enough.”[/i] Mayank yawned yet again. [i]“You do know I’m on an early tomorrow, right?”[/i]

“I tried that-was going to try that, rather. It didn’t go down so well.” Thane winced, knowing how his colleague had responded to the first time he summoned the courage to mention his episodes to him.

[i]“Dude, that is so awesome. Did he like shoot you? Did you get phantom blood?”[/i]

Thane sighed and placed the piece of gyprock on the floor, as if it had just fallen there by itself. The bed had been shifted carefully to one side and luggage placed carefully. Anyone who walked into the room could easily assume that Thane had stumbled across the little cache by himself. From the amount of tiny bedpost imprints on the carpet it seemed that the bed had been relocated frequently. No fingerprints, covered.

[i]“Didn’t answer me. Seriously, phantom blood? Got to be better than that homeless guy you “knew” was a witness that would testify.”[/i]

“No phantom blood, but I did snap out of it when I felt the hot lead shot enter my vital organs”

[i]“Wicked. Oh, I sent two plainclothes officers in vests around to pay a little visit. Frantic call about a shot heard in your area. I can get SERT on standby if you want me to?”[/i] Mayank was completely professional now, his tone completely denying the fact he was an utter child.

“Shouldn’t need them. Don’t want to draw too much heat from the higher ups over this. Just in case there’s an inquiry.” Thane blinked and took in what Mayank said. “What do you mean by there’s a report of a shot heard in my area?”

[i]“Your flat even, the witness was quite specific from a private prepaid phone. You owe my daughter a new SIM card, by the way. And a slab of Cadbury for services rendered. You’d better get moving. Oh and I have it here you reported promptly five minutes after the first emergency call, owing to how long it took you to discover the source of the shot."[/i]

“I finally got through to you Detective! Can you submit those forms I need for court on Monday? No, the other ones. No I don’t need that at all, just what I’m asking for. Great. I’ll see you Monday.” Thane called out loud enough to be heard outside the room, and added in a harsh whisper, “You idiot, you have no idea what I have to do now.”

[i]“Kisses. I know how the system works better than you do. You’ve got about four minutes. Kay, thanks, bye!”[/i]

Thane hung up and looked around the room.

[i]Heat higher up. Lights?[/i]

He looked up at the large lampshade above his head.

[i]No…that’s just stupid. Got to be logical. What idiot hides bullets from his girlfriend in a ceiling light lamp above their bed?[/i]

Thane looked back at the hole and noticed the power point below it, and had a flash of real inspiration. He fussed frantically in the hole with the ammunition and wires before silently resetting the board and bed.

He called out while removing his gloves, “hey Todd, you might have rats or something man. Something’s scrabbling around in here.”

“Yeah, we can hear them moving around in the kitchen, I was hoping they hadn’t got to the bedroom again.” Todd called back.

[i]I’m doing this too well; he’s not expecting anything. Surely I don’t sound that honest?[/i]

“Rats? In our bedroom?” Kei shrieked, “you told me there weren’t any in the place, you said you got it fixed!”

Thane stepped out of the bedroom far enough to be seen by Kei in the kitchen, and reached back, slamming the bedroom door shut. He heard the muffled crash in the room he was hoping for and grinned at the silent couple.

“Now that I have your attention, come on guys. You’re almost newlyweds, we can’t have you bickering now.” Thane sat back down at the table, “I believe you said you had ice-cream for me?”

[i]Come on, come on…[/i]

“You were lucky. There’s a little vanilla left.” Kei set three bowls down and served out the ice-cream. “I don’t have any caramel topping but there might be some chocolate?”

“None for me thanks, love.” Todd grabbed his bowl and nodded to Thane, “so what is it like being a copper?”

Thane blinked, his mouth dried. He saw the results, and swallowed to reply carefully, “it can be rewarding.”

There was a loud crack of an explosion as the first shell was set off by the wires Thane had carefully stripped, exposed and placed so as to perfectly catch at least one of the falling shells. The brass covering of the base of the shotgun created a bridge between the wires and began to heat up. It was enough, the shell exploded and the shot scattered as it was supposed to.

Unfortunately, the shot had landed facing the kitchen. Thanks to a support beam a large amount of the lead was deflected, but the rest made it to the kitchen, hitting the ceiling, the refrigerator, Todd’s shoulder, the microwave, and Todd’s lower back.

Thane felt the shot brush his ear lobe and realised with some bizarre euphoric calm that he had survived possibly the most ridiculous way one could die from a gunshot. Kei was unharmed, but freaking out over her crazy fiancé. Thane told her to use her basic first aid training to staunch the bleeding, while he investigated and called the police.

“This is absolutely insane.” He called out to Kei, while retrieving the shotgun and shells from the hole.

The uniformed police arrived ten minutes later, and it wasn’t until he had given his statement and Todd had been taken away for hospital treatment and probable prosecution for a spate of armed robberies, that Detective Senior Constable Thane Stoke added to himself, [i]and I absolutely love it.[/i]
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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"]Two things.

1: Good to see you back and writing for your own amusement just as we'd discussed.

2: My god, my eyes. [b][i]MY EYES![/b][/i] Your font is so teeny tiny it's a strain to even consider reading more than the opening lines. Sure the html formatting gives it a very neat feel, but your readers shouldn't make themselves blind trying to struggle through the second paragraph. Not that the content itself is a struggle to read of course.[/FONT][/COLOR]
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[quote name='Raiha'][COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"]Two things.

1: Good to see you back and writing for your own amusement just as we'd discussed.[/FONT][/COLOR][/QUOTE]

[FONT="Trebuchet MS"]It's good to be back ^_^[/FONT]

[quote name='Raiha'][COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"]
2: My god, my eyes. [b][i]MY EYES![/b][/i] Your font is so teeny tiny it's a strain to even consider reading more than the opening lines. Sure the html formatting gives it a very neat feel, but your readers shouldn't make themselves blind trying to struggle through the second paragraph. Not that the content itself is a struggle to read of course.[/FONT][/COLOR][/QUOTE]

[FONT="Trebuchet MS"]Yeah, realised the size was a mistake the second it loaded. All fixed now. Bigger without ruining the effect I wanted, I think[/FONT]
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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"]See? Now I can read it no sweat. And my brain hurts far less even though I read it while scrolling.

Kei's a cute name, but Thane is definitely better. I appreciate how you take care of his zoning episodes and the line about "phantom blood" is killing me [In a good way]. I think it's because I just read [b]Odd Thomas[/b] where phantom everything was the norm.

At times I find it difficult to follow your narrative, more close to the end where things were going bonkers but that might be just my fault for lacking my extraordinary powers of imagination right now. I just had dinner so they're in a coma-like state.

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[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="2"]
?Thanks for letting me stay here tonight, Thane. I don?t think I could stay there with all those police cataloguing things.?

[i]No, you couldn?t have.[/i] Thane thought, but he kept it to himself.

Kei slipped her small carry bag to the floor, and made her way to the couch. She slumped into it gratefully and automatically reached for the remote on the coffee table.

?Do you have cable?? She asked, sitting up high enough to look at Thane over the back of the couch.

Thane closed the front door, ?no. I?m not home enough to watch it. Waste of money, really.?

?Huh.? Kei slumped back down. ?Your place does seem to lack some homely touches.?

Thane looked around. He had a two bedroom unit, in Spring Hill, that was part of a two-storey complex that seemed to be confused as to what era it was built in. It had shag-pile carpet with stucco walls, but a bathroom that seemed to be straight out of the 90?s Solar Rheem hot water system commercials. It seemed comfortable enough to Thane, but he could see Kei?s point, he hadn?t changed anything since he moved in three years ago.

?I mean,? Kei continued, ?it?s as well furnished as a holiday home. It wouldn?t hurt to get a few creature comforts.?

Thane rummaged in the kitchen before responding. He was eager to avoid serious conversation as Kei apparently was. ?I just sleep here, I don?t entertain.?

?Obviously.? Kei flicked through channels idly, ?Don?t you want something nice??

Thane set down a mug of hot chocolate on the table in front of Kei, before sitting down on one of the other armchairs with a mug himself.

?I do. I?m saving up for a flat in the city, remember??

Kei stirred the mug idly, ?oh look, you didn?t forget the marshmallows.? She sighed and sat up, looking serious. ?Thane, what do you see when you look at me??

Thane?s mind blanked. He tried to hide his awkwardness, pre-occupying himself with cooling his drink by blowing carefully on it.

[i]Hooray for props,[/i] he thought.

?I see a girl who?s determined to take control of her own life.? He leant back in his chair, peering over the top of his mug at her, ?someone who?s dedicated her life to helping others. You work hard, don?t take any nonsense and yet you still have remarkable compassion.?

?Really? Well I was going to go with silly little girl who?s so bad at her chosen major that she couldn?t tell that her fiancé apparently leads a double life.? Kei put her mug down and looked up at the ceiling. ?Tell me, Thane, were you suspicious of him from the start??

Thane said nothing.

Kei rolled over, ?I was. I really thought he was repulsive. He smoked, he was vulgar, and he [i]liked country music[/i]. I thought he wasn?t the man for me. Gut instinct, straight off.? She sighed. ?But there was another guy at work who I really wasn?t interested in, and he wouldn?t take no for an answer.?

?Let me guess, recent psych graduate new to the job, total sleaze who thought he?d get favours if he hooked up with his boss?? Thane did his best to keep a straight face.

?Pretty much.? Kei peered at him, ?if you so much as smirk I will hit you so hard that it will take a team of psychiatrists years to reassemble your thoughts enough that you could still only barely even remember where you put your keys!
?Todd was available and the only way I thought I could get this kid to leave me alone was by saying I already had a boyfriend. I don?t know, the lie was suddenly truth. A few friends had introduced Todd to me; he was so nice, always offering to do the odd job for me here and there. He even helped Dad build a ramp and railing at the house so Mum wouldn?t hurt herself using the stairs.?
Kei looked sullen, ?my brothers couldn?t even be bothered to do something like that.?

?How are your brothers??

?Complete and utter tools, thanks for asking. Don?t change the topic." Kei sighed again. ?It only took a little while for me to ignore all these bad thoughts about him and convince myself that he was a really great guy. I duped myself, and almost married him. Good thing you?re the only one I told about that, I guess.?

?I was so looking forward to conducting that ceremony, too.? Thane smiled at her, putting down his now empty mug.

?Shut it.? Kei wiped her eyes and exhaled heavily. ?It?s just so hard to believe. What was that gun doing there? What if it had gone off while we were sleeping there? Oh no, what if I had found it?
?Tell me the truth, Thane. What were you so distracted by tonight??

[i]No lies. She can read you like a book.[/i] Thane?s smile disappeared, ?do you really want to know??

?I?m a big girl, despite evidence to the contrary.? She wiped her eyes again. ?Tell me.?

Thane sighed. ?You?re not going to like it.?

Kei glowered at him and pulled a tissue from the box on the table, blowing her nose heavily. ?I don?t care. I need to know.?

[i]Can I run? Maybe make it to the balcony and to the car park? I could down the street before she even realised. We?re only two storeys up![/i]

Thane grimaced and swallowed his cowardice. ?I?ve been doing a lot of case work for the past while. Mayank and I think there?s a single gang behind all those hold ups that have happened recently. When I first sat down to dinner and really looked at Todd, I was thinking how much he reminded me of a man mentioned in witness reports and identikit mock-ups.?

Kei remained composed. ?Why didn?t you say anything??

Thane looked blank, ?are you serious? How well would that have gone down? Oh durr, I think your boyfriend is a armed robber and part of a gang that operates out of Ipswich/Inala suburbs, that has successfully pulled of a series of heists in recent weeks, durr.? Wild gestures accompanied Thane?s delivery. When he ran out of steam, he put his hands down, feeling rather self-conscious.

?When you put it like that, I probably would have died of embarrassment and hated you for being overprotective and jealous.?

?See?? Thane pointed an open hand at her. ?That?s exactly my point. I thought those thoughts were just from working too much and maybe being a little overprotective of my girl. Todd probably wouldn?t have taken my comments well either.?

[i]Whoops. Shouldn?t have dropped the name.[/i] Thane reached for the box of tissues and offered it to Kei, as she started to cry. [i]Idiot, idiot, idiot![/i]

?Thanks,? Kei muttered weakly. ?I?m so sorry, Thane.?

?What? Whatever for??

Kei rubbed her eyes vigorously before replying. ?Because I love you for doing your job. But? I have to hate you for not doing it sooner.?

Thane sat in a stunned, almost embarrassed silence. Kei sighed and rolled over onto her back, clasping her hands on her stomach. She said nothing, making the moment all the more awkward.

[i]Right. Glad that?s out in the open then. Tonight has been just super so far.[/i] Thane reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his little official black notebook and flipped it open. He clicked his pen and held to the page, before carefully asking,

?And how does that make you feel, ma?am??

Kei looked over at him, momentarily confused. She laughed, no-she [i]giggled[/i], and wiped tears from her face again. ?Oh shut up, that?s not even funny!? She threw the pillow that she had been resting her head on and laughed again.

Thane caught it and put it behind his head, ?thanks for that, my neck was getting a little strained.?

?You?re lucky that wasn?t a mug.? Kei sat up and finished the last of her drink. ?Could still be a mug, if you don?t watch your mouth.?

Thane laughed and stood, ?you want another??

?Anything stronger??

Thane walked over to the kitchen, ?nope, you know the house rules.?

?You?re such a health nut. I can?t get started in the morning without coffee?or go to sleep without it, for that matter.?

Thane chuckled. ?Suck it in, then. You?re going to have to tonight. The second bedroom is set up if you want to sleep there tonight. It?s a little crowded with boxes though, Dad kindly pulled all my beloved childhood treasures out of storage and dumped them here last week. I haven?t got around to doing anything with them yet.?

Thane had visibly relaxed, grateful that the serious talk-and his responsibility in it-had ended.

Kei sat bolt upright, ?video tapes as well??

Thane groaned and rolled his eyes, ?yeah, all the classics as well.?

?Do you have?[i]Milo and Otis[/i] in there?? Kei had both her hands on the back of the couch and was facing Thane with hopeful puppy dog eyes.

?Don?t know what you?re talking about.?

Kei waggled an admonishing finger, ?don?t lie to me, I distinctly remember you saying to me in semester one, ?Interpersonal Processes and Skills? that your greatest secret was that you loved that movie and how you were planning on taking that secret to the grave. I confided to you that I loved it too and we both pinkie promised to never reveal our shame to anyone else!?

Thane paused mid pour. ?Curse your excellent memory, woman. I?ll give you a drink with extra marshmallows and dig it out for you.?

Kei smiled and chirped, ?thank you, Thane.?

Thane handed her the refilled mug and made his way to the spare bedroom.

?Thane, can I use your phone?? Kei set her mug down. ?I?m going to have to ring my old flat mates and see if I can move back in.?

?At this hour? Won?t they be a little unimpressed if you ring them at three in the morning?? Thane pulled the phone from the charging cradle and handed it over.

?Steph works night shift at the Mater Hospital, I can ring her there. Once my stuff is back there, I?ll move back in with Mum and Dad.?

Thane stopped halfway to the spare room again. ?Wouldn?t it be easier to just move straight home??

?Only if I told my parents I had moved in with my boyfriend.?

?[i]Ohhh[/i]. I [i]see[/i]. Hm.? Thane entered the spare room and began rummaging in the boxes, calling out, ?what a tangled web we weave, Kei!?

?Shut up, I?m on the phone!? Kei replied.

Thane found the tape quickly, but sat on the bed and waited all the same. He felt he?d intruded too much into Kei?s life already, and didn?t want to interrupt whatever venting was happening on the phone right now. He checked his watch idly and kicked his shoes off, toes relishing the freedom.

[i]Dad would have started at the bakery by now. He thought, lying back and staring at the ceiling. Mum would have finished with her least favourite pastries and would be moving onto her favourites. Dad would be chewing out the apprentice for being late, and ignoring the poor kid?s excuse of oversleeping. ?Get a louder alarm clock!? he?d say.[/i]

Thane smiled to himself, momentarily content in the soft quiet of the room. Realising he had a golden opportunity to be finally free of his disgusting work clothes, he began to change.

[i]I need to talk to him, he told me to come to him with any new?strangeness. I think this new turn of events counts as the colossus of crazy scenarios. A big ten on the scale of strange. Haha, scale of strange?[/i]

Thane flopped back down on the bed and closed his eyes, drifting into a pleasant half-asleep state.


Thane jerked upright at the sound of Kei?s voice and was halfway to the door before his brain realised it had stopped being asleep, and that it might need to be able to talk soon.

?Hm?? Thane blinked. ?Whatsthematter??

?Sorry, I didn?t realise you were sleeping.? Kei looked concerned, ?it?s been a bit of a crazy night?um. Steph said she was fine with me moving in for the weekend, no one has taken my room yet. We had a good chat and she said she?ll pick me up from here when her shift finishes at seven this morning.?

Thane smiled, ?oh okay, well that?s good then.?

?Yeah, after I hung up I noticed you had a new message and, well, I checked it. Sorry.? Kei smiled sheepishly, ?force of habit. Your Dad rang at around two am, I think we were driving here around then so you must have just missed the call.?

?Ahuh. What did he say?? [i]I?m so tired my face hurts. Augh. I should not have fallen asleep.[/i]

?Apparently both the apprentices-I still think it?s weird by the way, how bakers have apprentices-

Thane nodded and rolled his hand, encouraging her to keep going.

-oh right. Well apparently both the apprentices haven?t showed up and he has a massive order due at nine and with the daily bread quota he and your mum are swamped and can you come in please as soon as possible because it?s your day off today.? Kei smiled, ?he sounded a bit harried, you might want to go.?

[i]That?s awfully convenient.[/i] ?Kei, I?m not about to leave you at home, alone. Especially after?well, everything that?s happened in the past few hours.?

Kei smiled, ?I?m okay, really. I just need time to get my head in check, and I?m going to have to prepare myself for Steph?s special brand of compassion. I?d forgotten how useless she is at caring?until I made the mistake of calling her. No idea how she manages to cope as a nurse.?

Thane put a hand over his mouth.

Kei rolled her eyes and looked sulkily at the television, ?well I guess it?s her patients that have to cope with her?probably why she was put on night shift in the first place??

Thane laughed.

?What?? Kei glowered. ?It?s the truth.?

?You have a tendency to ramble, and be brutally honest, when you?re overtired.? Thane patted her on the head. ?Are you sure you?re going to be okay by yourself??

Kei sighed. ?I?m going to be fine, like I said, I?m just going to need time. I have Milo and Otis for company, and your cat, wherever he is.?

Thane frowned momentarily, ?I?ve been wondering that myself. Steve has a tendency to hide for days on end.? [i]And, for the record, I don't believe you. But I'll respect your independence.[/i]

Rather distorted theme music started to play as the tape started to roll. Kei fast-forwarded through commercials for long-forgotten movies and slumped back down onto the couch.

?He?ll turn up. Whenever I crash here, I seem to wake up with him sleeping on my face. If I nod off before Steph gets here, he?ll turn up and I?ll be finding cat hair in my nose for the next couple of days.?

?Lovely.? Thane commented. ?I?ll call you when I finish at the bakery, okay??

Kei yawned and waved him away sleepily. ?Okay. Bring me some of your Mum?s croissants.?

I got impatient. Here's the next scene.
PS: Sorry Rurouni, I completely spaced. I must admit, Dead Zone isn't my favourite show, but I can see your point. I want to avoid that sort of direction entirely, though. I don't want Thane to become so self important. He's not a character that's going to take on world events, he's just going to do his job like a normal copper ^_^

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Thane made his way down the interior stairwell as quietly as possible. His neighbours had complained recently at the noise he made when he came and went for work. The complaints always stumped him, because he barely made a sound as he went up and down the brick stairwell. He figured it might have been the lights, however. The ancient fluorescent tubes always made a racket when they were turned on, and the special button for them always buzzed when the lights were about to go out. To keep his own sanity and respect his neighbour?s wishes, he practiced navigating up and down the steps in the dark instead.

[i]Seven, eight, nine, ten! Palm on wall, twist on right foot, one, two, three, four?[/i]

Thane clicked the door open and dropped silently off the last few steps to the concrete car park.


The forgotten aluminium and glass door slammed shut behind him.

A bedroom light in unit 1A flicked on.
?Is that you, mister Stoke! I warn you before! I call police if you keep disturbing my sleep!?

Thane cringed, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, slunk down around, under the building, and into his unit?s tiny garage.

Above him, a baby started crying. A young female voice called out, ?shut up, you old bag! He is the police.?

Thane turned the engine over, slowly reversing out and into the lot.

?Who are you calling old bag! I am Mrs Petrovich, you will respect your elders-

Thane shifted into drive and hit the road, ignoring the nightmare that he?d unleashed behind him. Mrs Petrovich was a lovely old Yugoslavian lady, but she had the hearing of a bat at night, and a tendency to hit him with her cane whenever she felt he had woken her up.

Combined with her terrible memory, she now seemed to just hit Thane on principle whenever she saw him. Thane felt this humiliation was rather unbecoming of a twenty eight year old Detective Senior Constable, and made a point of telling her as much. Unfortunately this resulted in her calling him a liar and beating him even harder.

[i]Kei?s right, I should probably move.[/i] Thane mused. [i]I have more than enough for a deposit in my account already. Plenty of job security and a clean credit statement?that should sway the bank. I could get a flat in one of the new high rises off Mary Street in the CBD. Just near the new station.[/i]

Thane fiddled with the radio, wincing at the inordinate amount of static that deafened him when he turned it on. He drove a 1989 Toyota Corolla that just seemed to never want to die. Its only fault was that the useless analogue radio couldn?t be tuned?and the cassette player gave nothing but a loud buzz whenever he tried to play something. He always planned to get around to replacing it, but could never be bothered to go through with it.

Thane switched from FM radio to AM, knowing that twirling the broken knob was pointless.

[i]?ABC local radio, with the hourly news update??[/i] The radio descended into static as Thane droved past a large apartment complex [i]??shots reported at an Inala address?witnesses praise swift police response??[/i]

Thane bit his lower lip, pumping the accelerator when the Corolla?s engine decided to stutter. One of the problems of an old automatic was that is suddenly decided that it didn?t need to worry about keeping itself going. The car revved back into life and managed through another set of lights, carrying Thane around the last corner and into the tiny parking lot behind his parent?s bakery.

[i]??Child is still reported missing, anyone with information on young Michael?s whereabouts is strongly encouraged to call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000, that?s 1800 333 000.
?And now, the coast report. Great weather for fishing today with a high tide at-[/i]

Thane sighed and turned off the radio and engine. He was tired, but the smell of fresh bread, wafting from the vents above, revitalised him. He rubbed his face and climbed out of the car.

He found his father inside, pulling a large tray of Tiger bread out of the industrial oven and setting it aside to cool.

?Hello, son!? His Dad called, smiling. ?You must have got home late, I rang you hours ago.?

Thane smiled, noticing the two, rather sullen, apprentices feverishly packing loaves of sliced bread. ?Yeah, I did. Had another incident.?

?[i]Really?[/i]? Mr Stoke asked, ?again? What happened this time??

Thane looked pointedly at the two apprentices, ?Dad, why are they bagging loaves by hand? Did the machine bust again??

?No, your father told them they had to bag the entire order themselves, by hand, as punishment for being late again.? Thane?s mother said, coming back from the front room. ?Hello dear, you?re looking a little worse for wear.?

Thane rubbed his eyes again, ?yeah, it?s been a long day and an even longer night. I?ve been up since four yesterday morning. Had to go in early to sort out a few of my other cases so could leave early enough to get to Kei?s place on time.?

?Poor thing,? Mrs Stoke said, kissing him on the cheek as she went past with a tray of caramel tarts. ?And how is she? Married to that boy yet??

Mr Stoke pulled another tray out of the oven, ?Todd or something, wasn?t it?? He asked.

Thane felt awkward again, ?well, she was. And now she?s not. Getting married, um. Dinner didn?t go well.?

?Oh you didn?t finally confess your love for her before the first course, did you?? His mother called out from the front room. ?That?s a serious breach of etiquette.? She came back out again and patted him on the side of the face, ?you?re supposed to wait until after dessert, when everyone?s too full to get worked up. I though I raised you better.?

?Ha ha, mother.? Thane rolled his eyes. ?No, something much worse than a confession of a non-existent love happened.?

?Really? Was it because of another one of your episodes?? Mr Stoke tossed his son a croissant, fresh from the last batch.

Thane gave a pointed look at the two apprentices, who were now trying to make as little noise as possible so as to be able to overhear.

Mr Stoke followed his son?s gaze. ?What? Oh them?? He waved a hand dismissively, ?they already know. Don?t you, boys??

?Yeah, Stokey.? One of them called back. ?We were here last time he came in and told ya about all that weird stuff.?

Mr Stoke nodded back at his son, ?see? No problem.?

Thane stared at his father.

?Come on boys, Mr Stoke and the Detective Stoke are going to have a private chat.? Mrs Stoke had re-entered the back room and was now shooing the grumbling apprentices outside. ?You have a thirty minute break, Lord knows you don?t deserve it.?

The two apprentices looked torn, but scattered when they saw the glowering look Thane gave them.

?Thirty minutes!? Mrs Stoke called out to their retreating backs, ?or you?ll never get this order done!?

The door slammed and Mrs Stoke sighed, throwing her hands up in the air.

?I don?t know, give them an easy job that gives them security for life and all they want to do is run off at the drop of a hat.? Mrs Stoke grumbled, making her way back to the front room. ?Heaven knows what they?re running off to do at this hour of the morning, it?s not as if anything is open??

?There?s a twenty four hour McDonalds about five minutes run from your back door.? Thane suggested in an almost hypothetical tone. ?Not that I ever found that out when working here before school. Or that I could get there, order some hotcakes, and still catch my bus further down the street to get to school on time.?

Mr Stoke laughed, ?I did wonder where you used to run off to after work. I thought you had plenty of time to make it.?

A scandalised voice cried out from the front room, ?[i]Thane![/i] You told me you had to leave quickly because you needed to get to the study hall!? Mrs Stoke poked her head through the doorway, ?[i]not[/i] to get hotcakes!?

?In my defence, I did study quite well when I had hotcakes in me.?

?It?s a wonder you even got to university. What else don?t I know?? Mrs Stoke had both hands on her hips now.

Thane laughed, ?We-ell I may or may not have deliberately slept in til ten all throughout my first semester of uni, even if I had an eight AM lecture, just so I could break the stupid sleep cycle that I got from working here.
?Oh, and tonight I had a very uncomfortable moment where I saw Todd, Kei?s fiancé, kill both her and I with a shotgun that I suspect has been used in a number of armed robberies. Then I was snapped back to a rather normal kitchen with a normal menu as though nothing had ever happened.?

Mr Stoke stopped laughing and frowned. ?What set this off??

Thane shrugged, ?me attempting to act on another episode that had Kei finding said shotgun, and Todd killing her with it.?

?That?s?disturbing, son.? Mrs Stoke said, looking worried.

Thane folded his arms. ?You?re telling me. Believe me, I didn?t say anything after that. I made an excuse to enter the room where I saw the gun, found it, and set up a convoluted series of events that lead to the gun?s existence being discovered by the authorities.?

?Where?s Kei, now? How?s she coping?? Mr Stoke asked, half-heartedly moving more bread from the oven. ?And don?t think I haven?t noticed that you?ve tampered with evidence to convict someone you [i]suspect[/i] of robbery and who [i]hypothetically[/i] may have killed you.?

?She?s at my place, watching a movie and waiting for a friend to pick me up.? Thane raised both his hands, ?before you start, she told me she needed to be left alone and if Todd is innocent, it?ll come out in court. If he has a licence for that gun, he?ll get off. Unfortunately.?

Thane looked uncomfortable, and changed the topic of conversation before his parent's responded. ?So didn?t you guys desperately need my help here or something??

?Well not any more, really. That useless pair showed up just after I called you. We?re ahead of schedule.? Mr Stoke said, ?and the bloke who called in the order changed the delivery time to midday.?

?How are you coping, son?? Mrs Stoke asked, placing a gentle hand on Thane?s shoulder.

?Pretty good. It?s just sort of?strange. Things are becoming more clear, and it?s becoming true.? Thane squinted, ?it used to be so hard to understand this stuff, but now it?s like second nature. I don?t even have to think anymore, I tune in to this weird channel in my head, and I see what could happen or what will happen.?

?Same thing happened to me, once upon a time.? Mr Stoke said.

Thane looked up, ?are you serious? And you didn?t tell me??

Mr Stoke looked sheepish. ?Well, I wasn?t sure. You sort of reminded me, and then I went back to look at my journals to have a look. I vaguely remember some incidents, but nothing on the scale of what you?re talking about.
?When I was about twenty-three and getting ready to propose to your mother, I was under a huge amount of stress to find a bakery to work when my boss went bankrupt, I had no idea how to get money for a wedding, let alone time for your mother.?

?You proposed to me when you were twenty-four though, dear.? Mrs Stoke said, looking confused.

?Well, I was twenty-three and was about to buy the ring, and then I sort of froze up and saw myself talking with a mate from the old bakery, I wrote him a cheque and signed a contract for this place.? Mr Stoke gestured expansively; ?the next time I wanted to propose was a month or two after I had this place stable and earning good commercial bread money. Then I saw your mother rejecting me, saying that she couldn?t quit her job at the hotel to make bread, because she trained as a pastry chef and that?s what she wanted to do.?

Mrs Stoke nodded, ?I would have said that too. Why haven?t you told me this before, dear??

Mr Stoke laughed, ?I thought I was a little crazy, had a little too much imagination at thinking things through. Over time, I just forgot about these little incidents entirely. Last episode I had was just after my twenty-fourth, after I opened to the public and deliberately created a need for you as a pastry chef. I knew you were having a tough time and then everything froze for me, I just had one crystal clear image of you and I working together with our wedding rings on.?

Mrs Stoke gave her husband a hug and a kiss and said, ?that?s sweet dear.?

?So you just stopped seeing stuff? No more kooky zone outs or episodes?? Thane asked, genuinely interested.

?Not a thing.? Mr Stoke smiled, ?I guess I just wasn?t stressed about stuff. I?d made all my important life decisions by that stage. In my journals I?d written that I hadn?t had the experiences in over a month, and that I was glad they hadn?t happened since.?

Thane?s countenance clouded, and he looked down at the clean concrete floor. He sighed and asked the obvious, ?so?you never told anyone? No-one at all??

Mrs Stoke looked at her son, ?I didn?t even know, dear. I?m as surprised as you are about this whole thing." She looked at husband, "Maybe these visions run in the family??

?That?s why I went to my mum.? Mr Stoke nodded, smiling at his wife. ?When I asked her about giving your mum the family wedding ring, my episodes sort of came up in conversation. What she told me, really opened my eyes. There?s a dark secret to learn, my boy. You need to go and see your grandmother up the coast if you?re going to get through this.?

[i]You have [b]got[/b] to be joking.[/i] Thane thought. [i]Dark secret? Apart from the fact that grandad faked his way into the country with dodgy papers?[/i]

Mr Stoke frowned. ?Trust me son, you need to go and see her.?

?And take this cake, oh and I have some croissants for you to share with young Kei.? Mrs Stoke handed over a brown paper bag and a cake box. ?Do you want a sausage roll or something? I think I could spare a pie.?

Thane didn't respond, and looked at the large chocolate cake in his hands.

[i]So I?m going to see grandma in the land of the living dead. I really don?t like Hervey Bay.[/i] He thought. [i]But I guess it couldn?t hurt. I need to get away from this city anyway. The next few weeks are going to be a little crazy.[/i]

?And don?t even think about testing that icing!? Mrs Stoke called out. ?I?m wise to your little tricks, my boy.?

Mr Stoke showed his son to the back door with a firm hand on his shoulder, ?good luck, Thane. Drive safe on the highway. I?ll call ahead for you so grandma knows you?re coming.?

?Thanks Dad.? Thane made his way for his car, ?does any of this make sense to you? I can?t even believe the words coming out of my own mouth sometimes.?

?If you can?t believe yourself, who can you believe?? Mr Stoke opened the car door; ?I think you?re going to have to make up your mind about this pretty soon, son.?

Thane started the engine and drove home, his father?s words in his ears.

[i]?Don?t lose what I could have had, Thane. This is a gift that you can?t afford to waste.?[/i]


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[SIZE="1"][FONT="Trebuchet MS"]Hey, sorry about the long time between posts. I had to work out a little character development before I was happy with what you see here. Enjoy.

True to form, it's another long one again.

Harlequin: Yeah, I have a love/hate relationship with Hervey Bay. I wonder if it shows through? ~_^[/FONT][/SIZE]

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Thane’s phone rang as he pulled back into his parking space. He answered it just as the Decemberists started on the lyrics.
“Sixteen Military wives-

“Detective Senior Constable Stoke speaking.” Thane stayed in the car, searching for the sausage roll his mother had sneaked into the bag of pastries.

[i]“Is that any way to speak to your Grandmother?”[/i]

Thane choked, coughing sausage roll over his dashboard. “Morning Grandma, did Dad call you-

[i]“Your father was right, you do need to get away from that awful job of yours. He and I were just talking now about how serious you’ve been of late. I don’t know dear, you were always such a serious baby and now you have such a serious job. Couldn’t you have just been a journalist like your Grandfather or something like that?”[/i]

Thane rolled his eyes. His father must have pulled something sneaky to cut the conversation short enough to get Grandma Stoke to call so soon.

[i]“…as I was saying, your father said you’re coming up today. I’ll start on a nice lunch and expect you before eleven.”[/i]

Thane blinked. Images of bizarre salad ingredients danced before his head. Eggplant with pineapple and bacon bits, artichoke hearts with prunes…

“Grandma, I’d have to leave now to get to your place before eleven.” Thane yawned for effect. “I haven’t slept since yesterday.”

[i]“So? Whose fault is that? I’ve been up for two hours already dear. Had a lovely run on the beach. If you haven’t slept, that’s your fault. Lunch will be served at eleven.”[/i]

Thane put a hand on his face. “Grandma, I haven’t had a proper sleep in twenty four hours, I’m not about to go driving on one of the most dangerous highways in Australia-

Thane took his phone away from his ear and looked at the screen.

“You hung up on me?”

Thane rubbed his face angrily and groaned, putting his phone back in his pocket. He got out of his car, slammed the door closed, and relished the opportunity to stretch. He looked at the now rising sun and sighed, knowing full well he’d be driving for five hours soon.

[i]I need to have a shower, get some clothes. Shave. I definitely could do with a shave.[/i] Thane thought, making his way around to the front door. [i]Almost six, still can’t believe I was at the bakery that long. Kei’s friend should be here in the next hour or two, I hope she got some sleep…[/i]

The front door smashed open, taking Thane by surprise. Mrs Petrovich stood on the threshold in a violet dressing gown, violet slippers, and dark brown cane in one hand and a black rubbish bag in the other.

Thane retreated automatically at the sight of the cane.

“Mr Stoke!” Mrs Petrovich shouted, pointing her cane at him. “Help an old woman down these stairs!”

Thane fought his survival complex and, against his better judgement, stepped up. He gently took the plastic bag and held her surprisingly frail arm, helping her walk down the stairs.

“Thank you.” Mrs Petrovich spat, snatching the bag from Thane’s arms.

“I can throw that out for you if you like, Mrs Petrovich.” Thane offered, acting more charitable than he felt.

Mrs Petrovich paused and peered up at him with her beady eyes. “I will do this!” She hit Thane hard with her stick. “You wait here and help an old woman back up stairs again.”

Mrs Petrovich hobbled off to the rubbish bins around the corner, leaving Thane to rub his bruised arm. He waited patiently and Mrs Petrovich hobbled back, allowing herself to be lead back up the stairs and to her room.

Mrs Petrovich hit him hard again and shouted, “No running!” Before slamming her door shut.

Thane opened his mouth.

Thane closed his mouth.

[i]Let it go,[/i] Thane thought while he deliberately ran up the stairs. [i]You’re moving out soon. Wait, I’m moving out soon?[/i] A grin slowly appeared on Thane’s face as he unlocked his front door. [i]I’m moving out![/i]

Thane carefully closed the front door behind him and left the paper bag prominently on the counter for Kei to find later. He made his away past the couch, noting that the TV had already been turned off. Kei was curled up with the blanket from the spare bed, dozing.

Thane went into his bedroom and quickly grabbed clothes and threw them into his gym bag.

[i]I’d better take work with me, he thought,[/i] collecting his laptop from the table. [i]Lord knows Grandma will object, but maybe working at a beachside café is what I need to get through my case paperwork.[/i]

“Mmm, Toddy, don’t go to work yet…” Kei mumbled from the living room.

Thane froze, waiting for another outburst. Blessed silence. He finished packing and quickly scribbled out a note for Kei, not daring to wake her and say goodbye himself. He picked up his bags and made his way out to the front door.

“Ugh.” Kei pulled the blanket over her head, and mumbled something unintelligible.

Thane continued to scoot out of his unit.

[i]I’m such a coward.[/i] He thought, as he put the note next to the bag.

Thane regretted heading north the minute he left the suburb and hit the main road. Thane sat on Lutwyche road for what seemed like hours. A combination of construction, and a lack of common sense, had lead to a series of minor accidents. The radio wasn’t much of a relief either. He could pick up a commercial station on FM, but all it was doing was telling him to avoid the road he was already trapped on, while the AM station was giving him news updates about the cases he was already working on.

Thane frowned at the noise of the road works, and turned the radio up.

[i]“A spokesman for the police has recently informed the press that an official announcement will be made later today. An Ipswich man has been arrested on suspicions of Armed Robbery and Grievous Bodily Harm. He is expected to be charged with over thirteen counts of-[/i]

A large truck pulled up alongside Thane’s car, and the AM station dropped out. Thane sighed and turned off the radio.

[i]Probably for the best.[/i] He thought.

Traffic eventually cleared up and Thane managed to weave his way to the Bruce Highway. Any feelings of fatigue he had gradually cleared up as the sun rose steadily and began to put warmth into his bones. As he drove further north he wound his window down and enjoyed the hints of the sea on the breeze.

There were trucks behind him and the odd caravan in the slow left lane. Thane was almost surprised at the amount of holidaymakers cruising along, but then he remembered that the first of the schools had finished for the summer. He groaned as he remembered the Schoolies rotations he had to do back when he was still in uniform. Dealing with drunken high school graduates wasn’t his favourite thing to do. It was the only time when he had to patrol the Gold Coast and Surfer’s Paradise, and he was grateful. Night time patrols weren’t pleasant.

[i]And yet I became a detective. Go figure.[/i] Thane mused while indicating and merging lanes.

Road signs were indicating that his two northbound lanes were becoming one, a frequent occurrence along the lengths of the Bruce Highway. Thane finished merging and noted the double lines next to him as the highway narrowed. He heard honking behind him and in front, causing him to check his mirrors.

“Son of a-!

The breath caught in Thane’s throat as he slammed on his brakes and veered out of the way. A tiny hatchback screamed forward, continuing along after forcing Thane off the road. It had been over the double lines, driving towards oncoming traffic and a large transit truck. As the hatchback driver lost his nerve, he merged into Thane, forcing him to leave the lane and ultimately the highway.

Thane sat in his car, blinking. His engine chugged briefly and then died.

“Child in the back seat.” Thane had received a vivid image of the back of the car as it blew past. He noticed everything, including the driver casually flipping the bird at him. “Child in the back seat, driving irresponsibly with a [i]child in the back seat[/i]. You ran the wrong person off the road, buddy.”

Thane appeared calm, despite his inner fuming. Another car had pulled over; the driver walked up and knocked on Thane’s window, checking to see if he was all right. Thane smiled, pulled his phone out and showed his Police ID. The Samaritan driver laughed, and walked back to his car.

Thane dialled.

[i]“Queensland Department of Main Roads.”[/i]

“This is Detective Senior Constable Thane Stoke of the Brisbane CBD, I wish to report a traffic incident.” Thane listed off his identification number to the operator for confirmation.

[i]“Thankyou DSC Stoke. What was the incident?”[/i]

Thane attempted to be blithe, “oh I was just run off the Bruce Highway by an idiot in an early model silver Toyota Echo. License number six-seven-one, golf-jim-foxtrot. Incident occurred about two hours south of Maryborough.”

[i]“Thankyou DSC Stoke. The Police have a highway patrol car in the area and are already currently pursuing this particular motorist.”[/i]

Sirens wailed as a red highway patrol Holden screamed past, Thane felt his car rock slightly in the car’s wake.

“Thank you,” Thane said, “and goodbye.”

Thane hung up and turned his engine over. The Corolla didn’t respond.

“Don’t you start with me.” Thane pumped the accelerator and tried again.

The car started and Thane breathed, checked his mirrors, and smoothly made his way back onto the highway. Half an hour later he saw the patrol car and the Echo pulled over on the verge. He allowed himself a small smile and whistled tunelessly.

The day was bright, skies were clear, and it was becoming a pleasant journey. He enjoyed the rest of the trip, amusing himself has the radio randomly picked up different stations along the lengths of the highway. He was content just driving, enjoying the road just laze out behind him.

Thane stopped for fuel in Maryborough, relishing the opportunity to stretch his legs and walk around. Not much had changed in the town since his last visit. A new string of fast food places, another video store. The city centre still retained its small town feel, dry and flat with just a hint of the ocean. He left Maryborough behind him, knowing it’d creep under his skin if he stayed there long enough.

Child protection was a sad part of Police duty, and Thane had been called out many times by the Department of Community Care. He was looking forward to that placement in his early days, Maryborough being so close to the beach and near enough to his Grandma, but he didn’t cope well with the daily grind. Years later and for all the toughening up he had gone through, he couldn’t stand being in the town for more than an hour.

Thane hit Hervey Bay limits and began to slow down to suburban speed, noting the drops from 100, to 80 and finally 60.

A musical introduction started in Thane’s pocket.

“Hello Grandma.” Thane said, putting the phone next to his ear.

[i]“Hello dear. Where are you?”[/i]

“Just reached Hervey Bay, Grandma. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

[i]“You aren’t driving now, are you?”[/i]

Thane paused in thought, “…a little?”

[i]“You should know better than that, Detective Constable! I’ll see you soon.”[/i]

Thane put his phone down, frowning a little. [i]Detective [b]Senior[/b] Constable, Grandma.[/i] He thought, a little embarrassed at the rebuke.

He hadn’t bothered to bring his bluetooth headset, simply because he felt like a complete idiot when driving with it on. He only ever used it for work, and only then because he didn’t like breaking the law on the job.

[i]It’s not as though I need to shift gears or anything.[/i] He said, justifying himself.

Thane crossed through a couple of the roundabouts that plagued the Hervey Bay roads, narrowly avoiding drivers that seemed to be cruising with their eyes closed. The main road was clogged with traffic, as always, but it cleared up as he headed to his Grandmother’s suburb. He parked in front of a typical block of flats and pulled his bags out of the trunk. He picked up the cake from the front seat, managed to close the door with his knee, and made his way around.

“Hello Grandson!” Grandmother Stoke called through the screen door.

“Hey Grandma.” Thane allowed himself to be ushered in, stepping into the welcome cool of the tiny living room.

“How was the trip?”

Thane reflected briefly before answering, “not too bad. Good drive all in all.”

Thane’s Grandmother nodded and peered into the cakebox, “oh, did your mother make this?” She asked.

Thane dropped down gratefully onto the cool leather couch. “Yeah, her specialty.”

Thane listened to the fridge open and close, as the box was no doubt shoved in there. Thane’s Grandmother was fanatical about keeping desserts cold, even if it was meant to be a hot pie or strudel. One of the little quirks that made up the whole of the woman.

Thane closed his eyes and listened to the table get set. He was sure he was supposed to help or be a dutiful grandson, but he just listened to the wave of one-way conversation. He enjoyed his Grandmother’s still very English accent as she mentioned the cost of fruit, how much difficulty she’d had with the internet recently, how the local bowls club turf wasn’t up to scratch since the water restrictions…

Thane jumped awake as his Grandmother smacked him on the forehead.

“Well, are we going to eat or not?” She asked, looking at him pointedly.

“Um, right. Sorry Grandma.”

Thane rubbed his head and made his way to the kitchen table. There was a spread of galactic proportions. A variety of salads and meats sat on the table, and a loaf of bread. An old hand at this, Thane proceeded to butter two slices of bread and began to build a giant sandwich. Across from him, his Grandmother did the same.

After the meal, feeling full and drowsy yet again, Thane found himself back on the couch with a mammoth slice of chocolate cake on a plate in his hand. He wasn’t even remotely interested in it, but made a few futile attempts at devouring it, by stabbing it occasionally with a fork.

“Now your father has told me that you’re having some incidents at work.” Grandma Stoke said, pointing her fork at Thane while looking over her slice.

Thane struggled up in his seat before answering. “Yeah. I’m seeing the future. Or, what could happen if I did something that I was about to do or something that someone else could do if I didn’t do something…”

Thane was amazed he was talking so freely about something that he found to be so bizarre. He was more amazed when his Grandmother nodded and continued eating her cake.

“Mhm, your father told me about that.” Grandma Stoke set her cake down. “I remember when this happened when he was starting to date your mother. Now, I was surprised at first, but then I remembered.
[pindent=1]“You see, back in England I was dating a chap who I found to be rather dashing. He was a local lad in my village, but he was so impressive with his motorbike and his leather jacket. His parents were gypsy folk-[/pindent]

Thane groaned mentally. [i]You have got to be kidding me.[/i]

-that decided to set up shop and raise their family. Well, we were dating and my parents didn’t approve, so that made me just love him all the more.” Grandma Stoke paused to eat more of the cake. “As I was saying, young girls can be incredibly stupid. So I was. One thing led to another and he disappeared and I knew I was pregnant with a gypsy child. No one else did, but I knew. I was terrified. It wasn’t the time for this sort of thing, my parents would have locked me away and I’d never see my child.
[pindent=1]“Now I knew your grandfather then, we grew up together and he always fancied me. When I told him my horrible secret, he immediately proposed and we got married straight away. Then we moved to town because of his job and my family were none the wiser.”[/pindent]

Thane sat in silence. It didn’t seem proper to be discussing something like this in such a matter of fact way, while scoffing giant slices of cake.

Grandmother Stoke looked at Thane, “Oh please, my parents weren’t too bright. They were just happy I settled for a sensible boy and they had a grandchild.
[pindent=1] “So I was happy, I’d forgotten about my gypsy wastrel boyfriend. My son even looked like his adopted father, and no one was any the wiser. Life was good in London, I had everything I wanted, and then the package appeared.”[/pindent]

Grandmother Stoke put down her plate again and looked at Thane, making him feel all the more uncomfortable. Thane ate more cake and tried to look indifferent.

Grandmother Stoke continued. “A little old woman stopped me at a flea market while I was pushing your father around in a pram. She complimented me on the child and said I needed something for such a special boy. That he would need something for when he came of age.
[pindent=1]“I was flattered, but confused. She looked at me, and said ‘this is Rance’s child, yes?’ I was shocked, because I hadn’t heard my wastrel of a first boyfriend’s name in years. I stammered out vain protestations, but she pressed the box into my hands.[/pindent]
[pindent=1] “ ‘Rance has gone home.’ She said, ‘this contains everything his son will need to know about his life, when it happens.’ She put the box under the pram and then completely ignored me, as thought I wasn’t there.”[/pindent]

Thane realised he was expected to react. He continued eating cake, trying hide his mirth at the silly “old gypsy woman” voice his Grandmother put on when quoting.

“So I kept it, and gave it to your father when he came to me with these incidents of his.” Grandmother Stoke stood up and brushed cake crumbs off her track pants. “As a matter of fact, I’ll get it for you now. It answered every question that young Oliver came to me with.”

Thane sat in stunned silence while his Grandmother made her way arthritically out of the room. He was more confused and uneasy than when he had first arrived. He was also full of cake and three giant sandwiches, which didn’t help the matter much.

[i]Do the houses here come with old people smell built in, or does it gradually grow into the walls?[/i] He mused, trying to ignore the inner disquiet he felt.

His Grandmother came back, holding a solid and intricately carved box the size of a thick phonebook. She handed it to him, and sat back down in her armchair.

“Well, go-on.” She said. “Open it.”

Thane looked down at the box, noting the Celtic knot pattern on the lid. He paused, and then ignored the anticipation. He flicked the box open.

“…wait what?” Thane exclaimed.

Grandmother Stoke said nothing, but her eyes sparkled.

Thane peered back into the box again. “It’s…empty?” He said, feeling rather put out.

Grandma Stoke cackled delightedly. “You reacted exactly the same way as your father did when I gave him that box.”

Thane closed the lid and opened it again, looking at her quizzically. “Is this some kind of Zen?”

“No dear. I made up the entire story.” Grandma Stoke laughed again, wiping a tear from her eye. “Though I must say it’s grown a little since I told your father.”

Thane closed the box held it shut, stubbornly ignoring the laughter that wanted to escape from him. “Are you serious? Then what’s the deal with the box?”

“Oh that’s been in my family for generations. I don’t know how old it is, but my mother gave it to me when I was a little girl and I’ve had it ever since.” Grandma Stoke smiled and looked at her unimpressed grandson. “Don’t give me that look, dear. It was only a bit of fun.
[pindent=1]"Though I must say I am a bit insulted that you think I could be stupid enough to end up unmarried and pregnant.”[/pindent]

Thane put the box down, determined to continue to be unimpressed.

Grandma Stoke rolled her eyes. “I grew up with your Grandfather, we were best friends and then as we got older it became love. We did the proper thing back then and ran away,” she laughed again, “which I can tell you didn’t impress my mother. We did get married in London and we did have a bouncing baby boy, Oliver. Your father. Your great grandparents were placated by the cute little baby, and all was forgiven. Then we moved to Australia…and it took a long while for them to forgive us for that.”

Thane sighed. “So you’re telling me that-

-I know absolutely nothing.” Grandma Stoke smiled again. “Yes, that’s true. Your Grandfather might have known something-God rest his soul-but he never told me anything about it. He had already passed away from a heart attack when your father started having those incidents. So I just made something up. I couldn’t keep a straight face through it though.”

Thane looked at his hands. “Huh.” He managed.

Grandma Stoke stood up and patted him on the head. “You’re on your own, dear. There is good news though.”

Thane looked up, “oh?”

“We have enough seconds left over from lunch for me to not worry about cooking dinner, and I still have your father’s old surfboard in the shed.”

Thane grinned. “Sounds good to me.”

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[FONT=Arial][SIZE=2]You know that what you do is good and I've told you all that already, so this is really just a lazy post about aesthetics.

You need to make the background lighter, particularly in the last two posts. Half the time I have to highlight it to be able to read it, which kind of defeats the point of the pretty background. It's just too busy to be that dark.[/SIZE][/FONT]
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  • 1 month later...
[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="2"][B]EDIT: Please find the latest update just below the new image[/B]

Apologies for updating like this, but no-one's commenting. So yeah >.>;[/SIZE][/FONT]


[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="1"]Sorry there was such a delay between posts. I was a little busy.

Cheers for the comment. I like having the background but I must admit it's a bit difficult in places. I'm just going to have to use this mostly blank one and maybe insert the images some other way.[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="2"]Thane shifted his weight, gently easing the direction of the board as the wave approached the beach. The sun was well and truly out, baking the beach with a heat that forced even the most intrepid of sunbathers to seek shelter in the cool water. Thane cut carefully along the waves, keeping an eye out for any rogue swimmers that had drifted from the red and yellow flags.

[I]A beautiful day,[/I] he thought, [I]this is exactly what I needed. The city can be too oppressive; all the work that?s waiting for me can keep on waiting. [/I]

Thane dropped down flat on his board and paddled further out towards the next swell. He was one of the only people surfing today, but considering the lack of waves it wasn?t surprising.

The wave was closer now, and Thane hunched up, finding his balance.

[I]I think I?ll do this until the sun goes down.[/I] Thane smiled to himself and stood,[I] I haven?t had a proper vacation in a long, long time.[/I]

There was a roar of a high-powered engine, and Thane turned his head to the noise.

[I]What can that be?[/I] Thane thought, peering over his shoulder.

There was nothing there, the wave had built up to a decent height and all Thane could see was green water.

The engine noise increased and on the edge of his hearing, above the sound of the water, Thane could hear excited whooping and cheering. Thane checked again, crouching low to his board. He could see a dark shadow in the wave, something approaching fast through the water.

[I]No way[/I]. Thane thought.

Thane was knocked off his board, his head rudely introduced to the nose of the fast moving Jet Ski that had just attempted to mount and jump the wave. His board whipped around on his ankle strap and clocked the driver and passenger, knocking both into the water. The Jet Ski?s powerful motor cut off as the failsafe engaged. The wave swallowed all, crashing into the beach.

Thane blinked as he found himself back on his board, still on the same wave. He foundered and slipped, crashing heavily into the water. He surfaced moments later, coughing the salt water out of his lungs and rubbing his burning eyes. His board bobbed merrily beside him.

?Mate, are you all right? We didn?t see you there, must?ve given you a bit of a fright??

Thane hugged his board and looked blearily at the middle-aged man sitting on a fluoro green Kawasaki two-seater Jet Ski. A ten-year-old boy was on the back, inspecting Thane with interest.

Thane coughed again and dropped his head onto his wet board in exasperation.

?Daaaad, can we go again?? The boy wheedled.

The father looked down at his son, ?yeah all right, in a minute, Dan.?

Thane looked up, shifting his board. ?You do know that Jet Ski?s aren?t allowed in the flagged surfing zone, right??

?Mate, surfing zone?s about fifty metres up the beach.? The man laughed, ?you?re the bugger in the wrong place.?

?Oh.? Thane sneezed, rubbing his nose furiously. The salt water from his dive was tickling his nose something chronic. ?Cheers. I?ll just get out of your way, then.?

?You sure, mate?? The man looked concerned. ?Looked like that board cracked you over the head as you went down. Do you want a lift to shore??

Thane straddled his board, ?I?ll just drift in, I?ll get there eventually. Thanks anyway.?

?All right, if you?re sure.? The man looked back at his son. ?Hold on Dan, here we go!?

Thane hugged his board as the Jet Ski?s wake threatened to sink him.

[I]Maybe that?s enough for the day, after all.[/I]

Another swell passed underneath Thane as he made his way back to the beach. Looking around now, he could see that he was far off course. He only just noticed how close he was to the rocks.

?Hello dear. How?s the surf??

Grandma Stoke was sitting on a collapsible beach chair, underneath an overlarge floral beach umbrella. She was wearing a summer dress that was in fashion when she was younger, and that was oddly starting to become popular again.

Thane dropped his surfboard onto the sand, realising that he was paying attention to unnecessary details again.

?Good enough.? He managed, ferreting around in the esky. ?Small enough waves for me to find my feet again. Oh good, the ice has melted??

Grandma Stoke pushed her sunglasses back up her nose and looked back to her book.

?Well someone didn?t close the lid before he went surfing for four hours.?

Thane looked at his watch. ?Huh. So how?s the book??

?Dull as dishwater. I?ve read it once before and it?s amazing how empty the plot is when you already know the twist at the end.? She sighed and closed the book. ?It?s really rather disappointing.?

Thane sat down and flicked the gritty sand off his wet can of lemonade. ?Well don?t read it then. There?re enough second hand bookshops around here for you.?

Grandma Stoke sighed and put her sunglasses on her head. ?Yes, but they?re run by little old biddies that recognise me and have to tell me their sad stories about their ugly grandchildren, and then I?m stuck there for three hours as they try to sell me a Harlequin Romance novel that I read when I was a teenager. It?s dreadfully awkward.?

Thane grinned, trying not to laugh.

?Watch it, you.? Grandma Stoke said, bopping Thane on top of the head with her book.

Thane laughed. ?You did choose to live here, Grandma.?

Grandma Stoke settled back into her seat and remarked sullenly, ?well that was before all the old people moved in. Now I have to deal with little old biddies everywhere I go, always asking me if I?m on holidays here. I mean, really, I?ve lived here longer than anyone else. [I]They?re[/I] the ones on vacation.?

?Oh of course, I can totally see where you?re coming from.? Thane drank. ?Bleaugh. Sand has to get everywhere, doesn?t it??

Music started somewhere, and Thane realised with dread that it was his phone ringing.

?There it goes again.? Grandma Stoke commented, turning a page. ?That thing has been ringing non-stop since you went into the water. I?ve had to bury it in my towel but it just keeps on getting louder.?

Thane scrabbled around frantically. ?Why didn?t you tell me??

?Didn?t want to worry you, dear.?

[I]?Tonight means nothing if we stay...?[/I]

?Oh no,? Thane muttered, wresting his phone out of the tight bundle of towels. ?Gyroscope, that means it?s a private number.?
Grandma Stoke looked over her book. ?Does it, dear? That?s nice.?

Thane had attributed different music tracks on his phone to different callers. Mostly due to boredom, but now he appreciated the forewarning it gave him before he even picked up his phone.

?Hello, this is DSC Stoke speaking.?

[I]?Finally, DSC Stoke. This is Detective Sergeant Andrews. Did you lose your phone??[/I]

Thane blanched and had the creeping dread that he was severely underdressed for this conversation.

?No sir.?

[I]?Can you explain why you have been unreachable for the past three hours??[/I]

?No sir, sorry sir. I?ve been spending time with my Grandmother and I only just noticed my phone, I?d left it a way aways from me and had not noticed your calls until now.?

[I]?I see. Ensure it doesn?t happen again. Have you completed your statement for last night?s event??[/I]

[I]Bugger[/I]. ?No sir, I was exhausted after the event and was planning to submit it once back in the office on Monday. This is my long weekend, sir.?

There was a heavy, displeased sigh on the other end of the phone. [I]?DSC Thane Stoke, are you telling me that you do not have your computer and Internet access with you? I?m certain you could spare some time from your dreadfully busy schedule and email me a typed statement of the events of Thursday night past. If it?s not too much trouble, I would like to have this resolved before court on Monday.?

?Yes sir, right away. I?ll email it to you before the end of the day.?

[I]?If you tear yourself away from the surf right now, I?m sure you could have it to me in an hour.?[/I]

The phone clicked.

?Great. Just wonderful.? Thane sighed. ?Sorry Grandma, I?ve got work to do. I?ve got to get back to my computer and submit a statement.?

?Be a dear and take the esky back with you.? Grandma Stoke didn?t look up from her book. ?This just got interesting again. I should be able to manage the umbrella and my chair by myself.?

Thane shouldered the battered blue esky and picked up his towel and board. ?Okay then, seeya Grandma.?

Ten minutes later, Thane found himself lying uncomfortably on his bed in the guestroom, ignoring his sunburnt back while trying not to incriminate himself in his own statement.

[I]??after hearing the shot I ordered Kei Nalren to administer to the wounds of her fiancé Todd. I then investigated and discovered a hole in the bedroom wall, therein I discovered a firearm and ammunition??[/I]

Thane paused and said aloud to himself, ?is it [I]wherein[/I] or [I]therein?[/I] Whichin??

[I]?I immediately secured the evidence and detained both members of the household before calling in the incident. The suspect known to me as ?Todd? remained quiet and admitted nothing to me, nor did he make any protestations of evidence to his fiancé, Kei.?[/I]

Thane read through his statement a few more times before he was finally satisfied with the truth in it. Feeling safe in the knowledge that he had done his duty (or at least written the bare minimum necessary to justify doing his duty), Thane proceeded to email it to DS Andrews.

He again attempted to email it to DS Andrews.

?No reception?? Thane groaned.

Thane opened the Telstra diagnostic and proceeded to fiddle. The device continued to attempt to reconnect unsuccessfully. Thane picked up his laptop and wandered out into the living room, shifting the aerial on the PCMIA mobile card.

?Come [I]on[/I] you stupid thing.?

Thane nudged open the screen door with his foot and wandered outside, away from the block of units. The device attempted to connect, and announced that he had full reception. Relieved, Thane proceeded to send the email. The signal strength dropped dramatically, announced that he didn?t have a connection, and then announced that his email had been sent successfully.

The device announced that it had moderate reception from the Maryborough Next G mobile tower.

?Typical. Ninety-eight percent of Australia Next G network coverage my foot.? Thane sighed and closed the Macbook before heading back inside.

Thane sat down on the leather armchair in front of the TV, relishing the feel of the cool leather on his burnt back. He turned on the box and flicked casually through the channels automatically, his mind focused elsewhere.

Familiar chords started up again as Thane?s phone started ringing and vibrating its way across the coffee table. He sighed and turned the TV off, almost regretting missing out on the exciting bowls tournament that was on the ABC.

?DSC Stoke speaking.?

[I]?Just received your email DSC Stoke. I appreciate the thought, but I?m guessing you forgot to attach your statement.?[/I] DS Andrews said dryly.

Thane froze in embarrassment and swiftly set up his computer again while cradling his phone with his shoulder.

?Sorry sir, I?ll email it again now sir.?

[I]?Thankyou, detective. I?ll just wait here, shall I??[/I]

Thane opened his email client and started the Telstra device again. Blessedly, it decided to work without him having to wander outside again.

?On its way, sir. I?ve been having trouble with the mobile broadband connection here.?

[I]?Ahuh.?[/I] There were the sounds of a few mouse clicks and keyboard keys. [I]?The force pays for it all, I don?t see why you should complain about something like that. Besides, from what I?ve seen of your usage reports, your used quota exceeds that of the rest of your colleagues combined.?[/I]

Thane said nothing; he could easily envision the wry smile that was already on his superior?s face.

[I]?Ah yes, here it is.?[/I] More clicks. [I]?And your statement included as well, excellent. I will review this, detective. And I will see you nice and early next week. I believe you managed to miss a debriefing over this whole situation, so we?ll catch up with that bit of paper work before we start on Monday, okay??[/I]

?Yes sir, no problem sir.?

[I]?Drop the ?sir,? son. You?re always too bloody formal.?[/I]

?Sorry, sarge.?

[I]?And stop apologising, you?ve got no reason for it.?[/I]

?Sorry[I]- click!-[/I] ??

Thane frowned and put the phone back down on the table, sighing heavily. He turned the TV back on and noted that Australia was just behind England by a couple points. According to the TV guide next to him, the broadcast would go on for another hour or so, plenty of time for an equaliser and eventual comeback by the Australian bowls team.

Thane smiled to himself and leant back in the chair.

[I]Good enough.[/I]

[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="1"]Well it's been a month, and I grew tired of the wait. Enjoy.[/SIZE][/FONT]

[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="2"]Thane woke up to the sound of his phone?s alarm. He opened his eyes and glared at the phone that was now vibrating its way along the table and playing an obnoxious bell noise that he?d grown to hate.

?Shut up.? Thane managed as he squeezed the phone silent.

Thane had managed to return to his flat in Brisbane Sunday afternoon and had promptly crashed. He?d recovered a lot of lost sleep, but after sacrificing two meals and water for the rest, he felt disgusting.

The shave and shower rejuvenated him. The weather had been getting decidedly warmer, and last night was particularly fierce. The water in the shower was tepid and a shock to the system, but it blasted away the summer?s sweat and discomfort. Thane opened his mouth and tuned out, relishing the cool water.

Some time later, the obnoxious alarm sounded again.

?Bah, water restrictions.? Thane cursed himself and rubbed his drowsy eyes as he shut off the taps.

There was a moment of hurried awkwardness as Thane tottered around the house and snatched up clothes that he hurriedly re-ironed. He dressed quickly and efficiently while thinking over the day?s agenda. He had a lot of work to do and he was certain he?d be raked over the coals for it.

?Fruit for breakfast,? he muttered as he pulled open his fridge, ?apples are still good.?

Thane closed the fridge and finally noticed his reflection in the polished surface of the door. He grunted and ran a hand through his hair to little effect. He shrugged and bit into the apple, hurrying back into his room to collect his work gear and suit coat.

In his hurry, Thane neglected to notice the small handwritten note that had been folded and carefully placed on his small kitchen table. He also failed to note his rather unimpressed cat that was sitting impatiently on the balcony.

Thane closed and locked the front door. He checked his watch, baulked at the time, and hurried down the steps with his jacket cradled over one arm and his messenger bag held in the other.

?Mr Stoke!?

Thane saw the door open mid stride, time slowed as he saw the familiar cane come out and tap the ground angrily. Thane didn?t see the owner, because in the next second he landed and tripped over the stick. His arms flailed out and his fingers scraped along the brick walls of the stairwell. He caught himself on the aluminium door lintel, his face centimetres away from the glass.

?I warn you to not run, Mr Stoke.? Mrs Petrovich shook her cane and hit Thane squarely on the rump while he steadied himself. ?This is dangerous, you could break your neck!?

?I almost did, Mrs Petrovich.? Thane said, he did not add [I]You crazy old bat[/I].

?Be more careful! You wake up everyone every morning, like clockwork. Even now, your cat, he wakes me up.? Mrs Petrovich gestured angrily, as only a diminutive old lady could. ?He is out my window now, wanting food!?

Thane groaned as he snatched up his suit coat. ?I?m so sorry Mrs Petrovich, I went away and couldn?t find him, but I put food out and I?m really sorry. Thanks for looking after him though.?

Mrs Petrovich shrugged, ?is okay. He is a good cat, he visits me while you are at work.?

[I]That?s where you get to, you greedy guts.[/I] Thane thought, and said out loud, ?speaking of work, I really need to get going. I?m going to be late!?

Mrs Petrovich dismissed him with a flick of her hand and slammed back into her flat, grumbling something incoherent.

[I]Late, late, late, late. So late. And wow my fingers are really smarting[/I]. Thane threw himself into the car and reversed out, not bothering to lock the tiny garage. As he drove, he squeezed his now intensely painful fingers into a fist. He winced and turned the radio on.

[I]Music[/I] Thane thought, and changed channels to FM. [I]More music.[/I]

[I]And that was ?White Noise,? off the Living End?s latest album. Coming up this fine Monday morning with the Breakfast Crew, we want to know who would take their Nana with them to the Big Day Out! We have some of the elusive sold out tickets for the Gold Coast and we?ll give them to the most rocking Nan out there. So call in now![/I]

Thane rolled his eyes at the mental image of taking his Grandmother at the Big Day Out. She?d probably be more into the music than he would. Besides, he doubted that the ?Breakfast Crew? would appreciate a cop calling up for free music festival tickets.

Thane made his way into work, absentmindedly tapping the steering wheel in time with the music. It was early yet, but the sky was bright and it felt to be another beautiful day. He only wished he didn?t have to wear the suit in summer. Plainclothes were better than the uniform, sure, but he always roasted in his suit.

By the time he had arrived and parked in the underground lot, Thane?s back was already sticky and he peeled out of his seat as he got out of the vehicle. He gave a furtive look around, and swiftly gave himself a quick spray with the deodorant he kept in the car.

?You?re late, detective.?

Thane froze on the spot and subtly dumped the spray back into the car before turning around on the spot to face his accuser.

He sighed. ?Mayank, you gave me a heart attack.? He checked his watch. ?And for your information, I?m early.?

Mayank grinned, his perfectly white teeth standing out brilliantly from his dark Indo-Fijian skin. ?Early for work, yes. Definitely late for your debrief with sarge, though.?

Thane froze, and the colour drained from his face as a wave of realisation washed over him.

Mayank raised an eyebrow. He leant forward. He leant back. He waved a hand in front of Thane?s glazed eyes.

?Hey buddy, are you okay?? Mayank peered at him, and then smacked Thane?s forehead with the palm of his hand.

Thane started and shook his head, looking around the parking lot. He gave a heartfelt groan.

?What?s up?? Mayank asked in an amused tone.

?I was hoping it was all a dream. Or I was having another moment. Generally I?m forewarned when I?ve made a decision that?s going to kill me.? Thane snatched his belongings out of the car. ?This week is not starting well.?

?Mate, it?s Tuesday.?

?Oh God no.?

?We tried to call you, but your phone just kept ringing out. The sarge left a message that [I]very[/I] politely requested your presence, I just figured you finally got it.?

Thane?s brain shifted gears. He stopped and stared hard at his partner. ?Have I mentioned recently how much I appreciate your humour??

Mayank grinned, ?there?s always a first time.? He clapped Thane on the shoulder, ?come on, I?m sure sarge won?t be too unimpressed. I mean, he?s probably too busy to squeeze in an official dressing down.?


?So how was the surf?? Mayank pushed the elevator button. ?Did you enjoy the day off??

Thane put his coat on and tidied up in front of the mirrored walls of the elevator. ?Surf was pretty average, I?m way too out of practice to be showing off on anything impressive.?

Mayank nodded and rocked on his feet, ?so?you had another [I]experience[/I]??

?Jet Ski almost killed me. Except it didn?t.? Thane shrugged and straightened his tie. ?I woke up back on the board and wiped out before it got me.?

Mayank nodded again, and noticed Thane?s futile attempts at hair arranging. He made a small disapproving noise and pulled a tiny tub of product out of his suit pocket and handed it over. ?You really need to take more care of yourself, man. You?re too scruffy.?

Thane accepted the tiny tub and worked a small amount on his palms and into his hair.

Mayank faced Thane and continued, neither of them noticing that the doors had opened, ?I mean, look at you. Did you even shave this morning? You have tiny tufts all over the place. Look, this is how you use that stuff, you only need a little bit-

?Gentlemen, are we quite done??

Both men spun smartly to attention and chorused, ?Morning Detective Sergeant!?

DS Andrews was a middle-aged man with an average height and an average complexion. His only distinguishing feature was his completely bald head. He was a man who?d spent most of his life in uniform and had only taken the chance to get into CIB when he realised it meant he could keep decent hours and stay behind a desk. It also meant that the added authority discouraged people from suggesting that he?d look like the Monopoly man if he grew a moustache.

He sighed as the duo stepped out of the elevator, ?this isn?t the military, gentlemen. Mayank, get to work. I want you to find where this ?Steve Wilson? lives. Find the connection.?

Mayank snatched the tub back from Thane, ?on it, sarge.?

?It?s Detective Sergeant.? DS Andrews shook his head, ?now, this way please DSC Stoke. We need to talk.?

?Understood, sir.?

Thane followed his superior into the man?s glass-walled office. He took note of his surroundings as he sat down. The desk itself was uncluttered, the only thing out of place was a poorly made ceramic mug stuffed full of pens. It had a jolly ?Best Dad? carved into the front of it along with what seemed to be a car with a smiling sun above it.

DS Andrews followed Thane?s gaze, ?made by my eldest boy. He was so proud when he gave it to me. In his late teens now, won?t look at me twice.?

Thane didn?t know what to say, so he smiled in what he hoped was a non-patronising way.

?Right,? DS Andrews said, ?now I?m about to print out your official statement. Before I do this, I?m going to ask you something important.?

?Yes sir?? Thane asked.

?Are you pulling a fast one on me??

Thane kept his face carefully blank, and answered, ?I?m sorry sir??

The Detective Sergeant swivelled his chair from his computer to face Thane head on.

Thane ignored how perfectly well the fluorescent tube lighting gave the man an apparent halo on his bald head.

?Son, is this a true and accurate account that you are willing to swear to??

?Yessir.? Thane remained calm, ignoring his overactive imagination.

DS Andrews nodded to himself and printed off Thane?s emailed statement. ?And I?m a monkey?s uncle. You?re telling Furphies, but the Forensic unit agrees with your statement, and I?ll leave it at that.?

Thane said nothing, and then wrinkled his nose, ?Furphies??

?Furphies, slang for a whopper of a story? Named after the water carts used by the troops in World War one? The cart drivers used to spread information as they heard it? Usually wrong?? DS Andrews looked at Thane, ?You know what? Never mind. It?s on you.?

?Understood, sir.? Thane rose from his chair and left the room.

He found Mayank a few minutes later, trawling through data on his computer. A number of files were open, Queensland Transport, Telstra billing, Builder?s Blue Card registration forms.

?Hey Thane.? Mayank said, not looking up, ?how?d it go??

?Fine. I?ve just been given the joys of responsibility.? Thane said, dropping his bag onto his desk, opposite Mayank?s.

?Brilliant. Okay, I?ve found the address of Todd Barnes? best bud and our next suspect.?

A name surfaced as Thane dropped into his chair. ?Steve Wilson??

Mayank grinned and printed out a copy of a licence, ?yup. Building labourer like your mate Todd. He doesn?t have a criminal record, only a couple speeding tickets. Interesting thing is, these speeding tickets occurred in the early hours of the morning after two of the first armed heists.?

Thane leant forward in his chair. ?So the police stopped him and let him go? Didn?t they notice anything suspicious??

Mayank scrolled down, ?nope. The robbery hadn?t been reported then and I?m guessing they could have said they were late for a building site job. Most labourers start at the crack of dawn so they would have been just another carpool.?

Thane stood up, ?okay then. Where to??

Mayank handed over the print out, ?Surprise surprise, it?s Inala.?


[B][FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="1"]Again, Please find the latest post below, and feel free to comment.[/FONT][/SIZE][/B]

[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="2"]There was an argument in the garage over who was to drive the official vehicle. Thane signed out the keys and maintained authority and responsibility over the large unmarked Holden Commodore. Mayank had to be satisfied with being navigator, which meant he set up the GPS system and sulked.

?So what do we know about this guy?? Thane finally asked, as they hit the Ipswich Motorway.

Mayank opened the laptop that was fixed in the vehicle. ?Pretty much what I told you back in the office. He?s a general site labourer, nothing interesting going on in his life, though he?s apparently applied for a boat licence.?

?Could be nothing then.? Thane said, not believing his own words. ?At least this guy could give us some answers. I don?t know anything about Todd.?

?We don?t even know where that shotgun came from. Forensic have no idea. It?s been filed as a motorcycle special, but we haven?t any evidence.?

Thane nodded. They might as well have filed the weapon under ?miscellaneous.?

Mayank continued, ?Steve might not know anything, but he?s bound to be friends with those that do know. We might ruffle a few feathers. Okay, you?ll need to take this exit.?

Thane indicated and was about to merge back to the left lane as a large, loud, and fast Holden Commodore screamed past on the inside.

?Son of a-

Mayank?s words were cut off as Thane hit the sirens and put his foot down. Lights that had been hidden on the dash began flashing as the siren screamed from underneath the bonnet. Their unmarked vehicle became immediately recognizable.

?This is DS Ahimsa and DS Stoke, we are in pursuit of a beige 1990 Model Holden Commodore, licence plate- he peered closer and groaned- Fox Angel Soldier Trash numeral One. Repeat, FAST1.?

[I] ?Acknowledged, DS Ahimsa. Keep us posted.? [/I]

Thane grinned and shifted the automatic down into Sport. ?Fox Angel Soldier Trash? Really, Mayank??

?I couldn?t think of the proper words, alright?? Mayank shrugged. ?They got the message.?

Thane put his foot down, appreciating the slight pause in engine noise as the big V8 began to work. He nodded in appreciation as the car picked up speed. ?You?re just jealous you?re not driving.?

?Shut up and catch up to the idiot before he gets himself killed.?

As usual, the Ipswich motorway was busy. Thane had his work cut out for himself as he tried to remain patient for vehicles that refused to obey road rules and give him the right of way. More often than not he was forced to fly past on the ample shoulder of the motorway.

?There he is!? Mayank shouted, pointing an accusatory finger at a speck on the next hill.

Truck. Hatchback. Truck. Van. Motorbike. Truck. Big Truck. Thane forced his foot even further down as he closed the gap between them and the target vehicle. They were catching up, but only because Thane was pushing an excess of a hundred and sixty kilometres per hour. He?d stopped waiting for cars to make room and had sat in the right hand lane. It seemed people had eventually got the point and he?d had a clear run. Every now and again there was some idiot who felt it necessary to ignore his pursuit vehicle.

?Truck!? Mayank managed, leaning back in his seat.

?I see it.? Thane shifted onto the motorway shoulder again, overtaking another sluggish vehicle.

Ahead, they could clearly see the vehicle pulled over on the shoulder with a red Highway Patrol vehicle parked in front of it.

[I] ?DS Ahimsa, this is Highway Patrol Vehicle. Be advised we have this under control.? [/I]

Mayank breathed again and sat up in his seat, ?Roger Highway Patrol. Calling off pursuit.? He reached over near Thane and turned off the siren and lights. Thane responded by rolling his eyes and putting his foot on the brake.

?GPS says we missed our turn.? Mayank said, tapping the console. ?We?ve just added twenty minutes to our trip, I hope you?re happy.?

Thane managed a shrug. ?I don?t like idiots.?

?So you?ve told me.? Mayank let the words hang in the air before he continued. ?Look, this isn?t about-

-it?s not.? Thane finished.

Mayank knew when to leave well enough alone, and Thane?s face was like thunder. He knew that his partner?s good humour would return after a while?but the sheer weight of silence that clung in the air was crushing him. He played with his wedding ring, as he always did when he was uncomfortable.

Time passed and Mayank grew tired of counting the lines on the centre lane.

[I] ?Take the?[B]Redbank[/B]?exit in?five?hundred?metres??[/I]

Thane mentally shook himself when he heard the GPS speak, ?you know what?? He said, smiling. ?You?d think they?d have come up with a better voice for this system. I mean, with all these pauses, it?s like the GPS isn?t exactly sure where we?re going.?

?Mate, [I]I?m[/I] not sure where we?re going.? Mayank laughed. ?I?ve avoided the Southside my entire life.?

Thane turned off the voice on the GPS before the navigator spoke again. ?Didn?t you have a rotation through here??

Mayank grinned, ?I managed to avoid working here completely. I got sent out to the sticks a couple times, but never to Ipswich, or Inala, or Woodridge. The Gold Coast wasn?t too bad though.?

?You lucky devil.? Thane shook his head in disbelief. ?I was rotated through here, and I swear, all we dealt with were domestic disturbances and underage idiots. You see so much of it that you become completely desensitised to the problem. By the end of my stint, I was ready to knock a few domestic heads together until they saw sense.
[pindent=1] ?I was called to the same house, at least twice a week, for two months. Neighbours complained about people shouting and having a serious row about something, and then we always arrived to find that a son or a daughter had run away because Mum and Dad didn?t like them being in a gang. Every single week. Drove me up the wall.?[/pindent]

Mayank closed the laptop and ferreted around in his bag. ?Gangs a big problem here??

?No where near the level of the other capital cities, we don?t really have the population density.? Thane turned down another street. ?It?s always been bloody cultural stuff from the start, but now some idiot has decided that it?s a good idea to introduce the Bloods and Crips nonsense from the states.?

?Got it.? Mayank pulled out an arrest and search warrant. ?So this is making trouble? Let me guess, kids that were just being cheeky are now eating up this idea of honour and turf wars??

Thane nodded. ?By the truckload. Doesn?t make sense. It wasn?t anywhere near this bad, and the cultural stuff and islander spirit and whatever is stopping these gangs from really taking over?but kids are still dying from stupid mistakes. All it takes is one idiot and his mates to make the situation a thousand times worse.?

Mayank whistled. ?Aren?t you glad you?re investigating armed robberies instead? Really restores your faith in humanity.?

Thane smirked. ?Shut it. You know what I mean.?

?Oh for sure,? Mayank said while checking his side arm, ?I?ve got your back, buddy.?

Thane groaned. ?Good grief.?

Mayank saluted, with his serious face on, ?that?s a big ten four, roger dodger. Over and out.?

Steve Wilson?s address turned out to be a dilapidated old Queenslander home that was raised about four and a half feet off the ground. The veranda around the entire house had been converted to extra living space, as seemed to be the style for the area. This conversion gave the building an over all box-like appearance. Combined with the rusty tin roof and poor excuse for white paint, the house painted a picture of a typical low-socio-economic world.

As these thoughts trotted through Thane?s head, he felt decidedly guilty. When he was in his teenage years, many of his friends lived in similarly styled houses. He turned the engine off, checked his gun out of habit, and nodded to his partner.

?I?ll do the talking, thankyou.? Mayank said as they climbed over the rusty chain link fence. ?Before you object, I have the paperwork. So there.?

Thane stepped onto the path. ?No problem, it?s your show.?

Thane followed behind Mayank as he made his way up a set of rotted wood steps, taking care to stand on the bolts that held them to the metal supports. Mayank stood on the top step and knocked heavily on the front door.

?Shave and a hair cut, two bits.? He said to Thane, smiling.

There was silence, then sounds of someone grumbling, then heavy footsteps towards the door. Thane noticed the curtain twitch on the glass louvre windows next to him.

?Whatever you?re selling, I don?t want it.? A harsh voice growled, ?I?ve already got religion and I?ve been up since three this morning.?

Thane hid his grin behind his hand as Mayank froze.

?Steve Wilson, we are the police. We are not selling anything. We?d like to ask a few questions about your mate, Todd.? Mayank straightened up. ?We just want a couple answers and we?d appreciate your co-operation.?

There was silence, and then Steve spoke again, ?alright, fine. Let me get some pants on.?

Heavy footsteps made their way back further into the house.

Thane rocked on his feet. ?Oh, hey, what phone company is your daughter with??

Mayank shrugged, ?I don?t know. Optus or something. Just don?t forget the chocolate. I like Cadbury Fruit and Nut, for preference.?

?You mean [I]she[/I] likes Cadbury Fruit and Nut??

Mayank leaned to one side, attempting to peer through the window. ?Who cares what she likes? I like Cadbury Fruit and Nut, and I saved your bacon. Make with the chocolate already. My wife?s forbidden me from it, says it?s bad for my health now I?ve reached ?that age?.? He emphasised his point with air quotes and a universal shrug.

Thane grinned. Mrs Ahimsa was a dietician.

?So chocolate is okay if it?s a gift?? Thane?s smile faded, he was starting to get a migraine.

Mayank checked over his shoulder and looked back at the door in front of him, ?only if it?s inside business hours, and we never mention it to anyone.?

Thane swayed, and snapped to attention. ?Move!?

Before Mayank could react, Thane had jumped from the steps, one arm tight around his waist. The pair of them landed heavily on the grass and Thane rolled them both underneath the house. The second they had hit the ground, the door exploded. Buckshot and splinters scattered across Steve Wilson?s front yard as the paper thin press-board door was obliterated.

Underneath the house, Mayank was livid.

?He just tried to kill me!? He hissed in a vitriolic whisper. ?In cold blood!?

Thane groaned, hugging his left elbow. ?It seemed pretty warm when it went all over me.?

Mayank had his pistol out and was staring at the floor above him, ?oh, yeah. Thanks for that, buddy.?

Thane winced and drew his gun as well. ?Anytime.?

A metre to the left of them, the floor exploded and covered them with splinters. Mayank gauged his shot and pulled the trigger. This was met with swearing from above them. Two spent casings dropped down the new opening in the floor. There was more swearing and the sawn off shotgun itself fell through soon after.

Thane went to move, but Mayank grabbed him. ?Could be a trap,? he hissed.

Thane rolled his eyes.

?He blew the bloody door off, and I become very open to new ideas when that sort of thing happens!? Mayank grit his teeth shuffled carefully on the spot, tugging Thane back and behind one of the wooden stumps that supported the house. ?Now we?re just going to wait here like good coppers until this nut makes a move.?

There were a few uncertain steps above them, one foot sounded much heavier than the other. They could hear Steve breathing heavily and cursing as he tottered about above them. Thane glared at Mayank as his partner, again, prevented him from moving.

Mayank made an exaggerated ?stay here? gesture with both his hands and an emphatic Look.

The door creaked open, a miracle on three hinges. Someone spat, and hobbled down the stairs at a half run. Thane shoved Mayank off, and let the adrenaline bursting in his ears take over. He leapt out from behind the stump and caught Steve with a perfect shoulder charge, landing them both into the bushes.

After a halfhearted struggle, Steve allowed himself to be handcuffed. Thane then noticed Steve?s bleeding hand and bleeding leg. Apparently two of Mayank?s bullets had found their mark.

?So kind of you to come quietly, Mr Wilson.? Thane grunted, hefting the man to his feet.
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