Now, on the anniversary of his death, she returns to the bridge where it happened… to find two teenagers waiting for her; big, silent Ty and abrasive, annoying Holly.
Dared to go with them on their Midnight Run, Megan quickly realises that something is not quite right. How can they run for kilometres without losing their breath? Who are the children that Holly is Tracking – and how is she doing it? How can Ty open locked doors with only a touch? Why does Megan suddenly know thing she shouldn’t? And why can’t anyone see them?
And then there’s the fire, where Ty unveils his own strange, unsettling powers and forces Megan to confront her past…
Megan leaned against the bridge’s guard rail, her arms folded across its cold steel, and stared down at Oxley Creek. It wasn’t much of a creek, really, just a stretch of slow-moving opaque water drifting sluggishly beneath a two-lane bridge with flimsy guard rails on either side. Large rocks made a treacherous slope to Megan’s left, leading down to the water’s edge. Local teenagers went down there and painted the pylons supporting the Bowhill Road side of the bridge with graffiti, different-coloured spray-paints overlaying each other in a riot of colour.
Megan knew most of the graffiti by heart, had even added to it herself since the accident, writing in huge angry words on the pylons what she couldn’t say aloud to herself or anyone else. Not that she could see most of it from where she leaned on the guard rail. Her questions and rantings were a year old today. They’d probably be gone by now, just like Tom… Megan scowled down at the sluggish water, eddies twisting slowly as they came together from either side of the pylons. Even under the moonlight the water was a sick-looking brown.
Why had she come here tonight anyway? She hadn’t been back for almost six months, not since Tom’s birthday when she’d taken his entire collection of spray cans and coated the bridge pylons with streaks of red, orange and yellow. Mum and Robert hadn’t been too happy when they’d found out, but Megan hadn’t cared. The spray cans reminded her too much of Tom’s bike, and how they had painted the frame in different combinations of colour before Tom had settled on red and orange.
That was two days before Megan had finally convinced him to take her for a ride.
The bike was an old Honda 500cc, banged up, bent and with bits missing. Tom had bought it cheap at a garage sale. He’d spent almost a year working on it, tearing it to pieces and building it up again, little by little, as he saved to buy second-hand parts. He’d also hung around the local bike shop asking questions and getting advice. The owner had even let Tom use his equipment sometimes, once he saw that the boy was serious about rebuilding the bike properly.
Tom was like that. He could talk to anyone, make friends in a few minutes, work out social-type stuff that left Megan baffled. It was Tom who had noticed that Robert, who worked in the hardware store next to the motorbike shop, was smitten with Mum. So he had organised their ‘accidental’ first meeting.
Robert was fun. He was not driven and intense like Tom and Megan’s own father, requiring silence and obedience at all times. It was rare that Robert took their mother out on her own; Tom and Megan were usually included. Tom always made some excuse for himself and Megan to disappear at least once every time they went out. Megan didn’t mind. She could still remember Mum and Robert walking together, heads touching, hands entwined, when they thought no-one was watching. And when Robert had asked them if he could marry their mother it was Tom who made sure that he and Megan left them alone together at the crucial moment. It was almost as if Tom had been the glue that held the new family together because after the accident everything started to fall apart.
Megan hadn’t noticed at first. Tom’s death had left her adrift, a ghost moving dazed through a world that no longer made sense. She knew Mum and Robert were just as devastated as she was but as their grief eased over the year, helped by the birth of little Skye six months ago, Megan’s misery had melted into a day-old bruise; okay to look at but still incredibly painful to touch. While her parents had managed to continue on with their lives, Megan’s still lay in shattered and painful pieces around her.
Tom had been Megan’s hero, the one who connected her to the world, who explained things that she didn’t understand. He was the only one Megan had been to talk to about the weird things that happened to her sometimes.
Not that the weird things had happened much over the last year. Megan had begun to hope that she was growing out of it. After all, what was the point in knowing instinctively when Owen Jenkins had transferred to their school last year that he was trouble? Everyone else had figured that out within a few days anyway. And when Jessie Campbell had broken her arm in PE – Megan had known something was going to happen to her that day and she’d had to grit her teeth not to say anything to Jessie. She was already the ‘weird one’ at school, why make it worse.
Besides, who would have believed her?
Headlights brushed the trees lining the river, making their shadows shiver and dance across the water like spindly grey ghosts. Megan bolted quickly toward the end of the railing before her own shadow could give her away. She skidded a few metres down the embankment so she was well below road level, and waited. The lights flared brighter and a car barrelled swiftly across the bridge, disappearing around the curve toward Archerfield. Megan crouched where she was until its engine had melted into the muted background noise of the suburbs. Then she stood, looking up at the bridge. Right there, five or so metres from the end of the railing, was where the ambulance had stopped. The railing had not been shiny and new then. It had been ripped apart and twisted, its mangled ends hanging limply over the embankment…
Tom hadn’t wanted to take her with him that night. He’d been tinkering with the bike for a few days, trying to work out why the engine was running ragged, and he thought he’d fixed it. Megan had argued that, since Mum and Robert had gone out to celebrate the official three-months-of-being-pregnant milestone, she’d be safer with him than staying at home alone.
Tom had agreed reluctantly.
And this is where they had come, almost exactly to the hour one year ago. Flying down Beatty Road, Megan’s arms around Tom’s waist as they hugged the speed limit, a dizzy, exhilarating rush of freedom in the night.
They passed Success Street and leaned into the right-hand curve across the bridge –
And suddenly lights were stabbing at them from Bowhill Road, weaving and jerking sideways as the car they belonged to skidded into sight little more than twenty metres ahead of them.
On their side of the road –!
Megan swallowed convulsively as her memory threw up sudden, vivid images; the unexpected roar of the speeding car, Tom yanking the bike frantically to the right, the car’s lights burning into Megan’s eyes as it raced toward them. And then the ear-tearing shriek as the car hit the opposite guard rail and ricocheted back toward them. Megan remembered a fleeting glimpse of white faces with black-circle screaming mouths as the car slammed into them, ripping through the guard rail and sending the bike and its two passengers into a sickening, twisting, turning fall down the embankment into the water –
Somehow Megan had been flung clear of the tangle of Tom and the bike, tumbling with agonising force down the rocks of the embankment. Almost immediately the bike had impacted ahead of her, narrowly missing her head before bouncing several times. It hit the water with a massive crump.
‘Tom!’ Megan had yelled, dragging herself to her feet and staring wildly around. ‘Tom!’
But the embankment was empty. The car was caught in the ruins of the guard rail, the pack of teenagers piling from its doors and staring down into the river at Tom’s bike. It was just visible in the river, its rear wheel still spinning above the slow water.
Tom was nowhere in sight.
‘Tom…’ whispered Megan, and rubbed fiercely at her eyes before the tears could spill down her cheeks. She stood and turned to climb up the embankment, her head down as she put her feet carefully amongst the stones.
It was only when she reached the top that she saw there were two people waiting for her beneath the trees at the edge of the road.