I saw Smith across the District Court waiting room.  

He will always be just Smith to me; not DS Smith, DI Smith or whatever police rank he was now Smith.

He stood, head bent toward a small Asian girl, who wobbled on six inch heels, her tiny body vacuum packed into black lycra.  

His words had her flattened up against the wall.  

Her solicitor, a small thin man, in an ugly grey suit, hovered like a mosquito asking for a slap.  Smith turned away from them both as if he were disgusted him and looked straight at me.  

My lungs stopped.

He didn’t recognise me.  

Of course he wouldn’t.   I wasn’t the girl he scraped off the urine stained asphalt broken—anymore.

He looked away.

I recognised his anger in the way his fingers curled like the gnarled roots of an old tree, meaty thumbs on the outside, and clamped against either side of his thighs, wanting to crash, smash and break something. 

Like my dad taught me when I was a nipper, in the halcyon days before the stepfather.  

‘Clench your fist with your thumb out love; lay it along your finger nails.’  He showed me.  ‘Remember, if you’re going to hit someone, make sure they don’t get up again, or don’t bother.’  Which he pronounced bovver.  He laughed, a strained emphysemic cackle, thick with the toxin of blossoming lung cancer then paused so I knew this bit was important.  ‘Don’t stop hitting till the bastard ain’t movin.’  

His rasping accent came from London.  It galloped fast like a typewriter with no full-stops, H or T and every second sentence was ‘know what I mean.’   He’d crossed an entire world to come to New Zealand, meet my beautiful mum and make me.


I edged closer to Smith—it was easy in a room full of people standing around, reading their phones not wanting to be there— stopping a few steps away from him.  I checked my phone for a moment using the time to look at him through my hair Chanel inspired fringe then tossed my head back and folded my arms.  

He glanced at me again; his eyes narrowed for a moment then looked away.  He went back to berating the woman.  ‘How can you do this after everything these people have put you through?’

‘I can’t remember anything,’ she gesticulated heatedly with her hands.  ‘It was so long ago.’  

It was a lie, I knew it, he knew it; they all knew it.  

He slumped then, and threw his head back as if asking for divine guidance.  

I felt my heart do a slow roll then flop in sympathy.  I had connected with him again.  For a moment I forgot I was there for a totally different reason.  

A nondescript geek in a small dark room somewhere stole fifty thousand dollars from my internet business.   Small potatoes in view of the millions my Company netted but still, if you let someone get away with it, you may as well throw the vaults open to every bandit.

So, when Smith stalked hands deep in the pockets of his trench coat tramped out of the Courthouse, I followed him outside and down the front steps.  

The heels of my pumps clicked against the concrete.  He paused twice but didn’t look back.  Once outside he tucked himself behind an ionic pillar and did he did what I thought he’d do.  

He reached into his jacket and took out a pack of cigarettes, tapped the bottom and flipped a smoke into mouth.  He blazed up, closing his eyes for a moment as he took that deep dirty first drag.  Then he inhaled a pocket of smoke, smacking his lips together, before blowing it out though is nostrils.   

I walked up to him.

 ‘Not interested?’ he said in a voice which had smoked too many cigarettes in the intervening years to be good for anyone.  


He looked down at me, his face hard and unreadable.   His brows slid together. ‘I said—’

‘Don’t you recognise me?’  

I could see his inner eye searching through the Rolodex in his mind, flicking through each card with the speed of light, and not coming up with any matches.  

How could he find me in the person I was now?  I was clean, my skeleton fleshed in creamy pampered skin, my face remodelled and artfully made up, my teeth straight and white.  My hair once a ginger thatch was now a long, silky length of burnished gold.  

My eyes hadn’t changed thought, they never would; my one and only physical link with my father; black flecked grey-green irises set in pristine whites.   Now they slumbered under heavy dark lashes and presided over by delicately arched brows.

He shook his head annoyed.

Then I lifted my wrists, and shook back the sleeves of my jacket to reveal long vertical puffy pink scars, the heavy untidy stitch-work still visible.  

‘City A and E have always been messy pricks,’ he muttered under his breath.  He looked up at my face, knowing now, but still not quite believing.  ‘You’re dead.’ 

‘Yes I am.’ I let my arms fall, covering the only physical sign of my former life. 

‘You’re dead,’ he said again, a stab this time, thrusting home a truth which rendered me impossible.

‘I came back.’


I smiled then, my face not used to that expression, felt strange.  ‘It’s a long, complicated story and full of holes you could drive a bus through.  I would rather just spend time with you.’

‘Of course I want to know,’ he slapped my sentiment away.

I shrug.   ‘Use your imagination.’

He mouth dropped open as if words failed him. ‘You look—’  

‘Rich?’ I interrupted.

‘I was going to say beautiful.’

‘No,’ I would never own that word.  ‘I look rich.’

Then the moment came to the fork.  I could walk away now.  No harm done or I could make promises.  

At that moment I just wanted to show him that he’d had made a difference in the world, that he, Smith, the world-weary Irish policeman, had touched a life and healed it. 

Idols don’t descend to earth often and he was mine, my own personal Jesus Christ, the man who saved my soul—and the rest of me which followed in its wake.  

I reached out again.  This time I took his hands, forcing him to drop his cigarette.  My fingertips pressed into his calloused palms and my thumbs indenting the fleshy backs.  I lifted them and held them wide apart then stepped into the circle of his awkward embrace.  Then I hugged him and he hugged me, his hands clasped in the small of my back.

My face pressed into his Two Dollar Shop tie.  

Words, emerging from my heart, erupted from me in a gauche soliloquy.  ‘Thank you for saving me.  If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have survived. I would not be here.’  Then tears slipped to the edge my waterproof mascara and plopped onto the lapel of his coat.

I pushed out of his arms, turned on my heel and hurried back inside. My shouted name followed me.  

I ran up the steps and back inside the waiting room. 

My lawyer looked ready to self-destruct although we hadn’t been called yet.  She preferred her clients on a short tight leash while she lashed her clerks over the phone.  

I found an empty seat and sank into it, crossing my legs at the ankles, my hands genteelly clasped in my lap and prepared for a long wait. 

I’d been here before and a blag never forgets procedure, no matter how long the interval.

I forced myself not to watch for him, but saw him regardless.  He marched up to his witness and said a short pithy sentence which caused her to blanch.  He turned to her Brief and said something else which evoked a series of retorts.  Then he turned his head, seeking me out in the crowd. He spotted me, stared for a few moments, then strode across the room toward me, determination raging across his face.  

He thrust his card in my face. ‘Call me,’ he said, his voice harsh and solid, leaving no room for evasion.

He leaned down and I lifted my cheek for him to kiss it but he didn’t.  Instead, he took a deep breath drawing in my scent, then, with a strange smile on his lips he touched my cheek with his fingers and grunted a goodbye.   He turned and strolled out the door, head high, whistling some strange tune which clung to the edge of a distant memory.


It was hours before I got home.  I went straight to my bedroom and peeled off the day with my clothes I’d been wearing and dropped them on the floor— the perk of money.  Then I picked them up again and pitched them into the laundry basket like balls through a netball hoop—the residue of my mother.  

I sluiced away what my annoyance in the shower.  The court found in my favour but the culprit could pay me back at rate he could afford, which meant I would get it all back around my one hundred and eightieth birthday.  

I dressed quickly, being naked for the least amount of time—the sickening legacy of the stepfather.

I took Smith’s card from my handbag and looked at it, turning it over in my hand as if it would spring to life and tell me what to do.  But it didn’t, it couldn’t, it was just a small scrap of white masticated cotton and tree pulp, marked with generic Times New Roman italicised script.

I went into my office and lay it writing side up on the desk, next to the phone. Then, with unsteady fingers I opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a plain brown manila folder.  Inside was the life of Angela Brown.  

 In that life I had a stepfather, who latched onto my grieving mother and turned her into a junkie.  He raped me since I was seven years old and then at nine he sold me on.  

He was found dead down that alleyway, with one hundred and seventeen stab wounds, next to my broken bleeding seventeen year old body.  

Smith—who’d been picking me up for solicitation and dumping me back in the foster system for years—found me.  He carried me to the hospital and sat with me.  

I tried to die but Smith wouldn’t let me.

I agreed to name many unbelievably important names in exchange for freedom, money and anonymity. Smith was too far down the totem pole to know the entire truth so, after Igave evidence I had an aneurism and he had to view my body through glass in the morgue.  

I still remember his scream.

I didn’t open the file I didn’t have to; I knew it, word for word and picture for horrifying picture.  Instead I closed my eyes and conjured up the scruffy policeman.   Did I want him to be real and fallible? Did I want to see the sweat stains on his cheap synthetic shirts or the tanned bare ring finger where his wife and babies had once laid claim—before he got too involved saving the likes of me.  Did I want to see what twenty years of wear and tear had wrought on him?  

Would he really want to see me after…

I tore the card into pieces and threw them in the bin.


At 3.30am, after tangling myself in sweaty sheets, I emptied the bin onto the floor and reassembled the card.

‘Smith,’ he answered on the second ring. 

‘Hi, it—’

‘About bloody time,’ he chuckled.



The beginning