Fiction

A perfect day for bream

African night crawlers are different from European night crawlers, see. They can tolerate extreme conditions, breed… Overnight, you should see, double in size. So, if you thread them onto the hook, like so, see… Fish’ll go for the wrigglers, make sure they’re still wriggling, but you want to know, don’t you? It was the same woman, and if I hadn’t have acted it could’ve ended terribly, he wasn’t much of a man, a person… Like this, see, they don’t have nerves, it doesn’t affect them… It started on a Tuesday. Me and this new junior constable, detective, were sent to this woman’s house, horrible, horrid, her lying in a pool of blood and the kiddie, a girl, six or seven, but you couldn’t tell because… well, that’s the sort of man he was… Like this, I line them up, cast off, within a few minutes, bream, especially, you following, son? What did you say your name was?… Ah, yes, the story, they said it was starting early but you don’t pay attention to that, I was, I am perfectly fine… So, the crime scene people take their photographs and gather their evidence, not that it mattered, because I knew, I knew it was the boyfriend, we’d dealt with him before, nasty, vicious man, he’d… Anyway, the bodies are taken away, there are autopsies, reports, and we start looking for this man, this Roberts, is that the one you’ve come to ask about? Of course it is… like this, and it’s a perfect day for bream, perfect, would you like to come with me? We can, can’t we, if that bitch on the front desk says… Can you do something to help get me out of here, son? Talk to someone? A doctor? They’re determined to keep me locked away so I won’t embarrass them, ’cos both you and I know what really happened, don’t we? ’Cos of course, you want to know, they have a million eyes, maybe a thousand, a hundred, do you know, do you know, son… Fair question, what happened next… Maybe a month passed, and I was down at Thurgoona getting meat, a good butcher there, and I see this woman who was meant to be murdered, but she wasn’t, she wasn’t murdered by him, and her daughter, the same girl I’d apparently seen on the floor, and they’re waiting for a coupla schnitties, and of course I’m shocked, but then I start thinking how, how did this happen… There’s a code on that door, son, and if you could find out… right? We could go, you and me, down to West Beach, pop a few lines in the water, eh, the crawlers, anything you want, whiting, bream, garfish… Righto, I understand, but the thing is, I didn’t overreact, I didn’t say anything at the time, I wasn’t sure what was going on, who was kidding whom, why, was someone trying to protect them for some reason, but it was them, son, the worms, they keep struggling for days and days, so there’s no rush, if you could get us a pair of rods we could head out to Semaphore, but shh, don’t tell the old bitch we’re going, son, and you’re a copper, too, you can get the code, can’t you? Either way, as I say, I did my due diligence, looked them up, saw the pictures and my god they coulda been fabrications, couldn’t they, I made a few phone calls but everyone said, no, no, what are you talking about, Sid, no one knew, see, everyone pleaded ignorance, so I knew something was up… Shh, come closer, I’ll tell you, someone had been playing around with the paperwork… but I wasn’t about to be put off, so you know what I did? I started parking outside their house, watching this woman and this girl come and go, and the partner, a very violent, very dangerous man… and I kept an eye on them for months, after work I did a few hours here, there, on the weekends, I was told, they’re dead!

They weren’t dead. I intended finding out, I intend to find out, son, I followed her, to protect her and the girl, see, to the shops, I waited outside the girl’s school, and all the time, trying to work out… Until, that day… Look, son, I think I’ve run out of worms… Can you get me more? The boyfriend, followed her down the road, Bellamy Road, was it, is it, Bellamy, perhaps, and he caught up with her, he was on the footpath, she was… and the girl… early, they said, I’m only 57, son… and they argued, and he took her around the throat and he was throttling the life out of her, son, I had to act, I had to, so I started the car and built up speed and he saw me too late and stepped back but I took the bastard out… I saved her, son, I saved her! And the little girl. And when I pulled up this woman was shouting that I’d killed her husband, and she was punching me and I said I saved you, I saved you from him, killing you, missus… Sitting under me wheel, his head sorta, open, the girl screaming, her punching me… and someone said call the police and I said I was the police and look she’s safe now, she won’t be harmed from him, after all… will she, son? But I’m outta worms. Can you get me some, son? I remember what they look like. What they feel like. Have I told you about night crawlers? We used to… years ago, me and my boy…

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 30, 2022 as "A perfect day for bream".

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Stephen Orr is an Adelaide-based novelist, essayist and short story writer. His most recent book is Sincerely, Ethel Malley.

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