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Marlin walked outside into the warm end of summer sunshine that squeezed past
the shelterbelt and sprawled like octopus legs over the field of weeds. He
placed the smallest jar about 20 metres from the back end of the workshop. On
the left edge of the property. Right next to the half-grown cedar and
pittosporum shelterbelt. Then he ran back inside to fetch the 9mm Beretta
automatic pistol he kept in the cupboard next to his bed. It was unregistered.
Marlin liked his firearms that way. He wasn’t a hunter or a sports shooter. No,
he just believed that having guns was his business, his right.
Bracing his elbows against the bonnet of his Ute and holding on hard with both
hands, he fired off a round at the jar. It missed, and kicked up a little wisp
of dust. Short and to the left.
He loosened his grip and concentrated harder. Slowly exhaling, dead air vented
out. It sounded like someone had stepped on a rat. He slowly lowered the barrel
on the jar and this time and very gently squeezed the trigger. The second round
struck home and the explosion blew a hole a metre deep and two across. When the
dust and haze settled, he shouted “Christ, just what the doctor ordered.”
On a Saturday afternoon out in the valley, no one noticed what he was up to
except a few blackbirds and starlings that flocked off, squawking hard out. The
noise was normal. For the last few weeks air guns had been going off to keep
birds away from the grape crops. The sound of two pistol shots and a small bomb
explosion just blended in to the usual noise out in the valley. It sounded as if
someone was shooting birds or maybe blowing an old stump.
The next morning 10 kilometres away in town, Kate Black was just back from her
morning swim at the local pool. She was almost religious about it. Forty lengths
a day. Two kilometres. Sometimes a full-out, fast freestyle. Some days, a slow
relaxed backstroke. Kate enjoyed staying in shape. The pool was just part of her
fitness routine. She was also into surfing and Tai Chi. Exercise made her feel
good and look good.
And she was good looking. Tall and thin with long wavy brown hair and big brown
eyes, she turned heads wherever she went. She was a stunner in anybody’s book.
But Kate had her feet flat on the ground. She didn’t let her natural beauty go
to her head or use it to twist men around her finger. She didn't play games.