Something in the way she smiled.

She was a lovely looking girl. Nicely dressed, too. And as soon as I saw her I knew something was wrong.

“I’ve had my purse stolen”, she said in a voice that was a cry for help, “all my money’s gone, but if you can take me home my Mum will pay you.”

The voice had that lilt of the upper classes but I’ve been caught before and I had to think twice about it.

 “Where do you live”, I asked.

“Dover Heights”, was the quick reply, “Mum always leaves a key in the letterbox just in case. I’ll get you the money as soon as we get there”.

As I said she was smartly dressed and her voice did have that sound of the well-educated Eastern Suburbs princess, so off to Dover Heights it was.

We spoke briefly on the way, but she had the ease and charm you often find with the well educated youngsters of today.

It seems that she had been out with friends from school, she was in her last year, celebrating a birthday at the Coogee Bay Hotel and someone must have pinched the bag while she was dancing.

She lived alone with her Mum, her Dad had left some years before, who was a real worrier and usually left a key in the mailbox for emergencies like this.

“Nice kid,” I thought, “nice Mum, too, by the sounds of it”.

It took about ten minutes to reach the house in Dover Heights and young girl jumped out the cab to get the keys from the letter box.

After a quick rummage around, however, she looked towards me and shrugged, it seemed the keys weren’t there, Mum had slipped up for once, and then pointed towards the side passage as if to indicate she was going round to the back door.

I sat back and thought about how much I missed not having had children; a daughter like Annabell, I had discovered earlier that was the young girl’s name, would have been great.

After a few minutes, with no sign of a light going on anywhere, I began to feel a sense of unease.

“Surely not”, I thought, “she can’t have done a runner, she lives here.”

It was with a feeling of misspent trust that I hauled myself out the cab.

The side path wasn’t what it seemed from the road; it wasn’t part of the house at all but a public pathway leading to a flight of stairs which, in turn, led down to a small green with a path leading off that into a trail covered by bushes and thickets.

Annabel, of course, was nowhere in sight, although I thought I heard a whoop of delight in the distance.

I didn’t bother ringing the door bell. I knew she wasn’t there and I somehow knew this wasn’t the first time the delightful Annabel had got herself a free ride home, wherever home was.

Perhaps it was for the best that I had never had children, somehow I don’t think I could have put up with the disappointments they would have brought.