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Double Take

Double Take

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An ex-con turned model citizen will do anything to save his wife. . . and he’s desperate enough to rob a bank. But this isn’t a one-man job. To make it out of the vault alive, he enlists his old gang. . . the crew he served time for. But someone is watching every move he makes, and they are in it for the thrill and the money.

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 Unexpected twists Anti-heroFemale antagonist Vigilante thriller Double crosses ⭐ Bank robbery gone wrong ⭐Small town

"Twists and turns abound -- just when you think you know the characters they surprise you. The ending is a true surprise and very fitting under the circumstances. Definitely a must read."  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Sharon Spring

One of the best novels I have read. Many twists to keep you interested. I highly recommend this work to anyone that likes a crime mystery. I finished this in one day. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Kenneth Lingenfelter

"This is a well-written mystery with enough romance and titillation and to support a screwed-up bank robbery in Australia." ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Tarpon Joe

Main Tropes

  • Anti Hero
  • Vigilante Thriller
  • Race aginst time

Synopsis

A desperate thief. A detective with more clues than time.

A double-cross no-one saw coming.

Jackson Rich will do anything to get the money he needs to save his wife. Including robbing a bank. But to do it, he needs to call in a long overdue promise from his old gang. Trouble is, someone is watching every move he makes, and they are in it for the money and the thrill.

Gemma has spent her entire life doing the right thing. Now doing the wrong thing could be the best decision she’s ever made. But nothing could prepare her for the twisted events that follow.

When Detective Steel receives a tip-off about a bank robbery, the clues pile up. As do the suspects. But as the heist draws closer, Steel is drawn into a web of deceit that puts his stellar career on the line.

For all three of them, their lives are about to change forever. But it’s no longer about the money. . . it’s about retribution.

Intro to Chapter One

Chapter 1
Jackson Rich glanced down at his watch: 4:32 beamed from the digital display like a fateful countdown. A shiver ran up his spine, as much from apprehension as from the bite in the air. He was alone in the boatshed, and except for the creepy array of hooks, tools and ropes that dangled off one wall like a treasure trove for sadists, the room was practically empty. Spears of late afternoon sunlight pierced the cracks in the weatherboards, illuminating the dust particles that floated in the afternoon breeze. If he’d organised this meeting for any later he’d be sitting in the dark. He made a note in his pocketbook to bring a camping lantern next time.
Thoughts of Rachel crept into his mind. It’d taken him several days to muster the courage to call her, and, although it’d been eighteen years since they last spoke, he’d recognised her voice instantly. He closed his eyes, breathed in the musty air and tried to imagine how much she would’ve changed—they’d been not much more than kids back then. He still remembered Rachel as the shy teenage girl with the troubled home life who hung off every word he spoke. It made him cringe at how badly he’d wanted her back then. But that was a lifetime ago. His only hope was that she still remembered the promise she’d made to him when they last met.
A car rumbled outside and he swiped his hand over the dollar signs he’d doodled on the dusty table. He stood, hitched up his loose jeans and wiped his sweaty palms down his thighs. His heart thumped in his neck as he waited to see who was first.
The ancient door emitted an eerie creaking noise as a tall, raven-haired woman stepped over the threshold. She commanded attention in an emerald green dress that molded to her hourglass figure and he obliged by openly drinking in her appearance. The soft mounds of her breasts bulged from the plunging neckline and a lock of hair, long, dark and silky, swooped over her shoulder and nudged the valley of those luscious curves.
Jack swallowed loudly. “Hello, Rachel.”
She strode towards him with a bold confidence that made him step back. Since he’d called her a week earlier, he’d been visualizing how their reunion would play out. But even if he’d had a whole year to imagine ways she’d greet him, he would never have guessed being pinned to the wall with her forearm across his chest as one of them.
It was several heartbeats before his mind kicked into gear. “What the—”
“Shut up,” she snapped. With the swiftness of a viper, her hand shot down the front of his jeans.
Jack recoiled and tried to escape, but she had him by the balls, literally. “What the hell?”
“I said shut up.” She squeezed tighter. The freshness of her peppermint breath did little to sweeten the evil in her eyes.
A hot rush burned his neck. Sweat dribbled from his armpits.
He didn’t know whether to laugh or yell at her.
Rachel’s eyes drilled into him. “If you cross me,” she hissed in an acid voice, “I’ll cut your balls off with a rusty can.”
“I wouldn’t—”
“Do you understand?” Her question blazed off her tongue.
Wincing in her vice-like grip, Jack nodded, and wondering what the heck happened to her. The girl he remembered wouldn’t have even raised her voice, let alone done this.
“Good.” Her hand slipped out of his jeans and she stepped back. “I’m glad we had this chat.” She raised her hand and Jack braced for a slap. But instead she gently cupped his cheek. “So…what’s this all about?”
She turned and strode towards the table. Her long, dark hair swayed from side to side as her shiny black stilettos clicked across the wooden floor.
Jack’s pulse throbbed in his neck as he readjusted his jeans. He rolled his shoulders, unfurled his clenched fists and cleared his throat. “You’ll have to wait and see. I’ll tell you when everyone’s here.”
The throbbing beat of an approaching motorbike was welcome relief. Jack turned his back on Rachel and hoped the fire he knew was coloring his cheeks would disappear before the next person arrived.
Moments later Jack’s brother burst through the door reeking of bad body odor and stale smoke. Jimmy’s stubble was shabby and his dark hair was a curly, matted mess at the base of his neck. Jack held out his hand to greet the sibling he hadn’t seen in two years. At least not without bulletproof glass sandwiched between them. Jimmy roughly grasped his hand and pulled him into a hug. This greeting was exactly as he’d imagined it. Jimmy hadn’t changed much.
“Hey, Jack, good to see ya, man.”
“You too.”
Jimmy released him from the embrace, and when his eyes shifted over Jack’s shoulder, he produced a long, slow whistle.
Jack thumped his brother in the arm. “You remember Rachel?”
“Hello Jimmy.” Rachel’s deep voice had a hint of an English accent and Jack looked at her, curious about where it’d come from. She pushed her hair behind her ear to reveal a brilliant diamond dangling from her earlobe. It was probably worth more than Jack’s beat-up pickup outside.
Jimmy frowned. “Rachel? Our Rachel? Oh my God, look at you.” Jimmy strode towards her with outstretched arms. But when Rachel stood and held out her hand, Jimmy quickly recovered, ran his left hand through his hair and shook hers with his right.
“My God, it is you. Look at you. Boy, have you grown up.”
“So have you. A lot happens in twenty years.”
Jimmy nodded. “You’re not wrong. So what are you doing with yourself now?”
She shrugged. “This and that. You?”
When they’d spoken on the phone the other day, Rachel had told Jack she was too busy to work. Her life was a world apart from Jack’s.
Jimmy tugged at a chair, spun it around and straddled it. “I’m looking for work again. Somethin’ll turn up.”
Jack pulled a chair opposite Jimmy and Rachel sat down too.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d come.” Jack nodded at his brother.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. You know I’m always there for you, bro.” Jimmy’s eyes roamed around the shed and Jack wondered if he remembered playing under here as a kid, but he didn’t say anything. Jimmy would’ve only been seven or eight at the time. He only knew that because their dad was still alive then.
“You going to tell us what this’s all about?” Jimmy picked at something in his teeth tongue.
“I’ll wait until everyone is here.”
“Righty-ho. So who else’s coming, boss?”
Jack seethed at his brother calling him ‘boss’ but he was determined to remain calm. “You’ll see when they get here.” The nickname had landed soon after their dad threw himself in front of a train. Probably because Jack was forced to be the man about the house. Though how anyone could expect a nine-year-old to cope, especially given their mother’s condition, was beyond him. But he did cope. In fact, he coped so well that his mom kept right on with her drug habit as if nothing had happened.
“Hey Rachel, are you still married to that banker dude? What’s his name again?” Jimmy scratched at his chin stubble.
Rachel rolled her eyes between Jack and Jimmy. A look of disdain appeared and vanished in the blink of an eye. “Walter is an investment banker. How did you know about him?”
“Jack told me.”
Jack shrugged. “I saw it in the paper.” She lived a grand life of parties and charity balls and Jack occasionally spied her in the social pages.
Jimmy turned to Jack. “How’s Candy?”
An image of his flashed across his mind; her pale puffy skin, her gaunt frame, the bags under her eyes. “Candice isn’t good.” He waited for a reaction but Jimmy carried on staring at his fingernails as if they were much more important. “You should visit us sometime.”
“I know. It’s just…I got nothin’ to talk about.”
Jack studied his brother; the crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes had developed into deep rows, his thick facial hair was speckled with silver and his cheeks were pale and sunken. Although Jimmy was two years younger than Jack, he looked much older. Jail time had done that.
“You don’t have to say anything. Candice would be happy just to see you.”
“Yeah, I hear ya. Maybe after this.”
“She may not last much longer.” It crushed his heart to utter those words, but Jimmy needed to hear it. They all did. Rachel, Jimmy and the other three. If they turned up. They all needed to understand that this was his last hope for Candice. He’d tried every which way he knew to save enough money, but time was running out. Pulling the old gang together was a long shot. He just hoped they remembered that they owed him.
“She’ll get better. You’ll make sure of it.”
“Only if this goes to plan.” Candice’s operation, the one that cost nearly seventy-five thousand dollars, was the only thing that would save her. And the way she was deteriorating, getting weaker every day, struggling sometimes just to get out of bed, Jack couldn’t sit back and wait for her turn on the hospital waiting list any longer.
“It will, Jack. You always did things right. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
Jack nearly laughed at the irony of Jimmy’s statement. If he always did things right then he wouldn’t even be contemplating what they were about to do.
Jack turned at the sound of the creaking door. He stood and walked towards the short, stocky man who’d paused at the entrance. The newcomer wore a baseball cap that allowed the tips of his sun-bleached hair to curl out from under it.
Jack extended his hand. “Thanks for coming, Stubbs.” They shook and clapped each other on the back.
Jimmy strode over. “Jesus, Stubbs, how long’s it been, man?”
“Too bloody long.” Stubbs and Jimmy shared a hug.
“When’d you get back from Emerald?” Lucky for Jack, Stubbs’s fly-in fly-out job at the new Gordonstone Mine meant he was back in Brisbane for the next eight weeks. His timing was perfect.
“Two weeks ago,” Stubbs said. “I head off again beginning of January for another eight months in that hellhole.” Jack always caught up with Stubbs during his annual break. Each time he’d aged just a little bit more. It was like outback Queensland was sucking the life out of him at double the rate.
“Hello Stubbs.” Rachel’s voice was silky smooth. “Still playing in the dirt I see.”
Stubbs turned and his eyes widened. “Rachel, oh my God.” Stubbs leaned over and Rachel offered her cheek. “How are you?” He gave her a quick peck and stepped back.
“I’m good, thanks.”
“Wow, I haven’t seen you since…” Stubbs’s mouth fell open as if he were uncertain how to finish the sentence.
“Since the convenience store, yes.” Rachel nodded and her eyes shifted to Jack. If she hadn’t put two and two together before, Jack was certain she now knew he was about to call in her promise.
There was a knock and another man stepped through the doorway, his broad shoulders filling the frame. Jack’s breath hitched at the sight of him. It didn’t matter how many times he saw Pete, he was always shocked by his appearance. Pete was plastered in tattoos from his wrists to his chin. The decorations were an attempt to hide severe burn scars. The scars were still visible though, covering both arms, his chest, neck and one side of his face. When he stiffened, Jack knew he’d spied Jimmy. Pete was another element where his plan just might come unstuck.
“What the fuck’re you doing here?” Jimmy forced the words through gritted teeth.
Jack needed to take control and fast. “Calm down, Jimmy. Pete wouldn’t be here if I didn’t absolutely need him.”
Jimmy took a step towards the threshold, his fists balled and nostrils flaring. He jabbed a grease-stained finger at Pete’s broad chest. “I went to jail because of you.”
Pete towered over Jimmy and stood his ground with a wry grin. “You knew what you were getting into.”
“I ought to—” Jimmy lunged at the bigger man, but Jack got between the two, forcing them apart with trembling arms. It’d been many years, decades even, since Jack had been face to face with aggression. It scared the crap out of him. But he was committed now, otherwise he’d already be out that door and running to his dodgy pickup.
“Shut up, Jimmy.” Jack glared into his brother’s pale green eyes. “Pete’s staying. I need his help. Now sit down.” Jack held his breath as he waited for movement. One of his greatest regrets in life was introducing Pete to Jimmy. He had thought their common interest in renovating antique motorbikes would foster their friendship. But then they’d got involved in selling stolen goods one of Pete’s friends had ‘managed to acquire’. The crazy idea ended in a police chase where Jimmy somehow fell out of the passenger door and Pete crashed the car in a fiery explosion. He was lucky to get out alive. These two were poison together, so it was only out of sheer desperation that Jack had called him here today.
Jimmy locked eyes on Pete as he backed away. He then walked to the table and Stubbs clapped him on the shoulder and whispered something Jack couldn’t hear.
Pete sniffed and took a step further into the shed. Seconds later a stocky man with a poor attempt at a fake tan and Fonzie-styled jet-black hair walked in. Jack had the feeling he was trying a little too hard to impress someone.
“Hi Jack, great to see you again.”
“Thanks for coming, Donny.” They shook hands and Jack sighed with relief. He honestly hadn’t thought they’d all turn up. Maybe there was something to be said for ancient promises after all.
“Donny!” Jimmy called out. Donny strode to the table and shook hands with Jimmy and Stubbs. Once again Rachel offered her cheek.
“Pete, let me introduce everyone else. Stubbs, Rachel and Donny.” He pointed to each of them as he said their name. “Guys, this is Pete.” The tattooed giant was still standing at the door as if preparing for an easy getaway. “Let’s all take a seat.” Jack tried to look relaxed, but his insides were screaming. What he was about to do may’ve seemed natural twenty years ago, but right now he was fighting the urge to get the hell out of there and never look back.
Pete sniffed again, then he made short work of the distance from the door to the table and shook hands with Donny and Stubbs. He nodded at Rachel, tugged out the chair opposite Jimmy and sat down with crossed arms.
Jack waited a beat or two before he joined them at the table. “First of all, thank you for coming. Frankly, I didn’t think you’d all—”
“Cut the crap, Jack, and get to your point,” Rachel snapped. “I’ve got a function to get to and I need to do my nails.” She studied her hands, but from what Jack could see her long red talons were already perfect.
Jack glared into her dark eyes. He didn’t want to remind her of how much she owed him, but he damn well would if she kept up with this pushy attitude. This meeting, with them all seated around the table and waiting for him to speak, was another scene he’d played out many times in his head. He didn’t need any more surprises. It was time for the direct approach he’d practised a dozen times. “My wife, Candice, will die if she doesn’t get an operation soon. And we can’t wait for her turn on the waiting list any longer.” Acid burned in Jack’s stomach. His pulse thundered in his ears. He swallowed and huffed out a breath. “I need money. Lots of it. And I plan to rob a bank to get it. But I need your help.”
There was a momentary pause, then Jimmy slapped his palm onto the table and everyone but Pete jumped. “I knew you’d figure out a way of saving her.” His grin displayed cigarette-stained teeth.
Jack rolled his eyes at his brother. The silence from the other four was concerning, though. It was like they were all waiting for each other to speak. The only sound was the wind whistling through the shabby weatherboards.
Donny dabbed his upper lip with a handkerchief he’d tugged from his pants pocket. “So what would you need me to do?” Jack had forgotten Donny was a sweater. Some things didn’t change. Including Donny’s ardent loyalty. At least he could be counted on to remember their pact from all those years ago. He was surprised Donny had spoken before Rachel, though.
“Thanks, Donny.” Yet the Mexican stand-off continued. “Let me give you a rundown of the situation. My job involves—”
“Oh, for God’s sake. Will you just—” Rachel interrupted.
“Shush!” Jack hadn’t meant to yell. But he had no choice. Her eyes bit into him and for a few thumping heartbeats he thought she’d get up and leave. But she didn’t, and as if a certain bridge had been crossed, she nodded a fraction. “My job gives me access to areas in certain banks that the general public cannot enter. Over the years they’ve grown to trust me and let’s just say security has become a little relaxed.” He let that information sink in. “I recently overheard details of a higher than usual delivery of money. That’s the money I plan to steal and—”
“How much?” Jimmy interrupted. His eyes bulged with excitement.
“Close to one million. I know it’s not much between all of us, but all Candice needs is $74,000 for her defibrillator. But I need all of you to help me steal it.” He sat back, pushed his fingers beneath his thighs and sat on them. “So, who’s in?” Jack tried to ignore his thundering heartbeat as he waited out the silence.
“I’m in,” said Jimmy. No surprises there. Jack knew he could count on his brother. Maybe Jimmy thought doing this was some kind of atonement for what he did at that convenience store. Although he’d never admitted it, Jack was certain it was Jimmy who made that situation so much worse.
The others didn’t jump in as quickly, though. Jack had done the math. It wasn’t much money when divided amongst the six of them. It certainly wasn’t enough compared to the risk, especially as he, Rachel, Donny, and Stubbs had been on the right side of the law ever since the convenience store bungle. As far as he knew, anyway. Jack’s only hope was their pact.
Pete sniffed. He then nodded his head at Jack. “I’m in.” That was two down.
Donny didn’t seem able to drag his eyes from Rachel. It was like he was willing her to say yes.
Jack raised his eyes to the woman who had once crushed his heart. She softened ever so slightly. “I’m in.”
“Me too,” Donny said as he ran a red comb through his slicked-back hair. He then flashed his ridiculously white teeth at Rachel and Jack wondered if he’d whitened them himself.
“Guess we owe you.” Stubbs brought up the promise that tied them all together.
“Why do they owe you?” This was Pete. He was the only one who was clueless to the pact they’d made twenty years ago. Jack was about to fob Pete off when Stubbs spoke.
“The five of us robbed a convenience store…years back. Jack saved us by not ratting us out when he got caught. He could have. He did time because of it. I always wondered if you’d come calling on that debt, Jack.” Jack met Stubbs’s eyes. He didn’t seem angry. He’d said it more as a matter of fact.
Jack had been just sixteen when he’d sat on the floor of that convenience store office and waited for the police to find him. The whole time the ear-splitting sirens blasted outside the building his mind was on his four mates who’d abandoned him there. Rachel, Donny, Stubbs and Jimmy had all begged him not to expose them, and one by one they’d made a promise.
He could remember every little detail of that stupid robbery. As they’d crawled into the manager’s office via the manhole in the roof, they’d giggled like the bunch of silly teenagers they were. It wasn’t until they’d opened the safe and stuffed the money down their shirts that they’d realised they were trapped; the doors were locked. Jack helped each of them climb back up through the manhole, but he couldn’t climb up himself. He had to be left behind. So he wouldn’t be accused of stealing, they’d returned the cash to the safe. It was almost laughable that they’d put themselves in that situation.
The last thing Rachel had said to him that night was, “Don’t worry Jack, my daddy will get you the best lawyer.” She never thought he’d do time. Nor did the others. But he did. Eighteen months in juvenile detention. It wasn’t until the trial that he’d learned that something was taken from the safe that night. But between the four of his so-called friends, not one of them admitted taking it. Jack was certain it was his brother, though. Jimmy was notorious for pinching things and he rarely admitted fault.
Rachel was the only one who saw him on the day he was released. She said that she, Jimmy, Donny and Stubbs would be forever indebted to him. She told him that if ever he needed anything, all he had to do was call. And a couple of days ago, he had. But the truth was, Jack would never have called them all together again if it wasn’t for his sick wife.
“This money is for Candice,” he reiterated. “Without it she will die.”
Stubbs placed his hands on the table and looked squarely into Jack’s eyes. “I’m in. Whatever it takes.”
To his left Jack saw Pete cock his head.
“How’d you lose your fingers?”
Everyone at the table froze. It was funny, Jack no longer noticed the two missing appendages on Stubbs’s hand, but now he couldn’t help but glance down at the amputated fingers. They’d all known each other since they were kids, but every time they’d asked him what happened, Stubbs told a different story. Jack still didn’t know the answer, or Stubbs’s real name for that matter. He’d just always been called Stubbs.
The tension in the room was like black smoke, thick and caustic.
Pete, possibly sensing he’d crossed a boundary, sniffed, leaned back and glared at Stubbs, waiting for a response.
“Lost them in a big pot of stewed beef at the Pie Factory,” Stubbs replied, clearly aware that all eyes were on him.
“Yeah, bullshit,” Pete responded with a laugh.
That was one Jack hadn’t heard before.
Rachel rubbed her long elegant fingers together and the enormous diamond on her engagement ring flashed in the diminishing sunlight. When Jack had phoned Rachel the other day, the first thing she said after he introduced himself was, “If you’re after money, forget it.” Apparently, Walter knew where every cent went.
“We’re all in, Jack,” she said. “We’ll help you rob the bank.” It seemed that Rachel spoke for the group because they all nodded. Including Pete.
Jack released an audible sigh. “Thanks, guys. Okay. Although I’ve planned almost everything, there is one thing I don’t know. Does anyone have any experience with guns?”
“I do.” Rachel was quick to respond.
Jack snapped his eyes to her. “Really?”
She shrugged. “Walter owns a few weapons. We go shooting from time to time.”
Out of all of them she was the last one he expected to have any involvement with guns. “All right, that’s good. Do you think you can get some quality fake guns?”
“Whoa, what do you mean fake? No ammo?” Jimmy slammed his palm onto the table.
“Jimmy, calm down. I don’t want anyone getting shot, and this is the only way to do it. We’ll be bank robbers, not potential murderers, and I want to make sure it stays that way.” Jack’s backbone was rigid with conviction.
Jimmy clenched his jaw and by the look on his face he was not satisfied with this answer. But Jack didn’t care. This was one aspect he wouldn’t relent on. Jack turned his attention to Rachel. “Do you think you can get two?”
She nodded. “Of course.”
Jack let out a breath. “Good. There is one other catch. We need to do the robbery on Melbourne Cup day. That gives us nineteen days to get ready.”
“Is that enough time?” Rachel’s frown darkened her eyes.
“It has to be.” He glanced at his watch. Soon they’d be sitting in complete darkness. There was much more to discuss but the sinking sun forced his hand. “Now that I know you’re all with me, we’ll meet back here next Thursday at five o’clock and I’ll go over the details. Any problems with that?”
No-one spoke.
“Okay, does anyone have any questions?”
“Yeah, how’s the money gonna be divvied up?” Pete sniffed.
“We’ll split the money six ways. Equally.” Jack clamped his jaw as he waited out the silence.
No movement. No comments. “Great. See you all on Thursday.” He slid back and stood.
Their chairs sounded like thunder as they scraped over the ancient floorboards. The echo in the sparse shed amplified it even more. Without so much as a goodbye, Rachel left. Donny was quick to follow on her heels. Pete was next, throwing a glance at Jimmy as he slipped out the door. Jimmy and Stubbs left together and Jack overheard them making plans to go to the TAB on their way home.
Jack did a quick clean-up and found that Jimmy had left his sunglasses behind. Typical. Jack wondered if he was a fool for including his brother in the plan, and the rest of them, for that matter. But what choice did he have? Time was running out and this was the only plan he had. Candice was counting on him. He quickly cast her ailing image aside, forcing his brain to focus.
He exited the boatshed, closed the rickety front door and pushed his new padlock through the latch, clicking it into place. Jack scanned the deserted street, searching for signs of life. He was confident the overgrown plants and secluded nature of the building kept it sufficiently hidden from prying eyes. Which is exactly why he’d chosen it.
He climbed into his 1980 Datsun 1200 pickup, started the engine and with a gritty crunch forced it into first gear. He turned up the radio and sang along to one of his favorite new songs. As he belted out the words to INXS’s ‘New Sensation’ he wondered if the song’s lyrics were a good omen for Candice.


* * *


Trent watched through the floorboards as one by one the six people left the boatshed. Each time a pair of feet stepped onto the stairs, he held his breath and prayed they didn’t turn around. He and his brother Max kept frozen still, although if even one of the strangers had turned around, he suspected Max would’ve launched out of there like a pellet-shot rabbit. Max had wanted to start running as soon as the swearing had started and Trent had to practically hold him down to stop him. It wasn’t until he heard the front door close and a lock click into place that Trent knew all the bad guys had left. But he waited until the pickup with the thumping music completely vanished before he spoke. “Holy cow. Can you believe that?”
“Man, those guys were angry.” Max’s voice was normally high-pitched but now it sounded like his undies were strangling him.
“Come on, let’s get outta here before they come back.” Trent wriggled backwards and with each centimetre they moved the wooden beams above them gradually became higher above his head. Near the middle Trent paused to gather up his remote-control car. He and Max had been building their racing track under the boatshed for months and they’d never seen anyone here before. Now someone else had found their secret hiding place.
At the back wall he paused at the hole in the broken boards and listened. He certainly didn’t want to run into any of those guys, and one look at Max was enough to know he felt the same way too. The sun was setting and their dad was going to be pissed at them for being late again. But for once Trent had a really good excuse. He couldn’t wait to tell him.
Trent had to duck his head to squeeze between the broken planks, but Max was so small he could jump through. Clutching their remote-control cars, they inched the thirteen paces along the back of the building. Trent usually liked how the long grass kept their secret place hidden, but right now he wished he could see through it, just to make sure those guys really had gone.
Rough gravel covered the ground along the side of the shed and Trent cringed with each crunching footstep he took. They stopped at the far side of the building with their backs pressed hard against the still-warm weatherboards. Trent peeked around the corner to the front of the shed. No-one was there. It was time to run.
“Let’s get outta here.”
He thought his heart was going to explode as he ran up the bush-concealed driveway. Hitting the bitumen road thirty seconds later didn’t ease his fear either, because now they were completely exposed. It wasn’t until they reached the park and saw people playing with their dogs that everything seemed normal again. The sky was fireball red by the time they reached the seven front steps to their home.
Trent was disappointed to see their dad’s girlfriend’s car parked at the curb. He had hoped to have his father’s full attention. Not a chance of that now that she was there. Gemma had only been in their lives for a year or so, but it seemed longer.
Trent was still making his mind up over whether it was good or bad having her around.

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