Thank You and The Music

This Sister Story series has come to an end, and we’d like to thank all the readers that joined us on the journey.

From the initial idea, over 30,000 words have been written and delivered in 51 weekly instalments, with the occasional interlude.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of each episode was finding a song from the 1980s which resonated with the story as it rolled along. We were both teenagers in the 1980s and there were many blasts from the past and choosing just one a week was hard sometimes!

Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll leave you with a summary of the music – enjoy!

Episode Title Song Artist
1 Trouble A Good Heart Feargal Sharkey
2 Missing Jump Van Halen
3 The Shoe What You Need INXS
4 Help What Have You Done For Me Lately? Janet Jackson
5 Upset Running Up That Hill Kate Bush
6 Surprise Living on a Prayer Bon Jovi
7 Discovery Stuck With You Huey Lewis & the News
8 Discovery
9 Disappointment Thorn In My Side Eurythmyics
10 Coventry Out of Mind Out of Sight Models
11 Misdirection Hayride to Hell Hoodoo Gurus
12 Disconnect Hanging on the Telephone Blondie
13 Intrusion I’d Die to Be With You Tonight Jimmy Barnes
14 Ransacked Shout Tears for Fears
15 Entangled Skin Deep The Stranglers
16 Struck You’re Gonna Get Hurt Jenny Morris
17 Busted Hit That Perfect Beat Bronski Beat
18 Spinning You Spin Me Right Round Dead or Alive
19 Traction Now We’re Getting Somewhere Crowded House
20 Freewheeling Don’t You Lose My Number Phil Collins
21 Mistake Land of Confusion Genesis
22 Misfit Walk This Way Run DMC
23 Muster Rumbleseat John Cougar Mellancamp
24 Escalation Bizarre Love Triangle New Order
25 Distraction Chequered Love Kim Wilde
26 Crack And She Was Talking Heads
27 Dispatches Talk to Me Stevie Nicks
28 Connections It’s Raining Men The Weather Girls
29 Reprieve (I Just Died) In Your Arms Cutting Crew
30 Messenger Don’t Get Me Wrong The Pretenders
31 Missive Stand and Deliver Adam and the Ants
32 Rapproachment Warrior Scandal (featuring Patty Smyth)
33 Fusion Head Games Foreigner
34 Revive Strut Sheena Easton
35 Breakout Breakout Swing Out Sisters
36 Revelations All The Things She Said Simple Minds
37 Lightening Trust Me I’m Talking
38 Ratchet Don’t Leave Me This Way The Communards
39 Chase Everything’s On Fire Hunters & Collectors
40 Impact Sledgehammer Peter Gabriel
41 Impasse Would I Lie To You? Eurythmyics
42 Shift Word Up Cameo
43 Shadows Paranoimia Art of Noise feat Max Headroom
44 Buttress No-One Is To Blame Howard Jones
45 Knot Change of Heart Cyndi Lauper
46 Hasten Stepping Out Mel & Kim
47 Suspicion Far Side of Crazy Wall of Voodoo
48 Fathom The Way It Is Bruce Hornsby
49 Deduction Baby You’re So Strange Icehouse
50 Unravelling Why Can’t This Be Love? Van Halen
51 Disentanglement Sleeping Beauty Divinyls

Episode 51: Disentanglement

‘What do you mean?’ Andy was leaning forward, ready to move.

‘I heard she was missing.’

‘Heard from who?’ Sally asked the question quickly.

‘Well, look at you two. Quite the good cop, bad cop routine. Without the good cop.’ He sniggered at his own joke. ‘She might be closer to home than you think.’

Andy was on his feet and up the hallway, opening the closed bedroom doors, calling out his sister’s name. Sally was behind him, was there when he opened the second bedroom door. She sobbed aloud as she saw her sister, tucked up and sleeping deeply. They were at Laura’s side in a moment, Andy checked her breathing and then stroked her cheek gently. ‘Laura, wake up now. Laura?’

Sally was on her knees beside the bed. Laura was dressed in the same short skirt that Jeannie had described, her blonde curls spread on the pillow.

‘What have you given her?’ Andy had turned from Laura and had James pinned against the wall.

‘Just something to help her sleep. Nothing serious. She’ll be all right.’

Sally’s shaky hand was tracing along Laura’s face as tears slipped down her cheeks. ‘Why, James, why did you do this?’

‘I was keeping her safe. For you, Sally.’

Sally turned in time to see Andy pull his fist back. ‘No, Andy!’ He dropped his arm. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Laura needed me. She needed someone to talk to. A friend. Someone who knew you. Someone who she could tell all about Jonathon. Jonathon and the mess he got her into.’

‘You don’t know me, James.’

‘Don’t I? Poor angry, sad Sally. Heartbroken with a heart of stone. The only thing you’re interested in is your work or your sport, your distractions. Sure, you’ve got friends and diversions but you can’t see what matters most. And you can’t see who really cares.’

Sally was shaking her head, stunned. ‘Laura?’

‘No, not Laura. Me.’

Andy stepped back and after looking again at Laura and Sally, he left the room.

‘Laura trusted me. She told me all about Jonathon and what he asked her to do. She wanted to tell you, Sally, but I knew you wouldn’t understand. But I did.’

‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ Sally got to her feet, an overwhelming sense of rage making her tremble. James was rubbing his wrists where Andy had grabbed him and he didn’t see Sally until she pushed him hard in the chest.

‘You take my sister, you hide her away, keep her from her family -‘

‘But I was keeping her safe! I told you!’

‘You must have known we were frantic, looking everywhere for her.’

He laughed, a shrill sound in the small room. ‘She was right here, safe and sound. You should be thanking me, Sally, not shoving me.’

Sally couldn’t help herself. She pushed him hard with both hands, a flicker of satisfaction as his head bounced off the wall.

‘There were a couple of blokes after her, Sally. I figured she was safer here.’

Sally roared, momentarily blinded by rage. She charged at James and was thumping and punching him until Andy pulled her off.

‘It’s okay, Sally. He’s not worth it.’

His soft words broke through her rage and she slumped back into his arms. She heard voices in the hallway as she turned back to her sister, sleeping on the bed. She knelt beside Laura, stroking her hair. ‘It’s going to be all right, baby girl. It’s going to be all right.’

Sally watched as her sister’s eyes flicked open. She barely registered the voices behind her, but picked up on Sergeant Stone’s clipped words as James was taken out of the room. Sally was leaning close to her sister, watching as Laura’s hand moved over her belly.

‘I’m sorry, Sally. So sorry.’

Sleeping Beauty – The Divinyls

Episode 50: Unravelling

Andy had the windscreen wipers on high speed and they flashed and flickered as streetlights shimmied across the windscreen. It was pouring now and Sally wrapped her arms around herself, shivering. Andy was driving fast but focused, his left hand fiddling with the heater and de-mister inbetween gear shifts. The traffic was light for a Saturday night, eased no doubt by the weather. Andy didn’t talk and all Sally could think of was how she treated James. Was this all her fault? Had she said something or could she have been more diplomatic around him?

With an effort she slowed her rapid breathing, counting backwards in increments of nine. She wiped her damp palms along her jeans as thoughts flashed through her mind. ‘He turned up to a couple of the hockey games with Laura.’

‘When?’

‘A couple of months back. I didn’t really think much of it.’

‘Bloody hell, Sal.’ They were nearly at the units and had pulled up at a red traffic light. Sally was leaning forward, ready to get out of the car.

Andy reached a hand out and pushed her gently back. ‘When we get there, I want you to let me take care of it.’

‘What, like you took care of Jonathon?’

Andy flicked her a look.

‘God, Andy. What if I’m wrong, that’s all. I’ll be okay. Please let me do this. Let me make it right.’

He didn’t answer. The lights changed and he drove on. They turned into the car park and Sally scanned the spots, neatly numbered and nearly full now. Unit 4. There it was. The white Audi. Andy parked and they jogged to the units together. Andy waited until they were in the hallway before he spoke.

‘Okay, Sal. You can lead the way. But I’m right behind you and if there’s any trouble I’m going to sort him out.’

Sally nodded. She led the way slowly to the unit door and hesitated for a moment before knocking briskly. It seemed to take an age for the door to open.

‘Hi, James.’

‘Sally! What a nice surprise. Have you found Laura yet?’

Sally swallowed. ‘Not yet. Can I come in?’

‘Sure.’ James opened the door wide and Sally walked in, closely followed by Andy. ‘Oh. You’re not alone then.’

‘I’m Andy. Sally and Laura’s brother.’

‘Right.’

Sally walked up the short hallway. The unit had the same layout as Andy and Laura’s and she stood in the lounge room as Andy and James joined her.

‘Take a seat. Did you guys want a drink?’

‘No thanks. We’re not here for a social gathering.’ Andy’s voice was gruff and Sally waved at him to sit down. She sat on the couch and looked around the room. A number of framed posters and an extensive video collection took up most of the wall space. There were clusters of figurines and Sally peered at them in the dim light.

‘I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd. But you’d know that from work, Sally.’

Sally looked blankly at him.

‘I’m always talking about it. And you helped me with the layout of the posters and flyers for the annual convention.’

‘Yes, right.’ Sally’s mind was scrambling, trying to recall her part in any of it. She would have treated it like just another job.

‘Any luck in finding Laura?’

Why Can’t This Be Love? – Van Halen

Episode 49: Deduction

Sally nodded, thinking through the timeline.

‘What about this James guy? Tell me more about him.’

‘I don’t really know much about him, to be honest. He started working with us before Christmas. He keeps to himself, mostly.’

‘But why is he asking about you?’

Sally sighed, her hands outstretched. ‘I don’t know. After I broke up with Jonathon, he was all for tea and sympathy but I don’t like to take my private life to work, if I can help it.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘He asked me out to lunch a couple of times, and offered to go for a drink with me on a Friday night. But frankly I was short with him, Andy. The last thing I wanted was to start another relationship. And I don’t know, it just seemed opportunistic or something.’

They were quiet for a moment. Sally drained her coffee and looked down at her hands. There was the faint mark of the engagement ring that she had worn for 18 months before the night she hurled it back at Jonathon. For a moment she felt again the weight of disappointment that she’d carried, knowing that she had a choice of putting up with him, of making do, or standing alone and keeping her integrity in tact. Integrity had won.

‘What if this isn’t about Laura at all?’ Andy’s voice was soft, thoughtful.

‘What do you mean?’

‘What if it’s about you?’

Sally stared at him, thoughts tumbling through her mind. She felt a snap in her brain, a short-circuit spark.

‘Think about it, Sal. He asked you out. You knocked him back. He was friendly and you brushed him off. No offence, Sal, but when you turn your back on someone it can be pretty frosty. It’s like you turn off the sun. He gets to work with you everyday, but you don’t see him. Or if you do, it is only in the sense of a colleague. Did Laura go to your work?’

Sally hesitated, considering his words. ’Sometimes, when we had lunch together. Or if she was at Eastwood late and wanted a lift home.’ Sally was staring out the window. She turned back to Andy. ‘They got on well together, Andy. Sometimes she’d come by early and they’d chat whilst I was finishing up.’ She pushed her chair back, turning herself in a circle. She pushed the chair back under the table, leaning heavily upon it.

‘How did he know that she was missing, Andy? Did you tell him?’

‘What?’

‘Remember last night? You said that he spoke to you, that he said he’d keep an eye out for her? How did he know she was missing?’

‘I don’t know.’ Andy was shaking his head.

‘Before you came back today, he called by, looking her her.’ Sally ran over to the phone, picking up the handset.

‘What are you doing?’

‘I’m going to call him. Or the police. There’s something not right about all of this.’

Andy was beside her now. He took the handset from her. ‘This could just be a hunch, Sal. But it needs to be done in person. You don’t want to warn him. And the police are busy following up Jonathon.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I had a word with them.’ Andy reached for Sally’s keys on the bench. ‘Come on, Sal.’

They headed out the door, Sally numbly pulling her jacket on. Andy flicked the front light on and they ran through the rain to her car. Andy got in behind the wheel, folding himself into the small car. Sally got in the passenger side, struggling with the seat belt. Andy reached over and clicked it into place.

‘It’s going to be all right, Sal. This mightn’t be anything.’

She reached out, her fingernails biting into his arm. ‘His car. James drives a white Audi.’

Baby, You’re So Strange – Icehouse

Episode 48: Fathom

Sally held her hand out. ‘No, just let me think for a minute.’ She stepped back and forth, Andy looking on with his arms folded across his chest. After a minute he turned and put the kettle on, making coffee and digging out the leftover Tim Tams. He slapped them on the table before calling her over.

‘Come and sit down, Sal. You’re making me seasick.’

She smiled slightly and walked slowly to the table.

‘Spill. What‘re you thinking?’

Sally reached for a mug, wrapping her fingers around it. She took a quick sip before looking up and meeting his eyes. ‘I’m just trying to make sense of it all.’

Andy picked up a biscuit and crunched it in half. ‘Go on.’

‘When Laura went missing on Thursday, we thought it had something to do with the thugs who were looking for her because of Jonathon. Well, because of the money that Jonathon had borrowed -‘

‘After stealing it from work.’

‘Yes.’ She took another sip of coffee. ‘But Laura’s friends don’t know anything about this. Even Lisa, her best friend, doesn’t know anything about this money scam, or the fact that she’s having a relationship with Jonathon.’

‘The bastard.’

‘Quite. So they don’t know about Jonathon, just that she’s been involved with an older man and that she’s being really secretive about it. And whatever Jonathon was trying to get her to do through her work, I still find it really hard to believe that Laura would be that gullible.’

Andy nodded slightly. He pushed the biscuits towards her and she took one. ‘Fair call, Sal, but she is young and Jonathon can be persuasive.’

‘I know, I know. But I’m really struggling to believe that Laura would do anything illegal, even if it was to help Jonathon.’

‘But maybe you’re underestimating her, Sal. Laura is growing up. She’s making her own decisions. She’s old enough to get into a relationship of sorts with Jonathon, a relationship that she is determined to keep secret not only from her family but from friends. Even though I can understand why she wanted to keep it quiet from us.’ He managed to look rueful. ‘But she’s not a kid anymore, Sal. From what you said yesterday, she might even be pregnant to him. I mean, bloody hell.’

Sally pushed her chair back, suddenly restless. ‘It’s easy for you to say, Andy. Maybe if you’d paid her more attention, been home a bit more, you might have picked up on something before it got to this.’

Andy was scowling at her.

Sally sighed. ‘I’m sorry, Andy. I’m just so worried. And nothing seems to make any sense at all. And I haven’t been much of a sister to her lately.’

‘It’s okay, Sally. And I think you’re right, anyway. It’s really not like Laura to do anything like that. Even if she was being pressured by Jonathon. Man, if only I’d known he was sniffing around.’

Sally grinned at him. ‘I think Laura had a fair idea as to how we would react, which would explain why she was being so secretive about it all. And maybe that was part of the attraction. But maybe that was fading. I don’t know. But however she felt about Jonathon, it’s in his interest that she’s okay. And it’s also in the interest of whoever has been chasing Jonathon for the money. And from what we can gather, they’re still looking for Laura too, which means they don’t have her.’

Andy nodded. ‘She’s not with friends or family either. I’ve called in or spoken to everyone I can think of, and no-one has heard from her in days.’

‘But then there’s a guy who was following her recently, as Lisa said. Lisa didn’t have much of a description from what Laura said, but it doesn’t sound like one of the Bobbsy twins. If it was one of the thugs, it’s hard to believe that they would hesitate about making their presence felt.’

‘True, and that was a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t it? Before all of this started with the thugs?’

The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby

Episode 47: Suspicion

Sally murmured her thanks as well and they made their way to the door. Jeannie saw them out and they walked up to Sally’s flat.

‘Very community-spirited of her, Sal.’

‘I know. Nothing like a bit of guilt-induced behaviour to compensate for not doing anything when you should have.’

Andy bumped her with his hip. ‘She means well. We all know that she should have done more on Thursday night but the fact is that she didn’t and now she’s trying to make amends. And you can’t fault the woman’s ability to make jam drops!’

They were laughing as they headed into Sally’s flat. Sally headed up the hallway, checking the rooms out of habit. Everything was just as she had left it.

‘There’s a message on the machine.’ Andy called out from the kitchen. Sally joined him there and she hit the button, holding her breath.

‘Hey, Sal. Tash here. You missed a good night last night. But that’s not why I’m calling. I thought of something, about Laura. I don’t know if it’s important. But you might want to call me when you get this.’

Sally looked at Andy. Andy grabbed the handset and passed it to her.

Sally punched Tash’s number in and tapped her foot as the phone rang once, twice, three times.

‘Hello?’

‘Hey, Tash. It’s Sal. I just got your message.’

‘Right. Any news from Laura?’

‘Not yet.’

‘Well, I don’t know if this will help, but I called you at work earlier this week.’

Sally scowled slightly. ‘Okay, but what has that got to do with Laura?’

‘I’m getting there, Sal. Bit of a hangover, if you don’t mind.’

‘Sorry!’

‘Bear with me. You were out, doing some delivery or at lunch or something. Anyway, James answered the phone. He explained that you were out, but then he got all chatty and personal.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘He was asking me all sorts of things about you, Sal. Like your favourite food, the kind of music you listen to. About your breakup with Jonathon.’

‘What?’ Sally’s voice was a squeak.

‘Don’t worry, I didn’t tell him anything. It was just all a bit weird. I only wanted to leave a message for you and I ended up with something like a Spanish Inquisition. And this isn’t the first time.’

Sally was quiet for a moment, processing Tash’s words. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean he’s done it before. Remember the last time we had lunch, a few weeks back? Well, he was hanging around while I was waiting for you, trying to tease information out of me.’

‘Why didn’t you say something?’

‘I didn’t think much of it, to be honest. It was only when I was thinking about you and Laura this morning that it kind of jumped out at me. That it wasn’t really normal.’

Sally exhaled. ‘Okay. Thanks, Tash. I have to go, but thanks for letting me know.’

‘No worries. And let me know if I can do anything.’

‘Sure.’ Sally ended the call and turned to Andy.

‘What was all that about?’

Sally walked over to the lounge but didn’t sit down. She paced back and forth for a moment, gathering her thoughts.

‘Tash called me at work recently but I was out and James was talking to her.’

‘James?’

‘He’s a guy at work. He lives in your unit block. Moved there late last year.’

‘Right.’ Andy was looking at her, thoughtful. He clicked his fingers. ‘Got him. Funny little dude. About so high.’ His hand wavered around chest height.

‘That’s him. But the weird thing was, Andy, that he was asking about me. Like, really detailed questions about me. Personal stuff.’

‘Do you want me to go and talk to him?’ He was already reaching for his jacket.

Far Side of Crazy – Wall of Voodoo

Episode 46: Hasten

This time they travelled back in tandem, Andy’s bike a permanent fixture in Sally’s rear vision mirror. The rain had eased but Sally drove with care, wary of the slippery conditions. The day was fading now and Sally looked at the luminous green figures on her dashboard. Nearly 5.00 pm. Where had the day gone? They turned into Salter Crescent and she crawled up the driveway with Andy in tow. A flash of movement in Jeannie’s windows caught her eye and Sally parked her car before trotting up to Jeannie’s flat through the rain. She heard Andy park, his bike engine rumbling to a stop before he followed her to Jeannie’s.

‘I’m glad I caught you, Sally. Andy. Come in.’

Jeannie was still attired in her unseasonal clothing. There were a couple of stainless steel bowls arranged on the bench, and the delicious scent of baking filled the air. ‘I’m getting my contribution ready for the church stall tomorrow. My jam drop biscuits are quite famous, you know. An old family recipe.’

Andy was looking between Sally and Jeannie, a look of puzzlement on his face.

‘They smell great, Jeannie.’ Sally had a hand on her belly as a rumble tumbled out.

‘Why don’t you sit down and I’ll make a cuppa.’ Jeannie gestured towards the fussy sitting room, propelling Sally towards it with a gentle shove.

Andy led the way, sitting on the edge of the embroidered couch. He leaned towards Sally. ‘What the hell happened between the two of you? Yesterday you were at each other’s throats, and now you’re best friends?’

Sally smiled at him in what she hoped was an enigmatic manner. ‘We made up.’

Andy’s eyes bulged slightly, then he shook his head. ‘I will never understand women.’

‘Nor are you meant to, young man.’ Jeannie had entered the room and had a tray laden with a teapot, cups, saucers and a small plate of freshly baked jam drops. She fussed about, pouring the tea and serving them before sitting in her Queen Anne chair.

‘The biscuits are delicious. What sort of jam do you use?’

Jeannie winked, actually winked, at her. ‘Family secret, my dear. Now, the reason I wanted to see you was that I remembered something.’

Andy shifted further forward, his cup rattling on the saucer. ‘What is it?’

Jeannie moved back in her seat, her back straight and her cup held securely by her red talons. ‘Thursday night. You see, I didn’t register it at first. I was rather distracted by Laura. But then I thought a bit more about it, like you said, Sally. And there was definitely a car there.’

‘Where?’

‘It was parked there,’ Jeannie pointed with her spare hand, ‘in my car spot.’

‘But you don’t have a car.’

‘I know, Andrew.’ Jeannie frowned at him as though he was a dense pupil. ‘That’s what got my attention. It was just like Jonathon’s car.’

‘Was it Jonathon’s car?’ Andy’s voice was sharp.

Jeannie looked at him and shook her head firmly. ‘No, it wasn’t. I said it was like his car. But the colour was wrong. It was white. That’s why I noticed it. It caught my eye in the dark.’

Both Sally and Andy eased back a bit on their seat. They exchanged a glance.

‘But it was definitely like Jonathon’s car? The same make?’

‘Yes, dear. A white Audi. Parked in my spot.’

‘Have you seen it before? Or since?’

‘Goodness, isn’t this like a police interrogation! No and no. It was only on the night that your sister, well.’ Jeannie let the sentence fall. She took a sip of tea and resumed. ‘I wondered if Jonathon had perhaps changed vehicles. You know what young men are like with their cars. But he loves his car, and I remember talking with him about the car and the colour before you went your separate ways, Sally.’ Jeannie looked out the window again.

‘Dark blue is his colour.’  Sally’s voice was thoughtful.

‘Quite. Brings out the colour in his eyes.’

Andy finished his tea and arranged the crockery in a neat little tower. ‘Thank you for the tea, Jeannie. And for letting us know about the car.’

‘No problem, Andrew. I also passed the information on to Sergeant Stone. I thought it might help.’

Showing Out – Mel & Kim

Episode 45: Knot

Sally frowned. ‘I could ask you the same question, James.’

‘I live here.’ His face was half in shadow.

‘I know. What do you want?’ Her voice was brusque, tinged with disappointment and surprise.

‘I was wondering if Laura was in.’ He was closer to the gap now and Sally had to hold back an impulse to shove the door closed.

‘No, she’s not home yet, James. What do you want with Laura?’

He stepped back and Sally felt some of the tension ease from her shoulders.

‘Nothing. I thought she might like to go to the movies.’

This time Sally stepped closer. ‘With you?’

James smiled at her. ‘Yes. Is that so strange?’

‘Sorry, that was rude. I didn’t realise you were friends.’

He had half-turned, his attention caught by something behind him. ‘Never mind. I’ll try again later.’ Then he was off, slipping down the hallway. Sally shut the door closed and had turned back to the room when she heard a key in the lock. She had just managed to unclip the door chain when Andy pushed the door open. Sally backed up a couple of steps.

‘Hey.’

‘Hey yourself.’

Andy walked in the hallway and followed her to the living room. ‘You’ve been busy.’

Sally nodded. ‘I had to do something. Where were you?’

‘Out.’ A silence stretched between them, and Sally turned back to the bookcases, stacking books into the shelves. She heard Andy sit on the couch behind her and sigh. She turned around.

‘Sorry, Sal. Sorry for going off. And for what I said about Jonathon. He’s a shit but that’s not your fault.’

She sat on the floor in a cleared space and looked up at him. He looked as bad as she felt.

‘It’s okay, Andy. We’re both trying to do what we can. We just have different ways of going about it.’

‘Yeah. I went around to Mum and Dad’s. Mrs Masters hasn’t seen Laura, or anyone, near the house. I went inside but everything was as they left it.’

Sally nodded, taking it in. ‘I went and saw Lisa. She said that Laura was being followed by someone recently. At Eastwood. It really freaked her out.’ She gave him an overview of what had happened.

‘She never said anything to me, Sal.’ He leaned back, rubbing a hand over his eyes. ‘It’s not like I didn’t pay her any attention or ask what was going on in her life. I just don’t get why she was being so secretive.’

‘I know. I was thinking the same thing, Andy. There was obviously quite a bit going on, and yet she didn’t say anything at all. Well, not to us, anyway. And the whole Jonathon thing. I can understand, to a point, why she didn’t feel comfortable in telling me or you about it. But she didn’t even tell Lisa about it.’

They were both quiet for a moment. Andy had his eyes closed and after a minute Sally returned to the books on the floor, stacking them methodically back into the bookcase. The room was looking a bit better. The TV was still face down, a mess of glass and tubes, but everything else was back where it should be, apart from the shattered and empty case where Andy’s prized jersey had been.

‘Thanks for tidying up, Sal.’

‘No problem. It actually made me feel like I was doing something useful for a change.’

Andy was on his feet now, surveying the shattered television. ‘You’re doing all that you can, Sal.’

She stood up and together they tilted the television up. They spent ten minutes cleaning up the glass before carrying the television down to the bins at the rear of the units. They returned to the unit and Sally washed her face and hands before finding Andy in the kitchen.

‘At least it won’t look too bad when Laura comes home.’

Andy nodded. ‘Should we go back to yours, see if there’s any messages?’

‘Okay. I’ll meet you there.’ Sally headed out, pausing to return the spare keys to Wilson.

Change of Heart – Cyndi Lauper

Episode 44: Buttress

The rain was beating a staccato pattern on the roof of her car as Sally pulled into the car park near Andy and Laura’s unit. The car park was half-empty with people out doing whatever it was that people did on a normal Saturday afternoon. It felt anything but normal to Sally. She scanned the car park but couldn’t see Andy’s bike. She thumped the wheel softly. Where could he be? She got out of the car and made the dash into the foyer without getting too wet.

Sally climbed the stairs and out of habit reached into her pocket for the spare keys before remembering that they would be of no use. She tracked back and knocked on Wilson’s door. Sally wriggled from foot to foot, waiting for the door to open. It finally opened a crack.

‘Hi, Wilson. Sorry to bother you.’

‘Sally.’ Wilson yawned, a big gesture accompanied by a ruffling of his hair and rubbing of his generous belly. ‘Haven’t seen Andy or Laura, if that’s what you’re after. Only just got up.’ He stretched his arms above his head, lengthening his back.

‘No worries. I was wondering if you had the spare set of keys that Andy left yesterday.’

‘Right. Just a sec.’ He left the door ajar as he ambled up the hallway. He returned a minute later, jangling a set of keys. ‘Can you drop them back in when you’re done? I told Andy I’d keep them safe for him.’

‘Sure. And thanks.’

Sally heard his door click behind her as she went up the hallway. The keys were a bit stiff but the new locks turned and she was in the unit, looking around within moments. It didn’t look much different to the chaos of the day before. She could see where Andy had made a start in the kitchen but there was still stuff scattered everywhere. Sally went into the two bedrooms but there was no sign that either Andy or Laura had been there.

Back in the living room, she found an empty spot on the lounge and sat down, suddenly exhausted. She ran through options in her head. She could go home, see if there were any new messages and check with Jeannie if Laura had returned. She could go past Mum and Dad’s place, checking in with Mrs Masters to see if there was any news. A surge of anger rocked her. If only Laura had said something to one of them, had given them an idea of what was going on. Maybe all of this, she looked around the upended flat, could have been prevented. She leaned forward, her head heavy in her hands.

After a moment, she forced herself up. Wallowing wasn’t going to help with anything. Sally got up, mimicking Wilson’s stretch. She took a couple of deep breaths and surveyed the living room. She’d start here.

The focus of energy and intention felt good, and as she picked up, tidied, sorted and cleaned she ran the events of the last couple of days through her head, nutting out the kinks. They wouldn’t untangle but at least she had a chance to get her head sorted. A knock at the door startled her, and her first thought was that perhaps it was Laura, unable to get in.

Sally hesitated at the door, clicking the door chain into place. She cracked the door open.

‘Hi, Sally. What are you doing here?’

No-One Is To Blame – Howard Jones

Episode 43: Shadows

‘What do you mean?’ Sally’s attention sharpened and she watched Lisa’s face closely.

‘I feel a bit bad about it, actually. I thought she was making it up and I didn’t take it seriously when she told me.’ Lisa was looking down at her hands, spread out on the counter.

Sally leaned forward, only just resisting the impulse to raise Lisa’s face to look her in the eyes.

‘She thought someone was following her.’

‘What?’ Sally was on her feet. Lisa looked up, shook her head and gestured for her to sit down.

‘It was a couple of weeks ago, I think. She’d been shopping at Eastwood, in Rowe Street. It was a Thursday night. She said that she’d seen someone, well, shadowing her. She went in and out of a couple of shops and whoever it was was still there when she left each time. You know how Laura can be a bit, well, creative. I thought she was making a big deal about nothing.’ Lisa was silent for a moment.

‘What happened, Lisa?’

Lisa shook her head. ‘She ended up going into the fancy dress shop, you know the one that we hired our formal dresses from? She said she stayed there till closing time. One of the girls from our old school works there. We don’t really know her that well, she’s a couple of years younger than us, but Laura managed to get a lift home with her.’

‘Did she tell this girl about what was going on?’

‘Not exactly.’

Sally looked at Lisa, an eyebrow raised.

‘No. She said she was embarrassed, thought it was all in her head.’ Lisa refilled their glasses. ‘I don’t know if you noticed, Sally, but Laura wasn’t coping so well without your folks around. She could talk it up but I think she missed, you know, everything being normal. Don’t get me wrong, she loved the freedom of living with Andy, but she was really, well, unsettled.’

Sally shook her head slowly, her left hand gripping the cool glass. ‘I’ve been living in my own head for a while, Lisa. It didn’t even register with me.’ She held back a small sob, waves of guilt washing over her. Lisa was beside her now, her hand lightly on her shoulder.

‘It’s okay, Sally. This isn’t your fault. And Laura will be okay.’

Sally wiped at her eyes and shook herself. ‘Thanks, Lisa. It’s just that it’s been days now and I don’t feel any closer to finding her. Why didn’t she tell me about the guy following her? Or about Jonathon?’

Lisa snorted. ‘I still can’t believe that. And if she didn’t tell me about Jonathon, there was no way she was going to tell you. Don’t take it the wrong way, Sally, but how would she even begin that conversation?’

Sally looked up. Lisa grinned at her and took a step back from the bench, tipping her head on the side just like Laura did. ‘By the way, Sally, I’m seeing Jonathon.’

Sally had to laugh. Lisa had nailed Laura, right down to the hair flick at the end of the sentence. ‘Okay, okay. I get it.’ She stood up and took the empty glass over to the sink and rinsed it out. ‘I better keep moving. But thanks, Lisa, for the drink and for letting me know about the guy. No wonder she was freaked out.’

Lisa followed her to the front door. ‘I’ll call you if I think of anything else, or if I hear from her.’ She cleared her throat. ‘I mean, when I hear from her. She’s going to be okay, Sal.’

Sally turned and gave her a quick hug. ‘Thanks, Lisa. It means a lot to me.’ She gave the girl one more squeeze before heading down the path, through the gate and back into the car. Where to now?

Paranoimia – Art of Noise featuring Max Headroom