A comment on Stolen ch 13 touched me deeply. I am a parent and I know that if one of my children disappeared I would NEVER accept they ran away unless they told me to my face. So I sat at my computer and tried to think HOW Sky's family would react. No ideas came to me so I went surfing the net and looked at songs. Music often inspires me. I found the words to a song I heard a few years ago and thought how well the words and song fit Janetta/Sky. After finding the song this story just flowed from my fingers to the keyboard.
The song was "HOLY WATER" sung by Big & Rich.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Marina walked into the lounge room from the kitchen and placed her handbag on the hallway table as she glanced at the flickering light that showed they had a message on their answering machine.
"Jim, we have a message. It's probably the plumber calling about when he can come and put the new pipe work in the laundry." Marina called to her husband.
Jim came in through the front door carrying a heavy esky.
"Just check it would you Love?" Jim asked as he headed into the kitchen.
Marina looked down at the answering machine and pressed the button to play the recorded message.
"You have... two ... new messages." The mechanical sounding voice of the machine said as Marina turned away and placed her scarf and gloves on top of her handbag.
"Bob from Robert's Plumbing here. I have Saturday morning free and can do your work then. Give me a call if there's a problem with that." The recording crackled slightly, then the familiar beeps sounded that heralded the next message.
There was a slight pause as if the person who had rung was put off by the sound of the recording then the sound of someone clearing his or her throat.
"Hey Mum. It's me, Janey. I'll be home tomorrow night on the 10pm bus. We'll talk then. I love and miss you," The receiver being replaced clicked loudly in Marina's shocked ears.
"Jim! It was our Janey! She's coming home!" Marina said then burst into tears. It had been thirty-five days since their youngest daughter Janetta had disappeared without a word.
Jim rushed in from the kitchen and pulled his wife into his arms, he held her for several minutes until she regained control of herself. Jim reached out and rewound the last message then pushed play once again. Relief filled him as he heard his daughter's voice, she sounded a bit hesitant as if maybe she doubted her welcome but that could soon be fixed when they met the bus the following night.
"I can't wait to see her!" Marina exclaimed, "I wonder what happened for her to disappear like that?"
"We only got to wait until tomorrow night." Jim soothed his wife.
"The others! They'll want to know Janey is coming home! I've got to ring them!" Marina exclaimed as she reached for the phone.
Marina pressed the button on the phone base that automatically dialled her oldest daughters mobile phone, she waited anxiously for her to answer.
"Hallo Caro speaking."
"Carolyn! We just got home from shopping and there was a message on the phone from Janey! She's coming home tomorrow night!" Marina said as her tears stared afresh.
"Oh Mum! That's wonderful news! Have you told Robby and James yet?" Caro asked.
"No, not yet. I thought I'd tell you first. I know how you worried and fretted." Marina said. Her older daughter had confided in her mother how she had felt she was to blame for her sisters' disappearance because she had been the last one to see Janey before she mysteriously vanished.
"I'll be home in half an hour Mum. So see you then." Caro said to quickly finish the phone call. She knew her two older brothers would be eager to hear their mothers' news.
Marina pressed the call end button and handed the phone to Jim, her hands were shaking badly as she sat down on the chair by the hall table.
"You call Rob and James. I'm too surprised." Marina said as she clasped her hands in front of her to try to still their shaking.
"You sit there and take it easy for a minute. I'll put the kettle on so we can have a nice cuppa once we finish talking to the boys." Jim told his wife gently.
Marina watched as her husband pressed a button on the base of the phone then headed into the kitchen. She listened to him moving around as he filled the kettle with water.
"Hey James, good news son! We've heard from Janey! She's on her way home. Says she'll be in town tomorrow night." Marina heard Jim saying.
She listened, as there was silence for a few long moments.
"We don't think Janey run away either, we never have." Jim said softly. "Yeah, yeah. You take care driving home. Don't rush just to be here when Janey gets home."
Jim was dialling in a number as he returned to the lounge room and extended a hand to Marina to help her to her feet and followed her to the lounge. His call was answered quickly and he sat on one end of the lounge beside Marina.
"Hallo this is Jim Wilkinson speaking. May I speak to Senior Detective Wilkinson please? Yes, I'm his father." Jim was silent while he waited to be connected to his second son.
Marina squeezed his hand nervously.
"Ah Robby! We were out and got home to a message on the phone from Janey... yeah apparently she will be home on the 10pm bus tomorrow...Yeah, it would have to be the bus from down south. Do you think she could have been around Coffs Harbour all this time?" Jim asked his son.
He listened intently as his son talked; finally he gave a curt nod. "Yes we are going into town to meet the bus. And you'll be here tomorrow evening? Fine. See you then." Jim hung up and glanced at Marina.
"How about I make us that cuppa tea?" Marina asked climbing to her feet.
Jim followed Marina into the kitchen and stood by as she poured boiled water into the teapot over tealeaves. He watched as she took two cups out of the cupboard and placed them by the teapot as they waited for the tea to brew.
"I still get the feeling there is something horribly wrong around Janey." Marina said faintly.
"Our baby will be home tomorrow night and then you can fuss over her all you like." Jim said as he put his arms around Marina.
Five weeks ago they had returned to their campervan in the middle of an evening out because Marina had been unable to shake the feeling something was wrong with Janey. They had arrived at the campervan to find Caro in a state of panic because her sister had failed to return from the campground showers nearly an hour previously. The resulting search had failed to find any trace of her or any signs that something had befallen her.
The police had been called and refused to take her disappearance seriously as she had had a minor argument with her parents only that morning over meeting a boy at the beach. Twenty-four hours had passed before the police allowed them to file a missing persons report. Despite the family's belief that Janey would never runaway the police had put her down as a runaway.
It had not been until eight days later that someone had recalled there had been two men hanging around watching the beach that day. No one remembered what they had looked like other then the fact they had kept to themselves.
Marina tried to push aside the fear she felt as she turned to her husband. She had always been especially close to her youngest daughter, right from the time she had been handed the small red faced squalling infant after giving birth.
"Oh god I hope she'll be home. Maybe then I can sleep without waking up thinking I can hear her crying." Marina said faintly.
"Janey sounded just fine." Jim said firmly and released Marina so he could pour them both a cup of tea.
As Jim handed his wife her drink he didn't comment on what she had said, he had long ago learnt not to question the closeness she share with their children. Especially with their youngest Janetta.
* * * * *
Carolyn Wilkinson helped her mother clean up the last of the plates from the table where the family had had tea. Her mother was busy washing up while her father and two brothers were in the lounge room talking quietly. Carolyn, or Caro as she preferred to be called; was waiting for the time they would leave to drive into town just as anxiously as the rest of her family.
She still blamed herself for her sisters' disappearance five weeks earlier. If only she had stayed with her and waited to walk back to the campervan together. But happily there had been a phone message the day before and her younger sister Janey was coming home.
When Janey had first disappeared all of the family had been beside themselves with worry. And that had only increased with passing time as they knew that no matter what the reason was behind her disappearance that Janetta would not fail to phone if only to say she was okay.
Putting the last of the washing up away Caro and Marina headed for the lounge room.
"I want to leave early so we can get a park where Janey will be able to see us as she steps off the bus." Marina announced.
"James, Caro and I can go in my car. That way Janey wont feel crowded on the way home, if she did indeed runaway like the rest of the police believe then she is probably feeling pretty foolish." Robby said.
Robby was a police detective and was still angered that he had been unable to convince his colleagues in missing persons that his youngest sister would never runaway over a silly little argument with her parents. He had been told repeatedly that most families of runaways found it very difficult to accept the fact that the person had voluntarily chosen to leave.
"That sounds like a good idea." Jim said and glanced at his son with a grateful smile.
"It's not time to go yet," Marina fretted. "We got another half hour."
"Why don't we leave now? You can go to the plaza and if it's still open get a chocolate mud cake to have when we get home." James said.
James was the one who looked the most like his youngest sister. His hair was several shades darker then hers, but much lighter then the auburn hair Robby and Caro had inherited from their father. He and Janetta had blonde hair like their mother.
James was as tall as his father reaching six foot two while Robby only made five eleven. Both girls had inherited the build of their mother, medium in height. Janey was naturally slender but Caro was thinner with a natural tendency to be the curvier.
Robby had the broad shoulders of their father but James leant more to the finer build of his mother. Anyone seeing the family together would clearly see the strong family resemblance and often people asked any of the four children if they knew them after previously having met one of their siblings.
"That sounds like a grand idea!" Jim said as he slipped an arm around his wife's waist.
The family made their way outside to the cars, Jim leaving a light on in the entryway and on the front veranda. With the group in two separate cars they headed for the local town of Byron Bay, one of the coasts most popular tourist destinations.
In town Jim and Marina went to a small café that stayed open late to cater to the hordes of tourists and partygoers each night. Marina purchased a chocolate mud cake that was Janey's favourite and then Jim drove the car towards the bus depot.
The group waited impatiently for the bus to arrive and mercifully it was on time.
Marina took several steps forward and watched eagerly as people began to get off the bus, the flow of humanity stoped and Robby walked past her when Janetta failed to appear.
Robby walked to the bus rapidly and took the steps two at a time as he got on to talk to the driver.
"Is that everyone who is to get off here?" Robby demanded.
The driver picked up his clipboard of passengers and scanned it briefly.
"Yeah, that's everyone who was on the bus." The driver confirmed.
"Everyone? Were there any passengers missing?" Robby demanded.
"Look buddy, you can't go around jumping on buses and getting all aggressive." The driver said bristling at Robby's tone.
Robby pulled his police identification from his pocket and flipped it open.
"Senior Detective Robert Wilkinson. There was a girl believed to be arriving on this bus, she has been missing for the last five weeks." Robby said.
"Let me double check my passenger list." The driver said and began to study the passenger list more closely.
"That was everyone who got on board. But there was a female passenger who was expected to get on a connecting bus from Melbourne then transfer to this bus who was a no show on the earlier bus." The driver said after a minute or two.
"The name on the ticket?" Robby asked tightly.
"Umm, let me see... Janetta Wilkinson. Is she a relation of yours?" The driver asked curiously at Robby's sharp intake of breath.
"Yes! She's my kid sister." Robby said and turned to get off the bus.
"I hope she turns up soon." The bus driver said.
Robby headed back towards where his parents, brother and sister waited. He was unable to meet his mothers' hopeful eyes as she stepped forward and grasped his arm.
"She wasn't on the bus. There was a ticket bought in her name that started down in Victoria but she didn't make the bus out of Melbourne." Robby said hollowly.
A small wounded sound came from Marina then she was crying silently as her husband put his arms around her.
"I'm going to see if I can trace her back to where she got the ticket." Robby announced in a harsh voice.
* * * * *
Robby sat at his desk in his office as he typed on his computer, he held the receiver of his phone pressed against his right shoulder with his head.
He had been at work for the last twenty-two hours trying to trace the movements of his youngest sister down in Victoria. He had finally managed to talk to Toni, the travel shop assistant who had sold his sister her tickets. All Toni could remember was that Janey had seemed intent on getting home as quickly as possible. That and the fact she had a fading bruise on one side of her face.
Finally the phone beneath his ear stopped playing a local radio station and there was the sound of a voice on the other end.
"Hallo Senior Sargent Peter Davies here." A deep voice said.
"Yes, Senior Detective Robert Wilkinson here. I was told you may be able to help me. I am trying to track down my younger sister who went missing five weeks ago. Description- Caucasian, eighteen years old. Five six or five seven, roughly sixty kilos. Light blonde hair. Clear blue eyes. I was told you might have a lead on her." Robby said.
"Give me a moment to check..." Sargent Davies said.
Robby could hear the sound of rustling paperwork for several minutes then a positive sound.
"Got the paperwork I think you mean in front of me now. Not good news I'm afraid. A young mother reported an assault that she witnessed soon after leaving a fish and chip shop. A female fitting your sisters' description was seen as she was grabbed from behind and dragged into an alley. The witness was able to get a clear view of one of the three men involved and identified him from a mug shot at the police station where she reported the assault. He is a known pimp with a reputation for seducing young teenagers, getting them hooked on drugs and then turning them onto the streets to earn him money. The vague description of the other two men at the scene loosely fits two known companions of this offender." Sargent Davies said.
Robby could hear the regret in the other mans voice.
"And this happened in Melbourne? Any where near one of the main bus stops?" Robby asked with a sinking feeling.
"Only about three blocks from the main coach terminal in mid Melbourne." Sargent Davies replied.
"Damn it!" Robby swore as the seriousness of the situation hit him.
"If you like I can fax you a copy of the report and you can take it to missing persons. Maybe that will get a quick reaction on this." Sargent Davies offered.
"I'd appreciate it." Robby said and repeated the number for the line and fax machine at his office.
Sargent Davies promised to do it immediately and then hung up.
Robby put the receiver back in its cradle and stared at the computer screen blankly for a few minutes as he tried to figure out what to tell his parents. The sound of a fax arriving drew his attention and he got to his feet to go and retrieve the message.
He studied the report he held in his hands and then glanced at the watch on his wrist, the figures read three am. Giving a defeated sign he tucked the report into the folder that reported Janey's disappearance and tucked it under his arm as he headed for the door and for his parents home.
* * * * *
James parked his father's car outside the bakery and went inside to purchase fresh warm bread and cinnamon buns for breakfast. His parents had taken his sisters failure to return home on the bus the night before last very hard. Then Robby had turned up at five am this morning with the results of his search on the ticket. The news of the report he had carried with him had upset his mother so much that their father had called the family doctor and whom when he had arrived had wanted to give her a mild sedative but she had refused to take it.
Paying for his purchases James walked from the shop and got into the car. Traffic was already constant at seven thirty in the morning and he pulled out from the parking spot with the flow of the traffic. He turned along the street where fresh local fruit would be on sale this early in the morning. He slowed and swerved close to the curb to avoid the vehicle that drove out wide to go around the bus that was pulled to the curb, cursing both the other driver and the bus as he went. It was from the same company that had failed to deliver his sister home safely the other night.
James wasn't sure what made him glanced sideways as he passed the front of the bus, maybe it was a glimpse of a lonely figure out of the corner of his eye. Or it could have been sheer co-incidence.
A slight figure stood well away from everyone else but close to the activity around the bus door, long blonde hair hung over a shoulder and a green bag was clutched against ribs.
James was forced to glance back at the road before he could turn his head to look over his shoulder; he looked into the rear-view mirror and hit the brakes abruptly. The driver behind him hit the horn and James pulled his vehicle to the side of the road as he watched for a break in traffic so he could turn the vehicle around. Tires squealed as James revved the motor and spun the car in an illegal U-turn in the main street. Several people turned to look and James felt his heart stop then begin to pound as the slight figure turned also.
James pulled into a parking space several cars up from the bus and climbed out hurriedly, his eyes glued to the motionless figure by the front of the bus.
"Janey!" The word burst from James as he approached his sister slowly. He took in the fading bruise on her cheek, the fresh vivid bruise across one temple. Janey dropped her gaze and looked away as something flickered across her face.
It was then James saw the faint love bite on the side of her neck and noticed that she had lost a good bit of weight.
"We all turned up to meet you the other night." James said softly as he walked closer.
Janey glanced his way almost nervously before looking away, she raised one hand to fuss with her fringe and James noticed the bruises around her wrist.
"I tried to get home." Her voice was thin, weak and apologetic.
"You're here now. That's all that matters." James told her softly as he stopped within hugging distance. He desperately wanted to hug his sister but something about the way she held herself warned him not to touch her.
"How about we get in the car and we go home in time for breakfast?" James asked softly.
Janey nodded faintly, she was becoming aware of the curious stares and glances of passers-by. She started walking towards the car James had been in recognising her parents' car.