I had the window of my ute down, radio on, happily listening to some old tunes as I made my way back home. It had been another long week on site as we continued to improve the highway north to the NSW / Queensland border. Laying bitumen and tarmac is one thing. It’s the digging of tunnels and building of bridges that are the real test. I had started out as one of those men in a hi-vis jacket, hard at work in the middle of the highway, laying all that tar on the road. Now I was the man in a hard-hat and short-sleeved shirt, still in a hi-vis jacket, but also with a clipboard in hand as he oversaw the operation.

I was only twenty minutes from home, eager to see my daughter, at least. The fiancée? Perhaps not as much as my daughter, but I knew the weeks away were tough on her. Tough on us, to be honest. But it came with the job I did. Most of the time, I would be working jobs around the city that mean I would be home every night. But there were times, two or three times a year, I was sent further afield to oversee a project. It’s what all those nights studying had meant. I’d graduated high school and headed straight into the workforce. University never appealed, much to the chagrin of nearly the entire family, but while working, I studied part-time as well, eventually graduating in civil engineering.

Pulling my ute into the car park of the apartment block, nothing seemed untoward. Grabbing my bag, I headed around the communal swinging pool to the apartment. Opening the door, the fact I was greeted with silence was a surprise. Usually my daughter, Katie, a bundle of energy at five years old, would immediately start running towards me. My fiancée, Sally, would at least call out hello from the living room or kitchen.

“Hello, I’m home,” I called out.

I walked into the living room. No sign of anyone there. I walked into the kitchen. No sign of anyone. No food cooking on the stove or in the oven. I walked into our bedroom, and that’s when my stomach started to flip. Hurrying to Katie’s room, there were a few of her things on the floor but I threw open her closet and drawers to see them empty.

“No, no, no,” I muttered to myself, “Where is she?”

Sally’s things were also gone. All her clothes, jewellery, mementoes. I immediately had my phone out to call her. It didn’t connect at all, stating the number was out of service. I walked around the apartment again, and that’s when I found the letter on the fridge. Feeling my hand shaking, I pulled it off and read the contents.


If you’ve walked around the apartment by now, I’m sure it’s obvious to you that I’ve left and have taken Katie with me.

Don’t bother trying to track us down. We’ve been preparing this for months. Your departure for a week simply gave us time to bring it all together. By the time you read this, we will be well out of reach.

Katie will have a new family with a new father. He is more than capable of providing us with everything we need and deserve.


Katie had a phone. It wasn’t technically hers, but it was so I could call her at night before she went to sleep. Sally had given it to her, one of the few bright ideas she had. I tried that number. It was also out of service. I’d called Wednesday. Thursday, no pick up. Sally too…


I looked at the letter. “Who is we? Who is us?” I wondered, “Was she having an affair?”

Stupid question considering it bloody sounded like it. Looking in the fridge, I was surprised to see things still in there. I checked all my things around the apartment. Nothing was missing. I checked online at the joint account. No money had moved, so I at least moved all the money across to my personal, immediately cancelled her credit card, and then grabbed a beer to sit down and just think. I called my best mate, Mick. “Hello, Mark. How’s it going?”

“Mate, have you seen or heard from Sally lately?” His silence told me everything. “Mick?”

“She called on Monday to say she was leaving you.”

“And you didn’t think you’d call me up and tell me?”

“She asked us not to call you.”

“Why?” I growled.

“Said she was leaving you for good reason.”


“And what?”

“Did she give any reason why? Did she say I was violent? Abusive? I frightened her?”

“No, none of that, mate. Not a bad word that way. Said she found a guy who could provide more for her and Katie.”

“And you didn’t think this would be worth picking up the phone and giving your good mate a warning?”

“Me and Simone… We agreed with her.”

“Some fuckin’ friend you are!” I shouted, hanging up immediately. “Who is us?” I asked myself.

I tried two other mates and I got the same spiel. My god, I thought I had friends who would have my back. No accusations were raised against me, it was just a case of ‘She said she was leaving you and not to let you know’. Mick tried calling back half a dozen times before I answered. “What?” I spat.

“Look, mate…”

“Fuck off and fuck you,” I growled, “Some fuckin’ mate you turned out to be.”

“Don’t go off the deep end, mate. It’s for the best.”

“I’m not your mate, you worthless cunt. Fuck off.”

I hung up again. He tried half a dozen times again before finally giving up.

I called 000 and reported my daughter as a missing person. Couldn’t give a shit about Sally but I wasn’t going to lose my daughter without a fight. They asked me a series of questions over the phone before asking me to pop in the next day. I figured a Saturday was unusual but I said I’d be there at the appointed time. I sat on the couch and thought some more. If my friends already knew, surely… I almost growled with rage as I knew, just knew, my family was somehow involved in this. They’d never approved of anything I’d done in life. Rugby league as a sport over whatever they wanted me to do. Manual work compared to sitting in an air-conditioned office. Wanting to live my own life instead of suckling at the family teat. Let’s just say my family and I don’t really get along. They’re arrogant, pompous tossers while they have no problem expressing their disappointment in what I’ve chosen to do. Apparently anything except for lawyer, doctor or being some sort of financial whizz is beneath the family.

Getting in my ute, I caught the highway heading to the eastern suburbs, where the rich loved to flaunt their wealth. Most of them are stuck up cunts and I was glad to move out as soon as I could. I’d been sent to schools nearby, full of pretentious little fuckwits. My siblings were the same as them. Little wonder I practically despised the lot of them. How I ended up in that family beggared belief.

The knot in my stomach only increased the longer I drove. By the time I was parked up outside their house, I was full of nervous adrenaline. I’m not sure if it was a sixth sense, or just knowing what my family was like, but that bad feeling was crawling up my spine as I passed through the gate and up the long drive to the house. I heard conversation and laughter from the rear. No doubt another one of their garden parties. I was rarely invited nowadays. My face didn’t fit with all their wanker friends. At least the front door was open, so I just strolled on in. The house had barely changed, at least in the past couple of years. Two living rooms, enormous kitchen and dining room, study downstairs. Four bedrooms upstairs. Bathrooms on both levels.

Walking out the back, the conversation ceased immediately as a few faces stared in my direction. My mother immediately looked concerned. My older brother gawped at me. My younger sister looked frightened. “To what do we owe the pleasure?” my father asked, sneering down his nose at me. Given I hadn’t changed; I was out of place in his eyes.

“Where’s my daughter?”

“Somewhere better.”

“What do you mean ‘somewhere better’? Enlighten me, oh wise one?”

“No needs for sarcasm, Mark,” my mother stated. God, I hated her pretentious tone.

I glared daggers at her and she wisely shut up, looking away. “Where is my daughter? Where is my fiancée?”

“Your fiancée is with a better man. Therefore, your daughter is with someone who can provide her with a better life.”

“So… you know what’s happened?” I asked carefully, enunciating each word slowly.

“Of course, we do. We introduced her to him a year ago. They left today for somewhere far away, as in no longer in this country. I would suggest you just forget about them. It would be the best for everyone concerned. If you have nothing else on your mind, we’re done here. You can run along now.”

I’ll admit, I lost it. I strode forward and landed a punch straight in his jaw. Fucker went down like a sack of spuds. Consternation immediately as mother went to his side, yelling something I couldn’t understand with all the screeching. My sister wisely backed away. Brother stepped forward, squaring up. I had two inches of height and ten kilos of muscle on him. I figured I had a murderous look in my eyes and he wisely backed away, hands up to placate me. Leaning down, I grabbed my father by the hair and dragged him up and into a seat. Making sure I kept everyone else in view, I asked, “Where is my daughter?”

“Out of your miserable, pathetic life. We’ve ensured she’ll have the best of everything. Better than whatever sort of lifestyle you could provide.”

I took a couple of steps back and looked over all of them. In that instant, I saw them all in a new light. I’d always known but now this… “I would say I don’t believe it,” I whispered, “But…” I shuddered as the truth hit home. “Who the fuck are you people?” I asked softly, “To do this to your own… No, not son. I refuse to believe I come from the same blood as you lot.” I looked at the woman standing next to him. “I refuse to believe any mother would do this to their own child, to rip his own child away like this.” I looked down at the man. “And as for father, you’ve barely been one my entire life. All you’ve ever cared about is money and status, and while you might have poisoned their minds,” I gestured towards the man and woman who were apparently my siblings, “You never managed to convince me. There’s more to life than all this bullshit. I’d found it too.” I grabbed him by the collar. “But you, you piece of shit, got your claws into the woman I loved and now I’ve lost the only gift that ever actually mattered to me.”

I put my fist into his gut, bending him over. “Mark, please,” Cheryl stated, the woman I once called ‘Mum’.

“You knew all about this, bitch,” I growled, glaring in her direction, “So please kindly shut the fuck up.”

“I’m your mother! You will not…”

I glared at her again as I pushed John back into the chair. “No, you’re not. You might have given birth to me, but that’s where your motherhood ended. You’re no better than this piece of shit. The only reason I don’t slap the shit out of you is that you’re a woman, and I do have some sort of moral fibre within.” I put my hand to his throat. “The only reason I don’t squeeze harder, John, is that I will see my daughter again one day, but it won’t be from behind bars. And you’re not worth the prison sentence.” I let him go as he gasped for air, turning around to look over the party. “You,” I said, pointing at Brian, “Are not better than this cunt here. I ever see you again, it’ll be too fucking soon. You want to go toe to toe, though, be my guest. I’ll put you in the fucking ground. And you, Kelly… Well, less said about you, the better. Worthless fucking whore is the one phrase that springs to mind though.” I sighed with relief. “Well, I’m not sure about you, but this has been grand. Now, don’t mind me, I’ve got a daughter to find. So, I’ll give you this as a parting gift,” I flipped them the bird, “And let us hope we’ll never meet again.”

“I’m going to have the book thrown at you,” John threatened.

I leaned over him, glaring into his eyes, amused that he shrunk back in the chair. “Honestly, John, I really don’t care right now. Do what you want. But I promise you this. The day I get out of prison, the next day I will kill you.” I patted his cheek, his eyes wide with fear. He knew the hate I held for him, now come to fruition. “You took my daughter from me. The one thing in my life I cherished above all else. The fact you did that to me speaks volumes of you as a man. Not as a father, you lost that title a long fucking time ago. And I have no doubt the bitch behind you was as involved, and those two worthless shits over there probably knew all about. So, you really think I’ll be concerned about taking your life in return? I’ll probably have a fucking hard on while I do it.”

I hit him again, knocking him unconscious. Without a backwards glance, I strode out of the house, vowing to never return in my lifetime. Getting into my ute, I was ravenous so stopped off for a takeaway on the way home. By the time I pulled into the car park outside my apartment, it was dark and I noticed the police car waiting for me. I wasn’t going to go on the run so I hopped out and strolled to my front door. They were busy knocking so I introduced myself. “Mark Samuels, officers. Is there a problem?”

“We’ve been notified of an incident occurring at the residence of John and Cheryl Samuels. We were hoping to ask you a few questions.”

“Here or at the station? Am I under arrest?”

“If you come to the station with us now, we won’t cuff you, at least.”

“Very well, lead the way.”

I’d never been in the back of a police car before so that was an experience. I didn’t make chit-chat with them, glancing out the window. In the silence, I knew everything I recognised had collapsed. No partner. No daughter. No family. Hell, no friends if they’d all known about it and not told me. It was while riding along that I felt completely and utterly alone. Once at the cop shop, they escorted me in, took my details, then led me to a cell, stating I’d be interviewed in the morning. I felt rather drained after everything, but I found sleep hard to find. My mind whirled as I wondered where my daughter was. Was she safe? Who else was she with? And the overriding question was… Why? I’d been fed bullshit about ‘a better life’, but Katie had been nothing but happy. I doted on that child like nothing else. Apple of my fucking eye. I’d have moved heaven and earth for her, just to hear one of her giggles.

That’s when the tears came. Because I knew they hadn’t been lying. And I knew the chances were simply slim to none if she was beyond the borders.

She was gone.

The interview the next morning, after being given a brew, was when reality had set in. I felt… empty. I went over in detail everything that happened since arriving back home the previous evening, all the conversations I’d had, the letter I’d found, then the confrontation with John and the others. They knew I’d logged my daughter as a missing person, but apparently that was already settled. John and Cheryl had already been in, stating they had left the country and were not missing. No missing people. No kidnapping, insinuating, well, I could understand considering I’d knocked the fucker out.

“Surely it’s illegal to take my child out of the country without my permission?” I wondered.

“It is but… let’s say guards are more eagle eyed upon those entering rather than leaving the country,” one of the cops said, “If your child was with a man and woman who looked like her parents, particularly if she’s with her mother, it wouldn’t raise many eyebrows.”

I sat in the cell most of the day before it opened, I assumed late afternoon. “You’re free to go,” the cop said.

“I am?” I asked, surprised to hear those four words. I was expecting to face a day in court, charges read, a bail hearing… A massive fine or at least a few weeks in the slammer.

“John Samuels isn’t going to press any charges. Good thing for you that’s how it is here.”

“Huh. Wonder why?” I muttered, but I didn’t care. They were no longer my problem. I grabbed my things, signed a few forms, and after a rather stern talking to about staying out of trouble, I headed outside.

Walking into my empty, quiet apartment, I knew I couldn’t stay there. Far too memories of my daughter. As for Sally, I just burned with anger regarding her. When I’d met her, she’d been a sweet, young thing, and we’d fallen in love quickly. We’d been planning to get married, but she knew my work kept me occupied, and she was apparently meant to be studying while working part time. I was left thinking it was all a charade. Checking my phone, there were plenty of missed calls and messages. I just deleted everything. I no longer cared what people thought.

Monday morning, I handed in my notice into work. My boss was surprised, but after explaining what happened, he understood why. I thought about hiring some sort of PI, but this isn’t the movies, and I don’t think John had lied. Katie had been taken far away. Where? It would take searching data at the airport and… I didn’t even know where they could have possibly headed. I spoke to an estate agent and put the apartment up for a quick sale. I was on eBay ready to sell anything not bolted down after that. Over the next month, I emptied the apartment of everything until I only had a sleeping bag, my phone, a bag of clothes and a small box of mementoes left. Photos of my child, photos of me and my child. Anything with Sally was cut up. She was persona non grata with me now. I changed my surname as I wanted nothing to do with the so-called family I once had. People had come to view the apartment and the estate agent was confident of a quick sale, and that she’d keep in contract regarding it.

Handing in my stuff at work, my boss admitted he was sad to see me go. I said goodbye to some of my colleagues, made a post on social media about the fact I was leaving, never to return, then I headed west.

It wasn’t going to be an exciting adventure. Numbness had set in during the month. More than one so-called ‘friend’ called, tried visiting, but if I did answer, I gave them short shrift. They were all full of excuses that I was tired of hearing. I eventually cancelled the contract and picked up a new number. At least it stopped the calls. Didn’t stop one last visit.

Opening the door, it was my former best friend, Mick. Next to him was his fiancée, Simone. He stepped back at the look in my eyes before he loosened up, ready to defend himself. “We need to talk,” he said.

“No, we don’t,” I said, unable to summon the rage any longer, the only remaining feeling being one of emptiness, “Instead, you’re going to listen to a simple tale, then you’re going to turn around and fuck out of my life forever. Willing to listen or you just want to put your tail between your legs and go now? Either way suits me just fine.”

He shared a glance with his fiancée. To my surprise, she nodded. “We’ll hear whatever you have to say, Mark.”

“Some would believe my life should have been easy. I know I was born with a potential silver spoon. But I learned very quickly what my parents were like, what the people around me were like. I knew early on I wanted nothing to do with it. The sort of wankers that peer down their noses at the ‘lesser beings’.

I’ve earned every cent to my name through hard work and dedication. I thought I had a woman who appreciated that fact and loved me for it. More fool fucking me there. Lesson learned. But I did have a daughter who I doted on, loved more than life itself. Just coming home to her made each day worthwhile, each day of backbreaking work and struggle. To walk in, hear her cute voice shout ‘Daddy!’ before she’d raise her arms so I could pick her up and cuddle her. And I worked all day just to tickle her and hear that giggle.