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Authors: Sam Hawksmoor

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BOOK: The Repossession
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9
Marshall

The sun streamed in from an uncanny clear sky. The yard was steaming outside in the heat and it was hard to believe there had been a deluge around the old farm.

Marshall sat on a straw bale and contemplated the view before him. A pig, definitely not his pig – he had never owned a pig – was sound asleep where it had made a bed for itself. The pig was a handsome animal, somewhat muddy, but it had an elegant long snout and had been most likely well cared for back where it came from. There might or might not be a branding mark on its backside, hard to tell under the mud. There were two teenagers asleep at the top of the stack and he could see by the state of their feet, all bloodied under the layers of mud, that they’d been through quite a lot.

Marshall felt for his pipe and remembered he’d left it in the kitchen. He’d long ago given up smoking, but was unable to surrender the pipe itself. He looked back into the yard and beyond where the power line stood at an angle. The power was probably down right

across the valley after the storm, the ground simply washed away from under the pylons in some places.

The valley itself was underwater. Some farms would probably never recover, but then again, the water would find a way out. It had before, back in ’77 when he was a kid. That’s when they’d built the wall alongside the river.

Built it to exactly one metre higher than the breach of ’77 and here they were all over again with a wall crumbled before the force of nature.

Which brought him back to the kids and the stray pig. Had they brought the pig with them? The chances of a pig ending up here were so remote it was going to be an interesting story when he heard it.

He hadn’t inspected the barn since he’d made the cider last fall. He generally took a tour of everything he owned after a storm. He had been lucky, no damage except to the barn roof. No problem to fix it. The boy would probably help him if he asked.

Who were they? How long had they been gone? He wondered if they were like the others.

Rian woke first. He saw the man sat on the straw bale looking up at them. He looked at Genie still asleep, curled up tight to him, her fingers tucked into his shirt.

He shook her a little and her eyes fluttered.

‘Genie,’ he whispered, immediately aware his voice

sounded strange. ‘Wake up.’

Genie sat up. Instantly awake, trying to reorient herself. She was in a barn. She wasn’t in her bedroom.

She was with Rian. It wasn’t a dream.

Rian sort of acknowledged the man watching them.

Tried to clear his throat.

‘Sorry. We needed shelter.’ He was surprised by the sound of his voice sounding and feeling scratchy.

There was a lump growing in his throat too. Not a good sign.

Marshall pointed at the pig with his pipe. ‘That yours?’

Rian and Genie looked down over the bales and there was the magnificent pig sprawled out as happy as could be, snoring.

Genie smiled. She looked at the man. ‘Pig saved my life.’

Marshall nodded. ‘Pig’s a smart animal. I asked if it was yours?’

Genie shook her head. ‘Got washed down the river with everything else, I guess.’ She coughed. Her throat was tight and sore. ‘We clung on together and he followed me here. It’s huge. I can’t believe it. Long walk too – for a pig.’

Marshall could judge a lot by what people said, or didn’t say. The surprise in the girl’s face was genuine.

And it was she who had saved the pig and that was more than most would do.

‘It’s a Tamworth sow. She’s a grower, good sixty kilograms I’d say. Nice ruddy colour too. Someone would be proud to own such a pig.’

Genie looked down at the pig a moment and saw its feet shake. She felt quite attached to the beast.

‘Where you from?’ Marshall asked.

‘Spurlake.’ Rian had planned to lie but it just slipped out automatically.

Marshall nodded. Closest town.

‘The Paramount Steakhouse on Peak is my favourite.’

Genie glanced at Rian, puzzled. She didn’t know it.

‘Hate to tell you, Mister, but they must of torn it down years ago. We never heard of it,’ Rian confessed. Didn’t want to upset the guy an’ all.

Marshall stood up and smiled. ‘I know that. Just testing. Breakfast?’ He looked at the pig a moment. ‘I’ll leave out the bacon.’

Genie smiled. ‘I should hope so. It’s quite sensitive.’

She tried to straighten her hair. She was a mess. ‘We got anything for the pig?’

‘Some apples, some cereal. They’ll pretty much eat anything,’ Marshall mused. He moved over to the side and pulled out a small bucket and filled it from a tap on

the wall. ‘I got a paddock I used to use for my horses.

It can live there for now until we find its owner.’ He brought the water over and left it a few feet away from the pig. ‘Got to give them plenty of water. Pigs are like humans, they like to drink.’

Rian climbed down first and waited for Genie to join him. The pig opened an eye but didn’t seem too bothered by the activity.

Genie slid down the ladder and landed on her feet too hard. She looked at the gash on her arm and realized it was sore. ‘Ouch.’

‘You’re pretty cut up,’ Marshall commented. He saw the bruises now that the light was on her face. ‘What happened to your face, girl?’ He narrowed his eyes at Rian as if reappraising him. ‘Want to tell me how she got so cut and bruised, boy?’

‘Not me, sir. That’s why we’re here, sir. On account of the bruises and . . .’

Genie walked up to the man. Let him see up close what kind of shape she was in. ‘My mother.’ She said nothing else.

Marshall nodded and turned. ‘Close the lower half of the door as you leave so the pig can’t get out. I’ll send you back with some food for it in a while.’

Rian and Genie snatched a look at each other. No

choice but to trust him. Genie looked at the pig pretending to sleep. It was wary now, but she had a feeling it had no need to be. She hoped the man was OK. You could never really tell about people. Not right away. She caught her reflection in an old mottled mirror propped up on the wall and suddenly she remembered her nightmare. She literally stopped in her tracks and froze.

‘What?’ Rian asked. ‘Genie? What’s wrong?’ He could see that she had turned ghostly white.

She had remembered something else that spooked her now.

‘Denis Malone. He’s dead. I remember now. They found him in Feather Creek last May. Buried him. Half the school went to the funeral.’

‘You OK?’ Rian asked. He sort of remembered something about the kid. Been missing for so long. Made the local paper when his body turned up.

‘He was in my dream last night, but he wasn’t dead.’

‘Well, it
was
a dream.’ Rian told her. ‘You don’t want to be dreaming of dead people.’

‘I didn’t dream of dead people,’ Genie protested. ‘He was as alive as you or me and just the same. I mean, he was still thirteen or whatever. Hadn’t aged a bit. He told me to run. It was weird, Ri. He was naked, well almost. Had this big red scar on his shoulder, like

he’d been hit by a bolt of lightning. It was a huge place filled with hundreds of computers. So hot, I woke up choking.’

Rian took her arm and squeezed. ‘You were feverish after being in the water, Gen. That’s all. Remember, I said you were hot when I arrived. Dreams are weird; you always remember stuff you just don’t want to. Naked?

Sure it wasn’t one of
those
dreams?’

Genie frowned, attempted a weak smile. ‘I promise you I have never once thought about Denis Malone, with or without clothes. It wasn’t one of
those
dreams. It was a warning of some kind. I’m sure.’ Nevertheless, Rian was probably right. Just because a dream was vivid, it didn’t mean it was significant or anything.

She pointed towards Marshall, patiently waiting for them outside the barn. She took a deep breath and smiled at Rian. ‘We’re lucky to be alive, Ri. We really are.’

Then they were outside in the sunlight, blinking, astonished the bad weather could have vanished so completely. Marshall was still observing them closely.

‘Where were you two headed?’ he asked casually.

Rian squeezed Genie’s hand to indicate he was going to answer this. ‘We were staying on a friend’s houseboat.

By Coho Creek. I’ve been doing maintenance.’ His voice was all over the place and sounded weird.

‘Premier MacLean’s old tub? Didn’t know it was still habitable.’

‘Huge tree hit it,’ Genie said. ‘Ripped the roof clean off.

Scariest moment of my life.’

Marshall digested this information. ‘So you were . . .’

‘Hiding from my mother,’ Genie jumped in. ‘I’d like to stay hidden if you didn’t mind, sir. If you were thinking of making a call.’

Marshall liked her courage. These kids were very close, he could see that.

‘Phone and power are out. I’m not calling anyone.

None of my business. I just like to make sure no one is doing anything against his or her will. I’m old-fashioned, but I’m not a man to stand in the way of young love. Been in love myself once or twice. Believe it or not.’

Rian smiled. Genie was still wary however. She wasn’t used to trusting adults. He’d seemed pretty calm about them being in his barn. Some people might have just reached for their shotgun and run them off their land.

She noted that he had a limp. They followed him down the track towards his house, both hoping he could be trusted.

10
Spurlake

Spurlake was a disaster zone. Trees uprooted, blocking roads or crushing roofs, streets and houses flooded, cars up-ended, trucks overturned, some parked on top of houses. Six neighbourhood streets and the homes were completely flooded, all the way to the eaves, with families with river-front properties camping out on the roofs, scared to leave in case of looters. Everywhere people were yelling for a lost dog or cat. Spurlake wasn’t a big town, but the sudden water and hurricane strength wind had devastated much of it, torn down the mall, ripped the roofs of two school buildings and the Veterans’ Hall.

People everywhere were stunned by the damage.

Mrs Tulane surveyed the debris from her driveway.

She’d been lucky, the street was flooded but her home was on a small slope and the water had stopped short of her door. Mr Yates came wading through the water, back from a mission to find out what had happened. He had arrived by kayak this morning, the roads being impassable in places. He was pleased with himself for being so

resourceful. He was still wearing slicks, but perspiring now the sun had come out.

‘Any word of Rian?’

He waved to her as he approached. ‘Sorry. Can’t get any sense out of anyone. The police and rescue services are getting a “Missing” list together. Everyone in Gunny House perished. Lightning hit the home and it burned before the water hit. Sixty old folk sniffed out just like that. They say they think nearly two hundred drowned in Spurlake alone. Worst natural disaster for thirty years. Everyone is going to hate insurers. No one ever notices the “Act of God” clause on their policies until about now.’

‘You’re not helping, Jim. Did you check Rian’s room like I asked?’

Jim Yates righted an upturned garden chair and sat on it facing her. He looked pretty serious suddenly. ‘He’s gone, Fern. Backpack, toothbrush gone. Accept it, the boy’s gone.’

‘But no note?’

‘No note. Although I guess it could have blown out of the window. It was wide open and his bed’s soaked. Face it, Fern. He went to rescue the Munby girl. I heard it from Officer Miller. Someone ripped the bars out of her window and drove off with her just before the storm

hit. They could be anywhere.’

Fern Tulane thought about it a moment. She hadn’t really thought Rian was that concerned about the girl, but clearly she had misread the signals. Stupid of her.

She had to admire his determination, though. Ripped the bars out of the girl’s window. The power of young love.

Nothing like that had ever happened to her, she thought with bitterness.

‘Look, I’ll check with Officer Miller again,’ Mr Yates was saying. ‘But if Rian got her out of town before the storm, that has to be good, right?’

‘But where would he take her? He doesn’t have a car. Did you ask Tunis, next door? He plays basketball with him.’

‘Yeah, I checked with them. They’re worried too. Tunis didn’t come home last night either and he hasn’t called.’

Mr Yates was just glad Rian had gone. Annoying little argumentative bastard.

‘What about the boat?’ Mrs Tulane remembered. ‘His summer job, remember? He was doing up a boat.’

‘Premier MacLean’s old hunting boat? Yeah. Well. Yeah.

If I was going to take a girl somewhere private – that’s exactly where I’d go.’

Mrs Tulane looked at Mr Yates with fresh eyes. ‘At least I’d know where to look, Jim.’

‘I never . . . I . . .’ he spluttered. ‘Fern, you know I was only being hypothetical.’

‘You are always hypothetical, Jim. Get the keys to the Range Rover. We’re going down to the river. I want to get my boy back before he disappears with the rest of them.’

Mr Yates rose reluctantly. ‘I don’t think the roads are open, Fern.’

Fern turned her wheelchair towards the vehicle. ‘That’s why I own a four-by-four. Let’s go. Before they move on.’

Officer Miller came up for air, sucked in as much as he could, then dived again. The water was cold, filthy, mixed with oil. No time to wait for help. There was someone trapped down there, still alive. He’d seen someone waving a flashlight from inside one of the flooded homes.

No amount of training prepared you for this kind of devastation. A whole row of homes underwater. You’d think everyone would have been evacuated, but experience told him that there was always someone, always one person who didn’t leave, who wanted to stay to protect their property, even though if they’d thought about it for a minute they would have realized that the house was ruined the moment the water flooded the ground floor.

He entered via an upstairs window. Swam through two

rooms. Kicking a door open under water was tough. He braced himself against a far wall and kicked as hard as he could, his chest already bursting with the pressure.

BOOK: The Repossession
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