Unfortunately for Bryn, this mystery is much more tangled and confusing than it initially appears.
Because for every answer she manages to find, more questions arise.
Until she finds herself in the midst of a web of secrets and lies that threaten to bring down not only the innocent, but the guilty as well…
Formats: ebook $3.99
Series: Time Will Tell
Available from your favourite retailer here.
Bryn Maher sat cross-legged on her bed, her cat in front of her. Orion had rolled onto his back, his small black paws batting at Bryn’s hands as she tried to adjust his harness.
‘You,’ she said, mock-grumpily, ‘are being a pain. You know you love to go walking.’ She used one hand to hold his front paws at bay as she loosened the belly strap on the harness. That was a good thing; he was finally starting to gain weight. ‘And now that you can breathe without losing your eyeballs, we’re good to go.’ She clipped the lead onto the harness and gave Orion a gentle scrub on his stomach.
He mrowked at her and batted at her hands again, and as soon as she let go he flipped onto his paws and did his usual scramble off her bed, taking part of the light blanket with him.
Bryn shook her head and piled the blanket back on her bed before following the cat into the small lounge room. Her whole unit was small. One bedroom, with its curtained window looking over the back yards of the ground-floor units, barely big enough for a double bed (lucky she had a single) and a built-in wardrobe. Bathroom beside the bedroom at the front side, with a narrow shower and toilet shoe-horned into the corner. Kitchen in the other back corner, a tiny J-shape just big enough for the cupboard doors to open fully. And the L-shape of the lounge around it, with a TV, Bryn’s comfy couch which had come from Grandad’s house, and her desk and bookcase in the corner. There was just enough space between the bedroom wall and the kitchen bench for the glass door which led onto the back balcony.
Not a lot of space for a cat. But Orion hadn’t needed it until recently.
Bryn had found him seven weeks ago, battered and bleeding and half-starved on the road. For two days he’d hung on the edge of life and death while infection, caused by a severely broken leg, raged through his little body. On the third day he’d decided he was going to live. Bryn had already decided she was adopting him, but she’d done the right thing and put up Found Cat notices, hoping no one would claim him. No one had, and the vet had said that was a good thing; he said Orion had probably been a stray for a few months, but before that he’d been abused by whoever had owned him. The white dots on his head and neck which marred his solid black fur, and had given Bryn the idea to name him ‘Orion’ after the constellation, had most probably been caused by cigarette ash burn.
Orion had had to wear a cast on his leg for five weeks, but since it had come off two weeks ago he was making up for lost time. His leg was still weak, and always would be, and the vet had suggested taking him for walks each day, both to strengthen his leg and to get him out of the unit. So Bryn had bought a harness and fitted a daily walk to the nearby park into her routine.
Not that she had much of a routine yet. She was still looking for a job, spending most of her days applying online or talking with her Job Network advisor.
Orion was waiting beside the door, the lead on the floor beside him, his string of a tail lashing the air eagerly. Bryn grabbed her small backpack from the couch and checked that her wallet and keys were inside, as well as Orion’s pooper-scooper kit. Then she looped the lead around her wrist and opened the door onto the narrow front veranda which ran the length of the building.
It was after four o’clock, and the muggy heat of the afternoon was fading into a brisk breeze. At least the heat wave that had blanketed Brisbane during most of February had eased, she thought. She rattled her doorknob to make sure it was locked, then followed Orion as he strained at the lead, impatient to get to the concrete stairs which zigzagged down the side of the unit block. Not that she let him climb down them – her home was three storeys up and Orion was small enough that each step was almost as tall as he was –
Bryn staggered sideways as someone rammed into her. Her elbow slammed into the waist-high concrete which formed the veranda’s railing, and she yelped with pain. Orion hissed as his lead went taut on her wrist. The other person oofed as they too staggered, then hands gripped her shoulders and held her steady.
The voice was male, and young. Bryn pushed her glasses up onto her nose and looked up.
He was probably five or six years older than her own almost-eighteen years, with floppy brown hair and a thin, narrow face. He was thin and narrow all over, really, like a tanned brown stick insect. He wore a baggy green shirt and grey shorts.
‘Um, I guess so.’ She curled her fingers around Orion’s lead and twisted her arm forward so she could peer at her elbow. She winced as the skin pulled. Definitely a decent scrape there, she thought ruefully. And the bright red of new blood.
‘Jason? Are you all – oh, dear me, that looks painful.’
This voice was familiar. ‘Hi Mrs Holloway. Just a bit of concrete burn, no problem.’
The young man was backing away, his hands raised. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean – ’ He shook his head, his face creasing into a look of mingled desolation and hopelessness. ‘Just one thing after another right now,’ he muttered, shaking his head. He dropped his hands. ‘I really am sorry.’ He turned and clattered down the steps, keeping to the far side of where Orion crouched, his tail lashing.
Mrs Holloway sighed and came across to where Bryn still leaned on the railing. She took hold of Bryn’s arm and clicked her tongue. ‘Come on in and I’ll sort that out. And you can come in too, you gorgeous boy,’ she added to Orion, and bent to pick him up. He was used to Mrs Holloway now; she’d been one of the first to welcome Bryn to the building, and had kept a discreet but motherly eye on her ever since. The little cat stayed still in her arms as Bryn followed her into her unit, biting her lip as her arm began to sting.