“Well that sucks,” Heath scoffed as he tossed his cell onto the table.
“What?” Jagger smirked.
“You lose another date?” finished Nash.
Heath picked up an apple and tossed it, hitting the back of Nash’s head.
“That was Brax,” Heath told him. “He…won’t be coming home tonight.”
The twins, who were playing video games, stopped and turned to look at Heath.
“Why?” Nash frowned.
“He never calls to say that he won’t be home,” Jagger added.
“None of your business,” Heath said, standing up and walking over to the fridge for another beer. “He didn’t call you did he.”
“Maybe,” Jagger shrugged. “We don’t have our cell on us.”
“Trust me, he didn’t.” Heath moved towards the backyard, and likely the weight set that him and Brax so often used.
“When is he going to learn?” Nash shook his head.
The twins leapt out off of the couch and headed towards the table. Nash focused his attention on the backdoor, Jagger grabbed the forgotten cell phone.
“History and…Yabbie Creek?”
“7485?” Nash questioned.
“Yep,” Jagger said reading off the last numerals. She put the cell down and they moved back to the couch.
“So he’s in jail?” Nash cringed.
“Wonder what happened?”
“We can always ask Rob?” Jagger suggested.
Nash rolled his eyes.
“Rob will likely spill before we even ask.”
“Time and place,” Nash shrugged.
“Skipping school tomorrow?” Jagger started up their game again.
“We are so never going to be not grounded,” he groaned.
Brax sat quietly with the officer that was sitting with him, smiling occasionally. He didn’t like the situation that he was in, but he wasn’t about to lose his cool.
Looking back, he probably shouldn’t have kissed Sergeant Buckton; but he couldn’t help it. She had a way about her. Especially when she was mad at him – which was most of the time that they were interacting.
He had no way of knowing that she would take matters like this.
And now he was waiting on Cameron Sangster, his overpriced lawyer who was going to come and probably scoff at the whole situation. Brax couldn’t blame him.
His first call had been to Cameron, but his second call had been to Heath. His younger brother could just as easily go out and leave thinking that Brax would be home soon. Then he would be leaving the twins alone and no one would be home to drive Casey to school in the morning.
The few days before hadn’t been the greatest either. John Palmer was trying to get him in for drug dealing, which Brax had to admit to be partially his own fault. He did kind of love riling the man up.
But his being arrested, well that had not been par for plans. As great as Cameron was, he was also expensive, and every time he had to call the big-time lawyer, Brax knew what people thought of him.
Getting a foot in with Angelo’s wasn’t hard. The man wasn’t as strong willed as being a former cop would think. But it certainly wasn’t easy to deal with him either.
He had one investigation against him and an assault charge against a police officer. Could he be reading things wrong? Maybe. Was he sorry for kissing the sergeant? Not at all.
The next morning, Heath was trying to drag the twins into their uniforms, breakfast and out to school. Casey awoke at his usual time and got himself ready.
“You can get yourself to class, yeah?” Heath asked him as he frowned in the twins’ direction.
It wasn’t usual for Heath to be in charge, especially in the mornings, and he was usually out late nights or surfing or sleeping somewhere else. Casey might have lent a hand, but he kind of enjoyed seeing Heath worked over by a pair of ten year olds.
“Yeah, no worries,” Casey grinned across his toast.
He could probably make it to Summer Bay without incident, though whether he wanted to was another issue.
“Great,” Heath sighed and he left the kitchen to rush the duo in the bathroom.
Casey stood watching the waves on the beach. School would be starting in half an hour and it was the last place that he wanted to be.
Screw this! He thought as he turned towards the bus stop, and away from the school once more. Heath’ll be with the Boys, Brax is in jail for the morning, and the twins are in school. No one will care.
Casey turned towards the SUV that just pulled up. He groaned seeing the smiling face of his principal, Gina Palmer.
“Morning,” she greeted with a smile.
Casey walked slowly over to her, wondering what he had ever done that made it impossible for him to ever get away with anything. Just his luck, not just a teacher, but his school principal! She had to already think he was a waste, now he was going to be a bother.
“You on your way to school?” she asked him.
She had to ask. It was her job. Casey figured it would look badly, or she would feel badly, about not acknowledging the fact that one of her students was wagging.
“Yeah, where else would I be going?” he smarted back.
“It’s just that it’s in the opposite direction,” she played along.
“Yeah, I’ve got to get an assignment from home,” Casey insisted, hoping for an out.
“Ah, good! Because I’d hate to think you were contemplating skipping school again, especially when the surf looks so nice.”
Casey cringed. He didn’t want to go to school, but he also didn’t want to be rude – and not just because she probably had Brax’s number. She was genuinely a nice lady, but the past few weeks at Summer Bay were stressing him out.
School was tough, and not all the kids were nice exactly. Not that he had been very nice, considering how often he fought with Romeo. And the whole thing with Dex.
“Hop in, I’ll give you a lift,” Gina insisted.
Crap, he thought. “I’ve really got to get that assignment.” He shook his head.
“I’m sure I can pull a few strings,” she smirked. “You know, that’s one of the perks of being the principal.
Casey scoffed and shook his head. He had been caught, and Mrs. Palmer had probably heard a dozen or such excuses before. Casey wasn’t exactly good at lying either. How was he going to get an imaginary assignment from home anyway? He was lucky she hadn’t suggested driving him home first.
Casey slowly approached the car, figuring he was going to have to get used to the idea of being in class with classmates that didn’t like him, subjects that didn’t matter, and teachers that feared him. Super.
“Buckle up,” Gina said as she pulled away.
Arriving at school, Gina was pleasant enough to just silently walk beside him into the building. She had hummed along to her radio and had bobbed her head along to a few songs that Casey had to hide his grin into his palm.
Here she was, a working woman, a mother, a wife. Casey wasn’t used to being around women. Especially none that were powerful and confident. Some of the girls that his brothers had around might be confident, and they could even have decent jobs, but Principal Palmer was much more together than most women he knew.
He wondered, quite briefly, what kind of woman his mother would be if she wasn’t drunk, drugged, and passed out most of her days. If Cheryl was an actual member of society, what kind of lives would the Braxtons have had?
“Here we are,” she stated, entering the Year 10 wing. “That wasn’t too bad, now was it?”
“Yeah,” Casey stressed the word. “Um, look, I might head to class now, before too many people see us. No offense.”
“None taken,” Gina laughed. The young Braxton had spunk, and she just wished he would be the kind of student that allowed himself to succeed. On that thought. “Oh, and before I forget,” she called him back. “Could you ask your mum to give me a call? I’ve been trying to contact her to set up a meeting.”
Casey’s heart instantly stopped. Or raced. Or crashed. He wasn’t sure, but what had felt like a simple enough interaction was now a nightmare.
All talk of his mother was against better judgement. And Principal Palmer wasn’t the kind of person that would be easily dissuaded. He could only imagine what a conversation between his mother and this woman would be like – a train wreck. Without even trying, Gina Palmer would make Cheryl feel intimidated and pathetic – two things Cheryl didn’t take very well.
“Well, we like to talk to the parents of new students,” Gina stated. “Make sure we’re all on the same track. You’ll be doing the HSC soon enough.”
“Yeah,” Casey shook his head. “She’s kind of busy.”
“Too busy to talk about your schooling?”
Casey sighed, thinking. Most people over at Mangrove High knew that it was pointless to contact Mrs. Braxton. Cheryl was useless. But over at Summer Bay? They seemed to think that all parents were caring and education was important. Brax would fit right in; if it wasn’t that everyone seemed to hate him.
Most parents would probably be interested in keeping their kids in line, out of trouble, and well educated; but not Cheryl Braxton.
“I’ll have a talk to her,” Casey said, wondering how he was going to make that work out.
He could always get Brax, sometimes even Heath. But Principal Palmer would expect his mother, an interested participant in his wellbeing and education.
“Okay,” she smiled, finally turning away.
Casey groaned, it would be anything but okay.
The look on Charlie Buckton’s face when his lawyer appeared was priceless. She looked bothered, and while he loved looking at her when she was angered and talking down to him, he loved more catching her by surprise.
She was certainly surprised, and hearing about Brax’s furniture business and Indonesian connections certainly widened her eyes.
“You never mentioned that,” she had said, once Cameron had stated that he was a business man.
“You never asked,” Brax smiled.
Truthfully, he wasn’t the best in that particular business, or the liquor business, or the booking business, or that odd summer with a florist business. He was truthful, however, when he told her that he was always on the lookout for new opportunities, and Angelo’s had been a great one to come along.
If things were different, he liked to think that she would act upon her obvious attraction to him.
School was a bummer, but it was easy enough for Trouble 1 and 2 to get away. It also didn’t take a genius to figure out where to find Rob.
“He’s gonna tell Brax,” Nash told Jagger as they dropped their bikes near the pub that Rob frequented.
“He’s gonna be wasted,” Jagger rolled her eyes. “He’ll barely remember us. And if he does, we can just say he was drunk and delusional.”
“And everyone else?” Nash stressed.
“Why would they care?”
Jagger led the way into the pub, and sure enough the place was practically empty, but not quite.
Rob was either working or drinking, as was his usual list of daily activities. He was a good enough guy, whereas some of the River Boys were a walking list of criminal offenses and misdemeanors.
“Act naturally,” Nash said, causing his twin to roll her eyes.
They quickly spotted Rob, standing behind the bar and cleaning up from a seemingly rowdy night.
“Uh, so,” Nash started to say as he hopped up to kneel on a stool and leaned up against the bar itself.
Rob did not seem to hear him.
Jagger stood off slightly to the side as she watched her brother’s attempts. She pushed the hair from her eyes and shook her head.
“Hey, so,” he tried again.
“Water twos doing here?”
Jagger turned to the growled voice and spotted an old man glowering at them from the corner booth. He looked half dead and half pirate.
“What the heck are you?” she cringed, rather loudly.
The slight commotion was enough to capture Rob’s attention and he turned from the glasses and over to the Braxton pets, as they were more or less known.
“The hell are you two doing here?” Rob asked, taking in the room as a whole before deeming that all else was well, as it could be.
“Two rums and coke?” Jagger shrugged, turning towards them once again. “Heavy on the coke.”
“How about heavy on the hell no,” he crossed his arms. “Pretty sure it’s a school day,” he frowned. “Don’t you two go to school?”
“We go to a special school,” Nash shrugged. “Only three days a week. The rest of the time, we’re meant to contemplate and enrich our learning by practical means.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Rob glared.
“Don’t worry about us,” Jagger interrupted. “We came to talk to you.”
Rob again glanced over to the doors and the room itself. There were barely six or seven other people there, and the only lucky thing was that Cheryl wasn’t one of them.
“Private matter,” Nash told him. He hopped off the stool and instead headed towards the backdoor, where he waited until a reluctant Rob finally followed him out, and a menacing looks Jagger took the end.
“What the hell do you have private to talk to me?” Rob scoffed as they excited the space.
“The upcoming mayoral elections,” Jagger rolled her eyes.
“What’s Brax want?” the man groaned.
“I thought he was your friend?” Nash frowned.
“We’re not hear for him, we’re here about him. Please, join us.”
Jagger sat at the stoop of the neighboring business, and Nash joined her, sitting further up.
After a moment, Rob sighed and finally moved to join them.
“What’s this shite about then?” he scoffed.
“Brax’s brother, Heath,” Nash started. “He got a call from Brax. And we were wondering, you must know something about that.”
“Brax calls his brother all the time,” shrugged Rob. “What’s it to you?”
“He’s not drunk enough,” Nash whispered in Jagger’s ear.
“It’s important,” she stressed. “And, you’re really not supposed to know more, so, I can’t tell you.”
“So, I have to tell yous, but yous ain’t telling me?” Rob frowned. “Don’t get it.”
“Simple really,” Nash shrugged. “the overall situation isn’t dire enough for a full-scale information tete-a-tete, however the mutual allocation of information is vital, at this present time, and pertinent to the fact that without your contribution of such seemingly closely guarded facets, we cannot in good standing faith continue to attribute the valuable and potentially life-altering façade that we provide.”
“He couldn’t have said it clearer,” Jagger nodded.
Rob was truly confused now, frowning at the two kids in front of him. The words that they had spoken were obviously English, and he even recognized a large sum of them, but the speed and placement of them left him completely clueless. They seemed to know what they were talking about, however, and instead of wanted to hear any more of that jibber-jabber, Rob figured it would be his best option to tell them all he knew about Brax at the moment.
“Right,” Rob stressed. “This anything to do with last night?”
“Precisely,” Jagger smiled. “Last night, it was an interesting one, right?”
“Yeah,” Rob scoffed. “That Surf Club guy really has it out for us. And he certainly didn’t like Braxton in his face about things.”
“But we all know Brax,” Nash shook his head.
“Yeah,” Rob nodded along, scoffing. “That lady cop coming in and pulling Brax out to talk was pretty bold. And Brax was being how he is, and then she just cuffs him up for just like, being there!”
The twins exchanged a look. It wasn’t the kind of thing that they had expected to hear, but they weren’t exactly surprised.
“And him spending the night,” Jagger shook her head. “That sucked.
“Yep,” Rob nodded. “Got his big-time lawyer in though. Never seen the guy myself, but he sounds pretty bad-ass.”
“Totally bad-ass,” Nash nodded.
“And good thing you guys were there too, so that things wouldn’t get out of hand,” Jagger added.
Rob scratched at his head. “I don’t think we actually helped any. Lady cop just took Brax out and then he was arrested. PeeWee, Mick, me.” Rob shook his head.
“Made things worse, didn’t you,” Nash smirked.
“Didn’t help any,” laughed Rob. “Besides, what’s this to do with you?”
“What?” Jagger frowned, hopping back and dropping her arm around her brother. “You wanted to tell us.”
“You chatterbox,” Nash tsked at him. They started to walk towards the door and waved over their shoulders.
Quickly they got onto their bikes and started to ride away, before Rob was able to call out to them.
Casey sat in his science class with Principal Palmer giving a lecture. She was certainly saying something important, but Casey wasn’t interested. He had just had music class, and was thinking that it would be so much better to just keep to his music and ignore the lessons for the rest of the day.
It was almost the end of the day, and Casey was beyond tired of being there.
His solitude, however, was interrupted when Xavier Austin, Mrs. Palmer’s son, reached forward from behind him and tugged Casey’s earphones off.
“If the rest of us have to listen to this, so do you,” Xavier groaned as Casey jerked up in awareness.
“Thank you Xavier,” Gina shook her head. “Now, as I was saying, your group needs to come up with a hypothesis, and devise and execute an experiment to test that hypothesis. You will then present your findings to the class, and explain your methodology.”
Casey cringed, wishing he hadn’t heard any of what was assigned. He didn’t want to do any experiment, he didn’t want to be in a group, and he did not want to present anything.
He hated school.
Beside him, Dexter Walker’s hand sprung up. “Do we get to choose our own groups?” he asked hopefully.
Casey started to close his eyes in actual pain, there was no one in the class that liked him, and there was no one in the class that he wanted to work with. Maybe if Romeo had been in the class, or Ruby, he might be able to drag himself towards caring.
“Unfortunately, no,” he heard Principal Palmer say. “That pleasure belongs to me.”
Casey was surprised to find that he had been placed with Xavier and Dexter, the principal’s son and a kid that she knew he had personally endangered.
Either she was forgetful, insane, or she was hoping to somehow monitor him through the known and trusted duo.
Casey just knew he was going to have himself a hard time.