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Charlie's On A Plane!

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If Charlie was glad for anything, it was that he fought for the window seat. While Matthew remained firmly hunched over, dignity seemingly abandoned in preference for clutching his knees and imagining he was anywhere but here...Charlie on the other hand was having a good time. Maybe it was the kid in him that never tired of roller coasters but as he peered through the window at the pouring rain over the wing of the plane with a sort of childlike excitement. 

He’d tried comforting the boss for a while as the older man stayed resolutely hunched over, eyes squeezed shut and muttering to himself but after the third ‘fuck off Charlie’ he figured he’d be better off entertaining himself and letting Matthew do what he had to do. He’d known the man had a fear of flying but he had no idea it was this intense. Of that their shutter would be broken. Oh well, at least it gave him a pretty good idea about the sort of weather they were going through. Not too long ago the stewardesses had come along the line and insisted everyone should stay put at least until the shaking of the plane stopped. 

A huge crack of lightning struck the ground beneath them and Charlie remained, eyes glued to the dark outside scenery. A while back, a child’s little car had rolled down the aisle, an American style taxi cab about the size of Charlie’s hand. He hoped it rolled into first class. His only complaint was that you couldn’t dress casually on a plane. He had no idea why he had to wear his good clothes to...Sit still for several hours but oh well it was what it was and putting up a fight was not going to bring Melbourne any closer. At least this trip to Sydney hadn’t been for moot, they had a couple of solid leads about Lucien to follow up on...Well, Matthew did. Charlie didn’t have any contacts in the service beyond his friend in the military police. 

It was not too big of a plane, he supposed, so maybe the little car did make it before some unlucky stewardess has to gather it up and try to find it’s little owner. Two seats on either side, a small, flat-topped table armrest thing between the seats. All garishly coloured in what Rose would call ‘in vogue’ and Charlie would call ‘just awful’. With one last glance out the window, he fished the postcard he’d been writing from the seat pocket (Free postcards! Can you imagine it? Matthew had been less enthused than he was) and turned his attention back to recounting the events of the last few days to Mattie. 

Things seemed bad at first when they tried to speak to the guy who coughed up to the Sydney coppers about Blake being underground somewhere he wasn’t very cooperative. Good thing the Boss was as intimidating as ever. That pushed them in the direction of a local crime family, who pushed them in the direction of a different group of corrupt coppers who wanted the family taken down. All of this information had led them to a fairly credible sighting of him traveling with an offshoot of some third group of terrible people who needed a doctor. Matthew thought it was bikers, Charlie didn’t think bikers were that stupid. Either way, they had a couple of eye witness sightings and a couple of leads to follow up. All and all they were in a much better spot now then they were when they set out a week ago. 

Well...It it wasn’t for the plane. Personally, Charlie likes plane rides, it’s much faster and much more interesting than a car ride. Not to mention: The food was way better than the greasy diner food that he imagined he’d be eating if they weren’t up in the air...And the shitty motel beds...And Matthew always harassing him about him not babying his red Buick enough...This was way better, even if Danny was going to give him grief about having to drive them to Melbourne and back for the next three days. 

Crash! Bang!

A woman screamed down in business class. Matthew startled next to him. Charlie looked up from his postcard. A few other worried-looking passengers all made eye contact with one another. Frowning, Charlie tried to narrow his eyes and see what was happening but from his seat near the back of the plane that just wasn’t possible. 

“Should I go see what that was?” He asked Matthew, who gave him a look asking him if he’d gone insane. He shuffled to his feet and gave Matthew a pat on the shoulder as he slid out into the aisle. “I’ll be back.” He assured his boss, surprised how difficult it was to stay upright on the plane. He carefully made his way forward, swaying like he was drunk as he went. He passed several rows of concerned people, looking increasingly more concerned as he approached the curtain separating zoo class (read: poor people like him) and business. He slipped into the space where a steward was huddled against the wall. She had long, white-blonde hair pulled back from her face in a towering updo. Around her neck was a red tie to match the theme of the airline. 

“Who are you?” She gasped. Charlie, on impulse, produced his wallet from his back pocket and flashed his identification at her. 

“I’m Charlie Davis, I’m with the Ballarat police.” He said and took note of her nametag reading ‘Eden’. “Why don’t you loosen your necktie and take some deep breaths for me, Eden.” She nodded to him and did so, sliding along, red nailed finger into the space between the tie and her white neck. She shimmied the knot down and as he suspected, had a much easier time breathing. He helped her time each breath for a moment until she looked slightly calmer. 

“What happened up here?” He asked, “I heard a crash.” 

“That man, from fourteen A. He just pushed his way into first class. He had a -” She looked around at the space for anyone other than him. “He had a gun.” 

“A gun? On a plane?” 

“If that thing goes off, next time it could hit a wall. If it goes through the loss of pressure will kill us all.” 

“Next time?” He asked, eyebrows raising. He thought he knew the sound of a gunshot. 

“He shot...He had the gun against Damien’s arm and shot him when the plane jumped.” She explained, “It had...It had something on the front of it…” 

“A muzzle?” He asked, curious, and also deeply concerned. Maybe he should go get Matthew...He’d know what to do. He glanced back into zoo class. Matthew was back with his head between his knees. He was not going to be of any help. It was up to Charlie, then. 

“I don’t know.” Eden said, “I don’t know anything about guns…” 

“So the bullet is in Damien’s arm.” She nodded her head, 

“He passed out. We put him on a chair in business. “ 

“Where is fourteen A now?” 

“He was going to the pilots, saying something about crashing the plane!” She whisper shouted. 

“Okay. I’m going to go try to talk to him.” Charlie decided. 

“Are you crazy?” 

“Not crazy enough to let him shoot the pilots.” He said back, and Eden bit down on her red lip before nodding. 

“Okay. I’m coming with you.” She decided, and then drew the curtain to Zoo class closed behind her. Charlie looked her up and down and then nodded. It would be good to have a second pair of hands...Even if that pair wasn’t wearing sensible shoes. They began crossing business. Walking was only getting more difficult, and it didn’t seem like they were even close to the edge of the storm cell they were travelling through. Eden held onto his arm as they walked, her much better at it than him. 

Charlie carefully navigated the furious plane, using the seats to make his way forward and stop himself from falling. Or, he was. Until his head and shoulders slammed into something, and he felt weightless for a moment. It only lasted a moment or two, before he was suddenly being punched in the stomach by the top of a chair, and then landing on the ground. One of his ankles caught on a chair behind him smacking into the leg of a woman sitting there and twisting painfully sideways. Vaguely, he could hear Eden crying out in pain. It took him a moment to realize what had just happened. 

The plane had started going down and he’d hit his head on the ceiling. Now, it seemed the plane had righted itself, and he and Eden...Along with any unsecured belonging...had come down. He coughed once before crawling to his knees. 

“Are you okay?” Asked the woman who he’d fallen on. Her eyes were a very piercing green on one side, and deep brown on the other. There was a red mark where he’d smacked her leg but otherwise, she was okay. 

“I’m okay. Sorry about that.” He said, turning to find Eden, who had been hit in the chin by the wooden taxi from earlier. Rubbing it ruefully, Charlie noted it now had a large red stain on it from her lips. She gave it a despairing look and he took it from her to tuck in his pocket. 

“Guess that’s where that got to.” He said, “We’ll have to get that iced.” 

“Your ankle sounded worse.” She replied as Charlie struggled to put weight on it. Thankfully, it wasn’t broken just sore. 

“Certainly not good.” Said the lady. 

“Eh, I’m a runner you get used to it.” 

“A runner and a cop?” She asked as he straightened his coat. She was just trying to keep her head on her shoulders, so he humoured her. 

“Among other things.” He nodded his head at the woman he hit and the two pushed onward, this time careful to grab hold of something with each step to not fly up like that again. As they approached the curtain that separated business from first, he noticed Damien unconscious while a young man held a handful of paper towels to his arm. 

“So this is Damien?” 

“This is his third-ever flight.” Eden said as the young man shifted uncomfortably despite these seats looking way more comfortable than the ones Charlie had just been seated on in Zoo. 

“Are you a doctor or something?” He asked the young man, who looked at Charlie. His eyebrows were all but hidden under a thick ‘Buddy Holly’ style set of glasses, and his hair was a matching dark brown. He had a very modern cut with a sweeping fringe and a set of grey-blue eyes peering back at him. If he was a doctor, then he was a pretty new one, Charlie surmised. 

“I’m ah, I’m a dentist.” He stutters, shifting his blood-covered hands. “But yeah, I have a doctorate.” 

“Well, you’re better than nothing,” Charlie assured him and dug his handkerchief out of his pocket. 

“Who are you?” The young man asked. 

“I’m Sergeant Detective Charlie Davis.” He introduced himself, “With the Ballarat Police. I assume you and Eden have already met.” He nodded his head, and Eden gave a little wave just out of the corner or Charlie’s eyes. “What can you tell me about what’s going on in there?” 

“Well -” Buddy Holly Glasses says, “There was this guy, he just...He had a gun and he kept saying that we’re all going to die. Damien -” He indicated to the unconscious guy, “He kept trying to talk to him but...He just snapped! Shot him, right there!” Damien was out cold, with blood on his arm and splattered on the side of his face. Much like Eden, he had blonde hair though Charlie could see that he had the very beginnings of dark brown roots. Hmm, maybe he should dye the not so very subtle grey streak that is coming in the front of his hair? Or not, Matthew told him he looked distinguished before they got on the plane. He shook the distraction away and looked back at the two men who were now apparently in his charge. Jesus, he wished he had Matthew here but he was all the way back in Zoo and Charlie doubted he could get over an ingrained fear of flying in only a few minutes. 

A bolt of lightning made the largest crashing noise Charlie had ever heard, and once again, the plane shook violently. Eden held onto him tightly, and the man in the row behind Damien grabbed onto her by the waist, with his wife grabbing hold of the table between them as well as him. They both left the ground, but this time only a few inches and landed safely. Buddy Holly Glasses’s glasses left his nose, flying off his face and landing a few feet away. Eden scrambled to grab them, while Charlie tried to speak to him.

“Jesus. So he’s unhinged?” 

“I think so.” Buddy Holly Glasses says, “I mean, he’s going to get us all killed if he gets in there with the pilots.” 

“Yes, I had thought of that,” Charlie said, frowning. He needed to get in there but he would be doing no one any favours if he got in there with a concussion and broken ankles. The young stewardess gave Buddy Holly Glasses his titular glasses back, and he shoved them tight up against his face. “Eden, can I borrow that scarf?” She handed it over without complaint but gave him a sort of ‘you’re still insane’ look. 

“Here, scrunch this up, put it on the wound, then tie this around the arm. Should keep the pressure and let you rest your arms.” He said. 

“I would have done that if I had a scarf.” Buddy Holly Glasses insisted. Charlie gave him a look and then started moving again, Eden just behind him. 
“What are you going to do when we get there?” Eden asked, as he opened the curtain to first-class and slid into the space there. 

“No idea.” 

“You’re a cop, aren’t you?” She asked as they huddled, Charlie peeling back the curtain to look out into the front of the plane. The unhinged guy with a gun doesn’t look nearly as unhinged as Charlie had pictured. He was well-groomed, and in a suit, though it was splattered with blood and sticking to the sides of his body. He had one arm tightly around a woman in a tea-length red dress who was weeping, her eye makeup leaving long, dark trails down her olive-toned face. 

“Well, supposedly.” He mumbled back, looking to Eden to see her rummaging around at the bottom of the drink cart that was tethered here. “What are you looking for?” 

“Flight manifest.” She replied, before flipping the page of a clipboard. “His name is...James Potts.” ‘

“Okay. I’m going out.” 

Charlie pulled back the curtain and stepped into first class, which had the smell of wealth and well-polished jewellery about it. 

“Are you James?” He asked. He felt Eden follow him out, hands still firmly wrapped around his elbow. As the floor tilted underneath them he kept his hands firmly on the seat of the woman who was shaking, eyes linked with his. She grabbed hold of his wrist to keep him upright. 

“Who the Hell are you?” James asks, eyeing Charlie suspiciously. 

“I’m Detective Sergeant Charlie Davis, with the Victoria Police, and I’m going to need you to put that gun down.” James eyed him off and then shook his head. 

“I don’t believe you.” 

“I have my credentials on me.” He replied, evenly. He wasn’t one for talking people down. He was always the one who crash tackled or sat quietly and looked menacing while Matthew did the talking or Lucien, or anyone who wasn’t him. It’s just not his nature. He pulled his wallet from his pocket and tossed it down the plane to James, who used his foot to inch it closer. “You want to tell me why you’re holding that young woman hostage?” 

He inched a couple of steps down the plane, and then, gravity stopped once again and he found himself head against the ceiling, but thankfully the man in the next row grabbed him around the waist so when he landed it was on his feet. He tossed a look at Eden, who was retreating to the space between classes. That was probably for the better, Matthew would have his head if he knew Charlie had allowed a civilian into an active hostage situation. James had grabbed onto some kind of ceiling handle, but his poor hostage had landed on the ground. Breaking into an almost run, at least as much as he could on moving ground, he grabbed her by the arm, pulled her up and thrust her behind him in a fairly fluid movement. 

“What’s happening, James?” He repeated, trying to remember his utterly ancient de-escalation training. 

“They’re going to crash the plane!” He exclaimed, “Are you dumb?” Well, some might agree with him but Charlie could only blink in surprise at the allegation. 

“What makes you say that?” He asked, moving forward again, now only about five steps away from James. 

“We’re going all over the place, can’t you see it?” He demanded, “I was a pilot, in the war, I can get us to safety!” 

“This isn’t a warplane, James. It’s a commercial flight, I think it would be a bit different if you tried too.” James looks unconvinced, and he keeps the weapon aimed squarely at Charlie, who keeps his hands up in front of him as he moves slightly closer. This time, he’s stood next to a scared-looking woman who grabs him around the hips so he can stay upright as the plane tilts violently under the outside rain. 

“What would you know about war?” He sneers, “You’re a kid, at best, a child! All you do is judge, judge while we do our best to save ungratefuls like you.” 

“I’m thirty-five,” Charlie says, reflexively. He hates when people try to say something about his age, it’s not his fault he never lost the baby fat. Before he can say anything else, something slammed into him from behind. It forced him from the arms of the lady holding him down and sent him careening into James’s arms. A second shot rang out, muffled by both Charlie’s body, and the silencer on the weapon. Lighting strikes of pain flashed behind Charlie’s eyes, taking up most of his vision as he allowed himself to crumple right on top of his attacker. Now pinned under Charlie’s dead weight on the rocking plane, James struggled to move around. Charlie had half a mind on the world outside the storm of pain beginning with his lower body. 

“- Are under arrest for the crime of assault on a police officer -” 

Was that Matthew? Couldn’t be, the boss had been left in his seat in Zoo class. Charlie tried to think, but his mind refused to work. With little else for it, he fell unconscious. 

Not to say that he remained so. He came back into awareness when he felt a pinprick on his lower stomach. His eyes flickered open and he looked around, trying to figure out what was happening. Finally, they looked down at his stomach. A pair of thin, bony, fingers was pinching the sides of a serious-looking gunshot wound together so that a pair of different hands could start the process of stitching it up. The outside of the wound looked blackened with gunpowder and burnt. Whoever’s stomach that was probably was in a lot of pain right now, he thought. 

“Charlie? Are you with me?” A voice above him asked. He finally looked up and made eye contact with Buddy Holly Glasses, who was patting the side of his face with one bloody hand. 

“Huh?” He responded, very eloquently. 

“I need you to stay awake, you keep shutting your eyes.” Buddy Holly Glasses says, patting the side of his face once more. “Eden, can you put his head in your lap? Make sure he doesn’t pass out again.” 

“Is that dangerous?” 

“Since I don’t know if you gave him a head injury with that drink cart, it could be extremely dangerous.” 

“Bloody Hell.” Says someone, maybe the Boss? Charlie feels quite light-headed and unsure of his surroundings. He felt a little like he was flying. 

“Can I help?” 

“Damien sit down before you fall!” Shouted the woman whose lap he was now lying in. She has a small nose, with a round tip, he thought, before a new, burning stinging pain flooded his system and made him give a yell of pain before he can stop himself. Matthew grunted and someone held down an arm that was reaching to push away whatever the source of his pain happened to be. In this case, it was people. 

“Bloody sit still, Davis!” The boss barked and Charlie’s limb dropped like a puppet with its strings cut, years of conditioning forcing his body to react with fearful suddenness when he was spoken too...Or yelled at by a superior officer. Lawson included, though the man rarely had cause to yell at Charlie anymore now he was his favourite officer. The pain in the wound, which seemed to be located on the left side of his stomach, was immense. It felt like waves of pain washing over him in time with the feeling of the needle tugging through his skin. Jesus, he thought, distantly, that's going to leave a scar. 

“I’m sorry about this, Charlie.” Buddy Holly Glasses said before a different burning wave washed over him and he could feel his eyeballs rolling back and his hand came up again. This time, someone took hold of it. It was Eden, he realized and she had tears running down her white face and cutting through her red-pink blush with runoff from her eye makeup. He tries to hold on but the pain is immense and all-encompassing. 

“Keep him awake!” Buddy Holly Glasses exclaims, and he feels a different hand on his face. Matthew again? It’s hard to tell. The whole world seems to be in cut glass, faces are blurred into one another and the sensations are blunted by pain that threatens to overwhelm him again. 

“Davis, come on, look at me!” Lawson yells, patting Charlie on the side of the face again, and Charlie rises to the occasion by looking up at him and almost being able to make out the angles of his cheekbones in the harsh yellow light. 

“How long until we land?” Eden asks, desperately, “We can’t torture him like this!” 

“At least another twenty minutes.” Someone shouts from a seat far away from them. 

“He’ll bleed out.” Buddy Holly Glasses says, “We need to do this now, the longer we leave the wound open the more likely it is to get infected.” 

“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” Says a very soft voice. 

“You bloody shut up before I shut you up!” Matthew hollers and Charlie thinks, in this respite from the very worst of the pain that he would like to see the look on James’s face at being yelled at by Matthew. A nerve in Charlie’s leg starts to twitch uncontrollably, probably because he was in so much pain, he thought as the sensations finally begin to dull. He wonders if that means he is about to pass out, he thinks that would be good, no matter what the others have to say. Not being in pain, he thinks, would be very good. 

“Hey, Charlie, come on, Charlie!” Eden says, patting his face gently to get his attention, again. “Look at me, please. Tell me something about your life.” 

“I’m a police officer.” He gritted, in the wave between the last push of pain and the next. “I work for Matthew Lawson at the Ballarat Police Station in Victoria.” 

“Okay. Do you have much family?” She asked, her face still trying to stay composed and eyes full of fear. 

“I have four brothers.” The words come slow and gritty like he’s trying to speak over the top of gravel. “And my mum. She wrote a book of poetry once, but when the kids were born she stopped.” 

“That’s interesting, what did she write about?” She encouraged and Charlie shut his eyes against the pain as someone burned against him, that wasn’t a needle must be something to clean the wound. His leg is still twitching despite Damien now sitting on his legs to keep them still. “Charlie? Your mother wrote poetry, what did she write about?” Eden insists, “Please keep talking to me, please!” She insisted. 

“Landscapes, I guess? She loved...She loved the ocean.” 

“So you’re from Melbourne, I take it?” 

“Yeah, St Kilda.” He grunted loudly in pains, trying to squirm away from the neverending pain. Who cared about his hometown when he was being bloody butchered? “Jesus, just let me bleed out, please!” 

“I may be a dentist but I’m afraid I still took the oath, Sergeant.” Says Buddy Holly Glasses, “Try to stay still, I know this hurts but please try.” He took offense to the idea that he was not trying because he was doing his best. Shame was though that he was in agony. 

“Charlie? Come on, keep your eyes open!” Eden insisted, Charlie not even realizing that he’d allowed them to slip shut. “Tell me about -” 

“Tell me about Lucien Blake,” Matthew said, and Charlie thought he’d rather die but he humours him anyway. 

“Um, Lucien Blake. He’s a doctor. Lived in Ballarat. Missing presumed dead. He’s like. I don’t know. Six foot I guess?” 

“Tell me what you think happened to him,” Matthew ordered. 

“I don’t know!” Charlie exclaimed as a new wave of hot red pain flooded his system. “Jesus how big is that god damn wound?” He asked, his legs trying to escape from under Damien - who was shot as well by the way. “God, I don’t know, I don’t know I don’t -” 

Whatever happened next Charlie didn’t know either because finally, he passed out. 

 Honestly, Charlie had fairly few complaints about the regional hospital he’d been loaded into after the plane landed. His memory of events following the cleaning and stitching of his gunshot were hazy, trapped under a layer of fog that one of the doctors, a man with short blonde hair and heavy, dark eyebrows had explained to him that was his mind trying to protect him from them. He’s suggested Charlie get a shrink when he gets home but he’s undecided as to if he’s going to follow through on that advice. But he remembered the absolute rush job of landing and feeling like his head was going to explode from the pressure. 

He also had faint memories of the ambulance ride from the regional airport, apparently mostly used for transporting goods. He remembered asking for Matthew pretty much continuously until he was assured of his presence by a firm grip on the hand. He’d felt much better, and a lot calmer knowing he had a friend nearby if something went wrong. He just didn’t trust hospitals that much, after what went down with Doctor Harvey. Oh well, it seemed this one worked just fine if you didn’t mind so much that it was close to some kind of train station and every few hours a huge train would go by. Everyone would stop talking, allow it to pass for up to ten minutes, then go back to what they were doing. 

Apparently, when the plane lifted up that last time, Eden took the opportunity to shove the drinks cart down the aisle, expecting to be able to bowl them both down and allow Charlie to take care of James safely, with the gun out of play. She couldn’t have guessed that it would go off in Charlie’s abdomen, though maybe she could have hazard a guess about the broken ribs. Those things were fucking heavy and Charlie didn’t swear lightly. She’d apologized profusely both on the plane and in the hospital but Charlie didn’t think there was anything to forgive, it was obvious that James wasn’t going to back down so her actions probably saved them all. 

The healthy dose of painkillers he’d been on at first made the memories there hazy too, he did recall being very concerned about calling his mother and Matthew assuring him that he’d already done it. He doesn’t recall Matthew being very far from his side since they touched down. Of course, he was still his usual grumpy self but Charlie was happy to have him around none the less. He made passing the time once they decided he should be able to survive on the lesser pain killers a lot easier when he could regale Charlie with war stories he’s already heard a hundred times but likes to hear again none the less. He’d also managed to make a few new friends from the plane.

 Buddy Holly Glasses, whose name was actually Austin, had to go on to Victoria for his dental conference thing but he promised to keep in touch (and apologized for butchering Charlie on the plane, not that Charlie thought there was anything to apologize for; he was happy to be alive. He’d assured Austin that if he ever needed his teeth done in Sydney then he’d be first on the list of potential places. They shared addresses and phone numbers, and while he wasn’t sure they were going to have a long term friendship it was good to have someone else to add to his list of friends, a list that seemed to shrink more than it grew. 

Damien was in the same hospital, though they weren’t in the same ward for a while. Charlie went straight to critical care, while Damien who was up and about went into the regular ward with all the other people hanging around. They hadn’t spoken much but he seemed nice enough. Same about Eden’s scarf, though. 

Speaking of, Eden was around just about as much as Matthew when she wasn’t visiting Damien. She was polite, friendly, and pretty funny actually. Apparently, she was stuck here until the next plane came in so she was making the most of what she was calling a ‘working vacation’ by bringing Charlie real (that is to say, non-hospital) food and complaining about Matthew’s taste in radio plays. He did sense that he would hopefully have a long friendship with her, when Mattie got back he saw the pair becoming fast friends. 

Speaking of: great news from Jean, who left the council hanging to come up and see him for a day or so. Mattie was planning to come home the following month and Charlie should up on his feet in time to pick her up from the airport. He wasn’t sure about it but he was also happy to have a goal to work toward at least. 

And the flowers! According to Eden, she went to buy him some but the local florist was all but sold out with phone orders for Charlie Davis on Ward a, Room 5. Flowers lined the window sill, the top of the large, flat radio, his bedside table, and one especially large one from Mrs. Tyneman (why a Tyneman was sending him flowers remained a guess to Charlie but Matthew said she was probably just trying to get on the good side of the future Superintendent before Edward’s little hellion started causing trouble) had to sit on the floor. Some of the flowers, he expected to see, the ones from the station with a card organised by one of the female constables named Sarah Gottlieb had a signature from each of the other officers. Some from Jean who had convinced a few other council members to sign the card and wanted him to be nominated for a medal of some kind. Some from his mother, and his brothers, hell: he had flowers from people he didn’t even know but Matthew assured him were important town members. Mattie had called Jean and asked her to send him some chocolates, which she did and he split them with Eden and Matthew. Alice Harvey sent him a few different papers about advanced forensic technology to read, and Matthew called him a nerd. Even Rose had sent him flowers, though her card had not included a message, just her name, and a smiley face. 

He had no idea what he wasn't meant to do with them, exactly, since all they would do was die eventually, except for some kind soul who sent a potted daisy. He was organizing with the nurses to get them to other, more serious patients who would get more joy from them than he would. Not to mention the thank you letters he was going to have to write on the drive back to Ballarat. Ugh. It was nice people were thinking of him, at least, he supposed. 

And James…

“Assault with a deadly weapon and reckless endangerment? That’s all they're charging him with?!” He exclaimed, waving the hand without a needle in the back to gesticulate his point. Matthew sighed. 
“I’m not happy about it, either. But there's an issue with the jurisdiction and he agreed to plead guilty.” 

“He shot me! He took a hostage!” 

“I know that.” Matthew said, calmly, “But this is the best we’re going to get. Start working on your victim impact statement and we might be able to get him away for at least fifteen years.” 

“Bloody hell.” He sighed, and Eden gave him a rueful smile. 

“Well, at least he’s getting charged with something. I was scared he wasn’t going to get anything because you know. Planes are so new.” 

“Not that new,” Matthew grumbled, looking a little put-out. Charlie just rolled his eyes and settled into the bed as Eden patted him on the leg. 

“Well, next time we’ll get ‘em.” She assured him. 

“Personally? I don’t think there’ll ever be a next time, because as far as I’m concerned that was my last flight.” 

“Well put.” Matthew said, “If I had some whiskey, I’d be toasting.” 

“If I had a shandy, so would I.” Eden confirmed, “I think I might go to university, or study to become a nurse. I think I did a pretty good job keeping you distracted.” 

“I don’t think that’s a qualification of becoming a nurse.” Charlie said, “My friend Mattie’s a nurse when she gets in next month have a talk to her. She might have an in.” 

“Ohh, I just might do that.” Eden agreed. 

“Gentlemen? Oh, and ma’am.” Said a nurse, with an arm full of cards and a box of chocolate. “You’re as popular as ever Detective.” 

“Thanks, Ethel.” He said as she put them down on his lap. “Oh, and this card...It was hand-delivered, it took us a while to figure out who it was for, the gentleman didn’t leave his name. Just wanted it to go to ‘the lad’.” 

“The lad?” Eden asked, “He’s like. Forty.” 

“Easy on.” Charlie grumbled, “I’m ‘like’ thirty-five.” 

“Jesus, I thought you were twenty-nine.” Said Matthew, bemused. 

“Twenty-nine?! You were at my thirtieth birthday party! Give me that letter.” Charlie said, taking it, and looking at the front. It was simply titled ‘For The Lad.’ He tried to think of who would call him ‘the lad’ and only one person came to mind. His father used to call him Charlie Boy, Danny calls him Cee, his mother calls him Honey. He tore into the letter, hardly thinking about it. 


I hope this letter finds you well. I hope it finds you at all. I’m not sure if it’s barer can be trusted but I’m hopeful. You have to stay hopeful in these trying times. 

I heard on the radio that you and Matthew Lawson were in Sydney, and there’s only one reason why you would be going there because you’re looking for something. This is a warning: Stop now, because if you find it then you won’t like what you find. 

A Friend.’ 

Charlie looked up from the letter and silently passed the letter to Matthew, who read it and jumped to his feet, chasing after the nurse who delivered it. Shocked into silence, he looked down at the torn-up envelope, tracing the curves of the letters with his fingers, Eden’s words bouncing off his head like rocks off a window.