Body on the Rocks
The gardener was working with the roses, but suddenly noticed a strange man standing nearby. He was looking at the house. The stranger had long hair and a tattoo on his arm. He was not like a guest of the owners of this house. Usually visitors, who came to this huge house with a tennis court and a spacious garage, look more official. Even the gardener himself was inside only once. A strange man with a tattoo approached. He went to the house. The gardener kept watching him. The man rang the doorbell. He talked to the maid for a while and she invited him in. The gardener was surprised. Unfortunately, he could not hear the conversation. Soon he heard screams. The man was pushed out of the house. The gardener realized that something unusual had happened. But he did not know what.
The gardener glanced up from the roses. The man across the road was still there - standing on the footpath and looking up at the house. What did he want?
The man had a tattoo on his arm and his hair was long. He didn't look like a visitor. No, not a visitor to this house - this enormous house with its carefully kept gardens and its river views, its swimming pool and tennis court and four-car garage. No, the visitors to this house were carefully chosen. The gardener himself had only been inside once, and that was only into the kitchen. He snipped off another dead rose.
He heard the sound of footsteps.
The man with the tattoo had crossed the road and was walking up the path to the house.
The gardener quickly moved his position so that he could see the front door. He snipped off another dead rose.
'This will be good,' he said to himself. Whatever the man wanted, he wouldn't get past Mrs Balfour. She was fierce.
The man rang the doorbell. A moment later, Mrs Balfour answered.
The gardener was too far away to hear the conversation but he could see the man holding out a book towards her. Mrs Balfour raised her voice. Then suddenly she stopped. She disappeared into the house and left the man standing there. A few minutes later, she returned and let the man into the house.
The gardener, surprised, snipped his finger by mistake.
'Agh!' he said, and went to wash the cut under the garden tap. 'I knew I should have worn gloves.' But his hands got so sweaty in the heat.
He took his finger out from under the stream of water. It was only a small cut. It would stop bleeding soon. He turned off the tap and pressed his thumb over the cut.
He heard shouting coming from the house.
The front door opened and Mrs Balfour pushed the man with the tattoo out.
The man turned and looked at an upstairs window. He shook the book in the air.
'I'll find her!' he shouted. 'And she'll remember. She'll remember. And then the whole world will know the truth!'
Rottnest Island - here we come!
Becky waited in the car park near the dock. She looked at her watch. The ferry was due to leave in ten minutes. Where were they?
She turned towards the voice and then burst out laughing. 'How many bags have you got?' she said. 'We're only going for two weeks. You'll sink the ferry!'
She watched as her two best friends, Amber and Natalie, struggled towards her. They had two large bags each and, behind them, Natalie's father carried two more.
'Ah, Rebecca,' he said, looking at the one bag and box of food at Becky's feet, 'I'm glad to see there's going to be one sensible person on this holiday.'
'Da-ad,' complained Natalie.
Becky laughed. 'Come on,' she said, 'or we'll miss the boat.'
They all hurried over to the dock to join the line of people moving onto the ferry. Natalie's father helped the girls to load their bags on the front of the boat and then went back onto the dock. He waved to them and called, 'Be good,' then turned and walked away.
The girls looked at each other and grinned.
'Our first holiday by ourselves!' said Amber, hugging the other two. 'No parents, no teachers...'
'Just us,' said Becky.
'Hey,' said Natalie, 'let's see if we can get a seat outside.' She led the way to the back of the ferry and they found three seats. 'We'll have the sun on our backs. Perfect.'
The boat began to move.
'Rottnest Island - here we come!' said Amber, and the girls grinned at each other again.
Soon the ferry was out into the deeper waters of the Indian Ocean.
Becky stood and went to look over the side of the boat. The wind whipped her long brown hair about her face. She pulled her hat down tight on her head. She looked at the sparkling water below her and the clear blue sky above and felt a wonderful sense of freedom. She had studied so hard during her final year of high school. But that was all over now. She was free. Well, until university started...
'Excuse me, dear.'
An elderly woman in a bright yellow shirt held an equally bright yellow pamphlet out towards her.
'I'm one of Rottnest's voluntary guides,' said the woman. 'We do tours on the island.' The boat rolled on the waves and she pushed the pamphlet at Becky. 'Here's some information and a list of tours if you're interested.'
'Oh, thanks.' Becky took the yellow paper and the woman moved away. Becky looked at the pamphlet.
Just 19 kilometres off the coast of Fremantle lies Rottnest Island, one of Western Australia's favourite holiday places. The Dutch explorer, Willem de Vlamingh, landed on the island in 1696. He thought the quokkas (small wallabies that live on the island) were rats. He named the island 'Rats Nest Island'; or in Dutch, 'Rottenest...'
Becky pushed the pamphlet into her pocket. It was just for tourists.
'What's that?' asked Natalie, coming to stand beside her.
'Oh, just some stuff about tours on the island.'
'I can't wait to get over there,' said Natalie. 'Two weeks lying on a beach. Heaven!'
Amber came to join them. She looked pale. 'How long until we get there?' she asked.
Becky glanced at her watch. 'Ten minutes.'
'I'm feeling a bit sick,' said Amber.
'Look at something that's not moving,' suggested Becky. 'You'll be okay.'
Amber didn't seem too sure.
'Hey, look!' said Natalie. 'There's the lighthouse near Pinky Beach!'
All three girls looked out beyond the front of the boat. They could see the lighthouse on the north end of the island.
'We're nearly there!'
And as they got closer and closer, the water beneath them became calm and light green and clear. And soon they could see the white, white sand on the beach and the little ochre-coloured cottages between the tea trees along the shore. Gradually everything became larger and larger until, finally, they were there.
The ferry came slowly up to the jetty at the main settlement, the small village on Thomson Bay. There were two other smaller settlements on the north side of the island - at Longreach Bay and Geordie Bay - but the girls were to stay at the main settlement. There they would be close to the General Store, the few tourist shops and - best of all - the famous bakery.
Standing among the crowd on the jetty, with her feet firmly on solid ground, Amber began to feel better. 'Shall we hire our bikes before we go to the cottage?' she asked the others. 'The luggage might not be delivered for ages.'
The girls had clearly marked their luggage and it would be delivered to their cottage - T179. They collected the cottage key from the Tourist Information building at the end of the jetty and walked into the settlement.
Apart from a few cars for the people who worked on the island and a bus service, no vehicles were allowed on Rottnest. Everyone used bicycles.
'This seat's uncomfortable,' said Becky, trying out a bike.
The Bike Hire building - like everything else in the settlement - was only a short walk from the jetty. There were rows and rows of bright blue bikes. People walked among them looking for something suitable.
'Mine's okay,' said Natalie. 'Try one of these over here.'
Soon all three girls had chosen a bike and paid for two weeks' hire. Minutes later, they were riding down a sandy road looking at the ochre cottages on either side of them.
The road ran parallel to the shore. The cottages to their right faced the road while those on their left faced the sea and had their backs to the road.
Becky suddenly pointed. 'Look, T179. There it is!'
'Oh, perfect!' said Natalie. 'It's on the sea side.'
There was a high wall at the back of the cottage. The girls jumped off their bikes, leaned them against the wall and opened the gate.
'The luggage is here!' said Natalie, going first into the little backyard. 'That was quick.' She turned to face the others. 'Who's got the key?'
Becky took the key out of her pocket and opened the back door.
'Well, here we are,' she said, as they all went in. 'Home, sweet home.'
The cottage had just three rooms - the kitchen in the centre, in which they were standing, and two bedrooms. Through the windows at the front, the girls could see the blue-green water of Thomson Bay. They hugged each other. Then Amber suddenly broke away and ran from one bedroom to the other, trying out the beds. Becky and Natalie joined the race.
'I'm having this bed,' called Amber.
'I'm having this one in here,' called Becky.
'Where am I going to sleep?' asked Natalie.
'You have that one.'
The girls laughed and unpacked their clothes and the sun sparkled on the waters of the bay.
The next morning Becky and Amber sat on the front verandah of the cottage eating breakfast. A low wall ran around the small front yard and beyond that was the beach. But the girls weren't looking at the water. The little wooden gate in the wall was open and two quokkas had wandered in.
'They're so sweet,' said Amber, kneeling down and holding out her hand. The smaller one put its nose to her fingers hoping for some food. 'Oh, look at his little face.'
Just then, Natalie came out onto the verandah and the quokkas jumped back towards the gate.
'So, what's the plan?' asked Natalie. She sat on the low wall that divided their cottage from the one next door.
'Well,' said Becky, 'we ride out past Geordie Bay to West End. Maybe we can have a swim at Parakeet Bay on the way. And then we come back on the road on the south side of the island.'
'We'll need supplies from the bakery,' said Natalie.
'Of course,' grinned Becky. 'If we leave soon, we should be back by about one o'clock.'
Suddenly a window in the cottage next door opened and Natalie turned to see the face of a young man with sandy-coloured hair. He smiled at her. She turned and stood and walked back to the other girls, her eyes wide.
'There's a really good-looking guy next door,' she whispered.
There was a solid wall at the end of the verandah, so Becky and Amber couldn't see into the cottage. But they heard the front door open.
Two young men came out into the yard - one with sandy hair and one with dark hair. They looked across at the girls. The dark-haired one spoke first.
'Hi. How are you going?'
'Hi,' said the girls.
'We've just arrived,' said the other boy. 'Have you been here long?'
'We arrived yesterday,' said Natalie.
'Yes, Sunday. Yesterday,' repeated Amber. 'We're here for two weeks.'
'Oh, good.' The dark-haired one smiled. 'My name's Dominic, by the way. And this is Richard.'
'Right. Well. We'd, um, better go and unpack. We'll probably see you around.' Dominic gave a quick wave and the two boys disappeared behind the verandah wall and into their cottage.
Amber signaled to Becky and Natalie and they all went inside too.
'They're both good-looking,' said Amber once the door was safely shut. 'This holiday just gets better and better.'
'I like the dark-haired one,' said Natalie. She turned to Becky. 'What about you?'
Becky paused and then said very calmly, 'You do realise, don't you, that were still in our pyjamas?'
Becky was the first to be dressed and ready for their ride around the island. She took her towel and a bag out to her bike. She wheeled the bicycle out of the back gate, leaned it against the wall and fastened her bag on the back of the bike. She folded her towel and put it on the seat. With more than two hours' riding ahead of her, she would need that for comfort.
She heard voices behind her and turned around. A group of older women were on the verandah of the cottage opposite.
'Hello,' she said.
'Hello, love,' replied one of the women, coming forward to hang a wet towel on the back of a chair. 'Going for a swim?'
'No, a long ride around the island.'
'All the way to West End?' Becky nodded.
The woman turned to her companions on the verandah.
'We haven't done that for a few years, have we, girls?'
Becky smiled. These 'girls' looked about fifty or sixty years old.
The women smiled at Becky.
'Do you come to Rottnest often?' she asked.
'We've been coming every year since 1991,' the woman with the towel answered. 'Well, apart from Ruth.' She pointed at a woman with very short grey hair. 'She's new. We've only known her for ten years.'
The women laughed.
'Of course, we all came here when we were children too. Oh, hello.'
Natalie and Amber were wheeling their bikes out onto the road. 'Hello,' they said.
'Ready?' asked Becky.
'Well, it was nice talking to you,' Becky said to the woman. 'Bye.'
The women on the verandah waved to the girls as they set off.
After a visit to the bakery for supplies, the girls rode to Parakeet Bay on the north side of the island. They stopped there for a swim in the calm, clear green water and then sat on the warm sand and ate the cream buns they had bought, before continuing on their journey.
The further they got from the settlement, the fewer people they saw. Riding down the road through Narrow Neck - the narrowest part of the island, where once the sea had flowed and formed two islands instead of one - they saw no one. The low tea trees were windswept and it was dry and hot. As Becky came down a hill, a black snake quickly crossed the road in front of her bike. She pointed and shouted back at the others, 'Snake!'
Amber gave a short scream and Becky and Natalie laughed.
Finally, they came to the end of the road at West End. They dropped their bikes on the ground and drank thirstily from their water bottles.
The road ended on high ground. There was no pretty bay or pure white sand here. Only steep, jagged rocks and the windswept sea below.
Suddenly the wind caught Amber's hat and it flew down onto the rocks.
'Oh, no. I love that hat,' she cried. I've got to get it back.'
'Don't be crazy. You can't climb down there. It's too dangerous,' said Natalie.
The girls went to the edge and looked at the rocks below.
Suddenly Amber gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.
'What is it?' said Natalie.
'Oh my God!' said Becky. She had seen it too.
To their right, down on a jagged shelf of rock, lay a man. There was blood on his face.
'Is he dead?' whispered Amber.
The body on the rocks
Becky called out but the man didn't move.
'I'm going down there,' she said.
'But it's too dangerous,' cried Natalie. 'You'll get swept off the rocks by a wave or something.'
'Well, we can't just leave him there, can we?' replied Becky, putting her water bottle in the long pocket of her shorts. 'Maybe he's still alive. Look, someone needs to ride back to the settlement and tell the police. I'll try to climb down to him that way.' She pointed to some rocks that led to the shelf below. 'I'll be careful.'
'Well, if you're going down there, I'm staying here too,' said Natalie. 'Amber can go back to get help.'
Amber looked at her, alarmed. 'I'm not riding back there alone,' she said. And I'm not staying here!'
Becky put her hand on Natalie's arm. 'I'll be fine,' she said. 'You go with Amber.'
'I knew we should have brought our mobiles,' said Amber as she and Natalie picked up their bikes.
'Are you sure about this?' Natalie said to Becky.
'Yes. Go!' she replied and she started to climb down the rocks.
'Be careful,' called Natalie. And seconds later, they were gone.
Becky looked for a way down to the rock shelf. She judged it to be no more than ten metres below her, but the rocks weren't made for climbing. They stuck out towards the sky with nasty sharp points. There were no flat places to put your feet. She didn't want to fall forward and meet the same fate as the man below. Slowly, slowly, she worked her way down to him.
Finally getting onto the jagged rock shelf, she could see immediately that he was dead. His eyes were open wide, staring at the sky. His skin was a strange purple colour.
She went closer.
The angle of one of his legs was all wrong. It looked broken. Flies moved around the cuts on his head and his mouth was open. There was a tattoo of a snake on his arm.
Becky turned away and looked at the rocks above. He must have fallen. Perhaps he was climbing and he fell.
She didn't know what to do. It didn't seem right to leave him alone. She moved a bit away from him, sat down and looked at her watch. It would probably be another three- quarters of an hour before the police arrived. Hugging her knees, she sat there watching the waves break on the rocks. Although the sun was shining fiercely, she was in the shadow of the rocks above her and she felt cold. She had never seen a dead body before.
She forced herself to look at the man again. And she noticed something else. Slowly she stood up and went over to him. She knelt beside him and looked at his neck. His skin was a strange colour, but there was something else. Definite marks on his neck. As if...
Becky stood up quickly.
Could this be murder?
She looked at the wild place around her and felt frightened. The police would be here soon. She didn't need to stay with the body. She began to climb back up the rocks.
It was easier going up than it had been going down and it wasn't long before she was at the top. She took a drink from her water bottle and put it back in her bag on her bike. She looked at the bike and then looked around her.
Where was the man's bike?
How did he get here? It was a long walk.
Did someone drive him? There were few cars on the island.
She searched in the bushes at the side of the road and soon found it - a bicycle from the island's Bike Hire, exactly the same as hers. She didn't touch it.
Coming back out onto the road, she heard a car. Seconds later, a police van appeared. It stopped and two officers got out.
'Hello,' said one. 'I'm Sergeant Tom Barker. Are you Becky?'
Becky nodded. 'You were quick,' she said.
'Your friends found someone with a mobile phone and called us from Geordie Bay. They asked me to tell you they've gone back to the cottage.'
'Oh,' said Becky. She pointed in the direction of the body. 'I've been down there.' She paused. 'He's dead.'
The officers glanced at one another.
'Are you okay?' asked the sergeant.
'Yeah. But there's something else.'
The officers waited.
'I think... Well, I think he may have been murdered.'
The officers stared at her.
'There's a bike in there.' Becky pointed into the bushes. 'It's probably his. I didn't touch it.'
What the officers said then to each other Becky didn't hear because, at that moment, a rescue helicopter flew over them and hung in the air above the rocks.
The men went back to the van and the sergeant shouted into the police radio.
Becky watched the helicopter.
Then the other officer came over to her.
'There's nothing more you can do here,' he said loudly. 'Are you all right to ride back to the settlement on your own?'
'Yes,' said Becky.
'We'll need to get a statement from you and your friends,' the officer continued. 'Can you come to the police station in the main settlement this afternoon?'
'Okay,' she said.
The officer smiled and went back to the van.
From the helicopter, a man on a rope was dropping slowly down onto the rocks below.
Becky picked up her bike and rode away.
Mid-afternoon, the girls walked to the police station. They gave their statements separately - Becky took longer than the others - and then went home.
They lay on the beach in front of their cottage in the late afternoon sun. Amber and Natalie wanted to keep on talking about the body on the rocks. But Becky just wanted to forget about it.
That night in bed, however, she couldn't escape.
It was grey. It was all grey. She sat on the rock shelf, grey water sweeping over her feet. The body floated in on the waves. It pushed up against her. She wanted to stand up but she couldn't move. The tattooed snake on the man's arm lifted its head and came towards her. She gasped. Now she was on her bike, riding fast. She looked behind her and gasped. The snake was following her. She couldn't get away. And then the man's face, covered in blood, came towards her. The staring eyes. The open mouth. And he smiled.
Becky woke in a cold sweat.
The boys next door
'They're out there. They're out there,' gasped Amber, running in through the front door of the cottage the next morning. 'Quick, give me the broom.'
Natalie reached out of the backdoor, got the broom and gave it to Amber. Then she joined Becky at the front window and they watched Amber go back outside; Amber moved slowly down the front yard towards the gate, sweeping the, sand off the path.
'Who cares about sand on their path at Rottnest?' said Becky. 'They'll think she's crazy.'
Amber looked up towards the cottage next door.
'Oh, hello,' she said. She leaned on the broom. 'I didn't see you there.'
Natalie rolled her eyes at Becky. They both laughed, then quickly hid behind the curtains as Richard and Dominic appeared.
'Listen,' said Dominic, 'we thought we might play tennis this afternoon. About one o'clock. Do you and your friends want to join us?'
Amber nodded. 'Okay.' She smiled at the boys. 'I mean, I'll have to ask the others, but they'll probably say yes. I mean, I'm sure they'll say yes. Yes. Great. What time?'
Natalie made a face at Becky then looked through the window again.
Richard smiled showing a row of perfect white teeth. 'One o'clock,' he said. 'At the tennis courts?'
'Okay,' said Amber. 'Great. See you there.'
The girls decided to spend the morning at The Basin, a swimming place in a small bay about half a kilometre from the settlement. It was called The Basin because it was a large round hole in a rock shelf that lay just below the surface of the water. The rock came all the way into the shore and you had to walk across it for a metre or two before you could step down into the basin of clear green water. All the beaches on Rottnest were beautiful, but this was the most inviting.
It seemed to Becky the perfect place to wash away the memory of yesterday.
She walked across the rock shelf to the deeper water of The Basin and dived in. There was nothing like the feeling of salt water on your skin and in your hair. It made you feel clean and new. Surrounded by the sparkling water she could let go of the uneasy feeling she'd had since her dream the night before.
The girls spent a few lazy hours at The Basin, talking and swimming and lying on the beach in the hot sun watching other people come and go. Then they slowly rode back to the cottage to have lunch and change for tennis.
At the tennis courts, Natalie and Amber couldn't wait to tell Dominic and Richard about their ride to West End.
'You'll never guess what happened to us yesterday,' started Amber.
The boys listened to the story, then Richard turned to Becky, who hadn't said much.
'And you stayed there the whole time with the body?' he asked.
'Yes,' said Becky. 'I mean, it wasn't long really.' She spoke lightly, but the uneasy feeling was rising inside her again.
Richard looked closely at her and smiled. He threw her a tennis ball.
'Come on, you can be my partner,' he said. 'Amber and Natalie can be partners. And Dom...' He turned to his friend. 'You can collect the balls.'
'Hey!' objected Dominic.
And as they played, there was more laughter. The boys were funny and confident. They ran around the court doing crazy things. Everyone changed partners several times until they all sat down, sweaty and tired, in the shade of a large fig tree at the side of the court. They all drank from their water bottles.
'Hey,' said Amber, turning to the boys. 'Why don't you guys come over to our cottage for dinner tonight? We'll cook.'
Becky and Natalie looked at each other in horror. What was she saying now? Was she really inviting Richard and Dominic to dinner? Was this the same girl who only last night had let the rice boil dry? What was she thinking? None of them could cook a proper meal. Not a proper meal. Not for guests.
Dominic looked at Richard who nodded his head.
'Yeah, we'll come,' he said. 'Thanks.'
Becky and Natalie smiled weakly at them.
'No, we can't roast anything,' said Becky to Natalie. 'It's too hot. The whole cottage would feel like an oven by the time the meal was ready.'
The two girls were sitting at their little kitchen table trying to think of ideas for dinner. Amber was still in the shower.
'Chicken and vegetables with rice?' asked Natalie.
Becky shook her head. 'It's a bit plain. We need something more exciting. Hey! What about that pasta thing your mum makes? That always looks good.'
'Yes,' said Natalie. 'Yes. That wouldn't be too difficult at all. Good idea.'
She went over to the cupboards under the sink and opened them.
'There's a big pot for the pasta. And we should be able to make the sauce in this.' She took out a large pan. 'Excellent!'
'Do you think you know how to make the sauce?' asked Becky.
'I think so. I've helped Mum make it a few times.'
'So,' Becky continued, 'we can have pasta and we can make a salad and we can get some nice bread from the bakery and a cake for afterwards, for dessert.'
'Excellent,' said Natalie again. 'Let's make a list.'
She found a piece of paper and a pen, sat down at the table again and tried to remember the ingredients for the pasta sauce. Finally, she thought that she had written them all down. Then, with Becky's help, she added the salad ingredients to the list. Then underneath that, she wrote PASTA and BREAD.
'Don't forget the cake for dessert,' reminded Becky.
'Ooh, yes,' said Natalie. And she wrote that down too.
Amber came in from the little bathroom off the back verandah. She looked at the ingredients on the list.
'See, I told you it would be easy,' she said.
'We haven't cooked it yet,' said Natalie.
The girls rode to the shops.
Amber went, into the bakery while the others went next door into the General Store. Natalie tore the list in two and gave one half to Becky.
'I'll get the sauce ingredients,' she said. 'You get the stuff for the salad.'
'Okay,' said Becky. She took a basket and went over to the fruit and vegetables. She began choosing things.
She had just picked up a tomato when suddenly she heard part of a conversation behind her.
'It's definitely murder,' said a woman's voice. 'I spoke to Tom a few hours ago.'
'What did he say?' said another woman.
'The man was strangled. He was probably dead before he hit the rocks...'
The women moved away.
Becky looked at the tomato in her hand. It was split on one side and pale red juice dripped down.
She was right. The man on the rocks had been strangled.
She put the tomato back. She had an uneasy, sick feeling in her stomach. She filled her basket and went to find Natalie.
With a lot of careful planning and laughter and remembering to keep Amber away from the stove, dinner with the boys went well. The girls had prepared the salad and the sauce earlier in the evening, so all they had to do when the boys arrived was cook the pasta. Some of it stuck together and was a bit hard but the girls hid those pieces on their own plates and gave the best to the boys. It was a great success.
Becky had told Amber and Natalie about what she had heard in the General Store and, when they first arrived, Amber told the boys. But after that nobody mentioned the body on the rocks and Becky was able to forget all about it.
But later that night, she again had a strange dream.
She was riding a bike along a sandy road. Heavy drops of rain began to fall. Drip, drop, drip. They hit her in the face and ran down her arms. She looked down. The rain was blood. Blood dripped down her arms and legs. She was covered in blood. She threw down her bike and was standing at the top of a cliff. Down below her was the sea and the dead man on the rocks. Then the distance between them closed and his body rushed up towards her. His strangled neck was broken. She looked at his face. It was Richard.
West End again
Becky woke the next morning feeling tired and haunted by her dreams. She lay in bed and looked out at the water of the bay. This was supposed to be a free and easy island holiday with her friends. But how could it be? With a horror film playing in her, head every night? She realized the only way to stop feeling haunted was to stop pretending that she hadn't come face-to-face with a dead man. She dressed quickly and crept out of the cottage.
By the time she got back Natalie and Amber were awake and having breakfast on the front verandah.
'Hello. Where have you been?' asked Amber.
'I just went to buy a newspaper,' said Becky.
'A newspaper?' repeated Natalie. 'What about our holiday rule? No television, no mobiles, no newspapers. Remember?'
'I remember,' said Becky. 'But when we made that rule I didn't know we were going to find a dead man.' She sat down and opened the newspaper. 'I just wondered if there was anything in the paper about it, that's all.'
'I'd rather forget about it,' said Amber.
'Here it is,' said Becky. 'On page three. "Murder on Rottnest".'
She read a few lines to herself and then began to read aloud.
'The dead man was John Tavis Radcliff (51) of Balcatta. He had recently been released from prison.'
Becky looked up at the other two, then continued.
'Police are investigating Radcliff's prison connections to try to find a motive for the killing. Radcliff was strangled at West End on Rottnest Island on Saturday night. His body was discovered by three teenage girls the following morning.'
'That's us!' said Amber.
Becky continued reading.
'At present the police can see no connection between Radcliff and Rottnest Island. It is believed the killer followed him there and that there is no threat to any other persons on the island.'
Becky stopped reading and closed the paper. 'John Radcliff,' she said.
'Recently released from prison,' said Natalie.
'Yeah, he was probably some criminal who got exactly what he deserved,' said Amber.
'Probably,' said Natalie.
Amber stood up. 'Yuck! I don't want to think about it. Come on, let's go swimming.'
'Let's go over to Salmon Bay,' said Natalie. 'There'll be no one there and we didn't get a chance to see it the other day.'
'Okay,' said Amber. 'Bec?'
Becky had opened the newspaper again and wasn't listening.
'Shall we go for a swim at Salmon Bay?'
Becky looked up. 'Oh, yes. Yes, okay. If you want.'
But by the time they got to Salmon Bay, Becky had decided to leave the others there and continue riding to West End.
'Why?' asked Natalie.
'I never want to go there again,' added Amber.
Becky told them about her dreams.
'I feel a bit haunted, by him. Maybe if I go to West End again and he's not there I can release him, let him go, or he can let me go or something...'
'Do you want us to come with you?' asked Natalie.
'But -' began Amber.
Becky interrupted, smiling. 'It's okay. You two stay here. I'll be all right. I'll see you in about an hour.'
Some other riders passed by and Becky set off confidently behind them.
However, the other riders soon turned off onto a smaller road leading to another beach and Becky was on her own. She started to feel a bit frightened. Then she got angry. She had never felt frightened on Rottnest before, ever. It was always a safe place to be. A safe place to ride your bike or go to the shops by yourself when you were little; a safe place to walk to the beach alone or with your friends when you were a bit older. It made you feel strong and independent, not weak and frightened. Becky didn't like it. She rode on, determined to face the rocks alone.
Then as she came over the last hill and saw the end of the road, she burst out laughing. A bus was parked and there were about twenty people wandering around looking at the view. She could see the bright yellow shirt of the voluntary guide. It must be a tour.
She rode down the hill and jumped off her bike. She went to the edge. She could only see part of the rock shelf. She couldn't see the place where the man had lain.
'Okay, everyone,' said a voice suddenly behind her. It was the guide. 'It's time to get back on the bus. Next stop - the lighthouse.'
Two minutes later Becky was alone again. She decided to go a little way down so that she could see the rock shelf better. She wanted to imagine the dead man lying there and then throw the picture in her mind into the sea to wash it away, to get rid of it. Carefully she climbed down. When she could see the rock shelf properly, she stopped and sat down. It wasn't comfortable but she wouldn't be there for long.
She looked down. It wasn't hard to imagine the dead man. The picture was still fresh in her brain. She kept it there for a moment and then said aloud, 'Mr Radcliff, I'm sorry about the way that you died, but I want you out of my dreams NOW,' and then she imagined throwing the picture into the sea below. In her mind, the water washed over it and it was gone. She stood up and turned to go.
She looked up. There was someone there. A man, she thought, in a red and white cap. She couldn't see his face properly - the sun was behind him. He seemed to be watching her. Becky tried to shake off the thought. Of course, he's watching me. He's wondering who the crazy person is down on the rocks and if I'm going to fall to my death. She looked up again. The man was very still. He watched her.
Becky began to feel really frightened. What could she do? She couldn't stay down on the rocks. She had to go back up to the top. Her mind worked fast as she began to climb. She looked for a path up the rocks that would take her away from the man. She glanced up. He was still there, watching. As soon as she reached the top, she would grab her bike and get away from there. Her heart beat fast in her chest. She was nearly there. She took two more steps on the rocks and then she was on the flat sandy ground at the top. She ran to her bike and grabbed it, then quickly looked behind her. Then she looked to the other side. She looked all around, her heart knocking in her chest. The man had gone.
Becky decided not to tell Natalie and Amber about the man in the cap. She didn't want to spoil their holiday and anyway, she told herself, she was probably just imagining things. The man was probably just an innocent visitor having a look at the view.
But when the girls were back at the settlement waiting in the line at the bakery to get some lunch, Becky looked out of the window and saw a bike leaning against a wall with a red and white cap hanging from it. Her heart beat fast again as she looked at the faces around her. There were about thirty people in the bakery and dozens more outside. The bike could belong to any one of them. She began to feel more haunted than ever.
'Hey, there are Richard and Dominic!' Amber called out suddenly.
The girls paid for their food.
'Come on!' Amber grabbed Natalie and Becky and dragged them out of the shop. 'Hurry up, or they'll be gone.'
And when Becky looked back, the bike with the red and white cap on it was no longer there.
The girls ate lunch with the boys at one of the wooden tables outside and then they all decided to ride over to The Basin for a swim.
'You're a bit quiet,' said Richard. He had followed Becky out of the water and sat down next to her on the sand. The others were still swimming.
'Oh, don't mind me,' said Becky. 'It's nothing.' She looked at him. 'It's just...'
'What?' asked Richard.
Becky looked down and laughed. 'No. You'll think I'm stupid.'
'No, I won't,' said Richard gently. 'What is it?'
And suddenly Becky found herself telling him all about her dreams and the man she thought had been watching her, at West End.
'I couldn't see his face. He had a cap on and the sun was behind him, but I'm sure he was watching me.' She looked at Richard. 'I told you it was crazy.'
He smiled at her. 'No, it's not.' He looked at the water. 'I've never seen a dead body.'
'No,' said Becky. 'I hadn't either until...'
'I think I'd dream about it too.' Richard paused. 'But try not to worry about the man you saw today. I think he was just a man, don't you? Nothing to do with it.' He looked at her. 'And if I'm in any more of your dreams, be sure to let me know.' Becky laughed.
And that night she slept as peacefully as a baby.
To the lighthouse
'Hey, Bec, have you still got that list of tours that the woman gave you on the ferry?' asked Natalie.
'I don't know,' answered Becky. 'It's probably still in the pocket of my skirt. Why do you want it?'
Natalie went inside to find Becky's skirt.
'Dominic said that you can go to the top of the lighthouse,' she called. 'I thought it might be fun.'
'The lighthouse near Pinky Beach?' asked Amber.
Natalie returned with the yellow pamphlet. 'No, the one in the middle of the island - on Wadjemup Hill.' She looked at the list. 'Yes, here it is,' she said, reading. 'It was opened for tours eighteen months ago - the first time in a hundred and nine years. They take you there on a bus. You can get tickets from the Tourist Information building.'
She looked at the others. They didn't look very excited,
'It would be a great view from the top,' she said. 'Come on.' Amber and Becky looked at each other.
'Okay,' they agreed.
It was a good view from the top of the lighthouse. You could see the whole island. And the tour turned out to be quite interesting.
The lighthouse they climbed was in fact a 'new' one, having been built in 1896. All that remained of the original one, built in 1849, was a small stone building next to the lighthouse. Inside this building there was information about the history of the lighthouse - the plans of the original tower, details about the height of the tower and the size and strength of the lamp and, over on one wall, photographs of some of the lighthouse keepers and underneath them a full list of all the lighthouse keepers, starting with the first in 1851 up until the last in 1990.
Becky glanced down the list. Suddenly one of the names jumped out at her - Leslie Tavis Newman. 'Tavis'. Wasn't that the middle name of the dead man? Becky tried to remember. Yes - John Tavis Radcliff. That was it!
Tavis. It was an unusual name. Most people's middle name was like their first - John, Peter, Andrew, Mary, Susan. Becky's own middle name was Jane. But Tavis was different. It sounded like a family name - a surname. Perhaps it was the surname of a woman who had married into the family and didn't want to lose her maiden name. Becky's aunt did that. When she married Becky's uncle, she took his surname, but when she had children, she gave them her maiden name as their middle name.
'Are you coming?' said the guide suddenly at her shoulder.
Becky jumped and turned. She hadn't realized the others had left the building. She turned back and pointed at the list on the wall.
'This lighthouse keeper, Leslie Tavis Newman. Do you know anything about him?'
The elderly guide looked surprised. 'Yes, I do,' he said. 'A bit of a sad story, that one.'
'Why?' asked Becky.
'Well...' The guide paused. 'He was the keeper here during the early 1960s. But a sixteen-year-old girl was killed on the island and Newman was accused of her murder. A nasty business. There was no solid proof and it never went to court, but it was an enormous scandal. It was in the newspapers for weeks. And in 1962 - whether because he was guilty or because of the scandal, we'll never know - Newman committed suicide.'
'What? Here at the lighthouse?' said Becky.
'No,' said the guide, leading the way out of the building, 'not here.' Then he added, raising his voice so the others waiting outside could hear, 'Although there have been several deaths at the lighthouse.' He turned to speak to everyone. 'As some of you may know, from 1838 to 1931 Rottnest Island was used as an aboriginal prison. Aboriginal people who had committed crimes were sent here to be "civilized". In fact, the white settlers wanted to get them out of the way. It was hard to escape from an island. It is believed that during these years about three thousand seven hundred men and boys were kept here. The oldest buildings on the island, including the lighthouse, were built by aboriginal prisoners. Unfortunately, during the building of the lighthouse three prisoners died. Two fell from the tower itself and a third man was beaten to death by the white prison guards.'
Becky looked up at the beautiful white stone tower, its outline sharp against the bright blue of the sky.
'The word Wadjemup,' continued the guide, 'is the local aboriginal word for Rottnest. It simply means, "place across the water".'
Going back to the settlement in the bus, Becky looked out of the window. She had always thought of Rottnest as a sunny, happy place. She'd thought it had always been a holiday island. She'd never heard about its history before. This lovely, sunny holiday place had a dark past.
And that dark past reached forward to 1962 - to a dead girl and the lighthouse keeper's suicide. And suddenly the question became clear - the question that had been forming in her mind since the moment she saw the name Tavis on that list. Could the body on the rocks be connected to something that happened in 1962?
But surely, it was just a coincidence that both men had the same middle name. Perhaps, if she questioned people, she'd find dozens with the middle name Tavis. Yes, it must be a coincidence. And, anyway, even if the two men were from the same family or something, it didn't mean that Radcliff's death was connected to Newman's suicide.
But by the time, the bus arrived back at the settlement Becky knew that she had to find out more about Leslie Tavis Newman. But how?
She got out of the bus and stood with Natalie and Amber in the shade of a big fig tree.
'I told you it would be a good tour,' said Natalie.
'It was all right,' said Amber. 'It was good exercise walking up all those steps.'
'It was excellent!' said Becky, suddenly full of energy.
'It wasn't that good,' said Amber.
But Becky just smiled. She had suddenly remembered who might be able to tell her more about 1962.
Becky opened the back gate of the cottage and looked out.
'Finally, they're home,' she said to herself.
She left the gate open and walked across the road. Three of the women from the cottage opposite sat on their verandah playing some kind of board game. As Becky got closer, she could see that it was Scrabble. 'Hello,' she called.
The women waved. 'Are you any good at Scrabble?' said one of them. 'I'm losing here.'
Becky laughed. 'Actually, do you mind if I come in? I wanted to ask you something.'
'Of course not, love,' replied the woman. 'Come in, come in. Grab a chair.'
Becky got a chair and brought it to the table.
'I'm Shirl,' said the woman, 'and this is Ruth, and Sally.'
The other women smiled at Becky. She sat down.
'I'm Becky,' she said. 'I'm sorry to interrupt your game but I wanted to know something and I thought you might be able to help.'
The women all looked at her and waited.
'Um...' Suddenly she didn't know where to start. 'Um... I went on a tour of Wadjemup lighthouse today and the guide told me a story about one of the lighthouse keepers, Leslie Newman. He was accused of killing a girl about forty-five years ago.' She turned to Shirl. 'And I remember you said the other day that you all used to come here when you were children. And I wondered, well, if you remember anything about it.'
Shirl sat back in her seat. 'Leslie Newman,' she breathed. 'It's a long time since I've heard that name.'
'So you do remember?' asked Becky.
'Oh, yes,' replied Shirl. 'You couldn't forget. It was in all the newspapers. Quite a scandal. I must have been about fourteen years old.'
'Yes, I was about ten, I think,' added Sally.
'I was seven,' said Ruth.
'My mother wouldn't let me go anywhere alone for weeks after that girl was killed,' said Shirl.
'What happened?' asked Becky.
'Oh, well, who knows?' said Shirl. 'The girl - ooh, what was her name? Bessie? Libby?'
'Lizzie,' said Sally.
'Lizzie Keegan,' added Ruth.
'Lizzie Keegan, that was it,' said Shirl. 'She was only sixteen. She was found strangled out at West End.'
'West End?' repeated Becky.
'Ooh, like that man the other day,' said Sally. 'Did you hear about that?'
'But Lizzie Keegan wasn't a criminal,' said Shirl.
'No,' said Ruth.
'Anyway,' continued Shirl, 'it was a big shock for everyone. Rottnest seems quiet and peaceful these days, so imagine what it was like in I960.'
'1961,' said Ruth.
'Yes,' said Shirl. 'There were no settlements at Geordie and Longreach - no coffee shops, no regular bus service around the island. The bakery was just a small place - six people inside and it was full.'
'Only the original cottages built in the 1920s and 30s were here,' said Sally. 'And it wasn't difficult to rent a cottage any time you wanted to. The same families met on the island year after year for their holidays.'
'And some of the best families too,' added Shirl. 'The Parkers, the Scanlons, the Angwins, the Timperleys - remember?' she said to Ruth and Sally.
Then she said to Becky, 'Of course, they stayed on their boats.'
The name Timperley was familiar to Becky. There was a Timperley Park near her old school. And she thought the Timperleys owned a newspaper. But she hadn't heard of the other families.
'So, it was a big shock?' said Becky, trying to get the women back on the subject of Lizzie Keegan.
'Oh, yes,' said Shirl.
'And do you remember why Leslie Newman was suspected?'
'Oh, he was seen with the girl just before she died,' answered Sally.
'Where?' asked Becky.
'Oh, I can't remember, love.'
'I mean, did lots of people see him or -'
'One of the Scanlon boys, I think,' said Ruth slowly. 'Yes, one of the Scanlon boys said they saw Newman with Lizzie.'
'Of course, he said over and over again that he didn't do it,' said Shirl.
'Do you think he did?' asked Becky.
'I think he did,' said Ruth.
'I certainly thought so then,' said Shirl 'But then I was young. We all were. The papers certainly made him look guilty. Perhaps he was. Perhaps he wasn't.'
'I suppose a man living alone in a lighthouse is an obvious suspect,' said Becky.
Shirl looked down at the table. 'Oh, he wasn't alone, love. He had a wife and a young son. Heavens! What am I supposed to do with these?' She showed Becky her Scrabble letters. 'How can I make a word out of that?'
Becky read the letters - N, N, P, Y, X, J, H - and laughed. 'I don't think I can help you.' She pushed her chair back and stood up. 'Well, I'd better let you get back to your game. Thanks for talking to me.'
'Any time, love,' said Shirl 'Any time. We love a chat.'
That evening Dominic and Richard invited the girls to dinner.
'But we're not cooking,' said Dominic over the wall between their two cottages. 'We'll take you for a pizza.'
There was a pizza restaurant in the old hotel at the end of their row of cottages. It was bright and noisy and the pizza was good. They all ate too much.
'Oh, my stomach,' said Dominic, as they left the restaurant. 'I'm going to explode.'
'Not near me you're not,' said Amber, running ahead and laughing.
'Hey, let's go for a walk along the jetty,' said Natalie.
'Okay,' said Dominic and he and Natalie ran to catch up with Amber.
Richard and Becky walked slowly behind.
It was a still night. The moon shone on the dark water.
'Did you have any bad dreams last night?' asked Richard.
Becky shook her head and smiled. 'No.'
'But I did find out something strange today,' she added. 'We went for a tour of the lighthouse and on the wall was a list of names of the lighthouse keepers. And there was one from 1960 to 1962 called Leslie Tavis Newman.'
'1960?' said Richard. 'Did they still have lighthouse keepers then? Wasn't it run by a machine or something?'
'No,' said Becky. 'I read that there was a keeper there until 1990.'
'Anyway, that's not the point,' continued Becky. 'The point is that Leslie Tavis Newman had the same middle name as the dead man we found, John Tavis Radcliff. Have you ever heard that name before - Tavis?'
'No,' said Richard. 'It's certainly unusual, but Becky interrupted. 'So I thought I'd find out more about him - Leslie Newman, I mean. And guess what?'
'What, Miss Detective?' asked Richard, smiling.
Becky told him all about Lizzie Keegan and Newman's suicide and the other things that the women had told her.
'I mean,' she finished, 'don't you think it's a strange coincidence that these men have the same middle name and that Radcliff was killed in the same place as the girl?'
'Well... maybe,' said Richard, 'but -'
Again, Becky cut him off. 'Look, suppose John Tavis Radcliff was the son of Leslie Tavis Newman. The women said Newman had a young son. The newspaper said Radcliff was fifty-one. That would make him quite young in 1962.'
'Yes,' said Richard. 'But they don't have the same surname.'
'I know, but perhaps Radcliff changed his surname.'
'I don't know. But suppose the lighthouse keeper, Newman, didn't kill the girl? And suppose that, somehow, Radcliff knew who did? The real killer could still be alive. He would be old now but...'
Richard stopped walking. 'So, you think the real killer followed Radcliff and killed him too?'
Becky turned and walked the few steps back to Richard. 'Or he got someone to do it for him.'
Richard laughed. 'That's a lot of supposing, Becky.'
'I know. But here's more. Suppose the killer is still on the island? Suppose it's the man with the cap, I saw at West End? And suppose he followed me there?'
'Becky! Richard!' called Natalie softly through the dark. 'Come quick!'
Dominic, Natalie and Amber were at the end of the jetty. Becky and Richard ran to join them.
'We think we saw a dugong or something,' said Amber.
'A dugong?' Becky looked over the edge into the water. 'Where?'
'Let's just wait and watch,' said Dominic.
They all stood there in the quiet night, watching the dark water. The sky was full of stars. The air was warm. The water moved in gentle waves around them.
'There!' said Richard softly. He moved close to Becky and pointed.
Something moved just below the surface of the water. Something big and dark. They only saw it for a moment but it looked ancient - like a creature from long ago. It was just a shape, a shadow, and then it was gone.
- THE END -