WARNING: Contains explicit language and deals with adult themes
The persistent shrill beeping from my bedside alarm dragged me back to reality like a press gang hauling a drunk aboard a ship. Without opening my eyes, I swung out an arm and hit the snooze button with more force than intended. The clock shot off the polished wooden shelf and landed on the floor with an ominous clunk.
The word felt foreign in my mouth, my tongue dry and swollen. It was just another side-effect of the sleeping pills – waking with a hangover despite not drinking. Was a life without alcohol meant to be this hard?
I peeled one eye open and looked at my watch. The luminous dots around the dial glowed in the darkness. Over eight hours with no nightmares. Part of me missed being haunted by Amber, but I needed my sleep.
Throwing off the sheet, I wormed myself down to the foot of the berth and dropped my legs off the end. Sitting up felt like gravity had doubled during the night. I rubbed my face to massage some life into my features and pushed my hands against the low deckhead to stretch my back. The overhead perspex hatch was still dark, just revealing a warped view of the twinkling stars. The sun was reluctant to rise, and I knew how it felt.
It had been several months since I needed to get up early, but today marked my return to work in the big smoke of Brisbane. I stood and stumbled into the head, switching on the light in the small closet of a bathroom. I glimpsed my reflection and leant on the sink to stare at my face. For someone yet to reach forty, there were too many wrinkles surrounding my dull, muddy-blue eyes, though the events of the past eighteen months were enough to have aged Galadriel.
Despite a year in the tropics, my tan was already fading, but the stubble was gone and I had a new haircut to match. I splashed some water on my face and ran my fingers through my short, spiky brown hair. At least I hadn’t gone bald.
“C’mon Jono. You wanted this. Now get your arse into gear.”
About fifteen minutes later, I had showered and dressed in my uniform. Opening my cabin door, I walked through to the saloon and fired up the coffee machine for the first brew of the day. As the living area filled with a wonderful heady aroma, I looked around my teak-trimmed floating abode. Ever since I saw this beautiful fifty-two-foot Irwin ketch, it was love at first sight. The previous owner had to leave for the US and needed a quick sale, so I landed a bargain. I hoped it would provide me the fresh start I was so desperate to find, but only time would tell.
The coffee finished percolating and I sipped the scalding liquid before carrying my cup up the steps to the cockpit. Relaxing back on the cushioned bench, I took another sip and watched as the sun tainted the horizon behind the mast-spawned latticework of the Newport Marina skyline. A light breeze caused loose halyards to tap against their masts, creating that unique sound of moored sailing boats.
I looked up at the sky as the stars began to relinquish their hold on the heavens. I’d always wanted a yacht. The freedom they represented. The potential for travel, the promise of exploration and adventure. Before I came back to South East Queensland, I sold my old place in Sandgate. There were too many memories there, built into the walls like fixtures I couldn’t remove. The house was easy to walk away from, and moving into a marina forced me to declutter.
Draining the dregs of my coffee, I returned below deck and grabbed a bowl of cereal. After rinsing the dishes, I opened the drawer with my work things and went through the ritual of loading up my uniform. Pens, notebook, keys, sunnies, ID badge, reference cards, torch. Each item had its assigned place. The colourful paediatric tourniquet gave me a moment’s pause. It was like a talisman for me, always carried in the hope its mere presence would act to ward off any jobs with sick kids.
I smiled at my superstition, but still threw the multi-coloured strap into my left trouser pocket. I was about to close the drawer when I spotted the tiny Bluetooth earpiece that belonged to my friend, Detective Giallo. Picking up the gadget, my mind flashed back to all the mayhem on Mornington Island. It’s amazing how inanimate objects can spark such emotions and memories. I shrugged and dropped it in my top pocket. Perhaps it would give me an excuse to see Gee today, if the shift wasn’t too hectic.
Clipping my utility belt around my waist, I grabbed my phone off its charger and climbed out of the saloon. After locking the hatch, I jumped from the deck and strolled off down the floating walkway, glancing at my watch: 5:40 AM. Plenty of time to make it to Chermside. I really didn’t want to be late today. The first meeting with my new station officer, Cameron Wilson, was scheduled before the start of shift. Now, to say I had a chequered experience with previous line managers was, at the very least, an understatement. But this time I was determined things would be different. A positive attitude would help. I could be affable, I could jump through any hoops he threw my way. A manager was simply another human trying to do their best. We were all just team players with the same goal. There you go Jono, positivity. Too easy.