Kate turned towards the voice, a man’s voice, from along the street. It was Mr Addison from the bank. Kate had always found him a bit snake-like, with heavy-lidded eyes behind thick glasses.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, glancing to see who was about. ‘I wanted to catch you. To speak to you without your father. I’m sorry, I tell you.’
‘Sorry? What for?’
‘About Amiens. It’s a great shame.’
Kate stared at him.
‘I could give you a lift home, Mrs Dowd. I have a meeting in Wingadee this afternoon, anyway, and we could talk. Tell you how sorry I am.’
Kate needed to know what Addison was rabbiting on about. She pulled her door shut, and Addison reversed out, his cigarette smoke swirling about the car, and she wound her window all the way down.
As a blur of eucalyptus streamed by, Kate inhaled to ask Addison what he meant. ‘You’re sorry about what, Mr Addison?’
‘The Amiens debts. The overdue interest on the sheep property.’
‘Overdue? You’re mistaken,’ Kate said evenly. ‘My father always pays the bills.’
‘Incorrect. You’re overdue in the most serious way.’ He drew on the cigarette and blew the smoke over his shoulder out the window.
‘My father will be most unhappy that you’re saying these things.’
Addison brought the car to such a sudden stop off the bitumen, the wheels skidded in the dirt and Kate put a hand up against the wooden dashboard.
‘You don’t know,’ he said. ‘Know?’
She fought to stay calm. She would wonder later if it was at this moment that her old life ended.
Dust floated past the vehicle, sliced by the black myalls that lined the road. Addison flicked ash through his open window, let the clutch out and steered the car back onto the road. ‘You should know.’ He looked straight ahead and began to talk.