Disclaimer: There is mentioning of violence against a young girl. And some memories that pop up are pretty nasty.

As always dedicated to the keeper of my heart; TCB.


Murrook Farm

Part 12


Lois Kay

"Rewind that, Pete. I need to see it again. Damn, this is frustrating," Trishia said, rubbing her tired eyes.

After talking to Sam and discussing Peter’s ideas concerning a system of solar powered surveillance cameras the blond woman had asked Trishia’s partner to take care of it. Immediately Peter had called his brother, who had promised to load up the equipment and drive over to Murrook Farm at once.

Sam had left the office to inform her lover about the arrangement, leaving Trishia and Peter alone, so they could study the tape the policeman had brought with him. For the last forty minutes they had been intently staring at the black and white images on the security tape. They had been able to note the exact time Peter had left the station, seeing him leave on the tape. A few minutes after he had left Martin Coles had entered the building.

"Funny, I didn’t run into him outside," Peter mumbled. "He left just after midnight, while Phil stayed with me to make those phone calls. Industrious bloke, huh?"

"Very," Trishia wryly remarked. "Especially since he left the station again five minutes later. I don’t know Pete, I have a bad feeling about this."

Peter had rewound the tape and pressed the ‘play’ button again. Staring at the screen they saw the slightly blurred images of the police station’s entrance. After Peter had left the building, the first person to enter the camera’s eye was Martin Coles, who was wearing a dark t-shirt and a pair of dark trousers. There was an undeniable smile on his face and for a moment it seemed he was looking straight into the camera.

"Stop it now," Trishia ordered and immediately Peter hit the ‘pause’ button.

"Look Pete, see that?" Trishia asked, pointing at Martin Cole’s shirt.

"It’s a t-shirt, Trish," Peter sighed. "I don’t see anything special about it, I…hot damn!"

Peter Jones squinted his eyes and leaned forward to get a better look at the still image on the screen. What he saw made the blood in his veins run cold and when he looked up at Trishia he shot her a gaze filled with respect.

"You are amazing, Trish! I had missed that," he confessed.

Without touching the TV screen Trishia’s finger pointed towards the dark clad form of Martin Coles. He was a tall, muscular man with a well toned body, which he did like to flaunt. Not having to wear a uniform, he usually dressed in slacks and shirts that showed off his assets.

The video tape showed him strolling into the police station, one hand in his pocket, while the other one scratched his shoulder. At first glance there was nothing out of the ordinary, but Trishia had noticed that the t-shirt Martin was wearing was bulging in some strange places. It was hardly visible, because he was wearing dark clothes, but Trishia’s sharp eyes had noticed the irregularity.

"Let me write down the exact time," Trishia said with a grim face. "And then let’s see when exactly Mr. Coles left the premises and more importantly, did he lose some weight while he was in the building?"

Peter rubbed his chin and looked at the screen with a feeling of disgust. Still, it was hard to wrap his mind around the possibility that one of his coworkers could be involved in criminal activities.

"You think it was just a lame joke, Trish? I mean, come on, he has been with the police for ages, surely you don’t think he could be involved in something like this?"

"Stranger things have happened, Pete," Trishia answered, hitting the ‘play’ button again. "When was that second murder again, the one in Sydney?"

"Seven months ago, in April," Peter answered, not understanding the change of subject.

"And when did Martin Coles join our happy team?"

"I think that was somewhere in May," Peter answered.

"That’s right, "Trishia answered. "Knowing he moved up from Sydney around that time makes him a suspect in my eyes. Especially when I look at this tape. It’s fishy, Pete."

"If he has anything to do with murdering that girl yesterday, I will snap his sorry neck," Peter mumbled.

"Get in line," Trishia replied, her eyes were glued to the screen.

They didn’t have to wait long to see Martin Coles leave the building again and this time his t-shirt was neatly tucked into his slacks, showing his trimmed body, without any abnormalities.

"Do you think he hid my notes underneath his shirt?" Peter asked, feeling the anger rise again.

"It’s not hard to hide an envelope, so yeah, I think he could have taken them."

"What a moron," Peter snorted. "He knows the camera is there. Does he think we are stupid?"

"I don’t think so. I think he is so full of confidence that he really believes we will never be able to catch him. If our suspicions are right and he is the one we are looking for, he has gotten away with murder twice, at least. In his delusional mind he probably thinks he is infallible."

Alice had gradually aroused from a deep, dreamless sleep that had made her feel more rested and refreshed than she had felt in a long time. After she had reluctantly opened her eyes, she had stretched her body and stared at the ceiling, reveling in the peaceful feeling that had her wrapped in a warm blanket of contentment.

Her conversation with Lisa Bailey had proven to be very interesting and not half as threatening as she had expected. At first she had been reluctant to answer the questions the psychiatrist had gently asked her, but somehow Lisa had made her feel more at ease and before Alice knew what was happening, she had talked freely, which had pleased the psychiatrist and had been a surprise to herself.

Lisa had treaded lightly, careful not to trigger any more unpleasant memories. That choice of strategy had given the teenager some insight into the way her mind had been dealing with the events she had been trying to forget for a long time. Lisa had made it clear to her that seemingly innocent remarks, scents or other things her brain registered, could bring memories in the form of flashbacks or nightmares.

Alice was glad to learn that she was not mentally ill, something she occasionally had worried about. Instead she now knew that the bad dreams and flashbacks were a result of the way her mind was trying to cope.

"I am not crazy," she whispered to herself, not aware of the smile that was tugging on the corner of her mouth. "Maybe one day I will even be normal again." She told herself in a wistful tone.

Alice let her mind go back to the conversation that morning, during breakfast, when all of a sudden her brain had seemed to be on overload and she had gone into a state of shock. Very carefully, as Lisa had taught her, she tried to remember bits and pieces of the discussion that had taken place and especially the words Trishia had spoken.

Alice could feel her heartbeat pick up and her breathing became faster and for a moment she closed her eyes, concentrating on taking a few deep breaths and telling herself over and over again that they were just memories. She was in a safe place, where nobody would hurt her.

Gradually Alice let her mind drift closer and closer to the words that had shocked her system so violently that morning. There was something important about the murdered girls. They had all been killed on a beach.

Somehow Alice knew that it was essential information. The familiar tickling sensation in the back of her mind indicated that there was something about it that, somehow, seemed familiar.

Closing her eyes she concentrated on the words Trishia had been speaking and that were still echoing in the back of her mind.

Runaway teenagers…beach…Sydney…Perth…

Alice’s body jerked and she gripped the sheet she was lying on in both her hands, unconsciously reaching for something tangible to try and center herself. She could feel the panic rise in her chest and with all the strength she could muster, she fought back the anxiety that was about to consume her again.

"Not this time," Alice hissed through gritted teeth. "Not again."

They are painful memories, Alice and remembering them will hurt, but try to keep in mind that they cannot harm you now. You are safe here, the echo of Lisa’s voice sounded in the back of her mind.

"I am safe. I am safe," Alice whispered, forcing her mind to repeat Lisa’s words over and over again, until she could feel herself start to relax.

She let out a shuddering breath and with trembling fingers she wiped her sweaty brow. The fact that she had just won a victorious battle, did not even register with the teenager. Already she was concentrating on her breathing again, trying to remember why Trishia’s words had made such an impact on her.

"I am trying to be strong, mom," she spoke to the ceiling, not seeing the cream colored panels and dark brown beams, but a pair of eyes that matched her own in color. "I am trying hard to remember who I am."

Runaway teenagers…beach…Sydney…Perth…

Alice’s body suddenly stilled and her eyes grew wide. All color drained from her face and suddenly she shot up straight, gasping for breath. She ignored the dizziness that made the whole room spin and jumped off the bed. On shaky legs she stumbled to the door, blindly reaching for the knob.

"I need to talk to Trishia."

When the teenager came staggering into the kitchen, it was Yarra’s excellent reflexes that prevented her from running into the table. The dark skinned girl had seen her friend’s approach from the hallway and had immediately jumped up when she noticed the state she was in.

The moment Alice tripped over her own feet and threatened to fall forward and hit her head against the solid wood of the kitchen table, Yarra had caught her in a pair of strong arms and held her close.

"Alice, what happened?" Jody exclaimed, also jumping to her feet and walking around the table. She pulled out a chair and Yarra carefully helped her distressed friend to sit down.

Alice looked from Yarra to Jody with eyes that were a mixture of fear, wonder and confusion. Her mouth felt dry and she moistened her lips, before swallowing hard.

"I need to talk to Trishia," she panted, shooting Joan McDonnell, who had also risen to her feet, a pleading look. "Where is she? Is she still here?"

"Take a deep breath, sweetheart," Joan gently spoke. "Trishia is still here, but try to calm down a little. Do you want something to drink?"

Alice wordlessly nodded and instinctively grabbed Jody’s hand that was resting on her shoulder.

"I didn’t lose it this time, I focused and I…I…I knew there was something, because this morning it triggered a memory and I…just...just."

"It’s alright, Alice," Jody soothed the teenager, not really understanding the incoherent sentence. She stroked Alice’s hair and smiled when the girl looked at her with trusting blue eyes.

"And I am so happy you didn’t lose it this time," Jody complimented.

Alice raked her fingers through her long, disheveled hair. A rueful smile found its way to her face and she slowly shook her head.

"I am not making much sense, am I?" she asked with a touch of humor in her voice.

"Don’t worry about that, mate. They are used to me," Fiona joked from across the table.

Alice smiled and gratefully accepted the glass of iced tea Joan handed her. She took a deep, calming breath and gulped down half its content, not having realized how thirsty she was until she tasted that first, cool sip.

‘Better?" Yarra asked with a laugh, when she heard the small sigh of contentment after Alice had finished her drink.

"Yes, thanks," Alice answered, looking up into a pair of warm dark brown eyes. "I was thinking back on this morning and the things Trishia told us, about the girls who were murdered and all that. And I was trying to figure out why that made me…flip. I…I remember something now and I think Trishia needs to hear about it."

"She and Peter are in Sam’s office," Jody said. "Come on, I’ll bring you to them."

"Okay," Alice breathed, all of a sudden fearing the moments that were lying ahead of her. "Better get this done and over with as soon as I can."

"I don’t know, Trish. How in the world can we prove this? I mean, nobody actually saw the bloke putting that nasty doll in my drawer. All we have is a fishy smell and a lot of suspicion."

"Then we need to get some proof," Trishia calmly answered, relying on her gut feeling that told her Martin Coles was not the person he pretended to be. "We need to show this tape to the inspector and ask for permission to go through his desk, maybe even get a search warrant for his house."

Peter opened his mouth to respond to the tall policewoman’s remark, but was interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Come in," Trishia called, pressing the ‘stop’ button on the VCR and watching the screen go black.

The door opened and Jody stepped in, followed by an apprehensive looking Alice. The teenager did not come closer, but just stood next to the door, her back pressed against the wall, looking like she could run off at any given moment.

"Sorry to disturb you," Jody apologized. "But Alice needs to talk to you, Trish."

Jody turned around to look at the girl and put a hand on her shoulder, giving it an encouraging squeeze.

"Do you want to talk to Trishia alone? I am sure Peter would not mind," she stated, remembering the policewoman’s story about Alice’s reaction to Peter the previous day.

"No, it…it’s okay," Alice whispered, shooting Peter a shy glance.

I am trying to be strong, mom, she silently repeated.

Unexpectedly Jody wrapped her arms around the trembling teenager and pulled her close, wordlessly conveying words of encouragement and strength.

"You are brave, Alice," she whispered in the startled teenagers ear. "Your mom would be so proud of you."

Blinking away the tears those kind words invoked, Alice took a deep breath and shot Jody a watery smile.

"Thank you," she simply said.

Jody smiled and gave Alice one last squeeze before letting her go. Turning back towards Trishia, she smiled and winked at her sister’s lover.

"Be nice to Alice, or I will send Fiona to the guesthouse tonight," she warned with a twinkle in her eyes.

Peter chuckled and stood up from his chair, offering it to Alice.

"That will do the trick, Jody," he remarked. "But we would have been nice anyway, so don’t worry. Come, Alice, have a seat," he encouraged the timid teenager with a smile. "This office chair must be the best one in the house. I secretly think Sam spends a lot of time here, seeing her wife is so strict."

Jody laughed and winked at Alice, who hesitantly smiled back and moved towards the chair Peter had so gallantly provided.

"Good luck, Alice," Jody encouraged, before closing the door behind her.

"How are you feeling now, Alice?" Trishia asked with genuine concern.

"Better, thanks," Alice answered in a small voice. "That talk with Lisa did help me a lot. Thanks."

"I am glad it did and you are more than welcome," Trishia smiled, pleasantly surprised by the obvious change in the teenager’s attitude. The former hostility seemed to have disappeared and was replaced by a cautious, but shy cooperation.

Alice’s eyes took in the pictures that abundantly decorated the walls of Sam’s office. The most striking one was a portrait of Sam and Jody together. They were leaning against a white fence, their arms wrapped around each other and they were looking at each other with so much love and devotion, that even the most cynical person in the world would have to acknowledge the obvious love they shared.

"Nice picture, huh?" Trishia’s voice broke the silence. "You’ll never guess who took it."

"You?" Alice guessed, her eyes traveling between the photograph, the tall policewoman and back again.

"No, unfortunately I am not that talented," Trishia laughed. "Fiona took it."

"Fiona?" Alice echoed, unconsciously leaning forward to have a better look. "Really?"

"Yes, Fiona," Trishia answered. "She has quite the talent. I know her and Yarra often go out in the bush, to shoot some wildlife, with a camera, not a gun," Trishia added with a smirk.

"Really?" Alice asked again, secretly pleased with the information about one of her new friends.

"Yeah, she once showed me some of her work and I have to say I was quite impressed," Peter added. "My oldest kid still keeps asking when Fiona will take him on a safari," he laughed.

"You have kids?" Alice could hear herself ask before she could stop the words from tumbling out. Her voice sounded surprised and wistful.

"I have four kids, one girl and three boys," Peter answered in a soft voice. "The two youngest are twins, they are just a little over six months old now."

"Oh," Alice responded, staring at her hands that were nervously plucking at the fabric of her shorts.

Trishia and Peter exchanged glances and by mutual, silent consent, they decided to wait and see what information Alice was willing to share with them. They did not have to wait too long. After taking a few deep breaths, Alice slowly raised her face and allowed them a look in pain filled blue eyes.

"I had a brother," she quietly said. "His name was Dean."

Trishia tried really hard not to show the surprise and compassion she felt for the teenage girl, afraid that it would scare her away again.

"I noticed you talk about Dean in the past tense," she calmly remarked after a long silence, ignoring the pounding in her chest.

"He died," Alice whispered. "There was a fire and he…he died. He was just a little boy. I tried to save him, but I couldn’t."

Trishia swallowed hard and shot a look at her partner who was visibly shocked. Even though Peter Jones had been a police officer for a long time and had seen his share of misery, there were a few things that never failed to touch him in the deepest part of his soul. The suffering of old people, children and animals. The innocent and vulnerable ones of society.

"Do you remember what happened, Alice? Do you want to talk about it?" Trishia gently asked.

"It’s part of what I remember. It’s part of what…," Alice swallowed convulsively and took a deep breath before continuing. "It’s part of what he did."

The teenager rubbed her eyes and felt the moisture stain the back of her hand. Surprised she looked at the glistening of her skin, having been unaware of the fact there had been tears in her eyes.

"I can’t remember it all," she continued in a strained voice. "It is so hard, but Lisa said that even though it hurts to remember, I am safe. Mom told me to be strong."

"And you are," Trishia spoke up with admiration in her voice. "Your mom would be proud."

"Jody said the same thing," Alice sniffed, wiping her eyes again.

"Because it is true, Alice Wilson," Trishia urged with warmth.

"My dreams…nightmares," Alice continued, correcting herself. "They are just images, fragments of sounds and smells and pictures. I remember the dreams, because I have had them so often, but ever since this morning, I can, somehow, fill in some of the blanks. He had left us alone, finally and mom was really happy about that, although she was still scared. She told us, Dean and me, that he had left for Sydney and would not be back again. We believed her. But one evening the doorbell rang and when mom told me to open the door…he was there."

Involuntarily Alice shivered and she clenched her hands into fists, until her knuckles were white.

"I tried to close the door, but he pushed me inside and I fell." A lonely tear escaped Alice’s eye and rolled down her cheek, leaving a moist track in its wake. "Mom heard him yell at me and came running into the hall, screaming at him to stop hitting me. Dean was crying. He was so scared," Alice whispered in a broken voice. "He said he’d leave me alone if mom would just hear him out, so she sent us to our room, I guess so we could be away from him. Mom told me to look after Dean. I tried to read Dean a story, so he wouldn’t have to listen to what was going on, but the voices were so loud."

Unconsciously Alice brought both her hands to her ears and Trishia and Peter exchanged a worried look, afraid that the memories would be too overwhelming and Alice would go into shock again.

But Alice closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths again, while her mother’s words permeated the pain in her heart.

Be strong, Alice. You are much needed and loved…

"After a while it was quiet again, real quiet and I thought he had left. Then I smelled the smoke. I was scared and opened the door, but when I walked towards the stairs, he was just coming up. I ran back to Dean, but when I opened the door, he caught me. He hit me across the face and I yelled at my brother to go and hide. That’s when…when…he tried to choke me with his hands." Alice paused for a moment and the silence in the room was almost palpable. "He was really calm and he laughed when he said that he couldn’t have me tell the police. He also said that they wouldn’t believe me anyway. I..I almost fainted, but then I remembered what my teacher once told us to do when somebody would…she said to kick them really hard and call for help, so I did. I kicked him, but I couldn’t scream, because my throat was hurting so much. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to get into the room and get Dean, but I knew he would get us both if I would do that, so I decided to run downstairs and get help. But he caught me again and hit me. That’s when I fell down the stairs and hit my head. When I woke up there were smoke and flames everywhere and I couldn’t breath. I was lying on something soft and now I think…." Alice sobbed and rubbed her eyes, looking very much like a frightened little girl. "I think it was my mom," her voice hitched.

Looking at the devastated teenager and hearing her horrific story broke Trishia’s heart. Not caring that tears were stinging the back of her own eyes, she took a few steps towards the slender figure in the large chair and knelt in front of her. Grabbing both Alice’s hands in her own she tried to share as much comfort as she possibly could.

"Oh, Alice, I am so, so sorry," she whispered. "If it’s too hard to go on we’ll understand, believe me."

"But I need to tell you this, Trishia," Alice sniffed, rising above herself in the amazing courage she displayed. "You need to know why I remember. It was something you said. You mentioned those poor girls and that they were murdered on the beach, in Sydney and in Perth. Right?"

"Yes, I said that," Trishia replied, still holding Alice’s hands and rubbing the back of them with her thumbs.

"I lived in Perth," Alice stated, glancing up and meeting Trishia’s startled eyes. "We lived near the beach. Dean and I went there a lot and that is where I ran to after…after the fire. And I also have been in Sydney, before I went up the coast. I was sure he wouldn’t find me there, because it is such a big place and there are a lot of runaways there. Sometimes it’s safer not to be alone."

"I hate to ask you this, Alice, because the last thing I want to do is to upset you, but do you have any recollection of the time period? Can you remember when all this happened?"

"I think the fire…must have been three years ago, yes it was. It was somewhere in August 2000. I remember because I went to Sydney with a few other kids. They thought they could make some money with the Olympics being held there. That’s almost three years ago then."

"When did you leave Sydney, Alice?" Peter asked from the background, the tension in his voice clearly audible.

"At the end of last summer," Alice answered. "I think it was February."

"Where did you usually stay?"

"During the winter I mostly slept around railway stations. I could often sneak into a boxcar. I also knew a hospital where I could crawl inside a window and sleep in the cellar. It was warm and dry," Alice’s voice was shy and filled with shame. "When the weather was better I usually managed to sleep on a beach somewhere."

"Alice," Trishia started, contemplating the best way to ask the question that was burning on her tongue. "This…person, who did this to you and your family. Can you remember his name?"

Alice sucked in her bottom lip and slowly shook her head, shooting Trishia and Peter an apologetic look.

"No, I don’t. I am sorry. Maybe I will remember later."

"That’s okay, Alice," Trishia answered, successfully keeping the disappointment out her voice. "Do you think you could recognize him?"

"He had cold eyes," Alice shivered. "And he was always so…neatly dressed, like he was a model or something."

"But he wasn’t?" Trishia asked.

"No," Alice shook her head. "He worked with the police."

Trishia bent her head and for a moment she stared at the floor to recollect her thoughts and wrap her mind around the information Alice had just provided them. Part of her was exhilarated to learn that she and Peter were probably right in their suspicion of Martin Coles, while the other part was filled with worry and sadness about Alice’s ordeal, which might not be over yet.

"Trishia," Alice’s voice brought her back to the present. "If…those girls who were murdered, it’s like…is he following me?"

For a moment the tall policewoman debated with herself whether she should tell Alice their feelings about the murderer or not, but the frightened, yet steadfast look in those clear blue eyes helped her to reach a decision.

"We think he is Alice," she truthfully answered. "I am sorry."

At that moment her cell phone she had put on Sam’s desk started buzzing. With an apologetic smile she let go of Alice’s hands and stood up to answer the call. The display showed it was Carol Wong’s private cell phone number. Trishia gasped in surprise and couldn’t hide the slight trembling of her fingers when she picked up the device. If the inspector called her from her own, private phone, it could only mean one thing: that she had some very sensitive information to share.

"Trishia Waters," she announced.

"I just received some information that is so upsetting, I don’t know whether to puke or spit fire," Carol Wong’s voice sounded in her ear. "Damn, Trish, I am absolutely, positively, utterly, unconditionally pissed off."

"Join the club, inspector," Trishia dryly remarked. "Alice is here with Peter and me and she just shared some very disturbing news with us."

"Share," Carol Wong ordered.

Casting a look at Alice, she smiled and pointed at the phone in her hand.

"The inspector needs to know what you told us, so if it’s okay with you, I will do that."

Alice just nodded and leaned back in her chair. She rested her head against the cool leather and closed her eyes, while Trishia repeated her tale of terror to Carol Wong. She was emotionally drained and felt like she could easily drift into a deep sleep again. But Alice fought that urge and her thoughts went back to that devastating moment when her family had been taken away from her by a mad man. Goose bumps covered her clammy skin when she tried to remember anything about the murderer of her mother and little brother. In her dreams it was always the hands and eyes that haunted her the most. The rest of the face seemed to be obscured by darkness and smoke, although there was a very vague recollection of an always impeccable shaven face and a perfect styled haircut. But no matter how hard she tried to remember, somehow the details eluded her.

Frustrated Alice opened her eyes again and squinted against the sunlight that came tumbling into the room through all of the three windows in Sam’s office. Her eyes traveled back towards the portrait of Sam and Jody and even though it was just that, a photograph, she could almost feel the warmth and love radiating from it. Pensively Alice stared at the portrait, while Trishia’s voice faded into the background. Sam and Jody looked so happy together. Their love seemed almost palpable and just looking at both women being together could make anyone smile.

The smooth but cold voice from her nightmares sounded in the back of her mind, echoing words full of hate and disgust.

Damn, queers. Should put them all on a ship and sink it.

But this time the words did not scare Alice. Somehow, while looking at the picture, she had expected them to surface again and they just filled her with sadness and anger. She did not understand why people would object to two women, or men, loving each other. Wasn’t real love something everybody wanted in their lives? Wasn’t it something people went through great lengths through, to have that one special person they could share their future with?

Alice was not raised to be a religious person. Truth to be told, when her mother and brother had died and she had been roaming the streets, fighting a daily battle to survive, while society had seemed to have turned its back on her, she had lost the little faith she once might have had. The concept of love had been alien to her. But ever since she had arrived at Murrook Farm, she had experienced something that she thought no longer existed and another memory had gradually surfaced again. Words she had once heard when she had accepted a meal at church in Sydney, where a group of its members tried to provide food and shelter for the homeless.

It is not hard to hate, we just have to let our anger take over and let darkness take control of our soul. But what would we gain by that? Will the bitterness that accompanies hate make us happy? I dare say it will not. It is the easy way out. Real strength is found in love. Why? Because even if times are difficult and even if it seems like the future is dark and desolate: love never fails. And even if it seems you are all alone, you are not. God loves you. He loves all of us, no matter who we are and where we are from. God is love…

At that time Alice had been more interested in a decent meal than the sermon that was being given from the pulpit. She had let the words patiently wash over her and had softly snorted when the minister had spoken about God’s love. She had decided that even if there was a God who loved her, other people never would follow his example and she would always be alone.

But that was before she had met the kind and hospitable McDonnell family and their friends. And now, after having been accepted into their midst, the words she once had discarded as religious small talk, had taken on a completely new meaning and deep down inside her heart, Alice could feel a small flicker of hope, that was being fueled by the friendship and kindness which she was surrounded with.

A small smile tugged on the corner of her mouth and she let out a wistful sigh. Maybe she would be able to find her own special someone one day.

Alice’s musings were interrupted by some expletives Trishia uttered after switching off her phone and stuffing it into her pocket. With startled blue eyes Alice looked up at the tall policewoman who had a grim expression on her face and paced the floor in front of the desk.

"Spill it, Trish, you are killing me here," Peter urged with a tense voice.

"The inspector just got off the phone with Superintendent Philips, in Sydney. She had some very interesting information and I can tell you we do have one very serious suspect in our fashionable friend. The Superintendent and our inspector had to conclude that our suspect has been providing information that is not entirely in sync with what we know as the truth," Trishia told him through gritted teeth, while her eyes were blazing with anger. "There is a gap of one month between him leaving Sydney and arriving here. Guess which month that is?"

"April," Peter immediately answered, feeling his heart rate pick up, while the adrenaline started to flow in abundance.

"Exactly. And can you guess the reason for his delay?"

Peter was about to answer that it probably had something to do with his urge to end another teenage life, but he swallowed down the crude remark to spare Alice’s feelings.

"Enlighten me, please," he sighed.

"His wife was sick and needed to be admitted to a hospital."

Peter’s eyebrows disappeared in his hairline and the stunned expression on his face was almost comical.

"Wife? "

"Right," Trishia mumbled.

"Well, that makes him the first single married man I have ever met," Peter cynically remarked. "What an asshole. How in the name of the good Father did he ever think he could get away with that fairy tale?"

"He almost did," Trishia sighed. "Anyway, the inspector will start pulling as much information as she can, but seeing it is Saturday, that might be a little hard. She told us to stay put and, I quote: ‘Make sure to get those bloody toys of Peter’s brother up in the trees’."

In spite of the situation, Peter chuckled and he could almost hear their frustrated inspector bark her orders at Trishia.

"Oh, and she will try and get the green light for a search warrant as soon as she can. She was already working on it."

The sound of an approaching car made them tense and Peter quickly jumped to his feet to look out the window. He smirked when he saw a familiar van and the sturdy figure of his brother, who was frozen in place next to his car, with Kurt standing in front of him.

"Here’s Mike," he smirked. "He has just met Kurt."

After Sam, who had been expecting Michael Jones, rescued him from the ever watchful German Shepard, she had introduced him to her family and walked him to her office. She was just about to knock on the door, when it was opened and she looked straight into Peter’s twinkling eyes.

"I’m glad you could make it this quick, mate," he greeted his brother, slapping him on the back. "We would like the stuff up as fast as we can."

"I understand that Pete. It’s good thing I had all the equipment you need. Hey, Trish," he greeted the policewoman with a smile. "How are you doing?"

"Been better, Pete," Trishia answered with a smile of her own. She had always liked her partner’s older brother and appreciated his honesty and sense of humor. "But I am sure your gadgets will be able to take away some of my worries."

"That’s the plan, Trish," Michael said. "It’s a very good system and I will make sure it will be up and running before the end of the day. I need to borrow my little brother though, if you don’t mind."

"We will all help, Michael," Sam said, casting a look at Alice’s drained face.

She raised an eyebrow and shot Trishia a quizzical look. The policewoman tried to look relaxed and leaned back against the desk with the TV and VCR. ‘ Later’ she mouthed and Sam nodded in understanding. Turning back to Michael Jones she gestured towards the room.

"Do you think this could be the command center?" she joked.

"I don’t see why not," Michael answered, taking in the spacious room, with the large windows. "I have installed surveillance equipment in smaller places than this."

"Great," Sam replied with relief. "I guess I will let you get on with it then. I’ll be back to give a hand, but it looks like Alice needs something to eat, so, is it alright if she comes with me?"

The teenager looked up at the blond woman and her blue eyes radiated pain and fatigue. Sam’s heart went out to the girl and she gently squeezed a slender shoulder.

"Sure, Sam. I am sorry about this interruption Alice, I hope you…" Trishia apologized, but she was interrupted by the girl.

"I understand," Alice softly spoke, slowly getting up from the huge chair. "And I do feel a little faint, so maybe it’s better if I eat something first. If…if there’s something else I…I will let you know. Or if you have any questions. I still don’t remember a whole lot, but I’d like to help in any way I can."

"We appreciate that Alice, thank you," Peter smiled warmly, patting her shoulder. He turned towards Trishia and rubbed his hands together.

"Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?" he suggested.

"Sounds like a plan," Trishia answered, reaching inside her pocket to extract her cell phone, in order to clip it back on her waistband again. Her elbow accidentally hit the ‘pause’ button of the VCR and immediately the black screen lit up, to show the still image of their main suspect.

The occupants of the room seemed to freeze. Sam’s eyes took in the picture and she immediately realized that this was the person Trishia and Peter suspected of being the murderer. Her eyes turned to slits and anyone who would have looked at her at that moment, would have noticed the hard, cold glint. But nobody did. Everybody was staring at the TV screen and the silence was almost palpable.

Michael cleared his throat and looked at his brother with a look of surprise.

"I know that bloke," he stated, pointing his finger at the screen.

Peter and Trishia exchanged astonished looks and for a moment they were both speechless. Sam, who was standing close to Alice, could feel the teenager’s hand on her wrist and without looking down at the girl, she could tell she was trembling.

"Then…who do you think that is?" Peter asked his brother, needing to know if Michael was absolutely right.

Before Michael could open his mouth though, to answer the question, another voice broke the silence. It was just a mere whisper, but the impact almost blew the police officers away.

"Martin Coles," Alice’s hoarse voice sounded.

TBC part 13

Return to the Academy

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