The blue Toyota had made a clumsy turn in the grass outside his tumbledown cottage. The tyres had churned up deep muddy grooves. The engine was still running, a flatulent bop-bop-bop disturbing the tranquillity. The interior light was on. Mal could see the manila envelope in the driver’s hand as he squinted at the address and then the surroundings. The tall hedges around his plot and at each side of the track meant there wasn’t much to look at. The driver's window slid down as Mal approached.
"What d'yer want?"
"Oh, hi. I've a parcel for delivery."
"I'm not expecting anything."
"Ah. Is this the Carson’s farm?"
"I see. Do you know where it is?"
"No. This is private land."
The stranger gave half a smile. He tried to hold Mal's unflinching gaze, then blinked away. "I see. Looks like I've taken a wrong turn."
"Looks like you have."
"I'd better be off, then."
"Yeah. You had."
The exhaust coughed a black cloud and the vehicle rumbled away. Mal stood watch until the Toyota disappeared, the blue paint merging with the encroaching gloom. He turned, slowly, and entered the side door. He picked up his apron from the hook, retied it and wiped the dark smear from his hand. He unlocked another door and descended the stone steps into the cellar. A single naked bulb hung from the ceiling. There were more dark smears on the walls.
Mal smiled and picked up his knife. Long and keen, the blade was curved from the many times he had applied the whetstone. The knife had been his father’s. It was the nearest thing Mal had to an heirloom. That, as well as the cottage and his father’s favourite saying: “Do what you want, but never get caught.”
He looked at the chained and gagged figure in the corner. The figure whose darting eyes had stopped Mal in his work and alerted him to the noise coming up the lane. Mal saw the hope flicker and die, like a candle wick drowning in wax. He slipped the needle-nose pliers from his pocket and continued his work.
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