In the morning his brother was gone and all the tomato plants had been torn up and were in a yellow pile under the grill of the barbeque. Davo had turned the soil and he’d walked mud all over the porch in circles where he’d paced. He would be out walking on the fire trail, Parker always presumed. He didn’t know for sure, but he figured he walked the overpass by the new estate and then onto the dirt track into the scrub.
You could get to the river out there, and there was a good swimming spot. They used to go chase wallabies out there when they were kids, when Davo was the lighter of them and liked to climb trees and watch birds, or turn up bits of sandstone and watch the bugs scatter. He had always put them back down as they had been and then apologised.
That’s where I’d go, he thought, but he didn’t have time to walk. He’d usually be at work by now, hours before his shift would actually start, but he’d slept in today.
He looked at the couple of dried sausages sitting in a pile of cloudy oil on the barbeque, an old grill resting on some cinderblocks.
‘Fuck!’ his mother screamed from the kitchen. ‘Davo, Davo!’ she yelled to the yard.
‘He’s not out here. What’s wrong?’
‘Nothing. nothing. Don’t you have to go save lives?’
‘I start at 11 again. I might go chase down Davo.’
‘Good luck hun. Bring me back some milk and don’t tell em nothing if anyone asks you about that screaming and door kicking last night.’
He went back to his room and picked up his radio, but decided not to take it. He turned it on a second and someone was talking. He flicked it back off immediately. He needed to take his time off, he only had a few hours of it. He couldn’t take it now, he thought, remembering how calm Barrett had been sitting there with his arm wrapped in the shirt, handing the knife up.
He started out on the road through the estate. It was only 8am but it was warming up already, he could feel the heat coming off the tarmac.
They lived on a cul-de-sac, the worse end of town where every second house looked like a mechanic shop with half-rusted Falcons and piles of sheet metal out the front like balding patches in the grass. One old weatherboard was slowly slipping down the hill, inching closer to the creek. He had been in there once to answer a domestic call and you could have poured water on the back porch and it’d run right off down into the yard.
At the end of the street there was a gap by the houses and you could get through into the new estate where everything was suddenly green and the only bits of metal out on anyone’s front lawn were the letterbox and the sprinkler. People used to dump stolen cars and garbage out there, but they had dragged it all away, or buried it maybe, and all the off-the-plan three bedrooms popped up overnight with new families and cars they washed in the drive every week. Maybe that’s why there were so many bombs on our street now, he wondered.
He made it to the overpass and as he took a few steps up he could see the lights of the police cars and an ambulance over the noise barrier, lighting up the line of paperbarks on the far side of the highway in flashes of blue and red.
He felt weightless, he didn’t realise he had begun to sprint until he tripped up the last stair because he hadn’t taken his eyes off the ambulance.
He cursed himself, felt the graze on his shin, and pulled out a piece of glass that had wedged into his palm. He wiped a stream of blood onto his shirt. He should have brought his radio, he always did.
He took off on a sprint again, turned down the stairs at the other end of the overpass throwing his body around the corner and feeling a stab in his hand on the rail. There was more glass in his hand, he would find it later.
There were two kids at the bottom of the stairs standing over their bikes stacked on each other on the ground, sprawled like tangled, fallen metal bodies.
‘No point running, nothing left here’ one of the kids says to Parker, and the other kid looks at him with a blank face, surprised at the darkness of it.
She was laying on her side, her hand on her thigh, he could see for a second through the group of policeman and ambos moving amongst each other in a swarming circle around her. He knocks past a few of them to stand over her; they don’t notice him. There’s a buzzing in his ears and his neck hurts when he sees the dried blood on her shirt. It might be the highway, the buzzing.
She is on her side, her right side, her hand on her thigh, her left hand. Mid-20s, roughly five foot, five inches. She has her back to the road, the southbound traffic; likely 2kms from the Burrell Creek turnoff.
Her blonde hair is neat, folded behind her ear but some strands over her forehead and falling over her face. She has dark roots, she is not blonde.
His brother is standing there on the other side of the body, his huge arms by his sides, his hands clenching and unclenching and looking down at the her, and then up at everyone, individually, around the circle.
People are talking, leaning in at each other; others staring ahead dreamlike, like they’re around a bonfire and captured by it.
His brother is the late guest to the bonfire and he doesn’t know anyone, he is looking for hints on their faces, wondering what has happened. Besides the kids behind him on the stairs, him and his brother are the only two not in uniform, he realises.
His brother meets his eyes across the body, squints and his brow ripples with concern. Parker never knows what anyone is thinking, he nevers know what he is thinking himself, but he feels his brother’s confusion and anger and purpose across the tarmac and the broken glass and clumps of grass in the cracks, and the woman’s stiff body lying on top of it all. He feels his brother’s confused, concerned look like it’s the heat of that fire and he knows then how his brother feels.