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6 • purchase They had their hearts set on purchasing a piece of land up north, but not too far north. Coastal—or as near coastal as they might afford. Close to a town for supplies, but not too close to a town: they wanted privacy and a sense of having “got away” from it all. This wasn’t really a “sea change” (as the trendies and media would have it)—going down to the city had been that, for them. They were country people who’d retired from the farm early and given the city a go. Now they wanted out. But not a place on a large scale. A small property of, say, thirty acres. Grow a few olives, keep a few sheep for hobby shearing, nothing more. A suitable block came up not long after their search began. They visited a small town close to the Batavia Coast and had a chat with the local real estate agent. There was nothing up in the sales window, but she had her ear to the ground, as real estate agents do, and knew of a property about to go on the market. The owners had only had it for a year, so it was good luck they were selling—land in the region was at a premium Northampton 7 p u r c h a s e and much sought after. There was a waiting list but, recognizing like minds—she was a farmer’s daughter—and the prospect of cash on the button, she “juggled” her list. The boy watched his dad’s car emerge out of the setting sun and speed down the gravel driveway, the back end dropping out in clouds of dust, then pulled back into line. Perched on his trail bike on the hill, he glanced across at the people walking the neighboring property with the real estate agent. He revved the engine and dropped the clutch, spinning the back wheel and kicking dirt and stones out towards the newcomers. They were too far away to be hit by the debris, but not too far to sense some kind of aggression. They stared at the boy zigzagging over the crest of the hill—that bare property next door . . . not a tree on it. For a moment, the couple basked in the neat mixture of clear space and white gums they were buying. And they had (for in their minds it was already theirs) a small hill as well—looked like an old mine on the far side, to the east, but it’d been filled in or blasted shut. The estate agent said she didn’t know much about it, but could guarantee it was entirely sealed and there was no risk of sheep wandering in and being lost. As an ex-farmer, the man—or Darl, as his wife called him—took a close look, and agreed. Perfectly safe! At the access road end of the property—to the west—there was a creek, dry midsummer. Plenty of water too: a well had been sunk and there was a dam in the western corner which would catch the entire flow off their hill, and off their neighbor’s. The couple was going to sign off on the deal that evening—one last wander around and chat with the agent. The boy’s dad had only had a few drinks after work, and was in a sardonic yet almost pleasant mood. The boy had 8 j o h n k i n s e l l a to tell him now. If he left it till later, his dad would go spare. It was the boy’s job to keep a lookout. And then, if Dad was really pissed when he discovered for himself—because he would, because all the blokes at the pub were his dad’s spies and they’d know quick as lightning—he’d give him a good kicking for holding back the info. Dad, I saw that bitch real-estate agent with some new people. The boy steadily ripped open a Coke and kept his eyes to himself. The fizz of the can would be the prelude to . . . Jeez!What now?! Can’t get any privacy round this fucking place. Get rid of one lot and another rolls in. Bitch! Fucking bitch! I’ve got her number . . . give it time, give it time. His dad stopped there and the boy knew the silence meant his dad did have a plan...


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