He watched her leave the schoolyard.
He had watched her every day that week. Secreted behind the hedgerow
near the bottom of the paddock, he was well hidden amongst the bush.
His trousers were caked in mud from kneeling in his rain-soaked
hide. He shook some water from his uncovered head and looked about
the scrubby paddock.
From the top roadway near the school, the sloping overgrown paddock
didn’t look as though it would provide much cover. But once you
were down the slope past the scraggy row of dying she-oaks, the
shrubbery, thickets and rambling blackberry could hide anything.
He looked up towards the sparsely
tarmaced top roadway leading from the school. It trailed along the
ridgeline, past the row of terraced houses, turned down a further
slope to become the High Street, and then carried on along to the
The serrated house roofs a flat black silhouette against the
darkening grey of the winter sky, like smooth jet saw-teeth, no
definition, no details, standing as a picket, protecting and
enclosing the paddock.
He turned to look down the slope, down the winding earthen path, now
muddy after the rain, following the snaking footway until it
disappeared amongst the thicker bracken at the bottom of the railway
embankment. He lifted his eyes to the embankment, dimly aware of
the glistening rails and still-dripping stanchions. Beyond the
stanchions, even though it was still early afternoon, the sky was
night-time black except for the thin white stripe where the storm
seemed to have pulled itself from where it had been glued to the
smudged procession of hills that lay on the horizon.
He didn't notice the hills, or the intriguing white scar between the
heavens and earth, he didn't really notice the rail-line, or even
the storm, although he was aware that he was drenched to the skin.
He'd have to remember to bring an anorak next time… if it didn't
happen today. He crouched back into his hide to watch out for her.
She passed within six feet of him as she sauntered along the path
that led down to the railway embankment. He continued to watch her
as she made her way along the road, heading for the station where
she would catch the 3.45 home. She was sixteen, blond long hair
held back in a school-rules correct ponytail. He bet that it must
hang down below her shoulders when it was released from the
restraining elastic bands.
He watched her sun-tanned legs as she moved flowingly, like a
long-legged cat along the path. He watched those long legs as they
flowed from below her very short school uniform down to the tops of
the rolled-down white socks... long, long legs.
He moistened his lips with his tongue. His mouth had become very
dry, and his breath short as he watched her. He steadied himself,
ready to follow her.
He edged closer to the path, took a deep breath and just as he was
about to step out she stopped and turned her head back in the
direction from which she came.
He peered through the foliage and saw a gaggle of schoolgirls
running along the path towards her.
Their high shrill voices reached him. "Hey, Jenny, stop! Wait for
us!" He was close enough to her to hear her sigh.
He slowly retreated back into the underbrush, Tomorrow my pretty..
tomorrow. He crouched in the bushes for a while listening to
Jenny's friends as they caught up to her.
"Hey, Jenny, you shouldn't be walking through here by yourself,
remember what Sister Beatrice said."
"Yeah," shrilled a short black haired girl with large
tortoise-shelled glasses that magnified her eager eyes as they
surveyed the surrounding bush. He crouched even lower. "Yeah,
remember they haven't caught that fellow yet. And they say that he
raped her before he stabbed her. Well they do Narelle, that's what
they say. Raped her, he did."
Jenny tossed her ponytail about as she swung around and began to
walk once more towards the railway embankment. "Well, that doesn't
worry me," she said haughtily. "I've always walked this way to the
station and I'm not about to change just because some silly little
girl from Year Eight got herself killed."
"But Jenny," the short black haired one panted. "He raped her."
"Well you needn't worry about that Pamela. No-one's that desperate
that they're going to rape you," the red-haired Narelle sneered as
she hefted her backpack onto her shoulders. "Hang on, Jenny I'll
walk with you."
The black-haired one looked around the bush anxiously and then
scurried to catch up with the rest of the group. "Well, I'll come
with you, too. But my dad reckons the girl from our school wasn't
the first one, you know. He reckons that it was the same fellow
that killed those three girls over at Parkvale."
From his concealed site amongst the bushes he had to strain to hear
the girls as they disappeared down the track towards the
embankment. He could just make out the faint voice saying, ".. and
they were raped, too.." He crept from the bushes and slowly walked
in the opposite direction. Tomorrow.
"Terry," his mother called from the
kitchen, "is that you?"
"Yeah, Mum. It's me," he smiled as he tramped inside from the rear
veranda. He continued through the kitchen, his mother eyeing the
track of muddy footprints that followed him.
"What am I going to do with him?" she sighed. Terry's father looked
up from his evening newspaper, and placed his teacup back on the
kitchen table. "Do with who?" he asked.
Alone in his room he stripped off his sodden clothes, tossing them
carelessly into the corner. He stood naked in front of his mirror as
he towelled himself dry, watching himself intently in the dark
glass. He liked the full-length mirror on the ancient second hand
wardrobe, the darkness of it emphasised his own dark colouring.
Black lanky hair tossed across his brow.. dark brooding eyes, not
black but as deep a brown as they could be before you called them
black. And even though his skin was by contrast very white, the
mirror gave it an even smoky tan. He dropped the towel, and in front
of his dark mirror he flexed his muscles. Tomorrow, Jenny, I'll do
The pale wintry afternoon sun
struggled to cast some drying warmth over the paddock. The ground
was still sodden from yesterday's rain, and in patches the
underbrush still dripped it's horde of captured raindrops. The
occasional plopping of raindrops in a puddle underneath the brush
seemed extraordinarily loud in the silence of the tangled domain.
The insects, the bees and the midges, hadn't yet returned to fuss
around the decaying weeds.
From the roadway an infrequent motorcar broke the pervading silence
with a low distant roar and the swish of it's passing. He could hear
himself breathe, he could hear his heart beat, thumping against his
chest, steady, strong. He felt proud that it wasn't racing, but
continued to beat a steady, confident rhythm. His breathing was
steady, controlled. Today he wasn't scared. Excited, yes, but not
trembling like he had when he had waited before. He crouched
beneath the bushes, and waited.
He heard the school-bell ring, its echo rolling over the paddock and
back again. He looked up the slope towards the roadway. Although
he couldn't see the actual road, he focused on the cutting where the
path emerged over the ridge, trailed down past the she-oaks and
meandered down the slope through the underbrush. He would see anyone
coming down the path long before they reached the point parallel
with his hidey-hole, long before they came close. He waited, looking
out for her.
Presently he heard faint voices cascading over the edge of the
ridge, their young shrill tones floating over the bramble to him.
They faded, and then floated towards him again, now from the
direction of the terraced houses.
He waited for what seemed like ages, but there were no more voices,
no one came down the path. A drop fell from a higher branch,
splattering on his dark hair, breaking the spell, breaking his
concentration on the path. He looked around.
The paddock was empty… no life, desolate, no breath of wind stirring
the foliage… dead, empty. He felt so much a part of it, and he was
reluctant to leave. The 3.45 train clattered along the tracks on the
embankment, shattering the peace, blowing it apart with the moaning
wail of it's air-horn, blowing an obscene raspberry over the
paddock. The wind of the train's passing breathing over the bushes,
stirring them, giving them life.
Now he needed to leave. He felt that maybe he might wander the
streets, even venture into some adjoining suburbs, before going
home. He crawled from the underbrush and climbed the path to the
road. The sky was darkening as he brushed past a bush and another
raindrop dripped. It ran down his cheek. It was supposed to be
"Oh, Terry, do wipe your feet before
you go upstairs."
"Sure, Mum, sure. Oh, hi, Dad."
"Hello, son, been out again? Don't know what you get up to
wandering around until this time of night."
"Come on, love, leave him alone. Our Terry's a good boy. Don't you
go picking on him."
"I weren't picking on him, I were just making conversation, weren't
"Sure, Dad. I'm just going up to clean up before supper."
Terry's mother turned back to the kitchen bench, and chopped some
vegetables with the large, sharp kitchen knife, whilst his Dad went
back to reading the late edition evening newspaper.
"Hmm, been another rape and murder over at Parkvale," he observed.
"Hmmm." Terry's mother replied distractedly.
The rain had returned during the
morning, but now in the afternoon the storm had moved away to the
west. The black clouds hung menacingly above the hills, blocking the
weak rays of the winter sun. Shadows deepened within the paddock,
and under the bracken where he crouched it was almost night-time
dark. He heard the school bell ring, its echo dulled in the
rain-laden gully. He waited, looking out for her.
He tensed as he saw her hesitate at the gap on the ridge, and then
with a quick glance behind her, she made her way down the path past
the dying trees, and on down the winding muddy path towards him.
She came abreast of his hiding place, and he jumped out onto the
path beside. She screamed.
"Oh, Terry Jones! You didn’t half scare me! What are you doing
hiding in the bushes like?"
"I've been looking out for you, Jenny. I mean, I been wanting to ask
you, whether, you know, whether you'd like to, um, say come out with
me. You know, like to the movies or something."
"You mean a date?"
"Yeah... yeah. I think you're really pretty, Jenny. And maybe, you
know, we could like get to know each other."
She looked him up and down, and then smiled. "Yes, Terry. Yes, I'd
“Yes, that would be nice,” replied Jenny.
With a huge smile, Terry turned to go.
His heart was thumping with excitement as he headed home. Then
something seemed to stir in the air. Something troubling. He turned,
but there was no sign of Jenny. She couldn’t have reached the High
Street already, surely? He thought he saw a bush moving by the side
of the road. But he couldn’t be sure.
Then the storm returned…