Chapter 1






Prologue          2008


Before the sun pierces the dark and jagged night, the service for closing the casket begins.

Among the people the mood is muted. They murmur as they stack their mattresses against the wall and file through to the wharekai where breakfast is served. Today breakfast is early. Chairs scrape against tables and cutlery chinks against china. Knives scratch as they spread jam onto crunchy toast and cups land in their saucers with a quiet tap.

In the wharenui Sophie’s still coiled figure stares into the charcoal gloom. She rests her face in her hands. A stray grey-blonde curl tickles her forehead. She brushes it aside. It falls back. 

She looks up as the whānau files into the wharenui where they gather around the tūpāpaku and with a sigh gets to her feet. People wrap their arms around each other, voices moderated and sombre. 

Outside, snow flakes Mount Taranaki’s peak and drizzles down its sides; ice trails fingers into the forest and lays upon branches bowing into streams; runnels sculpting the land.

The stars, once fulgent, are beginning to lose their pin-tipped brilliance. There is no breeze. The mist mutes all sound. Streams travel through forest and lush pasture; they curl around rocks and clamber over former wetlands. Willows dip angular leaves in the clear water and  animals graze nearby. Farmers quarry this land to the rise and fall of the sun, turning milk into gold.

Like bones grating against each other footsteps grate on the gravel outside. Once those stones were crashing rocks in flooded rivers; today they grind beneath footfalls.

Sophie’s eyes strain toward Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, the Maori prophet’s monument. She recalls his words: 'Those who are bent by the wind shall rise again when the wind softens.' She longs for the wind to brush against her skin, to have it fluff her hair with its fingers and to feel the sun massage her eyelids.

Mere’s black dress undulates beside her as she reaches across and draws Sophie to her. Sophie’s arm slides around Serena’s waist and draws her close. Grandmother, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, all linked. Serena rests her head on Sophie’s shoulder. Her black hair falls like a veil over her mother’s breast. Hāre stands behind Mere. He places his hands on his wife’s shoulders and bows his head, lips pressed together, tears slipping over crevassed cheeks.

Tears part at the mole above Mere’s lip, and slide over the fine lines around her mouth then move on, embroidering the plain neckline of her dress. Sophie’s crumpled and creased plain black shirt and long skirt follows the contours of her body. Serena’s tanned skin is devoid of colour, almost translucent, apart from the black rings circling her eyes. Her long lashes rest on her pallid cheeks. A tear slips through the lattice and tumbles down her face. Her black dress tucks in under her young adult breasts, glides out over her hips and falls to the floor. It is one she might wear to a ball, to a celebration. But not today. Not today.

The dawn’s grey light hangs over them. It will stay until the coffin is closed. When they no longer see the face they have gazed upon for four days, the sun will gather strength and banish the moon. Only then will its rays touch the iced over puddles. Only then will the sun shine on Te Whiti’s monument and cast a shadow like a compass needle.

Not yet. But it will. It will.

Sophie’s hand closes over a crumpled card. Serena brought it with her when she flew from Auckland. In his long, jagged scrawl, Sophie’s father, Frank tells her how sorry he is to hear of their loss and that he and her mother, Edith, are coming down for the funeral. Beneath his message, her mother’s rounded letters scoop in large hugging, shaking loops, offering condolences and assurances that she is with them in thought. Frank and Edith will be there for the 11 o’clock service after the coffin lid is closed. Sophie knows Edith is relieved about that. She regards looking at dead people as macabre. Although closed, the coffin will stand, silent, in their midst.

Frank and Edith have never been to the small Taranaki settlement of Parihaka. Sophie imagines Frank grumbling about driving his Mercedes over the narrow country road to the marae, the tribal meeting place, and parking on the grass verge. A wry smile dances on her lips and then is gone. Sophie crunches the card tighter, soft from many openings, smoothings, closings and scrunchings. She releases the card and lifts her heavy hand to smooth  away strands of hair tears have fastened to Serena’s cheek. They stand, quiet, sombre.

Far off a morepork calls.





Almost 30 years before that morepork called into the night, 19-year-old Sophie from Remuera was enrolling at Auckland University with her friends, Lucy and Clara. As the young women made their way around lecturers to get their courses signed off, Sophie did not, could not, have imagined that she was about to be thrust into a world as different from her own as if she had travelled to a foreign land.

Above her a ghost moon hung in the sky against the risen sun as if the world were hanging in a fulcrum between light and dark.

The friends, sporting summer tans, made their way around the campus. They tugged at light cotton blouses, encouraging the humid air to flow onto their clammy skins. Cicadas chirruped in an uninterrupted chorus - a backdrop to students' chatter. Sausages sizzled on barbecues that filled the air with the mouth-watering aroma of cooking meat and fried onions.

Sophie’s father Frank planned for her to take over his business when he retired, so he expected her to take management subjects. Unsure his business was for her, Sophie had laughed, and told Frank his retirement was centuries away. With a smile he had agreed she could study for an arts degree so long as she followed it with a ‘sensible’ business qualification. In Sophie's mind there was a ‘perhaps’ attached to the agreement. Frank never saw that addition and she was not about to disabuse him. There were some things fathers did not need to know.

Both Lucy and Sophie were taking English and History. Clara was doing Anthropology and Social Sciences. The latter was the ‘in’ thing, the kind of subject people like Clara took, she being gentle, caring souls with an innate belief that everyone had, at their core, goodness and redemptive potential.

Lucy was interested in Art History and Shakespeare. Sophie, on the other hand, had another agenda. She was going to study History, in particular that of New Zealand and South Africa. Protests against Springbok rugby tours had been going on for the last decade and she wanted to understand what was behind them. Her father was adamant the South Africans should be allowed to tour, despite their apartheid policy. Some of her friends agreed and some did not. Both her history classes were small. Not many thought that New Zealand had a story to tell.

Frank was unaware (he would have been mortified had he known) that he was the catalyst behind Sophie’s decision to take New Zealand history. Sophie wanted to learn why her father's million-dollar development at Bastion Point had failed. Land rights protestors had occupied the area for over 500 days, claiming the land was theirs, taken from them during the 1800s. What really riled Frank was that the government not only conceded to the protestors by giving them back the land, but it also compensated them for their losses over the years.

Neither Edith nor Sophie understood his rage. The Orakei development was something he had put money into with a group of friends. It was not his main business. But he said New Zealand was 'going to hell in a handcart’ if a few Maoris could plonk themselves on public property, build ramshackle shelters, put up old canvas tents and park buses, then refuse to move. His words had made Sophie laugh. He was given to exaggeration.

Sophie had been amazed by the protestors' commitment to their cause. It took over 800 police and army personnel and more than 200 arrests to remove them. The affair was the talk around every dining room table in Remuera and long after the discussions ended the memory lingered, hovering in people’s minds.

After enrolling, Sophie and her friends went to her home. Edith had made lemonade, which they drank as they sat around the pool discussing the terrible photographs on their student IDs. These young women were trained by airbrushed models and hated the unflattering images the photographer had sealed under a plastic coating.

As often happened, the conversation drifted to Sophie’s Rotary Exchange year in Germany. Although Lucy never said so, she was envious of Sophie's opportunity. Sophie could tell by the way Lucy tossed her red curls and declared that going away to a strange country would not suit her at all. She preferred to do her seventh form year with Clara. The truth was her father had refused her request. In his view, Exchange trips were for boys like her brother Ronald, not girls.

Clara was always silent. Her mother was widowed and could not afford to send her so it was never an option.

Frank’s Rotary Club sponsored Sophie and she flew away to the other side of the world, full of confidence. It was an adventure. She had studied German for three years and figured that was all she needed. Her first host parents were used to having exchange students so they knew the students often arrived with an over-inflated view of their capacity to fit in. They slowed down their speech and explained the day-to-day routines that Sophie had wrongly assumed would be the same as those at home. That was the moment when she understood the concept of cultural DNA.

Her trip to Germany was a watershed year. While she had been naive in her expectations, she learnt that people could survive most situations provided they do not give in to an initial impulse to flee.

After swimming the young women made their way back to university and to Shadows, the student bar on campus. The sun was going down and people milled about in the Quad, as they had been all day. But now they laughed and joked; the tension of standing in snaking queues gone. Nearby oak trees were losing their summer green, turning to autumn yellow. The breeze played and the dying sun shot blades of light at the friends, catching their eyes and making them wince.

The Orientation Week dance was the first social event as students for many, including Sophie, Clara and Lucy. Shadows was alive. Bodies pressed up against the bar and squeezed on to the dance floor. Lucy jiggled impatiently. She dragged her friends to the outer edge of the dancers who seemed to be joggling under the strobing lights like marionettes. Lucy’s eyes roved around the room, settling for a while then moving on. Although she was short, just five foot two, she had a knack of positioning herself so that she could see what she wanted. Maybe it was because she was short that she was always full of ebullient confidence, maybe it was her red hair.

It was impossible not to observe the band. Sophie expected they were no different to any of the young women in the room, looking and longing. The three guitarists had long blonde or brown hair falling over their eyes. Lucy pointed out the lead guitarist. 'He’s very cool,' she shouted.

Sophie shrugged, indifferent. The band member that had caught her attention moved between the keyboard and the drums, occasionally sharing the vocals with the bass guitarist. His voice was rich and deep. Unlike the other band members, his wavy black hair was cut to the shape of his face, with short sideburns highlighting his prominent cheekbones. He unfolded his body from behind his drumkit and strode across to sing Eric Clapton’s You Look Wonderful Tonight. Sophie swayed with the other students and when he finished they broke into spontaneous applause.

With a modest smile he returned to his drums. Between songs he led a quick discussion with the others and they delivered the next cover as if it had a private joke attached to it.

Lucy was fixated on the blonde guitarist as were most of the young women standing in front of the stage. Clara nudged Sophie and nodded towards Lucy, who had edged closer. 'I think she’s got her eyes set on him.' 'Yeah, I feel sorry for him.' They broke into spontaneous giggling. Whenever Lucy set her eye on a man she became like a huntress. As if sensing they were talking about her, Lucy turned around.

'What d’ya think of him?' When she grinned her cheeks bunched around her eyes and her freckles scrunched into dotted lines over her turned-up nose. She did a quick wiggle of her hips. 'C’mon,' she urged.

Clutching Sophie and Clara’s arms she dragged them closer to the stage, ignoring dancers' grumbling as she bumped them. Once they settled, Sophie struggled against an urge to keep looking at the drummer. She was captivated by the way he organised the band, delivering instructions with a joke and a smile. And when he played the keyboard his hands spanned the keys, his little finger up but hooked until it stretched to find the key. Notes danced from his fingertips. Sophie had learnt piano but knew she could never play like him. She was lost in a world of music and wonder until Lucy nudged her and she lost her balance.

'Lucy,' she cried, 'stop it.'

'Oops,' Lucy twittered, catching Sophie. 'Didn’t mean to.'

Lucy kept dancing at a frenetic pace. Sophie rolled her eyes at Clara who responded with a wry smile. Neither Clara nor Sophie was sure they agreed with Lucy’s approach. It seemed so, what Sophie’s mother would call, forward.

'We’re just taking a short break,' the drummer announced. 'We’ll be right back.'

Sophie and her friends drifted over to the bar and ordered drinks. Once in their hands they moved away. Sophie had a bag of chips that Lucy and Clara tugged at. Clara was lifting some chips to her mouth when she stopped, eyes wide.

 'Behind you,' she whispered. Sophie spun around and banged into the drummer, spilling Coke over his white shirt.

'Whoa.' He held up his hands in mock surrender.

Sophie was mortified. An ugly stain, brown on white, mushroomed over his front. 'Oh my God, I’ll get a cloth,' Sophie cried, rushing up to the bar. The bartender threw her a damp cloth and she dabbed at the stain, spreading it. Panic whipped her breath away.

'I’m so sorry,' she kept repeating. Her efforts became more agitated until he rocked with each pummel.

In the end he laid a hand over the cloth, fingers touching hers. 'I don’t think its working.'

Her face flushed red as she stared at the blurred, murky brown lake. She pulled her hand away and clutched her mouth. 'I’m so sorry.'

'It’s okay. Not your fault. I have a spare out back.' And with that he was gone. Lucy was furious.

'Why didn’t you introduce us?'

'What?' She laughed. 'Those guys have thousands of women chasing them. What makes you think they’d be interested in us?'

'They would.'

'No way.'

An electronic grunt announced the band was back on stage. The drummer wore a denim shirt. For the rest of the night Lucy shot recriminating scowls at Sophie. She shrugged them off. However, Sophie was sorry her meeting with the drummer had been such a disaster. Although he appeared not to be worried, she knew his shirt was ruined. She imagined it was a favourite for playing at gigs, just as international tennis players had their favourite racquets.

At midnight the music stopped and staff set about clearing tables, chinking glasses and banging chairs. The band unplugged their instruments and began packing away their gear. Couples, with their arms around each other, filed down the steps and away into the night. The drummer was packing his keyboard into a case when Sophie realised it was wrong to damage someone’s property and walk away as if it did not matter.

'Just wait here a sec,' she told Lucy and Clara. She wound through the departing crowd. The drummer clicked the keyboard case shut and stood. Sophie thrust a $50 note at him.

'I … I … I’m truly sorry about your shirt,' she stuttered.

He smiled. 'Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’ll wash out.'

She shook her head. 'I doubt that.'

He shrugged. 'No harm done. I can get another one.'

Sophie hesitated. 'Please take this to pay for it.'

A grin filled his face. 'I never take money from a woman. Against my principles.'

She thrust the money at him again. 'No, please … if you don’t, your shirt will be on my conscience forever.'

He threw his head back and hooted with laughter. That unnerved her. She started walking away. He caught her arm.

'I don’t want my shirt to be a burden you carry for the rest of your life.'

He flicked a hand around at the gear. 'Maybe you can work off the debt by helping us pack up.'

'Sure,' she said, putting her money away. 'I’ll tell my friends.'

'They can help as well, if they like. So long as they have nothing against slave labour.' His brown eyes twinkled. He pointed a long finger at her. 'Just remember you are working off the debt.' With each word his finger bounced so close to her nose she blinked. He nodded towards Clara and Lucy who were watching from a distance, anxious and expectant.

'Their contribution won’t count towards the repayment,' he explained. His full mouth turned up in a smile.

'Understood,' and Sophie held out her hand to shake on the deal. He gave it a couple of hearty pumps.

'Deal done,' he said.

'I’ll get my friends.' She skipped away.

When they returned the drummer introduced the band: Steve, Carl and Luke. 'Oh, and I’m Joe,' he said, pointing at himself.

Another group of woman hovered nearby. 'We’ll help you guys pack up,' one of them offered.

Joe interrupted Luke. 'We’re fine. We’ve got our quota for tonight. Thanks anyway.' Luke looked disappointed; Lucy looked triumphant.

Sophie was coiling a lead and it spun into a figure of eight. 'Don’t you know how to do that?' Joe asked, half joking.

Feeling anxious and inadequate she held it out to him.

'No, I don’t.'

He took it from her and twisted it into a perfect loop. He stopped and held it out for her to finish. She took the lead and started again. Once more it coiled into a tangled mess. He took it from her. 'If you do it like this it falls naturally into place.'

Sure she could do the task, she took the lead from him. Once again it twisted. In frustration she held out her hands, the lead looping and contorting over one hand. 'Sorry. I’m afraid I’m not doing a very good job of working off my debt.'

His mildly mocking eyes travelled from her long blonde curls down to her high-heel shoes.

'Didn’t they teach you how to coil leads in that high-falutin’ school you went to?'

She tilted her head to one side. 'How do you know what kind of school I went to?'

For a moment his disconcerted eyes flickered away. They darted back. Not confrontational, just matter of fact. 'You won’t convince me you went to an average public school.'

It was her turn to be taken aback. 'Well, no. I guess St Cuthbert’s isn’t exactly average.'

He nodded. He put a large hand over his chest as if swearing allegiance. 'Opunake High.'

She put her free hand across her chest. 'A very good school too I’m sure.'

He laughed again. 'You don’t even know where it is.'

She admitted she didn’t.

'They teach you how to coil electric cords there,' Luke said, batting one of the others with his fist and guffawing. Sophie grinned. 'Different curriculum then.'

'Yep, guess so.'

Again she tried to wind the cord. Despite her earnest efforts it became more of a tangled mess. Joe took it from her. 'Maybe you need another job. Otherwise you’ll be in debt for that shirt forever.' She put the lead in his outstretched hand.

'I’ll take it out to the van. The boys’ll show you what to bring out.' Luke gave Lucy an already wound lead and Sophie a case containing a guitar. Joe’s keyboard sat on the stage. She went to pick it up.

'I wouldn’t if I was you,' Luke warned her. 'Only Joe is allowed to touch his gear.'

'Oh, okay.' She shrugged, holding her hands away as if it was hot. 'Fine by me.'

She followed Luke out to the van. Joe was inside stacking everything like a three-dimensional puzzle. He peered out and took the guitar case twisting around to place it in its designated place. She went off and returned with another case and a twisted lead. She handed him the lead' apologising. 'I tried but I can’t get it.'

Joe smiled. 'Some of us have it and some of us don’t.' He wrapped the lead with quick flicks and put it on a hook. He clambered out. 'You stay here and look after the gear. I’ll go and get my stuff.'

He disappeared and returned with his keyboard case, which was placed with utmost care in a corner.

When it became clear there was nothing more she could do, Sophie stopped by the van door and peered into the dark cavernous space that was filled with shadowed shapes. Putting away the equipment was a feat in contortionism for Joe. He jumped out. 'Bit cramped in there,' he said putting his hands on his hips and bending backwards.

Now holding hands, Lucy and Luke stopped by the van door and Luke announced they were off. 'See you at Jimmy’s,' Luke called.

'Yeah, yeah.' Joe gave a wave. He rubbed his hands together, scuffing the air.

'Well,' Sophie asked. 'Have I paid off my debt?'

Joe leaned against the van with his arms crossed and one eye half-closed, examining her. The clatter of milk being delivered to the student coffee bar lifted above the hum of night-time cars. He rubbed his chin. 'I’m not so sure. It was an expensive shirt … very expensive.' He pushed himself away from the van door and shut it. 'You might need to have a drink with me before I can say you have fully discharged the debt.'

In a display of playful exasperation Sophie threw her hands in the air. 'Goodness me, it must have been an expensive shirt … like, really expensive.'

Joe nodded solemnly, looking at her and holding his bottom lip between his thumb and forefinger. 'It was. It was.'

She laughed. 'Okay. If it means I won’t be chased by a debt collector forever.'

'Yes, it does mean that.'

She sank her hands into the back pockets of her jeans and shrugged. 'Well I guess I have no choice.'

He shook his head gravely. 'No choice.'

Just across the road the outline of Governor Hobson’s statue rose out of the shadowed night and gossamer light. The glow of a streetlight sharpened Joe’s face, heightening his flaring nostrils and dark skin. On the way over to the bar Sophie asked Joe who Jimmy was. 'A student, like you,' he said. When he told her he lived in Ponsonby she was too slow to catch the judgemental ‘oh’ that sprang to her lips.

Joe’s jaw tightened. 'It’s the best he can afford.' He sent her a quick glance. 'Not all students have wealthy parents.'

The gibe cut her. She crossed her arms. An awkward silence settled over them.

After getting their drinks they found seats in a cubicle and sat, saying nothing. Awkward.

Joe’s large hand was closed around a pint. His other arm draped over the back of the seat and his legs, crossed at the ankles, stretched out to the side. The low light reflected off his polished shoes. Sophie still smarted from the dig in the van. Wondering if she should have agreed to join him, she drew seagulls in the condensation pooling around the base of her Coke bottle. He tapped the table in time to the music coming out of the jukebox.

'So, what are you studying?' He stopped his tapping.

'English and History.'

'What history?' He shot her a cynical glance. 'Kings and queens of England?'

She looked at him sharply. 'No, as a matter of fact. New Zealand and South African history.'

He leaned forward. 'Why?'

'I want to know what Bastion Point was all about.'

He drew away and fixed his gaze past her. 'Hmmm … why would that be, I wonder?'

'I’m just interested,' she said. She frowned, annoyed that her voice lifted defensively. His silence made her uncomfortable. She paused in the middle of forming the wings of a seagull.

'Is playing in the band your full time job?' she asked.

He threw his head back, laughing. 'No, I couldn’t live off that. The band’s just an interest. I’m a policeman. In Hamilton.'

'What do the other band members do?'

'University students like you.' He leaned forward, mischief wrinkling the corners of his eyes. 'So they can keep whatever hours they like.'

She took the bait. 'Do you know what?' she snapped, 'students don’t all go to parties and sleep in.'

He roared with laughter. She blew out a spurt of air.

'God, do you ever stop?'

'Stop what?'

'Making digs.'

'No. I enjoy it. You’re all so worried about what other people think. The boys are the same.' He drummed his long fingers and the smile left his face. He took hold of the handle of his beer mug. 'University’s important,' he said. 'That’s why Jimmy’s doing law. Our people need lawyers so we can negotiate Treaty claims.'

Sophie's father said they needed lawyers for other reasons, like representing them for crimes committed. She smiled at the conflicting views. With antagonism still ruffling the air between them, Joe asked what she found amusing. She shook her head. She was not going to open up that little bag of dogmatic goodies. 'Nothing. Just my father.'

'What about him?'

'He’s pretty outspoken that’s all,' she said, taking a swig of her drink and changing the subject. 'Working for the police must be hard work.'

He frowned. 'Yep, it can be tough, but it’s okay. We manage to have a laugh every now and then. The other guys are good value.'

She nodded. 'Not many women then.'

He chuckled. 'Not many women.' He looked up, his eyes sparkling. 'Thinking of joining?'

'Would I get past the door?'

'A few do.'

She leaned back and took a drink. 'I’ll leave it up to them then.'

He laughed again. 'Fair enough.'

Silence snared them again. The light flashed in his eyes and he reached for her hand. She let him take it. Light sparked off the red polish. He ran a thumb over her nails and frowned. She watched the uneasy, jerking movement of his thumb. When he looked up his grip tightened, his jousting gone.

'I like you, despite …' He tailed off and looked away. He took a deep breath. 'What would be the chances of a St Cuthberts’ girl seeing a simple Opunake boy again?'

A dreadful weight descended over Sophie. She withdrew her hand and shook her head. 'I don’t think so.' Her voice was almost inaudible. He sat back.

'What?' He gave a wry grin. 'That school stuff true then?'

She turned away, stiff and rankled. 'No, it isn’t true.'

He leaned closer. 'Must be.'

'No. Hamilton’s too far away,' she stuttered.

Never taking his eyes off her, he shook his head, frowning. 'No, not that far. I’m up here a lot with the band.'

Her eyes avoided his. She knew he would find her father lurking there. He had to lean forward in order to hear her above the jukebox. 'It’s too complicated.'

She fixed her eyes on Chris Consani’s Java Dreams pinned to the wall behind Joe. Her heroes gathered around a bar. James Dean, Bogie, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe; one-dimensional, dead. She wanted so much for one of them to tell her that going out with Joe would not be complicated … James Dean for instance. ‘Go on,’ he could be saying' cigarette dangling from his bottom lip, ‘Be a rebel. Go for it.’

Joe pulled away, scanning the couples snuggling into each other and nodded with growing comprehension. His features grew grimmer with each pass of his fingers over his upper lip. When he spoke his voice was modulated, husky. 'Right … I get it. I should’ve known better.' He stood.

Sophie’s eyes were lowered. Pain was freezing her inside. She tried to convince herself it didn’t matter that he was leaving. He put a hand on her shoulder. 'Don’t feel bad.' He dug into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and laid some money on the table. 'This will cover the taxi home.'

She blurted that she already had enough money but he had gone.

Sophie stared at Joe’s lonely folded note. She registered what it meant. She would never see him again. But worse than that, she realised she cared. She looked to the door. He had vanished.

When she leapt to her feet she caught the table with her hip and sent Joe’s beer mug crashing to the floor. The fluttering note followed. She banged into someone carrying a drink, orange or something. It splashed all over him. The guy screamed at her. Apologising, she pushed past. 'Use that to get it fixed,' she yelled, pointing at the $20 note. She ran to the door and stopped. Her heart pumped her throat dry as she looked up and down the street. He had disappeared, swallowed up by the crowd.


As Joe walked he dug his hands into the back pocket of his jeans. He was chastising himself for being the fool who had walked into the St Cuthbert girl’s trap. Blonde hair like honey, pouting lips, legs that went on forever and jeans showing every curve. He knew girls like that were off limits. They ran with their own kind. Not an idiot like him who had the audacity to think that because he was a cop as well as a musician he amounted to something … that a young thing like that would be even remotely interested in him. Idiot!

He clicked his tongue and slammed his fist into the air.

And all that talk about wanting to know the story behind Bastion Point. He should have known she wasn’t really interested or that her interest was more to do with curiosity, like visiting some museum exhibit, not genuine interest. He closed his hands into fists. People like her would never know what it was like for Māori cops at Bastion Point: spat on by their own, upholding the law.

He drew in a deep breath wondering, as he had many times, why he became a cop. His father had decreed it. One night Joe had come home enraged that the police had pulled him and his mates over to check that they didn’t have stolen goods.

'Why would I have stolen stuff?' he had raged.

His father, Hāre, held up a hand and stopped him. 'Nobody wants to listen to you moaning. Get in there and change what you can.'

'But the farm ...?'

Hāre shook his head. 'The farm’ll look after itself. It’ll be here when you get back.'

Joe's parents had worked hard, up at all hours as labourers until they had saved enough to go share milking. The next step came when Joe was 10. He would always remember his father herding his cows into the shed, the cows he now proudly owned. That was stuff Sophie could never understand. That kind of struggle. The kind of struggle that went with knowing that, as they saved to buy their farm, they were working to buy back land that once belonged to their tupuna. A grim smile tugged at his lips. Perhaps it was as well he didn’t get off first base with her. As he drew nearer to the lights the crowds got thicker, pressing in against him, stifling him. He needed air, needed to get out of this city, to get away.

Sophie had really played him. Just like all those other stupid chicks that hang around bands, like her silly mate … what was her name? Lucy. Hanging off every word Luke uttered, as if he was God’s gift. She was just a notch. He knew Luke. On to one then on to the next … easy come, easy go.

Just like when he’s in uniform. The girls go for that. He didn't join the police to attract women. Nor had his mates … in the beginning. But now they made arrangements to catch up with those women when they went off duty. Yeah, he saw it all the time, doing a pub check and girls asking him what he was doing later. He always told them, ‘Going to bed,’ and, amused, he watched their faces light up, until he followed with ‘alone’.

He hit his forehead with his flat hand. And that’s what shocked him about that night. Essentially that girl had done the same thing … oh; sure she used the pretext of wanting to put right his buggered-up shirt. But it was the same … just a bit more sophisticated, a bit cleverer.

He ducked into a shop alcove to get away from the smothering crowd. A display of diamond rings and gold watches sparkled under lights. He closed his eyes. She had got to him with her innocent blue eyes and claim to be interested in Māori politics. He really fell for that one. Taking a deep breath, he finished the trek to the lights and leaned against the pedestrian buzzer. A headlight flashed over him. The pedestrian buzzer went. Joe moved forward.

A force striking him almost knocked him off his feet.

'What the…?'

Sophie stood in front of him, gasping, hand against her mouth, eyes wide and fearful. 'I don’t want you to go.'

'What?' For a quick flash he dared to think she might not have been playing him for a fool after all.

'Don’t go.' She twisted her hair into ringlets, her breath coming in tight gasps.

His eyebrows arched up his forehead. She swallowed. She put her hand to her throat as if it burned.


She put a tentative hand on his arm. He swayed. The crowd crossed the road. Cars revved and moved on. A new crowd built up around them, jostling for space.

Joe’s eyes searched Sophie’s. Without flinching she returned his gaze. He wiped his hand across his face.

'I’m sorry. I was just afraid.'

He rocked back. She was afraid too? Crowds pushed at them. They were in the way.

'God, are you waiting to cross or what?' a young man muttered, belting the buzzer. Joe grinned.

'I think people are trying to tell us something.' She smiled, nervous. He took her hand.



Next chapter


In New Zealand, Maori Television are currently running an excellent series on Tuesday nights at 8pm on Maori Prophets.  New Zealand is waking up to it's history and with any course of history there is more than one stance and view.  If there wasn't many historians would be without jobs.  The story of Parihaka and the influence it has on Aotearoa/New Zealand today needs to be told and re-told as all of us can take pride in the role NZ has played in influencing world affairs.  Te Whiti O Rongomai was an inspirational pacifist and it is excellent to listen to the start of a novel that connects his influence to this day.  Suraya, your writing is poetically beautiful and deeply moving.  Thank you for sharing this.