THE HUNTING GROUND

Chapter 1

Jim.

It was going to rain. I knew this not just from the nimbus cloud that hung over us, but the wind, the very wind that set my coat billowing and my hat scuttling across the paddock, that wind carried the stench of rain. Given the briskness of that wind, it was possible the clouds might blow over before depositing their sodden load but I doubted it, for there is one thing that is a certainty and that is, if you are in the middle of a paddock with no shelter within sight, then it will rain and rain hard.

Maybe the grey-haired constable accompanying me picked up on my displeasure at being out here, for he said, “We thought it best to leave him where he lay, the scene undisturbed, so to speak.”

And so the scene was undisturbed, if you disregarded the footprints left by the farmer who had found the unfortunate, turned him over to ascertain his identity, and then returned him to the same position as well as he could remember; the prints left by the hob-nailed boots of his companion; the pawmarks of the dog that accompanied them; the footprints of the poor lad who came out in response to the farmer’s report; the boot prints of the two constables now standing beside me, and finally my own shoes, on realising the ground was so churned up there was little point in standing back.

I retrieved my hat from the ground. “How long has he been here?”

“Can’t rightly say, Sir,” said the younger of the two constables, who’d been introduced to me only as Dixon.

“Hours? Days? Weeks? Does this farmer only tend his flocks once a month?” Not that I had seen any flocks, nor herds for that matter, but in my experience farming involved much moving about of animals.


Image: cropped from Richmond from Butcher’s Hill, Archives Office of Tasmania

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