Authors: Gabriell Lord
To Elizabeth Nicole Butler
My name is Winter Frey.
My friend Cal was a hunted fugitive.
Our story continues â¦
I skidded my motorbike to a halt outside Winter's house. The place looked great now it had been painted a really cool blue and the garden was full of plants and trees. But I wasn't in the mood to appreciate it. Winter had called me earlier, her voice agitated.
âSomething really weird came in the mail today,' she'd said. âAnd Cal, there've been other things too.'
I didn't like the sound of that at all and had stopped packing for my trip to flight school. I couldn't quite believe that I'd managed to score a place on a prestigious pilot training program and I'd been thinking of little else for weeks now. Although I had noticed Winter hadn't been her usual self for the past couple of days. Had I been neglecting Winter? I'd grabbed my keys and headed out the door.
Things had been awesome for all of us in recent months. Mum seemed happier than she had been in ages and Gabbi was doing well in
school. And as for my friends, we'd never been closer after all we'd been throughâthe huge and dangerous quest to discover the truth about the Ormond Singularity, the bomb at the City Hall and then the final showdown with Sligo and Elijah on the Sapphire Star cruise ship. Now all that was behind me, I had a real chance to achieve my dream, to become a real pilot â¦ just like Dad and I had always talked about.
But there was no time for those thoughts now as I arrived at Winter's house. I pulled off my helmet, used my key to get in, and ran upstairs to the study where I could hear voices.
Winter and Boges barely greeted me, completely engrossed with what looked like an ordinary, stamped envelope.
âYou said something came in the mail,' I said. âIs that it?'
âIt's what's inside that's worrying me,' said Boges, his face serious. âTake a look.'
I took the envelope and opened it, frowning because for a minute I thought it was empty. Then I saw a scrap of torn newspaper, which I lifted out carefully. My thoughts immediately flicked to the vicious articles that reporter Ben Willoughby had written about me long ago, before we became almost friends. I wondered if he was up to his old tricks again.
But I quickly realised this didn't look like his handiwork. It looked like the top right corner of a very old newspaper. There were four wordsâtwo in thick black print, and another two, added like an afterthought, in scrawling handwriting.
As I read them, a chill crept up my spine.
Mansfield Way, Dolphin Point
Cal looked at me, frowning.
âWhat does it mean?' he asked, his blue eyes narrowed in concern.
âI haven't got a clue,' I said.
He stared at the words again.
âOn the phone, you mentioned â¦ other things,' he said after a long pause. I knew he'd noticed how I'd been over the last few daysâedgy and anxious, answering his worried questions with my standard responseâ
questioning me, everything is fine.
Now it was time to come clean.
âSomeone's been here,' I said. âIn my place.'
âI don't know whoâor when. And it wasn't just once. I think it started a few days ago. At first, I thought I was just imagining it. I noticed things
being in a slightly different place to where I'd left them.'
âHow do you know someone's been here with all this â¦' Boges opened his arms to take in the mess of paper files and documents that covered most of the desk, spilling over onto the sofa and chairs in my study, âthis
piled up everywhere?'
âI live alone, Boges,' I explained defensively, âno-one comes up here but me. And I wasn't expecting guests in my study!'
I walked around, nervously picking up a photograph of my parents, putting it down again and adjusting the position of the pot plant that stood nearby. âLook, I did think I was going nuts or something. Because nothing was moved very much. Like my diaryâ
my diary. Then I found this on the floor near my desk.' I showed them the scrunched up bit of blue, yellow and white paper. âIt's a chewing gum wrapperâTriple Mint. I don't chew gum. So I definitely didn't drop this here.'
âIs that your diary?' Boges asked. âThat red and gold book?'
âYes,' I said, nodding, âI'm a bit particular and I always put my diary like this, between the timber joins in my desk.' My desk was made of recycled wood, just like floorboards. Cal and Boges watched as I placed the diary next to the computer between two of the boards, straightening it until the top and bottom edges fitted exactly between the joins. âTwice now, it hasn't been in the right place.'
âYou could've bumped it when you were getting up from your desk,' Boges suggested.
âI thought of that,' I said, picking it up, opening it. âBut whenever I finish writing up an entry, I always use this bookmark.' I touched the dark red ribbon attached to the spine of the diary. âI mark the following day's page, so that it's ready for me to open. But lookâ,' I said passing the diary to Cal, âit's been left in this page.'
âThat's from two days ago,' he said.
âRight â¦ which means someone has been reading my diary.'
Cal scanned my handwritten entry for the day, reading it out loudâ
âIt's just me grizzling about the paperwork I have to do,' I explained. âSome documents only exist in paper files because my father hadn't got around to entering all of them into the database. Sligo had other things on his mind instead of keeping up with paperwork, so I've been going through the files and making sure that they're all in order.'
âThere doesn't seem to be anything particularly earth-shattering in that entry,' Cal said.
âWhen I realised my diary was open on that page this morning, I went looking for the Perdita file and spotted it right at the bottom of this pile.' I said, picking up the folder from my desk.
âPerdita. Unusual name â¦ I wonder who it is.'
âI don't know,' I said. âThe name is pretty cool though, it's the name of the heroine from Shakespeare's
The Winter's Tale.
And Perdita means “the lost one”. I used to feel like that.'
Cal noddedâhe knew what I meant.
I opened the file and started flicking through some papers, the boys looking over my shoulder. âI'm not sure what this is â¦ “notice of easement”, some legal letters â¦' I said. âI better spend some time going through this properly to find out what this has to do with someone called Perdita.' I put the file back on top of the pile.
âOK,' I continued, picking up the torn piece of newsprint again. âWhat are we supposed to make of this? Who's the Drowner?' I asked. âWhy did someone write “30 days”? And why have they sent this to
? Is it a threat?'
âIt's from some really old newspaper,' Cal said, noticing the date. âNineteen sixty two. Half a century ago. Looks like the last part of the headline has been torn off and then someone's just scrawled “30 days” after it.'
Boges took the scrap of yellowing newsprint from my fingers and had a closer look. âThirty days from now â¦ does that date ring any bells?'
It didn't mean anything to me and I could see from the faces of the others that they'd all drawn a blank.
âI hope it isn't a repeat of what happened before. Elijah is locked up, isn't he? I mean, the last time we got a note like this, we nearly got blown up!' Cal said. I could see he was trying to be light-hearted but I knew the confrontation with Sligo on the Sapphire Star still bothered him.
âThe Drowner sounds more like some murderer or gangster â¦ or a serial killer,' Boges continued, pulling out his mobile.
âGreat,' I said, bitterly. âJust what a girl needs. A serial killer. With a thing for old newspaper clippings.'
âTake it easy. I'm checking it right now,' Boges announced, hovering over his phone.
âWell?' I asked. A few moments later, Boges was shaking his head. âThe only thing I can find called the Drowner is a book, and it wasn't around in nineteen sixty two. And don't worry, Cal, your pathological cousin is still in detention as far as I can tell.'
âRepro might know. I'll give him a call,' Cal said, reaching for his phone. He left a message asking his old friend to call back. âRepro's gone a bit funny about mobile phones,' Cal said. âEver since he read that they have GPS tracking in them, he keeps his in a locked cashbox.'
âThat won't help,' laughed Boges. âI hope he gets it out every now and then to listen to his messages.'
âSo what can the note mean?' I asked. âAnd who would have sent it?'
My questions hung in the air like accusations. Then I was struck by a frightening thought. âWhat if Sligo wasn't the only one who got out of Inisrue Marsh?'
âCome on, Winter. That's not very likely,' said Boges.
I took a closer look at the envelope and then turned the piece of newsprint over. The faded print on the back seemed to be a list of vegetable prices at a local market. Nothing helpful there. âIf one person got out, Boges, it's possible that someone else did too,' I reminded him.
âPerhaps we should call the police,' Cal said, âif you really believe someone has been in here.'
âYes, but how could I prove it? By saying my diary is on a different page? They're not going to take that seriously. And what could they do about it anyway? Can you imagine what Senior Sergeant McGrath would say?' I said.
Boges cocked his head to one side, and his eyebrows came together like they always do when he's thinking hard.
âWhat is it, Boges?' Cal asked. âYou've got an idea. Spit it out.'
âLooks to me like we've got two problems. First of all, there's this newspaper cutting and second, someone's been stalking Winter. We can solve the second problem quite quickly. If someone's been snooping around in here, there's a really easy way to find out who it is. Once we've cleared that up, we can start tracking down the Drownerâwhoever he is.'
Flood Street, Richmond
Boges headed off, promising to come back the next day to solve the stalker mystery, while Cal and
I went to his place. Cal knew his mum would be happy to have me stay in the spare room. I would have been fine at my place, but Cal insisted.
I followed Cal up to his room where piles of gear took up most of the flat surfaces. I picked up his new pilot's bag.
âDad promised me he'd buy me a proper pilot's bag when I got my solo flying rating, but by the time I did that, he wasn't around anymore. I figured I'd go ahead and get myself one.'
So much had happened since Cal's father had died, but Cal still missed him just as badly as ever.
âWhat is all this stuff?' I asked, pulling out his headset and fiddling with a slide rule. âIs this for navigation?'
Cal gently took the slide rule out of my hands and put it back in the bag. âWhy didn't you tell me when you first noticed someone had been sniffing around?' he asked. âWhy leave it till now, when I'm about to go away for three weeks?'
âI didn't want you to be worried while you were away.'
âDon't ever do that again. OK? If something happens that bothers you, tell me straightaway.' He took my hands in his, holding them tight. âWinter, listen to me. I've gotta go, but if anything happens or if you get really scared, promise me you'll call?'
âCal, I'm going to be alright. And I've got Boges and Ryan. Don't worry. You need to focus on this. I know how hard it was to get into the course.'
I wasn't one hundred per cent sure about keeping this promise, but I gave in. âPromise,' I said, hugging him.
âI'll call Ryan now,' Cal said. âYou can tell him what's going on.'
âI've got a better idea,' I said, feeling a big smile on my face. âHow about all of us get together at my place tomorrow night for dinner? We can celebrate the fact that I'm almost through that mountain of paperwork. What do you say?'
âI say yes,' Cal said.