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After greeting her daughter, Cleo crouched down to speak to Owen whose face was devoid of colour. He was holding his left ankle. ‘Let me see,’ Cleo said, glad she’d done some first-aid training when they lived in New South Wales. She felt his ankle gently, but nothing seemed to be broken. ‘Can you take any weight on it?’ she asked. Owen shook his head. ‘Sorry to be a bother. Mrs Johansen,’ he said. ‘We were fooling around, and I tripped.’

Cleo pressed her lips together. She imagined they’d had a few drinks before setting out and he’d been unsteady on his feet. But there was nothing like a sprained ankle to sober one up quickly. ‘I think you’ve sprained it,’ she said, ‘but we should check with the Emergency department to make sure.’

‘Do we have to?’ he asked, but he was unable to stem the groan when he tried to move.

‘We do. Give me a hand in getting Owen to his feet, Han, and we’ll put him in the car. With a bit of luck, the Emergency department won’t be busy, and he’ll be seen straight away. We should probably let your dad know, too,’ she said to Owen, frowning at the prospect of having to contact Will Rankin.

‘He’ll be at the council meeting and have his phone off,’ Owen said. ‘It’s where we should be, if I hadn’t… Ow!’ he groaned again.

They were lucky. When they’d levered Owen out of the car, into a wheelchair and into the Emergency department, as Cleo had predicted it was practically empty, and Owen was taken into a cubicle almost right away.

‘Thanks, Mum,’ Hannah said, as he disappeared through a door. ‘I don’t know what we’d have done if you hadn’t been able to come.’

‘No problem. Do you know Owen’s dad’s number?’

‘No, but I have his phone.’ Hannah reached into her pocket and took out an iPhone whose screen was cracked. ‘He fell on it, and I picked it up. It should still work.’ She pressed a button and it lit up. ‘I’ll check his contacts. His dad’s is sure to be there.’

Cleo keyed Will’s number into her phone, but when she rang there was no reply. She bit her lip wondering what to do, deciding a text might be the best option, but she didn’t want to worry him unduly. After a few attempts she finally texted,Owen has hurt his ankle. I’m with him and Hannah. Ring me when you can. Cleo Johansen.

As she thought, the ankle was sprained, not broken, and Owen, wearing a moon boot and hobbling on a pair of crutches, was free to leave.

‘Thanks, Mrs J,’ he said. ‘The doc says I just need to rest for a couple of weeks. I should be back surfing well before the carnival.’

Cleo frowned. ‘I don’t like to think of you going back to that little house. I think both of you should come back with me, for tonight at least.’

‘Oh, Mum!’ Hannah started to protest.

‘No objections, Han. Owen needs rest and care and he’s not going to get it in a share house with you and Nate rattling around all the time. You can both stay with me for the night and tomorrow we can work out what to do next. Okay, Owen?’ she asked him.

‘Whatever you say,’ he said weakly.

Cleo could see he was suffering from shock. ‘We’ll go back home, and I’ll make you a cup of hot, sweet tea. It was my mother’s favourite remedy. Then we’ll get you to bed. I’ve contacted your dad and asked him to ring me. Remember you have school in the morning, Han. Is there anything you’ll need?’

‘I should be fine. I still have some clothes there. But are you sure, Mum? We could manage.’

‘I’m sure.’ By this time, they had reached Cleo’s car, and she could see Owen was close to falling asleep. She guessed the doctor had given him painkillers and they were having a sedative effect. The sooner she could get him home and into bed the better. There might be no need for the tea.

They were no sooner home, Owen settled in bed in the spare room and Cleo and Hannah enjoying mugs of hot chocolate, when Cleo’s phone rang.


To Will’s relief, there was no sign of Owen among the protesters, though he felt Martin cringe at the sight of Nate holding up one end of a large banner. Wondering what had happened to his son, Will turned on his phone, intending to call him. There was a text from an unknown number.

Will’s eyes widened as he read it, then a curl of fear coiled in his gut. While he had been accepting plaudits and listening to the council meeting, something had happened to Owen. But how had Cleo Johansen become involved, he wondered, seeing her name at the end of the text.

Without further ado, he called to hear a wary, ‘Hello?’

‘Will Rankin here. What’s happened to Owen?’

There was a pause, making Will realise he could have been more polite. ‘Sorry, you texted me. It’s Cleo, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, and I did. Han rang for my help. Owen tripped on his way to the protest and has sprained his ankle. I have both of them here and Owen’s asleep.’

‘I’ll come right over.’

‘There’s no need. He won’t surface till morning.’ There was an acerbic tone to her voice.What had he done to offend her?

‘What’s your address?’

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