Operation Camilla

By: Tabitha Ormiston-Smith


Yawning, she dragged on her working clothes (disreputable, saggy tracksuit pants and an old football jersey), made herself a cup of tea and resumed sanding. She was halfway around the room now, having finally stopped when the need to write down the ideas she’d come up with for her flagging novel had reached a level of pressure that she couldn’t withstand. Now, a comprehensive set of notes outlining two subplots and various character-developing incidents was safely in her notebook. For a moment, she was tempted to make that the day’s job, but Ben was due back in three weeks’ time, and the bedroom painting was going to be his surprise, and that was that.

It was lucky, Tammy thought, that the walls in this room were in fairly good repair. She wouldn’t need to be plastering over cracks, and resanding, and all of that. Perhaps the bedrooms hadn’t had much use; from the state of the living room when she’d moved in, it could reasonably be inferred that no one had ever remained sober enough to be able to find their way to a bed. Her first week in the house had been entirely consumed in scrubbing every available surface with Domestos, and then tea tree oil, to get rid of the pervasive stench of urine, vomit and marijuana. She still caught whiffs of tea tree whenever she opened a cupboard.

***

On the other side of Yarrangong, in the posh part of town, up on the hill, Donald Blackman, barrister and solicitor, as the brass plate next to his office door announced, was at his creative work again. He had published his website, and was now working on a new version. You could work on it all you wanted, Josh had explained, but the public would only see the results of your changes once you hit ‘Publish’ again.

Blackman was creating sub-pages. He had selected from the client list, which he had printed off on the office printer once Shelley had gone home, the names of two of the wealthiest and most influential citizens of Yarrangong. One of them was, in fact, the mayor. His preferences evidently ran to young women of a different racial heritage. Very young women, very young indeed. Although, Blackman mused, Asian women often did look far younger than they were. He wondered if they looked young to everyone, or only to Europeans. Anyway, it didn’t matter; the point was that Mayor Polk was a married man and a pillar of the Methodist church. Heh heh.

The other man Blackman had selected to be one of his first victims was John Mills, purely on the basis that he resented Mills for being smug, for being chosen Yarrangong Businessman of the Year, for having a later model Porsche than his, Blackman’s, and for having that sickeningly perfect family. Blackman’s own wife had left him some years before, saying that she was sick of his rudeness, sick of his abuse, sick of his drunken friends and sick of him generally. They had had no children.

Each page was headed with a photograph of the victim. Instead of using the ones supplied to Yarralove, he had downloaded photographs from the website of the Yarrangong Times. The one of the mayor showed him in his full mayoral regalia at some public event with his wife. The one of Mills, of course, was the photograph that had recently been printed, of him receiving the Yarrangong Businessman of the Year award, with his blonde wife and five tow-headed children.

Text below the pictures outed each man as an adulterer, and revealed the details of their membership in Yarralove, providing their credit card numbers as evidence and giving details of the dates they had joined the dating service. In the case of Mills, his appearance at the Commercial Club was also detailed, and the photograph of the woman, whom Blackman had been able to identify from the database, was also displayed, along with her name and credit card number. ‘CAUGHT IN THE ACT’ was the page’s headline. It had taken Blackman three quarters of an hour to work out how to make it display in big red letters, but it was worth it, he reckoned. He added a big red title to the mayor’s page, too. ‘DO YOU WANT THIS MAN RUNNING YOUR TOWN?’ it said.

He added an article to the main page decrying the breakdown of the sanctity of the marriage bond in modern Australia, and clicked on the ‘Publish’ button with a satisfaction he hadn’t experienced since he’d successfully stripped a client’s husband of his entire superannuation entitlement. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if Mills had been the ‘brown showers’ guy. Blackman had looked it up on Google, and part of him felt rather sick, even as the other part chortled at the damage it could do in a custody battle. The bloke seemed to be a nobody, though. He might do down the track, if he was married (he had not specified his marital status), but Blackman was after the rich pickings he could get from high net worth individuals.