That Summer at Squitty Bay

Excerpt, A Killing at Easter Hill, a serialized novella by Alex Rose

That morning we met Miro, the caretaker who lived in the cabin one cove over. He must have been briefed by the colonel because he was friendly and accommodating from the first, helping us move in and get the babies settled.

Miro seemed to understand we had come to the island to rest, to get away from people all July and August. But by the end of the first week, we had questions about the colonel’s log home, about the property and best place to fish. As if on cue Miro would appear, his Mannlicher-Schoenauer bolt-action rifle in hand.

He knew we were curious about the rifle and said he used it to hunt wild sheep and deer that lived on the island.

Over the summer we heard rumours about Miro: that he had been a Czech freedom fighter, that he was an expert marksman and that the colonel hired him as a warning to the drug dealers who grew marijuana in the fields across the road. (The islanders tell the story of how one dealer, who after betraying his family, had been strapped to the engine block of a rusting car and pushed off the cliff and into Johnstone Strait. Police divers never did find the corpse.)

That summer at Squitty Bay, it was fine and hot. While Beatrice worked on her manuscript, I hiked and swam with the children and learned to fish for salmon and rock cod.

One afternoon on a bluff looking across the strait to Mount Washington, I fell asleep to wake up with the sense a rifle sight was aimed at my head.

Miro invited me to go hunting. We followed the rocky trail across the granite shale at the base of the cliff before heading back up another trail, one groomed by wild sheep and Fallow deer. Weeds broke into blossom in the heat of the afternoon. Miro waved me into a kneeling position behind a favourite tree stand. He loaded one bullet into the chamber before passing me his rifle. I was to kill the animal with a single bullet into its “boiler room,” the heart and lungs.

Sometime later a Fallow deer wandered into the clearing.

I took the shot but missed. The bullet ricocheted off a rock. The deer leapt up and bolted into the scrub.

Next afternoon, Miro arrived with a rack of wild lamb; we cooked it over an open fire — with fresh rosemary and tomatoes and beans from the colonel’s garden.

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