Chapter 1

Written by: Gabrielle Burt

The screen door banged loudly as Mandy rushed onto the wide, covered deck.  Brad was leaning heavily on their brand new ‘seating for 10’ outdoor table – his face ashen.    Quickly she finished drying her hands and threw the red towel over the nearest chair.  “Brad!  What’s happened?”

“I’m fine.  Honestly.”      He looked up, crushing a scrap of paper into a ball and stuffing it in his pocket.   “Let’s go inside.”

“Brad?”  Dread crawled down her spine.

“It’s nothing – I’ll show you later”.   He nodded towards the children and rolled his eyes. This wasn’t a discussion he wanted to have in front of them.

“Dad, dad!    Show us the treasure.   We found it!”    The boys leaned across the enormous table, oblivious to their father’s distress.

“Sorry guys – it’s just rubbish.   Probably dumped from the bridge.”

“Can I have the box then?  I was the one who saw it first.”    What 7 year old Matthew lacked in size he made up for in attitude.

“But I was the one who went into the water and untied it - because you were scared of eels!”  Jackson’s tone was scathing and triggered a not altogether friendly punch from Matt.  “Ha ha. You missed!”   Both boys began to push and shove as they tried to gain possession of the little box. 

“Stop fighting!   Tied to what?   I said, STOP IT!  -  Tell me!” Brad’s tone was urgent now, as he held them apart with a hand on each boy’s shoulder. 

“I dunno.   It was too deep.   All I could see was black.”  Jackson lobbed a punch this time, and missed.   “Why can’t I have it?  I was the one who pulled it out of the creek!”

   “Perhaps after it’s had a clean-up.”   Mandy said as she picked the box up and headed for the kitchen.

Following her inside, Brad went into the lounge and sat facing the picture window.  He liked the way it framed their land, highlighting the bush clad boundary where the stream meandered.  He looked beyond, to the valley mouth with its sentinel peaks on either side.   His eyes lost focus.   How had the box got here?   Only three people knew and all had pledged an oath of silence.

The boys’ hopeful faces appeared at the open window, “Awww. Dad?”

It hadn’t been ‘dumped’ - someone had planted it.

He dragged his thoughts to the now, "Why don’t you get your gumboots on and see if there are mushrooms in the top paddock."

"Awww. Dad!” They tried again, “We just want the box."

"Get going!"

Brad watched them tumble off the deck like puppies, then head in the direction of the old tractor.   He smiled.  There would be no mushrooms today – they’d be too busy ‘driving-to-Taupo’. 

Slowly Brad rose and made his way to the large cupboard, carefully hidden at the back of their walk-in wardrobe.   He didn’t have to think as he picked up the high tech security lock; his fingers knew the combination.   Everything he would need was right here.

Comments

What a fabulous line - Dread crawled down her spine. I really liked the way the characters interact and the mystery is gradually building.