THE ORPHANAGE (Urban Hunters #6)

Billy and Amber must save Larry from the dog catcher, with a shocking twist for Billy. A pursuit leads them into a creepy, rundown orphanage where they find themselves under attack by a savage pack. They fight to save the lives of many only to fall victim down the bowels of hell itself. “Way beyond wonderful. A spine-tingling experience of anticipation. Fear and terror a plenty. I think it is the best so far.” Anne, Australia “Plenty of laughs, as usual, love it. Great dialogue. The Bullie’s antics are hilarious.” Jack S, Australia “Great ending.” Hermione, Australia URBAN HUNTERS is laugh–out–loud, gut–churning, heart–wrenching storytelling at its best. Unlike anything you’ve ever read, in typical Taaffe fashion. Hilarious as usual. Always surprising. Wonderful!

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1. STONED

“I got all of Diesel’s blood out of it, Billy ,” Amber said while draping her frilly white hanky over her knee to dry in the sun.

“Got it off your top too,” he grinned.

“He’s gonna freak when he sees what you did to his ear you know.” Amber was serious, thinking about how Billy had cautorised Diesel’s earring holes after she’d ripped out his earrings. Instead of closing the holes back to normal, he’d cut them so they looked like the ripped out page of a spiral notepad. Everyone would notice.

Billy was grinning mischievously which made her smile. They burst out laughing.

“Teach him to mess with us.”

“I can’t believe you did that!”

“I can’t believe you ripped his earrings out.”

“I had to do something.”

Billy rubbed his neck, it was still sore after Diesel had rapped his monstrous hand around it and lifted him off the ground, thinking Billy had eaten his dogs and speared his father for no reason.

“Glad you did. I thought I was gonna die.”

“Me too,” Amber said, tears unexpectedly welling in her eyes. She turned away so he wouldn’t see.

Suddenly the three Bullies bolted down the hill behind Crag Hat. The city was coming to life for the lunchtime rush and they were heading straight for the busy street. They caused chaos amongst the pedestrians on the sidewalk and thankfully, they stopped at the kerb. Curly and Moe didn’t wait long though, they scurried through the first gap in the traffic they could find.

Larry on the other hand found a spot between the pedestrian’s feet at the traffic lights and waited, growling at no car in particular because there were too many, but causing a muttering of concerned conversation and a shuffling of fifty feet. He hated cars. It was only yesterday one had run him down. On purpose. The sump hit him hard in the rump and left him with a nasty looking scab. The driver had been Diesel’s mongrel old man. He hated the Bullies in general but after they ate his prized rooster, he had sealed them in a drum and dumped them at the tip to die in the sun. They would have too if Billy hadn’t found them. One did die, Honey, and Billy blamed himself even though it wasn’t his fault. He’d done everything he could to save her but she was barely clinging to life when he found her.

A taxi came to a stop right in front of Larry so he charged out to bite the tyre. The traffic cleared and the taxi moved on leaving him somewhat satisfied. He barked as it left and looked up at the lady beside him for praise. Fearing for her exposed ankles she leapt to safety and bumped the lady beside her. A wave of stumbling bodies cleared a safety zone around Larry that eased his mind. Tiny toes around high heels only added to his frayed nerves.

The traffic lights changed and the cars stopped whizzing by. Larry thought they’d stopped because of his dire warnings so he trotted across the road amongst the pedestrians with a jaunty step.

Curly and Moe were jumping up and down at the pet shop window. The puppies inside had finally woken up and were playing. Billy had thought it was a hamburger joint and was disappointed to learn otherwise. Larry gave the other two Bullies a solid bite on the rump for leaving him stranded at the lights. They bit back which caused a noisy commotion but they were no match for Larry. He put them in their place and frightened the life out of the puppies in the window who cowered out of sight.

Curly and Moe recovered quickly enticing Larry down the road into the back alley that had proven to be an excellent spot for a snack of nice fat rat. Not that they were particularly hungry after eating well all day. It started with a feral cat that nearly killed Norm the council worker. He had to go home sick after blood loss had made him feel woozy. Then the pups scored a nicely fermented brandied pigeon each. Amber turned out to be a great hunter. She’d used bird seeds soaked in a hobo’s brandy. The pigeons got so drunk that they passed out right in front of a totally baffled Billy. All he had to do was pick them up, crack their necks and marvel at the skill of his new wife. Or potential wife. He wasn’t really sure as Amber was the first girl he had ever come across. He didn’t know if there were any more like her but he was happy with her and wanted to take her back to the bush. After he found at least one more, a fat one for his dad. His brother Mallee wanted six but Billy was really only interested in finding one for his dad, one to keep him warm in winter. He was desperate to see him smile again. He’d been smiling for days after Billy’s initiations but it wasn’t normal. Normally his days were weighed down in melancholy. A lifetime of campfire stories about the days of old had forced Billy to draw just one conclusion, his dad had been sad for thirteen years, ever since his beloved wife Elanora had died giving birth to Billy.

She was the last female of the clan and as far as they all knew, the last female Aborigine in all of Australia. It was up to Billy to find some girls and save the Dreamtime. But he just wanted to save his dad.

Amber sat bolt upright to watch a council van drive into the alley right behind the Bullies.

“That’s the dog catcher, Billy. COME ON! QUICK!” She was already sprinting down the grassy slope and calling over her shoulder. Though she didn’t need to give him the hurry along this time, he was on high alert for another one of her race challenges. She liked that — racing everywhere. “They kill stray dogs, Billy. If he gets them into the back of that van, they’re dead!” She forced a break in the traffic and bolted, with Billy following nervously amidst a blaring of angry horns.

Billy didn’t really understand what was going on but death had knocked on his door too many times lately for him to be complacent.

The van had squeezed past the industrial bins and was stopped in the middle of the alley beside the stairs. They couldn’t see what was going on at the front of the van but an almighty commotion was echoing off the back wall.

Amber pulled Billy into hiding, between the big bins.

“Let’s give the Bullies a chance to escape on their own,” she whispered.

Larry then appeared hanging in mid–air at the end of a long white pole with a noose around his neck. He was thrashing like mad trying to escape. He had no chance with an experienced dog catcher following the pole, walking a rather rotund rear end between the gap in the wall and the van while struggling with Larry. After birthing out the back, the dog catcher took a moment to catch a breath and unwisely lowered Larry to the ground. He went berserk. Thrashing and pulling and jerking the pole about. The dog catcher lifted him off the ground again, slung the pole over a shoulder and struggled with the keys to get the back doors open. When the doors finally flung open, a terrifyingly deep–throated growl emitted from within.

Billy thought they killed the dogs by feeding them to whatever was inside the van. It was full of cages. Steel plate doors of varying sizes with air holes to breathe. One door stood out from the rest, it was really big. Billy focused on movement through one of the holes and got a fright to see a piercing wild eye looking straight back at him.

Larry’s sore bum got bashed against the side of the van making him yelp in pain. It became too much for Curly and Moe, they attacked. Curly ripped at the dog catcher’s legs while Moe launched off the bumper bar and latched onto a wrist. The dog in the cage went ballistic, as if it could see its next meal slipping away.

The dog catcher was in a terrible state, reaching inside the van desperately trying to open one of the smaller cages to shove Larry in. That’s when two of Billy’s black river stones slammed into a butt cheek each. A millisecond of excitement followed with Billy and Amber seeing each of their stones hitting dead on and in sync, until the dog catcher screamed in pain, jerked up and smashed the back of her head on the door frame. Knocked out cold, the big body crumpled into the back of the van and flowed like jelly out the door and down onto the bitumen right at Billy’s feet.

The pole with Larry dangling from the end fell and hit the latch on the big cage. Larry launched out of the van straight into Billy’s arms knocking him to the ground where he fought to free the noose from around his struggling neck. When Billy finally wrestled him free and looked up, the eyes of a giant wolf–like dog were staring him straight in the face.

Billy froze. This dog was huge. Way bigger than any of the ferocious ferals he’d come across in the bush. Billy didn’t even blink, knowing the slightest movement would set it off. Suddenly Larry leapt at it, launching for its face, licking it excitedly and going crazy with enthusiasm. Curly and Moe joined in and were rewarded with a sloppy tongue lashing.

“That’s the Malamute we saw them playing with this morning,” Amber said while handing Billy his stones. “I think they like her.”

“She’s bleeding,” Billy said, putting the stones back in his earlobes while noticing puddles of blood in her footprints. Then, as suddenly as she appeared, she disappeared. She bolted out of the alley, across the road and into the park. The Bullies were straight after her, desperate not to let a good tongue kisser get away.

“Come on, Billy,” Amber called at a run. “She’s hurt!”

But Billy couldn’t move. He’d had enough. City life was killing him. All he wanted to do was have a nice little kip in the shade under a tree. To wake up late in the afternoon with a leisurely stretch in the peace of the bush. To perhaps put some leaves beside Pindaari’s hand and then flick some at Mallee while watching him brush them away, until he woke up and blamed Pindaari. Then maybe he’d go for a swim in a billabong and enjoy a yabby roast for a sweet treat. Nothing much. Certainly not getting woken in the dead of night by a ferry’s fog horn. Or getting roused on at the crack of dawn by a bossy council worker with a very big shovel. Not to mention nearly dying at the hands of Diesel. He just wanted to sit for a bit. To spend a moment taking it all in.

That’s when the bulging stomach of the dog catcher’s breathing filtered into his tired mind. Rising and falling in time with her massive breasts. BREASTS? “Bring us back a fat one, Billy”, his dad had said. Shocking clarity snapped his brain to attention. It’s not the boxes where mum leaves me girls, it’s the alley! And I nearly killed me new mum! Panic gripped him over the terrible mess he’d made.

He crawled over to see how badly hurt she was. She had a big lump on the back of her head. He wanted to run away before she woke up and saw him. But he didn’t really want to just leave her there.

“BILLY!” Amber called from across the road. “THEY’RE GETTING AWAY. COME ON!”

Billy leapt to his feet, totally grateful for the excuse to bolt. But he needed a way of staying connected to this one. Then he got a brilliant idea — he wedged Turbo’s card under the buttons of her shirt, right between her big breasts.

 Amazon: http://getbook.at/TOe

Bunya Publishing: http://bunyapublishing.com/

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