Potatoes dont like the light when theyre growing. They hide under the mulch like nests of little eggs, clean and white, unless the sun gets in and turns them green. Id seen one peeping out so it was time to heap more mulch over them.
Hard physical work is good for numbing. Every now and then I have a day where the memories explode inside my head like long-delayed depth charges, so loud that they deafen me to the whole world. When Connor tapped me on the shoulder I nearly knocked him out, flinging my fist straight back, hitting him in the upper chest.
Shit, Judi! No wonder the kids steer clear of you. He held my fist and only let it go when I jerked it away.
Creep up on me like that and youre lucky youre still alive.
I called your name three times. Didnt you hear me?
No. Id made a grubby mark on his neatly ironed, pristine police shirt. What do you want?
A cuppa would be good. Some of that coffee you keep for special. He tried to make a joke of it but the smile wouldnt stay on his face.
The sweat soaking my Tshirt went cold. Whats up? I said. Come on, spit it out.
Can I have that coffee first?
Fuck. I dropped the spade and headed for the back door, slipping off my gardening shoes before I stepped into the kitchen. Connor followed suit. He knew better than to wear shoes in my house. I boiled the kettle and dug out the very expensive coffee I kept for special occasions, focusing on the simple tasks, measuring the coffee precisely and filling the pot exactly to the number two line Id drawn with a black marker.
Connor sat at the table, fiddling with a pen, flicking it open and shut until I glared at him and he put it down.
I poured the coffee, splashing a long streak of grainy brown liquid on the table, and pushed the milk towards him. Its Andy, isnt it? I said. What hes been arrested again? I dont know why they bother.
My brother had been a drug addict for more than ten years. I only found out about five years ago when he needed money so desperately that even I was a possibility for a loan. As if hed ever pay it back. I didnt give him the chance. I said no. Later, I discovered that his girlfriend was a junkie too. They didnt have a hope, not together.
Connor cleared his throat. Judi Andys dead. Im sorry.
OD, was it? My voice came out sounding cold and distant.
Um, no. He
Dont tell me. The ultimate irony. Car accident.
He they said he was murdered. Connor looked like he was expecting to have to take me in his arms and comfort me. He couldnt have been more wrong.
Murdered. Who did it? Or is Andy going to be on next weeks Crime Stoppers? I wanted to stop this cold, dry voice coming out of my mouth but I couldnt. It was like listening to my father all over again, and I shuddered. Connors hand crept across the table and grabbed mine, holding tightly, feeling warm and human. I gripped him back, hard. It kept me from leaping up, shouting and screaming and smashing everything in the kitchen.
Theyre pretty sure it was a small-time drug dealer, a Vietnamese guy that Andy was seen at the pub with. The knife, well, it had the guys prints on it.
Drugs, again. It had to be that, didnt it? Jesus fucking Christ, why couldnt he kick it once and for all? Why couldnt he Finally the cold voice failed, stopping midstream, dying. Hot tears rolled down my face and dripped onto the table.
Connor tried to stand and come around the table but I held my free hand up, stopping him. He sat again, his face full of pain. Im sorry, he said again.
Yeah, me too. I wiped my face on my Tshirt, then blew my nose on the nearest dishtowel. So they sent you to do the dirty work, did they?
This is my area, but yes, the boss thought it would be best if I came. Connor was part of a small force policing a huge geographic area in central Victoria.
'Well thanks. I sniffed and blew my nose again.
Connor looked away. Theres something else. I said you wouldnt want to, but the guy in Melbourne. He wants you to go down and identify Andys body.
Well, this is all set up and backstory.
It's not bad writing (in fact, it establishes character very nicely) but I'd really like to start when it gets interesting-her arrival in Melbourne to discover things weren't what she thought.