Chapter One

He stood at our door clutching a woollen beany in both hands, he looked almost as nervous as I felt.

We were parked up in a very remote part of the North Island, and the last thing we expected was a visitor.

Charlie knocked on our door about half an hour before dark. He is a big solid man, about 50. The large blue tear tattooed under his right eye was in complete contrast to his rugged, badly scarred face.

He stood at our door clutching a woollen beany in both hands, he looked almost as nervous as I felt.

Hey bro, nice truck! Do you live in this ?”

Yeah, we’ve been doing it for a while.”

Charlie thrust out his hand, the one with hate tattooed on its knuckles. I quickly shook it, eager to not offend.

He refused to make eye contact, but as he came into the truck, I caught a glimpse of them. They were dark brown, reserved, betraying little of what was really going on in Charlie's mind.

Faa, too much” he exclaimed as he walked into the lounge, “This is .”

"Cup of tea?" Sue asked as she cleared the couch, making space for him.

If it’s not too much trouble?”

Charley sat down, his eyes constantly scanning the interior of the truck.

There was an awkward silence. “Milk and sugar?” Sue asked.

Charley nodded.

The awkward silence resumed as Sue rattled around in the kitchen, making a brew.

We're  doing some possum monitoring”, I said, trying to kick-start a conversation.

True? How do you do that?”

I told him, and he seemed genuinely interested.

So is that how you make your money?”

Yeah, we've been doing it for about 3 years”.

And it’s enough to pay for all this?” Charley looked at me for the first time, his eyes betraying a glimmer of excitement.”

Sure, pays the bills and a little more”.

Sweet.”

I asked Charlie if he lived locally.

Yeah, I’ve been back for about 6 weeks”.

Where have you been?” I asked, “working”?

Charley examined me, looking for a hint of sarcasm in my question.

Finding none, he chuckled. “No bro, not working, just been away for a while”.

His eyes seemed flat again, the sparkle of excitement hidden away.

Sue passed him a cup of tea. It vanished in his large tattooed hands.

Might be an idea?” he said, slurping from his cup, “If you parked your truck down by my place”.

That's very kind of you,” I said, “but the farmer said it's sweet to park here”.

Charley slurped another mouthful of tea, gazing distractedly at the view through the window. “You both away from the truck during the day?”

Well, yeah”.

Then I’d appreciate it if you parked up at my place”.

It was a command, not a request.

After he had finished his brew, Charley gave us directions to his place and left.