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by Jacqui Pack

It happened the same afternoon they pulled the horse from the weir. I’d been in the lookout, smoking grass, thinking about Lori. She’d been missing six months by then, and we’d stopped believing they’d ever find her. I’d meant to go back after checking the traps, but there was no place I had to be, so I lit up, and once I’d started watching the men trying to get the mare, I forgot all about leaving. It took them the best part of an hour to snag a noose around its head and haul it into the field. Its belly was swollen, like it had tried to drink its way out of the water.

Wombat had left his binoculars behind, so I could see everything they were doing real good, even though no one could see me. I couldn’t say how long the horse had been in the water, but it was long enough for the fish to have had a right go. One of its eyes was proper gone and the other flopped out its socket. That made me think of Lori too, always following us around wearing those stupid toy glasses with googly eyes on springs.

When the squad-car drove across the field, I didn’t make anything of it. Just assumed it was to do with the horse. Even when I see someone riding in the back I didn’t twig. Took it for the horse’s owner or someone. So, when the fed opens the door and pulls Wombat out, the sight of him hits me like a truck. I can’t breathe. Can’t think. Wombat’s got no way of knowing I’m there, but when I puts the binoculars on his face he turns away, like he don’t want to be seen.

This fed walks him through the long grass up to the water. They don’t even look at the horse. The fed stares at Wombat and Wombat stares down at his Nikes. Then the fed leans in and says something. Nothing happens for a minute, but my heart’s banging and thumping so hard I feel like it’ll burst the blood right out my eardrums. Then Wombat lifts his arm and points to the left of the reed bed.

The thumping stops and my heart rises up until it’s blocking my throat. I don’t need to watch anymore. I already know what’ll happen. They’ll haul her out with a noose, all bloated and eaten by fishes, and everyone’ll know what we done.

Jacqui Pack’s fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including Litro OnlineSwarmSpelk, Storgy, and Synaesthesia. She was among the winners of The London Magazine’s 2013 Southern Universities Short Story Competition, was awarded Long Story Short’s Story of the Year 2009, and holds an MA in creative writing.