’Do you want a beer…Or would you like something stronger…? Max said as they strolled down the long entry hallway towards the rear kitchen.
‘A beer’s good, thanks Dad.’
Two-thirds of the way along Max reached in through the open doorway to flick off the light in the spare bedroom.
‘Whoa…’ Mitch stopped. He flicked the light back on. He eyed the double-barrel shotgun lying broken open on the desk to the rear of the room. He flicked a finger at the gun. ‘Is that your roo shooter in there…?’ Mitch said. He ambled over to the gun.
Max crossed his arms and leaned a shoulder on the door architrave. ‘Yeah, that’s it.’ Max lifted his chin towards the shot gun and boxes of cartridges on the desk. ‘I was getting everything ready for tomorrow when you arrived.’
Mitch lifted the shot gun and snap closed the barrels. ‘Gee it’s weighty, isn’t it?’ He shouldered the gun. ‘How long have you had this…?’ he asked as he sighted down the barrels.
‘Oh…a couple of years now. I don’t get the chance to use it that much, now-a-days.’
‘I haven’t fired one of these since…’ Mitch paused. His eyes lifted to the ceiling. ‘Gee…I would’ve been what…fifteen?’
‘Probably. That would’ve been at Dave’s farm.’
‘That’s right. I remember the bruises I had from the recoil.’
Max grinned. ‘It did take you a few times to make sure you held it tightly against your shoulder.’ He pushed himself away from the door frame. ‘I’ll get you that beer…’
Mitch lowered the gun. ‘Cheers…’ he said. He broke open the barrels and returned the gun to the desk. He lifted the box of cartridges and read the box.
When he tried to flick open the lid to glance inside, he dropped the box. Mitch rolled his eyes as cartridge shells bounced and rolled over the floor.
While crawling under the desk to retrieve the cartridges a heavy knock on the front door startled Mitch. ‘Geez…knock on the door why don’t ya…’ he said to no-one.
Max strolled from the kitchen to the front door. ‘Heavy knocker…’ he mumbled as he passed Mitch, who was still on all fours under the desk collecting the shot gun cartridges.
The grin on Mitch’s face wiped when he heard an aggressive male voice yelling, ‘Give me the keys, or you’re dead.’ There were several other male voices also yelling indecipherable garbled comments.
Mitch frowned. What the…?
He heard his father ask, ‘What keys..? I don’t know what you’re talking about…’ His Dad’s voice sounded distressed.
Mitch quickly slid out from under the desk. A sickening crack sound came from the direction of the entry hall. Mitch froze on the spot. What the hell was that?
‘I fucken warned you…’ the same aggressive male voice yelled.
His Dad did not respond. A second crack sound echoed from out in the entry hall. Mitch flinched. The yelling from the men continued.
For the second time tonight Mitch’s heart raced. His mouth became dry. Mitch scrambled to his feet and began to move towards the entry hall, to help his Dad.
After a couple of steps he stopped. His eyes fell to the cartridges in his hand. He quickly returned to the desk, lifted the shotgun, inserted the two cartridges and snapped it closed.
The screaming and abuse continued as Mitch moved to the entry hall. At the bedroom door he slowly peeped around towards the front door. His eyes flared and his jaw dropped. His Dad’s motionless body was lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood.
Four lanky, very dark skinned African men, with black hoodies draped over their heads, stood staring down at his Dad. None of them noticed Mitch.
The man standing on the right yelled something then forcefully kicked Max in the ribs. A deep thud resonated. His Dad’s body rocked violently from the force of the kick, but his Dad remained unmoved.
The man holding a hammer yelled something then forcefully struck the hammer into the back of Max’s head. Mitch flinched. A sickening crack sound echoed down the hall.
Mitch gritted his teeth. He shouldered the shotgun and moved from the bedroom into the entry hall. ‘You fucken dog…’ he screamed.
All four men startled. They turned towards Mitch, who took aim. He first targeted the one with the hammer. Before he could pull the trigger, someone moving to his left caught his attention. He glanced in time to see the fifth African man rushing towards him. The man had a machete raised threateningly over his head.
The man was close. Mitch instinctively swung the shot gun towards the charging man and fired. He didn’t have time to aim. The gun recoiled firmly against his shoulder. The deafening blast filled the enclosed hall way.
The tightly grouped shot found its target. The man’s head exploded like a ripe watermelon. Blood and brain matter sprayed up the opposite wall.
The attacker’s lifeless body dropped to the floor. The machete clunked as it bounced on the tile floor.
Over two-thirds of the man’s head was gone, most of it up the wall. Only his cheek down to his jaw on the left side of his head and his bright pink tongue remained. Deep red blood gushed from the gaping hole in what remained of the dead man’s skull.
Mitch shifted his focus to the men standing over his father. The one holding the hammer started to charge at Mitch. The man stopped in his tracks when Mitch levelled the shot gun at him.
The man gestured with the hammer. ‘Dat’s my brother…’ the man yelled. ‘You just killed my brother…’
‘And that’s my father…you dog.’ Mitch adjusted his grip on the shot gun.
Their collective eyes widened. All four men fled towards the front door. Mitch briefly gave chase. The man with the hammer was the last one out the door.
As the man crossed the threshold, Mitch fired. The blast caught the fleeing man in his back, upper left shoulder area. The force carried the man forward onto his stomach.
Mitch followed the men out the door. The adrenalin coursed through his body. He was now the hunter and he wanted blood. He paused to briefly check on the fallen man before his focus returned to the others fleeing down the street.
He hurdled over the man lying at his front porch in pursuit of the other three men. They were fast and Mitch was lugging a heavy shot gun.
In his haste to run down these fleeing attackers, he failed to realise that he only had two shotgun cartridges, and they were now spent. This oversight was irrelevant. By the time he arrived in the street, the other men were gone.
Mitch ran to the intersecting street about five doors down. He arrived in time to see the rear end of a white vehicle speeding away.
When Mitch returned to his Dad’s home, the wounded man had rolled onto his back, lying in an expanding pool of blood. Mitch ignored the abuse the man yelled at him. His focus was on his Dad.
Mitch rushed towards his father. As he did so his front foot slipped in the deep blood pooling on the floor tiles. He fell to one knee, twisting his knee slightly. Fortunately the adrenalin coursing through him masked the pain.
He knelt beside his Dad. His panicked breathing was rapid as he removed his mobile phone and called for an ambulance.
As he slid his phone into his pocket he said, ‘It’s OK Dad, the ambulance will be here soon. Hang in there…Please…’
His panicked eyes passed over the length of his father lying prostate on the ground. His focus stopped on the injury to the back of his father’s head. Blood flowed from the gaping wound. His Dad’s hair had clumped from the blood.
Mitch gently moved the blood soaked hair aside. His head rolled and shoulders slumped when he noticed the large holes in the back of his father’s skull. ‘You fucken bastards,’ he blurted through gritted teeth.
Mitch checked for a pulse. There was nothing. He tried different positions on his Dad’s neck, each time with the same result.
His breathing accelerated. The harsh reality set in. His Dad was gone. Mitch fell back onto his heels as he regarded his father. Tears ran down his cheeks. He cupped his forehead. How can this happen in our own home?
Mitch’s face fell into his hands as his emotions took over. ‘I’m so sorry Dad…I should’ve come out sooner…I could’ve stopped them…’ His despair filled eyes lifted to the ceiling.
‘You’re dead when my cousins get you…’ The man lying outside the front door yelled to Mitch.
Mitch’s head snapped to the man. His hate filled eyes narrowed at the fallen intruder.
The man continued to yell. ‘You’re dead. Your family’s dead…Anyone who fucken knows you is dead. You’re all dead. And after they kill you, they’ll burn down your house.’
Mitch held his hate-filled glare at the man. Mitch was not a violent man. He always tried to handle potentially physical confrontations with his words, rather than his fists, to calm an altercation before it escalated.
Not that he can’t handle himself. Mitch had been training in martial arts since the age of fourteen. He held a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a double black in Karate. He still trained in BJJ during his lunch break, three days a week. So when it came to defending himself, he was more than capable. He chose not to use his skills, unless he had to.
Seeing his Dad killed by this man flicked a switch in the usually passive Mitch. He slowly stood up, lifted the shot gun and moved towards the man lying outside the front door. The man continued to shout threats at Mitch. Mitch didn’t say anything. He ambled up to the man and pointed the shot gun at the man’s head.
The man’s eyes flared. He held his hands up to Mitch. ’Nooooo, he pleaded. ‘Please No…’ The man had witnessed first-hand how Mitch was not afraid to use the gun.
Mitch’s jaw tightened. ‘Fuck you,’ he said through gritted teeth. Mitch pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Mitch frowned. He pulled the trigger again. Nothing happened. He lowered the gun. He was so overcome by the shock, he forgot to reload the shot gun.
In an act of relief, or maybe arrogance, the man grinned at Mitch when the shotgun failed to fire. Either way, it was a mistake. The hatred Mitch had for this person was palpable. Mitch wanted him dead for what he did to his father.
Mitch rotated the gun in his hands, adjusted his grip on the shotgun and forcefully jammed the butt of the shotgun into the man’s face. The blow instantly knocked the man out. Something cracked in the man’s face on impact. A large red contusion quickly formed under a gaping wound on the man’s cheek.
Mitch returned inside. His sorrowful eyes fell down to his Dad’s body. The reality of everything had not fully hit home yet, but it would soon. Mitch’s eyes flicked to the headless man lying outside the bedroom door. His eyes followed the spray of blood and brains up the wall. His shoulders slumped. His eyes glazed over as he stared blankly at nothing.
‘Oh my God…’ A male voice yelled. ‘Are you alright Mitch…?’
Mitch slowly turned to the voice coming from behind him. Mr Fuller, his parent’s neighbour from number sixteen, stood in the front open doorway. With shock etched into his face, Mitch tried to speak, but the words choked somewhere in his throat.
The shot gun fell from Mitch’s grip. A loud clang rang out when the heavy barrels bounced on the floor tiles. Mitch tried to turn towards the neighbour, but his legs were weak. His strength left him in waves.
Mr Fuller must’ve seen Mitch’s eyes roll back. He rushed at Mitch, only he was too late. Mitch collapsed heavily onto the floor.
Mitch awoke to a bright light shining in his eye. The Ambulance officer holding the pen torch lowered it from Mitch’s face.
‘How are you feeling?’ the Ambo asked. ‘Do you know where you are?’
Mitch’s vague eyes flicked to the faces staring back at him — two uniform cops, another Ambulance officer and Mr Fuller stood back from them.
Part of him wished he hadn’t remembered where he was, but he did. The gruesome image of his father being struck with the hammer and the sound it made on contact, will forever remain with him.
‘Yeah...’ Mitch lifted himself onto an elbow. ‘I know where I am…’ He cupped his forehead as he glanced around the lounge room where he laid..
‘Can you recall what happened?’ a cop asked.
Mitch glared up at the cop standing over him. ‘Those bastards killed my dad…’ Mitch said. His tone was curt.
‘Let’s get you onto a chair,’ the Ambo said. He assisted Mitch to his feet.
Once on his feet Mitch’s focus moved to the adjacent entry hall. His shoulders slumped at the sight of his father’s body lying among the largest pool of blood he had ever seen. The blood had started to congeal.
The Ambo gently took hold of Mitch’s arm and guided him to a chair. Mitch did not take his eyes off his father’s body as he moved to sit.
One of the Ambos wrapped a blanket around Mitch’s shoulders. He mentioned something about shock and needing to keep warm. Mitch sat hunched shouldered as he clung onto the blanket. His eyes never left his father’s body. Tears flowed down his cheek.
The Ambo suggested they transport Mitch to hospital, to keep him under observation. Mitch refused.
‘I’m not happy with the responses from your pupils, Mr Dunne,’ the Ambo said. ‘I really do suggest that you allow us to transport you to hospital for further tests.’
‘I’ll be fine.’
‘Do you feel up to answering a few questions…?’ a uniform cop asked.
Mitch glared at the cop. He nodded once before his gaze returned to his father. The Ambo remained to monitor Mitch as the cop spoke to Mitch.
The cop dragged a chair closer to Mitch. ‘Mitch is it…?’ the cop asked as slid onto the seat.
‘Mitch, my name is Senior Constable Grant Day. I’m from the Geelong Police. The Detectives are on their way, but I just need a few details from you before they get here, if that is OK with you…’ the cop said.
Mitch nodded again. He wasn’t interested in talking to the cops, or anyone for that matter, but it was not an option.
‘Can you tell me your full name please, Mitch.’
‘Mitchell Max Dunne,’ he said in a flat tone.
‘And your age and date of birth please, Mitch…’
‘Twenty-first March, 85.’
‘So, that would make you…’
‘Thirty-one,’ Mitch said, showing the least bit of interest possible.
‘The white Bimmer in the drive is your vehicle…?’ the cop said as a question.
Mitch nodded once.
The cop referred to his notes. ‘It’s registered to an address at Fourteen, The Strand in Torquay. Is that your usual place of residence?’
Mitch nodded, as if preserving his words.
‘Are you married?’
‘Yep. My wife is Alison…’ Mitch quickly checked his watch. His eyes widened. ‘I’ve got to call her…I’ve got to tell her what happened to Dad.’
The cop lifted a hand to Mitch. ‘It’s OK…we’ll handle that for you. You just relax and take it easy.’ The cop ripped off a piece of paper and handed it to Mitch, along with a pen. ‘Write down Alison’s phone number and we’ll call her for you…’
Mitch accepted the pen and paper and scribbled down a mobile number. He handed it back to the cop. The cop handed the number to his colleague who accepted it and left the room.
‘Now…’ the cop continued. ‘Do you work Mitch?’
‘Yeah. I work in media advertising in the city...’
‘City…? City, Melbourne or City, Geelong?’
‘Can you tell me what happened here tonight…?’
Mitch’s eyes fell to the floor.
‘Take your time,’ the cop said.
Mitch relayed the events to the cop in a sombre and monotone voice. ’I called in on the way home from work to see my Dad…while he was getting me a beer those arse ‘oles pounded on the front door, so Dad went to answer it.’
‘What time was this?’
‘I have no idea…’
‘Where were you when they knocked on the door?’
Mitch lifted his chin towards the hall way. ‘I was in that bedroom off the entry hall there.’ The cop’s eyes followed Mitch’s directions.
‘OK. What happened then?’
‘One of them yelled at Dad…something about where are the keys. Then he hit Dad in the head with a hammer…’
‘Did you see the person strike your father in the head with the hammer?’
Mitch glared at the cop. ‘You’ve seen his head, haven’t you…? I’m not fucken making it up.’
The cop raised a hand to Mitch. ‘No...I’m certain you’re not making anything up.’
Mitch held his glare on the cop. ‘I heard them hit him….’ Mitch’s head rolled forward. ’Sickening crack sound…I’ll never forget it. Then I heard the second strike. Same sound. I didn’t realise what it was at the time, but when I walked into the entry hall I saw that arse ‘ole, the one who is lying at the front door, hit Dad in the back of his head with a hammer, while Dad was face down on the ground. Same sickening crack sound…’
‘Did you shoot them with the shot gun…?’
Mitch glared at the cop. ‘Well it couldn’t have been my Dad, could it?’
The cop shrugged. ‘We don’t know that Mitch. We don’t know the chain of events that transpired here tonight…’ the cop said.
Mitch’s eyes fell to the floor. ‘Fair enough…’ Mitch conceded. ‘I was in the bedroom. Dad had the gun ready to go roo shooting on the weekend when I arrived. I was looking at the gun when Dad went to answer the door. I heard them attack Dad so I loaded two shells and went to help him…’
‘What happened then?’
‘By the time I got to the hallway Dad was already…’ Mitch’s voice trailed off. His head fell forward. He cupped his forehead in his hand. After taking time to compose himself, Mitch’s head lifted. His eyes narrowed. He lifted his chin toward the rear kitchen. His lip curled. ‘That one near the bedroom door rushed at me with a machete…so I shot him…I had no choice…’
‘That’s OK…’ the cop said. ‘You are entitled to defend yourself. What about the one lying at the front porch when we arrived…where was he when you shot him?’
Mitch glared at the cop. ’Was lying at the front door…? Isn’t he still out front…?’
The cop shook his head. ‘No, one of the Ambos took him. He was in a pretty bad way, apparently.’
Mitch shrugged with obvious indifference. Some might even say justifiably so.
‘After I shot the first one…’ Mitch lifted his chin towards the front of the house. ‘That one ran at me with a hammer, so I lifted the gun at him. He ran so I shot him…’
The cop exchanged a brief glance with his colleague.
‘He ran…?’ the cop said as a question.
‘Yeah. As I lifted the gun at him…he turned to run just as I pulled the trigger.’
‘So, when you fired…the man had his back to you?’
‘By the time I fired, yeah. But he rushed at me just before I pulled the trigger.’
‘Did you feel threatened by the man you shot in the back?’
Mitch lifted his eyes to the cop. He frowned. ‘You’re kidding, right?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘Of course I did. He just killed my Dad and he rushed at me with the same hammer he used on my Dad.’
‘If I can just clarify something…’ the Cop began. ‘If you didn’t fire at the man, would he have run out the door…?’
Mitch’s eyes fell to the floor. ‘I don’t know. I suppose he would have…’
‘OK. That’s all we need for now Mitch. The Detectives will want to ask you some more questions when they get here, OK…’
Mitch nodded as he wrapped the blanket tighter around himself.