Authors: Samantha Horne
I got back to frantically trying to smash the window, when I heard the most glorious sound ever from behind me. I spun around and shouted, at first in jubilation but then in fear as Jackson rushed in to the room, holding his face and coughing, but otherwise unscathed.
“No! Jackson, you’ll get yourself killed!”
“Forget about me! Are you okay?” He dashed over to me, and frantically ran his hands up and down me, as if to check for any injuries.
“Yes, but I’d really like to get out of here!” He smiled, before telling me to look away and cover my face. I didn’t bother to question him as another coughing fit hit me, and I felt seconds away from passing out. I heard a smash and turned to see the window completely out, which caused the smoke to head in our direction more aggressively, and I had to close my eyes to try and stop the acidic stinging. Before I even had a chance to ask Jackson how he had smashed the window, he picked me up and jumped up on to the ledge. I tried to scream at him that it was way too high for him to jump to the ground, especially with me in his arms, but I didn’t get a chance as he leapt through the air, and I squeezed my eyes shut whilst screaming at the same time. I opened them just as we landed, and was in shock at how gracefully he had managed to land as we rolled a couple of times, with him covering my body and protecting me from the fall the whole time. As we rolled to a stop, I couldn’t stop the coughs from overtaking me, and as I struggled to breathe everything began to go dark, and the last thing I saw was Jackson’s panicked face hovering over me.
I groaned and held my head as the tiny hammers in it kept beating away. “I swear, I have never passed out in my life before coming here, and this is the second time now.”
“You were in a fire, I think it’s acceptable.”
I smiled and looked to my right at Logan who was sitting comfortably in a chair, with his feet up on the side of my bed. Turned out there really was no hospital in Wolves Creek, but there was a clinic which dealt with everything from giving you stitches, to performing brain surgery. The clinic was small, but the room was cosy and the amount of flowers dotting the room made me smile and my heart felt lighter. Jackson wasn’t lying when he had said that this was a community that looked after each other, and since the night before when I’d been bought here, I’d had too many visitors to keep track of and numerous bouquets of flowers and grapes delivered. One minute the people act like you have a contagious disease, and the next they are sending you fruit and flowers. I couldn’t keep up. Logan was the latest in a long line of people coming to visit me, and as I saw him as one of my best friends in this place, it made me very happy to see him. He had been sat with me for about half an hour, and given me the latest details of the fire and what was going on outside of these walls. Since being brought in, they’d removed the oxygen mask and were just doing routine checks on me periodically, hopeful I should be ready to leave in a few hours’ time. Jackson and his ‘enforcers’- or whatever he called them – had discovered that the fire was the result of an arson attack, and now the race was on to find out who would be malicious enough to set fire to a building with a family in it, including a small child. No-one had any clue who would want to hurt Noah and his family, or indeed myself, but the group were working around the clock to try and figure it out. As this was such a small community, with very few visitors, it was especially worrying. This was a community founded on trust and family, so knowing that the culprit was probably someone they all knew, made it that much harder to comprehend.
Noah and his family had lost their beautiful home and their business, but were apparently staying positive.
Well, as positive as you can be in this situation
. The family were currently living with Jackson, as he had a big enough place to pretty much house the entire town. He had come by earlier in the day and I was not ashamed to admit I cried, as I thanked him for saving my life. I knew I would have been dead right now if he hadn’t come and saved me. I’d asked him how he’d managed to jump from that height without breaking any bones, but he’d just shrugged as if it were nothing, and told me he would explain everything soon.
To be honest, I’m getting a bit tired of how much cryptic shit goes on in this place.
“Why do people always give you fruit when you’re ill? Like, I already feel like shit, at least give me chocolate or something!” Logan said, and I laughed which turned in to another coughing fit, and Logan looked at me with concern.
“Fruit is good for you,” I gasp.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health, and I’ve gotta say I’m a lot happier when I’m eating chocolate than when I’m eating a bunch of grapes.”
I laughed again and felt lighter than I had done in a long time. I’d only been in town for a few weeks and I already felt like I belonged at Wolves Creek more than I ever did living with Craig. I had realised now that what I had with Craig wasn’t even a very healthy relationship. After spending time with these amazing people, I understood now that I had clung on to Craig purely to get some stability in my life. I was tired of having no-one, and wanted to be part of a family again. It turned out that even a good group of friends can be like a close family, and I felt more content than I had done in a long time. Logan was turning out to be the father figure I never had, offering me advice when I needed it, but also making sure I laughed every time we were together. I had been wondering about his story, and whether he had any family in town, but I felt it would be rude if I asked him, knowing that if he wanted me to know then he would tell me. Something still struck me as odd though. In this day and age it was hard to remember the last time you even spoke to your neighbours. Everyone was in a hurry, and I was ashamed to admit that I’d had no idea who was living down my road when I lived in the city. Being here was like being in some kind of parallel universe. Everyone knew everyone, and seemed to like each other too. It really was like one big family, and call me a cynic but to me it just didn’t make any sense. Either I had gone back in time to a generation who actually got on with each other, or there was something else going on.
“Any news yet on who could have done this?” I asked, dreading whatever news Logan would have.
“None. People around here often take a dislike to new people, but there’s no-one who would be extreme or sick enough to try and kill them.”
I swallowed loudly as dread filled my stomach thinking about who would be crazy enough to do something like that. I didn’t want to think it was me that had been targeted, but the town had been living in relative peace before I had arrived. Logan had even joked that it was a town where nothing exciting had every happened, and crime was pretty much non-existent. Noah and his family had done nothing to upset anyone, so it made sense that the perpetrators had been after me. The scary thing was being unaware of a motive, because without a motive it was even harder to figure out the culprit. Logan noticed the fear in my face, and grabbed hold of my hand, becoming my anchor in an unsettling situation. The heat coming from his hand still shocked me, and I focused hard to make sure I didn’t flinch away from the strange feeling.
“Jackson’s men are the best. They deal with shit like this all the time. I promise you they’ll find who did this.”
“Are they sure it was definitely arson?”
Logan looked uncomfortable, and my heart dropped. I felt sick as he proceeded to tell me exactly what had happened that night.
“It was definitely arson. They found petrol had been poured around the back door and the downstairs windows. An old house like that and it didn’t take long for the whole place to go up. Thank god Noah had been awake and smelt the smoke almost straight away. He managed to get Jasmine and Annabelle out pretty swiftly and was running back in to get you when Jackson and the guys turned up. Jackson ordered Noah to stay with his family, and ran in to save you.” I felt sick at the thought of someone maliciously trying to hurt me like that. I’d felt okay when I thought it had just been an electrical fault, or someone had lit a candle and forgotten to put it out or something. Now all I could feel was nausea knowing that someone had deliberately set the fire, and were still out there now, probably thinking I had died. Would they come back to finish what they had started? Was I now somebody’s unfinished business?
“I still can’t believe that the guys would just risk themselves like that to save me. I’m still relatively new here, I hate to think of the danger I put everyone in.”
“It wasn’t your fault. It was the bastard who set the fire’s fault. And this is what we do in this community. Everyone helps each other. Ain’t no-one in this town who would have let you die in that building. No-one.”
I was warmed by the conviction in his words, and he smiled at me before excusing himself to go to the bathroom. I was struggling to pull my thoughts together, unable to process anything other than that someone may have been trying to kill me, and had almost killed my new friends in the process. If anything had happened to Noah, Jasmine or little Annabelle, I’d have never been able to forgive myself. I couldn’t even understand the reason behind setting fire to a building with people inside it and hurting someone in such a violent way. The whole house was surrounded by trees, and had the fire not been noticed as soon as it had been, the ramifications could have been a lot worse. Had the forest caught fire, the devastation for the whole town could have been catastrophic. Surely that meant that it couldn’t have been someone from the community, because why would they risk their own homes like that? A wave of exhaustion swept over me and I tried to push the horrible questions from my mind and eventually settled down to a restless sleep.
“Any news?” I asked Jackson from the sofa I was currently lounging on. I felt loads better, but everyone was continuously fussing around me, and it was starting to feel a bit suffocating. Staying at Jackson’s house was amazing because it was absolutely huge, so we weren’t all tripping over each other. It was a modern style house - completely different to the others I had seen - and was surrounded by the most beautiful gardens. It had a white exterior, and everything inside was either black, white or just plain shiny. You could tell it was just Jackson living there - it was absolutely spotless. A typical bachelor pad - with the essentials like the TV and the fridge - but nothing that screamed that it was a house and it was lived in. Nothing to give it a homely feel, just the basics. I wasn’t complaining though. The basics consisted of the best sofa I had ever sat on – hence why I was currently lounging on it and struggling to stay awake while I read my book.
“Nothing.” Jackson came to sit by me, and relaxed back, resting his arms along the back of the sofa. It was nice to see him relax for five minutes, and not act so formally.
“I’ve got my best men working around the clock to try and figure it out though, so I’m confident we will.”
“I trust you guys. Are we safe here though? Everyone knows where I’m staying.”
“They do, but they also know you’re staying with me. My guys are here all the time, this is the safest place you’ll ever be.”
I felt better when I remembered how often Jackson’s men would be in and out of the house. There was always at least two of them in the house, normally just eating or hanging out with Jackson, and it did definitely make me feel safer. The only way I was able to sleep at night was knowing that there were at least three, massively built guys watching television downstairs. It still confused me as to what their roles were, though.
“I still don’t understand. Are they just your friends? Because they act like your employees.”
“It’s difficult to explain to someone who wasn’t raised around here. I guess you could call me the sheriff and these guys are my deputies. You’d have to shoot them in order to get to me, though.”
I laughed at his reference, and was secretly thrilled by the way he smiled at me in response.
“Ah, I see. So, you’re like the boss?”
“Pretty much. I’m hoping that by having you stay here, it will put whoever is trying to hurt you, off. They’ll know the family they are messing with and will hopefully give up whatever they are trying to achieve.”
“Nothing is ever that simple though, is it?”
“It’s not a burden to stay here, I mean your place is beautiful.”
“Thank you. I’m hardly ever here, hence why it’s quite sparse. It’s really just a place to rest my head, but by 7am I’m back out again.”
“So, being the boss? It’s kind of a 24/7 deal then?”
“Definitely. Keeping these guys in line is a full time job.”
“Oh sure, they seem like such terrors.” I said sarcastically, smiling when he barked out a laugh. I was beginning to realise I had been wrong about Jackson. I’d presumed he was a hard-ass, who never smiled and was angry with absolutely everyone. I’d realised over the past couple of weeks that he was just selective with those he let his guard down with, and I couldn’t help but inwardly cheer that I was one of the people he did that with.
“You weren’t here the time we had to go and retrieve Blake from the top of a tree when he was stuck.”
“Oh my god, was he a child?”
“It was about six months ago.” I laughed, and begged him to tell me the story.
“I got a phone call. Blake told me he was having a nightmare in the forest and needed assistance. I panicked, thinking he was in a lot of trouble so went along to the location he sent me with about six of my men. I imagined every scenario you can think of; he had been attacked, he’d got caught up in an animal trap or fallen down a bloody well. Nope, we arrived to find him right at the top of a huge tree, freaking out that he couldn’t get down.”