Chapter TWOMature

So there you are. I’ve spent a fifth of my life as a part-criminal, part-novellist. I’ve made four hundred thousand off my novels so far, and a bonus fifty thousand off my crimes.

          But recently, I’ve been thinking about ending my criminal career. As my relationship with Merlyn grows, my enjoying of crime-committing has lowered at a steep rate. What worries me most is that when I’m married to Merlyn, I will have to tell her the truth about this. I fear that she will most likely either leave me at that very moment, or dob me in straight away. I doubt that I am cut out for even a week in prison.

          Last time I was involved in this criminal activity, I told Gareth about this, and he grimaced. I had never seen him grimace until then. It was designed to strike worry in me, and it succeeded.

          Returning to the present, and I was still holding the note from Gareth. Normally he tells me what we’re going to do and how. Not just where and when.

          But I’ve decided that I won’t worry about it right now. I sighed and placed the letter down on the table.

          I walked out of the dining room, through the lounge room and into my bedroom. I climbed into bed, pulled the covers over me, and closed my eyes.

          But too much was troubling me, and it took me an hour to finally sleep.

 

          Dawn broke, and the letter from last night was driven out of my mind mid-sleep. It wasn’t until I sat down at my table to have breakfast, when I saw it again, that it returned to my mind.

          Don’t worry, my gut told me. I don’t usually listen to my gut, but this time I did.

          So I spent the rest of my day writing and meeting my dietary needs. Once night finally arrived, I grabbed a sandwich (chicken from a few nights ago, with salt and cheese), and walked out the front door, making sure no one was watching.

          Out here, darkness is a big danger. There are nocturnal creatures willing to put up a fight, and if it’s too dark, and you forget to bring light, you can fall in something you never see.

          Luckily, I had my torch. The battery was dying but it was something.

          Station Creek and the Flinders River are, more often than not, dry. Most weekends, you can see a heap of kids playing rugby league or soccer on the riverbed. An event in which the river has enough water to cover the riverbed, it makes the front page of the Flinders Crier.

          Once I reached the intersection of Station Creek and Flinders River, I decided to turn the torch off. Gareth hadn’t arrived yet, but when he did, he wouldn’t want either of us to be caught. And the torch would alert someone that something was up.

          But Gareth never came.

          I began walking around in a small circle, but as the minutes ticked by, I grew increasingly worried. What if he had been caught without my knowledge?

          To confirm, I climbed up the bank of the river, looking over to see if someone was coming.

          But I saw an entirely different thing.

          Hanging on a rope, from a tree, was a dead body. A woman’s, it appeared. Without thinking, I turned my torch back on. Perhaps it was someone I knew.

          The face was mangled. A sawed-off shotgun, lying on a crate, answered the question of why. Despite this, it took mere seconds for me to realise. The dress she wore was all too familiar.

          It was the body of Merlyn Harman.

          For another few seconds, I stood there, staring at her body in disbelief. But her driver’s license, which lay beside the shotgun, showed there was no one else it could be.

          Once I came back to reality, I reached into my pocket for my phone, but it wasn’t there. Left at home.

          I moved to the shotgun, closely. Once again, I didn’t think, and I slowly grabbed the gun.

          Bad move. Almost immediately, a blast, which most likely came from a shotgun similar to this, rang out from the distance. Out in town, a few house lights turned on. People had awoken, most likely wondering what was happening.

          Knowing that I was in danger, I placed the gun neatly on the crate. I turned to leave…

          “Hands up, Koslov! Step away from that shotgun!”

          I never worked out where that came from, nor did I care. Only one thing swam in my mind: ‘run’.

          I turned east, slid down the riverbank onto the bed and ran. I knew I was vulnerable on the riverbed, but I had no choice. I knew some of the coppers would follow me, but if I was lucky and managed to outrun them, I would turn around and head home. Good thing I had managed to hold on to my torch, now turned off and waiting in my pocket.

          Believe it or not, I got my wish almost immediately. I paused and heard nothing. They had given up and gone back to the crime scene.

          I began an exhausted climb up the southern bed of the riverbank. Once out of the river, I turned my torch back on and began a long walk to my house. It was dangerous, and a lot was riding on the hope that they hadn’t worked out that I would try to get to my house, despite my running east.

          However, it seemed I had fooled them. There were no police vehicles, no vehicles at all bar my own Toyota Hilux, and the lights were off, just as I had left them. When I entered, either I really had fooled them, or they were good hiders. For it appeared nothing at all had been moved since I left. My draft for Crime Master 5 remained in the table, in the same pose it would hold while being written, its majestic words waiting for more of their kind.

          A new thought struck me. I had to get away. I couldn’t keep them fooled for much longer. Sooner or later they would come here searching for clues as to why I would have done such a thing. So I quickly searched the house for items I would need while working hard to escape the law.

          Plenty of food and water. Obviously.

          My phone. Police would use the phone call as evidence against me. And even if I could erase it, I wasn’t ready to.

          A sleeping bag. I had no interest in sleeping on the ground.

          My address book. I had plans to visit a few people, and I couldn’t rely on my memory.

          My Swiss Army Knife. Even though I was hoping not to, I had a feeling that I would need to use it.

          A UBD map book of Queensland. Again, memory.

          The note from Gareth. I could use it as evidence. If they eventually captured me. Of course, it wouldn’t be too much use, but I could explain the code.

          And, of course, my draft of Crime Master 5. I wasn’t going to give up writing, even to escape the law.

          I packed it all in my Hilux, started it and drove off.

          With the map book open on the dashboard, I made my way through the streets of Hughenden onto the developmental road that connects the town to Winton. My parents, whom I planned to see first, were in Barcaldine, and if I had fooled the police, I had to keep them fooled. I couldn’t take the fastest route via Muttaburra. I had to take the road through Winton and Longreach.

          As I made my way down the developmental road, a new thought struck me. I had contaminated the crime scene when I touched that shotgun. However, I knew there would be other tracks, not as fresh as those I made, and that Merlyn’s body was carried to the scene. Perhaps they might collect other fingerprints from the real culprit.

          Please, God, let them be smart enough.

The End

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