The greedy mayor has gone too far this time. The Tasmanian Tiger hunter he despises is given no choice but to get revenge.
This is the prequel to the Windy Mountain Tasmanian Tiger series, set 30 years before it all began.
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Pervert of interest
SERGEANT Randolph Birtwistle wished now he hadn’t left the shelter of the bar at that precise time.
If he hadn’t been trying to beat the rain, he wouldn’t now be standing in front of the bench knowing full well who was sitting on the other side of that newspaper — but still feeling duty-bound to ask the question:
‘Mr Mayor, is that you?’
James Northan lowered his rain-speckled newspaper.
‘So you are here, sergeant?’
Birty sighed. A few minutes earlier he had been warm and dry at the footy club, basking in the glory of a heart-stopping victory. But he had abandoned his glass of sarsaparilla when he saw dark clouds out the window of the bar.
It had been easier to make this 100-yard dash to the police station when he was younger and slimmer. The raindrops blurring his spectacles didn’t make it any easier this afternoon.
It’s a wonder he even noticed some idiot was sitting on the bench on the grassy verge in the middle of the High Street. But his reflexes got the better of him and he slid to a halt. By the time he took in the blue pin-stripe trousers, the shiny shoes and a masthead that told him the newspaper was The Financial Review, it was all too late.
‘I’ve been trying to ring you all afternoon, sergeant.’ Even when Mayor Northan was looking up at him he made Birty feel he was looking down at him. ‘Has any progress been made on the missing telephone box?’
Mayor Northan didn’t wait for a reply. ‘If you were more in touch with the community you’d know people use that phone box — old people especially.’
When Birty sat down, he felt the dampness seep through the back of his pants. He closed his eyes and counted in his head . . . one, two, three . . . his missus had ironed these trousers! He sighed again. ‘You didn’t get to the game?’
‘I had better things to do.’ Mayor Northan stabbed a finger at the newspaper. ‘I found an interesting article on windsocks.’
‘More interesting than watching Windy Mountain win a place in the grand final? Moose Routley kicked the winning goal on the siren.’
The mayor curled his lip. ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake! That means I’ll have to talk to the players in front of half the town!’
‘If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you’ll have to talk to Moose. Silly bugger got himself reported for punching an opponent.’
Birty stood and prised back his trousers. ‘Sorry, but I have to get going. This rain is getting heavier.’ He could see beads of water on the mayor’s nose now. ‘I really have to get to work for my very last Saturday night shift. Sooner I start—’
‘I thought you had months to go?’ Mayor Northan’s eyes widened.
‘No, only six more shifts. We’re booked on a cruise in 10 days’ time.’ Birty removed his spectacles and wiped them with a hanky. ‘Rita’s been asking me to take her on a South Pacific holiday for years.’
‘Don’t you think 60 is a bit young to be retiring? You’re only three years older than me! You’re not thinking about another career?’
Birty laughed as he put the glasses back on. ‘I’m planning on catching lots of trout, including George.’
‘Pity. I could do with someone like you to help me with my new project.’ The mayor lowered his voice. ‘What would you say if I told you I’ve decided not to sell my orchard after all?’
‘I’d say that would make a lot of people around here very happy.’
‘Would it?’ The Mayor smiled. ‘What I’ve decided to do now is hang on to the land, rip out the orchard and build a windsock factory on the site.’
‘How’s that going to make things better?’ Birty resumed his silent counting . . . five, six, seven . . . ‘That orchard is a part of the heritage of this town. People won’t let you tear it down.’
‘I’ve obviously misjudged you, sergeant. You’re allowing sentimentality to muddle your mind.’
‘Look, I’ve really gotta go, Mr Mayor. You’d better get some cover, too, before you catch your death.’ With that wishful thought, Birty crossed the road.