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‘Do you feel it?’ she asks, her hands curling a little firmer around Oda’s throat, her thumb pressing into the soft flesh above the clavicle. ‘Right there. That’s where the darkest bruise was. The pressure there is what killed her.’

Oda shifts back on the bed as Fi’s hands weigh a little heavier. They’re still powdery from the insides of her surgical gloves, the smooth elastane of her yoga pants brushing against Oda’s bare hip. She brings her hand up to circle Fi’s wrist and she means to pull her off, means to roll her away, but Oda just holds it, watching as Fi’s perfect face cracks.


Oda’s unit isn’t brought in on the case of the Triffid twins until one of them shows up dead—a ring of bruises around her broken neck, the rest of her little body otherwise untouched, hidden in the grevillea bushes of the family yard.

‘Do we have a time of death yet?’ Oda asks, and Marta rests back on her haunches, tilting her head from side to side, humming as she makes approximations.

The Triffids’ house isn’t quite as large as Oda had expected, at least not for this neighbourhood, which seems to revel in a sort of grandiosity that she’s unused to outside of daytime soaps or lavish BBC period dramas. Still, the wealth of the family speaks in other ways, she supposes—in the signature heavy artwork hanging on the walls, the deep folds of heavenly couches and the high-quality polish on their dead eight-year-old’s fingernails.

‘I’d say two days, roughly, based on rigor mortis only just starting to subside. Though I won’t be able to give you any exacts until I get her to the lab.’

Oda nods, looking past Marta back towards the house and watching as the Triffid mother bows forwards, her hands trembling as she tries to find purchase on her knees—tries to ground herself in her grief. Her husband stands tall and steady beside her, red creeping up from beneath the collar of his shirt, blooming at his neck.

‘And the sister?’

‘No sign of her yet. Apparently she’s prone to wandering off. The parents are beside themselves, of course.’

‘Of course,’ Oda agrees, watching as her colleague Ripley lowers his notebook, rummaging in the pocket of his slacks for a crumpled tissue to offer to the weeping mother.

‘Any thoughts so far?’

‘I mean,’ Marta says with a shrug, ‘it’s always the father, isn’t it?’


Ripley swears as a dollop of ketchup escapes the bottom of his cheeseburger, landing with a splat on the linoleum-topped table.

‘You really couldn’t wait?’ Oda asks, not taking her gaze off the photographs of the dead Triffid twin. The girl is dressed in a long, frilly white nightie that makes her look like she belongs in something gothic and rabid—Wuthering Heights or The Turn of the Screw. The whole innocence-lost thing that Oda’s sister will talk her ear off about after a few glasses of chardonnay (it’s not her fault, she’s an academic). Point is, it’s almost out of place with the sleekly modern house and the well-tended suburban yard they’d found her in.

Hell, there’s not a spot of blood, barely even a grass stain, on the poor thing. So she’d been moved, Oda thinks, putting down the pictures. Maybe even re-dressed.

‘She’s like Australia’s own JonBenét,’ Ripley says, and Oda arches an eyebrow over at him. He seems to take it as an indication of interest instead of judgement, gesturing at her with his burger. ‘Little girl with a big future, rolled out to show off. Weird family who covered up her murder. All she’s missing is the brother and the ransom note penned by Mum.’

Oda’s second eyebrow rises to meet the first, and Ripley gives her a mawkish grin. They’ve only been partners for a few months and he always feels somehow impossibly young to her—he still struggles to grow a beard beyond post-pubescent fuzz, for god’s sake—but never younger than in these moments when he espouses everything he’s learned about crime from avid podcast-listening and Netflix documentaries, a boyish spark to his eye.

‘All I’m saying is, it’s always the parents.’ He takes another bite out of his burger. ‘And come on. Usually the dad.’

‘JonBenét’s case is unsolved,’ Oda says dryly, her eyes skirting back down to the crime scene photos.

‘Is it, though?’ he asks, starting to hum The X-Files theme as he takes another bite.


She shouldn’t take them home, knows she shouldn’t, but there’s something to looking at them away from the others that clears her head—something about her office, the smell of dinner curling through the doorway, the sounds of the neighbours watching MasterChef climbing the cedarwood fence between their houses.

Or maybe it’s just the gin.

‘Want to talk about it?’

Oda glances up, surprised to find Fi in the doorway. She’s still in her hospital scrubs, leaning hard into the doorframe, and Oda knows she’ll be able to feel it tonight, the indent of tension marked in the soft flesh of Fi’s hip.

There had been a time they’d done that—back when they were still young, or at least younger—when they’d thought the best way to confront trauma was to face it every night. That the only way to heal something was to never let it rest. When Fi’s pain had been something romantic and haunting, instead of a hunger that would never be sated, a monster that would never be full.

Oda leans back in her chair, folding her arms across her chest as she takes in her wife.

‘I thought we weren’t doing that anymore,’ she says, because sometimes she needs to hear it as much as Fi does.

Tilting her head, Fi just looks at her, her blonde hair tumbling out of the messy bun she’s set it in. There’s no way she doesn’t know. The case has made news, amber alerts sucking up everyone’s Facebook feeds in the hope of finding the missing twin and the fear she’d be found like her sister casting a shadow on every post.

‘I’m okay,’ Fi says, finally stepping the rest of the way into the room. ‘Just want to make sure you are too.’

Oda swipes the photographs off the top of her desk, shoving them into the top drawer, and shrugs when Fi gives her an amused look in response.

‘Hard to unsee,’ is all Oda says, as though Fi doesn’t spend her days holding the threads of life in her hands at the hospital.

‘Talk to me about it then,’ Fi replies easily, as the television next door cuts to a commercial.


She can still feel Fi’s thumb at her throat the next day as she sits opposite the Triffid father, Ripley sprawled in his seat beside her.

‘I’ve already spoken to the police,’ Triffid tells them, arms hanging limp at his side. He’s sweating. The moisture soaks into the armpits of his otherwise crisp blue shirt, a bead of it pearls at his forehead. It’s not particularly hot, Oda thinks, taking him in, but some people do run warm.

‘Humour us,’ Oda says, leaning back in her seat.

Mr Triffid is not a particularly unusual man—he’s an average height, mousy brown hair with the first threads of silver spinning at his temples. He has bad posture, a slight hump at his neck from too long poring over a computer. He’s a corporate accountant, so it isn’t a surprise. One with a trophy wife: an ex-beauty queen, briefly a realtor, now a stay-at-home mother running an anti-vaxxer Facebook group, which is perhaps even less surprising. The profile had built simply, and Oda wonders how easy it is to draw stats on a man—average, average, average. Except with wealth, but he inherited most of that. The Triffid family fortune: passed down through the generations, father-to-son-to-son-to-son, and quiet, in that way that old money prefers over the new.

She tunes back in to hear the story she read in an earlier report.

He’d taken the twins to a new fishing spot over the weekend, then taken them for McDonald’s on the way home. Put them to bed. Woke up the next day to them both missing. Woke up the day after that to one dead in his yard.

‘I don’t know why you’re still talking to me about this,’ he says, his hands slamming down on the table. ‘The man who killed my daughter is still out there. Christ, he still has one of them. Find her.’


‘His wife was leaving him,’ Ripley says, still wiping the mayonnaise from his sandwich from the corners of his mouth. Oda looks over to him.

‘How do you figure that?’

‘Sixth sense,’ he says, tapping his nose, and then he laughs at Oda’s expression, a little bashfully. He opens the manila folder in front of him, sliding a few sheets of paper towards her. ‘She said something vague to me the other day. Got the forensic accountant to have a look. She’d been stowing money in a secret account for almost two years. Bought an apartment in Melbourne, spoken to schools there about getting the girls in. Hadn’t talked to a divorce lawyer yet, but IT says she’d looked a few up. Even drafted an email to one.’

‘In secret?’ Oda asks, and Ripley nods.

‘Domestic Violence 101.’

Oda tilts her head from side to side, looking down at the paperwork.

‘It’s always the father, just like it’s always the boyfriend, right?’ Ripley says, balling up his napkin and tossing it in a neat arc into the bin in the corner. He speaks with the authority of a cop with years on the squad.

But she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t felt it too. Couldn’t smell it on the guy, and hadn’t seen it in the way he’d hidden the bruises on his knuckles, one of them split… Only the bruises on the Triffid girl’s neck were from a thumb, not a knuckle. She touches her throat unconsciously, thinking of Fi’s hands there, holding her tight. Then she stops, bites the inside of her cheek.

There’s still another twin to find.


She gets home to the lights off and the neighbour’s cat in their yard, mewing as she slinks between Oda’s legs. There’s a note on the bench when she lets herself in. Emergency surgery. Don’t wait up. Casserole in oven.

Dropping her keys to the bench, Oda rubs a hand against her clavicle, thumb dipping in. There are dishes to be done by the sink, the oven is off but the casserole dish is in it, and Oda steps over, switching it on, startling slightly when there’s another mew at her feet.

‘Hey, you,’ she hums, next door’s cat pressing itself against her calf, calico fur soft even through Oda’s pant legs. She leans down, pets it behind the head, smiling when it purrs, pushing its neck up into her touch. But Oda frowns, her gaze catching. There on the floor, kicked beneath the kitchen island, is a tissue—damp with tears, black with mascara, forgotten.


‘Did Mrs Triffid ever mention she was moving the girls?’

The teacher shakes her head, pulling a cigarette from the packet on her desk. She holds it up, as if offering, and Oda shrugs, watching as the woman lights it easily. There are kids calling from the playground outside, one bunch playing tiggy, another clutched together not far from the window, listening to loud beauty tutorials on YouTube; Oda would close the window if not for the damp Brisbane heat.

‘Do you know anything about Charlotte? Any leads on where she might be?’ the teacher asks, and Oda looks carefully back at her.

‘Different department,’ she replies. She’s seen the missing persons team at the station, but they mostly keep to themselves—their urgency in the question, homicide’s in the answer.

The teacher nods, looking away, puffing on her cigarette.

‘They were the kind of kids every teacher wants. Quiet, polite, thoughtful. Their dad was weird, but if I flagged every weird dad, we’d never have one step foot on school grounds again.’

‘Weird how?’

‘Just weird,’ the teacher says with a shrug. ‘Hard to explain unless you have to deal with the guy. But what can you do? The girls never came in hurt, and all you can do is ask them, right?’

Oda nods, looking sideways at Ripley, who’s making a note of this in his book.

‘And the mother?’

‘Nutcase,’ the teacher says. ‘But you’d have to be to put up with him. Way OTT too. Like, over-involved. But, honestly, that’s most of them these days. Uni should have courses on how to manage helicopter parents, y’know? You sure you don’t want a cigarette?’


‘Maybe it was both of them,’ Ripley says. ‘I told you it was like JonBenét. A family affair.’

‘Then why would she be looking at schools in Melbourne for them?’

‘A cover?’ he shrugs, peeling the plastic lid off his coffee and stirring in five sachets of sugar. It could be, Oda thinks, her fingers drifting to her neck.

She thinks about his hands, large and bruised and cut.

He’d only need to use one of them on a girl that small.


She’s in bed when Fi gets home, and she watches her peel out of her scrubs, kick off her crocs. She looks like shit, Oda thinks, her hair tangled, her eyes puffy. Her psoriasis has flared up, leaving skin flaking at her cheek. Oda’s own forehead creases, her tongue darting out to wet her lips.

‘Want to talk about it?’

It’s enough for Fi to turn to look at her, and she shakes her head no, but starts talking anyway.

‘A kid was stabbed, right here.’ She pushes a hand into her own chest, between her breasts. ‘God, he can’t have been older than fourteen. You know what the cops told me? A gang initiation. Fourteen.’

She rubs a hand down her face, and Oda pushes the sheets back, gesturing her in, gesturing her close. And it’s strange still, the relief she feels when Fi takes her up on it, when she presses herself, just in her underwear, against Oda’s sharp side. Her fingers find the back of her wife’s neck, massaging the knots out from it, and she wonders again about him. About his hands. If he touched his wife here, like this, in their own bed.

No, Oda thinks. That’s not a path she wants to go down again.

‘Any news on the twins?’ Fi asks, and Oda looks down at her, catching Fi’s green-grey eyes staring back up at her. Oda wants to tell her it’s what she thinks. She wants to tell her this story is as boring as every other relentless tragedy, an epidemic no one gives a shit about.

‘Nothing worth telling,’ she replies instead, and Fi’s hand settles on her stomach, drawing small circles there with her powdery fingers. Sometimes Oda imagines what they would’ve been like had they met in another life. A happier one, where they don’t meet at the hospital Fi works at. Oda still a beat cop, Fi still an ER doctor, somewhere else, and Oda doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder, and the shadow of him doesn’t lean so heavy on Fi’s back. She imagines herself as a barista or a barrister, an artist, a sex worker, a zookeeper, a scientist.

Oda imagines herself every which way, but Fi is always just Fi. Bright smile and steady hands. Smart, careful, kind.




It’s the teacher who tells them where the fishing spot is, pulling it out of the twins’ homework in a drawing of a tiny alcove and a widened creek, somewhere a few hours north of Brisbane.

The trees rest heavy here, old and lilting, firm in the eroding earth beneath their tendrils. The water laps uncertainly at the shore, receded in the drought, revealing crushed beer cans and the wobbly blue bodies of dead jellyfish, prodded by children with sticks.

It’s Ripley who finds her, a few steps ahead, his chatter of whatever thing he watched last night drying in his throat—and then he’s stumbling back, vomiting in the scrub, sending crabs the size of dollar coins scuttling from his path. Oda steps quickly behind him, already reaching for her phone, calling it in as she stares down at the body of the missing twin, maggots crawling in her eye sockets, her knuckle-bruised little body almost lost among the mangrove shoots.

‘Christ,’ Ripley says, voice hoarse and wet, and Oda’s hand finds his back. ‘Jesus.’

‘You okay?’ she asks, phone still against her ear, waiting for the station to answer.

A loud sob escapes his mouth, but he turns to look at her, nodding. The colour is yet to return to his face and with his eyes wide like this he looks more boyish than usual, as if he was only playing dress-ups in his dad’s suit.

‘Told you it was the father,’ he says, aiming for a joke and missing. But she nods, letting him have it.

‘It usually is.’


It had been Fi’s father too. But Fi had survived, Oda reminds herself, pulling on her pyjamas. More than that, Fi had lived.

She crawls into bed beside her, brushing a hand back through her hair—and it’s Fi who curls closer, trailing her finger from the tip of Oda’s nose down over her lips, her chin, down the long line of her throat. Her fingers dipping into the nook of Oda’s clavicle.

‘You get him?’ she whispers, and Oda nods, kissing her, Fi’s fingers never leaving the base of her throat.

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