P i a n d O
- CHAPTER 7 -
The work in the vineyard was constant. Charlie needed help so I stayed to work for him. On one of my sojourns to the quarry to dump rubbish, I decided to take a walk along the track, the back entrance to the Consalvi Vineyards. About a half mile along the track I turned uphill and pushed through the scrub and other undergrowth to emerge at the fence line beside the main vines, but short of the back paddock and the old Chambourcin vines.
At the sound of a two-stroke motorbike approaching in the vineyard from the direction of the Consalvi Winery, I moved back out of sight. Greg Consalvi was patrolling the perimeter fence. The .22 caliber rifle was slung across his shoulder by a loose strap. A large dog of indeterminate breed loped along with the motorbike. Normally, such a scene would not arouse any suspicion. Trail bikes are used on farming properties and for some tasks are more convenient than a tractor or a horse. It is the same with dogs on a farm. They are not only kept for mustering sheep and cattle but to control vermin. Vermin eradication is a reason for the carriage of a firearm. A feral pig can harm the roots of the vines, while rabbits and foxes reach plague proportions at times. Still another pest is the birds descending to demolish unmeshed fruit.
Discretion is the better part of valor, so I went back to the tractor. Back at the winery, I told Charlie about the incident but, like me, he could find nothing incriminating in Greg’s actions.
“You know, Ross, I’m wearing the scar of a bullet Greg Consalvi fired. I don’t think we have any doubt it was a warning.”
“On the same subject, I don’t know whether I told you, when I took a load of garbage up to the quarry for Frances, I walked up to the top. There was something moving in the bushes but it might have been a kangaroo. It could have equally been someone moving through the scrub. I didn’t call out or make a noise to attract attention.”
“Maybe you were lucky. With what we know so far, the Consalvis don’t like people meddling in their affairs. I feel the same way and I’m not Italian. Maybe that’s why I’ve never had anything to do with them apart from saying hello or sending my pickers up to them.”
“I’ve talked with a few people in town, Everyone knows that something is going on but what is it?”
I thought about our conversation and, on Friday afternoon, Frances, who was on a semester break from university, was in the winery with her father.
“Frances, I’m not working tomorrow. Would you like to go for a walk in the bush with me?”
“Yes,” Frances replied very slowly, more by way of telling me I had her attention rather than as acceptance.
“I thought I would like to see the top of the range from above the quarry. I’m told you can see over the Gulf of St Vincent from there.”
“Yes,” she once more said, even more slowly. “What time?”
My invitation surprised Charlie. Her acceptance was a surprise to both of us.
“Say about ten in the morning? I’ll pick you up here.” I think my voice quavered as I nominated a time.
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