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Out With Lanterns

Page 4

Jane Downing

She’d registered at the motel under plain old Watt, not as the married woman Harrington who existed on all her official documents. If she was Watt again, the gold and diamond necklace hanging against her skin would have to go too. In the shape of her initials – made especially for their tenth wedding anniversary – it no longer described her. There were people who believed the numerical equivalents to the letters in your name influenced your personality, your profession, your inner needs, your everything. By changing her name on marriage she’d thrown out one set of numbers, and now she was doing it again. What did numerology have to say about that? Was she condemning herself to multiple personalities? No wonder I can’t work out who I am now, and which way is up, she thought. It was probably a miracle she’d found her way out of the lantern-less bush as the first light of day touched the treetops.

The man from the motel disappeared around the corner toward a babble of geese. Ros was only a few metres behind. She turned the corner too.

Of course it wasn’t geese making the noise, but a crowd of people all talking at once. They milled in a small park around a war memorial listing the names of the fallen. A different older man, this one with a bullhorn to his lips, was at the centre of the throng. He was talking over the top of the gaggle. He exhorted everyone to stay focused and work methodically in their search parties. The megaphone screeched as he flicked the switch to off. This was a shattering sound: those listening to him were turned from a crowd back into individuals. Ros was a rock everyone surged around as they moved out of the town’s public meeting place. Flotsam and jetsam of conversation washed up as they passed her.

‘It was such a cold night – Almost down to zero – I’m doing the southern quadrant – No, I’m going north.’

And so they scattered the various ways of the compass, shepherded by the few of the company in high-visibility orange vests.

Ros was cramped by hunger again and considered heading straight back to her toast at the breakfast bar, but her curiosity got the better of her. ‘Excuse me,’ she touched the sleeve of a woman rugged-up in a fleecy jacket. ‘What’s going on?’

‘Manhunt,’ the woman sighed. ‘Another one. Every year the same. They have the sense of potatoes.’

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