‘Put it up.’
‘It’s too low.’
‘But that’s the school record. Nobody’s got within a foot of it in five years!’
‘As much as I’d like to stand around here arguing with you, pal, I’ve got better things to do. I just want to get it over with.’
‘But it’s your first jump. Wouldn’t you rather shoot for something lower, just to be sure you get a result on the board?’
‘Nah mate. No need for that.’
‘Ok Rex. You’re the boss.’
The facilitators raised the bar on the High Jump to ten centimetres above the school record and Rex Cassidy moved over to the starting line. He paused to look over to the stands where nearly the entire population of Te Arawa College sat, watching the events. There was a one-kilometre run, taking place on the track, but nobody was interested in that. Students were competing at the Long Jump and at the Discus, but nobody was interested in them either.
All eyes were on him.
Rex liked it that way. He was no egomaniac, but he liked to put on a show and he was doing that right now by raising the bar at a seemingly ridiculously high level. The looks on many of the students and teachers was one of disbelief. Nevertheless, Rex enjoyed a challenge and he enjoyed going beyond the limits others foolishly placed on him.
His group of close friends sat together at the back of one of the stands. Some of them waved enthusiastically as him and he waved back. The face he was looking for in particular was the face of Vanessa Danté.
There she was, her dark flowing hair billowing gently in the wind. Her sparkling, sapphire blue eyes gazing across the stands towards him. Her heart shaped full lips, her flawless skin and dazzling smile added to the perfection of the adorable 17-year old beauty. Many called her a goddess and Rex went along with that completely.
She threw him a kiss and he threw one back.
He turned toward the High Jump, ran forward and leapt high into the air. It was a textbook Frosby Flop… one that wowed the spectators. He easily cleared the bar with nearly a foot to spare, landed down on the mattress, and rolled of – all in one fluid motion.
The crowds went wild, cheering and clapping for him as he stepped away from the mattress.
One of the facilitators who had adjusted the bar shook his head in amazement. ‘That was incredible! You cleared it by miles.’
Rex just wanted to get back to his friends now, especially Vanessa. He didn’t have to, because she ran from the stands and leapt into his arms, kissing him wildly on the lips. There were whistles and hoots from the students in the stands as Rex held her for a few seconds. She was tall and voluptuous, but Rex was close to six feet in height so lowered her back to the ground, but not after first kissing the diamond nose stud on the left side of her nose. Drokk, it was so sexy. Then again, everything about Vanessa was sexy, even the drab school uniform, which she would have been wearing if it wasn’t for the fact they were all in their PE gear. Today everyone got to enjoy seeing her in shorts and a firm fitting coloured top, which really brought out her fine curves, including her wonderfully shaped derriere.
He was about to move off with her to return to the stands, when the facilitator called out to him. ‘Hey Rex, dude, you know you can go for another jump. Break your new record you just set.’
Rex took one glance back at him and delivered a quick grin. ‘Next year.’
He and Vanessa headed back to the stands.
‘You never cease to amaze me, Rexy,’ Vanessa said, in her smooth sensual voice. ‘You already slashed school records for the 100 Metre Dash and the Long Jump. Everyone thought the High Jump would be one of your weaker events, but you proved them wrong.’
‘The 5000 metres will be the big test.’
‘You’ll do great. You’re a cinch to take out the senior boys Heptathlon.’
Vanessa was new to Te Arawa College. She had only been there just over two weeks now, however, she and Rex went back further to his old home town of Taukauri. Vanessa had already made a niche for herself amongst his circle of friends. She had turned many heads and had many a teenaged boy fall in love with her, but Rex was the one she loved. He was why she had come to Te Arawa in the first place.
‘Way to go Rex!’ Rog Shepherd greeted him as she sat back down, Vanessa moving in close beside Rex.
‘Whoa Rex,’ Will Ullman, patted him on the back a few times. ‘You’re the man!’
Jacqui Donaldson moved in close to him as well, so he had very little room to move with girls on either side. He didn’t mind. The more pretty girls he had around him, the happier he was.
Rex noticed the cold look Jacqui had on her face as she peered across him at Vanessa. When she noticed him looking at her, she quickly changed her manner and smiled sweetly. ‘Is there any record in this school you can’t break?’
‘Well, the Javelin’s not one of my strong points. Last time I threw a javelin it nearly impaled Mr Reaper.’
‘That’s because you were aiming at him,’ Will said.
‘Yeah, but I missed, didn’t I?’ Rex smiled.
Mr Reaper – or the Reaper as they called him behind his back, was in charge of discipline at the school. He was one tough nut, who Rex had had many a run in with. He wasn’t all-bad though and Rex secretly respected the guy, but he loved to rile him up. Throwing a javelin, with the intent to give him a bit of a scare, was the worst thing Rex would do.
‘Rex Cassidy and Vanessa Danté, I’d like to speak to you down here now!’ An elderly teacher by the name of Ms Cann called up at them from the front of the stand.
‘Oh no, what does Ms Cantankerous want now?’ Vanessa grumbled.
‘Come on down now!’
The two made their way back down to the bottom of the stand, where Ms Cann’s wrinkled old face glared at them. ‘It’s not on!’
Rex knew what she was talking about, but liked to play naïve with her. ‘Well actually Ms C, it was. I did actually clear that bar with a foot to spare.’
‘What are you talking about? Oh! I’m not talking about the high jump, I’m talking about what happened after that!’
‘Let’s see… oh yeah, I came back here and sat down.’
‘I’m talking about before that!’
‘Ummmm ok, after I did the jump and before I came over here… ah… I think you’re gonna have to jog my memory, Ms C.’
‘I think I know,’ Vanessa spoke up. ‘You walked across the grass there for a bit. And then you had to…’
‘You both know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about all that hugging and kissing business. It’s not on!’
‘Oh, but you’re getting business mixed up with pleasure Ms Cann,’ Vanessa said cheerfully and pleasantly. ‘Although I guess at your age, it’s more sort of like horror. Well it would be for the guy you were kissing anyway.’
That was one of the many things Rex loved about Vanessa. She had the guts to take on the teachers, just like him and she always did it in such a pleasant, delightful way. She had mastered the art of the insult, without actually making you think you were being put down.
Rex spoke up, ‘Tell me Ms C, what offends you so much about it anyway? You were young once, weren’t you?’
‘Na uh, she skipped out the teenaged years.’ Vanessa smiled. ‘She found them too offensive.’
‘That is not appropriate behaviour for a high school student,’ Ms Cantankerous scolded them. ‘And I have seen far too much of that coming from you, young man.’ She pointed at Rex.
Vanessa continued to speak in her amicable manner. ‘Ms Cann, I think you may have gotten your dates mixed up here. Queen Victoria is no longer on the throne, in case you didn’t realise.’
‘What in heavens name are you talking about? What has Queen Victoria to do with anything?’
‘She means things have changed since you were at school,’ Rex said.
‘Are you suggesting I was at school when Victoria was Queen?’
‘No, I believe she came later.’
‘Really! The audacity! I’m not prepared to put up with that type of disrespect!’
‘Then what type of disrespect would you prefer?’
‘You two have no consideration for any of the school rules. There are ways you are expected to behave here.’
Vanessa feigned despair. ‘Oh my, Ms Cann, I am so sorry! I had no idea. I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse and all, but honestly, I just didn’t realise that it was wrong to hug and kiss someone when they achieved something remarkable. I will never, ever do it again for as long as I live.’
‘Well, there’s no need to go that far.’ Ms Cann’s expression softened. ‘And what about you, young man? I hope you have realised the errors of your ways.’
‘Oh, of course. Kissing and hugging a girl is a terrible, evil and sinful thing to do. From now on, I resolve to live a life of celibacy and will be sure to stay away from the temptations and immoral pleasures that the female of the species can bring. Thank you so much for making me see the errors of my way, Ms C.’
‘Well then…’ Ms Cann seemed to be satisfied with his response. ‘We’ll say no more about it. But I will be watching you two. If it happens again, there will be trouble.’ She shuffled away.
As soon as she was out of hearing distance, Rex and Vanessa burst into laughter. Vanessa grabbed him and planted a big long kiss on his lips, one that Ms Cann did not see as she walked in the opposite direction. ‘You should beware of girls like me Dollbaby.’ She giggled deliciously. ‘I’m just going to drag you down into the pits of hell.’
‘Well as long as you’re with me, Nessie, that’s fine… oh, but wait. Ms Cann will be down there too, so maybe we’d better start behaving ourselves.’
The two continued to laugh as they made their way back up to their seats.
The time soon came for Rex’s next event the Javelin. As he lined up for his throw, he found Ben Tamati standing be hind him.
‘You’re going down on this event, Cassidy.’ The short, but solid Maori teen scowled at him, a dark shade around his left eye from a recent altercation.
Rex had no time for niceties with this boy. The guy was a nasty piece of work, someone Rex couldn’t stand. They’d had many a run in and every time Ben had come off worse, but it didn’t stop him from trying repeatedly.
‘I have the strongest throwing arm in the school,’ Ben insisted. ‘Not only that, but I have the technique and the speed behind my run up.’
For a guy who was so short Rex thought he sure had a big mouth, but Ben was the type of guy who could normally back up his words. ‘You talk too much, Tamati. Talk’s cheap.’
‘Yeah, well just you wait and see. I’m gonna put you to shame.’
‘What, like all the times I’ve put you to shame in the past?’ Rex couldn’t resist it. He loved to rile up Ben – he was such an easy target.
Ben’s face darkened, but he said no more. Rex turned and paid him no further attention. He wasn’t worth it, but even so, he could feel Ben’s eyes drilling hatefully into his back.
Rex’s time came to throw and he picked up a javelin, but came to a halt near the line. He called to one of the marshals. ‘Hey can, you get them to move over there?’
Way across the other end of the field, some students, loitered.
‘They’re ok,’ called back the marshal. ‘They’re way out of bounds.’
‘Get them to move! Unless you want one of them impaled.’
The marshal was about to argue some more, but seeing the serious look on Rex’s face, he started to jog across the field toward the group.
‘Get real, Cassidy,’ Ben sniggered from the front of the queue. ‘You’re dreaming if you think you’ll get anywhere near the far boundary.’
Rex turned his eyes back to Ben with contempt. He felt like making a sarcastic comment, perhaps making mention of the fact Ben hadn’t achieved any of his units the previous year. That was a real sore point for Ben, but Rex wasn’t that petty. He turned and waited as the marshal cleared away the few students standing down the end of the field.
Rex wondered why Ben bothered coming to school. He wasn’t interested in learning or getting school qualifications. The best Rex could figure was his parents made him come, although he found it hard to believe they cared, letting him run wild the way they did. He was known to have gang connections and took drugs. He represented everything Rex despised.
Finally, the field was clear. He heard Ben snicker and was determined to wipe the smug smile, he no doubt had, off his face. Readying his javelin, he ran forward and using all his force, hurled the javelin high into the air.
There were gasps as it rose higher and higher, sailing across the field. It was an incredible throw, even better than Rex had hoped and it landed exactly in the spot where the students had been standing earlier.
There was stunned silence for a few seconds then an uproar from the crowds. The marshal stood there and his jaw hung open.
‘No way!’ Ben gasped with a look of horror on his face. ‘How the hell did you do that?’
Rex smirked and headed back for the stands, satisfied with his record throw. He didn’t need to try to better that. Ben would get nowhere near it. Nobody would.
Ben Tamati stood there, his blood boiling, furious that once again Rex Cassidy had gotten the better of him. This was my event and he just walks up there and breaks the freaking school record?
Ben clutched is javelin and watched as Rex continued towards the stands. Oh how he wished he could throw his javelin at him and impale him through the back. He itched to, but he wasn’t stupid enough to try.
Ben tried to push his fury aside as he stepped up for his throw. He was so pissed that his first throw was so bad, it sailed off to the left and went over the boundary.
He cursed aloud, getting a dirty look from one of the teachers on duty. Ben wanted to scream a lot worse obscenities, but didn’t want to be told to hit the showers. Rex may have assured himself first place in the senior boy’s heptathlon, but there was still second place to shoot for – although Ben couldn’t help but feel that second place was just first in a long line of losers.
It didn’t matter. He wouldn’t be a loser for much longer, oh no. It was time to do something about Rex Cassidy once and for all and this term he was going to do it. Rex Cassidy was going down big time.
‘She is such a darling,’ Tucker Pyles muttered as he gazed longingly at Vanessa Danté as she sat in the stands only a few metres from where he and his two best friends were perched. ‘An absolute goddess.’
‘Tucker, will you get over her?’ Colin Hewes groaned. ‘You know she can’t stand you.’
‘Just like every other girl in Te Arawa College.’ Joseph Ashley smirked.
‘In the entire world,’ Colin added.
‘I can’t. She’s just too perfect.’ He moved his massive frame to get a better view of her. All the added fat should have made sitting on the wooden stands more comfortable, but it didn’t. His back ached and his chubby legs were getting pins and needles. The sun beating down on him didn’t help make him any more comfortable either.
‘Yeah, we know how perfect she is,’ Hew said. ‘We can see that for ourselves, but even we’re realistic enough to know she’s out of our league. So if she’s out of our league, then she’s out of your planet.’
‘Exactly.’ Tucker sighed and slapped a sand fly that had landed on his flabby arm. ‘That’s why she’s a goddess.’
Both Hew and Ash gazed over at her now.
‘Still…’ Hew stroked his rugged jaw. ‘Imagine being seen out on a date with her, huh?’
‘I reckon.’ Ash nodded.
‘I’ve heard she’s a lesbo,’ Hew said.
‘Then why is she always all over Cassidy?’ Ash snorted.
‘They reckon she prefers girls to guys.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Well, apparently she admits it. That’s what I’ve heard anyway.’
Tucker thought back to one of the first times he’d ever spoken to Vanessa. She’d told him she was gay then too, but he hadn’t really taken it seriously, thinking she was just playing hard to get. Perhaps she hadn’t been pulling his leg after all?
‘She might just be saying that, bro.’ Ash rubbed his muscular brown legs, trying to get circulation flowing. ‘Just to deter guys from chasing her all the time. She probably figures if they think that, they’ll back off.’
‘Nah.’ Hew rubbed sweat from his brow into his scruffy brown hair. ‘Some of the girls have said stuff. Apparently she tried to get it on with Randy Mandy.’
Both Tucker and Ash stared at the burly Hew.
‘Are you for real?’ Ash gasped.
‘No joke. Mandy said that herself and apparently Vanessa’s not denying it.’
‘What does Rex think about that?’
‘He doesn’t seem to care. From what I’ve heard, he seemed to think it was funny.’
Tucker’s eyes widened. ‘So does that mean Rex doesn’t mind if she sees other people?’ This was starting to sound good to Tucker. Maybe there was a definite chance there for him.
‘Ah…’ Hew seemed uncertain. ‘I guess not. After all, she doesn’t mind him hanging out with the other girls.’
‘Ah, but other boys may be a different story, bro’ Ash said.
‘That’s what I’m thinking.’ Hew smiled wryly.
‘What? Rex is gay too?’ Tucker stared at them blankly. He couldn’t understand how that could be so. Rex was a typical Kiwi bloke.
‘No, Tucker, you egg.’ Ash rolled his eyes. ‘I’m just saying that if Vanessa was messing with other guys, he might not be very happy.’
‘Well then that’s double standards.’
‘Forget about it, Tucker!’ Hew sighed deeply. ‘There’s no way you’re ever gonna get her into the sack. Like I’ve said to you before, if you’re gonna be unrealistic, be realistically unrealistic. Go for someone like…’
‘Myrtle the Turtle!’ Ash interrupted.
‘Urrrrrrbbarrrrrrrr!’ Tucker growled. ‘You know she’s not my type. I can’t stand Myrtle the Turtle.’ Myrtle had had a crush on him since last year. She was a skinny, scrawny looking thing who Tucker tried to avoid at all costs.
‘She’s your destiny, Tucks.’ Hew grinned.
‘Ubb off!’ Tucker felt like throwing up. There was no way in a million years, he’d be caught dead with a girl like her.
‘Ah, look, they’re getting ready for the Heptathlon 5000 metres.’ Ash pointed to the track.
‘Why didn’t you enter the Heptathlon, Ash? You’re an all-rounder.’
‘I suck at middle distant running,’ the sinewy Maori admitted. ‘And I never could get the hang of the Frosby Flop on the high jump.’
The gun cracked and the Heptathletes started to run. One athlete shot out to an early lead, running as if it was a 400-metre dash.
‘Look at Cassidy go.’ Ash grinned.
‘Now that’s just stupid,’ Hew snorted. ‘He’s gonna wear himself out before he gets 1K into it.’
‘He does alright in the cross country,’ Tucker said, thinking back to the previous year, when Rex broke the school record and went on to win the Regional Championships.
‘Yeah, but taking off that fast? Look he’s almost around the track already.’
‘He’ll win,’ Tucker said confidently, knowing that he always did in the past, so it seemed no different this time.
Hew peered at him with a weird look on his face. ‘Since when did you support Cassidy?’
‘What’s wrong with Rex?’
Both Ash and Hew spun their heads to stare at him. It seemed surreal to Tucker, even saying the words himself.
‘You what?’ Ash gaped.
‘What’s wrong with Rex? He’s a good guy.’ Did he say that? Yes he did. Those were the words coming from his own mouth and he truly believed them at that moment.
‘Now that’s a turn around.’ Ash scoffed. ‘You hate Cassidy’s guts.’
‘He’s not such a bad guy. In fact, he’s been ok to me lately.’ That was true. Rex had been unusually kind to him, ever since late last year. ‘And he helped me get that job at the gym.’
‘Yeah, which you were fired from.’ Hew shook his head. ‘And now you’re trying to hide that fact from your mother.’
‘Yeah, well, I have some severance pay left. As long as I’ve got money in that bank I can keep my mother fooled.’ He certainly hoped so anyway. If his mother found out the truth, he’d be the deadest meat anyone could have the misfortune to find on their plate.
‘Yeah, but you must be almost out.’
‘I can go for another couple of weeks. I’ll have a new job by then.’
‘That’s what you said last week, Bro,’ Ash reminded him.
‘I’ll get one. I’ve just gotta get looking.’
‘What, you haven’t started looking yet?’
‘I’ll get one!’ He crossed his fingers. He was secretly starting to worry. He was also getting fed up with walking around town every night looking for something to do to fill in time before returning home.
Rex was lapping the field now and charged on as if he was on the home straight.
‘Yep, old Rex is a good guy,’ Tucker continued, trying to convince himself as well as his friends. ‘We didn’t see eye to eye in the past but I think we have an understanding now.’
‘I think Tucker’s sick,’ Ash said to Hew. ‘Either that or he’s been taken over by an alien or something. There’s no way the real Tucker would say anything nice about Rex.’
‘Hey, he’s invited me to his birthday party hasn’t he?’
‘He’s invited us all. Year 11 and above.’
‘I’m a changed man, come on guys.’
‘Since now. I’ve decided, guys, that I’m gonna win the heart of the Goddess, Vanessa Danté.’
There were snickers from both of his friends.
‘Give it a rest, Tucker!’ Hew snarled.
‘I’m serious! Think about it guys. Who is it that the Goddess is completely devoted to? Who’s the only non-female she desires? It’s Rex. All I have to do is be more like him, then I have it made.’ It sounded good on paper; he just had to pull it off now.
‘Tucker, you’re forgetting something,’ Ash said. ‘Rex is tall, bulging with muscle and is drop-dead good looking. And you, you’re a fat ugly slob!’
‘Urrrrrrbbarrrrrr!’ Insulted by his friend’s taunts, Tucker slapped his flabby arms. ‘This is all solid muscle!’
‘And you’re about as charming as a gorilla,’ Hew added. ‘You have the sex appeal of an orang-utan.’
‘And an IQ in negative figures,’ Ash added.
‘Urrrrbbarrrrrr!’ Tucker expected accolades for his ingenious plan. ‘I oughta open up a can of ass gas on ya. I’ll show you guys. You’ll be laughing at the other sides of your butt, when I succeed in winning the heart of the goddess.’
The two chuckled hysterically. Tucker wanted to reach out and slap them both silly, but didn’t dare. He was one formidable individual, with his weight behind him, but he didn’t dare try to take on any of his two pals. The only one who could handle them was Rex, but Tucker didn’t consider him friend enough yet, to expect protection from them. He tried to brush off his companions’ comments.
Ash peered at the track and his prominent lips curled into a sneer. ‘What the hell’s Cassidy doing? He’s slowing down.’
‘I knew it,’ Hew said. ‘He’s run out of gas.’
‘He’s stopping to talk to Randy Mandy on the side of the track.’
‘He’s chatting with her about something. Looks like he’s pulled out of the race.’
‘Typical Cassidy,’ Hew sniggered, ‘sees a babe and has to stop to chat her up. That’s gonna cost him.’
‘But he’s already secured first place in the Heptathlon. Even if he loses this event, he’s still so far ahead on points, nobody can beat him.’
‘Randy Mandy’s going around with the head boy at the moment, isn’t she?’ Hew asked. ‘Dale Casterton.’
‘He’s a lucky guy getting a babe like Randy Mandy.’ Ash nodded.
‘Will you guys stop calling her that?’ Tucker glared at them. If he was going to start being like Rex, it was time to start acting like him. Sticking up for the girls was something Rex always did. ‘Her names Mandy! I expect you to treat her with the respect she deserves.’
Ash and Hew stared at Tucker in disbelief for a few seconds and then burst out laughing.
‘You call her that all the time!’ Hew snorted.
‘Not anymore! She’s one of my friends and I’m not gonna have you guys dis her.’
Hew tried his best to stop laughing. ‘Since when was she your friend?’
‘Since they invited me to the beach party a couple of weeks ago.’
‘You didn’t get invited! You gate crashed!’
Minor details, thought Tucker. ‘Yeah, but they invited me to hang around later. I had a great feed, complements of them.’
‘No redundancy pay for you, my man.’ Hew shook his head in despair.
They remained quiet for a few minutes as the race continued. Rex still stood on the sideline with Mandy and seemed completely unconcerned with the fact the other athletes had over taken him and were now several laps ahead of him.
‘Tucker, I think you better think twice about going after Vanessa,’ Hew warned him. ‘Some guys are even too afraid to look at her for long in case Rex goes nuts.’
‘He won’t go nuts,’ Tucker snorted, certain that if they were buddies he’d be allowed to take certain liberties.
‘Tucker, you egg, you have a short memory,’ Ash scolded him. ‘You saw what he did to Luke Shirley. Rex busted that guys face up so bad, he had to leave Te Arawa College for fear of being labelled a freak!’
That wasn’t entirely true, although as Ash claimed, Rex had beaten him to a bloody pulp, Luke had dropped out of school because of the sheer humiliation of what he had done and the trouble with the police after it. ‘He held a knife to her!’
‘Maybe so, but you just have to lay one finger on that girl and Rex goes psycho. He is way overprotective of her. That’s why I steer well clear of her. I don’t want to take any chances.’
‘Ash is right.’ Hew nodded. ‘I heard he knocked Ben Tamati from here to next week, just because he tried to trip her up. And he nearly punched Frank Dawson out for making fun of her. You’re walking a fine line Tucker. If you do even the slightest thing to upset the Goddess…’
‘Oh ye of little faith…’
‘We have no reason to have faith in you, Tucker,’ Ash said. ‘In fact I’m more likely to have faith in an invisible being that nobody can prove exists than you!’
‘I’m not going to upset her.’ Tucker ignored Ash’s blasphemy towards him. ‘I haven’t yet and I won’t.’
Hew extended his palm out. ‘Well let’s just step into the realms of fantasy here. Let’s say for a minute that you do manage to charm Vanessa…’
‘Yeah riiiight.’ Ash tried to hold back a laugh.
‘We’re talking crazy fantasy here… Way-out, too-good-to-be-true fantasy. The type that’s even too absurd for kids’ TV. If we’re looking at it that way… and Tucker you did manage to charm the Goddess… how do you think Rex is gonna react when you steal his girl?’
There was silence as both Ash and Hew smirked at him, waiting for his reply.
‘He’ll be fine with it! He’s big enough to know when he’s been beat by the better man. You ubbheads are unbelievable. You’re a bunch of Doubting Thomases!’
‘Yes, but let’s not forget, you’re not Jesus. You can’t walk on water and you can’t perform miracles, which is what you desperately need to pull this off… speaking of miracles, it’s gonna take one now for Rex to win this race. Look, he’s back on the track.’
Sure enough, Rex was back in the race, picking up the pace again, but the leading pack was already five minutes ahead of him. Even Tucker doubted he could catch them now.
They watched in silence as the race progressed. Rex still ran at a furious pace and Tucker’s pals still insisted he’d run out of gas.
Tucker gazed across at the Goddess who seemed completely calm and watched Rex like a hawk. Of course she was calm. She was a goddess and had complete faith in her mortal man. Now if only Tucker could get her to transfer some of that confidence to him he might be in with a chance to pull off his scheme.
The crowds began to stir as Rex whizzed around the track. Five minutes later, he came in on the back runner, but then once again, he pulled off the track and came to a halt.
‘What this time?’ Tucker heard someone ask.
‘He’s watching the Senior Girl’s High Jump,’ said someone else.
‘Is he nuts?’
‘Nah, he’s just enjoying watching.’
For close to two minutes, Rex continued to watch, then once again re-entered the race. In no time, he again caught up with the back runner. However there were only a few laps to go and even at that pace, it seemed he wouldn’t catch the front pack.
‘Tamati’s way out in front,’ Ash said. ‘It would suck if he won.’
‘He’s an ubbhead.’ Tucker hated Ben as much as anyone did.
‘If you’re gonna start acting like Rex, you can’t go around calling people ubbheads,’ warned Ash.
‘He’s an eejit!’ Tucker growled.
They watched amazed as Rex picked off one runner after the next. He showed no signs of slowing and looked quite comfortable. Runners ahead glanced back and seeing him tried to quicken their pace. Nevertheless, Rex cruised past them effortlessly.
‘He’s up with the leading pack now.’ Hew stared. ‘Un-bloody-believable!’
The front pack started to panic. They had no hope of catching Tamati, but seeing the second place in danger of slipping from their grips, the few at the front tried to increase their speed.
One by one, Rex slipped past them. Two tried to pull out ahead, but Rex flew past both. The only runner to pass now was Ben Tamati, but he was close to 300 metres ahead and was coming round for the final lap.
‘No way,’ Hew said. ‘Tamati’s won this.’
Then the inconceivable occurred. Rex increased his pace.
‘He’s starting the final dash.’
‘But he’s not on the home straight.’ Ash’s eyes widened.
The crowds in the stands were starting to get noisier now. Ben was coming to the final 200 metres and when he glanced back, he had a look of terror on his face. Rex was only 100 metres behind.
Ben desperately increased his speed and he charged down the final home straight, gasping for breath. The crowds were on their feet now, cheering Rex on. Ben glanced back again and Rex was only ten metres behind him now. The crowds were going wild. Tucker’s eardrums were almost bursting from the screaming around him.
Ben scrambled towards the finish line, but at the last moment, Rex rocketed past him and finished the race in first place.
‘Wow.’ Ash stared. ‘How the heck did he do that?’
Hew chuckled. ‘I don’t know. But look at the expression on Tamati’s face. He’s livid.’
Ben collapsed to the ground.
Rex remained on his feet, basking in the adulation of the crowds. He didn’t seem that tired and had plenty of energy to grab the Goddess and swing her around when she came running out to him.
Tucker imagined it was himself down there, winning the race and having the gorgeous babe jump on top of him. Yes, it would be him there soon. Maybe not winning a 5000-metre running race, but definitely feeling the magnificent body of Vanessa Danté pressed up against him.
‘Blast that Vanessa Danté!’ grumbled Jacqui Donaldson as she dressed back into her school uniform later that afternoon. ‘Monopolising all Rex’s time.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Mandy asked from beside her. ‘You were right there with him through most of the event. Between the two of you, McDreamy could hardly breathe.’
Jacqui peered at her friend with a scowl. ‘He hardly took any notice of me at all. He was too busy talking to her! And it made me sick the way she kept running down there and jumping on him and slobbering all over him.’
‘You make her sound like a dog.’ Mandy giggled. ‘She’s definitely not that.’
Jacqui buttoned up her shirt, angry thoughts buzzing through her mind. ‘Who does she think she is, anyway? She thinks she can just go running around doing whatever she likes. No respect for the rules.’
‘You’re a fine one to talk about respect for the rules.’ Mandy’s big wholesome brown eyes narrowed.
‘At least I don’t go acting like a floozy, running down there like some groupie and throwing myself at him.’
‘It wasn’t like that at all. You’re just pissed because she has the guts to push the boundaries. Face it Jacqs, your idea of rebellion has become a little tame over the last year.’
‘It has not!’ Her blood boiled to think that one of her best friends could think that of her. She moved over to a mirror and straightened her long flowing brown hair.
‘You could go running down there too and hug and kiss him if you had the courage.’ Mandy joined her at the mirror and brushed her long dark hair out of her eyes
‘Give me a break, I do have some dignity.’
‘Then why are you making such a big deal about it? If you ask me, Rex seems to love her brazenness.’
‘The way she just doesn’t care what people think. Maybe you should take a page out of her book, Jacqs. You’re getting too uptight.’
‘I am not getting uptight!’ She gritted her pearly whites.
‘Why are you sticking up for her for?’
‘I’m not sticking up for her. I just don’t see what your problem is. She’s quite happy to let you guys flirt with Rex all you like. It’s not like she’s trying to keep him to herself.’
‘She’s working on it.’
‘I don’t think she is. She’s just being herself. That’s Vanessa Danté. She loves to fool around, likes to buck the system and doesn’t give a shit what anybody thinks about her.’
Jacqui refused to acknowledge Mandy’s observations. As far as she was concerned, Vanessa was bad news. She was the worst thing to happen to Te Arawa College and she was going to make all their lives a misery. ‘What’s with that stupid little nose stud anyway? What’s that supposed to be, a sign of rebellion? I don’t go around piercing body parts just to get attention.’
‘Oh, it’s not like that at all. It’s just a nose stud, it’s sexy.’
‘Oh my gosh, don’t tell me she’s got to you now?’
‘She’s turned you into a lesbo too!’
‘I‘m not a lesbo!’
‘You said she was sexy!’
‘Geeze Jacqui, lighten up, what’s gotten into you?’ Mandy rolled her eyes. ‘You are really threatened by her, aren’t you?’
Jacqui snorted. ‘As if!’ She returned to her gear.
‘You think she’s becoming more popular than you?’ Mandy followed her over.
‘No! That would never happen.’ Even thought Jacqui denied the charges, she knew she was guilty. Vanessa had become hugely popular and even Jacqui’s friends seem to adore her.
They put the finishing touches on their clothing and prepared to leave the changing sheds. Jacqui screwed up her face as she thought of something else. ‘You should see her in dance classes. She thinks she’s so wonderful… so professional. She seems to know just about everything before the teacher even teaches us and anything she doesn’t know, she picks up in minutes.’
‘Oh God, come on Jacqui, get over her. She was in Rex’s life long before you came along, so you can’t be jealous of her… oh wait, I know what this is about, it’s the upcoming Cultural Dance Competitions. You’re afraid she’s gonna get picked ahead of you.’
Mandy had really struck a sore nerve there. Jacqui really did want to get picked to represent the school at the competitions. Each school could send one representative for each age bracket and she and Vanessa were the two top dancers for the 15-18 year old age group. Jacqui was used to winning and used to getting what she wanted and she really wanted this. There was no way she was going to play second fiddle to a girl like Vanessa and she was prepared to go to any lengths to beat her. ‘I’m not even worried about that. With Vanessa’s attitude, she doesn’t stand a chance.’
‘They’re gonna choose someone who they can trust to represent the school. Someone like me. Vanessa will just make an embarrassment of Te Arawa College if she’s picked. Besides, she has to turn up for the auditions in a week from now, otherwise she’s not eligible.’
‘Why wouldn’t she turn up?’
Jacqui paused, her mind ticking over at all kinds of possible reasons why Vanessa might not attend and how she herself might be able to influence them. ‘Who knows? She’s unpredictable, she’s likely to go wacko and be locked up in a psych ward or something.’
‘You’re sounding really jealous,’ Mandy said as they headed for the exit.
‘I’m not jealous, it’s just irritating. She thinks she knows it all. Don’t you just hate people like that?’
Mandy paused for a second, before replying. ‘I don’t hate you, Jacqui.’
Jacqui stopped in her tracks and she spun around to face her friend. ‘What the hell are you saying? Are you saying I think I know it all?’
‘Let’s not go there, Jacqui.’
‘I can’t believe that! You’re supposed to be my friend! You’re supposed to be on my side! You’re not supposed to put me down.’
‘Oh, you’d know all about that sort of thing, wouldn’t you?’
‘What are you insinuating?’
‘You take it any way you like, I don’t give a shit. Anyway, I don’t know why you’re complaining about Vanessa in dance classes for. You didn’t even sign up originally. You only signed up later when you found out she was doing it.’
‘Rubbish!’ snapped Jacqui, doing her best to withhold her rage. ‘Why would I want to sign up just because she’s doing dance classes?’
‘Because Rex loved the fact she was doing it. Because Rex couldn’t wait to see some of her new dance moves. Jacqui, I’m pleased that you’re doing those classes. You were a great dancer when you did ballet and tap all those years ago. I say good on you for getting back into it. Just try not to be so competitive because it’s really tearing you up. I don’t like seeing you like this. It was bad enough when you were getting jealous over Chelsea.’
‘I was not getting jealous over Chelsea!’
‘Let’s just get going.’ Mandy walked out of the changing sheds.
For a few seconds Jacqui stood there, stewing. She couldn’t understand why one of her best friends thought those things about her. They were turning against her, but why? She had always treated them so well.
She hurried after her. ‘Mandy, what the hell are you talking about?’ Chelsea Brown had always been the bane of her existence before Vanessa came along. The Plain Jane, she had helped turn into one of the school’s top beauties, had been her greatest creation, but much like Dr Frankenstein’s monster she had become too powerful. In this case, her popularity had gone through the roof. ‘Talk to me!’
‘Forget about it!’
‘Mandy! Don’t just try to fob me off!’
‘I said, forget about it!’
‘Do the others think the same way? Did Laura and Holly think I was jealous of Chelsea?’
Mandy kept on walking.
‘Well I can tell you now, I’m not jealous of Vanessa. She’s messed up in the head, you can’t argue with that…’
‘No, Mandy, you can’t…’ a female voice inserted into the argument and much to Jacqui’s shock a smiley-faced Vanessa joined them. ‘That Vanessa Danté, she is so screwed up, she’s dangerous to be around. She might flip her lid at anytime and garrotte you when you’re not looking…’
Vanessa always spoke so cheerfully, which was something else that annoyed Jacqui. It would have been nice if for once Vanessa resorted to the same sort of cattiness, other girls did. At least then, it wouldn’t look like she was being so good-natured about being bad-mouthed. ‘Oh, sorry Jacqui, I hope you didn’t mind me adding in my opinion, I just love juicy gossip.’
Jacqui felt embarrassed, but only briefly. Her bitterness towards this girl had grown to breaking point and she just had to speak her mind. ‘Quit the crap, Vanessa, I know you don’t like me and I don’t like you.’
‘On the contrary.’ Vanessa smiled. ‘I think you’re adorable.’ She winked at her suggestively, which made Jacqui very uncomfortable indeed. ‘But the hostility I see in you does you no justice at all.’
Jacqui came to a halt and looked her square in the eye. ‘Let me get one thing straight with you, Vanessa. I’m straight, ok? I don’t go in for that kinky stuff, so don’t even try it with me!’
‘Jacqui!’ Mandy thumped her on the shoulder. ‘Why can’t you just try to be nice for once? Can’t you see she’s trying to be your friend?’
‘Do I care? No!’
‘Stop being such a…’
‘It’s ok.’ Vanessa held her hand up. ‘I knew when I came here, not everyone was going to welcome me and I can understand that. I don’t hate you Jacqui and I hope that somewhere down the line you’ll realise I’m not the threat you think I am.’
‘I’ve never seen you as a threat!’ Jacqui did her best to withhold her anger. How Vanessa could stay so calm and refrain from retaliating in a negative manner was a mystery to her.
‘Good.’ Vanessa smiled. ‘Then we’re getting somewhere then.’
Jacqui delivered her an evil look, but zipped her lip. She was about to resume walking again, when Tucker Pyles stepped up to them.
‘Ladies!’ He beamed, his double chin sagging low. ‘How are the three most delectable women in the school this afternoon?’
Jackie was in no mood to deal with the likes of Tucker. ‘Sod off, Pyles!’
Vanessa’s reply was a lot more amicable. ‘Tucker, I think there’s something you need to know and that’s that cannibalism is illegal in this country. So I’d rather you didn’t describe us as something you’d like served up on a plate.’
Mandy giggled, but Jacqui continued to glare at Tucker, determined not to find anything Vanessa said amusing.
‘Come now ladies, you make it sound like I’m obsessed with eating.’
‘Aren’t you?’ Mandy asked.
‘No, you’re looking at the new Tucker Pyles now.’
‘Vanessa lifted her eyebrow. ‘Which disturbingly looks a lot like the old Tucker Pyles.’
Jacqui nearly let a laugh escape that time.
‘Yep, I’m a new man.’ Tucker beamed. ‘From now on my obsession is living a healthy lifestyle. You’ll be seeing me in the gym a lot more than what you used to. I’ve gotta make this awesome body of mine even better.’
Jacqui snorted. ‘Well that’s gonna be difficult considering you were fired from your job at the gym.’
‘When I started working there I got a year’s free membership. That hasn’t expired.’
‘And you really expect us to believe you’ll be there working out? You must really think we’re gullible.’
‘I’m gonna be there every night. Just you wait and see.’
‘So you’re making threats now?’ Vanessa asked in a humorous tone.
Tucker’s face paled, which Jacqui could only assume was fear of what Rex might do to him if Vanessa passed her concerns on to him. ‘No!’ He held his hands up. ‘I was just saying, that’s all. It wasn’t meant as a…’
‘You know, I really did take that as a threat, Tucker.’ Vanessa’s smile vanished. ‘I don’t think you realise just how objectionable it is to me to see guys with huge guts on treadmills…’
‘I’ll stay off the treadmills, I promise!’
‘And sweating away like hippos on heat.’
‘I’ll… I’ll make sure I don’t sweat!’
‘I think I would be traumatised completely if I saw you in shorts and T-shirt every time I visit the gym.’
‘I’ll wear a tracksuit!’
‘In fact, you know I’m thinking I might just have to mention this to Rex.’
‘Yeah huh. He won’t take kindly to me being threatened. In fact I think he said next time it happened he’d disembowel whoever it was. But I’m thinking that might not be a very good idea, because with you, he’d be there all day.’
‘I’m sorry!’ Tucker gaped. ‘I didn’t mean it. I wasn’t trying to threaten you honest.’
‘Of course, I do suffer from short-term memory loss, so I suppose if you went away, I’d forget about it pretty quickly.’
‘You would? Great! I’ll be off then. You ladies have a good afternoon.’
Tucker hurried away as fast as his fat legs could carry him.
Vanessa and Mandy both burst out laughing. Even Jacqui couldn’t hold back her amusement and smiled.
‘Now that got rid of the fat moron.’ Mandy giggled hysterically. ‘Nessa, you’re a genius. Anyone who can get rid of Tucker Pyles that quickly is ok in my books.’
In Mandy’s maybe, but as for Jacqui, she wasn’t convinced. It would be a long time before she came to accept Vanessa, if she ever did at all.
Mandy Evans thought it was great the way Vanessa had handled the whole situation with Jacqui and even she herself had had about enough of Jacqui’s attitude for one day. It was a good thing the day had ended. She had to admit, Vanessa was really something and Mandy couldn’t help but admire her. Not only was she intelligent and quick-witted, she was so much fun to hang out with.
Jacqui had to catch the bus home, so she and Vanessa left the school grounds on their own. It was unusual Rex wasn’t with them as he and Vanessa seemed to want to spend all their time together.
‘How are things going with Dale?’ Vanessa asked her as they walked along the road.
‘Wonderful,’ Mandy replied. ‘We’ve been seeing each other after school almost everyday.’
‘Do the teachers know?’
‘Nope, we’ve been very careful.’
‘That is just so wrong that Mr Luxton has teachers keeping their eye on you. Do they really think you’re such a bad influence? I mean, I can understand his parents and the school not wanting him to get distracted from his schoolwork, especially if he has a high chance of being awarded Dux at the end of the year. I can understand he has to be a role model for the other students and has to have a squeaky-clean image, but surely they don’t think you’re gonna corrupt him, do they? Or are you that type of girl? I don’t think so.’
‘No, I’m not! I know I can be difficult to handle and like to bend the school rules, but it’s not as if I’m some kind of devil woman who’s going to drag him down into the gutters, am I?’
‘Of course not! You’re a total sweetie and I certainly don’t see you trying to lure men into some kind of decadent lifestyle.’
‘No! And I’ve only ever been with one guy and that was…’ She suddenly realised the admission she was about to make and froze in mid-sentence. She feared what Vanessa’s reaction might be if she admitted that, the one boy she’d ever slept with was McDreamy; her darling Rex.
Vanessa smiled. ‘You can say it. McDreamy, right?’ She giggled. ‘Relax, Rex has told me all about that stuff. I know he’s been with you and some of our other friends too. It’s no big deal.’
Mandy stared at her. ‘Really? He told you?’
‘Yeah huh. He always tells me stuff like that. That’s one of the great things about our relationship… always has been. It’s just so open and we share everything.’
‘You don’t mind that we…?’
‘Of course not! I mean I wasn’t around anyway and even if I were, it wouldn’t bother me. And it wouldn’t bother me now either if you wanted to be with him…’
‘But I wouldn’t… I mean I’m with Dale now… although we haven’t… you know… yet.’
Vanessa smiled once more. ‘Really. Well ok, but remember, I told you girls, I’m not here to steal Rex from you. I just wanted him back in my life and I’m so happy now that he is and it’s like the way it always was.’
There was another thing that Mandy found fascinating about Vanessa. She was such a challenge to fathom. She went to so much trouble to be with Rex, but didn’t seem to mind sharing him. She openly admitted she was gay, but seemed dedicated to one guy. What went on in her head? Was she schizophrenic or did she just have a very liberal view on life? ‘It’s cool, Nessa, but I’m not the type who has more than one thing going at a time. I’m not in and out of bed with every hot boy I meet…’
‘I’m not randy. My God, I don’t smoke… I don’t take drugs… I live a healthy lifestyle, so I don’t know what everybody’s problem is. I don’t even care that I haven’t slept with Dale yet. It’s fine because I’m happy to take things slowly.’ She breathed heavily as the frustration welled up inside her, but calmed when Vanessa’s soothing hand rubbed her shoulder.
‘Relax, hon. Don’t worry about it. Just keep your nose clean and things will calm down and soon the teachers won’t care. They won’t be keeping an eye on you forever. They’ve got better things to do and bigger deals to worry about.’
Mandy sighed. ‘I guess.’
‘Are your parents still giving you hassles?’
‘Well they’ve pretty much left me alone lately, touch wood, but I get dirty looks from Mom every time I come in late.’
‘Do they know you’re still seeing Dale?’
‘I think so.’
‘Aren’t they the ones who complained to Mr Luxton about it?’
‘Yeah, they didn’t like it because he had some beer at a party he had, but we didn’t have much. They think I’m drinking and having sex all the time, but I’m not and that’s what really pisses me off.
They turned off down a side street.
‘So, Mandy, what are you gonna do if your parents keep hassling you about seeing Dale? Or even Rex, if you happen to hang out with him socially… you know, just as a friend.’
‘They can’t stop me from seeing who I like. The only thing that will stop me is if we move away from Te Arawa, but that’s never going to happen, not with my Dad’s job.’
‘Do you think they’ll let you go to Rex’s 16th birthday party?’
‘No way, but there’s no way I’m gonna miss it. At the moment they know nothing about it, so hopefully it stays that way.’
‘Good on you. You let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I know all about doing everything you can to be with the guy you love.’
‘You sure do. Anyone who can manipulate her mother to move to a town where her old boyfriend lives sure has guts.’
‘No, please, Mandy, don’t mention the word guts, not after we’ve just escaped Chunder City back there with Tucker Pyles.’
They both burst out laughing.
Mandy arrived home ten minutes later. She felt strange arriving home so early, but she wasn’t meeting up with Dale that evening. She quickly regretted that fact, when her mother called her into the lounge. ‘Amanda, we have something serious we need to talk to you about.’
Her first instinct was to insist she couldn’t hang around and that she had to go somewhere, but knew it would only be delaying the inevitable. Reluctantly she went to the lounge to face the music, whatever tune it might be. Once seated in front of her parents, she could see it was going to be a rock concert, well, more likely an opera, with a lot of screaming and not much else worth listening to.
Her father’s face looked grim. ‘We’ve been putting off this little talk for a few days now, but we can’t keep doing that. It’s obvious to us that warnings we have made in the past have fallen on deaf ears and you have continued to flaunt the rules we’ve set…’
‘Don’t roll your eyes at us, Amanda!’ her mother interjected. ‘We are sick and tired of your attitude…’
‘We told you about seeing Dale Casterton, but you continue to see him,’ her father continued. ‘We know it’s him you see after school.’
‘He’s a nice guy. There’s nothing wrong with Dale.’
‘Amanda,’ her mother said, in a firm tone. ‘That boy gave you alcohol and…’
‘It was only the once and I already told you about that.’
‘Let me finish! And we know you have been sexually active…’
‘Not with Dale!’
‘What so there are other boys too?’ Her father scowled.
‘Rex being one of them, I’ll bet.’ Her mother glared.
‘No!’ she stared at them incredulously. ‘Why are you so keen to think the worst of me?’
‘Your recent behaviour over the last few weeks has given us little reason to trust you.’
Her heart raced a mile a minute and her entire body was tense. ‘I’ve done nothing wrong! I just want to be left alone, I’m sick of you guys always hassling me all the time. I can see who I like, whenever I like and you can’t stop me!’
‘Now just calm down,’ her father ordered. ‘We need to keep calm here and discuss this rationally.’
‘You are both being so unfair! You won’t even listen to me.’
‘And you won’t listen to us. The rules we put in place for you are for your own good.’
‘Yeah, yeah, what a load of crap.’
Her father stared at her, his eyes burning with anger, but he did his best to remain calm. ‘It is not crap!’
‘Amanda, you have to believe us, we are just trying to look out for you,’ her mother said. ‘Dale is a lot older than you, he’s…’
‘He’s only a year older than me!’
‘But at this age it’s a big difference. If he is drinking beer, then there’s no knowing what else he’s capable of. I’m sure he even has friends who no longer go to school. We think you should be hanging out with kids your own age who still go to school.’
‘Like Rex?’ Mandy thrust his name forward, knowing full well they didn’t approve of him either.
‘Yes like… no not like Rex! He’s not like your other friends. He’s into a lot more mature things…’
‘So shouldn’t that make him good to be with?’
‘You know what I mean!’ her mother snapped. ‘Stop trying to twist what I say.’
‘This is so wrong, you telling me to change my friends. You don’t like me seeing Dale, but then you don’t like me seeing Rex either. You can’t have it all your way, you know? You don’t get to choose my friends for me, that’s my job!’ She felt like she was about to burst into tears, but she remained strong and defiant, not wanting them to sense weakness. ‘Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do, Mum and Dad. Nobody manipulates me. Rex and Dale are both wonderful guys who are caring and would never force me into anything I don’t want to do and I totally object to you trying to insinuate stuff about them when you don’t even know them!’ She felt like storming out right there and then, but remained seated, determined to see this through to the end. It was time they realised she wasn’t going to back down.
Her father sighed deeply. ‘I can see this is getting us nowhere. You just refuse to see things from our point of view.’
‘I refuse to see things from your point of view? How about trying to see things from my point of view? I’m sixteen years old now and there are going to be boys in my life from now on and you’re gonna have to get used to it. Some of them you may like, some of them you may not like, but that’s just tough!’
Her mother spoke next, ‘Amanda, as long as you’re in our house, you’ll respect our decisions. Whether you like it or not, you are still too young and naïve to be involved in the relationships you’re involved in…’
‘So we have an ultimatum,’ her father continued.
‘An ultimatum? What sort of ultimatum?’ Mandy didn’t like where this was going.
‘Either you stop seeing both Dale and Rex… or we’re sending you to New Plymouth Girl’s High…’
Mandy sat with Rex and Vanessa, the following morning, in a private spot behind one of the blocks – an area where not many people bothered to go. ‘I don’t know what to do.’ She did her best to hold back her tears. Rex seemed like the obvious person to talk to as he always seemed to know what to do about any situation, but on this occasion, she wasn’t even sure Rex could fix this. ‘If I keep seeing Dale, my parents are going to send me to that boarding school. I’ll hate it there. I just know I will and I’ll only get to see you guys and Dale on weekends and holidays. I know it means I’ll still see everyone regularly, but I love it here. I love hanging out with you guys at lunchtime and sitting with you in class…’
Vanessa rested her hand on her arm. ‘We’ll figure out something, Mandy.’
‘Sure we will.’ Rex gave the sort of reassuring smile he always gave. ‘Remember it’s not over yet.’
‘But my parents are expecting me home straight after school every night and will be making sure they know where I am on weekends. They’re like a couple of Nazis. If I don’t do what they say, I’m gone. I’ll never be able to see Dale at all and I won’t be able to go on any of our trips we sometimes go on at weekends.’ She’d hate to miss those – all her friends getting together and heading off somewhere. They’d done so much together, like going into the city for the day and weekend long trips up into the mountains. She still remembered the rafting trip Rex had organised with fondness, even though there had been some unpleasant drama. ‘Worst of all, I’ll miss your 16th birthday. Wow, there’s no way I’m gonna miss that!’
‘Let me have a think about it,’ Rex said. ‘One thing I’ve learnt is that there’s always ways around things, even if we have to resort to underhanded tactics.’
Mandy gazed at him hopefully. He could be a great con artist when he wanted to be, but would he be able to sort out her parents?
‘Rexy, have Mandy’s parents ever met you?’ Vanessa asked.
‘Only in passing once or twice.’
‘So why don’t you go to her place to meet them?’
Rex jerked back suddenly. ‘You mean like for dinner or something like that?’
‘Yeah huh. You’ve done that before, right? You know how to create an impression.’
‘Yeah, maybe, but Dale’s Mandy’s boyfriend. He should be the one.’
Vanessa turned to Mandy. ‘Do you think he’d create an impression?’
‘I don’t know. I guess he could.’ Mandy wasn’t too sure. Dale was very intelligent, but he didn’t have the charm and quick wit of Rex.
‘Ok, we’ll go with that then,’ Rex suggested. ‘Meanwhile Vanessa and I will put our heads together and see if we can’t come up with another scheme just in case that one doesn’t work. But Dale’s a decent guy. I’m sure your parents will see that.’
It seemed like a good plan. She hadn’t even introduced him to her parents yet. All they had done so far was jump to conclusions about him. Nevertheless, would they agree to have him over for dinner especially seeing as they didn’t want him around her?
‘Ok.’ She did her best to sound enthusiastic. ‘I’ll ask them.’
The three rose to their feet. Mandy felt so much better now she had Rex and Vanessa to confide in. At least now, she had a plan to put into action, even if it was a weak one.
The three headed back around to the main part of the school, where it was abuzz with activity.
‘Hey, Rex, Mandy!’ Pete Cook, the class clown ran up to them, an alarmed look on his face. On reaching them, he stopped and panted, trying to catch his breath. ‘Trouble guys.’ He pulled out a sheet of folded up paper from his pocket. He paused to scan the area and then handed it to Rex. ‘You’re not gonna like this, dude. Someone’s been putting up these around the notice boards in the locker blocks.
Rex opened up the sheet and frowned at the contents. Mandy stepped around beside him to look. She froze and stared in horror at what she saw. It was a photograph, printed from a black and white laser printer showing a couple; a topless girl lying face down on top of a boy amongst some trees and long grass. The faces were obvious. It was Mandy and Rex
Rex couldn’t believe what he was seeing on the sheet of paper. It wasn’t so much that it was him bare-chested with a topless Mandy lying on top of him, it was the fact that the photograph could have been taken in the first place. He was always alert, very careful to make sure he chose spots to make out that were private. He felt bad for Mandy. Although the photograph was taken from the side and you couldn’t see anything too revealing, he knew she must be feeling humiliated.
‘Oh my God,’ Mandy shuddered. ‘How could someone have taken that without us noticing? Oh my God!’
‘Ooh la la,’ Vanessa said.
‘Damn,’ Rex finally spoke.
There were words printed underneath the photo just in case anyone didn’t recognise the models.
Mandy gets Randy with Rexy.
‘Why would someone do this?’ Mandy, still horrified, couldn’t pull her eyes away from the picture.
‘Rex, do you think someone might be trying to humiliate you?’ Pete asked. ‘Like some bully trying to get back at you for beating them up? Tucker Pyles maybe?’
‘Tucker? No way. He would have been like an elephant moving through the bush. We would have heard him coming from a mile off.’
‘Could be one of his friends. Then there’s always guys like Ben Tamati who hate your guts.’
‘Well if they’re trying to humiliate me, they’ve failed miserably. Why would I be humiliated over being photographed with one of the hottest girls in school?’ He glanced at Mandy whose eyes appeared troubled. ‘I’m more worried about how you’re taking this, Mand.’
Her eyes flicked open wide. ‘You’re right! I mean, I should hang this up on my wall, right? It’s Rexy and me!’
Vanessa laughed. ‘Yeah huh.’
‘I mean it’s not too revealing. This is like a badge of honour, right?’
‘They’ve been posted all around the school,’ Pete said.
Mandy stood upright. ‘I don’t care. Let them post them. It’s not gonna worry me.’
Nevertheless, Rex could still see a troubled look in her eye. Not all was well, despite her carefree tone of voice. Then again, it wasn’t surprising, considering the issues she was having with her parents and the school. This was probably just something else to add to the stress, especially if the teachers found out about it. He resolved to make sure none remained hanging around the school.
About to screw the picture up, he noticed something else that bothered him. There was a date branded on the photograph at the bottom left. ‘This date… That’s last weekend.’
‘What?’ Mandy gaped at him. ‘But that happened in the Christmas Holidays!’
‘I know.’ Rex got a bad feeling. He didn’t want Mandy to worry any more than she was, but she had to know what he was thinking. ‘Whoever hung this up faked the date and wants people to think it happened last weekend, which could suggest they’re trying to embarrass you, Mandy.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Because they want it to look like you’re being unfaithful to Dale.’
Pete whistled. ‘But Rex, couldn’t they want people to think you’re screwing around with some guy’s girlfriend?’
‘That’s possible too.’ Rex had to admit he did have a point. He was about to say something more, about the fact that if one photograph had been taken there were bound to be more and probably a lot more revealing. He shut up though, because he didn’t want to worry Mandy any further at this point.
‘Why would they do that to me though?’ Mandy asked. ‘I don’t have any enemies.’
‘I reckon there must be plenty of people who are jealous of you though,’ Vanessa commented.
Rex agreed. ‘But don’t worry too much, Mandy. Like Pete said, it could be an attempt to embarrass me.’
‘I’m not worried.’ Mandy shrugged. ‘I’ll just think of all those girls looking at the picture and thinking how lucky Mandy Evans is.’
They all laughed and moved on.
They came across others who had seen the picture who wanted to announce the news to them. Rex didn’t let on to anyone he was worried and neither did Mandy. Then one student made a comment to Mandy that Rex had feared would be made sooner or later. ‘I thought you and Dale were seeing each other?’
All credit to Mandy, she managed to keep her cool. ‘The date on that photograph has been doctored. It happened during the Christmas Holidays.’
The student who made the comment didn’t reply. Rex got the feeling he didn’t believe her.
They joined up with some more of their friends. There was Rick Maverick, the joker, who Rex had become great friends with when he first came to Te Arawa. With him was his sweetheart Holly Robinson. Mandy often liked to talk about American cliques – the different groups that people were part of. Mav was sort of more the intellectual and many saw him as a nerd with his zany sense of humour, but he had a certain style that nerds didn’t have. Holly, she was definitely a cheerleader, although quite a short one. Andrew Jones, alias Ginge because of his ginger hair, belonged to the same clique as Rex – the Jocks. There was Rog Shepherd, the Preppie, who they preferred to call Sheep and Wal – the Greaser. Then of course, there were the other cheerleaders who Rex loved to surround himself with… Laura Stott, Chelsea Brown and Jacqui. Along with Pete Cook and a few others, they had formed their own clique of cliques and although there were plenty of personality clashes, they had all become a close-knit group.
‘Hey Rex, I’ve been hearing some rumours,’ Sheep said. ‘Ben Tamati’s been bad mouthing you.’
‘What’s new?’ Rex shrugged, not feeling particularly concerned.
‘Say’s he’s gonna teach you a lesson.’
‘And today’s news?’
‘He seemed pretty pissed. You know, he’s had a lot to do with the Wild Dogs gang lately.’
Now that was news to Rex. The Wild Dogs was a well-known gang from the city of New Plymouth and although he rarely saw any of them in Te Arawa, it didn’t mean what Sheep said wasn’t true. ‘Ahha, so you reckon I could end up with the Wild Dogs after me, huh?’
Ginge peered at him with concern. ‘Tamati can be really vindictive. I’d watch my back, if I were you.’
Vanessa touched Rex’s arm, but said nothing.
The other girls appeared worried too.
Chelsea spoke up, ‘You beat him up pretty bad last week after he tried to trip Vanessa up. He still has a black eye from that.’
‘Serve him right.’ Rex’s blood boiled just thinking about it. He got angry when he saw anyone hurting or trying to hurt his friends, particularly the girls, but when it came to Vanessa, he would just snap. He even surprised himself sometimes at how furious he became even at the slightest threat to her safety. Maybe it had something to do with the fact he had nearly lost her completely once, or maybe he had just become so over-protective toward her because she was so important to him.
‘I’ve heard the Wild Dogs are really dangerous,’ said Laura. ‘You need to be really careful, Rex.’
‘Don’t worry.’ Angry thoughts buzzed through his mind. ‘I’ll be extra vigilant.’
Rex’s mother greeted him cheerfully as they entered the Cassidy house later that evening. ‘Hello Rex… and Vanessa,’
‘Mum, Nessa’s staying the night tonight.’
‘Oh, alright.’ His mother smiled. ‘Shall I set her up a bed in one of the spare rooms?’
Rex delivered her a wry smile. ‘No… Mum.’
‘Alright then.’ Her eyes twinkled merrily.
Rex and Vanessa entered his spacious room. To anyone who entered it for the first time, it looked more like a hotel suite with a small, but classy lounge and entertaining area. Rex had his own wide screen TV, DVD, sound system and coffee table. He had a private en-suite off to the side and a huge king-sized bed.
‘Always so tidy,’ Vanessa commented, who had been in there numerous times already in the last two weeks. ‘It’s hard to believe a guy lives in this room.’
‘Well it helps when your parents hire a cleaner to keep the house spick and span.’ Rex walked over to the stereo and turned it on. An Air Supply CD played, already half way through a track named “Sweet Dreams.” He was into the retro 80s stuff, which was cool because Vanessa was too. He moved over to a small fridge and opened it up. ‘Drink?’
‘Yeah huh. Gin and Tonic please.’ Vanessa grinned cheekily, sitting down on the lavish sofa in front of the coffee table.
‘Sorry.’ Rex chuckled. ‘Even my parents haven’t authorised a bar in here yet. Wait until I’m 18, then ask again.’ He winked.
‘That’s ok anyway, I sipped one once and it tasted ghastly. A Coke will do fine.’
Rex pulled out a couple of bottles and joined her. He opened a bottle for her, handed to her and opened his own. He leaned back and put one arm around her. She nestled in close. It felt so good to have her there, cuddling up against him. He’d missed it so much.
She sipped her Coke and gazed into his eyes. He could easily get lost in those big baby-blues. They were truly mesmerising.
‘This is so cool,’ she said. ‘We’re so lucky to have such liberal parents. It’s one of the things I missed about your mother.’
‘She’s a great Mum. Gets a bit of flack about it from time to time from other adults, especially teachers, but she just brushes it off. Dad’s the same.’
‘Biggles must have been bummed about going back home.’
‘Yeah, he was a bit. But he was looking forward to seeing all his old friends again.’
‘And not having to live up to the standards of his cousin.’ Vanessa smiled cheekily.
Rex’s cousin, Biggles had been staying with them for a few months while his parents were away on business. His parents returned two weeks earlier, which meant they had to say goodbye. Rex was sorry to see him go, but it had only ever been a temporary arrangement.
Vanessa pressed the bottle to her lush red lips and drank some more, not breaking eye contact. ‘Do you think Mandy’s ok?’
‘I hope so, but don’t worry about her. We don’t need to talk about her.’
‘It’s ok. It doesn’t worry me, you know. You know it doesn’t.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Even if it had happened last weekend, I’d be fine with it. I never had a problem with that sort of thing when we first started seeing each other in Taukauri and I don’t now. I’m not the jealous type.’
‘I know, I know, it just blows me away sometimes.’
‘Rexy, you know I’m just happy to be back in your life. I’m confident where I stand with you, just as you are with me. No strings attached, it was always us, right?’
‘Of course.’ Rex stared deep into her eyes. ‘I guess I’m still a little worried that something like what happened last time, might happen again.’
‘No, it won’t. I promise you that. I was so much younger then and so naïve. I know how much I hurt you and I put you under so much strain. You don’t have to worry about me ever trying to hurt myself again. I am stronger. You have to believe me.’
‘I do. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to tread carefully.’
‘I’m not so fragile and needy anymore.’
Rex paused for a moment, admiring the sincerity in her eyes. She believed what she was saying, but to try to commit suicide twice because you couldn’t live without someone meant that person had some serious emotional problems. Had they truly been dealt with? Vanessa thought they had, but her mother wasn’t so sure.
Despite his doubts, Rex gave a reassuring smile.
She beamed back.
A new song began to play on the stereo, one of his particular favourites and one that was very appropriate for that moment.
Girl you’re every woman in the world to me… you’re my fantasy… you’re my reality…
He wanted to just sit there, sipping his coke, gazing into her eyes, but his cell phone rang. He had forgotten to switch it off, which he normally did when he had female company. He pulled it from his jacket and checked the screen. It was Chelsea calling. He hesitated, but then switched it off. He’d let it go to his voicemail.
‘Why did you do that for? It’s Chelsea.’
‘I know.’ Rex felt guilty. He didn’t like doing that, especially when it was one of his closer friends. ‘But I don’t want to talk to her right now. Maybe later.’
Vanessa placed her hand on his arm and gazed at him with worried eyes. ‘No Rex. I don’t want you to put people off because of me.’
‘It’s ok. I should have switched it off anyway when I came in.’
She rubbed his arm gently and she said his name slowly, but firmly. ‘Rexy…’ She squinted her eyes as if in pain. ‘I don’t want people saying I’m the one that stole you away from them. People are already thinking that. Some of our friends too. I said to them, when I came here, it wasn’t my intention. If you start to neglect them just to be with me, it’s going to make things really tough. I want everyone to be happy, dollbaby, not just me and I know you wouldn’t want people to think you were neglecting them. We have plenty of time. Talking to Chelsea for a few minutes is not going to eat into that too much. Your friends need you too, not just me.’
Rex could see she was sincere and knew she did have a point. He still cared about Chelsea and many of his other friends. He didn’t want to hurt them and he could see that Vanessa didn’t want to be seen as monopolising all his time either.
‘Ok,’ said Rex. ‘You’re right. I’ll give her a ring now.’
Rex was about to pick up his phone when there was an ear shattering crash. Glass showered into the room from one of his windows and a brick bounced off the carpet. Vanessa let out a scream of horror and grabbed at Rex’s arm tightly. The last few shards of glass tinkled down from the window and then all was quiet.
Rex leapt to his feet. ‘Stay here!’ He rushed over to the window, but at the last moment stepped to the side of it, just to make sure no other projectiles came through and hit him. He peeked out the side of the window into the gloom of the night. He could see no one and no further objects came flying in.
A loud knock came at his bedroom door and his father’s voice called in, ‘Everything alright in there?’
Rex walked over to the door and opened it, letting his mother and father in. ‘Take a look for yourself.’ He glanced at the wide eyes of Vanessa who stood clutching the side of the couch.
‘What happened?’ His mother blurted.
‘Somebody threw a brick through my window.’ He walked calmly over to it and picked it up. There was a note tied to it.
‘My goodness.’ His mother stared at the mess.
Rex wanted to check the note, but his first concern was Vanessa. He stepped over to her and placed his hand on hers. ‘You ok?’
‘Y… yes. I think so.’
‘What does the note say?’ Rex’s father stepped over to the broken window and peered out into the night.
Rex pulled the note free and opened it up. On it were the words…
We’re gonna teach you a lesson you’ll never forget!
‘Supper Time!’ Tucker’s mother called out from the kitchen.
Normally when the call was made, Tucker would have let out a huge cry of UBBA and gone rampaging towards the kitchen. However, this evening, he took his time.
It was his night off from the gym… well if he still had the job, it would have been. After school, he’d gone door to door searching for work, but had no luck with the places he tried. He tried not to let it get him down though and attempted to remain positive, telling himself all would work out in the end and that even if it didn’t, he still had his upcoming romance with Vanessa Danté to look forward to.
That was the reason for his casual stroll to the kitchen for supper.
‘What took you so long?’ his overweight mother snapped at him. His huge father already sat at the table, digging into a massive slice of chocolate cake. ‘I called you half an hour ago! What were you doing, sleeping?’
‘I was doing my homework, Mum.’ He ignored the fact she’d only called him less than 30 seconds ago.
She snorted. ‘You doing homework? That’ll be the day! You virtually need a teacher there the whole time telling you what to do. You’d have trouble with just the reading and the writing part of it. What sort of homework?’
‘Maths? What a waste of time! You haven’t even learnt how to count to ten yet.’
‘I can Mum, I can count to a hundred now.’ He puffed his chest out, feeling proud of himself.
‘That’ll be the day!’ His mother held back a laugh. ‘The only time you can count to a hundred is when you’re counting hundred and thousands. There has to be some kind of food reward at the end to get you there. Now hurry up, sit down and eat your cake.’
‘Or I’ll eat it,’ his father spoke up, his mouth muffled from a chunk of cake he was wolfing down. It was unusual for him to speak at all, while he ate. Like Tucker the only priority when food was around, was to eat it – talk was unimportant.
On this occasion though, Tucker’s priorities had changed. ‘It’s ok, Mum. I’ll pass on the chocolate cake.’
His mother gasped and his father nearly choked on his mouthful.
‘What?’ they both said in unison.
‘I don’t feel like any.’
They continued to stare at him in disbelief.
‘You’re turning down food?’ His mother gaped.
‘Yeah, I’m on a diet.’
Both her mother and her father’s face darkened.
‘Now there’s no need for that sort of language!’ his father grumbled.
His mother sent a hard slap across the side of his face causing him to reel. ‘Don’t you dare use that sort of language around here! I won’t have that sort of blasphemy going on in this house. You know darn well I won’t stand for it! I oughta give you a good whipping for that. Where’s that strap?’
‘I’m sorry!’ Tucker yelped, desperate to avoid his mother’s leather belt. ‘It’s just that… it’s just that…’
‘I’m trying to cut down. Lose weight. In fact I’m getting up extra early in the morning to go to the gym.’
His parents continued to stare at him as though he were crazy.
His father shovelled some more cake into his mouth. ‘You’ve gone bonkers!’
‘What the hell are you talking about?’ His mother glared at him. ‘Turning down chocolate cake? Exercise? What sort of buffoonery is that? Have you completely and utterly lost your mind?’
Tucker eyed the generous slice of cake on his plate hungrily, but forced himself to turn his eyes away. ‘I need to lose weight. I have to…’ He began to feel embarrassed, not wanting to admit to his parents that he was trying to impress the Goddess.
Then an idea came to mind. ‘You know how you keep saying I should be more like Rex Cassidy?’
‘Who?’ his mother asked. ‘Ohhhh you mean that handsome boy that all the girls love. The one who got the high price at that bachelor auction that time?’
‘Well you should be more like him.’
‘Well that’s what I’m trying to do. I want to get into shape, like him.’ She couldn’t accuse him of lying about that.
Both his parents peered at him with weird looks.
His father chuckled. ‘Ah, I know what’s going on. You’re trying to impress some bird aren’t you?’
Tucker blushed, while his mother rolled her eyes. ‘Oh no, not again! Holly Robinson, I’ll suppose. I don’t know why you bother, as if she’d be interested in a buffoon like you.’
‘No, it’s not her. She’s taken. I’m interested in a new girl now. Her name’s Vanessa.’ His stomach rumbled. They’d only had dinner a few hours ago, but just seeing that cake had seemingly emptied his gut.
‘I never thought I’d see the day.’ His dad shook his head in bewilderment. ‘Tucker putting a girl ahead of food. She must be really something.’
‘She must be an idiot if she likes him!’
His Dad chuckled. ‘Which she probably doesn’t. He’s just hoping she will, right son?’
Tucker sighed. ‘Yeah.’
‘That’ll be the day!’ scoffed his mother. ‘Even if he does manage to slim up he’ll still be just as ugly and still be just as dumb. He’s got the charm of a rattlesnake in a room full of rocking chairs. He’ll get nowhere with her.’
It was typical of his mother, always putting him down like that. She never had any faith in him, but he was going to prove her wrong this time.
‘Oh well.’ She smirked. ‘I guess that’s more cake for me.’
‘You mean me.’ His father polished off the last of his and reached out for Tucker’s slice.
His mother beat him to it. She whisked it out of his reach. ‘I made the darn cake, so I’ll have the extra slice!’
‘Hey! But you already have half the cake on your plate already.’
‘Tough. Like I said, I made it. You’re lucky you got one piece of it.’ She turned back to Tucker. ‘As for you, you blasphemous cretin, I’ve got a good mind never to bake you cake ever again. Talk about ruddy ungrateful, going on a di…’ She delivered him a hard slap across the cheek again, causing him to cry out in pain.
‘You nearly made me say that word! You nearly made me defile myself! I don’t ever want to hear talk like that again, you hear?’
‘Now get the hell back to your room and get on with your homework!’
He turned to leave, but then she snapped at him again. ‘Where do you think you’re going?’
‘To my room!’
‘I haven’t finished talking to you yet!’
‘But you just told me…’
SLAP. He received yet another whack across the chops. ‘Don’t answer back! You’re too darn fond of answering back. All I wanted to do was ask you about your job.’
Tucker’s gut began to churn again, but this time it wasn’t because of hunger pains.
‘I hope you’re behaving yourself and working hard.’
‘Yes Mum… I’m one of their top guys there.’
‘That’ll be the day. Although, I must admit, I thought I saw some pigs flying when you turned down that cake.’
‘In fact, Mum, I’m beginning to think they don’t deserve me there. They don’t pay me nearly enough for the fantastic work I do. I pretty much run the place while I’m there. I’m thinking I might try to find a new job.’
‘What? But you only started his one later last year.’
‘Yeah, but I could do better.’
‘Huh! Yeah, right and what sort of job do you think you can get that’s better than that one? And no, before you start giving me a list, you can’t be a lawyer, doctor, politician or anything else that requires university degrees. So don’t even suggest them!’
That certainly cut down the list by a large number. Tucker would have to think really hard now. ‘Submarine Commander?’
He was about to rattle off some more great sounding occupations, but decided she wasn’t going to buy any of them. ‘Well I’ve gotta find something new. I am so sick of cleaning.’
‘I thought you just said you ran that gym.’
‘I do and I’m sick of that too!’
‘Well, you can find a new job, I don’t care. Just make sure it’s more money and that you find one before you quit your old one, you got that?’
‘Can’t I quit my old one first? Then I can spend all my time looking.’
‘Use your brain! How are we supposed to survive without your money coming in? Your Dad doesn’t earn enough. The only way we’d survive on his income is for all of us to do what you’re doing and go on a di…’ She gave Tucker an angry kick to the shins.
‘Darn you Tucker, you nearly made me say it again! Nope, you can’t quit. You have to stay at that job until you’ve got a new one, you hear?’
Tucker could feel a headache coming on. ‘Yes, Mum.’
‘Now what are you standing around here for? I told you to get back to your room and do your homework!’
As soon as he stepped out of his parent’s house the next morning, he cast aside his worries of the previous evening. He was on a mission today – first stop – the gymnasium to work out. Feeling motivated he got stuck right in, hitting the weights with enthusiasm, but five minutes later, he was struggling. It was tough going doing so much exercise. He only worked out for another ten minutes before he decided enough was enough and he hit the showers. ‘I’ll do better tomorrow,’ he said to himself, confidently.
The next part of his mission started once he got through the school gates. He met up with Ash and Hew and told them they had work to do.
‘What?’ Hew asked. ‘Gonna steal food off a few juniors?’
‘Now would I do something as lousy as that?’
‘Yes!’ his two friends chimed in.
‘Remember I’m a changed man. I’ve just been working out at the gym this morning and I’ve already lost 5kgs.’
‘What, in one session?’ scoffed Ash.
‘Absolutely. You guys should join me one morning.’ He marched along the path, searching for his first piece of action. He saw a couple of 14-year olds shoving another student around. He bowled up to them and grabbed both of them by the shirts. ‘What do you think you’re doing, eejits?’
They both stared up at him in horror.
‘Ahhh, nothing man.’
‘Yeah,’ said the other, looking surprised.
‘Doesn’t look like nothing to me ubbhe… eejits! Looks like you’re picking on this guy.’
‘Since when did you care, man?’
‘Since now!’ Tucker delivered them his most chilling glare and it had the desired effect. Both boys’ faces paled. ‘Now get down on your knees and kiss his shoes!’
‘What?’ they both stared at him.
‘Do it! Or I’ll be dishing out a couple of ubberings… I mean dishing out some justice!’
Both boys did exactly as Tucker told them to, much to the amusement of those watching.
‘Now get the hell out of here, eejits, I don’t wanna see you bullying other students again!’
Both boys hurried away leaving Tucker facing the victim who delivered him a grateful smile. ‘Thanks Tucker.’ He reached into his bag and pulled out his lunch box, opened it, and pulled out some chocolate biscuits wrapped in plastic. ‘Here you go.’
‘What’s that for?’ Tucker asked, not taking it.
‘My taxes. You, know for providing protection.’
Tucker let out a long breathe and shook his head. ‘What do you think I am, a mafia goon or something? I don’t want your food.’
The mouths of Tucker’s two friends dropped.
‘You don’t?’ The boy looked equally as shocked.
‘Of course not!’
‘I haven’t got any money.’
‘I don’t want your money. I just want to dish out a bit of justice where it’s needed. I don’t like seeing people being picked on. You keep your food.’
The boy’s face lit up. ‘Thanks, Tucker!’
After the boy had gone, Hew let out a gasp, ‘I can’t believe what I just saw!’
Tucker smiled broadly at his chums.
‘Wow, I’m gobsmacked,’ Ash admitted. ‘This must be some kind of really warped dream. Since when did you turn down food?’
‘I told you, I’m a changed man. The only servings I dish out now are of justice.’ He scanned the area for some other victim to rescue. He didn’t have to go far. This time a junior was trying to get his bag back from one of the guys in Tucker’s class.
Tucker barged up and grabbed the bag from the bully, with a glare. ‘What do you think you’re doing, Davis, you eejit?’
‘Huh!’ Davis scoffed. ‘Who do you think you are, Rex Cassidy?’
Tucker continued to glare evilly at him. Davis immediately backed down. ‘Hey, I was just fooling around.’
‘Let me see your bag.’
Davis had it slung over his shoulder and reluctantly handed it to him. Tucker passed the junior’s bag to Ash to hold, while he rummaged around inside and pulled out Davis’s lunchbox.
Hew snickered, ‘I knew the new Tucker wouldn’t be around for very long.’
Tucker smirked as he opened up the lid of the lunchbox, amused at his friend’s lack of faith. Tucker pulled out the nicest of the food from the lunch box. Some biscuits, a snack bar and a banana and he handed them over to the junior boy. ‘Here ya go pal. Consider this compensation for Davis here being such a douchebag.’
Tucker took the other bag from Ash and handed it to the boy with a smile. He then turned back to Davis and resumed his scowl. ‘Listen up, eejit and listen up good. I don’t tolerate bullying, so you better watch what you do, alright?’
‘Yes.’ Davis stared at him.
Tucker shoved his bag into Davis’s stomach, let it drop to the ground and swaggered away.
‘Wow,’ Ash said. ‘I’m impressed Tucker. You really have changed.’
‘Nah, it’s all a big act,’ snorted Hew. ‘This won’t last.’
‘Oh ye of little faith.’ Tucker smirked, happy that at least one of his friends had changed their attitude. ‘Come on. Let’s see who else we can lend a hand to.’
Jacqui’s first class of the day was Chemistry. She sat with Holly and Laura waiting for the teacher to arrive. It was the only subject the three took that none of their other friends did. Vanessa arrived and sat down on the other side of Laura, furthest from Jacqui. That suited her fine, as she didn’t want the girl anywhere near her.
What really irked Jacqui was that attention that rightfully belonged to her was focussed on Vanessa whenever she was around. Eyes that once admired Jacqui from other desks, now admired Vanessa. She peered with distaste at the googly-eyed male classmates, but none of them seemed to notice her at all.
One of the bolder male students – Dwayne Davidson stepped up to the bench to talk to Vanessa. Jacqui scowled as she listened in.
‘Hey Nessa,’ Dwayne said. ‘Want to go to the movies Friday night? There’s a really cool movie on…’
Jacqui stewed. As much as she disliked Dwayne, he’d never had the courage to ask her out. Sure, she would have shot him down in flames, but that was beside the point.
She scowled when Vanessa gave a pleasant reply. ‘Sorry… ah Wayne is it?’
Jacqui cringed when Vanessa added, ‘You need to know something Dwayne and that is I don’t go for boys. I bat for the other side, you know what I mean?’
‘I’m into girls.’
‘Oh yeah… I heard that.’ Dwayne moved from one foot to the other. ‘But… but aren’t you into Rex?’
‘Yeah huh! I’m crazy about Rex.’
‘But… but he’s a guy.’
She paused for a moment and then her jaw dropped. ‘Oh my God, I never realised!’ For a moment, she just stared at him with a horrified expression and by the open jawed expression on Dwayne’s face, it seemed to Jacqui that he took her seriously.
Vanessa’s expression turned to a smirk. ‘I know, Dwayne, its crazy isn’t it? I guess he just does something for me no other guy ever could.’
Dwayne hung his head and returned to his bench.
Holly giggled. ‘Poor old Dwayne.’
‘Why?’ Jacqui snorted. ‘He’s a jerk. Anyway, I can’t believe you, Vanessa, the way you flaunt your sexual preferences. Why do you even have to tell people that stuff? I mean you don’t see any of us going around telling everybody, “hey, we like guys, we’re heterosexuals.” Why don’t you just say you’re totally devoted to Rex or something?’
‘Why should she?’ Laura said. ‘It’s the truth isn’t it? I mean if some girl hit on you, Jacqui, you’d tell her you were straight, wouldn’t you? Why give people false hopes if there really is no hope for them?’
‘I think she’s confused.’ Jacqui refused to look in Vanessa’s direction. ‘Can’t make up her mind whether she’s gay or straight.’
‘Give the girl a break. She can say what she likes. She doesn’t have to live up to your expectations.’
Jacqui steamed and finally peered across at Vanessa. ‘Why don’t you just admit you’re bi-sexual and settle for that?’
‘Because it’s not true?’ Vanessa said . ‘Rex is the only guy I’ve ever been attracted to.’
‘You seriously expect us to believe that crap?’
‘Yeah huh. It’s true, whether you like it or not.’
‘Well then you can’t be completely gay then.’
‘What’s completely gay? What’s completely heterosexual? Are you so sure you’re 100% straight?’
Jacqui’s blood boiled and she wanted to scream at Vanessa, but she held herself back. ‘I am 100% straight. I know I am!’
‘Can you be so sure though?
‘Can you know you’ll always be confident of that fact?’
‘I know who I am!’
Vanessa smiled. ‘Well let’s hope no one ever comes along who puts it to the test, huh?’
Jacqui glared at her, but said nothing this time.
Holly decided to speak, ‘It must be strange, Vanessa… I mean, you’ve known you’ve been gay for how long now?’
‘From about thirteen years old. Although I had crushes way before then. I just didn’t realise why.’
‘And then you meet Rex. When did you realise you were attracted to him?’
‘Immediately. As soon as I met him, I thought ooh la la and all these weird feelings came over me. I knew I wanted him.’
Holly gazed overhead. ‘I know if it were me… being straight and I started feeling attracted to a girl, I’d feel disgusted. I’d feel really creeped out and confused. Was it like that when you met Rex? I mean, you were already comfortable with being gay and then this guy comes along who completely rocks your world. You must have felt really icky and weird.’
Vanessa laughed. ‘He sure did rock my world but I didn’t feel icky and weird, in fact it was magical… although very confusing. I couldn’t understand why I felt that way. My mind was a mess…, which was probably why I got really screwed up later when my mother and I had to leave town. I couldn’t handle being apart from him.’
Jacqui had heard enough of Vanessa’s admissions. ‘I think you’re still screwed up.’
‘Shut up Jacqui,’ Laura snapped.
‘Yeah Jacqui, give it a rest,’ agreed Holly.
Jacqui stared at her friends in shock. First Mandy talking to her like that, now Laura and Holly? What was going on?
Mrs Toucher, the senior mistress entered the lab with an unknown female student. They liked to refer to her as Mrs Groucher, because she was a real old battleaxe.
‘Hello girls,’ Mrs Toucher said in a friendly tone. ‘I’d like you to meet Margaret Matthews. She’s new to the school and I thought it would be nice if someone helped make her transition into life here at Te Arawa College an easy one. Jacqui, perhaps you’d like to take her under your wing, show her around, make sure she knows where to go, what to do and all that.’
Jacqui didn’t like that idea at all. The last thing she wanted was some new student following her around all day, especially if she wasn’t cool. Margaret didn’t look cool to her, although she was very pretty with her long ginger hair and brown eyes. She didn’t like the idea of more competition for Rex’s attention either. ‘Oh Mrs Toucher, I’ve got so much to…’
‘I trust you’ll make her feel welcome.’ Mrs Toucher frowned.
Jacqui knew not to argue with this particular teacher, so reluctantly agreed. ‘Ok.’
Margaret smiled, showing dimples on her cheeks. She had a lovely smile and Jacqui shuddered to think of it charming guys like Rex or even Ginge and Sheep.
Mrs Toucher left Margaret there with them and for a moment there was uncomfortable silence.
‘Sit down with us, if you like, Margaret,’ Vanessa invited her.
‘Please, everyone calls me Maggie. I hate Margaret.’ She sat down in the only available chair, next to Jacqui. She smiled again at her, but Jacqui was in no mood to return it.
‘Sit,’ Jacqui said. ‘And don’t distract me when I’m working.’
‘I won’t,’ Maggie said, a little timidly.
‘Good. And don’t ask any stupid questions, Margaret, because I can’t stand stupid questions.’
‘Jacqui, stop being such a bitch,’ Laura scolded her.
‘Don’t mind her.’ Holly smiled at Maggie. ‘She’s suffering from sexual repression at the moment.’
Jacqui delivered her the dirtiest look she could muster. ‘Don’t piss me off, Holly, I’m not in the mood!’
‘Jacqui’s afraid she may be bi-sexual,’ added Laura.
‘I am not!’ Jacqui glared, suffering from a mixture of rage and embarrassment. ‘If I had any tendencies like that whatsoever I’d be seeing a shrink right away. It’s a mental illness, you know?’ She smirked at Vanessa, hoping to rile her up.
As usual, Vanessa took it in her stride. ‘Actually Jacqui, it’s a learned behaviour.’ She winked at Maggie and then turned back at Jacqui. ‘And I’m a really good teacher if you’re looking for one.’
‘Piss off!’ Jacqui glared.
‘Some people say you’re born that way,’ Maggie said.
‘That’s what I believe too,’ Vanessa admitted. ‘I just hope that Jacqui knows what genes she was born with.’
‘Are you bi?’
‘I am well and truly gay, but just happen to be in love with a guy. I guess you might say I’m a lesbian with a small percentage of straight in me.’
‘Please, can we stop talking about this stuff?’ Jacqui growled. ‘It’s really making me feel ill.’
‘Better head to the sickbay.’ Holly giggled.
Maggie continued to gaze at Vanessa. ‘You’re serious?’
‘She is.’ Jacqui scowled. ‘I think it’s perverted.’
‘I think it’s kinda cool.’
‘Oh man…’ Jacqui let out an irritated sigh. ‘I’m surrounded by whackos!’
The teacher finally arrived to class and the period began. When interval came, Jacqui was forced to play nursemaid to Maggie. Laura made sure she did, threatening to tell Rex about the things she said to Vanessa if she didn’t. Jacqui would have been mortified if that had happened.
Maggie seemed nice enough, but as far as Jacqui was concerned, she was a bit ditsy and nerdy and it really felt like she was cramping her style. She would have been the perfect match for Pete. ‘So who’s the guy Vanessa’s in love with? Is he here at this school?’
Jacqui sighed and wished for once that she could get off the topic of Vanessa. ‘Does it matter? What is it? Do you fancy her or something?’ She rolled her eyes.
‘He must be really something if someone like her fell for him.’
‘Don’t even think about trying to make the moves on him.’
‘Who is he?’
‘You’ll see him in English, but remember one thing. Keep your hands off! He belongs too…’ she was about to say herself, but decided that was being a little too haughty.
‘…No! Me and my friends. He’s ours.’
‘How can you and your friends own one guy?’
‘He’s our friend, Margaret and we don’t like every stupid little tart talking and flirting with him, alright?’
Maggie fell silent, looking hurt at Jacqui’s harsh words, but Jacqui didn’t care.
Ms Cann stood at the front of the English classroom later that day. ‘Where are Rex Cassidy and Vanessa Danté?’
Jacqui was wondered the same thing. She shuddered to think what they might be up to on their own somewhere. Nobody had any answers, or at least they weren’t volunteering any.
‘I am not happy about this,’ Ms Cann continued to grumble. ‘Something needs to be done about those two.’
Maggie, who had unfortunately sat at the desk right beside Jacqui, raised her hand. Ms Cann hesitated at first, but then smile. ‘Ah, you must be Margaret. Welcome. Do you have a question?’
‘Why does something need to be done about them?’
Jacqui shook her head and sighed deeply. Maggie really was a nerd to be asking questions like that in front of the entire class. Either that or she was very ignorant. A little voice told Jacqui she was being unfair, after all, she was new and didn’t know the two students yet, so it was not surprising she was clueless. Her louder voice however, told the smaller voice to shut up. Any normal kid would have just shut up and found out all the facts later, not made a fool of herself in class on her first day at a new school.
Ms Cann’s expression turned to distain. ‘Their behaviour is immoral. The sort of things they get up to shouldn’t be allowed. Both of them are… are…’ Her voice trailed off. Even Ms Cann was smart enough to know that bad-mouthing other students in front of her class was not a wise thing to do, especially not if she didn’t want to be accused of slander.
‘What, Ms Cann?’ Maggie asked.
‘Never you mind! It’s none of your concern. I advise you to… to…’
Jacqui could guess what she was going to say. She was going to warn Maggie to stay away from Rex and Vanessa in case they dragged her into their so-called immoral world.
Ms Cann peered around the room. ‘There are others of you missing too. Tucker. Where’s Tucker?’
Just then, a voice came from the doorway. ‘Tucker Pyles at your service, Madam.’ All heads turned to see Tucker standing there with a smirk on his face. He stuck out his elbow to lean it against the door frame, but it slipped and he went crashing into the frame, nearly falling to the ground.
The class laughed hysterically as he righted himself, dusted himself down and swaggered into the classroom.
‘Why are you late, Tucker?’ Ms Cann scolded him.
‘Late? Me late?’ Tucker ambled his way to the front of the class.
Mandy leaned over from the desk next to Jacqui and whispered, ‘Oh no, it’s the new Tucker Pyles again. God help us.’
‘Yes, you are late!’
‘Ah but what is lateness Ms Cann? If I was late I’d be dead, but as you can see I’m very much alive.’
Jacqui had to admit, that was quite a good reply. Obviously, Tucker had been studying a book about witty comebacks.
‘Why are you late?’
‘Broom closet inspections.’
Jacqui snickered. That was one of Rex’s excuses he liked to use when he arrived late to class after making out. She realised Tucker was simply trying to mimic him.
‘What do you mean broom closet inspections? Since when did students do broom closet inspections? Why would there need to be any… what on Earth are you going on about?’
Tucker chuckled. ‘Well you know how it is, Ms Cann, when you’re a ladies man like me, you like a bit of privacy once in a while.’
Jacqui’s classmates began to snicker.
‘Who does he think he is, Rex?’ hissed someone.
‘What a dork!’ said someone else.
Ms Cann’s squinted her eyes. ‘What are you suggesting, young man? Have you been doing something in those closets? Something you shouldn’t be doing?’
Tucker chuckled. ‘Gotta keep the ladies happy, Ms C.’
The laughter became louder, but it was more mocking than amused.
‘Who have you been in the broom closet with?’ Ms Cann stared horrified.
‘Now that would be telling.’
‘The tooth fairy!’ called out Pete.
‘Quiet!’ Ms Cann shot Pete a dirty look and then turned back to Tucker. ‘If you have been up to mischief in one of the broom closets, I want to know with whom?’
Tucker seemed hesitant and peered around at his classmates who waited expectedly for his reply.
‘If you don’t tell me who it was, there will be big trouble.’
More snickering came from some of the students, prompting Tucker to speak up. ‘Samantha Drysdale.’
Almost the entire class burst out laughing.
‘The head girl?’
‘That’s BS, Ms Cann!’ Mav called out.
‘I don’t believe this!’ Their teacher stared at Tucker.
‘Would I lie to you?’ Tucker smirked. ‘Really I had no choice, because she came to me begging me to hang out with her. I can never resist a pretty face.’
‘What a spaz,’ Sheep growled.
‘Quiet!’ Ms Cann snapped. ‘Tucker, I am appalled at what I am hearing here. This sort of behaviour is despicable and I won’t stand for it.’
‘Well, there’s a chair over there, why don’t you take a seat?’ Tucker waved his hand towards her desk. ‘You need to be careful at your age Ms Cantankerous, your heart might give out on you if you remain standing for too long.’
Ms Cann’s face reddened. ‘You dare speak to me in an insulting manner like that?’
‘What sort of insulting manner would you prefer?’
‘I will not stand for this! I want you out of my class now! You will go straight to the principal’s office.’
‘Ah, so I can take the rest of the period off, can I?’
‘No you can’t, you… Sit down now!’
‘I thought you wanted me to go.’
‘No, you can jolly well sit down and wait until lunch time before you see the principal.’
‘What?’ Tucker didn’t look so confident now. ‘But that’s when I have to eat my lun… I mean, all my fans need me to be the life and soul of their lunch break. I can’t let them down.’
Wal snorted. ‘You’re an A grade moron, Fats!’
‘That’s putting it mildly,’ commented Mav.
‘Sit down!’ Ms Cann snapped. ‘I’ll not have anymore of this from you. I don’t know what in Heaven’s name you’re playing at, but enough is enough.’
‘I said sit down!’
Tucker stared at her, with his mouth open, but didn’t seem to know what to say next. Jacqui couldn’t help but think he’d come to the end of his script and was now forced to adlib, which he wasn’t so hot at. He trundled to one of the desks, sat down and shut up.
The late appearance of Tucker was a relief for Mandy. There seemed something warped about that notion, but on this occasion, it was for real. Mandy’s mind was so full of gloomy thoughts anything was a welcome distraction.
‘Is he for real?’ Maggie whispered in her ear.
‘Yes and no,’ Mandy whispered back. ‘Yes, he really is delusional and wants us to believe that crap and no, there is no way any of it is true.’
‘I see.’ Maggie giggled.
‘Samantha Drysdale wouldn’t be caught dead within three feet of that moron.’
Ms Cann gave them some work to do in pairs, so Mandy teamed up with Maggie.
‘I don’t think Jacqui likes me,’ Maggie said.
‘Oh, don’t worry about her. She can be a real bitch sometimes, but she’ll get used to you.’
‘I hope so.’
‘Yeah, she will, she just sees you as a threat. She sees all pretty girls as a threat.’
‘Because she can’t stand the thought of other girls chasing after the guys she likes.’
‘Like Rex? She seems to think she owns him or something.’
‘Exactly like Rex. And she doesn’t own him.’
‘I keep hearing about this guy. I’d sure like to meet him.’
‘Don’t worry, you will meet Mr McDreamy soon enough. Just be weary that when you do you’ll have real trouble staying focussed on your work. When he’s in the same room as you, you’ll have this overwhelming desire to stare at him all through the period and when you’re not in the same room as him, you’ll be forever daydreaming and fantasizing about him. And when you go home, you’ll be longing for the next morning so you can see him at school again.’
‘No guy can have that affect!’
‘What, is that the way it is with you?’
Mandy giggled. That was a tough one to answer. It was hard not to gaze at him and think about him, but her heart belonged to Dale. ‘It used to be that way. Until I got myself a boyfriend.’
‘The head boy, right?’
‘That’s cool. You must love being able to tell people you’re seeing the head boy.’
Mandy smiled. ‘I just wish I could make more of a deal about it.’
‘Why can’t you?’
‘Because my parents and the school disapprove.’
‘They think I’m a bad influence.’ Mandy stared out the classroom window for a few seconds. ‘They’re threatening to send me to a boarding school in New Plymouth if I keep seeing him.’
‘Tell me about it. Do you know what it’s like to have a reputation that’s unjustly deserved?’
‘Well that’s what I have, all because I’m bubbly and outgoing and have a name that rhymes with randy.’
‘That sucks. Maybe you should just call yourself Amanda.’
‘No way. Only my mother ever calls me that… oh and the teachers. I can’t stand it.’
‘Yeah, I can understand. It’s the same with people calling me Margaret. So are you going to keep seeing him?’
‘Good on you. I had this friend once. Her name was Carla and we were best of friends, but my parents hated her. Always said she was bad news and getting me into trouble. I hate in when parents try to stop you from hanging out with friends.’
Mandy scribbled on the cover of her exercise book, with her pen. ‘Yeah. My parents hate my choice of friends.’
‘But your friends seem great… well accept for Jacqui.’
‘They are. It’s mainly Rex they don’t like.’
‘Ms Cann doesn’t seem to like him… or Vanessa.’
‘She’s just a silly old battleaxe.’
‘What do you think of Vanessa?’
‘She’s really cool.’
‘Does it bother you that she’s, you know, a lezzie?’
‘Why should it?’
‘Well she might try to come onto you or something.’
‘She already did once.’
‘She did?’ Maggie’s eyes widened.
Mandy giggled. ‘She backed off completely when she found out I was straight.’
‘Wow! That’s really something.’
‘Not my scene.’
Maggie fell silent for a few seconds before she spoke, ‘I can’t wait to see this Rex McDreamy guy. He must really be something to have someone like Vanessa after him.’
‘You may get your chance. Look, here they come now.’ Mandy pointed out the window to Rex and Vanessa who approached the classroom.
‘Oh my God!’ Maggie stared at him. ‘That’s McDreamy?’
When Rex and Vanessa entered the classroom, Ms Cann was on them like a vulture. ‘You two! Where have you been?’
McDreamy paused to give Ms Cann a pleasant smile. ‘Are you sure you want me to answer that question?’
‘I demand an answer!’
‘You got it Ms C. Vanessa and I had this overwhelming desire to get it on, so we headed for the nearest private place we could find, the D Block broom closet.’
Ms Cann’s eyes nearly popped out of her head and she stumbled for words. ‘The… the b…broom closet? What sort of non… Are you telling me the truth?’
‘Well at first we did try to get into your office, but the door was locked,’ Vanessa said.
‘I don’t have an office!’
‘Must have been Mr Luxton’s then.’
‘So we tried your car after that,’ Rex continued. ‘But I couldn’t jimmy the lock so we had to pass on that too. But boy did I get a surprise to see what was in your backseat.’
‘What?’ Ms Cann looked mortified.
‘We should shut up about that,’ Vanessa said.
‘Yeah, you’re right, I feel ill just thinking about it.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Relax Ms Cann.’ Rex winked. ‘We’ll be sure to keep your secret.’
‘What secret? What are you talking about? What’s in the back seat of my car?’
Rex led Vanessa to a couple of desks and sat down. Ms Cann continued to stare at them for a few seconds, cleared her throat and returned to her own desk.
There was silence for a few seconds as things returned to normal. Rex and Vanessa turned to talk softly to each other and Ms Cann no longer seemed interested in why they were late, although she did glance up every now and then to give them disapproving glares.
‘Wow,’ Maggie said to Mandy. ‘He really is something.’ She turned back to stare over at them.
‘Told you so. I’ll predict now, that you will get very little sleep tonight. He’ll be all you’ll be able to think about.’
At lunchtime, Mandy decided to track down Dale.
‘Hi Dale, can we talk in private?’
‘I’ve been wanting to talk to you.’ Dale seemed disturbed.
They hurried around behind one of the locker blocks and stood amongst a cluster of trees. They had to ensure no teachers saw them talking.
‘I’ve been desperate to talk to you since yesterday,’ Dale said. ‘I wish I could have phoned, but I can’t because of your parents. What is with that picture that was plastered all around the school yesterday? You and Rex? You told me…’
‘Before you go jumping to incorrect conclusions that photograph was taken without our knowledge and during the Christmas holidays.’
‘But the date on it…’
‘Was falsified! It didn’t happen then.’
‘But who would do something like that?’ His voice wavered.
‘We don’t know.’
He stared at her for a few seconds, breathed heavily and then calmed down. ‘Why would someone do that?’
Mandy just peered at him. She didn’t know what to say, because she really had no idea. Dale turned and thumped his head lightly on the trunk of one of the trees. Mandy stepped over and rested her hand on his shoulder. ‘It’s ok, Dale, there’s no need for you to worry.’
‘Everyone thinks you’ve been screwing around with Rex behind my back.’
‘But you know that’s not true.’
‘Everybody thinks it’s true.’
‘We can put them straight.’
He turned to face her. ‘Do you know what it feels like to have everyone snickering behind your back because your girl has been photographed topless all over some other guy?’
‘I think I have some idea, Dale. Remember, I’m the one who’s in the photograph. How do you think I feel?’
‘From what I’ve heard you’ve been going around rather proud of it!’
Mandy shrunk back. ‘I just don’t want people to know how embarrassed I am.’
Dale stared at her some more. She continued to maintain eye contact to let him know she wasn’t lying. Finally, he let out a long breath. ‘What do we do?’
‘Nothing. What can we do?’
‘What if more photographs get put up?’
‘I don’t know.’ Mandy dreaded the thought. ‘We have to hope they don’t.’
‘I don’t think I can handle that… yeah, yeah, I know it’s you that’s in the photographs, not me, but still…’
‘I know. I realise it must be really tough on you. I’m sorry.’
‘No. I’m the one that should be sorry. I shouldn’t have got on your case.’
They stood and smiled weakly at each other for a little longer and then both of them tried to speak at the same time.
‘You go first,’ Dale offered.
‘Rex had this really good idea…’
‘Rex?’ Dale stiffened.
‘Yeah, he suggested I try to get my parents to agree to let you come over for dinner, so they can meet you.’
Dale’s eyes widened. ‘Oh boy, I don’t know about that.’
‘That just seems really intense having to have dinner with my girlfriend’s parents.’
‘Well it wouldn’t be just them, because my brother and sister will be there too, but it would have to happen sooner or later, wouldn’t it?’
‘Well parents like to meet their kids’ girlfriends and boyfriends, you know.’
‘But can’t it be something more casual? Like me just coming over and saying hi?’
‘Well it just seems like it would be better if it was more formal.’
‘What, because Rex thinks so?’
‘No, not just because Rex thinks so. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Don’t you want my parents to approve of you?’
‘Of course, but, I don’t know about that.’
‘Well, it was just an idea. I don’t want to have to keep sneaking off to see you all the time. I mean the biggest party in the southern hemisphere is coming up and I want to be there.’
‘Rex’s birthday party?’
‘Yeah. It’s gonna be a great party. His 15th was so good, this one’s gonna be even better. We have to be there.’
Dale didn’t look certain.
‘Don’t you want to be there?’
‘Ah… yeah, of course I do. But I don’t know if going to your place for dinner is gonna make your parents agree to let you go to it.’
‘We have to come up with some kind of plan.’
‘Yeah, I know. Let me think about it. But anyway, I wanted to know whether you wanted to come to a barbeque at one of my friend’s place this weekend.’
Mandy hesitated. She didn’t much like his friends, especially not after they gate crashed Rex’s beach party two weeks earlier. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Oh, come on, you were wanting me to hang out with your parents.’
‘This is different. Your friends are bunch of thugs.’
‘They are not! Not all of them anyway. They’re decent guys, really. They just let Maurice manipulate them.’
Maurice had been the ringleader of the gate crashing and Mandy despised him. ‘Is he gonna be there?’
‘I don’t know, he might be, but he’ll be fine. He won’t bother you, I promise.’
‘He’s a creep. And you won’t be able to do anything if he hassles us.’
‘He won’t hassle us. Ever since that party he’s been avoiding Rex like the plague. He’s too scared of him to cause you any grief.’
Mandy wasn’t convinced. She knew about bullies and if he thought there was any chance of getting away with something, he’d take it.
Dale sighed. ‘Come on, Mand. It’ll be fun and there will be other girls there too and we won’t have any teachers or parents watching us.’
Mandy spent most of her lunch break talking with Dale and then headed to her locker to collect her books for the next class of the day. She was surprised on opening her locker door to find an envelope had been slid under the gap at the bottom. Curious, she opened the envelope and what she saw inside made her freeze. There was a photograph inside… a similar one to the picture that had been put up on the walls around the school, except this one was a lot more revealing. A typed note came with it. It read:
“If you don’t want more of these plastered all over the school, I suggest you keep this to yourself”
‘Mr Luxton, I need to have a word with you about that Cassidy boy and the Danté girl.’ Ms Cann deposited herself down on a chair in the principal’s office.
Mr Luxton sighed and closed a book he had on his desk. He had only been at Te Arawa College for a short time, but already he had begun to tire of this particular old woman. ‘What have they done this time?’
‘Continuous breaking of the school rules, that’s what. And not only that, but what they are doing is despicable and immoral.’
‘I know they openly display intimacy, but I’d hardly call that despicable and immoral.’ He tapped a pen on his desk a few times, wishing he didn’t have to deal with her right now.
‘We all know that sort of thing leads to something more.’
Maybe so, but…’
‘And it has. Do you realise they have been looking for places around the school to commit their perversions in?’
He figured he knew what Ms Cann meant by perversions, but her idea of what was perverted was way different to the average staff member. ‘Perversions? What are you talking about? And what places?’
‘And when they can’t find an office available, they go to the broom closets. The broom closets of all places!’
‘Ms Cann, I think you’re getting carried away here.’
‘It’s immoral! It’s repugnant and shouldn’t be allowed!’
Luxton tapped his pen a few more times on the desk. ‘Do you have any evidence of this?’
‘They tell me so!’
‘And you believe it?’
‘Why would they admit to such shenanigans?’
‘Because I know some kids say things just to wind up their teachers. Have you ever caught them in one of these… broom closets?’ He tried to hold back a laugh. He had heard that some students liked to make out in them but doubted it went much further than that and maybe a bit of heavy petting.
‘No! I’m afraid to go near any of them just in case.’
‘I think they may be pulling your leg, Ms Cann.’
‘I fully believe what they tell me. They are just the type of kids who would do something like that. That boy Rex has the worst morals of any boy in the entire school. Do you see how he interacts with many of the girls? It’s not as if it’s just Vanessa either, he switches between them like this school is some type of hippie commune. He is a terrible example to the boys in this school. Surely you must see that?’
‘Yes, I know what he’s like and I’ve seen him with various young ladies, but I don’t think he’s as bad as you make out. He is a real gentleman with the girls here.’
‘And what about Vanessa Danté? Do you realise what sort of a person she is?’
‘What do you mean?’ Now he was stumped, trying to figure out what she was going on about.
‘I think it’s absolutely outrageous the way she goes around flaunting her… her…’
‘Her… do you have to make me say it…? Sexuality!’
Mr Luxton shook his head, trying to make sense of what she was saying. ‘What?’
‘Do you know what type of girl she is, Mr Luxton?’
He frowned and began to suspect what she might be going on about. He thought back to the day he met Vanessa’s mother, Grace Bishop, at the beginning of the term. He often thought about her, as she was an incredible looking woman. It was easy to see where her daughter got her stunning beauty. He had been sorry to learn at the time that Grace was a lesbian.
‘She’s one of them, Mr Luxton!’
‘One of what?’ He knew what she was going to say, but if Ms Cann was going to discriminate against a girl because of her sexual preference, he wasn’t going to let her off easy.
‘You know!’ Ms Cann glared at him. ‘Them!’
‘Ms Cann, you’re really going to have to stop talking in riddles if you want me to understand what the heck you are going on about.’
‘She’s a… a… she likes girls!’
Mr Luxton figured as much, but feigned cluelessness, just to make Ms Cann more uncomfortable. After all, he was enjoying a peaceful afternoon until she came along, so she deserved it. He continued to act naïve. ‘Well, I should hope she likes girls, after all, she would be having a miserable time here if she had no friends. In fact I would be most concerned if she hated the other girls in the sch…’
‘That’s not what I mean!’ Ms Cann started to turn red. ‘I mean she likes girls!’
‘She likes girls, like she should like boys!’
‘You mean she’s a lesbian?’
‘Oh good gracious, do you have to use that word?’
‘But hold on a minute Ms Cann. If she’s a lesbian, then why would she be making out in broom closets with Rex Cassidy?’
Ms Cann sighed angrily. ‘That’s just it, you see? She has no morals. She doesn’t care with whom she shares her perversions. She is a sick girl and needs psychiatric treatment.’
‘Now, now, I think you’re getting carried away again. It is quite possible that Vanessa may be attracted to both sexes. That’s not all that uncommon you realise.’
‘It’s sick. Perverted. Immoral!’
‘Well, that’s your opinion, but the school system is not allowed to discriminate against such people, so you can’t just go around saying they need psychiatric treatment.’
‘So you’re not going to do anything about these two students?’
‘Well I don’t know if there’s a lot I can do. We have no proof of any wrong doings, bar some inappropriate kissing and touching.’
‘They admitted what they did.’
‘Admission of guilt is no proof. They may have just been trying to get your dander up. You’d need to capture them in the act.’
‘They are constantly late for class because of it.’
‘Still no proof. If you can catch them in the act of doing something as inappropriate as sex in a broom closet or even in an office or classroom, then we can certainly take action, but until then my hands are tied.’
‘I’ve heard some disturbing rumours too, about something else.’
Luxton sighed. ‘What?’ He’d had enough of Ms Cann’s gripes without considering yet more possibly unfounded accusations.
‘That boy is having a party some time soon. A party!’
‘Well as long as it’s not during cl…’
‘Apparently he’s invited all the seniors and some of the younger students too. Can you imagine how that’s going to turn out?’
‘Imagine the debauchery… underage drinking, sex, drugs, pop music… I’m amazed that his parents are allowing it. How can they? What sort of people are they?’
‘Are you sure there’s any substance to these rumours?’
‘Of course! Even other staff members have mentioned it. Surely the school can’t allow such a party to go ahead?’
‘I’m afraid that sort of thing is out of our hands. It’s not during school hours.’
‘But it can’t be allowed! It’s illegal!’
‘Well if it is as you say, then it is, but I doubt you have any proof it will be. If parents are involved, it surely won’t get out of hand.’
‘Do you really think his parents care?’
‘I’m sure they do.’
‘Well I think it’s all simply awful.’
‘Well, I don’t really care about what goes on outside of school hours. It’s none of my concern, nor yours for that matter, but as far as any improprieties taking place here at school, I’m afraid I’m going to have to have proof before I take any action.’
Ms Cann rose to her feet and glared at him. ‘Very well. If proof is what you want, proof I shall get! And when I do catch them in the act, I expect action to be taken immediately!’
‘Of course, Ms Cann.’
She delivered him one last disapproving look and then strode out of the office. Mr Luxton leaned back in his seat and sighed deeply. He shook his head a few times and then returned to his work.
‘Mandy, you ok?’ Rex saw her sitting alone the following morning on a bench outside one of the classrooms. She sat there and gazed at the ground, which was unlike her. She was usually up and about talking to people, laughing and being her usual friendly self. Rex hated to see anyone looking down, especially not a friend.
‘Oh, hi, Rex.’ She glanced up and smiled, but it seemed to Rex to be forced.
He sat down beside her. ‘What’s up?’
‘Oh… nothing… I mean just the usual stuff, you know. My parents being difficult and…’
‘Yeah… But mainly my parents. I tried talking to Dale, trying to get him to come to meet them.’
‘And he wouldn’t go along with it?’
‘Well, he’s thinking about it.’
Rex studied her carefully. He sensed there was something she wasn’t telling him, but he didn’t push it. He placed his hand on her lower arm. ‘I’m gonna find out who stuck up that photograph. I promise.’
She turned her eyes to him, but with the same glum expression. ‘There may be nothing you can do.’
‘Well I’m gonna try.’ He rubbed her arm gently.
‘What’s going on?’ Dale stepped up seemingly out of nowhere. His eyes were narrow and he peered down at Rex’s hand, which still rested on Mandy’s arm.
Rex patted her arm a couple of times and focussed his attention on Dale. ‘Just being a friend. Nothing for you to worry about, Dale.’
‘He’s just trying to cheer me up,’ Mandy said.
Dale’s eyes went from Rex’s arm to his face and remained trained on him like a death ray. ‘Don’t you think that should be my job?’
‘Of course.’ Rex rose to his feet. ‘She’s all yours.’
He stepped to the side and offered him the seat beside Mandy. Dale continued to peer at him, but didn’t say anything.
‘Dale, lighten up,’ Mandy ordered.
Dale ignored her and spoke to Rex in a chilly tone. ‘You need to realise, Cassidy, she’s my girl now. You know that, right?’
‘Of course I do.’
‘It’s just that I know about you, man… about you and Holly Robinson… and she was seeing Rick Maverick!’
‘That was a mistake.’ Rex did not intend to explain himself to Dale, but he understood the mistrust on his part.
‘And I’m worried there might be another mistake.’
‘Dale!’ Mandy snapped. ‘There isn’t going to be any mistakes!’
‘Mandy’s right,’ Rex said. ‘Maybe you should learn to trust your girlfriend a little more. Has she done anything to abuse your trust yet?’
Dale didn’t reply and his expression didn’t change. Rex felt like expressing some harsh words of his own, but for Mandy’s sake, he didn’t. He told himself that if he were in Dale’s shoes, he’d have the same concerns. ‘Relax, Dale. You’ve got nothing to worry about.’
Rex left the three of them there, but he could feel Dale’s eyes drilling into his back as he walked away. He found Mav, Wal and Pete standing outside one of the locker blocks, staring inside. ‘What’s cooking?’
‘Ms Cann,’ Mav said. ‘And it stinks like last week’s garbage.’
‘What’s she up too?’ Rex peered around into the hallway and saw Ms Cann closing the door of a cupboard.
‘Checking out the broom closets,’ Pete replied. ‘She’s going around the locker blocks.’
‘Yeah, I even asked her why and she told me to mind my own business.’
Ms Cann disappeared down the other end of the block.
Rex chuckled. ‘I may have some idea. I think she’s trying to catch me out.’
‘Oh, I get it.’ Mav laughed. ‘She hopes she’ll catch you in the act of committing immoral activities.’
‘She really doesn’t like you, does she?’
‘Looks like you’re gonna have trouble finding privacy.’
‘Mmmmm.’ Rex paused and scratched his chin. ‘Otherwise we can have some fun with this. Really get her wound up.’
‘I like the sounds of that.’
‘I’m in.’ Wal grinned.
‘I’ll give it some thought during the weekend. I’m sure we can get her good.’
‘Hi guys!’ Vanessa hurried up to them, grabbed Rex and embraced him. She planted a long succulent kiss on his lips. Rex couldn’t believe how good it felt, although it always felt that good.
‘Do I get one?’ Pete asked.
‘Yeah huh, in about 20 years, shortly before you lose your virginity. I’m sure some woman will oblige.’ She winked.
‘Well maybe I might get lucky at Rex’s party.’
‘Doubt it, Cooks,’ Wal said. ‘Now that Denise Phillips has left Te Arawa, any chance you had for romance is long gone. That’s it.’
‘Gee, thanks Wal, you’re a real pal.’
‘Speaking of the party…’ Vanessa leaned up against Rex, ran her finger down his front and spoke to him sensuously, her mouth only inches from his, ‘I have a special birthday present, especially for you. Ooh la la.’
Her voice and touch could always melt him. ‘Mmmmm, I like the sounds of that.’
Jacqui arrived, with Laura and a couple of other girls in tow. She had a look of displeasure on her face so maybe she saw and heard what Vanessa had said. When she noticed Rex looking, she broke into a smile. ‘Hi Rex! Hi guys. Rex, how are plans for the party going?’
‘Really well. We’ve even managed to organise a live band.’
‘Wow, a concert in your backyard, huh?’
‘Something like that.’ He paused when Maggie bounced up. He’d seen her in class but hadn’t yet got to say hi to her. He had to admit she was very cute.
‘Hi guys!’ she called out in a cheerful manner.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Jacqui rolling hers. He’d heard she had been given the job of getting her settled in and couldn’t help but feel that Mrs Toucher had been unwise with her choice.
‘What do you want, Margaret?’ Jacqui asked.
‘Nothing! I just wanted to say hi.’
‘Well now you have, you can say goodbye.’
Maggie remained there smiling at the group. ‘You’re Rex, right?’
‘That’s me.’ Rex grinned. ‘You must be Maggie.’
‘Yep!’ She continued to stand there smiling at him.
Jacqui sighed and peered at her with contempt.
‘How do you like TAC so far?’ Rex asked, used to girls not knowing what to say to him.
‘Well, I hope you settle in. Glad to see Jacqui’s here to help you.’
He glanced at Jacqui who quickly smiled and replied. ‘Yes, I’m looking after her, aren’t I, Maggie? Rex, why don’t you join me and show her around the school.’
‘But Jacqui,’ Maggie said, ‘You’ve already shown me around the school.’
‘Well another time can’t hurt, can it?’ Jacqui beamed. ‘I mean how much did you remember yesterday?’
‘Not a lot.’
‘So come on then,’ Jacqui beckoned. ‘Let’s go.’
‘He can’t, Jacqui,’ Vanessa said. ‘We promised Mr Harris we’d help him sort out some gym gear before class.’
Jacqui’s eyes narrowed, but quickly opened again when she noticed Rex’s eyes upon her. ‘Yes we did. Sorry, Jacqs, but I’m gonna have to take a rain check on that one.’
‘I’ll help.’ Maggie volunteered.
‘The more the merrier,’ Rex said.
‘What?’ Jacqui recoiled. ‘You’re going with them?’
‘Yep,’ Maggie replied. ‘See ya later, Jacqui.’
‘Well in that case, I’m coming too.’
‘You, volunteering to help out a teacher?’ Pete scoffed. ‘That’s a first.’
‘Hey, I’m always willing to help out when necessary.’
‘Whatever you say.’
Friday nights, Rex often spent hanging out with his friends as a group, but this Friday night, there was nothing scheduled, so he happily spent it with Vanessa. They took a romantic stroll along the banks of the Rocky River. When it grew dark, the two returned to Vanessa’s place. Rex remained ever vigilant, the threatening note still on his mind. He wasn’t worried about himself, but he was worried about Vanessa. He’d never forgive himself if she got hurt.
‘Rexy, good to see you!’ Grace, Vanessa’s mother, greeted them. Even Rex had to admit she was an incredible looking woman. There was no mistaking where Vanessa got her looks, she had the same dark flowing hair, flawless skin and big sapphire blue eyes.
‘Can I get you a cold drink?’
‘I’d love one.’
‘Mum, I’m just gonna freshen up.’ Vanessa headed out back.
Rex sat down on an old couch and scanned the room. He had been there a few times before and admired the photographs on the wall of Vanessa when she was younger. A more recent portrait of her was the one that stood out the most. Her hair was all done up and she wore an expensive looking dress. It must have cost quite a lot and Rex knew Grace struggled to make ends meet, but she was the sort of mother who always tried to give Vanessa the best she could.
Grace came back with a glass of orange juice. ‘I’m so glad to see that things have worked out so well with you and Nessie. I was so worried at first, but now I’m glad we’re here.’
Vanessa walked into the lounge dressed in a light cotton dress cut low at the bust and high at the thighs. She would never wear such a dress in public as she was more modest than that, but around home with only her mother and Rex around she could wear whatever made her comfortable.
Rex could hardly take his eyes off her.
‘Would you like a drink too, Ness?’ Her mother asked.
‘Thanks, Mum. All that walking is thirsty work.’
‘That’s all you did? Walking?’ Grace smiled cheekily and glanced down at Rex. ‘But then again, I’m sure whatever you did was thirsty work.’
‘Mum!’ Vanessa laughed. ‘You can be so embarrassing sometimes.’
Vanessa deposited herself down beside Rex as her mother left the room. Rex gazed down at her long smooth legs. If her mother hadn’t been around he would have ran his hand along them.
Vanessa seemed to like the reaction her skimpy outfit had on him. She smiled and licked her lips suggestively. They both knew nothing was going to happen while her mother was there. Sure Grace was very liberal, much like Rex’s mother, but getting it on in front of her was something neither of them would do.
She probably would have been ok about him staying overnight, but Rex had things he had to do at home and Vanessa knew that.
She moved her bust closer to him. Rex loved it when she teased him and she knew that too. ‘Are you sure you can’t stay over tonight?’ she said in her softest mellowest voice.
‘You know I can’t, Ness. I promised my mother I would help out with some of the party prep. I can’t let her do all the work.’
She pouted. ‘That’s such a pity.’
‘I know.’ Rex almost felt like ringing up his mother to delay the party prep, but he knew if he kept putting it off then all the pressure would be on later and he didn’t want it all to pile up.
She continued to gaze into his eyes, her own twinkling playfully.
‘Rex,’ Grace came back in. ‘Are you staying the night?’
‘No, sorry. I have to go shortly.’
Vanessa sighed deeply. ‘He is so cruel, Mum. I think he likes being mean to me.’
‘You’ll see him tomorrow, no doubt.’
‘Oh, but tomorrow’s such a long way away.’
‘I hate you both.’
Reluctantly Rex left Vanessa’s place and made his way home. He had to cut through town to get to his place and came across four leather-clad guys loitering around outside the local fish and chips shop. Rex would have thought nothing of them, except they wore gang colours and their jackets had the words “Wild Dogs” imprinted on the back of them, along with a picture of a Rottweiler head. Three motorcycles sat parked out the front too. He wasn’t sure whether to give them a wide berth or just walk on by. If it hadn’t been for the recent threat, he would have just kept right on walking without even thinking about it.
Rex didn’t need to make a decision though, because the four gang members saw him and came striding towards him. Rex wasn’t the sort to run away, but on this occasion, he realised he probably should have. One of the gang members was Ben Tamati and the look on his face was one of menace.
Tucker wished he could hang out with his pals, but he had more important things to do right now. He had to find himself a new job. Time was running short, as he had almost used up all his severance pay, in fact he had his last 50 dollars in his wallet. Even if he did manage to find himself a job soon, he’d still have to ask for an advance to be able to pay his board.
‘Ubbing Mum,’ he grumbled as he wandered along the road. ‘What other kids in Te Arawa have to pay their mother board? No one!’
He had almost run out of businesses to approach in Te Arawa. They had all turned him away or made empty promises to ring him if vacancies became available. Tucker began to consider that maybe the name Pyles had become a liability in town, especially having been fired from his last two jobs.
He came across the local pub on the outskirts of town. There were motorbikes, cars, and a couple of Utes parked out front. This was one place he hadn’t tried yet. Perhaps he might be able to get a job as a bartender there? He recalled an old Tom Cruise movie where Tom played a bartender and worked in bars in tropical places, doing juggling acts with the bottles and glasses for beautiful women. Surely, Tucker could start out in the local pub, learn the ropes then travel the world, picking up gorgeous women and wowing audiences with his skills. The goddess would most definitely be impressed. He could just imagine her in a skimpy bikini sipping a cocktail at his bar on the beaches of Key Largo or some other exotic location.
He wiped drool from his mouth and proceeded towards the main entrance to the pub.
‘You can’t come in here kid!’ A man stepped up with a tray full of empty glasses. ‘Get the hell out of here.’
Music played in the background mixed with the murmuring of bar patrons as they sat at tables drinking. The sounds of balls colliding came from one corner of the bar where a group of gang members played pool. The bar was packed and Tucker couldn’t help but shudder looking at the burly gangsters as they played.
He had heard of the gang. It was based in New Plymouth. He wondered what they were doing at a Te Arawa pub.
‘Well kid? You gonna answer me?’
‘Ah, yeah, I was just hoping I could speak to someone about getting a job.’
‘In a pub?’
‘Yeah, I have some skills.’
The man frowned for a few seconds and then spoke. ‘I don’t know kid, but you’ll have to talk to Rita at the bar. She runs this place, but you better make it quick. We’re not supposed to let unaccompanied minors in here.’
Tucker hurried over to the bar, finding himself uncomfortably close to a group of Wild Dogs who sat at a table near the bar. ‘Are you Rita?’
The woman at the bar, a middle-aged brunette, examined him. ‘Yes, who are you?’
‘My names…’ He paused for a moment and considered the fact that the Pyles name might be mud around the business right now. ‘… my names Rex Cassidy and I’m looking for a job.’
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the group at the nearby table turn their heads and peer at him. It made him even more uncomfortable, but he tried to ignore them.
‘Rex Cassidy?’ Rita tickled the tip of her cheek thoughtfully. ‘I’ve heard that name before.’
‘Oh yeah, I’m pretty well-known around here. I’m especially popular with the ladies.’
Rita’s left eye narrowed. ‘You? Popular with the ladies?’
‘You betcha. I have to beat them off me all the time.’
‘I find that hard to believe, but anyway, how old are you? You can’t be more than fifteen. I don’t employ kids here.’
‘I’m 18,’ he lied. ‘Hey, I’m brilliant when it comes to flair routines. You should see me. I can juggle bottles, flip glasses and all that stuff.’
Rita snorted. ‘Well even if you could, I can’t employ anyone under 20 at the bar. Besides, take a look around, what do you see everyone drinking here?’
Tucker scanned the room. There were jugs and glasses of beer and the occasional glass of wine, but nothing much else. He again surveyed the group of gangsters near him, only to see that they still had their eyes on him, along with evil expressions on their faces.
‘Do you see any cocktails here?’ Rita said. ‘This is a country pub. We don’t have much call for flair specialists here.’
‘Hey, I can be a bouncer! I’m really good with my fists and looking at some of these guys, I’d say you need one.’
‘We already have someone who can step into that role if we need him.’ Rita smiled and looked as though she was trying to hold back laughter. ‘Look, we really have nothing we can offer you at the moment. Now if I were you I’d leave, because this is no place for someone like you.’
Tucker sighed and turned to go. He trundled out of the bar and stood out the front, feeling defeated. He was about to walk off when the same gang members who had peered at him at the bar stepped out onto the deck surrounding the pub.
Not liking the looks on their faces, Tucker hurried off down the road. The road he walked down was quiet, with no housing on the sides of the road, only farmland. He glanced back to see three gang members climb onto their bikes and fasten their helmets.
Tucker relaxed a little, feeling confident they were no longer interested in him, but a little farther along he heard the revving of motorcycle engines and three bikes pulled up beside him, along with an old white van. The gangsters leapt off their bikes and surrounded Tucker before he could move.
‘You!’ One of them, a Maori with tattoos on his face, glared at him through protruding eyes. ‘You Rex Cassidy?’
‘Ah yeah, I mean no, I’m not.’
‘You said you were Rex Cassidy!’ snarled one of the others, a white skinned man with a goatee beard and a scar running down the side of his left eyebrow.
‘Ahhh, no…’ Tucker hesitated. ‘My names Tucker. I just said that…’
‘You’re coming with us!’ the Maori grunted.
‘Get in the van!’
‘But I’m not Rex…’
‘I said, get in the van!’ The Maori grabbed him and shoved him viciously towards the van, which doors were now open. Another gang member grabbed him and shoved him towards it.
‘Please!’ Terror welled up inside Tucker. ‘You’ve got to believe me. I was only joking about…’
Another shove sent him toppling into the van and the gang member slammed the door shut and locked it from the outside.
‘No!’ screamed Tucker, trying to sit up, but a rough hand grabbed him and shoved him back down.
‘Stay put, dickhead!’ Another Wild Dog sat in the van and flicked out a knife that he placed at Tucker’s throat, causing him to freeze.
The engine of the van started and it began to move. All Tucker could do was lie there, petrified, scared for his life and stared up with horror at the glinting blade.
Mandy arrived at Dale’s barbeque feeling very apprehensive. She told her parents she was going to Jacqui’s and hoped desperately they would not ring there or turn up there looking for her. Seeing as it was still late afternoon, she doubted it, but she’d have to return in good time if she didn’t want them getting suspicious.
She also dreaded seeing some of Dale’s friends again, particularly Maurice Havers, the ring leader of the group that had gate crashed the beach party a few weeks earlier. He was a school drop out and nothing but trouble as far as Mandy was concerned. Most of Dale’s friends still attended school and a couple of his closer buddies had apologised for their part in the trouble at the beach.
On arrival, she saw no signed of Maurice, so she was thankful for that. A crowd had already gathered, most of whom she knew from school, mainly boys and girls from year thirteen. The barbeque was being held under the roof of an old hay storage area, which was only partially filled with hay bales, but no doubt would be full in the next few weeks once haymaking had completed.
‘Mandy! Finally, you’ve arrived.’ Dale bounced up to her from where a gas barbeque was set up and already alight. He planted a kiss on her cheek. ‘You look great!’
Not wanting to wear jeans in such hot weather, she wore a blue knee-high skirt and a T-shirt. ‘Thanks!’
Music played, although not the sort Mandy particularly appreciated, but it was Dale’s style – Hip Hop. Mandy considered herself a metal head, although she liked mainstream stuff too. She considered asking whether Maurice was coming, but decided not too. She didn’t want Dale thinking she was obsessed with the guy.
‘Hi, Mandy!’ One of the girls smiled at her as Dale led her to the drinks table.
‘How’s it going, Mandy?’ said another as they passed by.
Mandy was surprised to find out that most of them knew her name as she barely knew some of them, but then she remembered the photograph and figured they had either seen it or heard of it.
‘How’s Rex?’ a girl at the drink table greeted her.
Dale peered at the girl with a cold expression. ‘Who cares about Rex? The last thing we want to do is talk about him, Tracey.’
‘Maybe not you, but he’s one of my favourite subjects.’
Dale rolled his eyes, ‘Want a drink, Mandy?’
‘Ah, yeah, sure.’ Mandy would have quite happily stood there for hours indulging in that particular subject with Tracey and if Dale hadn’t been around, she would have, but she figured it best not to upset him. ‘What have you got?’
‘Well we have juice and soft drinks, but if you errr… want something a little more potent, we have some of the punch. It’s got vodka in it.’ He smiled at her with a gleam in his eye.
She was surprised to see no beer there, but figured it was too risky considering his parents would likely turn up unannounced to make sure the barbeque was going well.
‘Maybe just one glass.’
‘What will you do if one of your parents want to try the punch?’
The gleam remained in his eyes. ‘I’ll accidentally knock it off the table.’
‘Hey, hey hey!’ A male voice called out from behind. ‘If it isn’t Ran… oh, oh, better get it right, huh? If it isn’t Mandy.’
Mandy groaned when she saw Maurice stroll up to the drinks table, with a couple of his buddies with him. She recognised them as two of the gatecrashers. One of them still attended school.
Maurice completely ignored Dale. ‘Nice to see you around again. I hear you’ve made a bit of a celebrity of yourself, pinning up pictures of yourself and Rex all over the school.’
‘I didn’t put them up there!’
‘Oh yeah?’ Maurice sniggered. ‘That’s not what I heard.’
‘Give her a break, Maurice,’ Dale said, but not in a very forceful tone.
‘I put them up?’ Mandy scoffed. ‘And I suppose I took the photographs as well? That’s a neat trick.’
‘Oh, come on, you obviously had someone there to photograph you. You wanted the whole school to know that, “Hey, I’ve done it with Rex Cassidy!”’
‘Maurice, quit it!’ Dale growled.
Maurice finally seemed to notice the presence of Dale and turned his eyes to him. ‘Man, I can’t believe you, dude. I’m surprised you’re still seeing her, seeing as she’s still screwing around with Cassidy. If I was you, I’d have dumped her ass days ago.’
‘Those photographs were taken last year.’
‘Oh yeah? Well you’re a real gullible prat if you believe that. You just gonna take her word for it? If you ask me, someone saw them at it and thought, “Hey, she’s screwing around behind her boyfriend’s back. I gotta get this on camera and expose the truth to the world!”’
Dale glared at him. ‘I… But…’
‘You see? You know you can’t trust her, bud.’
Mandy decided it was time to speak up, ‘Maurice, it’s true, those photographs were taken last year! Somebody changed the date on them to make it look like they were recent.’
‘Whatever you say, sweetheart.’ Maurice winked and strolled away.
‘Jerk!’ Mandy glared after him. She then noticed the confused look on Dale’s face. ‘Oh come on, Dale, you’re not taking him seriously are you?’
The confused look vanished and an awkward smile appeared on his face. ‘Of course I don’t take him seriously.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘He’s just being a jerk, that’s all.’
Mandy said no more, but didn’t feel at all confident with his words. He handed her a class of punch. She took a sip and immediately screwed up her face. ‘Oh my God, this is foul!’ She handed it back. ‘I think I’ll stick to Coke, thanks!’
Dale’s face fell. ‘Oh… ok.’ He paused first, glanced at her glass of punch and skulled the lot down, flinched, nearly choked and then poured himself another.
Mandy didn’t know whether she liked the idea of him drinking so much so quick. ‘Pretty potent.’
‘It’s good stuff.’ Dale cast her a sly grin, then proceeded to pore her a Coke.
It wasn’t long before steaks and sausages were grilling on the barbeque. Mandy congregated with Dale and some of his friends, chatting cheerfully with anyone who approached her. When it came to the girls, the topic usually led to Rex. Whenever it did, Mandy would notice a frown on Dale’s face, so would try her best to steer the conversation onto other topics. With some of them, it was difficult as they were very persistent.
‘I hear he likes 80s music,’ one said. ‘I love that sort of stuff. What’s his favourite 80s band?’
‘Ah… he likes so many of them, he doesn’t have a favourite. So do you like this stuff playing on the stereo at the moment? What is that band?’
‘Oh, that’s Meow Pussy Cat, haven’t you heard any of her stuff before?’
‘What sort of a name is that for a hip hop artist?’
‘She’s great! Does Rex like Hip hop?’
‘No, he hates it.’
‘Oh.’ There was disappointment in her voice.
‘Ah, man!’ Dale piped up. ‘Can you girls stop talking about Rex? It’s getting on my nerves!’
‘Does he like heavy metal?’
‘Megan!’ Dale delivered her a dirty look that time.
‘Some.’ Mandy said and looked at Dale in defeat.
Dale skulled back another glass of punch. He’d been drinking punch non stop since Mandy had got there and she was starting to get a little concerned.
‘Come over here, Mand, I’d like to introduce you to someone.’ His words slurred a little and he took her by the arm, as if wanting to draw her away from Megan. ‘This is Martin.’ He tapped one of his friends on the shoulder.
‘Yeah, he goes to school,’ Mandy said. ‘He’s one of the 1st Eleven.’ He was very high profile in the school, so it seemed funny Dale would be introducing him to her. No doubt, he hoped it would end any conversation about Rex.
Dale patted Martin on the back. ‘So Marty, how’s the training going? Have you managed to beat your highest batting score yet? What is it? 239?’
‘Oh yeah, that’s the one…’ He really seemed inebriated now. ‘You’re the best damn player on the whole team, man.’
‘I remember when you hit that six that time, man and it went right over the roof of C block. That was an amazing shot, man.’
‘Yeah, you keep telling me. That was last summer though.’
Mandy wasn’t particularly interested in hearing about cricket, but stood there anyway, trying to at least look interested. Then another girl arrived, a 17 year old, Mandy knew only by name.
‘Hi Mandy,’ she greeted her.
‘You know, I can’t wait for next week. Rex’s birthday party bash is looking like it’s gonna be really amazing. I hear he’s organised a live band and professional catering, sparing no expense.’
‘That’s right.’ Mandy glanced to her side to see a look of distaste appear on Dale’s face again.
‘You know, I can’t wait,’ Amber said. ‘I’m so pleased he’s offered an open invitation to all the seniors.’ She sighed. ‘Is he dreamy or what?’
‘Damn it!’ Dale snapped. He glared at Amber, his eyes burning. ‘What is it with you girls? Will you stop talking about damn Rex Cassidy?’
Amber froze and stared at Dale. Even Mandy couldn’t help but stare. She’d never heard him explode like that.
‘This is my party at the moment! I don’t give a shit about his party! It’s another week away! So just stop talking about that damn idiot for once, will you? I don’t wanna hear anything more about that creep.’
Despite the shock Mandy felt, she couldn’t help but feel irritated. If it had been anybody but Dale talking like that about Rex, she would have given them a good ear bashing. She bit her tongue, telling herself it was only the alcohol talking.
‘I am so sick and tired of hearing about bloody Rex Cassidy! Rex Cassidy this, Rex Cassidy that! What music does he like? What hobbies does he have? Does he like this? Does he like that? Why didn’t you invite him to the barbeque? I’ve had enough! No more talking about damn Rex Cassidy! Anymore and you can damn well go home!’
All those around stood, with mouths agape, surprised at the outburst. Mandy knew she had to do something to calm him down. She ran her hand down his arm. ‘Dale, calm down. It’s ok.’
He simmered, turned to her and then his eyes softened. Amber still looking alarmed so backed away.
Mandy put her arm around Dale. ‘Let’s just forget about Rex. Let’s just enjoy the barbeque, ok?’
Maurice stepped up to them again. ‘Hey, pal. Why don’t you come over here? Looks like you could relax a little.’
‘Come with us. We’ve got a surprise.’
‘What about Mandy?’
‘Hey, bring her too, she’ll like this.’
Reluctantly Mandy followed Dale as Maurice led them over to a small shack, which housed pumping equipment. He opened the door and immediately they were met by a cloud of sweet, but pungent smelling smoke. Inside sat a couple of guys and one girl, handing around a rolled up paper. One of the boys held it, took a puff from it and exhaled a spiral.
‘Hey, alright!’ Dale smiled. ‘Now that’s what I’m talking about.’
‘Come on, take a seat,’ one of the smokers said.
Dale quickly sat down in the circle, along with Maurice. He turned to face Mandy who still stood at the door. ‘Come on, babe. Join us. It’s good stuff.’
The smell of the smoke made her feel nauseous. She watched in dismay as Dale took the joint and sucked on it, inhaling the smoke. He closed his eyes then let it out with a long sigh. ‘Oh yeaaaaaah. That’s good shit.’
Maurice took a drag next, savoured it then held it up to Mandy. ‘Hear ya go, babe.’
‘Come on, sit down!’ Dale patted the floor next to him.
Reluctantly, she sat down next to him and Maurice handed the joint to her. It felt like she was holding an evil object in her hand and for a few seconds she just stared at it.
‘Come on, girl, don’t waste it,’ one of Maurice’s friends said.
‘Take a drag, Mandy,’ Dale urged her. ‘It’s really good.’
Her entire body felt tense and her mind screamed at her to get out of there now before it was too late, but all eyes in the room were upon her. She felt like she was way out of her depth, but it seemed she had no choice.
She raised the joint towards her lips…
‘You should have heard her, Holly. Oh she was just so sycophantic…’ Jacqui walked along the road with her best friend, heading towards the shops. Her frustrations were building up, so it was nice to be able to release some to an understanding set of ears. ‘“Oh Rexy, I’ve got a special birthday present especially for you. Sigh!” It was so sickening!’
‘Oh, come on, lighten up, Jacqs. What do you have against her? Vanessa’s really nice.’
‘She sickens me. And that Maggie, she’s almost as bad. She actually admires her!’
‘Maggie seems nice too.’
‘Well she can forget about being part of our group!’
‘She’s… she’s a nerd. A geek. I mean, she’s like the female version of Pete Cook!’
‘She’s not that bad.’ Holly giggled.
‘She’s an airhead! She’s clueless!’
Jacqui began to wonder if Holly was as understanding as she first thought. For once, she’d like to talk to one of her friends and have them agree with her. She was about to retaliate with another argument when a disturbance caught her eye up ahead. When she saw what was going on, she nearly freaked. ‘Oh my gosh! It’s Rex!’
When Holly saw what was going on, she let out a shriek. ‘They’re beating him up!’ Holly ran forward, but Jacqui grabbed her and pulled her back. ‘Are you crazy? Those are Wild Dogs!’
‘They’re killing him!’ Holly’s face filled with terror. ‘We’ve gotta stop them!’
One of the Wild Dogs lay on the ground, a knife lying only a few metres from his inert body. One had Rex’s body pinned, with his arms behind his back. The other two were dealing solid punches to his body and face. They too looked badly beaten. One had blood pouring from his nose, the other two had cuts to the mouth. Jacqui recognised the one with the bloodied nose. It was Ben Tamati.
‘Leave him alone!’ screamed out Holly.
The gang members stopped what they were doing. The one who held Rex released him and let him fall to the ground.
‘Help!’ Holly screamed out again. ‘Somebody call the police!’
Jacqui realised that screaming might be the only way to get help, as the gang members seemed hesitant on what to do next. ‘Help!’ she hollered out.
People appeared at the doorways to a couple of the shops and a man shouted from down the street. ‘You guys stop right there!’
The gang members abandoned Rex and made for their motorcycles. Ben leapt on the back of one of them. Without even pausing to put on their helmets, the riders gunned their engines and roared away down the road.
Holly raced towards Rex’s body, leaving Jacqui standing there dazed. Coming to her senses, she hurried over too. Holly was on her knees, crying, holding Rex’s motionless body. ‘Rex!’ His face was beaten up badly, but fortunately, there appeared to be no real serious wounds.
Others assembled around. Rex opened his eyes and winced.
‘Rex!’ Holly breathed a deep sigh.
When he saw her, he managed a pained smile. ‘Hi, Holly. Hi, Jacqui.’
‘Are you, ok?’
‘I’ll live.’ Rex groaned as he sat up. ‘Looks like you two came along just at the right time.’ He peered across at the still inert body of the unconscious gang member. ‘Well at least I got one of them.’
Jacqui sat with Rex in the doctor’s surgery as he had his wounds attended to. Holly had very reluctantly had to go home due to her parent’s demands, but Jacqui was fortunate to be able to stay. Rex had a dressing next to his left eye, which had to undergo a couple of stitches, but apart from that, the wounds were light and only light dressings needed doing.
‘I can’t believe those guys,’ Jacqui snarled. ‘Especially that Ben Tamati. So the rumours are true, he really has joined the Wild Dogs.’
Rex nodded. ‘It seems that way. Ben has decided he wants revenge for all the humiliation I’ve put him through. It seems those guys are willing to help him get it.’
‘Typical gang members. Always looking for an excuse to use violence.’
‘You’ll talk to the police, right?’
‘Of course. But I don’t really think that’s gonna do much good.’
‘They can arrest Ben and his accomplices.’
‘Yeah, but even if they lock up Ben’s pals, he’s only a minor, so he’ll still be on the loose. I have a hunch this won’t be the end of the trouble.’
‘Oh, no…’ Jacqui shuddered at the thought of more violence. She hated seeing Rex’s drop-dead handsome face looking so battered and she was terrified at the thought of anything worse happening. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’m not sure. I’ll think of something.’
A cry came from the doorway. ‘Rex! Oh my God, Rex!’ Vanessa rushed into the room, reached Rex’s side and clasped his arm. ‘I was horrified when I heard what happened. If anything ever happened to you…’ Tears filled her eyes.
Jacqui felt like uttering a groan of disgust at her arrival, but held it back.
‘It’s ok, Ness.’ Rex rubbed her hand. ‘I’m fine.’
‘What did they do to you?’ She ran his hand over his cheek. ‘Those bastards.’
Jacqui felt irritation build up inside her. Despite her concern for Rex’s wellbeing, she had really enjoyed the last fifteen minutes alone with him. His full attention had been on her and now it had transferred completely to Vanessa, just as it so often did at school.
Vanessa stroked his arm now, annoying Jacqui even further.
Did she always have to have her hands on him?
She watched as Vanessa continued to dote over the injured Rex and the longer she watched, the more irritated she became. A few minutes later, the nurse returned and broke them up, much to Jacqui’s relief, but she still felt aggravated even when the nurse asked her and Vanessa to go to the waiting room while she administered her final treatments.
Jacqui felt like giving Vanessa a piece of her mind and reminding her that it was she, Jacqui who had come to Rex’s rescue, but decided it best not to say anything. She wasn’t in the mood for any of Vanessa’s polite insults and pleasant, but condescending remarks. Fortunately, Vanessa’s mother awaited her out at reception and met her with a hug. They sat down together.
Jacqui wandered over to the reception area and was surprised to see Ms Cann standing there arguing with the reception.
‘I’m sorry Mrs Cann, but…’
‘The name is Ms Cann!’ the cantankerous English teacher snapped.
‘I’m sorry Ms Cann, but the doctor is finished for the day. We just have one nurse here dealing with an emergency case and as soon as she’s done, we’re locking up for the night.’
‘But I need to see a doctor now!’ Ms Cann took a handkerchief and blew her nose.
‘Dr Kelly will come in if there’s an emergency, but I’m afraid that hay fever allergies do not constitute an emergency.’
‘Not an emergency? Look at me! My nose is dribbling like a tap!’
‘I’m sorry, but I can book you in for an appointment first thing tomorrow morning.’
‘Can’t I at least have a prescription?’
‘I’m sorry. You’re not on our records as a client, so we can’t just go issuing prescriptions. Anyway, the doctor must sign them and the town chemist is closed.’
‘Closed? What sort of a stupid town is this?’
‘It’s a country town Ms Cann, not a city one. I suggest you try some Vicks and hot water…’
‘I don’t have any Vicks! And it’s way too hot to be putting my head over a bowl of steaming water.’
‘I’m very sorry, Ms Cann, but I can’t do anything for you tonight.’
Ms Cann grumbled something inaudible. She peered across to see Vanessa and her mother sitting in the waiting area. ‘What are they doing here? Do they have an appointment?’
‘They’re waiting for a patient who’s in the emergency room.’
‘Hmph! I’m surprised you let such people in this building.’
‘They seem like nice people.’
‘They’re nothing but trouble. That girl… she’s a… she’s morally bankrupt and I’ve heard her mother is no better. I can’t believe you will help them, but won’t help an aging old woman.’
‘Like I said, they are simply waiting for the emergency patient to be released…’
‘She ought to be expelled that girl.’
‘Yes! She’s a terrible example to the other children at school. A deviant!’
‘Well that’s got nothing to do with me. Now please, I really must clear up things as we are about to close.’
Ms Cann grumbled some more and turned to leave, but on seeing Jacqui, she came to a halt. ‘What are you doing here?’
Ms Cann frowned. ‘Were you listening in on what I was saying?’
Jacqui wasn’t sure how to reply. ‘I did overhear,’ she finally said. ‘And I heard what you said about Vanessa and her mother.’
‘Well, I… I hope you didn’t take what I said too seriously. You’re friends of Vanessa’s aren’t you?’
‘No. I actually can’t stand her.’
‘Really?’ Ms Cann’s eyes widened. ‘Then you agree what I said about her then?’
‘Of course.’ An evil idea came to Jacqui’s mind as she spoke. ‘You’re right, she’s a moral degenerate. Her type shouldn’t be allowed at school.’
‘That’s what I keep saying!’
‘She needs to go.’
‘Maybe we can both do something to make that happen.’
Ms Cann paused and peered at her with intrigue in her eyes. ‘And how do you propose we achieve this?’
Jacqui pondered for a moment and smiled. ‘I think I may have an idea…’
‘This isn’t Rex Cassidy!’
Tucker stood petrified inside the official headquarters of the Wild Dogs in New Plymouth, an old warehouse, fenced with six-foot high walls. Several leather clad gang members surrounded him, all with grim looks on their faces. Tucker glanced from one to the next. Some had tattoos on their faces, some had scars and some had light wounds from recent fights. They were a mixture of Maori and white and mainly in their late teens. The one who had spoken was no older than Tucker himself and had briefly attended Te Arawa College.
‘He said his name was Cassidy!’ insisted one of the gang members who had caught him.
‘He was talking crap. This guy is Tucker Pyles, one of the biggest morons in Te Arawa!’ His nose was crooked. It had never been that way before, but Tucker knew how it had happened. ‘What the hell are you doing, Pyles. Going around pretending you’re Cassidy?’ He had a scar above his right eyebrow too, having suffered a nasty gash there not long ago. Tucker knew how that got there too. ‘Well? You gonna answer me, Pyles?’
‘I… I was just trying to get a job in the pub.’
‘You?’ The crooked nosed gangster let out a long laugh. ‘What a joke!’
‘Arggh, crap!’ one of the gang members said. ‘Geeze, Buzzard, you mean to tell us we abducted this fat moron for nothing?’
Tucker could have easily laughed at the nickname if he wasn’t in such a perilous situation. Buzzard’s new nose certainly did look a little like a beak. Tucker knew him as Surly, but his real name was Luke Shirley. He was the guy Rex came close to killing a few weeks earlier for holding the goddess at knifepoint.
‘Not for nothing,’ sniggered Surly. ‘In fact this works out pretty nicely as far as I’m concerned, because I owe this fat punk big time!’
‘Why, what did he do?’
‘He set me up. It’s his fault I’ve got a criminal record now.’
Tucker gulped. There was no doubt about that, it was because of him that Surly was busted for under aged drinking. Surly had wanted him to plant alcohol in Rex’s bag, but instead Tucker put it in his. He had even gone as far as lying to the police by telling them Rex had nothing to do with the beating Surly received.
‘Oh yeah,’ Surly moved closer to him, an evil gleam in his eye. ‘I’ve got some payback that’s definitely overdue. This works out perfectly!’
Tucker attempted to back away, but one of the gang members pushed him back into place. Surly took out a flick knife from his pocket and held it at his throat, causing Tucker to gasp and go weak at the knees. He could hardly breathe as he stared terrified down at the gleaming steel. ‘No…’ He managed to force out some words. ‘I’m sorry Surl… I mean, Luke… I mean Buzzard… I…’
Surly grabbed him with his free arm and glared homicidally into his eyes. ‘Do you know how much shit I got into because of you? I was lucky I didn’t get put away! Now I’m gonna make you…’
‘What the hell’s going on?’ Another gang member dressed in only leather trousers pushed his way through the circle of Wild Dogs. He was a burly Maori guy, over six feet tall. He had Maori tattoos all over his face and up and down his muscular body. He looked to be around 19 years old, but the tattoos made it hard to judge for sure.
‘We got a slimebag, Hone.’ Surly snickered. ‘And I’m gonna slash his apple.’
‘Oh no you’re not, bro.’
‘What?’ Surly turned to face the tattooed gang member with a look of surprise.
‘You heard. If that’s not the guy we’re after, we let him go.’
‘But why, Hone?’
‘Because I bloody said so, that’s why! Use you’re head, e hoa! We deal with one at a time. That way we don’t get so much unwanted attention from the cops. Both you and Tamati wanted Cassidy and that’s the guy we’ll get. Not this loser. Buzzard, you’re letting your thirst for utu get the better of you, bro. You need to pull yourself together, or I’ll bloody well knock you together myself, you got that?’
Surly’s face paled. ‘Yeah, sure Hone, no worries.’
‘Let him go.’
‘But won’t he go to the cops?’ asked one of the gang members.
Hone stepped up to Tucker and glared down at him with an evil stare. ‘If he tells anyone about this, we’ll come looking for him, won’t we? Then the Buzzard here really will get to carve him up.’ He continued to peer into Tucker’s eyes, sending a nasty shiver down his spine.
‘I…I promise I won’t tell anyone!’
Hone’s eyes drilled into his for a few more seconds. ‘You better not if you know what’s good for you.’
Another group of three gang members arrived and they looked severely beaten. One of them was Ben Tamati.
‘What the hell happened to you guys?’ Hone growled.
‘We found him,’ one of them said.
‘Well where is he?’
‘We had to make a run for it. People saw us.’
‘So what the hell happened to you then? Did he do this to you?’
The three of them turned their eyes to the ground.
‘He did this to you? One kid?’
‘He’s really fast,’ Ben said. ‘We got him though, we beat him up good!’
‘Cassidy took him down.’
‘What?’ Hone’s eyes almost popped from his head. ‘He took Wolf down? One of our best men? How the hell did that happen?’
‘He’s a martial arts expert, Hone,’ the third gangster said.
Hone released a string of obscenities and stamped his foot down on the ground. ‘I can’t believe that! One kid and you couldn’t get him?’
Tucker felt like smiling, but held it back in case someone noticed.
‘We had him, Hone, but we were in a public place. We had to leave him there.’
‘And Wolf too? You left one of our bloody boys there for the cops to pick up?’
‘He was unconscious, Hone.’
He let loose with yet another string of obscenities. ‘Damn it! You guys are bloody hopeless! Look at the three of ya! Ya look like you’ve had the shit kicked out of you! One kid did this to you and laid out Wolf as well? Tell me that’s some kind of sick joke! Tell me he had a whole gang of guys!’
None of them could look him in the eye.
‘We’ll find him, Hone. We’ll go back and get him,’ Ben volunteered.
‘Don’t be so bloody stupid. The cops will be after us now asking questions. You stupid morons! I told you, you get him when he’s not expecting you. Somewhere where nobody can see you! Now we’ll have to hold off a bit.’ He turned to scowl at Tucker. ‘Get this fat moron out of here. We’ll talk about this later.’
The hurled Tucker out the main gate of the Wild Dog’s hideout, where he was finally able to breathe easy. He couldn’t believe the relief he felt that they hadn’t beaten him up. Now he was left wondering how he was going to get back home. It was too late to catch a bus and it would take him all night to walk there. Not only that, but he was due back home in under an hour’s time and if he was late back his mother would demand to know why.
He had no choice but to start walking. With a bit of luck he might be able to hitch a lift. Fortunately, for him, it was only a fifteen minute walk to get to the main road leading out of New Plymouth. Feeling exhausted, he came to a halt and stuck out his thumb. For ten minutes, he waited, but nobody picked him up. Giving up hope, he began to walk, stretching out his thumb to any car that drove along the road.
Another fifteen minutes went by and his legs grew weary. ‘Damn, Mr Harris,’ he grumbled to himself as a car droned by in the opposite direction. ‘With all the exercise he makes me do at PE, you’d think my legs would be a lot more durable than this!’
The car that had just driven past, slowed down, turned and rolled back down the road towards him. He turned hopefully to see it pull up beside him. The window wound down and a woman’s face appeared. Tucker immediately recognised her as Rita from the Te Arawa pub.
‘Hello,’ she said. ‘What are you doing way out here? Didn’t I see you not that long ago in Te Arawa?’
‘Yes.’ Tucker breathed heavily. ‘I’m trying to get back.’
‘How did you get all the way out here?’
‘Those Wild Dogs…’ he panted. ‘They kidnapped me.’
‘They drove me here and they were going to kill me!’
Rita’s eyes widened. ‘Oh my. Are you serious?’
‘Yes! When I was leaving the pub they came out and jumped me.’
‘Oh… I wondered why they left in such a hurry. That’s awful. You better get in. I’ll drive you back home.’
‘Thanks.’ Tucker breathed a sigh of relief and climbed into the passenger’s seat. ‘I’m totally ubbed!’
‘Stuffed. Had it. Oh man, I can’t believe what happened. They thought I was Rex Cassidy.’
‘You told me that’s what your name was.’
‘I know.’ Tucker lowered his head. ‘I just really wanted a job, that’s all.’
‘So lying about who you are is your method of gaining the trust of an employer?’
Tucker didn’t reply. He continued to hang his head in shame.
‘We need to get you to the police so you can report this.’ She turned her head back, preparing to do a u-turn and return to New Plymouth.
‘No!’ Tucker’s head jerked up. ‘You can’t tell the cops!’
‘They told me not to. They said they’d come back for me if I did.’
Rita hesitated. ‘Are you for real?’
Tucker spoke in a miserable tone of voice, ‘Yes. Two of the gang members know me from school. If I go to the cops, I’m dead.’
Rita sighed and leaned against the steering wheel. ‘I can’t believe this.’ She sighed again and leaned back in her chair. ‘This has gotten way out of hand. If you hadn’t… If it wasn’t for me allowing gang members into the bar, this would never have happened. I knew I should have turned them away, but I was afraid they’d cause trouble. That was the first time in a long time I’ve had Wild Dogs in the bar. They don’t normally come down there.’ She pressed down on the accelerator and drove forward. ‘I’m going to drive you back home.’
Tucker rejoiced on the inside. He glanced at his watch and saw that if they made good time, he’d get home just in time to avoid suspicion from his mother.
‘So what’s your real name then?’
‘Oh, Pyles. Yes, I know your father often comes into the bar for a beer.’
‘If Mum knew that, she’d kill him.’
‘So, you’re that serious about finding a job are you?’
‘What sort of experience do you have?’
‘Mainly cleaning. And I worked for a while in a café too.’
‘What did you do last?’
‘Cleaning… at the town gym.’
‘So what happened with that job?’
He was about to tell her that he was still there and make up a story about the terrible treatment he received, but decided to tell the truth. ‘I got fired… They said I used too much cleaning products…’ He wanted to be honest, he really did, but he just couldn’t help but embellish things a little, ‘But that was only because I did so much cleaning.’
‘Oh, Mr Efficient, huh? The Super Cleaner of Te Arawa.’ Rita laughed.
‘Yeah, that’s me.’
She laughed some more and then fell silent as she concentrated on driving. Tucker said no more. A short while later as they approached Te Arawa, Rita spoke up again. ‘You know, I feel kind of bad about what happened to you. I can’t help but feel, I’m partly to blame. I should have noticed those Dogs following you out and should have sensed trouble, but I didn’t. How would you like a job, Tucker?’
Tucker’s heart leapt and gasped with delight. ‘Really? I can be a bartender? Serve beers at the bar?’
‘Hold on, hold on, that’s not gonna happen. You’re too young and you’re not trained for that, but we are in need of someone to do odd jobs around the place. I want to spend less time there now… it’s one of the reasons I finished work early tonight… but with all the odd jobs, I find myself there longer than I want to.’
Tucker didn’t like the sound of “odd jobs”, as his last two jobs comprised of that sort of thing and they were usually very unpleasant odd jobs. However, he was in no position to turn down a job. ‘What sort of odd jobs?’
‘Well, it won’t be glamorous. You’ll be doing a lot of cleaning and the toilets can get very disgusting after an evening of heavy drinking. You’ll also be cleaning a lot of glasses and plates and stuff. It will mean late hours on Friday and Saturday nights, but in the week evenings we don’t stay open too late, so it will be ideal for you.’
‘Sounds good.’ Tucker tried to sound as enthusiastic as possible.
‘You’d get paid a fair wage. Adult rates. It will be for a trial period of course, just to make sure it works out.’
‘That’s ubbery… I… I mean cool!’
‘So what do you say? You know, seeing as you’ve had some experience in a food outlet, we could even use you to help out on the grill if it gets really busy.’
‘Cooking food?’ Tucker’s excitement level skyrocketed.
‘Yes, nothing too complicated, maybe frying a few eggs, making sure the chips don’t get over cooked, slicing and dicing vegetables, that sort of thing.’
He shouted so loud, it startled Rita, causing her to momentarily lose her concentration. ‘Whoa, Tucker, don’t shout when I’m driving.’ She laughed. ‘Well I guess you’re enthusiastic about it, hmm?’
Tucker was so excited he completely forgot he was trying to be more like Rex. There was no way in a million years Rex would holler out something like that at the thought of working in a kitchen, cooking food. ‘Sorry.’ Tucker composed himself. ‘I’d love to take the job, Miss R. You well and truly rock!’
‘Well thank you. And it’s not Miss R. I’m married. Just call me Rita.’
‘Ok, Rita. I can tell you this now; I am going to be the best damn employee you’ve ever had.’
‘Good. I hope that will be the case.’
‘I’m not into this.’ Mandy held the joint in her hand and glanced around at the unmoved expressions of those who sat in the pump shed. She passed the joint to the next person in the circle.
‘What?’ Maurice glared at her. ‘What do you mean, “I’m not into this”?’
‘I don’t want to,’ she said and rose to her feet. ‘It’s not my scene.’
‘Wait, Mandy!’ Dale rose to his feet. ‘Don’t go. Why don’t you just try it?’
Maurice snickered. ‘Looks like your girlfriend’s a square peg after all, pal.’
‘Come on Mand, don’t go. Just sit down with us.’
Mandy hesitated. She studied the disappointed look on Dale’s face and moved her attention to the scowl on Maurice’s. ‘I don’t want any part of this.’
She turned to leave, but Dale grabbed her arm. ‘Mandy! Don’t be a drag. Just hang around and have some fun.’
‘This isn’t my idea of fun.’
‘I thought you had a woman there, Dale, not a little girl,’ scoffed Maurice.
A couple of the others in the group laughed.
‘Ah, let her go,’ said one. ‘She’s obviously not ready for this yet. Looks like you need to educate her a little more, Casterton.’
Mandy didn’t like the insinuations and pulled her arm free. ‘I’m going. Are you coming, Dale?’
Dale cringed. ‘Ah, gee, Mandy. Don’t do this.’
‘Are you coming?’
Maurice snickered once again. ‘What’s up, Dale? You gonna let her tell you what to do?’
Dale stood straight and frowned at Mandy. ‘You go on out. I’ll join you in a little while.’
Mandy’s heart sank as she stared at the determined expression on his face. She didn’t want to show any weakness though, so gave him a stony look, turned and left the shed.
As she walked back across the grass towards the hay barn, her anger built up inside. She couldn’t believe that Dale would rather sit in there smoking dope, rather than being with her. It was as if he had chosen drugs over her. She also began to worry just how much Dale was into that scene. Drugs were something they’d never talked about before, but he just didn’t seem like the sort of guy that would take them. She nearly decided to have another go at the punch, but chose to pour herself a coffee instead.
‘What happened to Dale?’ one of the girls.
She didn’t feel like saying anything in reply, but finally let something out. ‘He’s being a jerk.’
‘Oh, that’s too bad. What did he do?’
‘Don’t worry about it.’
Mandy wandered over to a chair, sat and stewed over the incident in the shed some more. Next thing she knew 20 minutes had passed and Dale had still not returned.
‘Are you sure you’re ok, Mandy?’ The same girl as before stepped up and sat down beside her.
‘You don’t look it.’
‘I’m just really steamed, that’s all.’
‘He must have really said or done something to piss you off.’
‘You want to know what he’s doing?’ Mandy jabbed her finger in the direction of the pump shed. ‘He’s in there with that creepazoid Maurice and his friends, smoking dope!’
‘Oh…’ The girl’s expression softened. ‘Well, I’m afraid Dale and his friends are like that. You didn’t know?’
‘No!’ Mandy stared at her in surprise. ‘I had no idea!’
‘Doesn’t Rex do drugs?’
‘Of course not! He despises them.’
‘Oh, he just seems like the sort that would, that’s all. Being so popular and everything. Thought you would too for that matter.’
‘Well he doesn’t. And neither do I.’
‘Sorry. Didn’t mean to cause offence, you know.’
Mandy sighed. ‘It’s ok. Didn’t mean to be a bitch.’
‘Look, Mandy, don’t worry about it. It’s not like Dale’s into anything heavy like P. And neither are his friends. Can’t say it’s my scene, but I don’t think a little pot is such a big deal.’
Mandy wasn’t one for quoting her parents, in fact she tried to avoid it whenever she could, but she couldn’t help it on this occasion. ‘That’s where it starts. But what comes next?’
The girl didn’t reply. ‘So anyway, what are you going to do? Why don’t you go nag him to come back out?’
‘No.’ Mandy rose to her feet. ‘I think I’ll just go home.’
For once Mandy’s mother didn’t give her the third degree when she arrived home that evening. No doubt, it was because she arrived so early. From there she went to her room and closed the door. No sooner had she lay down on her bed when her cell phone rang. She took one look at it, saw that it was Dale trying to ring her and switched it off. For a while, she lay there on her bed, before her eyes grew heavy and she drifted off to sleep.
It wasn’t until the following morning that she bothered to switch her phone on again. After a quick breakfast, she announced to her parents that she was heading over to Jacqui’s.
‘I’ll be ringing the McDonalds later to make sure you’re there,’ her mother told her on the way out.
‘Yeah, yeah!’ she grumbled. She wondered how long the Big Brother tactics were going to last. How long would it be before they allowed her some freedom again? It would probably be some time yet.
She collected her bike and rode off along the road, but had not gone 50 metres when a male voice called out to her, ‘Mandy, over here!’
She slowed down her pedalling and peered in the direction of the voice. Dale was there, standing beside a tree, beckoning her to come over. Mandy’s first instinct was to keep on riding, but then she halted, conceding that Dale at least had made an effort to come and see her. She wondered how long he’d been waiting there knowing that there was no way he could just walk up to her house and knock on the door.
She rolled the bike over to the tree and peered back down the road just to ensure they were out of sight of her house. She didn’t want her parents seeing them talking.
‘Why did you take off last night?’ Dale sounded like a whiney little boy, but at least he didn’t sound angry.
‘Why do you think?’
‘Because of the weed?’
‘Not so much that. It was you deciding you’d rather be hanging out with that creep Maurice, rather than spending time with me.’
‘Ah, come on, Mand, I was only in there for a few minutes.’
‘You were in there for ages! I got fed up, so I went home.’
‘Ah, man, I’m sorry. I was really bummed out when I saw you had left.’
‘What do you expect? Did you think I was just going to sit around forever like a good little girlfriend, waiting patiently for you, wagging my tail? Get real! I wasn’t just there at that party as your eye candy, you know?’
‘Ah, geeze, it was just one time.’
‘That’s not what one of the other girls told me. They say it’s a common thing for you and those guys.’
‘It is not!’
‘That’s what she said.’
‘Are you gonna believe her or me?’
‘I don’t know who to believe.’
He scowled. ‘Give me a break! Can’t I have a bit of fun? Surely I don’t have to have your permission for everything I do?’
‘No. You don’t, but some courtesy would be nice, after all, you invited me to that stupid barbeque, but as soon as you had the opportunity, you were off smoking dope. You never told me you were into that scene.’
‘So, what? Are you saying you don’t wanna hang out with me now?’
‘No.’ Mandy lowered her voice. ‘It’s not like that at all. I still really like you, Dale and I still think you’re great, but I just felt like you were neglecting me that’s all.’
Dale’s expression softened. ‘I didn’t mean to. Can’t we just forget that last night ever happened and start afresh?’ He looked at her hopefully.
‘I guess.’ She forced a smile, which resulted in a return one.
Her cell phone rang. It was Chelsea. ‘Hi, Chels, what’s up?’
‘Did you hear?’ Came the reply. ‘Rex got beaten up really bad last night by a group of Wild Dogs.’
Mandy nearly dropped her phone. ‘Oh, my God, what? Is he, ok?’
‘Yeah, he’s fine. I’m going around to visit him this morning. Apparently, they really did a number on him. Ben Tamati was one of the gang members too.’
‘Ben? But Rex can handle him easy.’
‘Yeah, but there were three other older guys. Really nasty pieces of work too.’
‘Oh no… how badly did they hurt him? Please tell me they haven’t damaged his gorge…’ She almost forgot that Dale was standing next to her. She was going to say “gorgeous face”, but realised that would not be a wise thing to say in front of an insecure boyfriend. She was so used to talking that way with the other girls it had become a habit. She had to be careful not to refer to him as McDreamy either. ‘…Tell me they haven’t injured him so badly he can’t attend school.’
‘It’s ok, Mandy. Relax. He’s fine and he’s out and about. He ended up with a couple of stitches above his eye, but nothing too serious.’
‘Thank God.’ She began to relax and it was then that she noticed the cold look on Dale’s face.
‘Look, I gotta go, but I’ll…’ She wanted to visit Rex herself to make sure Chelsea hadn’t under exaggerated, but decided not to voice her desires or intentions on the matter. ‘… I’m glad he’s ok.’
‘Ok. Catch you later, Mandy.’
Dale still had that cold expression on his face as Mandy put away her phone.
‘Rex got himself beat up by a group of motor cycle gangsters.’
‘So I heard.’ Dale peered at her with distain now. ‘I couldn’t help but notice how upset you sounded when you heard the news.’
For a few moments, Mandy studied his serious face, wondering what he could have found in that which was offensive. ‘He’s my friend, Dale, how do you expect me to react?’
‘You were almost in a panic. Like he was on his death bed or something.’
‘For all I knew, he was!’
‘Ah, come on, Mandy, be honest, it’s just that you’re so crazy about him you couldn’t bear the thought that maybe he got a few cuts and bruises.’
‘Oh my God!’ Mandy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. ‘How can you say something like that?’ Anger welled up inside her. She wanted to let him have it but decided that his accusations were just not worth replying too. She climbed back onto her bike, but as she did, she felt some guilt when she realised there was some truth to his claims.
‘Mandy, I’m sorry!’ Dale tried to grab her arm, but she whisked it away just in time and started peddling.
She ignored him and kept on cycling.
Rex had just arrived at school the following morning when Mandy approached him at the school gates.
‘Rex, I was worried sick when I heard what had happened to you.’
‘I’m fine.’ Rex greeted her. He still had a plaster over his eye and a few bruises on his face, but otherwise he was healing up nicely.
‘I hear Ben Tamati was one of the gang members. Are the police pressing charges?’
‘They’re doing what they can, but he’s a minor, so they can only do so much.’
‘I can’t believe that creep. I hope you’re going to beat the crap out of him when you see him next.’
Rex wished he could, but he’d have to grit his teeth and bear it this time. ‘The police have advised me to stay away from him. If I try anything to get revenge, I’ll find myself in the shit too.’
‘I know, but what about you, Mandy? Have you had any trouble over the photographs? Have any more turned up?’
Mandy hesitated for a few seconds before replying. ‘No. I haven’t. Looks like it was just someone’s idea of a sick joke.’
‘Well I hope so.’ Rex studied her expression for a few moments. She turned her eyes away as if troubled. ‘Are you sure you’re ok?’
‘Yeah…’ She sighed. ‘It’s just that Dale’s been a complete ass over everything.’
‘Ah, ok. Is he going to meet your parents like you planned?’
‘At the moment I don’t think I even want to talk to him.’
Rex felt concern as he gazed at her and placed his hand on her arm. ‘What did he do?’
‘Oh, he was just being a jerk. Treating me like I’m his woman and I had to wait around for him while he hangs out with the boys.’
‘That’s not on. You deserve more respect than that, but are you sure that’s all?’
‘Yes. Its ok, Rex. He hasn’t hurt me or anything. I’m just pissed off with him that’s all.’
Rex didn’t push her any further. He still got the feeling she wasn’t telling him something, as she still seemed to struggle with eye contract, which was unlike her. ‘Well, I hope you’ll have sorted things out by this Saturday night. I’d hate to see you still upset with each other.’
‘The party’s still going ahead?’ Mandy’s eyes finally met his. ‘Even after what happened?’
‘Of course. I’m hiring some extra security guards just to keep away any unwanted guests, but I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Tamati got what he wanted.’
‘Are you sure that was enough for him though? He’s not the sort of guy to do half a job.’
Rex knew she had a point, but didn’t want her to worry. ‘With the police involved, the Dogs will think twice before doing anything again. If you ask me, Tamati screwed up. I don’t think their leader will be too happy about the unwanted police attention.’
‘Oh no, look, here he is now.’
Sure enough walking through the gates came Ben. He had a few more cuts and bruises on his face, wounds that Rex had definitely not inflicted. When Ben saw him, his face paled and he gave him a wide berth. Rex delivered him the evil eye has he hurried away, glancing regularly back at them.
‘Wow,’ Mandy said. ‘Looks like you gave him as much as he gave you, McDreamy.’
‘I didn’t do all that to him. Obviously he didn’t impress the boys back at gang headquarters.’
Rex had to repeat the story over and over of the beating he had taken at the hands of the Wild Dogs as the morning progressed. He was getting completely sick of it. Come lunchtime though he was in good spirits because it was time to have a little fun with Ms Cann. He had arranged for several of his friends to hide out in broom closets around the school and then had one of the juniors report to the cantankerous old teacher to tell her he had seen students entering the closets.
‘I wish I could hang around and see this,’ Vanessa said as they watched Ms Cann march towards D Block to the first reported location. ‘But I’ve gotta get to C5 for the Cultural Dance auditions. If I don’t get to them, I’ll automatically not qualify.’
‘Don’t worry,’ Rex assured her. ‘I’ll fill you in on all the details.’
‘Damn. You know all this talk of making out in broom closets is making me want to do it for real.’ Vanessa leaned forward and briefly planted her succulent lips on his. ‘Tell me all about it later. I want to know her every reaction.’
‘You got it.’
‘Ok, Doll-baby. I’ll catch you later.’
Vanessa was about to move off when Maggie turned up. ‘Rex, Nessa. Mr Reaper wants to see you both.’
‘Now?’ Rex groaned.
‘Yes, in the stationery room, right away. It’s urgent.’
‘It better be,’ Vanessa grumbled. ‘I’ve an audition to get to. This better be quick.’
Rex wanted to pass a message back to say he’d catch up with him later, as he wasn’t in the mood for a battle of wits with the head of discipline right now, but decided to get it over with.
Both he and Vanessa hurried to the office block. Rex felt disappointed that he would not get to join his friends in having a laugh at Ms Cann’s expense, but at the same time, he knew it would frustrate her no end. It would be worth it to catch up with her later and see what sort of mood she was in.
‘The stationery room?’ Vanessa asked. ‘I hope he hasn’t got some horrible job he wants us to do.’
‘Well if he has, we’re not doing it, but you know it wouldn’t surprise me. He’s always looking for ways to punish me for all the times I get away with stuff.’
The stationery room was situated in the office block and they had to pass through the Photocopying room to get there. The place seemed deserted so they entered expecting to see Mr Reaper there. The room was lined with shelves containing exercise books and other materials that students needed for classes.
‘Mr R?’ Rex led Vanessa in. They walked their way down the lines of shelves to see if he was there, but they saw no sign of anyone.
Suddenly the door to the stationery room slammed shut and a key scraped in the lock.
‘What the…?’ Rex hurried over to the door and attempted to open the door, but it held fast. ‘Hey!’ He shouted out and banged on the door a few times. ‘Let us out!’
He could hear footsteps, as whoever locked them in there, hurried away.
‘HEY!’ Rex banged violently on the door a few more times, but still no reply came. ‘Damn it.’
Vanessa brushed up beside him. ‘Have we been set up?’
‘It’s beginning to look that way.’
‘But by who? Maggie? She doesn’t seem like the sort who would do something like that.’
‘No, I wouldn’t have thought so. Unless someone was playing her too.’
‘Oh no… If we’re locked up in here, I won’t be able to get to the audition.’
‘Mmmmmm.’ Rex stared into Vanessa’s concerned eyes, then peered around for some other way out, however, there were no windows in this room. It was really just an extra large storage cupboard. ‘I guess we keep on banging until someone lets us in.’
‘We could.’ Vanessa moved closer to him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, a smile breaking out on her full luscious lips. ‘Or we could just make the best of a bad situation.’
‘But what about the auditions?’
Vanessa’s eyes sparkled and moved her lips closer to his. She spoke in a soft sexy voice. ‘To hell with the auditions. There’ll always be another time…’
‘It’s filthy! It’s immoral!’ Ms Cann marched towards D block. ‘I’m going to get them this time. Both of them.’ There wasn’t any doubt in her mind who was in that broom closet, no doubt at all. They thought she’d given up on trying to catch them out, but they were wrong.’
A few students followed her into the locker bay with curious expressions on their faces. That was fine, she thought. Rex and Vanessa would suffer the humiliation of being caught in front of their schoolmates. Then she would have the privilege of marching them to Mr Luxton’s office with the proof of their depravities.
She stopped at the cleaner’s cupboard. She could hear movement inside. Banging of objects as if someone was trying to do something in a confined space. ‘Alright you two!’ She swung the door open. ‘Out of there this instanc…’ Her voice trailed off and she stared at what was going on in there. It was not Rex and Vanessa, nor was it even a couple.
Pete Cook sat there in the corner eating his lunch with a smile on his face. ‘Hi, Ms Cann!’
‘What on Earth are you doing in there?’
‘Eating my lunch!’
‘Because I’m hungry.’
‘Why would you want to eat your lunch in here?’ She stared at him incredulously.
‘Because I didn’t want Tucker Pyles stealing it off me.’
She continued to stare at the boy for a little longer, still with a feeling of disbelief. ‘Get out of there now! That is not a place to sit eating your lunch, you silly boy!’
‘Oh… Ok.’ Pete climbed up and stepped out of the cupboard. She watched as he walked casually off down the hallway.
Giggling and chuckling drew her attention away from the wayward student and she glared back to see the group of students who watched from the end of the locker block. She then remembered there was another location she still had to check. ‘C-Block! That must be where they are.’
She marched out of D-Block and across the compound to C-Block. There was no doubt in her mind there would be shenanigans over there as her source had been correct with regards to D-Block. She just hoped she could get there before the perpetrators vacated it.
On reaching the C-Block broom closet, she turned to see the same group of students congregating at the entrance, watching her. She then heard some banging in the cupboard and some moans.
‘Oh, my goodness!’ she muttered and shuddered at the thought of what she might find. She just hoped that this time it was the couple she was looking to catch in the act.
She swung the door wide open and was about to let whoever was in there have an earful, but once again, it wasn’t as she expected. Another male student lay there, his facie down over a bucket.
Mav groaned. ‘Hi, Ms Cann.’
‘What are you doing in here?’
‘Resting. I’m feeling kind of sick.’
‘Why don’t you go to sick bay?’
‘I needed a bucket, urgently.’
‘Then why didn’t you just go into the toilets next door?’
‘Too many perverts in there, Ms Cann. I mean, do you know just how depraved some of the students in this school are? People actually like to watch this sort of stuff. They get off on watching other people puke. It’s really quite disturbing.’
‘Yes, well…’ She found it hard to argue. She peered at him for a few more seconds then closed the door back shut.
A fit of laughter came from the growing crowd at the entrance to the block. Ms Cann ignored them and made a quick exit. She still had one other location to check. This one had to be it. Rex and Vanessa had to be in that one.
She reached E-Block and hurried to the broom closet. Once again, she stopped and listened. This time the noise that came from it convinced her that immoralities were going on inside. She heard someone gasping and groaning and it sounded like a female. She yanked the door open, expecting at last to catch them, but once again it wasn’t as she thought.
‘Pete Cook?’ She couldn’t believe it. ‘What are you doing?
‘Asthma attack!’ panted Pete. ‘Can’t talk.’
‘But you were… I just saw you in…’
Much laughter came from the entrance to the block and she turned to see the students in fits. Rick Maverick was also there, looking a lot better than he did earlier. Ms Cann began to realise she was being had. She glared back down at Pete, who looked as though he was gasping from shortness of breath, but then she realised he was laughing.
‘I don’t believe this!’ She stepped away from the door, turned and glared at the laughing students. ‘You think this is funny do you? You won’t think it’s funny if I put the lot of you on detention!’
The laughter escalated. Furious she stormed past them and out of the block. Muttering angrily to herself, she made for her English classroom and barged in. ‘Those nasty little brats! This is all some kind of joke to them, isn’t it?’
She reached her desk and planted herself down in the chair, fuming. It was then that she noticed something on her desk that wasn’t there before. It was a sheet of paper with a key sitting on top of it. It was a note and on it read:
Want to catch them in the act, Ms Cann? Check out the Stationery cupboard
Ms Cann allowed a smile to creep across her lips. ‘Well, well, well. It looks like my luck is about to change.’
Ms Cann sat in a chair in Mr Luxton’s office later that afternoon, with the two immoral students next to her. ‘It was despicable! Absolutely despicable!’
She had them at last. She had caught them in the act there in the stationery cupboard in a compromising situation. This would surely have them ejected from the school. Proof at last!
The awful boy, Rex chuckled as if it was some kind of joke. ‘Despicable? From where I was sitting, it was more like blissful.’
‘Listen to him!’ Ms Cann glared at Mr Luxton. ‘You heard him, right? He has no shame, no remorse for his disgraceful behaviour!’
‘Come now, Ms Cann,’ the immoral girl said. ‘For a woman that likes to poke her noses into broom closets hoping to satisfy her voyeuristic tendencies, I wouldn’t be too quick to accuse someone of disgraceful behaviour.’
Ms Cann’s blood boiled. ‘How dare you suggest such a thing? Me? Voyeuristic?’
Rex leaned back in his chair and chuckled. ‘Ms C, we have many witnesses who have seen you checking out the closets and some of them say you were looking very hot and sweaty in the process.’
Ms Cann’s jaw dropped. ‘Hot and sweaty? I was not hot and sweaty, I was…’
‘Yeah huh! Some even say you went into a few of them and stayed in there for a long time. You know I’m beginning to think you have an unhealthy obsession, an unhealthy fetish for them.’
‘I do not! Mr Luxton, are you going to sit there and allow them to talk to me in this manner?’
‘Look, we’re getting carried away here,’ Mr Luxton said firmly. ‘And I think it’s getting us nowhere. Rex and Vanessa, how about you tell me what you two were doing in the stationery cupboard?’
‘It’s obvious!’ Ms Cann snapped. ‘They were up to immoralities! Deliberately breaking the school rules!’
‘Ms Cann, will you please let me handle this? Vanessa. How about you tell us what you were doing there?’
‘Well before the blissful part we were standing there wondering why someone locked us in.’
‘Locked you in?’ Mr Luxton stared.
‘Nonsense!’ Ms Cann snapped. ‘Why would someone lock you in the stationery cupboard?’
‘That’s what we’d like to know,’ Rex said. ‘But we tried knocking on the door calling for help, but no one came. Mr Luxton, what would you have done if you were stuck in a room with a gorgeous babe and no way of getting out?’
‘I ah… That’s hardly a relevant question. The fact is you were caught in there deliberately breaking the school rules.’
‘Exactly!’ Ms Cann smirked.
Rex smiled. Ms Cann couldn’t believe he was being so blasé about this. ‘I think I know exactly what’s going on here. I think you set us up Ms C.’
‘Oh yeah,’ Vanessa continued. ‘But we’re not angry, Ms Cann. We know that you’re only trying to promote good morals and values. Rex and I have no interest in dragging your fine, upstanding name through the mud, but I think even a court of law would agree that this was entrapment.’ She smiled pleasantly.
‘Entrapment? Don’t be absurd!’
‘Think about it, Mr L.’ Rex crossed his arms and peered across at the principal. ‘We get a message telling us Mr Reaper wants us in the stationery room. We head over there and next thing someone locks us in? Then ten minutes later, she turns up? Don’t you think that’s rather convenient?’
‘Nonsense!’ Ms Cann glared. ‘I was just in the right place at the right time.’
‘Really?’ Vanessa said. ‘One moment you’re out searching broom closets and next thing you just happen to turn up at the stationery cupboard with a key?’
‘The key was in the lock!’ she lied. There was no way they could possibly know she had brought the key with her.
Vanessa continued, ‘I’m quite shocked, Ms Cann that you would go to so much trouble just to catch Rex and I having a little snog and cuddle. You know I heard that the RSA has a singles night especially for lonely old ladies. I’m sure if you went you’d find someone who might like to cuddle and kiss you. It would have to be in the dark though.’
‘I don’t have to put up with these absurd allegations and insults!’
‘No, but what goes around, comes around right?’ she said cheerfully.
‘Look,’ Mr Luxton finally spoke up. ‘I really don’t think I want to make an issue of this. It seems like there are unknown factors when it comes to this…’
Ms Cann gasped. ‘Are you saying you believe them and that you think I would deliberately try to trap them?’
‘No, I don’t, Ms Cann, but I think there is more than meets the eye here and I think that Rex and Vanessa may have been the victims of a prank.’
‘Why would you think that? They’re lying to you!’
‘I don’t think they are, Ms Cann. I think they are telling me the truth and to be honest, I think you may be exaggerating as to just how far they were going when you found them in the room.’
‘What? WHAT? Are you saying you’re not going to do anything about their behaviour? You promised you would!’
‘Look, I don’t think any harm’s been done. I don’t believe they deliberately set out to break the school rules.’
‘I can’t believe this! You promised!’
‘Ms Cann, I think you’re getting way carried away here. You need to settle down and think this through. You’re becoming obsessed.’
‘I am not!’
Mr Luxton sighed. ‘Rex and Vanessa, you may go now. We’ll say no more about it.’
‘Thank you, Mr Luxton,’ Vanessa said. ‘And least sanity has prevailed.’
Mandy had hated to lie to Rex, saying that she had not had any further trouble when it came to the photographs. In some ways, it wasn’t a complete lie though, because she hadn’t heard anything more from whoever it was, since she got the last note. Nevertheless, she couldn’t help but worry about what was coming. That morning when she arrived at school, she dreaded finding more photographs on the wall, or another note in her locker, but she didn’t.
She enjoyed the lunch break, laughing along with her friends as Ms Cann searched the broom closets. She was still giggling about it when she came across Dale who approached her hesitantly. ‘Mandy, can we talk. Please?’
‘Please don’t be angry. I’m really sorry about everything.’
Part of her wanted to make up with him, but the other part of her was still angry. ‘You know, a relationship can’t work without trust.’
Dale sighed. ‘Yeah, I know and I’ve been a creep.’
‘Tell me about it!’
‘I mean, Rex and Vanessa, they’re a couple now, right?’
Mandy didn’t really know how to reply to that. The two were not an official couple, but it was hard to see them as anything else. She was about to agree with him just to please him, but then another thought occurred to her. ‘Why does it matter, Dale? It makes no difference because you’re my boyfriend. Well at least I thought you were.’
‘I know. I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m just telling you that I trust you.’
‘You do?’ Mandy looked at him hopefully.
‘Yeah, I do and I’ve given it some thought and I’ll come along to your place to have dinner with your parents. If they’ll let me come.’
Mandy’s heart leapt. ‘You will?’
‘Yes. To prove to you that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep you.’
He seemed sincere and Mandy found herself smiling at him. This seemed to perk him up and he smiled broadly back at her. ‘Do you think they’ll agree?’
‘I’ll make sure they do!’
For the rest of the day Mandy felt in high spirits, but come the end of the day when it was finally time to face her parents and ask them the favour, she began to get a case of the nerves. She wasn’t normally afraid to talk to her parents, but on this occasion, she felt like she had no leg to stand on when asking for special allowances.
She decided to get the request out of the way at the dinner table, despite her brother and sister being there. ‘Hey, um, I was wondering…’
Her mother and father glanced up from their meals.
‘You know, you’ve never given Dale a chance. You’ve never even talked to him…’
‘Oh for crying out loud,’ her father grumbled. ‘Why don’t you just forget about that boy? We’ve been through this so many times already.’
‘Please, hear me out, I’ve got an idea… a way that you can see he’s not so bad. Let’s invite him over for dinner one night so that you can meet him and see if you like him…’
‘Not a chance.’
‘Come on! Be fair. Let him come here and if you still don’t like him at the end of the evening, I’ll drop it, ok? Please?’ She put on her most pleading of expressions. It had been many years since she had used that look, but it had often got her what she wanted when she was younger. In recent times, she didn’t bother with it because she normally did what she wanted anyway. ‘It’s only fair that you meet him before you completely reject him.’
For a moment, there was silence as both her parents peered at one another, considering her request. At last, a glimmer of hope.
Her father finally spoke. ‘This sounds to me like just another trick to try to get us to agree to you seeing him.’
‘No, it’s not, honestly! I just want Dale to get a fair go, that’s all.’
Her mother sighed deeply. ‘I guess if he’s willing to come and meet with us, we should at least give him that chance.’
‘I don’t know. The kid’s bad news and I can’t even figure out why they would have him as head boy.’
‘Because he’s not that bad,’ Mandy insisted. ‘The teachers know he’s good. He has a good reputation at school.’
Her parents returned to their quiet state, still eying each other. Her father still didn’t look too impressed but finally sighed and nodded.
‘Alright then,’ her mother said. ‘But don’t you go thinking that you’ve won, because you haven’t. Even if he does behave himself, that doesn’t mean we’re going to agree to you seeing him.’
Mandy delivered them both one of his biggest smiles. ‘Thanks, Mum and Dad! You won’t regret it, I promise you.’
Finally, things were looking up. Mandy didn’t even want to think of whether Dale had it in him to create a good impression. She was just so pleased that her parents had agreed to the meeting. It meant that there was a possibility they may reverse their decision to stop them from seeing each other.
She had made the dinner for as early as possible. She wanted Dale to be in her parent’s good books before the party. She had no intentions of telling them about the party, because they’d no doubt forbid her to go, seeing as it was Rex’s party, but she at lest hoped she could get permission to be out with Dale that evening.’
‘Oh by the way, darling, there’s some mail for you in the kitchen,’ her mother told her shortly before bedtime. ‘I forgot to tell you.’
Mandy picked up the mail from the kitchen bench. It was quite a large envelope with no return address on the back. Intrigued she went to her room and opened it up. What fell out of the envelope took her whole evening and threw it down the gurgler. They were more photographs of her and Rex with yet another note:
I hope you haven’t forgotten about me. I will be in contact very soon
Tucker whistled as he walked home from his first night on the job at the local tavern. It had all gone surprisingly well. The work was monotonous, but he did it with pride, knowing that in a few weeks time he’d be in for a promotion and before he knew it, he’d be at that bar performing flair routines. Once people saw his skills in action, the bar would be flooding with new patrons and he’d be a local celebrity.
He imagined himself as the jack-of-all-trades. Not only would he be serving up cocktails and wowing many beautiful women, he’d also be the pub’s bouncer. If any rowdy eejits started to stir up trouble, he’d be there to eject them with a bevy of swift martial arts manoeuvres. Once he’d finished with those assclowns, he’d treat his fans in the bar to a musical number or two. Perhaps he’d even hop on the piano and serenade a few lovelies.
As he walked, he imagined the Goddess sitting on the piano as he played her a love song. He could see her magnificent sapphire blue eyes sparkling as she ran her fingers through her silky dark hair. Her tongue would lick across her lips as she smiled gloriously at him.
A musical jingle came from his chest pocket. At first he thought it was a phone call coming in on his brand new mobile phone, but then he remembered he’d set an alarm a few minutes earlier to remind him he had a new phone in his pocket. He chuckled to himself as he pulled it out and admired it. He couldn’t wait until someone rang him on it, although that was unlikely at the moment as the only person who had his number right now was the boss.
He’d brought the phone after school with some of the money he had left over from his severance pay from the gym. He’d been counting on getting an advance from Rita later to help pay his board for the next two weeks, but she had refused. Now he was left with only fifty dollars in his wallet. He’d have to do some fast-talking to his mother to explain why he was two hundred dollars short on board money. Nevertheless, nothing could get him down right now. Life was just looking too good and at last, things were looking up for Tucker luck-wise.
He felt like ringing someone to brag about his new phone, but then it occurred to him that he didn’t know any numbers off hand. He adjusted the alarm to go off again in five minutes time and placed it back into his pocket. From there he continued along the road and arrived home a few minutes later.
‘It’s about time you got home!’ his mother greeted him in her usual surly manner. ‘According to my watch you finished work half an hour ago. You’ve got school in the morning and you need your sleep.’ She sat in the lounge with her feet up, eating a bowl of ice cream and watching the television. His father sat in a separate chair his eyes glued to the set.
‘Sorry. But I got held up at work.’
‘So how was your first day on the new job?’ his father asked in a friendly tone, his eyes still on the television.
‘It was great! This is the best job ever and they even let me eat leftovers…umm, not that I had much, because you know, I’m on a…’ He stopped himself before he said the word that would get him into strife.
It was lucky he did, because his mother’s eyes glared up at him. ‘What were you about to say?’
‘You better not have been about to blaspheme! Just thinking the word is the same as saying it, you know.’
‘Did you bring your board money?’
‘Ah… yeah…’ He walked hesitantly over to her and handed her the fifty dollars cash.
For a few moments, she just stared at it with a blank look and then her eyes narrowed. ‘Where’s the rest of it?’
‘I… that’s all I could get. I… I needed to pay the boss some money for a drink mixing kit so I could practise.’
‘Drink mixing kit?’ his father stared at him for the first time.
‘Yes. To practice mixing cocktails.’
‘Mixing cocktails?’ His mother scoffed. ‘But we needed that money to pay for groceries!’
‘Tucker, nobody orders cocktails at the tavern.’ His father frowned.
‘And how the hell would you know?’ snapped Tucker’s mother. ‘Mmm? You don’t go here. How would you know?’
‘Ah…’ Tucker’s father seemed to pale at her ferocious glare. ‘Well… you know, it’s just a town pub. A lot of farmers go there and they…’
‘Oh, just shut up, you gormless moron! As if you’d know anything.’ She turned her glare back to Tucker. ‘Are you telling me you don’t have the other 200 dollars to pay for our jolly food bill?’
‘No,’ whimpered Tucker.
‘And where’s this cocktail mixing kit then?’
‘At work. I have to keep it there.’
‘Well what are we going to eat now if we don’t have your money, huh? Tell me that?’
‘I’ll tell you what will be happening. You’ll be living off leftovers at your damn pub, that’s what you’ll be doing. I won’t be cooking you anything, that’s for sure. We rely on that money of yours, you know that?’
He felt like saying “So you tell me every day,” but daren’t risk getting a slap across the face. ‘Well I’ll be getting paid next week, so I’ll have some more then.’
‘You better have some more then! Otherwise, you can jolly well live at that pub as well. That boss of yours can jolly well find you a room there to stay. You won’t be welcome back here!’
At that second, Tucker’s cell phone played its jingle, reminding him he still had it on him.
‘What was that?’ his mother snapped.
‘Ah… it was…. Ah….’ He didn’t really want to have to explain how he happened to have a cell phone on him, but now it seemed he had no choice. He pulled it from his pocket. ‘It’s my new phone.’
‘What? A new phone? What do you need a phone for? Nobody in their right mind would want to talk to you. Wait a minute, how can you afford a new phone, you’ve only just started this new job and you didn’t give any notice at your old one. I’m surprised Cliff Morrison didn’t refuse to pay you your last week’s wages. If you don’t give notice, they’re entitled to do that, you know.’
Tucker could have kicked himself. How foolish he was not to use that as an excuse why he had no money. Sure, she would have been furious, but at least she would have bought the story and he wouldn’t have had to make up the excuse about the drink mixing kit.
‘So how did you get the money to buy that?’
‘I ah… I didn’t buy it, Mum. Rita gave it to me so she can call me if she needs me urgently.’
‘She can ring you on the land line!’
‘Ah… but she may also need to ring me if I’m out the back of the pub or something. You know, just in case there are some trouble makers who have to be turfed out.’
‘You? Turfing out trouble makers?’
‘What are you talking about, Tuck?’ his father asked. ‘They don’t have bouncers there. There’s no need. Any trouble and Rita’s husband deals with it.’
Tucker’s mother turned to face her husband, her face red. ‘Why don’t you just shut up? What do you know about that pub? Do you go there behind me back?’
Tucker’s father shuddered. ‘No, I… It’s just that…. No, I don’t go there. You know I’d never waste our hard earned money on booze.’
‘I should jolly well think not!’ She turned back to Tucker. ‘She must be a complete idiot if she’s willing to give you a brand new cell phone. Give it to me!’
‘I said give it to me! As long as you’re at home and at school, it’s staying with me. Knowing you, you’ll end up wrecking the thing.’
‘No arguments, you hear? You’re too darn fond of arguing!’
Tucker reluctantly handed over his phone.
‘She must be an idiot, hiring you as a bouncer. Sure, you can certainly do a lot of bouncing with that fat gut of yours, but that’s about all you’re good for. Mixing cocktails. Hah! Knowing you, you’ll be dropping glasses and bottles all over the place; you’re such a clumsy oaf. Now get to bloody bed. Can’t you see we’re trying to watch TV? By golly, I don’t know, I can’t get any peace and quiet around here. You do nothing but yack our jolly ears off!’
‘Problem is you’re just too darn fond of making a nuisance of yourself. Now sod off, I don’t wanna hear from you until you’ve brought me more board money.’
‘What? You told them?’ Jacqui felt like slapping Maggie across the face. ‘I told you not to tell anybody!’
‘But they wanted to know who told me to tell them they had to go to see Mr Reaper.’ The silly girl stood before her, a sorry look on her face. ‘I couldn’t tell them it was Mr Reaper, they wouldn’t believe me.’
‘Now they’re gonna know it was me who set them up!’
‘Sorry. But I didn’t know what else to say.’
Jacqui fumed. She wanted to continue screaming at Maggie, but realised it was her own silly fault for bringing the ginger haired bimbo into her plans in the first place. She should have known that Maggie would be too stupid to come up with some other explanation if Rex and Vanessa questioned her. Now Jacqui had to live with the fact that Rex and Vanessa both knew it was she who locked them in the stationery cupboard. She also had to deal with the likelihood that they knew the reason why too.
‘I still don’t get it,’ Maggie said. ‘Why did you want to lock them up in there anyway?’
‘I just wanted that bitch Vanessa out of the way for an hour.’
‘Vanessa’s not a bitch, she’s really nice.’
‘Oh, don’t start. She tries to act as though she’s all lovely, funny and charming, but she’s a conniving, evil cow.’
‘Why did you want her out of the way?’
‘So I could…’ She couldn’t continue. She didn’t want to have to admit to Maggie that she did it just so she could win an audition. ‘Never mind. I just have to hope Rex isn’t pissed at me.’ Even as she said those words, the possibility that he would be, made her really start to worry.
It was then that she noticed Ms Cann standing near one of the blocks peering her way. The elderly teacher disappeared around the back.
‘Look, Margaret, you go on ahead. I need to catch up with someone.’
‘Ok. Catch you later.’
Jacqui paused to watch her, until she was gone from sight and then made her way over to the building. She scanned the area to make sure no one had seen her and stepped around the side to come face to face with Ms Cann.
‘It didn’t work.’ Ms Cann glowered. ‘He did nothing. Absolutely nothing.’
‘Mr Luxton. He wouldn’t take action. Said they hadn’t done anything really wrong.’
‘I’m livid! I’m beginning to think that man doesn’t want to do anything about this immoral behaviour.’
‘Well you know he can’t expel Rex.’
Ms Cann’s eyes narrowed. ‘I think it’s despicable. Fancy his parents paying the school a grant just to keep their boy here. A bribe, that’s what it is.’
‘But that won’t stop them from expelling Vanessa.’ Oh how Jacqui wished it would happen.
‘That’s if I could get something on her that would get her expelled. I think it’s absurd that she can be so disrespectful and rude and they still won’t do anything. And she can wear that ridiculous nose stud too, breaking the rules about jewellery and they won’t do anything about that either.’
‘So what are you going to do now?’
‘I’m hoping you can help me again.’
‘Mmmm, I don’t know, I’m probably already in enough trouble with locking them up in the stationery cupboard and leaving you that note on your desk. They know it was me that set them up.’
‘Are you saying you won’t help?’ Ms Cann stiffened up.
‘Well the main thing for me was stopping Vanessa from getting to the audition…’
‘You have to help! We have an agreement.’
‘Yeah, but I can’t take anymore risks like that.’
‘There’s a party happening this Saturday night, isn’t there? At the Cassidy house?’
‘Yeah, how did you know?’
‘Oh, I heard about it. Every child in this school is talking about it. It’s going to be full of underaged drinking, drugs, sex and awful rock n roll music, I just know it.’
‘It’s not gonna be that bad. There’s going to be adult security guards.’
‘I want you to get me in there.’
‘Yes. I want to get in there and see what’s going on. I want to catch them in the act. I can sort those two young delinquents out once and for all.’
Jacqui didn’t know if she liked the idea of Ms Cann going that far to get Rex and Vanessa. This was going to be the party of the decade and Jacqui wanted to be part of it, just like every other kid in the school. She couldn’t let Ms Cann ruin it for them. ‘I don’t think you should try it, Ms Cann. There’ll be security guards there.’
‘Then you have to get me past them.’
‘No. I don’t want to be part of this one. Sorry Ms Cann.’
Ms Cann’s eyes narrowed again. ‘Are you refusing to help me?’
‘I don’t want to go this far. I just want Vanessa out of my hair. And I don’t want Rex to get into trouble.’
‘Listen to me, young lady, you are part of this whether you want to be or not and I’m telling you now that if you don’t cooperate with me I will ensure that Mr Luxton finds out about your involvement in locking up Vanessa and Rex.’
‘What?’ Jacqui stared at her teacher in disbelief. ‘But you were part of that too! I could just as easily say you were involved.’
‘Oh really? And who would believe that? The word of a mere student, against a respected member of staff? And do you really think that you will get to represent the school at the Cultural Dance competitions when they find out?’
Jacqui stewed and glared at her teacher, feeling betrayed. She couldn’t believe how deceitful and manipulative Ms Cann was. ‘This is not fair! You can’t do this!’
‘Oh yes I can.’ Ms Cann’s eyes gleamed. ‘And you will play your part exactly as I ask you to.’
Jacqui was so steamed at the outcome of her meeting with Ms Cann; she failed to see a group of her friends making their way over to her. When she saw them and the grim looks on their faces, she cursed herself for not having been more alert.
‘Jacqui, we have a bone to pick with you.’ Holly led the way and Jacqui paled when she saw Rex and Vanessa amongst the group. Rex had no expression on his face, so it was hard to know whether he was angry. Vanessa, she didn’t look angry at all, but then she was impossible to read at the best of times. Even when she was pissed, she didn’t look angry.
‘You cost Vanessa the chance to audition for the competitions,’ Laura said. ‘How could you do that Jacqui? Why did you play such a mean trick?’
Mandy stood there at the back, but she seemed disinterested. Chelsea and Sheep were also there and they didn’t look very pleased.
Jacqui’s first instinct was to go on the offensive to defend herself, but realised that was going to get her nowhere. Her best bet now was to appear remorseful and apologetic.
‘You’re right.’ She gazed down at her feet. ‘I can’t believe I did it. I just let my competitive nature go too far. I can understand if you’re pissed at me Vanessa.’ She glanced up only for a few seconds then turned her eyes down again.
‘You’re right about one thing, Jacq,’ Holly said. ‘You have gone too far. That was really low-down. I thought you were… you know… bigger than that.’
Some of the others murmured in agreement.
‘I know.’ Jacqui sighed. She forced her eyes up to face Vanessa. ‘I’m sorry Vanessa. I don’t know what got into me.’
To Jacqui’s surprise, a smile came over Vanessa’s face. ‘Don’t worry about it. Besides, I think I got the better deal. I got to make out with Rexy in the privacy of the stationery cupboard for a bit.’
‘Vanessa, quit being so nice about this,’ Laura said. ‘She did the dirty on you. She set you up just so she could win that audition and on top of it, you could have been in a lot of trouble with Mr Luxton.’
Jacqui looked for a response from Rex, expecting that he might say something in support of Vanessa, something that would make Jacqui feel very small, but his expression was still the same and he said nothing.
‘It’s really no big deal,’ Vanessa said. ‘I’m not really worried about the competitions. Besides, Jacqui, you ought to know that Mrs Heller has posted the results of the auditions on the A block notice board this morning.
‘That’s right.’ Chelsea giggled. ‘You didn’t make the cut, Jacqui. Carla Munroe got picked. Guess you weren’t good enough.’
Holly and Laura both laughed. Even Sheep and Rex smiled.
The news stung Jacqui and she felt very small indeed. To think that all this humiliation she was suffering right now was for nothing. Carla was nowhere up to her standards, so how is it that she got picked instead? ‘Carla Munroe?’
‘Yeah huh.’ Vanessa grinned.
‘Poetic justice, that’s what it is.’ Holly continued to peer at Jacqui without smiling. ‘And I say good job too.’
Stunned, Jacqui stared at Holly, not able to believe that her friend could be so cold.
‘Don’t look at me like that. You asked for it. I think the way you’ve been treating Vanessa is… you know… really mean and pathetic.’
‘Agreed,’ Laura said. ‘In fact in the last year or so, you’ve been a cow to a lot of people and we’re getting sick of it.’
‘What?’ Jacqui stared at her friends, not expecting such callous comments.
‘You heard. It seems you’ve become too big for your boots. You’ve treated quite a few of us very shabbily in the past… Chelsea in particular and then you tried to make the moves on Mav, despite the fact that he’s Holly’s boyfriend. Yet we forgave you for it, because you’re our friend. Now there’s Vanessa, who has always been so nice to you and we all happen to really like her and now you’re trying to get her expelled? What’s with that?’
‘I wasn’t trying to get her expelled.’
‘Oh come on,’ Holly scolded her. ‘You knew Ms Cann was out to get Rex and Vanessa and you worked with her, we know you did!’
Jacqui couldn’t help but stare down at the ground again. She said nothing.
‘You need to have a long hard think about how you treat people, Jacqs. We’ve had enough.’ Holly turned to leave. Laura and Chelsea followed suit.
‘Where are you going?’ Jacqui jerked her eyes up, horrified at the thought of her friends walking out on her.
‘Away from you,’ Laura said.
They all began to walk and only Mandy remained behind.
Jacqui, attempting to fight back tears and stared hopefully at her. ‘Mandy? Surely you’re not mad at me, are you?’
Mandy sighed. ‘They’re absolutely right, Jacqui. You need to change.’ With that, she moved off after the other group, leaving Jacqui standing there, deserted seemingly without a friend left in the world.
A knock came at the door.
The time had come and Mandy wasn’t sure whether she was ready for it. Her brother and sister were at a friend’s place for the evening and only her parents were there. In some ways it might have been easier if her siblings were there, because then the atmosphere would be a lot more relaxed and not tense like it was now.
Anxiously, she reached the door and pulled it open to reveal Dale standing there with a smile on his face. ‘Hey, Mand.’
He wore a nicely ironed, buttoned shirt and black trousers, along with a tie that looked slightly crooked. If it wasn’t for his messy hair, he would have looked very trim.
Dale didn’t wait for her to invite him in. He strolled across the threshold and into the hallway. ‘What’s for dinner?’
Considering he had been anxious about the whole idea of coming for dinner with her parents, he seemed very relaxed now.
‘Hi Mr and Mrs Evans,’ he greeted her parents cheerfully as they entered the lounge. He strode up and shook her father’s hand. ‘What’s new?’
‘Ah… not a lot,’ replied her father, raising an eyebrow.
‘This is sure a nice place you’ve got here.’ Dale peered around the room. ‘Whoa… hey, Mand, you look hot in that picture!’ He pointed to a recently taken family portrait.
Mandy cringed. She wondered what had gotten into him to say something like that in front of her parents, especially considering he was supposed to be trying to impress them.
Both her parents looked perturbed, especially her mother who cast an incredulous glance at Mandy.
Dale almost fell down onto the couch and Mandy joined him. Her mother excused herself to put the finishing touches on dinner, but her father remained, studying Dale carefully. ‘So, Dale, I hear your dad’s a farmer.’
‘Yep!’ He spoke across Mandy. ‘Farming’s all my dad’s good for.’ He chuckled. ‘Hasn’t got enough brains for anything else.’
Mandy smelt the unmistakable odour of beer coming from his breath. Her heart sunk as she realised why he was so relaxed.
‘You really think that about your dad?’ Mandy’s father frowned.
‘Nah, he’s not that bad, but sometimes his cows show brighter glimmers of intelligence than he does.’ He laughed some more.
Mandy cringed again. This was going to be a disaster; she could see it without a doubt. She had to stop things from getting worse. ‘Hey,’ she rose to her feet, ‘I’m just gonna take Dale out back to see the veggie garden.’
‘Veggie garden?’ Dale scoffed.
‘Yeah, I know how much you love them.’ She took him by the hand and led him out back, leaving her father sitting bewildered on the couch.
‘Why would I want to see a veggie garden?’ Dale asked. ‘Hey… you telling me your dad has some weed out there?’
‘There’s plenty of weeds,’ Mandy muttered. ‘Just not your type of weeds.’
Once outside, she turned to him and glared. ‘What the hell are you doing, Dale? Why the heck would you turn up here pissed? I can’t believe you! Do you really think you’re going to impress my parents behaving like a total tool?’
Dale chuckled. ‘I’m just gonna put on the old Dale Casterton charm.’
‘No, you’re not Dale! You’re just gonna shut up and only speak when my parents ask you questions.’
‘And you’re not gonna make stupid jokes. You’re going to think about everything you say, right?’
‘And you’re not going to say anything to embarrass me.’
‘And stop acting like a tool!’
Dale burst out into a fit of chuckles.
‘Dale, this is serious! What possessed you to drink before coming here?’
‘Chill, Mandy. Geeze, I had to do something to relax myself. I was freaked out about coming here.’
Mandy wanted to shout at him for being so stupid, but kept her cool. ‘Ok, now come on. We need to go back in.’
Returning to the house, Mandy’s father greeted them. ‘So, Dale, what did you think of the garden?’
‘Nice,’ Dale said and thankfully didn’t make a silly joke this time.
‘Dinner time,’ her mother called out.
Moments later, they sat at the dinner table with her mother and father and began to enjoy a hearty steak meal.
‘This is good stuff, Mrs Evans,’ Dale said. ‘I wish my mum could cook like this. Her steak tastes like rat shit.’
Mandy flinched. Why couldn’t he just shut the hell up?
Her mother studied Dale for a few seconds and then spoke. ‘Dale, have you been drinking?’
‘What?’ Dale’s eye’s widened. Mandy began to feel sick.
‘Have you been drinking tonight?’
‘Only a glass of Coke after school.’ A cheeky smile appeared on his face. ‘With a shot of rum in it… just joking!’
Neither of Mandy’s parents were amused and neither was she. She gave his ankle a kick, which caused him to cry out. ‘Geeze Mandy, why did you kick me?’
Mandy shoved some more steak in her mouth, not able to look up at her parents.
‘Well seeing as we’re on the topic of drinking,’ Mandy’s father said. ‘One of our concerns is you giving beer to our daughter a few weeks back. I’m concerned about that, very concerned.’
‘No need to be concerned. I’m a teetotaller. I only…’
Mandy gave him another kick, a lighter one this time.
‘How often do you drink, Dale?’ Mandy’s mother asked.
‘Once in a while. Hardly ever actually. In fact, that was the only time. We found that beer in the back of Dad’s tractor.’
‘We were told it was found in the woolshed.’
‘Oh yeah, that’s what I meant.’
Mandy peeked up to see her parents looking grimly at each other. She cringed again as hope began to fade.
‘Dale, I want you to be honest with us,’ her mother said. ‘Have you been drinking tonight or not?’
‘No, honestly, I haven’t.’
‘You’re lying to us. I can tell you’ve been drinking.’
He began to slur. ‘I haven’t! Maaan, what izzit with you guys? Can’t a guy get a break?’
‘There’s no need to raise your voice at us.’
‘I just came here because I wanted to prove to you that I’m a decent guy, but I think you guys just want to make out I’m bad. Well I’m not, I’m a good guy!’
‘You’re drunk!’ snapped Mandy’s mother.
Dale shoved his seat aside and he rose to his feet, anger building up on his face. ‘You know what? You two are just a couple of jerks! You’ve been against Mandy and me right from the word go and you think you have the right to stop us from seeing each other? Well you don’t!’
‘Dale, please!’ Mandy begged, but it was too late, as the damage had been done.
‘You guys suck, threatening to send her to a new school. What sort of parents are you? You suck!’
Mandy’s father rose to his feet. ‘You can leave, now!’
‘I will!’ snarled Dale. ‘Come on, Mandy. Coming?’
Mandy felt like crying, but held it in. She peered up at him and delivered him the steeliest glare she could. ‘No. I’m not coming with you, Dale.’
Dale swung around to look at her. ‘What?’
‘I said, I’m not coming. I can’t believe you came here drunk. I’m not wasting any more time on you. Go! I don’t want to see you again.’
For a moment, she saw a look of delight in both her parent’s eyes. As much as she hated to give them the impression they were right in refusing her to see Dale, she couldn’t very well support him now.
Dale stared down at her in a state of disbelief. ‘You’re kidding, right?’
‘No, I’m not!’ She tried her best to remain strong, refusing to let the tears flow. ‘Just go! I don’t want anything more to do with you.’
‘You heard what she said,’ Mandy’s father said. ‘Now scram, before I throw you out of here!’
Dale looked hurt, but said no more. He took one last despairing glance at Mandy and left the house.
Mandy broke down and cried.
Her mother came up beside her and sat down next to her putting her arm around her. ‘It’s alright darling. It’s alright.’
‘I can’t believe that! He is such a jerk!’
‘I’m sorry. But I think now you realise just what sort of a boy he is.’
She didn’t bother telling her she already knew. Nevertheless, the facts were finally sinking in. Dale was definitely not the type of guy she wanted to be involved with.
‘I hope you’ll see now, Mandy that your father and I do have some idea about what some boys are like.’
Mandy peeped up at her, ‘You’re not always right,’ she sobbed. ‘You might have been right about him, but you’re not right about my other friends. The ones I hang out with at school. They’re good.’
‘I know you’re talking about Rex Cassidy there, but you have to believe me when I tell you that he and Dale are cut from the same cloth.’
Mandy sat up and pulled free from her mother’s arm. ‘Oh no, don’t you dare try to compare them! They’re nothing alike. You don’t even know Rex!’
‘Honey, you said that about Dale and sure, maybe we didn’t know him personally, but we were able to see what sort of a boy he was.’
‘No! I tell you, Rex is nothing like him. He’s different!’ Her mother just gazed at her sadly. Mandy glanced over to her father who had a look of sympathy on his face too. ‘I’ve known Rex for a year now. I see him every day at school. I know what sort of a guy he is.’
‘Do you really?’ asked her mother.
Her mother sighed and shook her head. ‘I wish I could be so certain, but I’m afraid I’m not. Not when I hear the things I hear about him.’
‘You just listen to people who don’t like him, that’s all!’
‘And why don’t they like him?’
‘Because they don’t understand him!’
‘And you do?’
‘Well, I…’ At that moment, her voice was cut off by a knock at the door.
Mandy’s first thought was that it was Dale, returning to apologise and beg for forgiveness. Her father walked out of the room and returned later with a large envelope in his hand.
‘Nobody was there, but someone left this on the doorstep.’
Mandy stared at the envelope, a feeling of dread coming over her. It was just like the one she received the previous day. ‘Oh, that must be for me!’
‘It’s got our names on it though. To Mr and Mrs Evans.’
‘No.’ She rose to her feet and attempted to get the envelope from him. ‘It’s a trick.’
He whisked the envelope aside before she could reach it.
‘What’s with you?’ her father asked and began to open the envelope, much to Mandy’s horror.
When her father saw the contents of the envelope, his eyes widened and a look of dismay appeared on his face. ‘Good lord…’
‘Noooo.’ Mandy closed her eyes and wished she were somewhere else.
‘Mandy, I… I can’t believe this.’ Then his voice grew angrier. ‘And you were trying to tell us this boy is nothing like Dale?’
Mandy opened one eye to see photographs of her and Rex getting it on, staring her in the face. It was official. The evening had just gone from burning to death in Hell to eternal damnation.
As much as Rex was in the mood to party, he did have some reservations about the whole thing. He hadn’t forgotten the brick thrown through his bedroom window and he hadn’t dismissed the possibility that the Wild Dogs still wanted to bite off another piece of him. He probably should have postponed the party for a week or two, but so much organisation had gone into it and many people were looking forward to it. Many of his friends seemed adamant that the Wild Dogs were probably satisfied with the beating they had laid on him. He hoped so anyway.
‘Dollbaby, relax,’ Vanessa told him as people began to arrive. ‘You’ve got five security guards here.’
‘Yeah, of course.’ Rex smiled, determined not to let her see he was worried. She was the one person who seemed to be able to sense when something was wrong.
‘Remember, I’ve got that special birthday present for you later.’
‘I can’t wait.’
‘Just as long as the other girls don’t mind me taking you away for a little while.’
‘They’ll have to live with it.’ Rex winked.
The place was set out exactly as Rex wanted it. The pool area was decorated with special pot plants and birthday decorations. The main guest lounge contained streamers and balloons. Tables were set up outside and inside with food and drink. A team of caterers roamed around making last minute preparations. The food looked fantastic, the sort of food you might see at a wedding feast.
‘Are you sure there’s enough, Rex?’ Pete strolled up to them with a glass of punch in his hand. ‘I mean if Tucker’s been invited, you’ll need a couple more truckloads of goodies.’
‘Don’t worry, buddy.’ Rex smirked. ‘I took him into account. He has his own table set aside.’
Outside at the pool a stage had been erected and a band was setting up their gear. More guests arrived, some heading straight for the pool for a swim while others congregated inside and around the pool area.
‘Whoa,’ Wal said on arrival, ‘What’s with all the swimsuits? I thought you’d made a no swimsuit rule for the pool.’
‘Sorry, Wal,’ Rex said. ‘I didn’t want everyone to be scared away once they saw you in the buff.’
‘Fair enough too.’
‘Are the olds still around?’
‘Nah, they left an hour ago. This place is officially parent free.’
‘Sounds bloody good to me! Hey, those security guards aren’t gonna kill any of the fun are they?’
‘As long as it’s all legal, no.’
‘Damn, that doesn’t leave much for me to do then.’ Wal laughed and plodded away.
Laura and Chelsea arrived and joined Rex and Vanessa.
‘Is Mandy going to be coming?’ Chelsea asked.
‘Yes,’ Rex said. ‘Fortunately her parents have no idea about the party.’
‘What’s this I heard about more photographs of you and her turning up?’ Laura asked.
‘Someone’s been sending them to her and the last lot got sent to her parents.’
‘Oh, heck, she never said a thing.’
‘No, she’s been afraid to tell anyone, but she said I could tell you guys. Just keep it quiet that’s all.’
‘Do you have any idea who’s tormenting her?’
‘None at all. I can’t figure out who would want to humiliate her like that.’
Chelsea sipped punch from a cocktail glass. ‘Is she ok? She’s been quiet all week. She’s obviously taken this business with Dale really hard.’
‘That’s for sure,’ Laura said. ‘I can’t believe the nerve of that creep, turning up at her place drunk. What a loser. If he dares turn up here, I’ll have some harsh words for him.’
‘Oh, oh, look who’s here.’ Chelsea peered over to the main gates of the pool. ‘It’s Tucker. Block your eardrums because as soon as he sees the food we’re gonna get a stampede.’
Rex expected to hear Tucker’s trademark cry of “ubba”, but it didn’t come. Tucker ambled into the pool area, looking cool, calm and collected. He reached the food table, took a club sandwich and headed towards the guest lounge.
‘Wow,’ Rex said. ‘Is that really Tucker?’
‘Alas, yes,’ Vanessa replied. ‘I think I’m going to have to eat humble pie here. He said he was turning over a new leaf, but I just thought it was a page out of the same old grubby cookbook. Now I’m beginning to think he really has changed.’
‘No way,’ Laura said. ‘This has to be some kind of joke. He’s up to something.’
‘He must be,’ agreed Chelsea. ‘Remember last year how he tried to set you up, Rex? Tried to embarrass you, but it backfired.’
Rex chuckled. ‘Yep. Old Tucker’s always scheming. At least with him you can guarantee it will backfire.’
‘I think we should tie him up and make him tell us what he’s done with the real Tucker.’ Vanessa giggled.
‘I don’t think that’s necessary.’
She smiled at him cheekily.
Ms Cann parked her car down the street from the Cassidy property. It was starting to get dark now and the party appeared to be in full swing. ‘Listen to that horrible music,’ she grumbled to herself. ‘I’m surprised Noise Control hasn’t been called.’ She pulled a video camera from the passenger seat. ‘I shudder to think what despicable acts are going on there now. Well whatever’s going on, I’m going to film it so then I’ll have some real evidence.’
She trotted along the road, but came to a halt when she saw a group of teenagers meander out onto the pavement from the Cassidy house. She had to step behind the hedge in the driveway of one of the neighbours so as not to be seen. For five minutes, she had to wait before the teens went back into the property.
She advanced again, but just as she reached the outskirts, she saw a uniformed man wander along the fence line.
A security guard. She wondered what kind of useless guard he was, letting these kids get away with whatever they were doing.
The guard disappeared into the pool area, allowing her to venture onto the property. ‘Where is that girl?’ she muttered to herself and scanned the front yard for Jacqui Donaldson. ‘She should be here.’
Some students appeared from the side of the house and hurried towards the pool gates. Ms Cann only just managed to avoid them. She then hurried quickly to the edge of the pool area, where she was able to duck under some hanging vines and position herself facing the pool.
It was very uncomfortable, crouched there, trying to stay out of sight and at the same time train her camera on the poolside area. At least she was in a good position to see and film what was going on there.
She turned on her camera and filmed through the leaves, but immediately became disappointed. Crowds of teens congregated, some standing at the tables, eating and drinking, others dancing while the band played. Others frolicked in the swimming pool, but had their swimsuits on, much to Ms Cann’s surprise. She had expected to see much worse behaviour, but as far as she could see, it was an orderly party.
The band began to play a slow piece of music. Vanessa and Rex were there, dancing, body to body, she in a way-too-revealing two-piece bikini and him only in shorts.
‘Disgusting!’ Ms Cann muttered to herself, zooming the camera in on them. The girl was pressed right up against the boy, running her hands up and down his muscular arms, while he held her close. For a few moments, Ms Cann continued to film them, feeling somewhat aroused by what she was seeing. She nearly jumped in the air when a voice spoke from behind her.
‘Have you tried that punch, Mav?’
‘It’s great stuff. What’s in it anyway?’
‘I think you shouldn’t ask that question.’
‘You may be right.’
Peeking through the leaves, she saw two of the boys pass only inches from her and into the pool area.
‘So…’ she whispered to herself. ‘There’s something in the punch, eh?’ Alcohol. That was the only possibility. Now if only she could get herself a glass of it and take it back to the school to Mr Luxton, or even better to the police, where they could come over and bust them all for under aged drinking.
Another piece of slow music started and Rex was once again at the dance floor, but this time he was with a different girl.
‘Promiscuity!’ she grumbled. ‘This is appalling.’ She filmed him as his hands ran through the girl’s hair and she rested her face into his muscular hairy chest, closing her eyes, looking as though she were in ecstasy. ‘This is just the beginning,’ Ms Cann told herself. ‘Imagine where this sort of behaviour will lead.’
She found it hard to break the camera away from its target, but then noticed the girl for whom she was searching. Jacqui sat at a table on her own, her face gloomy. Now if Ms Cann could just get her attention, she’d be able to get a sample of the punch and she’d also be able to get some assistance in finding a better vantage place to film.
She had to some how get the girl’s attention. She reached for a stone and lobbed it over to the table. It bounced off the glass top, causing Jacqui to jump. Jacqui turned her eyes in the direction Ms Cann crouched. Ms Cann waved at her through the fence.
Jacqui’s eyes narrowed.
Ms Cann motioned her over, but the girl remained where she was, continuing to glare in her direction.
‘Come on, you tiresome girl!’ she muttered.
Jacqui rose from her feet, but instead of walking over to where Ms Cann sat, she gave her the finger and wandered away.
Ms Cann fumed. How dare she offer up such a rude gesture? She would be sorry for her disrespect, sorry for not playing her part in her teacher’s plans. She watched as Jacqui sat down at another table on the far side of the pool. At least she wasn’t raising the alarm. That was something.
Another piece of music ended and Vanessa came up to Rex, wrapped her arms around him and planted a long kiss on his lips. Ms Cann quickly rolled the camera, making sure she captured their display of depravity on tape, then she lowered the camera as Vanessa took Rex by the hand and lead him to a stairwell that led up to the second story.
This was it. The moment Ms Cann had been waiting for… the chance to capture something on tape that would truly incriminate the both of them. Still, somehow she had to get into the house without being noticed. Curse that Jacqui! No matter. She would get in there somewhere, but she had to do it quick.
When Tucker arrived at the party, he was in high spirits. Visions of the tasty goodies that would be distributed liberally around the tables, filled his mind. He recalled Rex’s 15th birthday party the year before. That was a fantastic spread, but this one promised to be so much more.
However, as he arrived at the Cassidy house, tapping his cell phone in his shirt pocket to ensure it was still there, he remembered his resolution and how he had to be more like Rex. If he wanted to impress the goddess and score a few dances with her, he couldn’t go acting like an idiot around food. Therefore, he strolled in, took one club sandwich and swaggered towards the guest room. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Vanessa, Rex and some of the others peering at him. He puffed out his chest feeling proud of himself for his display of self-control.
There were more goodies inside and catering staff buzzed around. One even approached him with a tray of drinks and offered him one. It was in a tall wine glass, but on tasting it Tucker found it was some kind of fruity flavoured soft drink. He decided to treat it as if it was a real glass of wine and held it in his hand with thumb and two fingers wrapped around the lower part of the glass. He delivered suave smiles to some of the partygoers as he strolled through the house, admiring the modern appliances and décor.
He greeted a security guard making his way down the corridor towards him. ‘You’re doing a good job, mate.’
‘Thanks.’ The guard passed by.
Tucker took a sausage roll from a dish that one of the caterers carried and sat down on a comfortable chair, peering around at the other parties who laughed and joked with each other. He looked forward to the arrival of his friends so that he could show off his new image in front of them.
As he sat there, his stomach began to grumble and he gazed at one of the tables against the wall, which had various hot and cold finger foods available. It looked mouth watering. There was a garnished ham too, along with salads of various types. Everything was so beautifully arranged and decorated, he couldn’t stand it. He wanted to rush up there, grab a huge plate and start piling it on.
‘That’s not what Rex would do,’ he reminded himself.
He became bored. Nobody was making any effort to come and talk to him, which he felt was strange, because Rex always had people around him, especially hot chicks. He finally rose to his feet. Others were starting to serve themselves dinner, so he might as well join them. He took particular care to do it with dignity, helping himself to small portions of the various delicacies, not big gigantic mountains like he normally did at a buffet. He then strolled outside to eat there and was pleased to see his two friends had arrived.
‘Hey, Tucker!’ Ash greeted him. ‘I see you’ve hogged in already. I should have known. What number plate is that? Number 56?’
‘This is my first plate!’
‘Yeah, whatever,’ Hew scoffed.
‘Yeah, and I’m a bogey hanging out of Mr Peterson’s nose.’
Minute later the four of them sat at one of the glass tables tucking into a hearty feast. Tucker wanted to shovel large volumes into his mouth like he normally did, but controlled himself, eating only one piece of food at a time like everyone else.
‘Man, Tucker, you’re showing some self-control, bro,’ Ash said.
‘It’s called etiquette, Joseph.’ Tucker smirk. ‘Maybe you’re not familiar with that term?’
‘I kind of thought that was a dirty word when it came to you.’
Tucker finished off his first helping and eyed the table, eager for more. He felt as though that first lot had barely touched the sides of his stomach.
‘Well what are you waiting for, Tucks?’ Hew asked. ‘Get up there and get plate 57.’
Tucker delivered him a dirty look. ‘I’m fine. I’ve had enough.’
Ash and Hew’s jaws dropped and they stared at Tucker in disbelief. Finally Hew spoke, ‘Yeah, I think you’re right, Ash. That must have been plate 56 then. He’s already stuffed himself silly.’
‘I have not!’
‘Yeah, bro, whatever,’ Ash sniggered.
Frustrated and hungry, Tucker sat there pretending he was satisfied. He peered over to the dance floor where couples started to congregate and dance. He saw Rex dancing with two girls at the same time and felt envy creep in.
‘Hey, Tucks, look, Vanessa’s over there at that table.’ Ash pointed out the goddess who sat laughing and joking with some of her friends. ‘Why don’t you go and ask her to dance?’
Tucker felt turmoil in his guts at the thought of it. ‘What? Ask her to dance? Are you guys crazy? You don’t just go up and ask a goddess to dance!’
‘Then what do you do then?’ Hew chuckled. ‘Pray for her to come over and ask you?’
‘It would certainly take a miracle,’ Ash said.
‘Perhaps you should go and bow down at her feet, Tucks. Kiss them or something. Maybe she’ll take mercy on you and dance with you.’
It was one thing to fantasize about dancing with the goddess, but it was another thing to actually go up and ask her to dance. Tucker didn’t know if he could.
‘Come on, Tucker,’ Ash urged him. ‘You’ve asked her out before.’
‘Yeah, but that was weeks ago, before I realised how truly divine she really was.’
‘Hey, don’t forget, you’re supposed to be like Rex, remember? He wouldn’t be sitting around drooling over some hotty, he’d be over there chatting her up.’
‘And he’d be making out with her five minutes later,’ Hew added. ‘Come on, Tucker, you better get over there before Myrtle the Turtle shows up.’
‘But what if Rex gets angry?’
‘No, he won’t. Look he’s dancing with other girls, so why shouldn’t Vanessa dance with other guys?’
‘Nobody’s asking her to dance.’
‘They’re all too chicken. Come on, Rex wouldn’t be chicken.’
Tucker knew Ash was right. He had to do something if he wanted his fantasies to become reality. He rose to his feet and swaggered over to her. His legs suddenly felt weak, but he knew he had to do it. He stepped right up to her and spoke, ‘Hey Vanessa. You want to dance?’
Vanessa eyes widened and a couple of the people at the table with her snickered. ‘Sorry?’ Vanessa finally spoke. ‘Did you just ask me to dance?’
‘Yes. So how about it?’
More snickers came from the others at the table.
He continued, ‘I figured I’d be an eejit not to ask you seeing as you were sitting down while so many people were up dancing.’ He actually felt good about what he had just said and immediately confidence began to build up within him. ‘You know, I’m actually a pretty great dancer.’
‘Oh, yeah,’ Vanessa replied. ‘I remember you nearly wrecking the hall when you tried to breakdance that time. I don’t think you quite understood that breakdancing isn’t about trying to kick in chairs and tables. In fact it’s not about breaking anything at all.’
The snickers turned to laughter this time. Sheep sat there, almost spilling his glass of Coke. ‘Man, that must have caused an earthquake, him breakdancing.’
Vanessa continued, ‘In fact, after that frightening experience, I vowed I would never be in the vicinity of Tucker Pyles dancing ever again.’
Tucker appealed to her, ‘Ah, but come on, I’m really good at this sort of dancing. Disco stuff I mean. You should see me.’ He began to gyrate his hips and thrust his hands up and down in the air. ‘What do you think?’
‘I think I’m going to be ill,’ Vanessa said, in a cheerful manner, as the others at the table burst into fits of laughter. ‘That was truly a traumatising experience. Please, please don’t do that again.’
‘How about this?’ He nodded his head backwards and forwards like an ostrich, pretending to walk on the spot, swinging his arms backwards and forwards. ‘Cool huh?’
‘Err, no. In fact, that’s very disturbing. I’m disturbed… so much so that I may need serious psychiatric assistance.’
‘Ah, come on, Nessa. Don’t you think I’m a good dancer?’
‘Won’t you dance with me?’
‘Err, Tucker. I’m afraid that if I were to dance with you, you would end up accidentally stamping on my toes, crushing my feet into fine powder. That would cause me a great deal of suffering, even more so than seeing you dancing and you know what will happen to you if you even just hurt me an insy teeny weeny bit.’
She turned her head to Rex on the dance floor. Tucker followed her gaze and immediately he got the message. ‘Rex would kill me.’
‘Yeah huh! Now I guess for most of us, he’d be putting us out of our miseries, but I don’t think you really want to be dead, do you? I mean think of it from you parent’s perspective. Do you realise how much it would cost them to buy a coffin big enough for you to fit in? You’d break them.’
‘Oh…’ Tucker’s heart sank.
‘So, I think for the good of everyone, it might be best if we didn’t dance together, ok?’
‘There, now aren’t you glad we prevented everyone from a great deal of unnecessary suffering?’
Tucker wandered away from Vanessa’s table. He cast a glance over at his friends who were in fits of laughing. He didn’t feel like talking to them at that moment, as he was too depressed. Instead, he went to the guest lounge and forgetting his vow, he began to pile his plate high with goodies. He searched for a place he could eat it without being seen, but there were people everywhere. He peered at the staircase leading upstairs, glanced around and then made his way up. At the top, all was quiet. He expected a security guard to be doing the rounds. There was none now, but he knew one might come by soon. He found a bedroom and entered it. It appeared to be a guest bedroom as it was spick and span, with only a bed, some decorations and a chest of drawers. He sat down on the floor and began to wolf into his plate of food.
All his dreams had come crashing down around him. So much for trying to be like Rex Cassidy. Vanessa still didn’t want anything to do with him. He couldn’t understand it at all. Apart from the way he looked, he felt confident he had exuded some of the “cool” and sex appeal that Rex exuded. He would have thought that with all the positive changes he’d made in his life he’d have girls swarming after him. How did Rex do it?
It seemed the food on his plate disappeared way too quickly and he still felt like more. So carefully, he left the room, headed back down stairs, piled his plate high again, filled up a couple more plates and very carefully carried them back up to once again sit down on the floor of the room.
Eating was the only thing that made him feel better.
For quite some time he sat there, feeding his face and at last began to feel better. However, his solitude was interrupted when the door to the room opened suddenly. At first, he thought it was the security guard, but then he saw someone at the doorway, standing there with a video camera held to her face. For a split second, he considered it might be a couple looking to find a room to film themselves getting it on, but when he saw who it really was, he almost dropped the samosa he had in his hand. ‘Ms Cann?’
The elderly teacher lowered her camera suddenly, a look of surprise on her face. ‘What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be Rex and V… What room did they go into? I can’t believe how many rooms there are in this place and not only that, but there are security guards everywhere.’
‘What are you doing here? You weren’t invited.’
‘Never you mind that. Which room is Rex’s room?’
‘Oh… I think it’s the one down the end of the corridor. He has a balcony that over looks the pool. But why…?’
‘Never you mind!’ Ms Cann closed the door, leaving him alone once again.
Tucker’s phone rang. His heart rejoiced. This was the first time anyone had rung him on his mobile.
‘Y’ello, Rex Ca… I mean Tucker Pyles speaking.’
‘Tucker, it’s Rita.’
‘Oh no,’ Tucker thought. ‘Please don’t tell me you need me to come in tonight.’ ‘Hi, Rita.’
‘Tucker, we have some Wild Dogs in the bar…’
‘Oh, no. Please don’t tell me you want me to come and kick them out,’ he said in his mind. ‘Wild Dogs?’
‘Yes. I’ve heard them talk and I’m a bit worried. They said something about gatecrashing a party in town tonight. You mentioned you were going to a party. Are you there now?’
‘Well, I just thought I’d warn you. I don’t know if it’s the party they were talking about, but you might have some unwanted company shortly. Anyway, I’ve gotta go. See you tomorrow.’
Tucker put the cell phone back into his pocket as the disturbing news registered in his mind. ‘Oh, oh…’ For some reason, there was no doubt in his mind that the Wild Dogs were talking about Rex’s party. They were on there way. The party was about to go down hill big time.
Mandy had just started to relax. The party was going well and she’d even got to dance with McDreamy. Her parents would no doubt know she was somewhere she shouldn’t be right now, but she didn’t care. Even if they did turn up, Rex had given express instruction to security to say she wasn’t here.
Best of all, Dale had not shown up, so it seemed he had finally accepted the fact that Mandy no longer wanted anything to do with him. She couldn’t help but wonder how he was feeling though, whether he was humiliated, angry or what. All thoughts of Dale soon disappeared though as she started to enjoy the party.
She noticed Jacqui sitting on her own at a table at the far side of the pool area. She wandered over and sat with her. ‘You ok, Jacqs?’
‘I shouldn’t have come.’
‘Oh, don’t say that. People are pissed at you, but they won’t be for ever.’
‘I deserve it.’
‘Yeah, well I’m not going to argue about that.’ Mandy suppressed a smile. ‘But still, I’m surprised you’re not up there dancing. Surely there must be heaps of guys wanting to dance with you still.’
‘I’ve been telling them to get lost.’
‘I’m just not in the mood.’
‘So why don’t you just go home then?’
‘And miss out on the biggest party of the century?’
‘Well it’s not much of a party if all you’re gonna do is sit here and sulk.’
Jacqui didn’t reply.
‘Why don’t you come and join the rest of us over at the pool?’
‘No. They don’t want me there.’
‘How do you know?’
‘None of them have even said hello to me.’
‘Maybe they’re waiting for you to say hello to them.’
‘I doubt it.’
Mandy sighed. She didn’t really want to sit there trying to cheer up Jacqui. She was already having enough trouble staying positive herself. She was about to insist that Jacqui come over to join her and the others when from behind her a voice sang an old Barry Manalow song.
‘Oh Mandy well, you came and you gave without taking, but I sent you away…’
She turned and scowled when Maurice stepped up and sat down at the table with them. ‘What are you doing here?’ she asked in a cold tone. ‘You’re not even a student at Te Arawa College anymore and there’s no way Rex would have invited you. Not after that incident on the beach.’
Maurice smirked. ‘Just thought I’d come anyway.’
‘What do you want?’
‘Come on, Mandy, no need to be unsociable, I just came to say hi. I hear you and Dale have broken up.’
‘Yeah, so what?’
‘He said you and your parents kicked him out.’
‘He deserved it.’
‘Hey, I know, I know. I told him not to drink my beers, but the silly moron did.’
‘Oh, I should have known you’d have something to do with it.’
‘Hey, I had nothing to do with it. Can I help it if the guy likes his booze? I never even offered… he just took it. Speaking of booze, this party is severely lacking in that department.’
‘Yeah, well if you want a teen party without the cops coming calling, that’s just what you have to live with.’
Jacqui rose to her feet. ‘Hey, I gotta go inside for a bit. Nature calls.’
Mandy didn’t really like the idea of being left sitting at the table with Maurice, but she didn’t say anything. Once Jacqui had gone, Maurice placed his hand on hers. She quickly jerked it away.
‘Hey come on, Mandy, you’re single again, aren’t you?’
‘Not for you.’
‘Why don’t you just come up for a dance?’
‘Ah come on, no need for the games. I’m not into that sort of thing.’
‘I’m not interested, Maurice!’
Maurice’s friendly demeanour vanished. ‘Oh, you’re a little tease, aren’t you? Get us guys all hot, but then flick us off?’
For a moment, Mandy tensed up. ‘What? I’m not trying to tease anyone, least of all you!’
‘Ah, come on, we all know what you’re like. You may not like your nickname, but you know it suits you.’
She recoiled ‘What? Oh, my God, you’re a creep!’ She increased the volume of her voice. ‘Will you just sod off and leave me alone?’
‘Cool it!’ Maurice’s expression turned to a glare. ‘You don’t want to attract too much attention, I’m telling you.’
‘And why not?’
Maurice’s eyes narrowed. ‘Not unless you want more pictures of you and Rex flooding the school.’
Mandy could have sworn her heart had stopped and she jerked her head up to face him. ‘What?’ It seemed to become harder to breathe. ‘It was you? You took those photographs?’
An evil smile appeared on his lips. ‘Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.’
‘But why would you do that?’
He chuckled, as if he were some evil villain in a movie. ‘I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with a camera. Saw you two going at it and thought, wow, here’s a golden opportunity. I can have some fun with this.’
‘You creep!’ Mandy felt like getting up and announcing to everyone he was the guy who was trying to humiliate her, but he put his hand down on hers firmly.
‘Now, if I were you, I’d be very careful how I react right now.’
‘Why, Maurice? Why would you take those photographs? Why did you change the dates on them? Just for fun? I don’t believe it!’
Maurice chuckled again. ‘Well the fun’s only just begun.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Well… I understand there are quite a few bedrooms upstairs. How about you and I…’
‘You can go to hell!’
‘Ah, ah. Look at it this way. If you don’t do what I want, more of those photographs are going to end up around the school and on your parents’ doorstep and this time it will be the most revealing ones. How about that?’
Mandy felt sick, but she knew she couldn’t give into him. ‘Go ahead. My parents have already seen one lot and any others I’ll just brag about like the first one you posted at school. You’re wasting your time.’
‘Hmmm, ok. So what if I was to make a little phone call.’ He pulled out a cell phone from his shirt. ‘How about I ring your parents and tell them where you are right now?’
‘You don’t know their number!’
‘Yes, I do. I found your number written down on something of Dale’s. It’s in my phone right now.’ He pressed some buttons. ‘435 5433. Is that it?’
Mandy flinched and her heart sank. ‘No, you can’t ring them.’
‘Well then… looks like you’re just going to have to go along with my wishes tonight then aren’t you? Hmmmm. How about we start with a dance. Sound good to you?’
Reluctantly she joined him on the dance floor and danced. Her mind was in turmoil. She hoped desperately he was only bluffing about them going upstairs. If he wasn’t, what would she do? She didn’t really want more photographs of herself and Rex being splashed around the school and she definitely didn’t want her parents being called in. If that happened, she was heading to Girl’s High for sure.
They danced a few songs, but then the band began to play something slow. Maurice took her arm to dance, but she couldn’t. She hurried off the dance floor and into the guest lounge. She glanced back to see him following her, so she headed down the corridor towards the dining room.
‘I’ve got the phone, Mandy!’ Maurice followed. ‘All I gotta do is press this button and I’ll be in contact with your parents. Oh, wait, perhaps I’m misjudging you. Could it be you want to get straight to the real fun times? I’m sure we can get some privacy in one of these side rooms, what do you say?’ He opened the door to one. ‘Coming in?’
For a moment, Mandy stared at Maurice, beginning to wonder if this was all some kind of horrible dream. His finger hovered over the call button.
‘Then come in here then and we can discuss what I’m going to do with your photographs. Make it worth my while and I’ll destroy them all. How about that?’
For a moment she continued to stand there, considering his words, but then reality set in. ‘No! I’m not going to be blackmailed. You’re not going to force me to do something I wouldn’t. Go ahead. Ring my parents.’
Maurice face dropped for a second, but then his eyes narrowed. ‘Fine.’ He pressed call. All Mandy could do was stand there as a smirk came upon his face. She wanted to grab the phone and tear it away from him, but she knew it would accomplish nothing. It would only delay the inevitable.
‘Oh, hello Mrs Evans…’
She could just make out a voice on the other end and there was no doubt it was her mother. She froze and a feeling of defeat overcame her.
‘I’m a friend of Rex Cassidy’s.’ He glanced at her with a gleam in his eye. ‘At the moment I’m at his 16th birthday party going on at his place. Real wild party. Just thought you ought to know, your daughter is here and she’s been schmoozing up to Rex. Yep. You better come and get her before she really does something she’ll regret…’
Ms Cann peered up and down the hallway. Her heart beat fast, but at the same time, she felt a thrill at being there. She had just closed the door of the room on Tucker and now knew where to go to find the couple she was looking for, but even if she could, did she just walk in there and catch the two of them red-handed?
Footsteps came from the stairwell, so she quickly opened a door to one of the guest rooms and slipped inside. She peeked out to see one of the partygoers enter the upstairs toilet. She waited in the room a little longer to avoid being seen, but she was determined to get to the room at the end of the corridor before it was too late.
The door to one of the rooms opened and an excited Tucker stepped out and rushed down the stairs. Seconds later the toilet door opened and the other partygoer went back downs too. Feeling confident the coast was clear, Ms Cann stepped out from the room, but got a nasty fright when a voice spoke from behind.
‘Excuse me. Who are you?’
Ms Cann twirled around, nearly jumping out of her skin. Standing there was one of the security guards.
‘Oh! Hello!’ Ms Cann attempted to keep her composure and quickly ran a cover story through her mind, one she’d considered using if she got caught. ‘I’m… I’m the mother of one of the children.’
‘Oh… well most of them are downstairs.’
‘Ah… the one I want is up here. So I’ve been told, anyway.’
‘Who are you after?’
‘Vanessa… Vanessa Danté.’
‘Vanessa? You’re her mother.’
‘Well, she was ah… Yeah, she was around here somewhere.’
‘Oh. Well in that case I’m sure I will find her.’ Ms Cann put on the most pleasant smile she could muster.
‘If you like I’ll try to find her.’
‘Yes! Thank you, that would be very helpful. Perhaps you could search downstairs for her. I’ll knock on a few doors up here, shall I?’
‘Sure,’ the guard replied.
Ms Cann breathed easy when the guard made his way downstairs. She could hardly believe he had brought it, but then it was hardly likely he’d be suspicious of an aging woman claiming to be looking for her daughter.
Ms Cann reached the door at the end of the corridor and readied her camera. She hoped the door was unlocked. If it wasn’t then her scheming was all for nothing. She took a deep breath, turned the handle of the door, swung it wide open and started to record. She stepped through the doorway expecting to catch the couple in a compromising situation. Her camera came across a huge king-sized bed first, which had the blankets stripped off and was in a state of disarray, but nobody lay on it. She lowered her camera in surprise. It was a huge room with its own lounge area, but that area was clear too.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t deserted. Vanessa stood at a dresser mirror brushing her long dark locks, but stopped suddenly when she saw Ms Cann. Apart from her rather skimpy bikini, Ms Cann was disenchanted to find she was up to nothing immoral at all.
‘What the hell are you doing in here?’ Vanessa blinked a few times, a shocked look on her face.
Ms Cann had to think fast. ‘What am I doing in here? The question should be what are you doing in here? This is not your bedroom. This belongs to Rex!’
‘Oh, my gosh, you know Ms Cann, you are absolutely right. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in the wrong room. Oh boy, you know, I think I even entered the wrong house. This isn’t my place, is it?’
‘No, it’s not!’
Vanessa’s tone turned serious. ‘And it’s not yours either. What are you doing here at all, Ms Cann? You weren’t invited to this party and you have no right just to barge into private rooms either. Why have you got a camera?’
Ms Cann really had to think hard now. ‘I… I came here because I knew that depraved and corrupt activities were taking place here. And I was right!’
‘Oh and me standing here brushing my hair is considered depraved and corrupt is it?’
‘It’s what happened before that, I’m concerned with!’ Ms Cann said in her most condescending tone.
‘Well somehow I don’t think you have any clue what happened. Now if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it very much if you…’ her voice trailed off and she stared over Ms Cann’s shoulder. ‘Oh, my God.’ Her eyes widened and her face turned pale.
Ms Cann quickly turned around to see what had caught her attention and she immediately experienced the same horror Vanessa was. Standing there, dressed in leather were two serious looking Wild Dogs.
Rex arrived back downstairs having left Vanessa in his room only a few minutes earlier.
‘How was the birthday present, Rex?’ Wal asked him.
Rex smiled, but wasn’t the type to share details. ‘I could tell you, Wal, but then you know what will have to happen if I do.’
‘Yeah, you’ll have to kill me. I got it.’
‘Looks like it was a great present judging by that smile,’ commented Mav.
‘Careful, Mav,’ Rex said. ‘You’re under-exaggeration is getting a little too close to the truth.’ He winked.
Just then, an angry voice spoke from behind. ‘Alright, Rex. Where’s our daughter!’
Rex spun around to see Mr and Mrs Evans stride out from the guest room, a security guard behind them. Mr Evans scowled as he stepped up in front of him. ‘Where’s Mandy? We’re taking her home right now!’
‘I’m sorry,’ the guard said. ‘They just marched in, I couldn’t stop them.’
‘You know we don’t approve of her spending time with you!’ Mrs Evans growled. ‘I shudder to think what’s been going on around here!’
Rex was tempted to let them have it with every insult in the book, but forced himself to keep his cool. ‘Look Mr and Mrs Evans, as you can see, what’s going on here is perfectly harmless fun. You can take a look around and see for yourself, if you don’t believe it. As for Mandy, she was around here somewhere, so if you really want to ruin her evening, please feel free to track her down.’
Mr Evans glared at him, while Mrs Evans glanced around, looking bemused.
A disturbance near the entrance to the pool caught Rex’s attention and when he saw what was happening, he froze momentarily. A group of leather clad Wild Dogs pushed their way through. A security guard attempted to intervene, but one of the Dogs sent a fist to his face sending him crashing to the ground.
Mr Evans gaped. ‘So this is your idea of a harmless party? Letting in gang members?’
‘They weren’t invited!’
There were screams from some of the partygoers and the band stopped playing. Two more gang members appeared dragging another of the security guards and hurling him to the ground with the other. The guard who had come in with the Evans’s attempted to call in to base on his RT, but two more gang members appeared behind him and grabbed it from him. The other took a hold of him and hurled him into the wall of the house causing Mrs Evans to scream and leap sideways, almost toppling into the pool.
Mr Evans stepped back several steps and stared in terror at the two burly gang members. The two, seeing Rex, made a lunge for him. Rex acted quickly. He sent his fist connecting with one of them, sending him flying. The other grabbed him by the arm, but Rex flipped him, sending him hurtling into the pool with a tremendous splash.
Rex could do nothing more. Two more gang members charged in and pinned his arms behind his back. More gang members entered through the gates and others came through the house. All escape routes were blocked and the party goers stared wide-eyed as one of the gang members strode up to the stage and grabbed the microphone.
‘Well, well, well.’ He was a big Maori, with tattoos on his face, probably in his early 20s. ‘Quite a party you got going on here. Oh, before you try to say we weren’t invited, our buddy here is on the invite list.’
Ben Tamati pushed his way through a couple of the partiers. He wore the Wild Dog jacket just as he had when Rex last had a run in with him.
‘There he is, Hone!’ Ben pointed an accusing finger at Rex. ‘That’s him!’
‘Ah, yes, so this is the guy is it? This is the guy that took out Wolf? The guy who’s making your life a misery?’ Hone dropped the microphone and stepped off the stage. A couple of his most hefty men joined him as he strode up to Rex and the Evans’s. Mrs Evans whimpered and cuddled into her husband who stood stiff as a board, his eyes wide with terror.
Rex glanced around at the terrified eyes of his guests. Vanessa. Where was she? He figured she must still be upstairs in her room. Hopefully none of the gang members had found her yet. He tried to tell himself that, but the fear of something happening to her built up inside him and he could hardly stand it. ‘Look! If you want me, that’s fine. I’ll come quietly. Just don’t hurt anyone.’
‘Where’s Vanessa?’ Ben asked.
‘She went home.’
‘Bull shit! There’s no way. She’s here somewhere.’
Hone shouted out to a couple of his men. ‘Go find her!’
‘No!’ Rex struggled to break free. With all his effort, he swung his elbows back sending his two captors staggering back and losing their grip on him. Ben lunged at Rex, but Rex sent a huge left hook to his head, sending him crashing to the ground. Hone’s two muscle heads tried to move in, but Wal tackled one bringing him down to the ground. Rex spun around and sent a windmill kick to the other advancing Dog. However, more gang members surrounded them and one sent a solid blow to Rex’s kidneys sending him dropping to his knees in pain. Two more got stuck into him with punches and kicks. The females screamed. Cries of “stop it” and “no” echoed around the pool, until Hone gave a command of his own.
The Dogs backed off a little, allowing Rex to rise painfully to his feet, blood streaming down from the side of his mouth from a boot he had received in the face. Rex wasn’t sure why Hone had given the order, but maybe he didn’t want too much of a disturbance in case the police were called.
Rex straightened up and he scowled at Hone. ‘You dare lay a finger on her and you’ll regret it, douchebag!’
‘Oh, hoooo! Big words there! You’re in no position to make threats to me, e’hoa!’
Rex itched to attack, but he knew he was out numbered. He had to use his brains rather than his brawn in this situation. It was difficult, knowing that right now Vanessa might be in real danger.
A woman’s voice cried out. ‘Let me go!’
Two more gang members appeared and between them both, they had Ms Cann. One of them hopped along on one foot, something seriously wrong with his other leg, while the other, moved sluggishly and shoved Ms Cann down onto the concrete. The second gangster was none other than Luke Shirley. Rex realised now why the Wild Dogs were so keen on getting to him. Two of them despised him.
‘She got away!’ whined Luke.
Rex felt a weight lift from him, but then anger built up inside him as he thought of Luke laying his hands on her again.
‘She won’t get far,’ Hone said. ‘All the exits are blocked. She’ll be in here somewhere.’
‘Shirley, you piece of crap!’ Rex snarled. ‘You better not have hurt her.’
Shirley stepped up to him, an evil glare on his face. ‘Cassidy, you son of a bitch, I’ve been waiting for this.’ His hands were covered in blood and for a moment Rex had a horrible thought it was Vanessa’s, but then he touched the back of his head, cringed and pulled his hand away. There was more blood on it. It began to look as if Vanessa had managed to get the better of them somehow.
It made Rex smile.
‘What are you smiling about?’ screamed Shirley.
‘Looks like you got yourself a little beat up.’
‘If it wasn’t for…’
‘Ok, that’s enough!’ Hone growled. ‘It’s time…’
‘Please!’ Ms Cann grovelled, still sitting on the ground. ‘I’m not part of this. Let me go.’
‘Shut up, you old cow!’ Shirley shouted and he pulled out a blade and bent over the horrified woman in an aggressive manner. Rex reached Surly first, grabbed his arm and twisted his wrist causing the bully to cry out and release the knife. Rex hurled Surly across the ground sending him crashing down at Hone’s feet.
Rex glared at the gang leader. ‘What do you want to terrorise an old lady for? Is that what your gang is all about, assclown? Bullying old woman, threatening them with knives?’ He helped her to her feet and could see the gratitude in her eyes.
Mr Evans finally spoke. ‘Look you guys, there are a lot of terrified people here. They’re just kids. Can’t you just leave us alone? This is achieving….’
‘Shut the hell up!’ Hone growled and stepped up to Mr Evans, his eyes almost popping out of his head. ‘This is none of your concern, so just shut the hell up!’
Rex stepped up and met Hone eye to eye. ‘I’ve had about enough of this. What the hell do you want?’
‘We want you,’ Hone glared. ‘You’ve humiliated my dogs. When my dogs are wronged, I gotta do what I can to make it right.’
‘What they got, they deserved.’
‘Oh yeah, bro? Well now you’re gonna get what you deserve.’
‘That’s fine, but there’s no need to include anyone else in this. Nobody else needs to get hurt.’
‘You have no say in this, Cassidy! The Dogs do what the Dogs want to do. There’s no such thing as innocent bystanders.’
Rex glanced around at the scared looks on his friend’s faces and the grim looks on those belonging to the Wild Dogs. He then turned back at Hone, determined to show no weakness. ‘I’ve got a better idea.’
‘Oh yeah? And what would that be?’
‘You and me, douchebag. One on one!’
‘Are you challenging me?’ Hone’s eyes widened and then he burst into laughter. ‘You’re challenging me?’
‘Come on, let’s see what you do. I win; you and your Nancy-boys get the hell out of here.’
‘And if I win?’
‘You get to prove you’re the big shot. And you get revenge for your two dogs.’
His men laughed and a smirk appeared on Hone’s face. ‘He’s got guts, bros. Oh yeah, he’s got guts. Alright, you got it. You and me, one on one. Looks like we’re gonna have ourselves a real party!’
When Vanessa saw that one of the gang members was Luke Shirley she nearly screamed. She turned to rush towards the balcony to raise the alarm, but it was too late. The first gang member charged in and grabbed her roughly by the arm. At the same time, Surly grabbed Ms Cann and shoved her face first into the wall, sending her crashing to the ground.
Vanessa remembered some self-defence training she learnt recently after her last run in with Luke. She twisted side ways, lifted her heel and rammed it straight into her attacker’s knee.
There was a sickening crack and the attacker let out a scream of pain and crumpled to the ground. She would have done the same to Luke if she could, but he tackled her and brought her to the ground. Using his body weight, he pinned her down and no matter how hard she struggled, she couldn’t break free.
Suddenly a figure appeared and swung something heavy at the head of Surly. It struck him with a dull thud and his face distorted and he fell across Vanessa’s body.
Vanessa gasped and stared up at her rescuer.
Jacqui stood there with a wooden sculpture in her hand. She dropped it to the floor and offered Vanessa her hand. ‘Come on. We’ve gotta move. This place is swarming with Wild Dogs.’
Vanessa rose to her feet, feeling shaken.
‘You broke my knee cap!’ screamed the still conscious gang member, who squirmed on the floor, his face a picture of agony.
‘Tough shit, loser!’ Jacqui growled. ‘Come on.’
‘But what about Ms Cann?’
The body of the old woman lay motionless on the floor.
‘We can’t do anything about her right now,’ Jacqui appealed. ‘We have to go, come on!’
‘But the others…’ Dread overcame her as she wondered about Rex. If they were after him, he was in major trouble. ‘We need to get to a phone.’ She hurried out of the room after Jacqui. ‘Have you got a cell phone, Jacqui?’
‘Not on me.’ She opened the door of one of the other rooms. ‘In here!’
‘We can’t hide in here.’
‘We have no choice. The Wild Dogs have the main entrances guarded.’ Jacqui hurried to the closet and opened it up.
‘They’re bound to look in there.’
‘Well there’s nowhere else!’ Jacqui’s eyes were wide and Vanessa could see she was close to panic.
‘Ok.’ It seemed they had no choice. Maybe the gang members would not come searching for them. Maybe help would come before they were caught.
‘Oh God, oh God,’ Jacqui said and Vanessa closed the door behind them. ‘I can’t believe this.’
Vanessa sat down on the floor and closed her eyes. ‘They’ve come for Rex. Oh my God, what will they do to him?’
‘I don’t know. Oh God, I just don’t know…’
Tucker had tried to get downstairs in time to warn Rex about the Wild Dogs, but the gang members were already flooding into the building and the only thing he was able do was hide. He slipped into one of the downstairs bedrooms, closed the door quickly behind him and got a nasty shock when he found it was occupied.
‘Get off of me, you creep! Tucker help me!’
Tucker nearly fell over when he saw Mandy pinned to the wall, with Maurice leaning against her, trying to have his way with her.
‘I said, no!’ She tried to push him off, but he was just too strong.
‘Get the hell out of here, Pyles!’ snarled Maurice, ‘Can’t you see were having some fun.’
‘Tucker, help me!’
Tucker didn’t know if he could take on a guy as big as Maurice, especially without his friends around, but he knew he couldn’t leave Mandy there at his mercy. Rex wouldn’t either. Rex would have grabbed that ubbhead right away and taught him the lesson of his life.
Tucker had to be like Rex now. ‘Get your hands off her, douchebag!’
‘Go to hell Pyles, you fat moron!’
‘Man, you gotta stop,’ Tucker appealed. ‘This place is being overrun with Wild Dogs.’
Maurice let out a haughty laugh. ‘Yeah, whatever, Pyles.’
‘It’s true! They’re all through the place.’
‘Get lost, Pyles!’ Maurice tried to manhandle Mandy some more.
Tucker had seen enough. He grabbed Maurice, hauled him away and sent his fist ploughing into Maurice’s face causing him to stagger back. He got him a beauty, but at the same time, he hurt his own fist. He cried out and grasped his hand. Mandy panted and stared at Tucker with relief in her eyes.
Maurice rubbed his jaw, his eyes burning. ‘You’re gonna pay for that, Pyles.’
‘No!’ Tucker pushed the pain aside and charged at Maurice with full force. Maurice tried to move out of the way, but Tucker collided with him sending him crashing into the wall.
Glass shattered as Maurice’s upper body bounced back against the window. He cried out as shards of glass cut into his back and he slid down the wall. ‘Aggghhhhhh!’ Seemingly paralysed, he winced and stared up at Tucker with fear on his face.
Tucker pulled out his phone. ‘We gotta call the cops now.’
‘No!’ Maurice appealed. ‘I’m sorry.’
Suddenly the door to the room burst open and a burly gang member appeared. Another appeared behind him. Tucker groaned. The game was over.
Rex battled Hone in one of the toughest battles of his life. His friends watched on with pale faces as both of them battled it out. At first, it seemed they were evenly matched, but now Hone was starting to get the upper hand. He was fast as well as strong and some of Rex’s martial arts moves seemed to have little effect on the tough gang boss.
Hone sent blow after blow to Rex’s head and body and he felt like a punching bag. The faces of his friends became even more fearful as it seemed that perhaps he had met his match.
The gang members cheered their leader on, drowning out the voices of Rex’s own supporters. It seemed that most of them were too scared to shout for fear of riling up the gang members who stood around them looking staunch. A particularly heavy blow from Hone sent Rex staggering and he could hear bells ringing in his head.
‘Come on Rex!’ a voice cried out in anguish.
Another staggering blow split his lip and sent him stumbling back a few more steps. He could feel his legs going on him.
‘Rex!’ A female voice appealed, but he couldn’t even tell where that voice was coming from.
Hone laughed and stuck another blow, this time to Rex’s temple. Rex felt his legs give and he went down, hitting the concrete hard. A cheer went up from the Wild Dogs, sensing that their leader had won.
However, Rex wasn’t done yet. He had to draw on extra reserves. Somehow, he had to tap into them, to pull himself back from the brink. Vanessa. That was the key. Only she could give him that strength he needed, but she wasn’t there right now. Where was she? Did Hone’s men have her? Was she at the mercy of one or more of them right now? Fear entered his mind, but also rage. He focused on the rage, allowing it to build up inside of him. He pictured what might happen to her if he lost this battle and he felt the wrath surge through his body.
He rose to his feet.
The cheering stopped.
Hone stared at him with a comical look of surprise.
‘You’re going down, asswipe!’ Rex lunged out at him and hit him with every ounce of power he could muster. He swung his fists backwards and forwards with precision speed, battering Hone’s face, imagining that he had just touched Vanessa. He allowed all his rage for her potential suffering to break free and he continued to swing, blow after blow at Hone’s face.
To the shock of his men, Hone had no answer. He staggered back under the barrage of blows and tried to block them with his hands. Rex didn’t back down. He continued to hammer away and he could hear his friends cheering for him now. The shouts grew louder and the horrified looks on the faces of the other Wild Dogs intensified.
Finally, Hone went down. He hit the ground and held his hands up in the air, blood covering almost his entire face. ‘Enough!’
Suddenly there was silence. The other Wild Dogs surrounded Rex and it looked as though they were going to lay into him but Hone shouted out again. ‘Leave him!’
The gang members came to a halt and stared down at the panting figure of Hone. Hone winced and tried to climb to his feet, but he fell back down. Two of his men tried to help him up, but he shook off their hands. ‘No!’
With great difficulty, he hauled himself to his feet, swayed a little, but then stood firm. Rex expected him to unleash another attack, but he didn’t. Breathing heavily, he peered at Rex through the river of blood and nodded. ‘You win.’
Sighs of relief came from the partygoers. All Rex could think about was Vanessa though. He peered about for her, but his vision was blurred. He turned back at Hone who tried to wipe some of the blood from his eyes.
Hone panted, ‘Holy shit… you’re a machine… relentless…You beat me fair and square… I don’t know how, but you did.’
Two of Hone’s men appeared from the guest lounge and with them, they had Tucker, Mandy and Maurice. Tucker assisted Maurice along and looked frightened as they neared.
‘Mandy!’ Mrs Evans gasped, ran towards her, grabbed her and embraced her. The two Wild Dogs didn’t try to stop her.
Tucker dumped Maurice’s body to the ground and stared nervously at Rex and Hone. The two gang members peered at Hone, mystified. Rex doubted they had ever seen their leader looking such a mess. Mr Evans, seeing that his wife had been allowed to comfort her daughter joined her and hugged her.
Rex eyed Hone dubiously, not at all convinced he would live up to his word of leaving.
‘What happened to him?’ Hone pointed down at Maurice.
‘This fat guy here was beating the crap out of him,’ one of the Dogs said.
‘Him?’ Hone’s bloodied eyebrows lifted.
‘He attacked her,’ Tucker spoke up.
All eyes turned towards Tucker, Rex’s included.
‘Maurice was the one, Rex,’ Mandy said, her eyes flicking from the gang members and then back to Rex. ‘He took the photographs. He’s the one who’s been threatening to show more. He tried to force himself on me.’
Rex’s anger built up once again. He peered down at Maurice who stared up at him with fear in his eyes. ‘Why, Havers?’
Maurice winced. ‘I… I wanted to teach you a lesson. After what happened at the beach party last month. I wanted you to pay for the humiliation.’
‘So you decided you’d try to mess up Mandy’s life in the process?’
‘No!’ Maurice whined. ‘I just… I just…’
‘Just what?’ Mr Evans glared.
‘It was just a bit of fun!’
‘You douchebag, Havers!’ Rex snarled. ‘You total bloody, eejit!’ Rex barged over to him and hauled him to his feet. Haver’s flinched and Rex was going to let him have it, despite the fact that his hands were aching and he was sure he had broken a knuckle or two.
Then he noticed Mr Evans shaking his head. ‘Enough, Rex. Let the cops deal with him now.’
Rex knew he was right. He let go of Maurice and let him drop back to the ground. He sighed then turned back to Hone. ‘It’s time for you to go!’
Hone nodded. ‘A deals a deal. You won. I always stand by my word.’
‘For how long?’ Rex asked. ‘How long will it be before you send another brick through my bedroom window?’
Hone frowned. ‘What brick?’
‘You’re telling me none of your guys threw a brick through my window with a threatening note on it?’
‘I never gave anyone any order to throw any bricks through any windows.’
Rex’s first thought was that Hone was lying or just didn’t know, but then considered another possible culprit and peered down at Maurice who stared up at him with eyes filled with guilt. ‘It was, you, Havers, wasn’t it?’
Maurice flinched and turned his eyes back to the ground.
Hone slapped his hands together. ‘Ok, Dogs, it’s time to get the hell out of here.’
‘What?’ Ben stepped up, looking at Hone with disgust. ‘We’re just gonna leave, just like that?’
‘Yes! You got a problem with that, Tamati?’
‘This is over. The Wild Dogs are now finished with Rex Cassidy. If anyone doesn’t like this, they have me to deal with, you got it?’ He glanced from man to man, looking at Ben and Luke the longest.
The gang members agreed with murmurs and nods and no sooner had they done that than the sounds of police sirens came from the distance.
‘Let’s go!’ Hone barked.
The Wild Dogs hurriedly made their exit from the Cassidy property.
‘Oh, my God, Rex!’ Vanessa fell into the arms of Rex as all their friends assembled around them. He was so relieved she was safe. She gazed up at him, with a look of concern at his bruised and battered face. Then she smiled. ‘Don’t tell me that once again the other guy got a lot worse!’
Rex grinned although his cut lip stung like crazy. ‘On this occasion, yes. From what I saw, you did pretty well for yourself as well.’
‘Well I capped one of them. And Jacqui, she got Luke Shirley.’
All heads turned to stare at Jacqui who stood there quietly.
‘Yep, she clocked him over the head with some wooden sculpture she got from one of the hallway shelves.’
‘I hope it wasn’t valuable,’ Jacqui said.
‘Who cares,’ Rex said. ‘You rock!’
All those standing around them voiced their approval. Several of them patted her on the back.
‘Way to go, Jacqs,’ said Laura. ‘You’ve redeemed yourself.’
‘You the man!’ Pete said.
‘Thanks… I think.’
Vanessa rested her hand on Jacqui’s shoulder. ‘If it wasn’t for you I might have been in some real trouble.’
Jacqui smiled weakly. ‘You don’t need to thank me. I had to make up for the shoddy way I’ve treated you. Besides, I really wanted to do a number on that creep Surly. I hope I gave him a concussion.’
They all laughed.
Several policemen walked around asking questions while an ambulance officer treated Rex’s wounds. Maurice was taken away, along with a police escort. Some of the party goers had already left as the police had officially ended the party.
It should have been the best party of the decade, but sadly it didn’t turn out that way, but Rex was ok about it. At least his friends were safe.
Ms Cann stepped up as a medic bandaged Rex’s damaged hand.
‘Hi, Ms Cann,’ Rex said. ‘Didn’t expect to see you here.’
Ms Cann peered awkwardly at the ground and sighed. ‘It was wrong of me to come and it was wrong of me to target you.’
‘You… and Vanessa.’ She struggled to look them both in the eye. ‘I came here hoping to expose you both. I was sure this party was going to be full of underage drinking, sex and all that, but it wasn’t. Yet I still tried to stay around in hope of catching someone doing something wrong, but I saw nothing. Then when those horrible bikers turned up, I was so frightened. They tried to hurt me, but you stepped in to protect me. You stopped them and I don’t understand why you did after they way I’ve treated you and Vanessa.’
‘That’s for sure,’ muttered someone from the crowd.
Ms Cann peered from Rex to Vanessa, meeting their eyes this time. ‘I really am sorry. I was wrong about the both of you. You aren’t bad people. In fact, I can see now that you are very good people. The way you stood up to those monsters was very brave.’
‘I just did what I had to do.’
‘You were brave.’ Mrs Evans stepped up. ‘And we’ve been guilty of misjudging you too.’
Mr Evans agreed. ‘After seeing you here this evening we’ve seen your true metal. We’ve never given you a chance. We were wrong for judging you without getting to know you first.’
Rex glanced over at Mandy who stood behind her parents. ‘What about Mandy? Are you going to send her to a new school? We’d really hate that Mr and Mrs Evans. She’s a valued friend of all of us here.’
Mandy stood there trying to hold back tears. The last half an hour had been very intense and she had done well to maintain her composure. She didn’t want to cry in front of everybody, but she felt tears well up in her eyes. She fought against them as best she could. ‘I want to stay with my friends,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to go to a new school.’
‘We know, darling,’ her mother stepped over to her and put her arm around her. ‘I’m still very much annoyed that you came to this party knowing we wouldn’t approve, but after what’s just happened, we can’t very well be angry.’
Mr Evans placed his hand on her shoulder. ‘That boy Maurice. He has a lot to answer for. I’m sure the police will deal with him in the appropriate manner.’
‘So what’s going to happen?’ Mandy asked. ‘Are you going to send me away?’
‘No.’ Mr Evans shook his head. ‘I think we’ve changed our minds about that.’
Mrs Evans nodded.
Mandy closed her eyes for a brief second and allowed relief to wash right over her. Her beating heart seemed to calm and she allowed a smile to burst forth. ‘Thank you!’ She threw her arms around her father and then her mother. ‘God, I am so relieved!’ Smiles appeared on the faces of all around the pool area. She beamed at her friends. ‘I’m staying! I’m staying.’
Constable Gloria Melrose, a young and very attractive community police officer stepped up to join them. ‘Can we ask Rex some questions now?’
Mr Evans faced her. ‘What happens now? With the Wild Dogs, I mean. Are they going to be arrested?’
Gloria nodded. ‘As many as we can get a firm description of. I’m hoping some of you may have some names for me and some good physical descriptions. We managed to stop one of them, a guy with a broken kneecap, but the others managed to get away. But don’t worry; we’ll track as many of them down as we can. We know where they hang out. But please, we need to get around to speaking to you all, so don’t leave until an officer has got a statement from you.’
Mandy and her parents moved aside, along with some of her friends. Jacqui sidled up to her. ‘I can’t believe that creep, Havers. What was the matter, with him, was he jealous of Dale or something?’
‘I don’t know. Maybe.’
‘I’m glad you’re ok, Mand. I can’t believe he attacked you like he did. I never thought he’d be so much trouble when I left you talking to him.’
‘You couldn’t have known, but hey it was great the way you clobbered Surly. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.’
‘Well, I was in one of the other rooms. On the balcony. And I saw them arrive.’
‘What were you doing there?’
‘Well…’ Jacqui hesitated then laughed in an embarrassed manner. ‘Oh nothing.’
‘Come on spit it out.’
‘Oh… it was Maggie. She was talking to me shortly after I spoke to you. She was trying to be sympathetic and came up with this idea of going up to a high place, clearing all my thoughts and purging the bad karma. You, know all that airy-fairy new age stuff. I decided what the hell and went up there. It actually helped, believe it or not.’
‘I’m glad it helped.’
‘Wow, Mandy, I still can’t believe that Tucker Pyles came to your rescue. That seems too wild to be true!’
‘You’re telling me!’ Mandy giggled. ‘Tucker a hero. But this time he really was.’
‘Did someone mention my name?’ Tucker stepped up to greet them.
Mr Evans extended his hand. ‘Son, I really must thank you for what you did for our daughter.’
‘Hey, just doing my job.’ Tucker shook his hand.
‘Well, that’s just me, you know? Always looking out for the damsel in distress. I have to act, its part of my nature.’
Mandy glanced at Jacqui and saw her roll her eyes. She burst out giggling.
‘Yep,’ Tucker continued. ‘For some people, being there for others in their time of need is a privilege, but for me it’s destiny…’
‘Tucker, you need to quit now, while you’re ahead,’ Mandy warned him.
‘Don’t ever let it be said that Tucker Pyles doesn’t like to help out those less fortunate than him. When you’ve got as much charm, charisma and ability as me, you’ve just got to use it, don’t you?’
‘Tucker!’ Jacqui’s expression started to turn sour.
‘From now on in, you’re gonna see me in action a heck of a lot more than ever before. I’ve realised that this country needs a guy like me, just like the city of Gotham needs its Superman and the city of Metropolis needs its Spiderman. From now on, whenever anyone is in need, all you have to do is just shout out the name…’
‘Tucker!’ Jacqui interrupted.
‘That’s right! Just shout out that name and I’ll be there. Faster than a spee…’
Jacqui grabbed him and shook him violently. ‘Shut the hell up!’
Challenges at TAC 132 of
132 Copyright 2013
Trouble comes in volumes for Rex Cassidy when he runs afoul of a street gang. Vanessa Dante, the new school sweetheart, only has eyes for Rex, but Tucker Pyles is going to change that when he declares that he is going to be more like Rex. Tucker, isn't the only one the "Goddess" Vanessa has captivated - for Jacqui Donaldson though, all she has captured is her ire and jealousy. But will her distaste for Vanessa cause her more harm than good? Rex's 16th birthday party is approaching and it's going to be the biggest party ever. But there are people who are determined to ensure that it will be the biggest disaster ever.