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‘You know Zack,’ Ted said.

‘Sure do. Hi, Zack.’ Zack was Ted’s grandson. He had moved to Bellbird Bay to live with his dad the year before and was a keen surfer.

Owen and Zack fist-bumped each other, and Owen grinned at the younger boy.

‘Hi, Will, Owen.’ Martin smiled at the pair, then ignored them as he set up his camera, all business.

The photoshoot took longer than Will had anticipated; it was close to lunchtime when they finished. But at least Martin seemed pleased with the results, and they all breathed a sigh of relief when he finally said, ‘Okay, I think we’re done now.’

Will couldn’t imagine how models, those people who made their living from being photographed, managed to survive. Even though they were surfing most of the time, it was very demanding and tiring to continually have to be aware of the camera.

‘Thanks, guys,’ Martin said as he packed his gear away. ‘The least I can do is offer to buy you lunch. What say we meet up again at the surf club?’

Will looked at Owen who was nodding eagerly. ‘Fine by us,’ he said.

But Ted shook his head. ‘Thanks, Martin, I promised Grace we’d be back for lunch.’ Then he paused, seeing Zack’s disappointment. ‘Well, maybe I can call her. I’m just getting used to having someone else to consider.’ The affection in his voice made Will’s gut clench.

He knew Ted had recently formed a new relationship, after being widowed more than twenty years earlier. He couldn’t imagine how it would feel, but Ted seemed happy with his new partner, a widow who had come to Bellbird Bay to make her home there and whose daughter was coincidentally now living with Ted’s son. It was a bit odd, but seemed to work for them, and Zack appeared to be happy with the situation, too.

Being a Monday, the surf club was practically empty. Will and Owen joined the others at a table on the deck, and Martin headed back inside to order burgers and chips for everyone, beers for the men, including Owen, and a Coke for Zack who was clearly delighted to be part of the group.

When the meals were over, Martin took out his phone. ‘I checked out the news item you were concerned about, Will,’ he said. ‘The development.’

‘I saw that, too,’ Ted said. ‘It would be a disaster for the turtle hatching if a ton of equipment came onto the beach. Surely there must be some way of stopping it?’

‘It’s an interstate company,’ Martin said, reading from his phone. ‘Right now, it’s only in the preliminary stages. They’re seeking approval from state and council environmental committees before they can proceed. So, it’s not too late to take action.’

‘There’s a council meeting soon,’ Will said. ‘And I have a meeting beforehand to discuss the Easter surf carnival. This could have implications for that, too, if it goes ahead. People come from all over for both the carnival and the triathlon and they won’t want to see a collection of high-rise buildings on a neighbouring beach. Maybe I can get it on the agenda.’

‘Or maybe the council are in cahoots with the guys who want to develop it,’ Owen put in. ‘I’ve heard about this sort of thing happening elsewhere. Nate and I were reading up about it. Bet the local business owners and tourism operators are all for it. It’ll bring them more business.’

‘And more traffic,’ Will groaned.

‘Mayor Franklin’s one of the good guys,’ Ted said, ‘but I’m not sure about some of the others. At least one of those voted in last year is said to be in the pocket of big business.’ He scratched his head. ‘Let me talk to Aaron. My son,’ he said to Will and Martin who were looking puzzled. ‘Nick… the guy he works for, has some contacts with council. Had to, to get his boatbuilding business off the ground. He might have a few tips.’

‘Thanks, Ted. Appreciate it. If you can let me know before next Thursday.’

‘Will do. Remind me to talk with your dad, Zack,’ he said to his grandson who was following the conversation intently.

After that, the conversation veered off to the surf carnival and Owen’s chances of taking out the championship for a third year running. It was more than Will had done. He had been local champion for two years, then he and Dee had married, Evan had been born, and he’d had other matters on his mind. Ted Crawford was the only local who’d managed to take it out three years running, having continued to return for the competition after he left town for university. That was why there was an image of him surfing on the wall of the stairway in the surf club. He was a local hero.

During all this, young Zack was looking from one to the other in amazement, apparently impressed at being in the company of three champions.

‘Coop, too,’ Will said to the boy. ‘If he hadn’t left town as soon as he finished school, he’d most likely have beaten me.’ He chuckled and nudged Martin with his elbow. Sometimes, in his friend’s presence, it was almost as if they were teenagers again.

‘That’s something we’ll never know,’ Martin said, ‘but I like to think you’re right.’

They all laughed.

‘I hear you and Nate are moving in together,’ Martin said, when they had all calmed down again. ‘When does the big move take place?’

‘On the weekend. Can’t wait.’ He glanced at Will out of the corner of his eye.

‘Your dad will miss you.’ Martin turned to look at Will.

‘Sure, but I’m glad he wants to spread his wings. He can’t live with his dad for ever. I’m just wondering how the girl will cope with these two reprobates.’ Will chuckled.


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