SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2009
“Where did you get that?” I asked her. I crossed the room to pick up the letter but she beat me to, snatching it up from the table.
“I need to explain somethings…” she said, pulling a chair out for me to sit in.
I sat and waited for her to speak.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2009
We climbed the hill to her house; a small terrace that looked over the island. She opened the door and stood to one side, waving me in.
“After you,” I said, waiting for her to lead the way. I followed her, closing the door behind me. She led me down a narrow hall and into a small bright kitchen, flicking on lights as she went. I stood inside the kitchen door and watched as she filled the jug.
“Would you like tea?” she asked.
“No, thanks. Just some idea of what’s going would be good,” I said. I thought of leaving – going on without getting involved. I glanced around her kitchen. It was neat and tidy and gave little away. On the table however was proof that convinced me to stay. Leaning against a vase full of flowers was an envelope. There was no mistaking the writing. It was my mother’s hand and the note was addressed to Pa.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2009
She looked around at the crowd passing by.
“We need to find somewhere where we wont be noticed…in case…” she said.
“Lead the way then,” Something in me trusted now her, perhaps her link to my mother.
“The Inn isn’t a good choice. Not if the person chasing you is who I think it is. We can go to my place. It isn’t far,”
I considered the possibility of it all being a set up. My logical side wore me down and I let her guide me through the village streets of this foreign island I had dreamed about. Suddenly, there was the very real chance that things might work out.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2009
She looked surprised.
“Marshall, its OK. I’m on your side. I know all about you. People have been expecting you for a long time. Though I get the feeling nobody really knows you’re here yet. Who does know you are here?” she asked.
Questions flew through my mind so fast I couldn’t keep up.
“What could you possibly know about me?” Her head tilted a fraction, and her brow furrowed. Her face softened into some kind of understanding before she finally spoke.
“Your mother is missing, and your brother and father are supposedly dead. You grandfather is old now, and wanting to retire…his tools are missing and you’re looking for…”
“All right, enough…” I said, looking around. She knew way more than I imagined. The next question was how did she know so much. But that’s not what I asked.
“Somebody tried to kill me back on the mainland – a guy with a knife,” I felt for the handle through the thin cotton of my shirt.
“What did he look like?” she asked.
“Kinda tall, thin. Ugly and bleeding. I smashed his nose with a can of beans. He followed me down to the wharf,” I explained.
“So someone knows you’ve arrived. Marshall, you’re not safe. I can help you, if you will let me,”
“Why should I? I don’t even know you,”
“I think I can help you find your mother. You just have to trust me, ” she said.
It was the trump card that won my hand.
“Let’s talk then…” I said, re-linking our arms.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2009
We bustled along the gangplank and onto the wharf. The sky was now dark and the wind whipped at my face, leaving me icy cold.
“Where are we going?” I asked her. I knew nothing about the island, only what I had seen in my dream. I figured little of that could be considered a reliable source.
“Have you eaten? I’m starving. There’s a small inn at the town square. Let me buy you some dinner,” she offered, pulling me along, our arms still linked. I stopped suddenly, alarmed at her taking control.
“Answer my question first. Before we go any further. Explain as we go like you promised,” I said. I had no idea if I trusted her yet.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2009
Her hair flipped across her face, obscuring her features. The sensation of knowing her well swelled in my gut but my head couldn’t connect to a time or a place. The ferry’s engines churned the water around us, slowing us in order to drift onto the jetty. She pulled back her hair with one hand, and with her free hand brushed the remaining strands from her face.
I rubbed at the lump on the back of my head, hoping her name might slip out from under the swelling. Only pain came to mind as my lapse in memory became glaringly obvious.
“I’m Angie. We met at your grandfather’s store,” she said.
The pieces fell slowly but firmly in place. I recalled her admiring Pa’s Grandfather clock. I’d backed into her hauling some boxes inside.
“What are you doing…here?” I asked. I was confused by her presence. How did she get here? I’d fallen through some kind of portal. Of that I was sure, but we had first met on the other side -and now again here in this place that was still foreign to me. She laughed but I was missing the joke, and my face told her so.
“You really don’t know, do you?” she said.
The ferry docked and the gangplank slammed down, bridging the gap between ship and shore. For once, I was speechless. The crowd shoved from behind, edging me forward. She moved next to me, linking her arm through mine.
“Come on. I’ll explain as we go,” she said.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2009
The ferry gathered speed and the man on the wharf shrunk to a speck. My fear shrank along with him. I stood up straight and walked over to the other side of the boat. I could see the Woe Islands up ahead, and could tell as the boat veered to the left that it would stop at the North Island and most likely go on down the coast to the point. I leaned against the rail and felt the sting of the knife’s tip dig into my flesh. I’d forgotten I’d slipped it under my belt as I leapt on the ferry. I subtly readjusted its edge, pulling my tattered shirt down low to conceal it once more.
The ferry was crowded. It would be easy to jostle my way off without paying. I made my way closer to the exit, where a young girl stood staring out at the sea. Her face was familiar. She yanked up her collar, protecting herself from the breeze that had suddenly picked up. I watched her for a while, her long blonde hair flicking about in the wind.
The engines wound down as we approached the North Island, and I looked ahead to see how close we were. When I looked back at her, she was staring right at me. She cocked her head to one side and a smile crept over her face.
Marshall?” she said, turning to face me. I wracked my brain trying to think of her name.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
I snatched a can of beans from the shelf and flung it hard at his face. I heard the crack of bone as he grabbed at his nose with his free hand. I sprang to my feet and lifted my leg and kicked him hard in the face and then smashed my fists down on the back of his head. The knife clattered to the stone floor. I swept it up and slipped it beneath my shirt and scuttled out of the pantry and back into the crowded bar. I spun around and caught his bloodied face through the crowd, one hand holding his dripping nose and the other, pointing at me as I escaped out the door. My feet pounded against the cobble-stoned path as I bolted along the lane. I turned down another lane that led down to the dock. A ferry sat at the wharf and passengers crowded the gangplank, shoving their way on board. I ran as hard as I could and sprang up the gangplank. I was the last one on. The deck hand hauled in the plank and the boat sounded three blasts of its horn as it slowly reversed from the wharf. I leaned against the cabin, sucking in air. I saw him running down to the wharf, still holding his bleeding face. I was safe for the moment but hadn’t a clue where I was headed.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2009
He led me through the crowd and into a small room next to the bar.
“What are you doing you here?” I asked him. He ignored my question and shoved me into the corner. I slammed into some bags of flour, a cloud of white dust rising up from the impact of my landing.
“How about I ask you the same thing?” he said.
We were in a small pantry off the main kitchen. I scanned the shelves for a weapon that might help keep me safe. Aside from canned beans and a round of foul smelling cheese, there wasn’t much I could grab for.
“SO?” he insisted.
I had my excuses for being here. I just wasn’t up to explaining. The less I told anyone, the better it would be for me in the end. I shrugged my shoulders toward him and kept my mouth shut. The silence angered him. I watched the veins pop out from the side of his head. I probably should have considered the knife in his hand.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2009
I fought the urge to throw up as someone grabbed hold of the back of my shirt. I closed my eyes and screwed up my face against the oncoming blow.
“Leave ‘im alone…” said a voice. It belonged to the man who had hold of my shirt. He shoved me through the door of the tavern before I could get a good look at him. Inside, I turned and saw who it was.
“Shut up and act like you’ve never seen me before in your life,” he whispered into my ear. I did as he said, and felt the tip of his knife pressing into the small of my back.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2009
I followed the cobblestone path down the hill, its edges lined with clusters of flowers. The colours lifted my spirits. I felt exposed as I traipsed down the hill and I imagined anyone down in the village could see me as plain as day. It made sneaking into the place impossible. I quickened my pace and scanned the narrow lane ways that separated the village huts. Smoke drifted from chimneys and disappeared into the washed out sky. Over the water, the sun was sinking into a band of cloud that stretched over the horizon, and the windows in the huts began to glow as the villagers lit their evening lamps.
I reached the bottom of the path where a walkway led into a narrow street lit with lamps already burning brightly.An old man pushing a cart of apples turned out of a lane and onto the street. He nodded and smiled at me as I passed. I nodded back, taking in the baggy trousers and un-tucked shirt that he wore. He was dressed as shabbily as me. The shops were all closed, some bordered up completely. They looked unlikely to ever open again.
I crossed over the path and turned down a lane where I saw an old tavern at the end. I could hear laughter and music spilling onto the street. It was as good a place as any to get lost in a crowd. Perhaps I could find somewhere to sleep for the night. I was headed for the tavern door when a fist landed hard in my gut. I folded in half, the wind knocked out of me once again.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2009
I fell backward into the darkness. Out of control, I flipped through the air, spinning faster and faster. I reached out for something to grab. There was only the wind rushing between my fingers. I felt my stomach lurch as I flipped several times. I closed my eyes and hoped I wouldn’t throw up.
I slammed against something hard and the world became suddenly still. When the pain in my back and head settled, I opened my eyes and sucked in the breath that had just been knocked from my lungs. I blinked several times, getting my bearings, trying to make sense of the last few minutes of life. I looked around me and realised I was lying under an old stone bridge.
I rolled to one side. Next to me, a door was set into one of the pylons. I could see old worn steps leading upward. I climbed to my feet and stepped toward the door as a gust of wind barrelled under the bridge and slammed the door shut. There was no handle to turn – just a keyhole and nothing more. I pushed at the door. It didn’t move-I was stuck in this place and had no idea where I was.
I raked my hands through my hair and spun around. There was no one nearby. Up the hill, the road disappeared into forest. Downhill, the road swerved to the left and ran down to a small village. I rubbed the back of my aching head where a lump had begun to rise. I needed to find somewhere to hide, until I figured out where I was. I headed off down the cobblestone road, following its curves, trusting it to lead me to safety.
Around the corner, the road continued on but a path veered off to the left. A broad leafy tree grew at the side of the road, its branches forming a green swaying arch over the path. I stood in the shade of the tree and looked down at the town below. It skirted a coast where dozens of boats dotted its shores.
Some distance off shore was a small island. I stared at it, disbelief clouding my judgement. On the island was the place I had dreamed of the night my mother went missing. The sun was inching its way down through the sky. It would be night before long. After such a long search, I knew this was place. I had found it at last. I stepped from the shade of the tree and made my way down the path into the village. I felt for the coin in my pocket. It hummed beneath my fingers and without even looking, I could tell it was already aglow.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2009
“Marshall, there’s been an accident,”
Penny’s voice waded through the quietness. My eyebrows sagged from the weight of a frown and panic seeped up into my belly. It continued to rise and it settled somewhere in my chest. I pushed myself to the edge of my seat.
“Is my mum OK?”
I could feel my heart pounding through fear.
Penny said nothing for a moment, then placed a hand on my shoulder. The smell of fresh lemons drifted past me.
“ The police found some of your mother’s belongings…at the ferry terminal…”
I wanted to speak but my throat felt like it had twisted shut.
“What things…’ I finally croaked. The room seemed suddenly darker even though the curtains were open.
“Her handbag, actually. It seems she was about to get on the ferry. She was holding something that… exploded. Marshall, we think your mum fell into the water – from the force of the blast. We haven’t been able to find her. We believe that the force of the blast…it…it was an enormous explosion, Marshall. It seems highly unlikely anyone could survive being that close…”
Her voice was barely audible by the end of the sentence. Despite the details, I couldn’t make out what she was saying.
“I don’t understand…” I said to her.
“We think your mother might have been killed in the blast,”
I felt hot and sick and needed air. I pushed myself from the couch and staggered. Penny grabbed me and sat me down again.
“You’re joking, right?” I asked, half laughing, half crying, searching her face for the punch-line.
Her expression didn’t change.
She dropped her gaze and stared at the dying roses in the vase on the table.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2009
Penny reefed open the curtains, flooding the room with afternoon light. I winced from the brightness and looked down. In front of me, on the coffee table was my mother’s favourite vase. A fine pale crack snaked from one end of the vase to the other. I knocked the vase over when I was five years old and my mother had spent hours painstakingly fixing it, telling me that if you loved something enough, it was worth all the time in the world to put it back together again. The vase stood brimming with blood red roses she had picked yesterday. Petals were scattered around the base of the vase. At some point during the day, the roses had wilted and died.
Detective Bletcher walked back into the room, his mobile still stuck to his ear. He finished the conversation and snapped the phone shut.
“I’ve got to go,” he announced, nodding toward Penny, and then toward me. He left without saying another word.
Penny crossed the room and sat next to me. I leaned in to her as her weight sunk down into the cushions. I edged away and stared straight ahead, wondering when someone was going to say something. Her partner perched himself on the edge of the seat of an armchair, his head instinctively cocking to one side as a siren wailed somewhere off in the distance. The room grew uncomfortably quiet, filled only with the rhythmic ticking of the clock above the mantle.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2009
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Andrew Bletcher. Marshall, I’m a detective. I need to ask you some questions, if that’s all right…”
The closer he moved, the harder my heart thumped in my chest.
“About what?” I said, an edge of meanness in my voice. The weight of the stolen book hung in the bag over my shoulder.
“You should talk to my mother first,” I said, changing the subject, buying myself some time. If he was willing to wait for her, I could figure a way to dump the book somewhere by the time he explained where I’d been and what I had done.
“It’s actually your mother I need to talk to you about. Marshall, there’s been an accident. We should all go inside and talk,” he said, looking from me to the other two officers who now stood beside me.
The bag over my shoulder thudded to the ground, and the world slowed and crowded my head. I wasn’t sure what he was saying but the look on his face told me something bad had just become part of my future. Something far worse than me stealing a book.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2009
I slowed as I approached the driveway. One officer sat in the car, the radio crackling staccato bursts of a nasally voice that told him to “stand by and await further instructions…” A female officer appeared from beside the house, speaking into a handset.
“House is secured…the kid’s not here…over…”
I hated being called kid. I thought about running but didn’t need the extra attention, and it was too late to dump the book. I just kept walking, pretending not to notice them.
I glanced backward, in case Mum was on her way down the street. The man in the jacket was behind me.
“You’re Marshall Kincade?” he asked.
I stopped and slowly turned to him, his question sounding more like he was stating a fact. It was only his rising eyebrows that told me otherwise. His shadow stretched toward me, his head shading my feet. I stood motionless, recalling Nellie’s advice about strangers.
I hesitated in answering him as he fumbled inside his jacket. I comforted myself with the fact that if he were going to shoot me, he probably wouldn’t do it in front of two cops. From his jacket he produced a wallet. My shoulders sagged with relief to see it wasn’t a gun. He flipped the wallet open and held it up. An impressive looking police badge stared back at me. He lifted his empty hand, palm facing toward me, as though he meant me no harm, as though he knew I might run. I edged backward, out of his shadow before I answered him.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2009
Beneath a thin layer of dust, I recognised Pa’s loopy handwriting. I blew the dust from the pages, revealing directions and a roughly sketched map. At the bottom of the page was a single line – ‘COME ALONE’ it read, in large letters. A gust of wind carried along the back corridor. There had to be an exit somewhere further down. I shone the torch down the passage, where a wall kinked the passage in another direction. I picked up the book and started walking.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2009
I shined the torch around the room. In the pale light I caught glimpses of boxes and trunks and old clocks that Pa had been storing away. I moved the beam of light over the walls. There was a switch on the side wall and I crossed the small room and flicked the switch downward. A feeble glow filled the room but it was enough to see all that was around me. The air was musty and damp and again, I felt a gust of cold air blow over me. I looked around and then I noticed a passage led off the back wall. I crossed the room, and shined the torch down the narrow opening. At the end, I could see a small table on which sat a book, its pages splayed open. I moved slowly toward it, wondering why Pa would hide it away.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2009
She crept down the stairs and into the shop. The outlines of the clocks began to take form as her eyes adjusted to the dark. She made her way between the shadowy forms, toward the main counter. She stepped behind the counter and with her foot, felt for the edge of the old rug that covered the floor. She fumbled in her coat pocket and pulled out her torch, flicking it on. A puddle of light fell over the rug.
Crouching down, she pushed back the edge of the rug, revealing a trapdoor set into the floor. She slipped her fingers through a cold metal ring handle, and pulled up hard,setting the torch down and slipping her free hand underneath to haul the door fully open. A gust of cold air swept up to her face as she yanked on a lever to wedge the door open. She picked up the torch and pointed it at the opening, where there were several old wooden steps leading down to another room. She stood and took one final look around the shop and then headed down to the room below.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2009
He felt the heaviness of the decision he was to make. He sat at the water’s edge and considered each outcome. He reached for a twig that had washed up on the beach, and he drew a line in the sand. He could step over it and walk back to the boat where he would be free to go on without worry. It would be easy. Just go.
In the pit of his gut, anxiousness stirred at the thought of returning to Pan’s Palace, and trying again. He knew he couldn’t go back. Not as he was. He looked over his shoulder, up at the face of the towering cliff. He would need a new plan, and a disguise so clever that no one would know who he once was. He stood and turned to face the craggy sharp edges of rock and without further thought, he took the first step and began the way back, leaving the line in the sand for the others to cross.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2009
There was nothing left to fight for. Max tossed the stone into the water and walked back to the boat, alone.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2009
There was only the ticking of the clock to be heard as they waited for the battle to begin…
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2009
Beneath the first light of dawn, he climbed the narrow stairs up to the deck. On reaching the top, he noticed the pain in his leg was almost gone. He lifted his shorts, and studied the scar that ran across his left thigh – a pink puckered track pulled together by skilful stitching. A few more days and the wound will be healed, he thought. He needed no further setbacks to keep him from getting the stone.
He looked out at the water. A white-naped crane swooped low to the surface, and then circled its way back toward Max. It fluttered and flapped its wings as it landed on the side of the boat. Max watched the bird, its head turned toward the open sea. Following the bird’s gaze, Max saw on the horizon, a shape that quickened his heart. It was the form of another boat, double masted and moving slowly toward them. Max strained to see the shape of the boat, and the flag that flew from the tip of its foremast but the boat was too far away. There was no time to take any chances. He pounded on the galley roof, alerting the others, as he watched the boat gather speed, the wind moving it closer toward them.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2009
A blue moon glow fell through the night air. Max leaned over the side of the boat and stared down into the still black water. The glassy surface helped calm his troubled thoughts. A round moon face beamed up at him, and beside it, he caught his own reflection. It was a face he barely recognised. The others slept soundly below, exhausted from the day’s torrid events. For them, the fight was nearly over. For Max, it had only begun.
He winced as he moved; his injured leg something he was still to get used to. He gazed out at the sea as memories of Pa and Laila drifted toward him. In his mind’s eye, he could see Pa, at home, his slippered feet up on the table and his dinner balanced upon his knees. He never thought he would miss him this much. He regretted leaving without saying good bye. He only hoped he would get to see him again. Max stared back down at the water, its glassy surface finally disturbed. He felt the dampness on his cheek and only then realised it was his tears that had broken the water’s surface.
“Are you crying?” he heard her voice carry softly toward him. He hadn’t heard her climbing the galley stairs.
“Just a sore leg,” he replied, not looking up at her, his lie hanging thick in the still night air.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2009
She barged inside the shop like she owned it, and muttered an insincere “excuse me, please.” Her tone made it an order more than a request. Max shuffled to one side as the Madam took up all the room, pulling maps from shelves and shaking charts about, flicking pages, snapping orders to her sick-kick who had caught up to her barking voice. Max recognised her face, and knew to stay just out of reach. He could smell the trouble lingering on her skin. She snapped and snarled instructions at the wiry man, scolding him like a child.
Max cast a sideways glance at her. She looked nasty-mean, a face pinched hard into a scowl, and hair that looked as though she never washed.
“Just shut up,” she snapped as the wiry weedy man with the rotting teeth began to speak. He cowered back into his shell, awaiting further insults or instructions. She folded up the map, and shoved it back up on the shelf. She clearly wasn’t buying; not when she could get her information here for free.
“Let’s get out of here,” she snarled, turning slowly, casting Max a savage look. The wiry thing ran after her, catching up to her out on the sidewalk.
The sudden howling screech of brakes pulled Max’s eyes toward the street. The howl was followed by a sickening sound; two thuds and then some screaming. Max stared at where the Madam and the wiry man had stood. Now they both lay motionless upon the path, the driver of the car leaning forward over them, screaming, yelling, “Someone help,”
The two lay still, without a movement. No rising chests, no flickering eyes, their life blood slowly trickling off the path and down the drain.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2009
He closed the door, his eyes shut tight, as though not watching might somehow mute the snapping lock. He leaned against the door and heard the clomp…clomp of passing clogs against the wooden floor, and the muffled whispery giggles of the servant girls. He held his breath as silence fell and then he felt again, for the icy handle of the door. Fear forced the breath from his lungs as his palms and fingertips travelled up and down the door. There was no icy handle. He was trapped.
His eyes fought against the dark and it took him several seconds for his pupils to adjust. He turned and looked around, and could feel his eyes stretching wide, trying to make out shapes amid the inky black. His head began to spin, his balance thrown out by the lack of light. He blundered backward – stumbling up against the door. Frantically he searched for a button or a switch. Something that would spring the door and let him out. He couldn’t yell. There was no one to help. He turned and leaned his head against the door, blinking back the tears that held his fear inside. The wooden door smelled dirty – dank, and reminded him of being on the boat and he longed to be back aboard, sailing on the sea.
“Pssst.” He heard the noise hiss through the air. Max stiffened at the sound and slowly turned around, his throat all but closed, his voice reduced to little more than a husky croak.
“Who’s there?” His eyes scanned the blackness and then he spied it in the corner of the room. A tiny blob of light, the same colours as a peacock’s feather. Blue- green-blue-green. It pulsed just like a heartbeat.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2009
The door creaked open and Max squeezed from his hiding spot behind the bins. He watched and waited for the servants to bid their night farewells. Above, the moon was nothing more than a sliver in the sky; an ally to help him on his way. One servant held the door ajar while she chatted to her friend. One final parting bow, and then they were on their way, leaving Max alone.
Pressed against the palace wall, Max edged himself toward the door, and slipped his hand between the door and jamb. He pulled the door back slightly and poked his head inside and looked around. The door led to a passageway, rooms running off from either side. Max slipped inside and closed the door behind him. He crept along the darkened corridor, his ears straining for the slightest bit of noise. The smell of cooking onions wafted down the hall and his stomach sang in protest once again. He tried to think when he last ate but the thought just made his stomach grumble more. No time for food, he told himself.
Ahead, he saw a stairwell, dimly lit, leading up to yet another door that blocked his way. He heard the doorknob turn and then a shaft of light fell down the stairs and voices carried down the hall. People coming; more servants finished for the night, he thought. He scanned the passageway, looking for a place to hide as the servant’s clogs clumped down the wooden steps.
He pushed himself flat against a door. No good. He would still be seen. He felt behind and grabbed the icy doorknob. It was a chance he had to take, and the risk weighed heavily before him. He had no idea what lay behind him. He could see their outlines moving closer and slowly felt the panic seeping through his body. His legs began to shake and his mind began to fog. He turned the knob as gently as he could, and the door clicked open. The room expelled a musty fug as he leaned against the door. He held his breath and slipped into the darkness.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2009
The crowded square fell silent as the tiny figure shuffled forth. Max stayed well hidden in the shadows of the temple. From here, he had a perfect view of the woman as she took the stage. Though short in stature, her mere presence seemed to mesmerise the mob. She wore a blue black Manchu robe adorned with red and black embroidered dragons; her coal-black hair pushed up beneath a matching head dress. Her face was pale, like snow, and her eyes were upswept slits of black. She stood before them, like a frozen icon, her mouth pinched and ruby red, her face a frame of evil.