The trouble was, he was bored. As much as shooting rabbits got the heart pumping, sitting around waiting to shoot rabbits certainly didn’t. For a man who excelled at gardening and the long-term planning that such a pursuit required, it was ironic that patience was not his strong suit.
Twelve different plants had been viciously and systematically destroyed in the last month due to the rabbit infestation. That just couldn’t go unanswered. There’s a reason the human race was top of the food chain, and a lot of that reason was their uncanny ability to kill other creatures. Bunnies may not be the most fearsome of animals but by God they’re one of the most irritating.
Mr Fairland was obsessed with the cony conundrum. After weeks of setting cage traps and snares he’d finally succumbed and bought an air rifle, a notorious rabbit slayer. Mr McGregor would have been proud, there was a man who knew what it meant to have prized vegetation plagued by beasts.
The damp had now seeped through his trousers and was causing them to cling to his skin; maybe he ought to give up for the day and come back in the morning. The carrots lying on the grass had failed. His wife wouldn’t be pleased but it had been well over an hour and there wasn’t a rodent in sight.
Something moved to his right, a smidgen of brown fur in amongst the green and white of the Hyacinths.
Not today, rabbit, not today.
He inched forward, staying low to the ground, hidden in the tall grass by the pond. With practised calmness he swung the gun round to find the rabbit and send it straight to rabbit heaven, or hell. Mr Fairland neither knew nor cared. Mrs Fairland had given him a mission and wasn’t going to let her down.
The creature was partially hidden behind the trunk of a small plum tree, just its bottom and pointless, fluffy tail waggling at him. He elbowed his way forward, passing the ragged stump of a previously eaten bulbous flower. Most of its body was now in view; just a bit further. It had to be straight in the head. Experience had proved that shots to the body did nothing. Rabbits laughed at body shots.
Just another yard more and the plant killer was his; one more casualty in the crusade against the enemy of gardens all across Kent. Its head was the only thing still covered by the trunk. Another half a foot would do it. There.
Mr Fairland smiled a joyless smile, that’s right rabbit, enjoy your last meal.
The cross hairs captured its head. Its right eye looked directly at him. It winked.
He took his face from the scope, doubting what he’d seen. That good-for-nothing creature had winked at him. He was certain of it.
He bent back down to the rifle and readjusted his supporting arm but it seemed to sink into the earth, the soil buckling under his weight. Shoving the scope back to his eye he re-aligned the rabbit in his sights – or would have if it was still there. In its place were two more rabbits. The original quarry was a metre or so closer, waiting. All of them were looking at him. The ground beneath him rumbled and shook and suddenly gave way, sending him plummeting downwards. He landed with a thump and immediately tumbled to his left, the crafted slope propelling him downwards and rolling him rapidly towards the pond. His free hand grasped at the side of the giant, earthy tunnel but it was too late: with a splash he flew straight into the murky water. Dropping from his grasp, the gun sank to the bottom as Mr Fairland flapped desperately at the water, trying and failing to keep himself afloat.
Spluttering and spurting he resurfaced and began to tread water, wiping clear his eyes. He spun himself round to look at the hole in the bank, once part of his immaculate garden. It was artfully done. Only the droppings on the floor suggested what had caused it.
Several pairs of long brown ears appeared at the edge of the pond, half hidden among the reeds, their furry faces peering down at the defeated man struggling to stay afloat. With a bitter grunt he realised they each had a carrot he’d left as bait, chomping on them like popcorn at the cinema.