redemption s2e1

He stopped in the doorway opposite the bar and looked around. The inside was dimly lit. Pools of light seemed to barely lift off the tables, only just illuminating faces shaded in various stages of inebriated animation. He looked up at a laughing shout from a table near the back and he recognised the bulk of Darren. Anthony was next to him. He took half a step forward then stopped. They’d turned their heads towards the bar and were grinning. He followed their gaze; they were looking at Ellie. He watched her, heard her calling to them, saw the half-smile on her face. Darren and Anthony laughed, and their eyes followed her back to the table. Craig watched as Anthony stood to help her with the drinks, Anthony’s hand reaching out to touch, yet not touch, her back. Darren made room for her and she sat down between them. Shouts, and jumbled conversation, and above it all, he heard her laugh. He saw her face in profile, saw her push her hair back from her face. He felt the distance between them and knew that he was no longer in on the joke. Time to go.

He turned and let the bar door wing shut behind him. His phone rang. He looked at the caller ID.


‘Hey,’ he said abruptly and walked away from the pub, turning into the laneway to the carpark.

‘Where are you?’ Her voice was low and deep; it sounded like she’d been drinking. 

‘On my way home.’

‘Oh…really? I heard you were at the pub.’

He moved the phone away from his face, swore, and looked around.

‘I decided not to, Karen.’ He was tired of this new take on the relationship. ‘Why do you care?’

‘You know why, Craig,’ and there it was again, that something in her voice. It irritated him.

There were muffled noises on the other end of the call. He was suddenly alert. ‘Karen? Is someone there?’ But he knew who was there. A muffled struggle, Karen cried out and then Mirko spoke into the phone.

‘Ahhhh, Craig. My favourite son-in-law,’ Mirko drawled. ‘I’m not sure I believe it, but my daughter might actually have fallen for you. It’s not good for business, Craig. Unless…’ 

Craig caught Mirko’s tone. This he definitely didn’t like. Wary now, he wondered what the hell was going on. Was Karen now part of this? Somehow that first trimester had changed things, changed Karen, and god knows what would have happened if she’d carried to term. Who knew whose it was? He sure as hell didn’t have patience for the change of heart that followed. Mirko’s husky laugh came through the phone.

‘Mirko, you-‘

‘Craig. You know you should be home with your wife. You should spend some time with your father-in-law, too. We have things to discuss. There’s no time for work drinks…so what if it’s Ellie’s first day back.’

The blood in his veins turned to ice. In a terrified frustration, he slapped the side of his head. He looked up and down the laneway, to the street, to the carpark. He could see no one. In his panic, he felt his heart beat through his rib cage, felt the sweat break out on his skin. 

Ellie was back from leave. Of course Mirko would know. Mirko knew everything. Knew she’d been hospitalised, knew she’d nearly died, knew she’d been diagnosed with PTSD, the endless counselling. And now he knew she was back on the job, knew where she was, and he realised: she was in trouble. And it was all his fault. It all came rushing back, came like body blows and he cowered under each one. Craig shut his eyes, trying to shut it all out. Frustrated, enraged, he roared his anguish into the phone and then threw it against the wall. It fell in pieces to the gravel. Shaking, blinded by anger, he stalked through the fading light to the carpark.

He didn’t see them coming. The hood went over his head, he was hit in the stomach then on the side of his temple. Groggy, he went to ground. They dragged him behind a D-Max and took turns kicking him: head, face, stomach, groin, chest, back. They were efficient, wasted no breath or effort on words. It might have lasted for only five minutes; he started to feel as though he was drifting away along the gravel, away to the edge of the carpark, away to the edge of time. Finally, one of them grabbed his chin and his hair through the hood, pulled the side of his head close to their mouth. ‘Fix it,’ the voice grunted, ‘or this time she’s done.’ They lifted him higher off the ground before a rush of vertigo and the hard gravel of the car park rushed up to crack the back of his skull.

He lay there, unmoving, the night air coming down on him. The D-Max was parked against the brick wall of the realtor’s office. He was invisible to anyone else in the car park, anyone in the laneway, anyone on the highway. He started to come to, felt something welling in his mouth and coughed blood against the inside of the hood they’d left over his head. There was a searing pain in his chest. His head swam. Nothing coherent occurred to him for some time except the sound of Mirko laughing, then Mirko’s face taking shape before him. How he hated that face. He could feel his own face constrict in a rictus of hate and cried out in pain. His jaw was on fire. From somewhere far away, he realised it was probably broken. Just like Ellie’s jaw had been broken. He had found her. And them. They’d beaten her. She’d been shot. She was lying on the floor, her face was a bloody mess. He’d told her not to go there, he’d given her false leads…he’d lied to her, time and again. How had he done that? How had he lied to her? Her? He moaned and tried to move towards her but his ribs were on fire. ‘Fucking bastards,’ he tried to say to her. ‘Fucking Mirko,’ and Mirko’s face filled his vision again. Blood welled in his mouth again, and again he spat it out. Gingerly he raised he hands to touch the hood and groggily he remembered the gravel of the carpark. How he had got here…

Mirko Sofka.

Mirko had given him an out. A well-orchestrated but simple way out of his gambling debts. He’d lured him in with Karen. Had prostituted his own daughter. To get a cop. A cop on the inside. Put me in his pocket, he thought desperately, and he grimaced at his own desperate choices. But it wasn’t about him so much anymore. No. It was about…he had to call someone. He had to warn her. Slowly, he moved his arm again, this time looking for his phone. His phone. Fuck. Then he remembered, and realising, he stifled a hopeless curse. His phone…back in the laneway. The only way would be to go find his car, get in it and go. He tried to sit up and a wave of nausea pushed him back against the brick wall. Got to get into the car, he thought, and winced again. Groggy. So groggy. She’s so groggy, he thought. ‘Ellie. Stay with me.’ He was hoarse, now. He kept repeating it over and over. ‘Ellie, stay with me!’ Now he was running, carrying her in his arms, to his car, racing the blood that was leaving her body, ‘Ellie, no, don’t do this, don’t die, don’t die, it’s all my fault.’

In a rush of pain, he pushed off the wall and shouted, ‘it’s all my fault!’

He heard something close by, a noise. He struggled to focus, tried to listen. Yes. Footsteps. Maybe. He strained to hear. He tried to look to see where he was. For the first time, he realised he was slumped against a wall, a hood over his head, next to a car. A big car. No, not a car. A ute. His ribs hurt. His head swam. The pain in his groin and abdomen…it hurt to breathe. But no, there it was again. Footsteps, now. Coming towards the ute, coming around the back. He started to shake his head.

No, no, no, no – 

‘Anthony! Anthony! I found him,’ a hoarse voice, Ellie’s voice, shouted back into the car park and then she was there, and she was on the ground beside him and she took his head in her arms, lifting the hood away, used it to wipe blood from the gashes on his face, across his cheekbone, over his eye, in his hair. She said his name. She said it again. He turned his swollen eyes to look at her, her face a shadow framed against the night sky, her eyes finding his.

‘Craig,’ she said again. He saw Anthony loom up behind her. He looked back at her, wanting to touch her face. He blacked out.

He opened his eyes in a hospital ward. Gray light and shadows filtered down through the blinds and onto the bed. Light snores came from the bed next to him. He had the feeling of being watched. Probably not uncommon in a hospital. He turned his head slowly towards the sounds of snoring, testing out his range of movement, and wondered bleakly about an ambush there on the ward. His gaze strayed past the next bed to the door. No ambush: Ellie. Standing against the doorway to the room, coffee in hand.

Looking at him.

On his first day, she’d looked at him like this. Gary Sutton, Captain, had walked him up the stairs and the first person he had laid eyes on was her. Ellie. Her desk was close to the windows, and the fresh morning light was falling on her head as she bent over the keyboard, black hair hiding a pale face and dark eyes. Gary had said her name and she looked up, then stood. There was something in her features that had caught him off guard, caught him by surprise – same thing that caught at him now, here in the ward, here after everything that he had done, when there was no longer any hope. Always something wild and bright and frank in the way she looked him up and down. She had nodded to him, had reached out her hand to shake his, and those dark eyes had locked on him, taking him in– 

‘Craig.’ She was beside his bed now, and touched his hand, lightly. 

Slowly, he focused on her face. Their eyes met ‘Ellie.’

They were quiet for long moments. Finally, she sat.

‘It’s, it’s um…’ he started. ‘I tried, Ellie,’ he added, and then stopped. He held her gaze, for as long as he could.

He faltered, looked away, weighed down by more than the pain of the welts and bruises. ‘I can’t,’ he said simply, hoarsely. ‘I’m in too deep. I don’t know how.’

Ellie looked down at the coffee cup in her hand, and began shaking her head. ‘Craig-‘

‘Ellie, he’ll kill you this time.’

‘Look at you, Craig!’ She slammed the coffee cup into the bin and gestured at the tubes and the machines and the bandages. ‘He almost killed you! This was him!’ 

‘It doesn’t matter about me, Ell-‘

‘Noble’s not your colour, Craig,’ she snapped back.

He was stung. ‘Yeh, well thanks, but it’s me he needs. You’re just a pain in his arse.’ She caught her breath and looked down at him. The light and the shadows hung between them, dappling on the bed, the shadows growing darker. Realisation dawned on her face but it was long moments before she spoke.

‘You don’t want to leave,’ she breathed.

‘No, that’s…Ellie – ‘

‘Wait. Anthony said something about Karen. Is this about Karen, now?’

‘Ellie, for fuck’s sake – !’ he reached out and grabbed her wrist. ‘Ellie, because of me you almost died.’

She stopped and looked at him and he could hardly face her. The pain faded to nothing under this fresh hot wake of self-loathing. But he needed to push to the end. He was here now, it was this moment and this moment only where it could happen. He took a breath and it burst from him. ‘Ellie, they knew you were coming, they knew because of me. They had everything they needed, and they – ‘ he stopped, his chest was bursting, he gasped for air.

She just stood still, looking at him. Her face was paler than usual. The tension in her wrist scattered. He watched her face, felt her sway for just a second, then she steadied herself. He dropped her arm. It fell slowly to her side.

‘Ellie, I’m…I’m so sorry.’ She looked at him. Her face was smooth, her expression unreadable. God his chest hurt. ‘Ellie…’ and as he reached out, she nodded noiselessly at him, and backed away, hands in her back pockets. She opened her mouth as if to say something, then changed her mind. She stopped still for a moment, looking at him, and held his gaze. Her eyes were shining in the fading light and the corners of her mouth turned down. The shadows and the shadows and the shadows fell between them. She pressed her lips together. She turned and walked away.


the devil’s in the detail

‘Santa’s Sweat Shop, Nick speaking.’

‘Nick, it’s Luc.’

‘Luuuc! Wassgoin’ down…’

‘Nick, don’t be a jerk.’

‘…down there in Hades?’

‘Nick, for crying out loud, I’m calling on business.’

‘Luc, I’m in the ‘nice’ business, you’re in the ‘naughty’ business, I’m not sure it’s ‘good’ business to take what you’re selling.’

‘For crying out loud, I’ll hang up, and you won’t know how your ridiculous new app is going to screw everything for you on the 25th!’

‘What do you mean?’

‘And all those piddly little brats will miss out!’

‘Miss out on what?’ demanded Nick.

‘Your app’s stuffed, Nick.’

‘And how does the Lord of the Underworld know about my app?’

The line went dead.

Probably too far, Nick admitted to himself, settling back down in his chair to call Luc back. Thing is, he never could resist winding him up. Patiently he tried to redial but no luck. He put the receiver down and began to flip through the papers on his desk, looking for Luc’s number. ‘Rudy!?’ he called out, moving books, sifting through drawers. ‘Rudy, have you got a minute?’ he called again, a little louder.

Still no answer. He pushed up from his desk and walked to the doorway, and shouted ‘RUDY!!” at the top of his lungs. At almost the same moment, Rudy appeared in the doorway, right under Nick’s nose, holding his hand over the mouthpiece of his mobile. He glared darkly at Nick.

‘If you call me by the name of that stupid red-nosed git of a reindeer  of yours one more time, I’ll–’

‘I’m sorry,’ Nick said, and managed to look contrite and sound sincere at the same time.

The elf handed him the phone and said, ‘it’s Luc. There’s some problem with our code.’

Nick took the mobile. ‘Thanks, Rudy,’ he said innocently, and closed the door on the frustrated tantrum of his 2IC.

Nick sat back own. ‘Ok, Luc, sorry about before.’

‘Are you going to listen to me?’

‘Of course!’

‘Without being a jerk?’

‘I … Luc, you take all the fun out of things.’

‘You know, you treat your staff like shit.’

‘Rudy? He’ll get over it.’

‘Fair warning, Nick. He’d jump ship if I offered him a job.’

‘He–’ sputtered Nick.

‘Warmer climate, better hours–’

‘Luc! Shut up! What’s wrong with the app?’

‘Ah, so now you want to focus.’

‘Just tell me what’s going on.’

‘I’m not done having fun with this.’


Luc laughed down the phone.

‘I will hang up on you, now, dammit!’ Nick cried, frustrated.

‘No you won’t. Not until you know what it’s about.’


Luc’s tone changed slightly. ‘Just remember – what I tell you, I tell you only on the condition that you keep me out of this.’

‘“Keep you out of this”?’

‘Yeh. My name is not to be mentioned in any connection with this.’

Nick stifled a laugh. ‘Ok,’ he managed.

‘This is not about me doing good.’


‘It’ll ruin my reputation!’

‘I’ve got your back.’

‘I need your word!’

‘Okay, Luc, I promise! It will be my official line: the Prince of Darkness had nothing to do with saving Chris–’


‘All right, all right, I’ll stop, I’ll stop.’

‘You have to be the most frustrating human being of all time!!’

‘After the Mansons, though, surely.’

‘I want to speak to Rudy again!’ Luc yelled.

‘His name’s not Rudy,’ said Nick, feigning hurt and offense on Rudy’s behalf.

‘I don’t care WHAT his name is, he’s the coder, you need him to fix this!’

‘Fix what??’

‘The code in your ridiculous ‘Xmas Wish’ app, Nick, or whatever the hell you’ve called it. It’s not working.’

‘The app the kids are using? How do you know it’s not working?’

‘Because all the data, all the wishes from the kids are re-routing to my server. I traced it back to the code in your stupid app.’

Your server?’ Nick asked, unbelieving.

‘Yes. My server. The Hades server.’

Nick smiled. ‘And you’re worried about this because…?’ although it had already dawned on him that he knew the answer.

‘Because the kids won’t get their pr–’ Luc started shouting, before abruptly strangling himself into silence.

Nick laughed loudly down the phone line. ‘So!’ he shouted gleefully. The Hedon of Hades has a soft-spot for kids at Christmas!’

‘NICK, you bast- ‘

‘Now, now, Luc, we should keep this PG. We are talking about the kids, after all.’

‘You annoying jerk, you–’

‘“The Devil, making sure kids get their gifts at Christmas”,’ Nick laughed even harder.

‘Just remember you promised you’d keep me out of this!’

‘I – I know,’ Nick wheezed, tears streaming down his face. ‘I can’t believe I did that.’

‘You promised!’

‘I did,’ Nick grinned. ‘I promise I won’t tell anyone that you were involved in this.’

There was a pause, and then Luc said, ‘thanks, Nick.’

‘I’ll keep your ironic beard and topknot out of it, too.’

And somewhere in Hades, a mobile phone smashed against the floor before landing in the eternal embers of damnation.

it’s not you, it’s me…me and my amygdala.


So I rock up to my barista and order my large cap, and toast with a tiny bit of vegemite. The coffee here is perfect, the service outstanding, and as I glance at my watch, I don’t know whether to sigh or smirk about being on time for my meeting. I choose to sigh happily and move out of everyone’s way.

At about the 8-minute mark, hipster-suity-groover guy rocks up and orders his coffee and same toast as me. Yes, that’s right. You can see where this is going. My happy barista man calls my name – ‘Someone’s toast is ready!’ I turn to grab my things, move back toward the counter – and before Hipster-Suity Guy’s coffee is even ready, he casually reaches over AND GRABS MY TOAST. Seconds later – wait, I’m not finished shouting: SECONDS LATER, HE HAS HIS COFFEE, THEN HE’S GONE!!!!

To know me is to concede that on a good day, parts of my nature are loveable, but today you’re pretty sure how shit is going to go down. But what if I surprise you? That’s right: things have changed and we are now familiar with the Amygdala Impact.

No matter our individual, or even collective thoughts on how we’ve evolved, we can count on the amygdala to keep us in touch with our Inner Primitive. Or as I affectionately think of him: my Inner Cyberdyne Systems series T-800 Model 101 Amygdala Terminator. The T-800 Amygdala controls the fight or flight instinct, scanning the environment for risk and danger five times a second – that’s right, FIVE TIMES A SECOND – and [analysing it through the super-high tech, military-grade, optical-screen of death] generates cortisol and adrenalin as required. Saving our lives since the Dawn of Man, the amygdala is a compact yet superior survival system, responsible for getting us out of the way of woolly mammoths, errant (or malicious) spear throwers and alerting us to problems that might affect our remaining with the clan. (Because that used to be a Thing.)

Crucial to the continuation of the species, it is one of the strongest drivers in our physical makeup. It is instinct. It’s why we’re here today. And it has this habit of overriding everything.

Now, back to today. It’s February 2017, and waiting for hipster-suity-groover guy’s toast, I have to tell you I don’t see many woolly mammoths about. Unless I’m particularly careless or stupid, or (thanks Pauline) consume too much sugar, there is no immediate threat to my survival past morning tea. I live in a modern family and haven’t sufficiently upset them or any members of my extended family to the point where my position in the clan is at stake. Overall my chances of continuation are pretty good. So. Why? Why the tightness in the chest? What the rush of heat? Why am I ready to go White Crane on hipster-suite-groover guy?

While our pre-frontal cortex is taking all this in, taking it’s time at a rate of 300 million Thinking Bits per second (hmm. What just happened?), our T-800 Amygdala has sorted shit out in a mere 20 million Outraged Symbol Bits (&%$@#**!@#$ etc), and stands up and shouts,


New Bron is now equipped with means to have a go at muffling the T-800 Amygdala. She clamps a hand over the speaker system. Smiles for the lookers-on. ‘Nothing to see here’, her smile says. She hisses at the T-800 Amygdala to go into standby mode for a minute, and proceeds to consult the pre-frontal cortex, posing the T-800 Amygdala’s responses as questions, and looking for positive directions in which to re-think things:

  1. Yes. That was my breakfast. But perhaps hipster-suity-groover works for Medicins-Sans-Frontiers and he had to rush to the airport. You could have just saved lives!
  2. Your survival is not contingent on the turkish toast. You’ll probably make it to morning tea. Except you’ll end up with hipster-suity-groover’s toast, so…
  3. Look, I really don’t have an answer to this one, you’re incredibly childish, so…you’re on your own. (Ok, I deserve that one.)

The trick is to remember that you have to work pretty hard to overcome your amygdala’s response. With practise you can. Try it this way:

Identify and label your physical response. (Tightness in the chest, nausea; the name of any karate poses you assume.)

Trace these physical responses back to what you are thinking. (Injustice, starvation, going one-up at work.)

Now: involve your pre-frontal thinking man/woman by asking questions. And think in terms of the positive.


With thanks to Sandra Wood for making a difference.

Building Good Momentum For Doing Important Stuff

How dogs meditate

I don’t like routine. I’ve sometimes liked the sound of it, but generally: ew. Not for me. I reluctantly admit that routines are valuable. And looking at my 2017 calendar, I’ve reluctantly decided I should research what they’re all about. And reluctantly I accept that maybe if I’d had a routine a lot earlier, or even yesterday, I might reluctantly concede that yes, ‘they’re great’ and when I concede this, I will try and do it without rolling my eyes or using a mocking falsetto when I say it.

I turned to google in my hour of reluctant searching for routine answers (ha! see what I did there) and it turns out there are a lot of people out there who want me to help myself when it comes to following a routine because, they say, routines are crazy-super. And with slightly less reluctance than when I set out, I begin to realise, hey, some of these tips are really good ideas, and wait, I could probably do that one and before I knew it – !

Here is my new routine. I have selected what I think are the best parts from a number of well-thought out lists of routine things you can do each day. I identified the area of my day where I need the most help: getting out of bed in the morning. Then I picked what is realistic for me. I have ended up structuring my new routine around building good momentum for doing important stuff during the rest of my day. Wait, that sounds really good and caps-worthy, so let’s try it again:

Building Good Momentum For Doing Important Stuff During The Rest Of My Day.

  1. Sleep well.
    Yeh, sure! Right. Add Ironic Tick to that one. Recent heat, recent late nights of tennis, recent interest in Black Mirror, had a coffee too close to bedtime? A good night’s sleep is a myth in my house. I have so many bad habits that I have to change, according to the experts. These experts say that without a solid refreshing seven hours sleep and giving yourself every opportunity to wake up a happy person (wtf, there are happy morning people?), don’t worry about anything else on your list. (They were serious!) So stop right here if you didn’t sleep well and try again tomorrow.
  2. Meditate.
    Spend a couple of minutes, or 10, or 15 on calming your mind. Meditate as your yogi would have you meditate. Meditate on all you are grateful for. Meditate on the quietness around you. (I’ll give you a tip. Don’t slide down the side of your bed (because you’re not yet ready to stand up and walk anywhere) and lean with your back to it, positioning yourself where your dog (who yes, sleeps on our bed) can lean over your shoulder to see what you are doing up so early in the morning and then sneezes all over your neck. 5.30am-inspired invective is not good for his karma.) Dry, and relocated in a peaceful, quiet position, clear your mind, regulate your breathing and focus on calmness. Comes back to you in spades later in the day when you are trying to digest things like current world ‘politics’, or the person next to you on the train keeps sniffing. Calm.
  3. Do something physical.
    Walk the dogs, do some gardening, turn on the vacuum (5.30am, why not? This is not a popularity contest). If, in the early days of establishing your routine, you are only able to manage the making of sandwiches (gourmet, of course), hanging out a load of washing, or filling up the dogs’ water bowls in the morning, then so be it. It’s good to be moving around and forming the habit of being conscious and upright so early in the morning is more important.
  4. Drink a bottle (500mL) of water before you leave the house.
    If you can. That’s one down for the day and you will keep reaching for it.
  5. Jump in the pool or take a cold shower.
    This one will be interesting come Winter, but the thing with a cold shower is that your heart rate jumps and the brain cells switch into high gear: it is now highly motivated into crystallising ideas for making it stop. Stay in there and harness that idea power surge. Also good for increasing willpower and self-discipline. (You’re welcome. I had to look these up, too.)
  6. Read something inspiring or uplifting.
    Take 5 or 10 minutes to read something inspiring or uplifting. If it’s a quote, write in in your diary, write it on your phone, write it on your arm. But take it with you everywhere and re-visit it whenever you can. At the moment my go-to is Marcus Aurelius. A quote that has worked really well for me my first week back at work, where I have been bombarded, ambushed and mauled (of course I never exaggerate) was visualising being the sailor that finds a calm harbour after letting go of people’s necks all judgements. Book Twelve, check it out.
  7. Review your goals.
    Review your goals daily. Why do you want to get out of bed? Oh yeh! My goals! That’s right. Write your goals down. After you’ve cleaned off the dog sneeze, found a way to thank the universe for your dog, hung out the washing, frozen the nucleus of all your cells and read some Marcus-like stuff – have a drink of water while you re-connect every day with your list of goals. Stay on track.

Be calm. Be the sailor. Stay connected. Build your momentum.